How Do I Get My Stuff Online?! The Fun-filled World of Authoring Tools


Let me wish you a happy and productive new year from the Litmos blogging team! It’s time to continue with our occasional manifesto on how to bring eLearning to your organization (and maximize the use of your LMS). This is a food-for-thought post on authoring tools.

Many Litmos clients (and others tasked with magically converting an organization’s assets into eLearning) struggle with process at the outset. There is a seemingly endless stream of information, and quite a high percentage is good information. Nevertheless, making a choice is difficult. In our last post, we took a look at how to resist the tyranny of choice and begin to approach (attack?) your organization’s content.

An immediate suggestion was to devise an approach to eLearning (using maybe one or two sources from books, from noted practitioners, or from courses or workshops) that appeals to you, and base your initial design/development guidelines on that approach. You will always have time to refine and expand your organizational philosophy—the important thing is to get started.

Getting started often means choosing an authoring tool. There are stand-alone tools. There are tools that function as plug-ins. There are screen capture tools. There are cloud based-tools. That tyranny-of-choice thing is going to pop up again. Newly minted organizational eLearning gurus and neophyte instructional designers are often paralyzed by one-best-way thinking; with so many tools in the

marketplace, where to start?


Here’s an idea: Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies (C4LPT), has put together an excellent directory of learning tools. In addition to the heavyweights (e.g. Articulate and Captivate) the directory includes some fantastic task-specific tools like Jing that can make life a lot easier. Check the directory out. Bookmark it. Think about what you need to do (PowerPoint conversion? Simulation? Screen capture?). Consider this–there doesn’t need to be a single solution. Many of these tools complement each other.

After you’ve come up with guidelines for your eLearning approach (Look and feel? Use of audio? Level of interactivity?), you can start experimenting with authoring tools. If you haven’t adopted principles from a source like e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, this is an excellent time to do so. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and pain later on.

At the beginning, you may want to choose a tool that provides muscle (different ways to create input, Flash output) and a great deal of flexibility. Two giants of the industry are Adobe Captivate and Articulate Studio ’09. If you are taking an organizational lead, I strongly recommend experimenting with these tools. Both are available as full-featured demos, and you should be able to master the essentials very quickly. Here’s why these tools are a good place to start:

1. Both allow you to work effectively with existing PowerPoint files, yet both are an excellent blank canvas for scratch projects.

  • Captivate allows import of PP presentations (and round-trip editing).
  • Articulate Presenter is integrated with PowerPoint itself (see below).


2. Both have extraordinary support communities (soon, we’ll be looking at these resources in greater detail).

3. Both allow you to judiciously add interactivity and graphic elements (buttons, arrows, quiz interactions, etc.) to static material with ease.

4. These tools come from stable, well-staffed companies. If you invest in either (or both), you will likely see long-term support and improvements.

In the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at both of these tools in greater detail. They are by no means your only options, but using them will help you get moving. The key is to practice and use those guidelines you’ve developed.

Until next time!