7 Elearning Authoring Tools: Comparison and Review – Elucidat Blog

7 Elearning Authoring Tools: Comparison and Review

New technologies are changing the way learning is delivered. In this article, Steve Penfold reviews and compares seven elearning authoring tools to help you determine which one is the best for you.

authoring tool comparison

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:

  • Technical expertise
  • Content goals (simple vs. sophisticated learning experiences)
  • Content scale (translation, multiple variations)
  • Authorship (sole author vs. collaboration)
  • Budget
  • And more!

When looking for the best authoring tool, it’s important to consider all your options. Let’s review seven elearning authoring tools 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 designed to help ambitious teams create high quality elearning at scale. Exceptional (and free!) support helps new and experienced authors alike uncover the tool’s full capabilities.

elucidat

Quality of elearning output

Elucidat comes with an extensive library of pre-built templates that help 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. 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 provides plenty of opportunity to hook learners. Check out some elearning examples created with Elucidat.

Elucidat’s analytics dashboards further 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, suite of interactions, WYSIWYG interface and ability to apply existing styles to new projects make 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 learn. But the efficiency pay-off comes later, when you save your pages as a template to reuse for future projects.

As a cloud-based authoring tool, Elucidat makes it easy for multiple authors to work and comment 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.

The variations manager makes it simple to turn a course into a master version with child courses underneath it. This means all versions can be updated at once, which saves a lot of time if you’re dealing with many variations. Translations are made 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 them your own
  • Easy to use WYSIWYG interface
  • Powerful learning analytics dashboard
  • Variations management and translation process
  • Outstanding support team, included as part of your package
Elucidat Weaknesses
  • 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

Free trial: Start an Elucidat 14-day free trial (no commitment)

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 it 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. 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 come to creating content and assets.

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

Free trial available – Learn more

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 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 presents a lot of possibilities with no coding required.

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 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. It can similarly be time-consuming to update content or fix bugs once projects are launched.

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 the text from a course to aid translation, but manual adjustments are needed 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 test software simulation
Storyline weaknesses
  • Not truly mobile responsive – it just shrinks the screen
  • 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

Free trial available – Learn more

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. It has a range of pre-built lesson types, custom learning, 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 content up and running 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.

Scalability

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

Rise strengths
  • Easy to use, with a simple and intuitive interface
  • Quick to create good-looking elearning content
  • Screencasting available
  • Cloud-based
Rise weaknesses
  • Content can look very generic
  • Limited customization and flexibility
  • No translation management
  • Lacks accessibility options
  • Storage limitations

Free trial available – Learn more

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 that you can tweak to quickly create elearning that looks modern and on-brand. It’s worth noting though 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 version 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
  • Cloud based
  • Responsive
  • Offline mobile app
  • Ability to provide multi-language courses
Gomo weaknesses
  • Layout restrictions limit your creativity
  • Customisation options may not be enough for creative visuals
  • No WYSIWYG interface

6. Lectora Inspire

Lectora is a Windows desktop authoring tool. It’s been around a long time, but recently a cloud-based HTML5 version of the authoring tool has been added, which gives great flexibility. It can be powerful, when you know how to use it, but 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 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.

When you start a project, you’re prompted to choose desktop or mobile. This could be a problem if you want learners to be able to access your content on a wide range of devices.

Speed and efficiency of authoring

Lectora’s 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

Lectora 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
Lectora weaknesses
  • Steep learning curve with limited support
  • The interface is not particularly user-friendly
  • Challenges with delivering content for multiple devices

Free trial available – Learn more

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.

Adapt has a decent range of standard interactions and assessment features.

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.

Adapt has an asset library that’s like 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, but there don’t appear to be any sophisticated translation or variation features, which can limit how efficiently you can 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
  • “Blocky” layout that leads to a lot of content looking generic
  • Not cloud-based and can take a while to install
Learn more about Adapt

In conclusion

There’s a lot of overlap in the functionality of the tools shown here, but their nuances and your appetite to learn new skills will determine the best authoring tool for you.

Compare more authoring tools in the Elearning Industry Directory

Have you investigated other authoring tools that do something different than the ones listed here? Or, have you done your own homework and committed to a product?

What are your authoring tool experiences? Share them in the comments section below.

Next steps: it’s always worth getting a demo of different tools so that you can compare for yourself. And, of course, take out a free trial. Get started with a free trial of Elucidat.

Start Elucidat Free Trial Button

Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold

Steve Penfold is Customer Success Director at Elucidat. He helps large companies and training providers speed up and simplify their elearning authoring.
Steve Penfold
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