If you’ve been reading our eLearning authoring tool reviews (iSpring, Lectora Inspire, Storyline 3 ), you may be thinking you need a new authoring product. You may even think that using a new authoring tool will better engage learners, and result in better retention and satisfaction with the learning experience.
And you may be correct in your assessment. But before you jump into evaluating a new authoring product, consider the following tasks to determine if you really need a new tool:
- Get feedback from learners
- Become a master of your current authoring tool
Get Feedback From Learners
Before investing time and money to purchase a new authoring tool, get feedback from learners about what works, and what doesn’t, in your eLearning courses. You can ask them directly in some cases, or ask via email. Many LMS products allow you to add a survey to the end of the course. If so, use that feature. Make the survey mandatory. Ask questions about the effectiveness of the course content:
- how relevant to their job is the content
- how effective was the presentation of content
- was the material presented in an engaging manner
Ask for suggestions on how to improve the course:
- shorter/longer course length
- less reading intensive
- more video/interaction
- more knowledge checks interspersed throughout the course
- better content organization
- dis/allow branching
If your LMS has drill down reports that allow you to analyze the effectiveness of the training content, take advantage of the information they provide. Perhaps there is a quiz report that gives you insight into how effective quiz questions are, based on how frequently learners give the wrong response. You can then determine if the question should be re-written for clarity, or perhaps the content is unclear.
Also consider what types of changes you’d like to make to courses, or what improvements you'd like to see in future course development. Do you need to include more videos that show how to complete a specific task? Do you want to include more interactive simulations? Do you want to change the look & feel of courses, using more modern features to better engage learners?
Become a Master of Your Current Authoring Tool
Most authoring tools have easy, intuitive interfaces that allow you to get up to speed quickly. Maybe the interface looks like PowerPoint, or perhaps the tool is a PowerPoint add-on. Being easy to use and learn is a great selling point, but it has a downside. Because the tools make it so easy to get started, we often don’t look at any of the advanced capabilities or new features that are added, because it takes too much time.
Before you started looking around at other authoring tools, become an expert user in the tool you currently use. This means searching through the help system, going through tutorials, and browsing community forums to find out about advanced features. Community forums are also great places to look for sample courses to get ideas for improving course delivery.
In my case, I am a long-time user of Adobe’s Captivate to create elearning courses. But, I frequently don’t have time to look at the latest updates or new features that are available. (I usually think I will come back to learn more about the new features, but I rarely do.) I’m on a deadline, so I continue to rely on the features that I already know. This limitation may speed up course development, but it doesn't give me the flexibility to use the best format for delivering the material.
I recently took my own advice: I took the time to learn about the latest features of Captivate – and some that I hadn’t noticed from prior releases. I went through tutorials. I read the release notes and ‘What's New’ documentation. I visited the online community forum so I could learn from others.
All of this was a bit time consuming – mostly because I ignored the new features as they were made available, so I had a large amount of material to get through. It took a little more that a week. It made a huge difference. I found that I could use Captivate to create many different types of learning experiences, depending on the topic. It allows me to work with SMEs to present the material in the most engaging manner. The courses no longer deliver the content in a staid, standard presentation.
By investing my time in mastering Captivate, I can now take advantage of new features - which means I can deliver content that is engaging and appropriate for the subject matter. I did not have to purchase a new product to accomplish my goals - but by going through this exercise I would be able to justify the investment, had that been necessary.