How do you pick an elearning development tool?
You might be about to start developing online elearning courses or you already are and are looking for a new development tool. How do you pick a development tool? What are the things to look for? In this article we look at some of the things that you can consider when selecting a new elearning development tool for your elearning projects.
Create a shortlist of the development tools that you are interested in. At this stage you are likely to have heard of a number of learning tools that you can use. It is a good idea to create a list of the tools you want to review.
The list might not actually be that short, but spend some time listing the development tools. It might take a few weeks or even months to put the list together. If possible arrange demo versions so that you can review the tools as part of your selection process.
Put your list in an excel or google sheet so that you can include your scoring in matrix for later in the review process.
It is really important to identify what you want from your chosen tool. It could be that you already have a developer and you want a version of the same tool so that you can edit the final projects. You may want a development tool so that you can develop your own projects.
Take some time to review what your requirements are and document it, this will help you during the review process. Speak to people that you work with to see if they have any specific requirements or ideas. You might find that they have very different requirements from you. Remember you might not be the only person using the elearning development tool.
As you work through the process you’ll begin to frame your requirements and start defining what you are looking for from an elearning development tool.
You should have covered this in your specification and review documents, but spend some time identifying why you need a development tool.
There might be another reason why you are looking to purchase a development tool, but if you can start to capture the reason why you continue to build your specification and needs case. This will also help you when you look to evaluate the various tools that you review.
It is important to understand why you are looking to purchase a tool and that any future tool supports your requirements.
Software is increasingly offered as SaaS, meaning that you are essentially renting the software and never own a physical version of the software. Several years ago you’d purchase software and receive a physical version of the software alongside your licence.
Software is now largely used in the cloud, meaning that if you stop paying for your licence that your access to the software will also stop. This is something that you need to consider when you are selecting your software. How often will you need to use the software, how many licences do you need and what will be your total cost of ownership?
If the software you select has a SaaS model then check how often the software is updated. Award winning software will have regular updates and you might also get new software related to your software that will make your workflow easier.
When you start using the development tool there will be times when you need help. It is a good idea to see what the user community is like. Does the development tool and the company that runs it have a vibrant and friendly online community? A good online community will often help you solve problems that you have using the tool and also with general elearning questions that you have!
Articulate is well known for having one of the largest online communities that provides peer support and also has a number of weekly online events that encourages users to share innovative ideas and work that pushes creative and projects amongst the community.
An online community might not be top of your scoring matrix, but it can be a very valuable resource when you are looking for help when developing your elearning projects.
If you are going to need support then check out how much the support plans are and what’s included. Most development tools come with a support plan, but you need to check out what’s included.
Support plans can be very useful especially if you don’t have in-house support but you need to review what’s involved and do an evaluation on how much you think you’ll use the support. This might be difficult but it is worth it!
You should also review what level of support you think you’ll need. If you need support, will you be happy with email or do you need telephone support? Try to speak to other users to see what the level of support has been like. You’ll often find reviews on Trustpilot or Google Business reviews.
You might be thinking why do we need to consider freelance developers if we are buying our own version of a software development tool.
If you are creating elearning courses you might need additional resources or reach the limit of your understanding. It is a good idea to have an understanding of the freelance and contractor market. How easy is it for you to get a freelance developer if you need one and how quickly can you get one.
The website is likely to be full of demonstrations and videos of what you can develop but try to reach out to customers who use the tool. Ask them if they can share some of the projects that they have developed and ask them how they’ve found the tool.
If there is a user community you can also ask the users if they can share some of their projects that they have completed. When you are looking to complete projects you’ll get the opportunity to find out how long projects have taken to complete and the skill level that has been required to complete each project.
You might have returned from an exhibition or conference and seen a brilliant presentation with a very compelling presentation. Take some time to review your requirements and think whether you actually need a development tool.
If you are looking to edit some content that you have had developed by a content partner then a development tool might be a straightforward decision, but why are you looking to buy a development tool licence?
Do you have the team to create content? Do you have graphic resources? Who will write courses? Will you prepare your voiceover scripts? If you haven’t considered these questions it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a development tool, it means that you should maybe consider your content strategy in more detail.
Several organisations purchase a software tool, start developing and realise that they don’t have the infrastructure in place and end up starting again with an elearning partner or just abandon their projects.
Why is this important? Content is vital to the success of your elearning project and you’ll need great content to make your project a success. You might already have projects in another format (Articulate Studio) and you are looking to create new versions of your courses in Articulate Rise.
It could be that you have a lot of PDF files and you want to create a series of animation files and actually what you need is animation software and the services of an animator. If you already have your content and you are looking to use this as a basis of your project then take some time to review your content.
What do you want to do with the project? Is it going to form the basis of animations, videos or will the course still be quite text based, this will help you as you look to consider the development tools that you are going to use.
This is something to consider if you are going to select an elearning developer to create your content. You might want to be involved in the editing of your content after the project has finished. If this is the case then selecting a development tool that you are comfortable with is really important.
Speak to your supplier and understand what they are using to develop your content and how easy it is for you to get a licence and also to use the software. There are a number of in-house development tools that you might not be able to use or get access to.
Will you be able to access your files if you use their in-house development tool? It can be easier to select a tool that is widely used across the industry so that you can use a freelancer or contractor if you change supplier in the future.
Development tools will often come with a number of software tools that you can use. You should review all of the tools that are available within the licence, often there are a number of other software tools that you can use. Articulate now leads with the Articulate 360 development suite that contains a number of tools to help you create your elearning projects, a review app and stock assets.
There are a number of other development tools available including
If you are not sure – start with one!
During your specification and review process you can identify the people who will be using the development tool. If you need additional licences you can buy them at any time, don’t get drawn into a great offer or bundle at the start, especially if you are unsure about what you need.
If you are working with a great supplier then will understand your requirements and provide licences as you need them.
You will probably need to get some training on how to use the tool. Most of the development tools will have their own training videos and training that you take.
If you need additional training you can also contact companies like Omniplex or offer software training and instructional design training.
This might be the reason why you are reading this article! You need to review and understand why the purchase of the software hasn’t worked for you.
Is it the software that hasn’t worked or do you have a process or training challenge?
Developing online learning takes time and normally involves more than one person. It is really easy to see a presentation, video or demonstration and think that your organisation might be able to overhaul all of its online learning with the implementation of one piece of software.
Implementation of software is one part of the strategy. People always solve problems! It might be that you need to go back and look at your learning and development strategy and see how you need to develop your online materials.