gile teams and team development have never been more important in 2021. As the world becomes increasingly digital, and with remote working set to stay, organisations are shifting their training online for flexible, scalable solutions.
Companies looking to move away from cumbersome face-to-face workshops and classroom training have been turning towards e-Learning and course creation tools. Also known as authoring tools, these are software solutions that allow teams to create digital courses. These digital courses can be rolled out to big and small workforces, are quicker to complete and can be done at a time that suits workers.
The eLearning industry has grown in leaps and bounds to meet this demand in the past two decades, with new startups challenging the older tools for innovation and usability.
In this article, we’ll break down the strengths and weaknesses of nine different authoring tools so that you can compare and find the solution that’s right for your business in 2021.
Science-based learning | Ease of use | Accessibility | Price | Speed of delivery | System integrations | Mobile friendly | Web-based | Australian-based team and data
HowToo is a fresh offering in the market challenging the big players. Their mission is to use learning science-based design to create a tool that gives even novice users the power to easily create engaging, beautiful learning courses.
HowToo offers team collaboration tools on-par with long-established competitors. It also features a unique library of layouts and templates with direct editing, unique drag-and-drop storyboarding and an in-built media library that allows for impressively quick construction of courses. The tool is incredible intuitive, with what-you-see-is-what-you-get editing of every page.
HowToo is also the first tool to achieve Level AA of the WCAG 2.1 standard of web accessibility, meaning published courses are accessible for people with a wide range of disabilities.
Courses built in HowToo can be published to online links, as well as the industry standards of SCORM 1.2 and 2004 packages. They also offer custom xAPI integrations with compatible Learning Management Systems (LMS), and direct publishing to their own LMS HowTooHub.
May need an LMS | Single language support | No automatic PowerPoint conversion
Established tool | Extensive functionality | Large asset library | Webinar training sessions
Difficult to use | Not fully accessible | Poor screen adaptability | Expensive for big teams | Requires large download | Not science-backed
Articulate Storyline has been established for some time and is popular among the biggest businesses and eLearning agencies. It offers extensive customisation options that are a drawcard for organisations looking for a unique look and strong branding.
Unfortunately, Articulate Storyline is also one of the most difficult tools to use and requires considerable expertise to manage. It does offer live and on-demand online training to mitigate this, however the skill gap can still present a challenge for small and medium businesses.
The Articulate 360 package includes one of the most extensive asset libraries including templates, characters and icons. The tool is desktop-based but offers online team collaboration and review tools. Courses can be exported in SCORM and xAPI formats.
Established tool | Extensive language tools | Strong branding tools | Web-based
Difficult to use | Not fully accessible | Expensive | Not science-backed
Elucidat is another established tool, offering a particular focus on functionality for global businesses. This includes complex systems for managing branding across different global offices of an organisation, and for translating courses into different languages.
Like Articulate, the learning curve for the tool is steep. It’s also one of the more expensive tools on offer. Overall, it’s designed for teams producing large volumes of learning courses.
Elucidat offers HTML5, Video, SCORM , xAPI publishing.
Complex interactions | Create simulations | Create VR experiences | PowerPoint import
Poor collaboration | Difficult to use | Slow to deliver | Poor learning design | Not fully accessible | Not science-backed
Adobe Captivate has also been around for a long time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have evolved as quickly as other tools available. Like Articulate Storyline 360, Captivate is a desktop-based app. This immediately hamstrings the possibility for team collaboration, which (unlike Articulate) is not rescued by any add-on features.
Captivate does allow users to import their existing PowerPoints as a starting point to add interactions, however this can mislead newcomers to eLearning as PowerPoints rarely make for effective learning experiences for learners.
Captivate does offer the fairly unique ability to create and export VR and simulation experiences. Unfortunately, the tool is difficult and clunky to use when compared to many competitors.
Integrated create and report tool | Course library | Web-based | Mobile-friendly | Speed of Delivery | Ease of Use
Poor branding options | Limited interactivity | Generic course appearance | Not fully accessible | Not science-backed
Rise.com is a more recent offering from Articulate aimed at small to medium businesses. It is an integrated authoring, delivery and reporting system, meaning it does not require a separate LMS.
The authoring tool aspect of the system is simple and quick to learn. Users can create courses from scratch or tweak Rise.com’s large library of courses based around basic business concepts. They can also upload SCORM packages created in other tools.
Unfortunately, the creative possibilities are somewhat limited. All courses feature the same vertical scroll and minimalist design, with few options for interactivity, branding or creating a unique look.
eCommerce platform | Website builder | Custom domains | Web-based | Mobile-friendly | Free plan
Poor learning design | Limited interactivity | Limited assessment options | Limited deliverability | Not fully accessible | Not science-backed
Thinkific is a platform ideal for sole traders or very small businesses looking to monetise their courses. Rather than delivering and reporting via an LMS, Thinkific allows users to create websites with custom domains that are hosted by Thinkific to sell and distribute courses.
Thinkific’s impressive attention to their eCommerce and sales capabilities is also their drawback. Much of their functionality is focused towards their websites and branding, while offering poor course design with limited options for interactivity and true engagement.
All in all, Thinkific is most suited to individuals looking to become professional coaches operating on a single platform.
Course library | Web-based | Interactive designs | Mobile friendly | Create checklists and guides
Difficult to use | Slow to load | Limited courses and learners for basic plan | Not fully accessible | Not science-backed
EasyGenerator has been around for a few years now and offers cloud-based course creation. It has an existing course library of tweakable templates as well as allowing users to start from scratch, and publishes to the standard SCORM and xAPI formats.
EasyGenerator also features the unique ability to create checklists and how-to guides that can act as a useful set of day-to-day resources for organisations.
However, despite the name, EasyGenerator is difficult to use without offering the same level of functionality as other tools with steep learning curves.
Integrated create and report tool | Web-based | Interactive designs | Mobile friendly | Speed of Delivery | Ease of Use
Some options limited | Not fully accessible | Not science-backed | No template or course library
Coassemble is another startup offering targeting medium-sized businesses with an integrated creation and lite reporting system. Cloud-based, it offers a number of integrations with external programs via Zapier.
Coassemble offers a large number of interactive screen types, though navigation and design options are sometimes limited. While the editing is largely what-you-see-is-what-you-get, some of the complex interactions are less intuitive.
Coassemble also infuses it’s modern, irreverent style into courses with large, pop-up emojis between screens that may not be to the taste of every business.
Integrated create and report tool | Web-based | Interactive designs | Mobile friendly | Course library | PowerPoint Conversion
Mobile-only | Difficult to use | Not fully accessible | Not science-backed
EdApp deviates from the field by offering exclusively mobile and tablet-based learning. This may suit highly active and remote industries but may frustrate office-based workers.
EdApp offers a large number of interactions. In lieu of what-you-see-is-what-you-get editing, users are shown a live, interactive interactive preview of screens alongside the editing options. Sadly, this fails to improve the largely unintuitive editing interface. While EdApp offers some complex tools such as CSS modification, these serve to make the tool more difficult to use and less accessible for the average L&D team.
The Wrap Up
Every organisation has different learning needs and business goals. With so many different course creation tools on the market, and more popping up all the time, it's important to know which ones have the features that match what your organisation needs.