As an online training provider, you will need to produce quality courseware quickly if you are to meet the ever-changing needs of your customers. To do this effectively, you’ll require a range of software tools. Here are five categories which you need to consider.
1. Authoring tools
Your authoring tool is probably the most important item in your elearning delivery toolkit.
Ideally an authoring tool should be flexible, easy to use and enable quick content development. Many modern authoring products, like Elucidat, tick all of these boxes. Ease of use is especially important so that you can rely on Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), rather than tech-savvy developers to create content. Spreading the development load in this way enables you to get the product to the market more quickly.
I wrote an article last year comparing five elearning authoring tools. If you’re investigating new rapid authoring software, that article’s a good place to start.
2. Learning Management Systems (LMSs)
Depending on your business model, and in addition to standard LMS functionality, there are three important aspects of an LMS that warrant your attention:
- Learner/client ease of use
- e-Commerce functionality
- Sub-branding capability
Ease of use is pretty self-explanatory. If the interface is cluttered, unintuitive, clumsy or aesthetically unappealing, learners won’t be inspired to take your courses no matter how good they are. If you plan to sell your training, you need to make sure that the learner experience is as clean, simple and pleasurable as possible.
The e-commerce functionality should obviously enable people to pay for any courses that they want, but you may also want to consider how learners will browse your course catalogue to find what they want to purchase. How easy is it for a learner to perform a catalogue search, and how much control do you have over who sees different parts of the catalogue? E.g., perhaps you’ve customized some courses and only learners from selected organizations should be able to access these.
Creating a sub-branded site within your main LMS may also be important to you. No matter how well known or attractive your brand is, clients—especially larger clients—are likely to want the LMS landing page and the catalogue relevant to their own learners to look as though they’re part of their own brand. Even if sub-branding is a listed feature in an LMS you’re considering, find out how much control you will have and how easy it is to implement. For example, some LMS products may claim to give you branding control, but you may need to be a CSS expert or PHP programmer to implement it!
Your own unique needs will determine which LMS is best suited to your organization. Seven well-regarded LMSs that you may want to investigate are:
3. Screen and audio recording tools
Capturing static screenshots and screen interaction sequences is useful when developing content for learners. Here are some helpful tools:
- Snagit: This is a really powerful tool for screen capture of videos and static screen images. Snagit is a staple tool for most elearning pros.
- Screencast-O-Matic: This allows you to capture screen interaction videos (e.g., software how-to videos) either with or without your webcam ‘narrator’ image included. If you have a Java-enabled web browser (which is becoming increasingly rare) you can launch the recorder directly from your web browser. If not, there’s a small download that enables your web browser to launch the recording app. It’s very powerful considering its free price tag, but there is an inexpensive annual subscription that provides many extra bells and whistles.
- PrtScn: If you just want a static image of a computer screen, use your PrtScn keyboard key. Use the Alt + PrtScn key combination to capture the active window rather than your entire desktop. PrtScn copies the image to the Windows clipboard. From there you can paste it into a PowerPoint slide or Paint and export the slide as a PNG or JPG graphics file.
Audio can be very powerful in elearning, for example when providing the audience with different stakeholder perspectives, providing information via a simulated phone call, or just providing workplace sound effects to help immerse the learner and contextualize the learning.
- Audacity: This is the go-to tool for most non-professional sound recordists. It’ll give you all the functionality that you’re ever likely to need.
- Twisted Wave: This is a very simple sound recorder and editor. Its advantage is that it’s web-based, so no downloads or installs, but there are downloadable versions for Mac and iOS, too.
4. Design tools
We all need graphical inspiration from time to time.
One of the best places to go for design inspiration and tools for creating infographics, layouts and stunning presentations is Canva. Here you can see how the pros match fonts, graphics, color and layout to best effect—and it lets you apply it to your projects.
5. Mind Mapping tools
An important task during the early design stage of most large elearning projects is prioritizing and chunking the main headings and sub-topics.
Mind Mapping tools, and especially collaborative Mind Mapping tools, are great for this. Here are two to look at:
- Coggle: This is a web-based tool that allows teams or individuals to brainstorm, group and prioritize ideas very easily.
- Mindjet (MindManager): This product has evolved over many years, so has greater functionality than many other Mind Mapping products. This functionality comes with a slight learning curve and is also reflected in the price.
Related: Stay on top of the latest elearning ideas, trends and technologies by subscribing to the Elucidat weekly newsletter.
Like any crafts-person, the quality of the tools you use and how effectively you wield them will directly impact what you create.
In these competitive times, you need to maximize quality and output by using up-to-date technology and techniques like those highlighted here.
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