9 Elearning Authoring Tools: Comparison and Review

New technologies are changing the way learning is delivered. In this article, Steve Penfold reviews nine leading elearning authoring tools. He compares each one based on ease of use, quality of content produced, speed of authoring and scalability.

9 authoring tools comparison & review

Which is the best authoring tool for you?

I think you already know the answer to that…it depends! The best authoring tool for you will depend on a range of factors, including:

  • How much technical expertise you have
  • Whether you’re looking to produce really simple content or more sophisticated learning experiences
  • The scale at which you’re publishing elearning content, and whether you need to consider things like translation and managing multiple variations
  • Whether you are a sole author or need to collaborate with a wider team
  • What you’re willing to spend
  • …the list goes on!

Let’s review nine elearning authoring tools and comment on each in respect to their:

  • Ease of use
  • Quality of elearning output
  • Speed and efficiency of authoring
  • Scalability

1. Elucidat

Elucidat is a cloud-based, responsive authoring tool that’s designed to help ambitious teams create high quality elearning at scale. Exceptional (and free!) support helps both novice and experienced authors uncover the full capabilities of the tool.

elucidat

Quality of elearning output

Elucidat comes with an extensive library of pre-built templates that helps even novice authors create great-looking interactive experiences. For those wanting to innovate, the “layout designer” feature allows you to build your own pages without needing to code.

There are some brilliant examples on Elucidat’s showcase of elearning examples, many of which you can get Gifted into your account (or free trial account) to use as a template.

Flexible rules and branching options enable complex, personalized and adaptive learning experiences; and the ability to use social polling, gamification and a whole host of interaction types provide plenty of opportunity to hook in learners.

Elucidat’s analytics dashboards provide authors with detailed data on how learners are interacting with their course, enabling you to continually update and improve content based on data and insight.

Speed and efficiency

The template library, a suite of interactions, WYSIWYG interface and the ability to apply existing styles to new projects makes creating high quality learning something you can do with ease.

The more advanced features, as with any sophisticated platform, can take a little longer to get up to speed with. But the efficiency pay-off comes later when you save your pages as a template to easily reuse for future projects.

As a cloud-based authoring tool, it’s easy for multiple authors to work on the same project at once, helping you utilize a whole team to meet a deadline. Stakeholders can use the review feature to log their comments against specific parts of a page, cutting out many of the headaches experienced with desktop-based tools. The variations manager and translation feature also have a big impact on efficiency (more on this below).

Scalability

Designed for ambitious teams and training providers, Elucidat has many features that make it easy to scale up elearning production.

The variations manager makes it easy to turn a course into a master version with child courses underneath it. The parent-child relationship means all versions can be updated at once, which saves a lot of time if you’re dealing with many variations. Translations are easy too, with a simple import/export feature that allows you to upload a new language and have the course respond dynamically.

A central asset library means colleagues can share assets, and replacements can be made across multiple courses in one click.

Elucidat Strengths
  • Wide range of interactions and features, including rules, branches and badges
  • Out-of-the-box pages, plus the flexibility to make your own
  • Easy to use WYSIWYG interface
  • Powerful learning analytics dashboard
  • Variations management to simplify working at scale
  • Sophisticated translation process
  • Outstanding support team, included as part of your package
Elucidat Weaknesses
  • A time investment needed to utilize the full capabilities of the tool
  • Can seem expensive if you’re not producing much content, as the pricing is designed to deliver ROI to teams creating and managing elearning at scale

Book a demo of Elucidat to get started with a free trial.

2. Adobe Captivate

Captivate is a desktop application available for both Windows and Mac. It’s one of the most powerful authoring tools in this list, but comes with a steeper learning curve and its own set of challenges.

adobe captivate

Quality of elearning output

Experienced authors can create learning content using customization options from the (relatively limited) themes available. The themes are similar to PowerPoint, with color palettes and slide masters defining the look and feel.

Captivate’s built-in screen recording allows you to create good quality systems demos and build sandpit-style screens for users to practice in. Complex interactions, mobile gestures and geo-location features are all possible and can contribute to a high-quality experience, but the options for personalized learning are limited.

The 2019 release improved the ability to create responsive designs for multiple devices using “Fluid Boxes.”

While content can be viewed on multiple device types, design decisions can’t be made on a per device basis, so content isn’t truly mobile responsive.

Speed and efficiency of authoring

Captivate’s steep learning curve means significant training and ramp up time is needed for new authors. Simple content is relatively quick to produce, but if you’re using more advanced interactions, be prepared to put in some hours.

Being desktop-based, the sharing, reviewing and updating process can be painful and time consuming, with the risk of version control issues across multiple stakeholders. Any changes after launch require new files to be uploaded to the LMS, which takes time and effort.

Scalability

Because Captivate is a desktop application, it’s not set up for working collaboratively and consistently at scale. Themes and master slides can be shared to installations on other computers, but the process is manual and can be tricky. The same applies to asset management; each desktop user is “on their own” when it comes to creating content and assets.

Captivate strengths
  • Able to produce complex interactions (if you know how)
  • Output can be location aware (i.e., you can hook into a device’s geo-location capability)
  • Interactivity in the output can recognize common mobile-device gestures (e.g., pinch and zoom, swipe)
  • Accelerometer-based interaction types
  • Good for screen recording and simulations
  • Ability to create virtual reality (VR) learning experiences
Captivate weaknesses
  • Steep learning curve with limited support
  • Limitations of a desktop tool – challenging collaboration, review and version control
  • Traditional linear style design compared to more modern authoring tools
  • Painful process to update and maintain existing content

Want to learn more about Captivate and its alternatives? Check out our full article about Adobe Captivate.

Learn more about Captivate.

3. Articulate Storyline

Articulate Storyline is a Windows desktop application that leverages a PowerPoint look and feel. It has a modest learning curve considering the flexibility that it offers—especially if you already know your way around PowerPoint.

articulate storyline

Quality of elearning output

If you’ve got the skills and competencies, Storyline allows you to author highly customized and engaging content. Like Powerpoint, you can control theme pages via project colors and slide masters. This makes it very flexible, but a bit tricky to control consistent branding over multiple courses and Storyline installations.

Most end-user interactivity is achieved through the use of triggers, which fire when a screen object is tapped, clicked, rolled-over, etc. When one of these user-actions is detected, other screen objects can be shown or hidden, auto page navigations can be invoked, variables can be adjusted, or media can be started/paused. This setup opens up a lot of possibilities when no coding is required; authoring actions are entered via a selection interface.

Speed and efficiency of authoring

Storyline is a complex tool, so where organizations don’t invest the time in training, authoring efficiency can be limited. As one of the most widely used authoring tools, however, many designers will have experience with Storyline already.

As a desktop-based tool, collaboration and review can hamper efficiency in the production process compared to cloud-based authoring tools. And once projects are launched, it can be time consuming to update content or fix bugs.

Scalability

As a desktop-based tool, collaboration, and therefore scalability, is limited. It’s tricky to share courses with others for reuse, and assets aren’t housed centrally.

There’s an export feature that pulls out all of the text from a course to aid translation, but manual adjustments need to ensure the new language(s) still fit on the page, etc.

Storyline strengths
  • Good flexibility and control in terms of content output
  • A commonly used tool, so designers tend to have experience
  • Very active online community
  • Reasonably powerful show me/try me/test me software simulation elearning capability
Storyline weaknesses
  • Not truly mobile responsive – it just shrinks the screen
  • More traditional linear design compared to modern authoring tools
  • Collaboration and content updates can be time consuming
  • Don’t get new features and bug fixes instantly
  • Can be very expensive if you have a lot of authors and want to scale content
  • Poor screen reader functionality

Want to learn more about software like Articulate Storyline? See our full article on Storyline here.

Learn more about Storyline.

4. Articulate Rise

Articulate Rise is a web-based authoring tool included as part of an Articulate 360 update released around the end of 2016. There are a range of prebuilt lesson types, custom learning called “blocks,” interactions, and screencasts to create a range of courses.

articulate rise

Quality of elearning output

Rise is really easy to use with an intuitive interface, and provides a range of pre-built, standard interactions, including timelines, processes, labelled graphics, etc. This makes it easy to create interactive content that looks good.

However, there isn’t much flexibility to differentiate one of your Rise courses from another – or from anyone else’s, for that matter. The flexibility and range of customization is much more limited than Storyline, so if you’re looking to create something more innovative or sophisticated, Rise may not be the best authoring tool for you.

Speed and Efficiency of Authoring

If you’re looking to create relatively basic, good-looking content, then you can do so quickly in Rise. You don’t need to be an experienced author and can get up and running to create content by following a sequence of logical steps.

As a cloud-based authoring tool, it is possible to have authors collaborating and always working on the latest version of the content. Stakeholders can log in and add review comments, which speeds up processes that are slow with tools like Articulate and Storyline.

Scalability

Elearning courses can be cloned and reused to save time when working at scale. There is no multi-sco option available, which makes managing variations and translations more time consuming.

Rise strengths
  • Easy to use with a simple and intuitive interface
  • Quick to create good-looking (relatively simple) elearning content quickly
  • Screencasting available
  • Cloud-based – easy to update, collaborate and review
Rise weaknesses
  • Content can look very generic
  • Limited customization and flexibility
  • No translation management
  • Lacking in accessibility options
  • Storage limitations in place

Learn more about Rise.

5. Gomo

Gomo is a cloud-based authoring tool that allows you to create web-style content. Your courses can be hosted online via the web, or offline using the Gomo app. It avoids a lot of the headaches that come with desktop-based tools, but has some limitations in the amount of customization you can do.

gomo

Quality of elearning output

Gomo comes with a range of themes you can tweak to quickly create elearning that looks modern and on-brand. It’s worth noting that fully customized themes require specialist development, which can be costly if you have grand plans for your visuals.

There are a range of interactive templates available to bring your content to life. The interactions all sit in a two-column structure, which limits your designs a little.

Speed and efficiency of authoring

Pre-built templates and a quick-start wizards soften the learning curve with Gomo, so you can get up and running quickly. The interface is separate from the finished course, though, which means you can’t see what your course will look like as you go.

Scalability

Being cloud-based, Gomo allows authors to collaborate on creating courses. There’s also a multi-sco option that allows translated versions to sit in one package, with learners choosing the language they want to take the course in at the start. This is a handy feature if you’re delivering content globally.

Gomo strengths
  • It’s a cloud-based authoring tool, offering greater flexibility than desktop tools
  • You can produce responsive elearning output
  • They have an offline mobile app and Gomo Central, which is a cloud-based learning portal
  • Ability to provide multi-language courses
Gomo weaknesses
  • Layout restrictions limit your creativity and give courses a templated look and feel
  • The interface is not intuitive and is tricky to use without a WYSIWYG interface
  • Customization options may not be enough for creative visuals

6. Lectora Inspire and Lectora Online

Lectora is an elder statesman in this arena. The Windows desktop authoring tool has been around a long time, they have now released a cloud-based HTML5 version of the authoring tool called Lectora Online, which gives great flexibility. It can be powerful when you know how to use it, but like others of this ilk, it comes with a steeper learning curve than some of the other tools in the list.

lectura

Quality of elearning output

There are a ton of pre-built interaction templates available that can be used as they come or tweaked. Some aspects can be changed via the development interface, but for others you may need to use a graphics package to replace existing images. You can create great-looking elearning content with Lectora; however, you need to be a relatively experienced instructional designer and confident with the tool to do so.

Lectora’s new “Responsive Course Design,” or RCD, feature allows you to design courses in the desktop view. The tool then automatically rescales objects to fit on mobile devices. You can then make customizations for each view to fit your desires!

Speed and efficiency of authoring

The steep learning curve means you can’t expect amazing output quickly, but if you invest time, you can create web-style content that looks good.

While Lectora outputs in responsive HTML5, it doesn’t automatically do the work for you when it comes to different layouts. You need to create a new view for each device, which adds a fair amount of time to the build process.

The cloud-based version of the tool enables a review and comment feature, which can speed up your iterations and keep comments from multiple stakeholders in one place.

Scalability

Lector has a translation feature to help you scale one course into multiple languages, but there’s no parent-child relationship between the files. This means that any changes need to be made to each version individually, which is a headache if you’re dealing with multiple versions and languages.

Lectora strengths
  • Free access to Elearning Brothers graphics libraries
  • Good for screen capture and simulations
  • Has an online reviewer collaboration tool using ReviewLink
  • Can import Powerpoint (although it’s worth considering if that’s a good idea!)
Lectora weaknesses
  • Steep learning curve with limited support
  • The interface is not user friendly, intuitive or easy to use
  • According to online reviews, Lectora’s customer support is a bit slow and not very helpful
  • Many of the advanced features are not Section 508 compliant

Learn more about Lectora.

7. Adapt

Adapt is an open-source authoring tool that creates responsive HTML5 content. Developers anywhere can add new interactions to the community. The authoring tool only makes the tried and tested components from the community available to users.

adapt

Quality of elearning output

You can produce modern, slick-looking content with themes in Adapt, or by making your own themes. However, Adapt works on a grid-like system with blocks of content, so the finished products do all look “blocky” and similar.

There’s a decent range of interactions and assessment features, but they’re all quite “standard” – nothing really creative or different from other tools.

Speed and efficiency of authoring

The authoring tool interface is quite nice and is relatively simple to use. It’s not WSYWIG, though, so the extra “preview” step needs to be used a lot more when creating.

There’s an asset library that’s similar to Elucidat’s, which is good for controlling assets and updating content quickly.

Publishing SCORM releases is a quick download; however, there aren’t any other publishing options.

Scalability

It’s possible to duplicate courses; however, there don’t appear to be any sophisticated translation or variation features, which can limit how efficiently you scale up.

Adapt strengths
  • It’s free!
  • If you’re a developer, or have access to a developer, you can also use the (free) framework rather than the tool and create custom interactions/layouts, etc.
  • The authoring interface is relatively easy to get your head around
  • Responsive HTML5
Adapt weaknesses
  • Limited set of interactions compared to what the Adapt framework is capable of
  • “Blocky” layout that leads to a lot of content looking generic
  • It’s not cloud-based and can take a while to install
Learn more about Adapt

8. DominKnow ONE

DominKnow ONE brings together their traditional authoring tool Claro with DominKnow Flow for responsive authoring and screen capture and simulation capabilities. It’s got a traditional Microsoft look and feel and strong capabilities; however, reviews highlight the limited support and help offered.

dominknow authoring tool

Quality of elearning output

DominKnow allows you to start out with a range of themes and templates, which can be customized. You can also import your Powerpoint content to then edit within the tool.

The responsive design capabilities are strong, and there’s a great range of actions to create varied page types and interactions.

Speed and efficiency of authoring

Once you’ve got your head around the relatively complicated interface, the tool is pretty easy to use. There are lots of templates to get you up and running quickly, and the ability to collaborate and review online speeds up the production process compared to desktop tools.

Scalability

Authors can copy a course, the structure, learning objects or pages to create a unique copy of a course, which speeds things up and helps with consistency. DominKnow also has a translation export and import feature.

DominKnow Strengths
  • Enables collaborative authoring and review; they also have user roles (but not as extensive as Elucidat, for example)
  • Strong responsive design capabilities
  • They have a wide range of “Actions” that give you flexibility in creating page types
  • Powerpoint import
DominKnow weaknesses
  • The interface isn’t particularly intuitive, so getting up to speed can be quite slow
  • The Help documentation is sometimes misleading or incomplete
  • Not great at Gamification
  • The customizable theme settings are a bit restrictive

9. Easygenerator

Easygenerator is a cloud-based elearning platform that has been around since 2013. The clue is in the name…this authoring tool is focused on creating relatively simple elearning content quickly.

easygenerator authoring tool

Quality of elearning output

You can create your own templates and produce responsive designs easily with simple interactions and question types. However, the design functionality and interactions available are limited compared to other authoring tools. So, if you’re looking to create something that looks and feel really bespoke, with advanced interaction types, then this may not be the tool for you.

Speed and efficiency of authoring

As you’d expect, Easygenerator is quick to grasp, and they have pre-built templates to help you get started. You can assign roles to allow different team members to review and collaborate on one course using their “co-authoring” feature.

Scalability

It’s possible to reuse and duplicate content to use again, but this can be a bit of a clunky process. You can create courses in a number of different languages; however, there doesn’t appear to be a translation tool or way to manage variations of the same course. This is no problem if you’re producing simple content for specific groups, but it would be a challenge if you envision needing to scale up.

Easygenerator Strengths
  • Good for authors who are just starting out building elearning content – no coding necessary!
  • Mobile-friendly responsive design features
  • Ability to import Powerpoint (but we’d suggest you do so with caution!)
Easygenerator weaknesses
  • Not every question type and interaction available is fully optimized for multiple devices
  • Limited features – although the team is also open to hear suggestions and release updates based on client needs
  • Restrictions on question types/quizzes to certain pricing plans
  • A word limit on many of the long-form questions
  • Only compatible with SCORM 1.2

Comparing authoring tools? Download the free comparison template here.

In conclusion

There’s a lot of overlap in the functionality of the tools shown here, but your requirements – such as the quality and scale at which you want to produce elearning – will narrow down your shortlist.

If you need to produce high-quality elearning at scale, then an authoring tool like Elucidat would be a great fit for you. Book a demo to learn more, and get set up with a free trial account.

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Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold is the Chief Executive of Elucidat. He helps large companies and training providers speed up and simplify their elearning authoring.
Steve Penfold

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