Choosing Authoring Tools
ADL Instructional Design Team
Choosing Authoring Tools.docx
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Do not overlook open source, freeware, or GOTS solutions; solutions may be available at very
low overall cost that adequately meet your needs (see 5.3. Open source, freeware, and GOTS
solutions for more information).
As described in 1. Purpose and scope of this paper, assume that you will need several authoring
tools in combination; a primary one for authoring the
, and secondary/auxiliary authoring
tools that are optimized for particular capabilities or assets. This is very commonly done in the
case of courses that are authored in DHTML (for instance, using Adobe Dreamweaver
objects inserted for animations).
Consider the current roles, responsibilities, and skill levels of the people who will do authoring,
and how much you are willing to ask them to learn new skills and change the parameters of their
job to become tool experts and take on the role of authoring, if they are not doing authoring now.
A simpler, less powerful tool may be the best option in order to avoid having to make significant
changes in your personnel landscape.
This also relates to the question of whether your authors or authors-to-be are generalists or
specialists, and whether it is realistic or desirable to force them to become more of one or the
other. Tools that are simpler and less powerful will be better suited to those who want to remain
generalists. Those who are currently generalists will be resistant to the technical nature and steep
learning curve of a complex tool. For instance, an instructional designer who is also a course
developer (i.e., generalist) may use a simple tool for development that allows him or her to spend
most of their time on instructional design, rather than wrestle with the technical nuances of a
complex and powerful tool as a specialist developer).
It is generally better to make a more powerful and flexible program work for you via carefully
designed, robust templates than to use a less powerful tool that owes its ease of use to limiting
what you can do. If you set up your templates and workflows for using them correctly, the
learning curve and level of effort of the more powerful tool will eventually be on a par with the
less powerful, easier to use tool
but you will always be able to call on the added power and
flexibility of the more powerful tool if you need it.
Try the tool out on the system configuration your authors would typically use in your training
organization. You may discover some surprises in performance and features that you would not
otherwise have found. For instance, the authoring tool
s preview function may actually preview
screens quite differently than what they look like in the actual end-user browser.
Determine the skill sets within your pool of course authoring staff, so that you know what you are
prepared for and/or what you might have to acquire in terms of staffing or training.
Current trends in authoring tools
Team-based life cycle production and maintenance
Life cycle production and maintenance of courseware includes all of the phases of an eLearning project in
a single tool
s capabilities: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (ADDIE). In
order for an authoring tool to support this, it must allow collaborative authoring and permission-driven
production pipelines. This trend is driving many desktop tools to move permanently to web-based
architecture, or at least to have a web-based option, since this enables all kinds of "organization aware"
workflows (enforcing who does what when during production
centralized control with distributed