There are a bunch of e-Learning authoring tools on offer. Skim through the top 10, check out the features and make up your mind. Ease of use, publishing options, responsive design, interactions, templates and more bells and whistles covered in this article!

How do you make an engaging course these days? What are your major goals when selecting an authoring tool? Ease of use, rich functionality, scalability, affordable pricing? Now that content authoring and delivery are key in e-Learning and pretty much any business area, you have to be very picky. In an effort to make your choice a little less agonizing, I’ve come up with a brief round-up of 10 select solutions, reviewed in alphabetic order. Let’s take the plunge!

Comparative chart
Ease of use A wealth of interactions Smart quizzing Collaboration tools Easy publishing / sharing SCORM / Tin Can compliant Price
Adobe Captivate +/ + + + + + $1,099
Articulate Storyline + + + +/ + + $1,398
dominKnow Claro + +/ +/ + +/ +/ $997
EasyGenerator + + +/ + + $228
Elucidat + + +/ + $2,400
iSpring Suite + +/ + + + + $697
Office Mix + +/ +/ +/ + Free
SHIFT Learning +/ +/ + +/ + $1,200
Trivantis Lectora 16 +/ + + + + + $2,374
Udutu + +/ +/ +/ + Free

1. Adobe Captivate

One of the acknowledged market leaders, Adobe Captivate delivers a rich multi-media experience to thousands of e-Learners across the globe. Captivate is a tool that enables complete custom authoring. With Captivate, instructional designers can publish to HTML5, easily upload to YouTube, enliven the courses with actors, themes and interactive elements. Eye-catching quizzes, branching scenarios, smart interactions – it has it all. Here’s more Adobe Captivate features so you can check if your requirements are met.

Features

  • Seamless import from Microsoft PowerPoint;
  • Multistate objects: Custom or built-in states for each object, including images, smart shapes, text, etc.;
  • Object styles: Define styles and apply to selected objects for consistent formatting;
  • Responsive design: Content viewable across desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and phones;
  • HTML5 publishing;
  • Retina display support: High-resolution icons, crisp look and feel;
  • Rich multimedia: A plethora of assets that users can utilize in their courses;
  • Easy quizzing and scoring;
  • Works with any SCORM-compliant LMS.

Pros

  • Responsive themes;
  • Drag-and-drop option;
  • Embedded screencasting;
  • An option of publishing output as mobile apps;
  • Multi-device preview;
  • Easy scrolling on mobile devices.

Cons

  • A rather complicated interface;
  • Lack of a proper video editor;
  • No app with offline content playback;
  • Video narration for slides only;
  • Interactions don’t work on mobile devices.

Price

A full Adobe Captivate license will set you back $1,099 unless you provide a student or teacher ID. The discount rate for the educational sector is $349.

Product line

Apparently, Adobe offers quite a product range in the e-Learning field. Feel free to check out Captivate Prime for learning management or the standalone Presenter to create interactive videos.

2. Articulate Storyline

Articulate boasts the largest e-Learning community in the world. Reportedly, these claims appear to be true. Articulate Storyline is a powerful standalone authoring tool that helps a wide user audience to create engaging interactive courses. As with all key players, Articulate Storyline delivers cross-format and cross-platform content encompassing Flash, HTML5 and a bunch of other modern technologies. Storyline includes features like screencasting, slide layers and triggers that enable the user to design any kind of interactions. The solution provides an elaborate character library, quiz functionality, software simulations and much more for any taste. Ease of use for beginners, a wealth of options to tweak and tune for e-Learning nerds.

Features

  • Ease of use. PowerPoint-styled interface, a wealth of template options;
  • Tracking and Reporting. Storyline materials are Tin Can, SCORM and AICC compliant. Any tracking is an integral part of the process, so you always get accurate data;
  • Interactivity. Storyline allows the user to easily create:
    • Screen recordings;
    • Quizzes, polls and assessments;
    • Slide layers;
    • States for a variety of objects;
    • Triggers;
  • Characters and templates. Storyline offers an ample character pack and template gallery. To comply with predefined brand guidelines, feel free to create a custom template and share with your counterparts;
  • HTML5, Flash, full mobile support. Users can dive into their learning content from whatever device with the same level of usability.

Pros

  • Smooth drag-and-drop operation;
  • Rich character library;
  • Great support for interactions;
  • Slide layers;
  • Slides can be converted to free-form questions;
  • Software simulations.

Cons

  • Frequently reported stability issues;
  • Low interoperability with PowerPoint;
  • No video publishing option;
  • Video narrations available on slides only;
  • High license costs.

Price

Articulate Storyline 2 is available for purchase starting at $1,398 per 1-year license ($699 upgrade from previous versions). A monthly subscription ranges between $199 and $499 depending on the plan. Students, teachers and learning institution employees are entitled to a 50% discount.

Product line

The Articulate lineup also includes Studio ’13, which is a better option if you need to transform your PowerPoint deck into an online course.

3. dominKnow Claro

Claro by dominKnow is another web-based content authoring system for e-Learning. Claro lets users cooperate on development, share materials and resources, and engage learners at scale with an array of interactive options. Claro keeps all project assets in a single centralized location so authors belonging to the same work group can access and repurpose content any time. The solution is HTML5-compliant to provide native support for online, offline and mobile-based learning.

Features

  • Use templates or create custom designs;
  • Import ready-made PowerPoint content for reuse;
  • Embedded audio, video and interaction tools;
  • Communicate with colleagues in real-time, work on projects simultaneously and see instant changes;
  • Reviewer notes for timely feedback;
  • Share media resources with the whole team;
  • HTML5 compliant, no Flash involved;
  • Adaptive layout templates and engaging content for smartphones or tablets;
  • Deliver with or without an LMS. SCORM , AICC and PENS compatibility;
  • Password protection, reliable backup process in place;
  • Protect content with roles and permissions;
  • Enhanced user activity tracking and granular statistics.

Pros

  • Excellent review and collaboration tools (co-authoring while building a course);
  • Responsive mobile output;
  • Nice-looking avatars/actors/scenarios;
  • Reusable learning objects.

Cons

  • No automated software simulations, just a built-in capture tool for single screens;
  • Limited support for variables and other power effects;
  • No built-in game templates and widgets, only third-party game widgets are supported;
  • Limited audio and video editing functionality.

Price

dominKnow Claro offers three use plans:

  • Lite: from $997/user/year or $97/user/month;
  • Workgroup: from $2,497/user/year;
  • Enterprise: ask for the quote.

Product line

The Claro family also includes MobilePlayer so you can easily view the content offline on any mobile device. If you are after specific LMS compatibility, contact the dominKnow team for custom integration.

4. Easy Generator

Easy Generator is yet another great tool for creating stylish courses. Available in the cloud, based on the goal-oriented didactical approach, Easy Generator boasts enhanced collaborative features, content authoring functionality, WYSIWYG interface, versatile templates and numerous output options (for instance, Tin Can as well as SCORM).

Features

  • Learner Assessment. Easy measurement of learner progress and achievements;
  • Individual learning approach. Tailored plans to boost personal skills or knowledge;
  • Interactive media support (HTML5, Flash, video, etc.);
  • Engaging questionnaires: multiple choice, multiple select, drag and drop, fill the blanks, etc.;
  • Default template collection. Editable templates are a good starting point for a branded look and feel;
  • Develop your own course type. Define course type, functionality and content logic;
  • Protected access. Secure infrastructure with trusted servers and robust user authentication;
  • Easy backup and restore so your data never gets lost.

Pros

  • Clear user-friendly interface;
  • Mobile-ready responsive content;
  • Easy co-authoring of courses;
  • Customizable question responses;
  • Easy to share (link sharing, embeddable code for websites, SCORM/Tin Can, HTML, etc.);
  • Well-designed tutorials.

Cons

  • Interactive elements are rather limited compared to the competition.

Price

Easy Generator offers a free trial and several paid plans. The Starter pack is available at $19 per author per month. Advanced Plus and Academy plans will set you back $39 and $59 per user/month, respectively. As always, educational institutions get 50% off.

5. Elucidat

Elucidat is an e-Learning authoring package featuring pre-made templates, theme collection, collaboration elements and a user-friendly layout. Focus on HTML5 courses. Elucidat helps instructional designers create engaging learning materials that work quickly and without a glitch on any browser or device. Read on to learn more about Elucidat’s core functionality.

Features

  • HTML5 output. Nice look and feel on any device, be it phone, tablet or desktop PC;
  • Wide browser support: pretty much everything that shows web pages, down to Internet Explorer 7;
  • Highly accessible. Works smoothly with screen readers such as JAWS. Adheres to Section 508 standards;
  • User roles. Restrict authors to specific items and invite project members to have their say;
  • Image library with over 25,000 items;
  • Gamification and branching. Powerful gamification features such as badges, certificates, etc.;
  • Granular analytics. Get a big picture of how learners respond to your courses;
  • Custom branding. No restrictions implied. Go as far as you deem appropriate to make the course look professional.

Pros

  • Easy to use, no training required;
  • Consistent branding: set up a theme to help new authors;
  • Responsive design automatically caters to mobile devices;
  • Effective review/comment system.

Cons

  • Relatively new, not so feature-packed as the competing solutions, some minor bells and whistles missing;
  • No offline app so you have to ensure an uninterrupted Internet connection.

Price

Despite a rather short track record, Elucidat seems to be a popular choice among large companies. Hence the pretty high price level: $2,400/year/user.

6. iSpring Suite

iSpring Suite is a comprehensive e-Learning authoring solution that offers pretty much everything you need to develop attractive courses. SCORM/AICC compliance, customizable player, smooth audio and video recording, quizzes and grading, surveys and advanced course protection against unauthorized use. All in all, iSpring Suite helps you develop real-life, LMS- and mobile-ready courses.

Features

  • Lossless conversion from PowerPoint into e-Learning courses;
  • Add interactive quizzes to your course;
  • Conversation skills and dialog simulations;
  • Sophisticated interactions and character library;
  • Advanced LMS support (iSpring and third-party LMSs);
  • Adaptive content player;
  • Built-in screencast tool;
  • Universal compatibility: courses work on any device;
  • iSpring Play mobile app.

Pros

  • Focus on conversion quality (Flash or HTML5 output is equal to the PPT original);
  • All PowerPoint effects remain intact;
  • All content can be viewed on mobile devices in native mode;
  • Works smoothly with third-party LMSs, no vendor lock-in intended;
  • Granular reporting for courses and quizzes (in SCORM, AICC, xAPI);
  • Extensive narration capabilities;
  • Easy publishing to video/YouTube;
  • Integration with a cloud service for storage and easy sharing.

Cons

  • Fewer interactions than offered by the competition;
  • No triggers and variables;
  • Limited audio/video editing capabilities.

Price

The iSpring Suite license options include:

  • 1 license: $697;
  • 3 licenses: $1,764;
  • 5 licenses: $2,716.

iSpring allows discounts for educators, students and non-profit organizations (40% off) as well as governmental institutions (20% off).

Product line

The Suite is, in fact, a successful combination of multiple e-Learning products. For instance, iSpring offers standalone versions of Presenter and QuizMaker. Naturally, you can view learning content and build your education processes in iSpring LMS.

7. Office Mix

Office Mix is a free tool that helps to turn your PowerPoint presentations into interactive classes. An add-in for Microsoft PowerPoint, it allows you to record audio and video narrations for a wide range of e-Learning purposes. Office Mix also includes quizzes, polls and interactive elements. Educators can share every lesson by distributing a URL stored on the Office Mix site. Office Mix’s analytics features allow you to track which students viewed each course and how long they spent on each slide, as well as monitor their overall performance.

Features

Office Mix builds on the PowerPoint slide show and adds transitions, animations and other effects to boost your content’s popularity. After the deck is ready, the user can add these elements:

  • Audio/video narration;
  • Interactive content (quizzes, polls, simulations);
  • Publishing components.

Once the mix is ready, the author can manage access rights and permissions:

  • For private use or public sharing;
  • For anyone who has the URL inside an organization;
  • For anyone who has the URL – with or without signing in to Office Mix;
  • Send an email with the URL using an email client;
  • Share on any website, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

After you publish the mix, the following elements are available for playback in any HTML5-compliant browser:

  • Play/pause controls;
  • Slide thumbnails;
  • Closed captioning;
  • Playback at different speeds.

Keep track of the course performance and view stats by slide, viewers or exercises.

Pros

  • Free and easy to integrate. You’ll need Office 2013 or Office 365 with PowerPoint in place;
  • ‘My Mixes’ page with clear analytics;
  • Simple, user-friendly interface;
  • Built-in screen captures.

Cons

  • Lacks advanced features offered by competing solutions;
  • Not compatible with SCORM or Tin Can;
  • Lacks the opportunity to design multiple learning pathways.

8. SHIFT Learning

SHIFT Learning by Aura Interactiva is an award winning e-Learning authoring system that claims to provide users with significant cost savings, flexibility and ease-of-use. Indeed, SHIFT Learning is pretty quick and simple, empowering instructional designers, teachers and students to create highly interactive content with no technical skills required.

Features

  • Out-of-the-box interfaces and templates;
  • Learning games as part of the package;
  • Scenario builder to facilitate authoring;
  • Ample character library;
  • Embedded recording studio;
  • Powerful image editor;
  • Full HTML5 and mobile support.

Pros

  • Nice look and feel;
  • Embedded game engine that helps to make courses more fun;
  • Affordable packages for various user groups.

Cons

  • Lack of interactions;
  • Limited audio/video editing capabilities.

Price

Here is what SHIFT offers in terms of pricing:

  • Free 15-day trial;
  • SHIFT Lite for SMBs, individuals and freelancers with basic e-Learning needs. $1,200/yr or $120/mo;
  • SHIFT Power User for small to medium-sized businesses. Adds a built-in audio recording tool as well as phone and email support. $3,500/yr or $350/mo;
  • SHIFT Enterprise for large companies. Adds access to collaboration tools and greater storage capacity. $8,500/yr or $850/mo;

9. Trivantis Lectora 16

Trivantis Lectora is one of the most popular e-Learning solutions in the world. Trivantis reports that the software is used by Global 2000 companies in over 125 countries. Lectora’s Responsive Course Design facilitates development of mobile-ready content. Find some of Lectora’s numerous features below.

Features

  • Programming-free authoring and publishing;
  • Advanced assessment/survey capabilities with multiple output options for test results;
  • Actions Palette to create unlimited interactive e-Learning objects;
  • Automated tools (spell check, variable manager, automated menu builder and many others);
  • AICC-certified and SCORM-compliant;
  • Extensible and mobile-friendly;
  • Template gallery and media library;
  • Responsive Course Design (RCD) – automatic object rescaling to fit all types of devices;
  • Enhanced preview in browsers.

Pros

  • Handy integrations. E.g., the ability to add animated videos into Lectora Online Media Library;
  • Solid HTML, SCORM, and Tin Can publishing;
  • Ability to create LMS-compatible assignments.

Cons

  • Out-of-the-box templates are rather basic;
  • Relatively complex user interface;
  • Somewhat on the pricey side.

Price

Starting at $2,374 for a Lectora Inspire license and 1st-year maintenance & support.

Product line

Lectora Inspire has many siblings:

Check out Lectora Online for a similar yet slightly less sophisticated authoring experience. See if the LMS is right for your needs. As always, Trivantis products are worthy of serious consideration.

10. Udutu

Udutu is a freemium course authoring tool. The manufacturer creates no barriers as to the number of users in the same project, or the number of courses authored. Easy for beginners and sophisticated for experts. Works smoothly with multimedia and professional effects in any browser or device.

Features

  • AICC / SCORM compliant;
  • Easy content import and export;
  • Storyboarding;
  • PowerPoint conversion;
  • Self-paced courses;
  • Customizable templates.

Pros

  • Good quality of PowerPoint conversions (partners with the iSpring engine for best results);
  • You can extract and burn content to a DVD;
  • Easy publishing across all devices (including a tailored iPad version).

Cons

  • Lack of diversity in templates and interactions;
  • Pretty basic functionality compared to the market leaders.

Product line

The Udutu product line also involves a learning management system – Udutu Guru LMS. Feel free to play with the system and see if it matches your goals.

In conclusion

I hope you find this overview useful. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there is a bunch of other merited solutions on the market. However, my goal here was to highlight some features every solid authoring tool should have. Whatever you choose, make sure your solution has a flexible architecture and potential for further growth and development. If your software is fresh to the market, yet it gets proper updates and quickly adopts new innovative features, it might be a better option than a seasoned but rather stagnated tool. See to it that your provider of choice advocates responsive design and extensibility, and also bridges old and latest technology. Finally, you need to enjoy the tool you are using. If your authoring experience falls into the abyss of boredom or technical struggles, it’s probably high time for a change.

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2 Comments

  • Just wondering if someone ever made a comparison based on the hidden costs associated with every authoring tool. I’m not speaking about extra training or endless gigabytes of storage. Truth be told, once you sign up and pay, you actually think it’s all inclusive, and it’s not. Many vendors charge a fortune for updates and tech support. Encountered a glitch in the system? Get ready to pony up to get it fixed. I don’t want to point fingers, but this specifically applies to so called freemium products.

    • Thanks for your comment, Stan!

      I’d be happy to provide more pricing details on every solution, but it’s a really trying task. Besides, I’m afraid I’d still go wrong in some cases. Indeed, there is a bunch of licensing models for desktop and cloud-based solutions. In the cloud options, you may find ‘pay for author’, ‘pay for storage volume’ or ‘pay for project’ models. These might be a lifesaver in case of a tight budget. In this roundup, I’m focusing on standard licensing fees. You are right, it’s not always a one-time payment. Software developers need to do their breadwinning after all. Make sure to peruse the licensing policy before you sign up with a particular vendor.

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