Choosing Authoring Tools
ADL Instructional Design Team
Choosing Authoring Tools.docx
page 38 of 74
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The choice of an output format depends primarily on the requirements of your delivery system, as well as
on the type of learning that the file format supports. For instance, the Flash
.swf format robustly supports
high levels of interactivity and is supported by most delivery systems when embedded in web pages.
However, the range of tools that can natively edit .fla source Flash
files is much narrower than DHTML.
You will need to check with your IT department to verify the compatibility of desired output formats with
the network and firewalls. For instance, some firewalls block Java applets due to potential security risks.
Output formats that require browser plug-ins other than ones that are provided as a default with the
browser installation (such as Flash
with Internet Explorer
) can be a serious liability. This can put an
administrative burden on users and/or IT personnel to install and maintain these plug-ins. They may be
prohibited in a user environment for this or security reasons.
Some output formats (such as Flash
and HTML5) have the advantage of built-in compression and
streaming of files at run time. This can be a significant advantage in cases where bandwidth is limited.
Output file format can greatly affect the editability of your developed course within other authoring tools.
This can become an issue when a tool disappears from the marketplace or if a new author comes on board
who prefers working in a different tool; if the course can be imported into another tool and manipulated as
source files in that tool, these problems can be alleviated.
It is important to understand that authoring tools often use proprietary code objects (for instance,
references to internal Java applets, or code inserted into HTML comment fields) to facilitate authoring
functions and course features. There may be no problem running these courses in LMSs, and they may
work in any browser, but these code objects may be difficult to understand, troubleshoot, and edit in
another authoring tool or DHTML editor. The ideal for an authoring tool is that the output format is
identical to the internal source file format, and that this format is a clean, universal code like DHTML or
XML; no proprietary code should be involved.
It is important that you determine whether the files that an authoring tool produces (in a standard non-
proprietary format) are 100% editable in other tools that say that they can handle that format, especially
those that generate that format natively. For example, some authoring tools that allow output as source
files are not as fully editable as native Flash
files, although they could be opened in Flash
You may need to take a detailed look at a product
s support of an output format. The term
not have the same connotations as the term
is optimized for
is built for
Output formats are becoming even more important as we enter the mobile learning era. Authoring tools
have features that support producing files that can play on mobile devices. In the past, developers had to
completely customize eLearning architecture and format for mobile devices, but that is less often the case
with devices like the Apple iPhone
that have robust browser capabilities (that match desktop browsers)
and larger screens.
at the time of this writing, the Flash format is not accepted on iPhones. Any authoring for the
iPhone platform must take this into account. If you are developing courses for the desktop platform that
you intend to repurpose for the mobile platform, you will have to re-output or rebuild any Flash pieces in
your content in some other format (such as HTML5 or Adobe AIR
) for iPhone delivery.
As of this writing, HTML 5 is being implemented in the major browsers. This output format is likely to
become a universal format for eLearning. See 8.17. HTML5 format for important considerations regarding
Reuse of learning objects
Courses and the learning objects of which they are comprised are usually expensive to produce, no matter
what authoring tool is used. This is especially true of media-rich learning objects. Of course, there is a