When it comes to choosing the right Authoring tool, there are many choices available to Learning Designers today.
There are a fair few authoring tools in the market we all know about.
And I am sure there are many more we probably never even heard of!
Most learning designers I know are not what I would call “Authoring-Tool-agnostic”.
We all have a preferred choice of weapon when it comes to authoring learning design. As the years and experience pile on, it is quite easy to get set in our ways.
I’ve personally always been rather weary of tools that offer rapid authoring solutions.
I have nothing against speed.
My reservations about “rapid authoring” stem from the implications of speed in a learning design and authoring context.
Speed should never come at the expense of effective design and engagement.
If you’re a Learning designer in the Local Government space, chances are, at some point or other, you may have been asked to do huge amounts of “shovelware” (i.e: taking policy documents and Powerpoints from Face to face training sessions and dumping them on to an authoring tool to pump out SCORM packages). Sometimes emergency circumstances override our best intentions. Especially if there are mandatory and time sensitive compliance requirements to be considered.
Shovelware certainly became a trend because of the global pandemic as an entire workforce was forced to pivot to a work-from-home culture. And in my experience, it remains a key operating procedure in the L&D space for many organisations.
However, I have noticed that many of us are not aware of how much time we are devoting to processes which aren’t necessary. Processes that can evolve without compromising on instructional effectiveness.
The first time I ever used an authoring tool designed for authoring re-flowable text, I couldn’t help but mourn the number of man-hours I had devoted to lining up things up just right on slide-based tools like Lectora, Captivate or Storyline.
Admittedly, the tool-sets available to a designer when using tools designed for authoring re-flowable text is far more limited than the slide-based tools, but I was overjoyed at how little time it took to create something that looked incredibly good. If I needed to make changes, the content simply flowed around it! It was far less work for similar results. Another vital consideration here is the reduced amount of time spend on re-working the learning content in response to significant changes in legislation requiring the e-Learning module to updated.
And I found that the speed improvement did not come at the cost of good learning design or engagement when it came to authoring reflowable content as opposed to authoring slides.
Aside from increased speed, another added benefit is that reflowable text translates to a far more seamless user experience.
HTML5 revolutionised the industry about a decade ago in terms of the accessibility and responsiveness of websites on mobile internet enabled devices. And many authoring tools have kept up with this trend by offering designers a platform to author web-friendly content which fits to any screen based on the end user’s device, content that can be read by screen readers and content which requires less proprietary plugins.
An additional speed advantage of authoring tools which author re-flowable content comes from the fact that they leverage single-source authoring. Instead of authoring multiple versions for each potential end-user screen type, i.e: Desktop/Laptops, Tablets, Mobile phones, you author the content once and the output will be responsive to the size of the screen being used by the end user to access the content.
An issue with a lot of the tools available though, is that although they offer the versatility of a smoother and faster authoring experience and generate versatile content which responds to all screen types on the user’s end, they don’t offer the rich set of functionalities and features available in our favoured slide-based tools. The risk associated with this is an over-saturation of shovelled-out content (because it’s easy) and a decrease in learning content that celebrates powerful instructional design. This is because not all the tools associated with authoring re-flowable content support interactivity, collaboration and analytics.
However, tools that author reflowable content pump out the same code that is used on the internet, and instructional designers share a common goal of creating interactive experiences similar to web-based content rather than static content which generate less engagement.
This begs the question as to why the learning experiences generated by most Authoring tools are far more limited than regular internet content.
In our following newsletter in May, I will re-visit this question and examine powerful possibilities which can be delivered via reflowable content.