Ease-of-use versus creative freedom is a hotly debated topic in the e-Learning industry when discussing the selection of an authoring tool.
If you review examples of courses built by various authoring tools, you’ll begin to see the differences. Some courses will have a cookie cutter look while others will stand out as custom design. Although the differences often reflect the skill of the course developer, they can also be the result of the authoring tool’s limitations.
At one end of the spectrum, there are template-based authoring tools that require practically no training. These programs are highly formatted with a course development process that’s driven by a sequence of dialog boxes. Unfortunately, programs like these have limited flexibility. However, if ease-of-use is more important that creative flexibility, a template-based tool might be a good solution for you.
In the mid-range are a number of general authoring tools that require more training but offer more creative latitude. Many of the most popular authoring tools on the market fall into this category, and they’re used to create most of the e-Learning courses currently used. The general authoring tool is the work horse of content development. It’s not uncommon to find that 95% of the content you will create can be done using a general authoring tool.
Finally, there are authoring tools designed to produce high-end multimedia simulations with sophisticated graphics and audio. These authoring tools typically require several weeks to several months to learn, but they offer a great deal of creative freedom. Courses created with these tools rival computer games with their intricate and complex sound and animation sequences.In addition, some specialty authoring tools help develop content for use in e-Learning. For example, several authoring tools specialize in capturing computer screens and screen videos to develop software simulation training. In the same way that an animated cartoon is comprised of static cells, software simulations are comprised of screen captures. These programs create files which can then be integrated into e-Learning content using a general purpose e-Learning authoring tool.As your authoring tool search progresses, you’ll want to try to find an optimum balance between ease-of-use and creative freedom.