If you’re creating online training, you will need to produce quality content and courses quickly, especially if you are to meet the ever-changing needs of your end users. To do this effectively, you’ll require a range of software tools. Here are seven categories 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, responsive and enable quick content development that meets the needs of your end users. 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 your learning to market more quickly.
2. Learning Management Systems (LMSs)
Whilst tools like Elucidat have self-hosting options, you may need a platform to deliver all your elearning to your audiences, either so you can create personalised learning journeys, up your tracking, or because you sell your elearning commercially.
The learning technologies market is fast-growing and full of innovative products. With so many options and acronyms (LCMS, LMS, CMS …), it can be tricky to work out exactly what you need and which products can deliver it. We provide a guide to LCMS vs. LMS here.
Your own unique needs will determine which LMS, LCMS or even Learning Experience Platform, is best suited to your organization. Three well-regarded LMSs that you may want to investigate are:
3. Production process tools – 5C’s
With over 50 years of elearning production experience under their belt, the Professional Services team at Elucidat know a thing or two about how to get to great results. The 5C’s framework helps you plan, design, create, improve and commercialize your online learning.
They share five free guides and templates that you can download and use on your project:
- Capture – The first step of the 5C Framework. This template helps you pin down the problem you are trying to fix and create profiles for your audience so that you can shape your solution to meet a specific, measurable goal.
- Conceptualize – This guide helps you work outwards from your central goal (with a handy template), get ideas to inform the design of your digital learning, plot out a rough structure for your learning experience and think about how to prototype and test your design.
- Create – This template helps you flesh out your ideas, get your visual style sorted, plan how you’ll collaborate with key stakeholders and ensure a thorough quality assurance process.
- Cultivate – Most modern elearning producers are keen to refine and improve what they do and foresee issues before they arise. This guide will show you how to use data analytics, track trends and make all important improvements.
- Commercialize – Whether you are selling your online training or not, thinking commercially about what you do helps you ensure you meet your goals efficiently and smartly.
4. Screen and audio recording tools
Capturing static screenshots and screen interaction sequences is useful when developing systems training, guides to online tools or resources, or even for onboarding. Here are some helpful tools:
- Snagit: A powerful tool for screen capture of videos and static 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.
- 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 your clipboard. From there you can paste it into a PowerPoint slide or something as simple as Paint and export the slide as a PNG or JPG graphics file.
5. Audio and video tools
Audio and video are very effective in online learning and continue to grow in popularity as users can watch or listen easily on mobiles, wherever they are.
Audio and video don’t have to be expensive assets. Recording a best practice sales call, giving some top tips, or combining audio with screen captures are incredibly powerful ways to communicate with learners. You can take it a step further and use audio and video to create scenarios, which put learners in the hot seat to answer questions or take actions.
- 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.
- Loom: Uses your webcam to capture you talking, for free. You can appear or switch yourself off and instead show something on your screen.
- Your smartphone! Point it at the world or at yourself and get recording!
6. Graphic Design tools
If you’re not a professional graphic artist but need to create some graphical elements for your online learning or edit something you already have, here’s some tools to try:
- One of the best places to go for design inspiration and tools for creating infographics, layouts and stunning presentations is Canva a great one-stop tool for creating infographics, presentations and graphical layouts, easily.
- Easel.ly helps you create professional looking infographics for free.
- Infogram is similar to the above in that it enables you to create smart infographics.
- GIMP is a free photo-editing tool that helps you crop, chop and enhance the photos you need to present.
- Inkscape does much of what Adobe illustrator lets you do, but for free.
7. Mind Mapping tools
An important task during the early design stage of most large elearning projects is prioritizing what needs to be covered, and chunking content into specific areas.
Mind Mapping tools, especially collaborative ones, are great for this. Here’s some to explore:
- Coggle: This is a web-based tool that allows teams or individuals to brainstorm, group and prioritize ideas very easily.
- Freemind: A free mind mapping tool you can download and use locally.
- 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.
- Cathy Moore’s fantastic action-mapping and decision-making tools are incredibly useful to any learning designers, novice or experienced. Great to use alongside our Capture Needs template.
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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