What is an eLearning Authoring Tool?

Let’s start with a simple definition: eLearning Authoring tools are used to create eLearning lessons. These tools have been around much longer than most people know. When asked, many guess that they started coming on the market recently or perhaps back in the 1990s. The truth is the National Science Foundation funded the first authoring tool, called PLATO, way back in 1960, and then another in 1967, called TICCIT. Both spawned many other authoring tools over the years.

OK, but what’s so special about authoring tools that makes them the tools of choice to create eLearning courses?

Why not just use standard programming languages?

The answer is that eLearning specialists are usually grounded in instructional design principles which are important to be able to deliver eLearning that works. They are rarely computer programmers. Think of the eLearning professional as a teacher formulating lessons, except that these lessons will be experienced by many individuals at various times and at their own pace, not all together sitting in a classroom. The best kinds of eLearning lessons are those that are interactive and that challenge the learner to solve problems. The instructional designer usually works with subject-matter experts, those who know the content, to create the lesson approach.

Therefore, most authoring tools are meant to be used by non-programmers and they have special features that are very useful in creating lessons that are interactive, media-rich and engaging.

What Are The Types of Authoring Tools?
‍Authoring tools can be categorized in a number of different ways, depending on where they reside:

On Your Desktop Computer:
Just as is true of most of the programs you use on your desktop or laptop, many authoring tools have you download an installation application, which then installs the authoring tool on your computer. You can then use it as you would any other application even if your internet connection drops. These tools range from limited to very powerful.

PowerPoint Add-Ins:
These tools extend PowerPoint’s capabilities by adding a tab that you can open to add eLearning features to a normal PowerPoint slide deck. They tend to be simpler tools to use and not as powerful as those that are installed outside of PowerPoint, but they can be very useful, especially to those who already have a lot of PowerPoint slides that they would like to repurpose. Like Installed tools, you download an installer, but thereafter the tool is accessed wholly within PowerPoint.

Cloud-Based:
Many of the newer authoring tools are cloud-based. You may not need to install anything on your computer at all. At most, you may be asked to install a small helper application. All your actual authoring is done online. You will want to have a fast internet connection in most cases but the beauty of this, like other with cloud-based tools, is that you can work on building your eLearning lessons from any computer anywhere. You can start work on a lesson in your office, travel to a satellite office across the country, and continue working there, without having to take your files with you. Like Installed tools, Cloud-based tools can range from limited to very powerful.

What’s the difference between between desktop and cloud-based authoring? Visit: eLearning Authoring Tools Comparison.

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