Authoring Tools

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eLearning Authoring Tools and their Evaluation

Renaissance eServices helps you by this article in understanding and evaluating the various authoring tools currently available to the discerning customer.

What are eLearning authoring tools?

An e-learning authoring tool is a software package which developers use to create and package e-learning content deliverable to end users. According to Wikipedia.org, “a content-authoring tool is a software application used to create multimedia content typically for delivery on the World Wide Web.



What is rapid eLearning authoring tools?

Traditionally, Flash and HTML were used to create eLearning courses. However it involved a lot of programming to ensure that they adhere to the prevalent eLearning standards like SCORM or AICC. The standards ensure interoperability of the courses with the Learning Management Systems to deliver the courses. The adherence to standards ensures that the user tracking and scores are stored.

The major issue was the time taken to develop courses using the traditional tools which could sometimes takes months for a single module depending upon the complexity of the course. Not to mention the related costs involved.

These days a number of rapid authoring tools for eLearning are available also called Authoring Systems. An authoring system is a program which has pre-programmed elements for the development of interactive multimedia software titles. Authoring systems can be defined as software which allows its user to create multimedia applications for manipulating multimedia objects. In the development of educational software, an authoring System is a program that allows a non-programmer to easily create software with programming features. The programming features are built in but hidden behind buttons and other tools, so the author does not need to know how to program. Generally Authoring Systems provide lots of graphics, interaction, and other tools educational software needs.


Evaluation of the modern Authoring tools – the 9-Grid Model by ELearnity

The Exact Learning Solutions LCMS has been ranked as a Strategic Challenger as per the evaluation of ELearnity. Renaissance eServices distributes the LCMS in SAARC Nations


What is the ELearnity 9-Grid Model?

The Elearnity 9-Grid (TM) is a five dimensional model that can be used to understand the relative position of solutions and providers in a particular learning and talent technologies market. It allows you to compare different solutions based on their Performance, Potential, Market Presence, Total Cost of Ownership and Future Trajectories across the market. It is unique, because it sees value in all of its zones. It not only provides an understanding of the market, but also identifies the high level actions that can help corporate organisations get the best from vendors.

9-Grid is based on Elearnity’s independent research in the Learning and Talent market over the past 17 years, and draws upon the insights and experience of our Corporate Research Network. The Corporate Research Network is a group of learning and talent professionals, who between them represent over 150 of Europe’s leading companies. These companies are typically global enterprise-scale organisations with their Head Offices in Europe (or the EMEA HQ of global companies).

Essentially the 9-Grid Model brings together an independent view of solution providers:

• Potential – refers to the solution’s scope and sophistication.
• Performance – comprises of two elements: Market Performance and Customer Performance.
• Presence – is the solution’s historic and current presence in the market. This includes the size of the customer base, the number of enterprise customers and the overall size of the business, within the scope of the market we are examining.
• Total Cost of Ownership means the FULL cost of acquiring, implementing and operating the solution (typically over a 3 year period). Importantly, this includes both internal and external costs.
• Future Trajectory – is based on the trends we currently see in the market related to a vendor’s Performance and Potential.


The Critical Difference between the 9-GridTM and other Analyst Models

There is a very important difference between 9-GridTM and other Analyst models. In the 9-GridTM all of the nine zones have value, and more interestingly, have an associated set of actions that can help you to maximise the value of the relationship with different vendors. This means that being in the top right is not the only valid selection point. For some organisations it may not even be desirable. There are many other zones that offer success, especially when considering a lower Total Cost of Ownership.


The 9-GridTM variables for Authoring Tools

So, in the context of Authoring Tools – what do potential, performance, presence and total cost of ownership mean?

• Performance

As usual this still covers the questions of when people make a choice about solutions: do vendors win, are they retained by their customers and do they make their customers happy. This is viewed through the lens of large international corporates and is taken from the experiences we have gleaned from our Corporate Research Network. Which means this may not necessarily reflect the experiences of smaller and mid-sized organisations, where content management may not be a strategic consideration.

• Potential

Potential means scope and sophistication. In the context of authoring tools, scope does not merely relate to the functionality to support e-learning authoring, but also the processes that surround it such as the management of digital assets and generating multiple content outputs for mobile performance support. We no longer live in a single delivery channel environment, and learning content is no longer about “formal e- learning” delivery alone. Sophistication includes the depth of configuration and ability to support larger scale content production processes, including centralised and decentralised production models. To score highly here it’s not enough to just have the best e-learning creation to, it needs to also be able to efficiency and effectiveness manage the production and maintenance process.

• Presence

This is their presence in the enterprise market place and is very much about the size of the customer base as well as presence in the overall market. Again this is not a linear scale, but represent three bandings that group the levels of maturity / distinct groupings we see in the market. Higher Presence solutions will have large numbers of corporate enterprise scale customers and high overall user numbers.

• Total Cost of Ownership

In the context of Authoring Tools, TCO is the full lifecycle cost associated with the use of tool, including the cost of acquiring and implementing it, but also the impact it has on the cost of production, translation and localisation, and maintenance of content, as well as upgrade overheads of the platform itself. Our TCO is estimated from the perspective of larger enterprises with multiple authors/project members, and with multi- lingual content needs. It also assumes large numbers of courses. For those working with small scale e- learning authoring needs, the banding for lower and higher TCO would be calibrated differently. The real scalability of tools becomes apparent with larger scale content production and content management needs.

• Trajectory

For Authoring Tools, Trajectory is our sense of potential direction of travel in terms of both Performance and Potential. Trajectory is measured relative to the current Performance and Potential of that solution and the market as a whole. It is not a relative positioning compared to other solutions in the same zone.


What Does Renaissance eServices offer?

Renaissance eServices has used the traditional eLearning authoring tools for a large number of clients before the advent of the Authoring Systems. Currently the two most popular authoring systems that Renaissance eServices being used for development of eLearning courses are Articulate Story Line and Exact Packager by Exact Learning Solutions. We also work on other authoring tools like captivate, Udutu, etc.


Here is what ELearnity has to say about both these tools.


9-Grid Commentary for Articulate: The Core Leader


Performance
Launched in 2012, Storyline has achieved rapid market growth and significant traction. Appeals to those looking to author more complex content, often including scenarios. Powerful but simple to use. Significant move for Articulate away from PowerPoint based authoring.
Potential
Next generation solution that addresses many of the weakness of Articulate Studio, offering layers of richer authoring capability. Tablet capable through HTML5 and iOS App for iPads. Translation capabilities much greater than Studio.
Presence
Has achieved good initial take up within many corporate organisations across Europe. Strong competitor in many desktop based procurement decisions. Very strong online community offering support from other users, as well as directly from Articulate.
Total Cost of Ownership
Can be perceived as costly when compared to some desktop competitors. Can be purchased outright or on a monthly subscription plan. Membership plan reduces upgrade costs and provides dedicated support. Needs asset and workflow support if it is to be truly scalable for enterprise sized corporates and reduce content maintenance overheads.
Trajectory
Rapidly growing platform with strong advocacy from early adopters, especially those with a strong e-learning background. Likely to go from strength to strength to be one of the benchmark desktop e-learning platforms.


9-Grid Commentary for eXact learning LCMS: Strategic Challenger


Performance
Italian LCMS company with historically high profile in LCMS market and EU research. Some significant customer success stories, but limited current market momentum. Has suffered the same complexity challenges as other LCMS providers. But also some loss of customer focus during ownership changes in 2013.
Potential
Robust LCMS platform, with rich feature set including mobile. Strong track record with production orientated authoring approaches. Lacks some of the interactivity richness offered by desktop solutions. Rich workflow and asset management features.
Presence
The only truly European complete LCMS solution. Has a strong LCMS pedigree, but limited market traction overall. Visibility has waned since their acquisition by Lattanzio group early in 2013, but we believe will be seeking to reverse this in 2014.
Total Cost of Ownership
High entry costs both in terms of license and initial implementation – partly due to solution’s complexity. Dynamic delivery and asset management can have significant impact on reducing costs of maintaining multi-lingual and volatile content.
Trajectory
Well placed to take advantage of latest e-content trends including mobile.


Hence when you engage Renaissance eServices, you are assured that you get the best of technology and tools as well to develop your eLearning content. The beauty about both the tools is that they also deliver mLearning content via a HTML5 output.