Pre-authoring is the content creation process that occurs before authoring. The media content you create that will end up being used in your authoring tool to create your final product. It's the tools you use to create videos, audio, graphics, animations, screen captures, and text for your eLearning courses. Tools like Powerpoint, Audacity, MovieMaker, Camtasia, SnagIt, Pixelmator, and so many other tools that don't fit the category of authoring tools. Yet they are equally vital to the production of the content we create and import into those authoring tools. And in some cases the content you pre-author is good enough to stand on it's own as learning content. And that is changing everything.
Back When the Trend was Multimedia Authoring
The trend in corporate training has been moving towards smaller and smaller pieces of content. One could argue that the growth of mobile is responsible for that shift. But we also now know that shorter content is more conducive to how our brains retain information. And we know that repetition is more important than quantity for deeper long term learning.
In the early days before eLearning there was computer based training, CBT. There was no internet. And we had little hard science to back up the claims of behavioral psychologists. It was still 20th century school just digitized and delivered via computer. Hour long classroom courses were converted into hour long CBT courses. Nothing fundamentally instructional changed about how content was delivered other than not having a teacher, and not needing a school house to deliver the instruction. The content changed very little in most cases as we converted analog content to digital.
21st century technology has completely changed the way individuals consume media. It's a YouTube world out there. And it's no different if that media happens to be specifically consumed to meet a particular learning objective. Those hour long fully contained, and locked up, lessons are now being unbundled. The Khan Academy has become a cliched example, but there's a reason why. It works. And there are other examples of even shorter content on platforms like Instragram, and SnapChat. Everything is being unbundled and condensed. And if you don't believe me, ask a teenager.
Are Authoring Tools Dying?
This unbundling of CBTs brings us to why pre-authoring tools have overshadowed eLearning authoring tools in recent years. In most cases they are much less expensive than authoring tools. Some are even free. They've become more powerful and easier to use over the years. Some are even mobile apps. YouTube.com even allows for minor video editing within the browser.
Authoring tools were necessary a decade ago because the trend was multimedia. You needed authoring tools to bring together multiple media formats into one interactive environment. An environment that also needed interface and navigation design as well as coding for tracking and data storage. Multimedia authoring was fun! But it came at a price.
Fast forward back to present day eLearning and we find that browser designs have become the standard for user interface design and navigation. Cloud based learning management systems have taken advantage of this by handling the navigation and design for you. But they also give users the ability to customize if necessary. Your media content is added as individual modules and can be mixed and matched to create courses. And your courses can be combined to create comprehensive learning paths. All of this work used to be crammed into authoring tools and published for CD-ROMs or later as FLASH files. Within the cloud much of that work is no longer necessary. Instructional media creators can focus their efforts on simply creating the best media they can produce...or afford. That might be a video, or a series of videos. It might include a Powerpoint presentation accompanied by the voice of the subject matter expert. The choices of media selection are many with little need for additional value added by an authoring tool.
SaaS and User Trends Point the Way Forward
The software as a service platforms have become the standard for almost every industry. Combine SaaS trends with user trends in media consumption and you have a powerful indicator pointing you in the direction of pre-authoring becoming primary authoring. And your SaaS-based LMS being your publishing platform, tracking system, content library, eCommerce store, and so much more.
The heavy lifting handled by authoring tools was required in the days of multimedia. But today it is largely unnecessary. We have become a single medium society consuming images, video, and text as separate elements. Video is becoming so ubiquitous that soon there will be very little not captured and published for the world to see...and learn from. It's really quite amazing if you don't let it freak you out.
So where does that leave us? Is authoring dead? I have my thoughts, but I'd love to hear from you. Send me a tweet @Litmos or use the hashtag #TellLitmos or #askLitmos.