In search of the perfect authoring tool

by Viv on August 28, 2007

An unnamed government agency sent a delegation down to visit some colleagues as part of a fact finding expedition re e-learning authoring tools. What a splendid waste of taxpayers’ money- that’s your money and my money.

It seems completely obvious to me that above a pretty low threshold, the quality of e-learning produced is down to the skills of the instructional designer and the quality of content that they can elicit from the subject matter experts. Would anyone expect the brand of screwdriver to make more of a difference to the quality of a bespoke bookshelf than the skills of a carpenter?

There is a vast array of different e-learning authoring tools on the market. But probably the only way they can be differentiated from each other is in terms of ease of use (time to mastery and time to build) and cost.

They could have just bought a Brandon Hall guide to authoring tools (priced at a wonderfully over the top $795 – how do these guys sell anything?). Its survey of the top ten things that organisations want from an authoring tool finds that they are:

1. Novice friendly, yet still has underlying extensibility for complex interaction types.
2. No plug-in required (with the exception of Flash output)
3. Adherence to SCORM specification and AICC standard. (The real need is full interoperability with many LMS solutions.)
4. Short learning curve for new contentdevelopers
5. Extensive library of very interactivequestion types (beyond multiple choice and true false)
6. Robust testing engine (with features such as randomization, drawing from a test item
pool, etc.)
7. Rich media support
8. Ability to repurpose content quickly from other sources, such as PowerPoint, Word, and specialty authoring tools (i.e. simulation tools)
9. Minimal time spent creating navigational control structures (i.e. navigation buttons, menus, etc.)
10. Low cost (for stand alone authoring tools)

Seems like the only people who should be shelling out $795 are our beloved government.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Adrian Priddle August 29, 2007 at 7:01 pm

The amount of budget spent of consulting services by local and central government never ceases to amaze me. So my only surprise here is that the traditional cheap option of ‘authoring tools we can use ourselves’ is not being skipped for the more expensive but often better value in the long run option of bespoke consultants designing the material.

Admittedly my knowledge of the authoring tools world died long ago but doesn’t that list of ten pretty much cover what you’d want from any eLearning?

I’ll keep my $795 dollars for a holiday sometime I feel!!



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