Back to basics: What is an elearning content authoring tool?

One of the fundamental questions in creating digital learning is: what is an elearning content authoring tool?

In this Back to Basics blog we look at the definition of content authoring software, explore the types of web authoring software and suggest a few authoring platforms you might want to consider.

What is an elearning content authoring tool

What is a content authoring software?

A content authoring tool is a form of digital learning software which makes producing content in a consistency format extremely simple. Finding the right elearning content authoring tool can be difficult if you don’t know where to look. 

There are many definitions of an authoring tool around the web. Wikipedia defines an authoring system as a:

“A program that has pre-programmed elements for the development of interactive multimedia software titles. Authoring systems can be defined as software that allows its user to create multimedia applications for manipulating multimedia objects.”

To put it simply, a content authoring tool is a piece of software that helps users create digital content. This digital learning content is usually produced so it can be published on the World Wide Web or via a Learning Management System (LMS). Although technically the content can be delivered on a CD (compact disc), this has become almost obsolete in modern days. 

What are the different categories and types of content authoring tools? 

There are many ways to segment content authoring tools. It all comes down to individual company needs. In this blog we look at the following 5 types of web authoring tools based on hosting and course design consideration :

  1. SaaS or cloud-based content authoring tools

As the name suggests, cloud-based content authoring softwares are platforms that are hosted on the Cloud. A major benefit of these types of tools is that users can collaborate very easily, since there is no installation needed and the tool can be accessed wherever you are. In terms of course design, the tools vary. Some SaaS content authoring systems are easier to use than others. For a full comparison check out our full review of some of the best cloud based elearning authoring tools. 

  1. Desktop based or locally hosted elearning authoring softwares 

Unlike cloud-based tools, locally hosted content authoring platforms need to be installed onto your computer’s hard drive. This is considered one of the biggest shortcomings of this type of content authoring software. Locally hosted tools are a predecessor of cloud tools, as such they are often not as easy to design in. 

  1. Multimedia elearning authoring tools

With multimedia content authoring tools the emphasis is not whether they are on the cloud or have to be installed on your computer. They can be both. The focus here is more on the specific course design needs. If you are looking to produce multimedia content (for example animations or interactive storytelling) then choosing a tool that facilitates this is a must. 

  1. PowerPoint based elearning authoring platforms 

If you are a PowerPoint fan and used to creating your training as slides, these content authoring tools might be the best option. The PowerPoint integration means that users can very easily and quickly turn their slides into training. The biggest drawback is that the content will likely still have that PowerPoint feel to it which makes for an unengaging learner experience. If you are looking for high quality elearning that is people-centred and so delivers real results, these types of tools are not the best option. 

  1. Recording and screen capture content authoring tools

Choosing to go for a tool with powerful recording and screen capture capabilities is another design consideration. For those companies who like to base their training mostly on simulations and video tutorials, choosing an authoring tool with a screen capture and recording focus could be a good option. Particularly if you are looking to edit the recordings within the tool itself. 

Content authoring tools to consider 

Choosing the right content authoring software is not easy. There are many out there on the market and no “one size fits all” strategy. It will depend on several factors including your business goals, the needs of your team and of your employees. 

Here are a few popular tools to consider:

  1. Elucidat – a multimedia cloud based authoring software that is ideal for big employers looking to drive down the costs of their business critical training. Here’s a quick Elucidat Authoring Tool Tour. 
  2. Adapt – another cloud based software that is a good option for technical authors who need to design bespoke HTML5 courses. 
  3. iSpring Suite – for fans of PowerPoint who are new to elearning, iSpring is definitely worth a look. 
  4. Adobe Captivate – if your training is based on simulations Captivate might be a good option, as it allows editing the tutorials within the tool. Be warned though, it’s aimed at experienced users. 
  5. Lectora – a long standing authoring tool with both a desktop and cloud based version. Lectora is a powerful tool once you get past the steep learning curve. 

If you would like a more in depth analysis of the pro’s and con’s of each tool and many others check out our Best Elearning Authoring Tools & Software blog