Critical Components you need in a Course Authoring Tool. By Vantage Path

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1 The Three most Critical Components you need in a Course Authoring Tool By Vantage Path

2 Table Of Contents Tools To Create a Great Presentation...4 Object Design Tools... 9 Interactivity Elements Building Tool Comparison Summary... 31

3 elearning takes many different formats and is used in a variety of different industries. The inflight safety video shown on your last commercial flight is an example of simple videobased elearning and the simulator used to train shuttle pilots is an example of elearning at its most complex. Despite the differences, they share one quality; each is the product of an author writing code or using one or several authoring tools. The Three Most Critical Components 1

4 It stands to reason that course authoring tools must also come in a variety of flavors from simple to powerful. The breadth of options available in the market can be dizzying when you are selecting a course building tool for your organization. How do you know which tools are best? How do you know which features are important? The ebook Creating Performance Based elearning (also available on the Vantagepath.com website) describes the ultimate goal of elearning to be acquisition of new skills and/or performance improvement. The author goes on to describe the kind of elearning experiences that deliver LEARN How To CREATE Performance Based elearning Optimize your elearning with meaningful interactivity that is relevant, challenging and effective By VANTAgE The Three Most Critical Components 2

5 the best results. This ebook builds on that theme by answering two follow-up questions: Which course builder features should you look for in order to create a professional and productive elearning experience, and which authoring tool delivers the most feature rich package. There are three key areas to consider when evaluating authoring tools: Presentation Design Tools Object Design Tools Interactive Elements The following sections provide a definition of each area and a list of common authoring tool features found within each area. The tool list is not comprehensive but provides core functionality features that should be considered in any course builder purchasing decision. The Three Most Critical Components 3

6 Tools To Create a Great Presentation Presentation Design These tools build the visual theme of the course. They help translate your ideas as described in the visual design document into backgrounds, a color palette, borders and frames, navigation buttons, and master pages. The Three Most Critical Components 4

7 A strong arrangement of layout and presentation tools allow you to easily build appealing visual themes for your course(s). They help translate your ideas as described in the visual design document into backgrounds, color palette, borders and frames, and navigation icons. Import from PowerPoint Many building tools require you to start from an empty canvas. If your content or storyboard is in PowerPoint or Keynote format and the authoring tool supports import, a single command will move your content and layout to the course tool ready for your edits. This is all about reducing rework and providing the shortest path between now and your completed elearning course. PPT The Three Most Critical Components 5

8 Master page Another Huge Timesaver! Be sure that your authoring tool has the ability to create a master slide that contains elements common to each screen of your course. With details like background colors and images, titles, navigation and command buttons, and screen layout defined in a master slide, it won t be necessary to recreate these features on each screen. Typically, the master page is used to define the look and feel of your course and to include branding elements such as your logo and color palette. The Three Most Critical Components 6

9 Templating It s not inconceivable that with a master page, templates, and your content, the course can essentially write itself! Templates are pre-built course slides without content that take much of the effort out of course building. The author selects templates to accommodate the type of content and delivery method (images, video clip, interaction) and inserts their content. Templates make it easy for individuals to create elearning even though they may have limited resources or design skills. When shopping for an authoring tool, look for one that offers templates and, preferably, template suites that include several different screen types e.g., opening and closing screens, test screens, and content presentation screens. The Three Most Critical Components 7

10 While Master pages, templates, and the ability to import Powerpoint content will do most to expedite the course build cycle, there are many other builder tools and features that will contribute to turning your content quickly into professional, compelling, and effective courseware. The Three Most Critical Components 8

11 Object Design Tools Object design tools are used to create and manipulate course objects which can include graphics, text, audio and video clips, animations, and transitions. A course builder with a robust suite of object design tools provides more options for the author to creatively present his/her content. The net result is a more engaging course with corresponding heightened student interest and skill improvement. The Three Most Critical Components 9

12 Cast management and Object Grouping The ability to manage selection, layering, and sequencing of objects on your screen. Objects can include images, text, graphics, video and audio clips as well as any actions that trigger an activity on screen. Simulations which can include single or grouped objects interacting with each other is simplified when using this tool to organize their properties and features. The structure this feature brings to your course build is especially beneficial when there are multiple team members working on the same course and an organized approach is key. The Three Most Critical Components 10

13 Shape library A library of commonly used shapes and fills should be offered with the ability to add newly created, frequently used graphics. This feature especially benefits those of us with questionable drawing skills. Shapes are one of the most commonly used features. They can hold graphics and images, text, hotspots, video clips, test questions, and backgrounds. With so many different applications, it s easy to see the many benefits of an extensive shape library. The Three Most Critical Components 11

14 Library search Quickly locate media, assets, templates, lessons or courses for reuse or editing using search criteria such as title, keywords or date. As you build more courses, your collection of digital assets will grow. An authoring tool that organizes your assets will make subsequent course builds that much easier! The Three Most Critical Components 12

15 Customize look and feel of screen objects Each object on screen; text, graphics, video players, navigation buttons, animations should have their own set of editable properties. Authoring software that provides complete control over the object s properties gives the author greatest control over the appearance of their content and visual design. A course builder that offers this level of flexibility and creativity allows you to put a recognizable and unique stamp on your training courses. The Three Most Critical Components 13

16 Transitions and Animations Creating movement on screen is one of the more effective ways to maintain visual interest for your learners. The ability to use a variety of effects e.g., fades, spins, zooms, slides when adding or removing objects onscreen is a key builder function. A more engaged user equals better performance (ergo: more sales for you!) The Three Most Critical Components 14

17 Import Rich Media The ability to import and use media files such as Flash, JPG, MP3, and FLV formats created in other software packages substantially increases design options. The longer the list of acceptable formats, the better. Perhaps you have video footage from a previous course, or need to use a particular InDesign or Photoshop image filter. With the ability to import rich media files, you can create your assets outside of the course using more advanced, dedicated software and import the result for use in your course. A common use of this feature is to import advanced Flash animations built in their native software. The Three Most Critical Components 15

18 Timer and Timeline Editor This feature is most often used to time user responses or track the time spent on a task but it also can be used to trigger screen events or narration clips. Adding a timer to a simulation or test adds another dimension to the assessment task. It improves performance by encouraging active participation in your course content. The Three Most Critical Components 16

19 Instant preview The ability to review your work as it will appear to the student without rendering and at any time during the build is commonly called an instant preview. Look for preview functionality that carries a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) guarantee. Instant preview provides the advantage of testing different solutions without disrupting the build process. For example, screen designs, interactive elements, or test questions can be provided to colleagues for feedback without the time-consuming process of having to render and export the course first. The Three Most Critical Components 17

20 Embeddable audio & video Most, if not all, builders carry the ability to add audio and video clips. Some elearning courses are exactly that; a video with a soundtrack. They serve a purpose but the biggest benefits result from the ability to embed video within the course where it can be used when and as needed to deliver or reinforce specific content. Look for authoring software that enables the use of a video clip as an object within the course build. Rather than a simple press to play segment, your video (or audio) clip can be integrated in interactions based on user inputs or responses. Your insights are delivered to the user precisely when they need them. The Three Most Critical Components 18

21 Interactivity Elements Entry-level interactivity provides the ability to create test questions. Advanced interactivity provides the ability to create real life scenarios and simulations, branching, real play, games, and adaptive learning. In a simple course with testing, the user learns what he/she remembers. Advanced interactivity provides the user with the ability to apply what they have learned. They learn the knowledge in the context of its application. In effect, they are able to rehearse their new skill, which creates a dramatic increase in knowledge retention. Here are some of the important features and tools that support creation of advanced interactivity: The Three Most Critical Components 19

22 Flowcharting tool Response-based branching scenarios guides the user along a particular path based on their responses to a series of questions or predicaments. The multiple layers of a branching scenario can be a challenge to map without a visual aid of some sort. A flowcharting tool within the builder allows you to plot a branching map and test different outcomes before the actual build phase. The ability to plan your scenarios from within the authoring tool reduces rework and shortens course development cycles. The Three Most Critical Components 20

23 Hyperlinks Embedded hyperlinks provide quick access to resources external to the course. It may not always be possible to reproduce required course resources because of their bulk (e.g. policy manuals) or rights issues (e.g. Websites). In those cases, the ability to embed links to resources from within your course puts a wealth of information at the fingertips of both you and your students. Information critical to the user s success that was previously handed out in paper format, can now be digitally accessed. The Three Most Critical Components 21

24 Testing and Assessments The success of your elearning course will be determined by its ability to produce measured performance improvement in your users. Learning professionals need to show tangible results in order to sell their content. The same is true for elearning. If the results aren t there, why would an organization invest in your course? The assessment process also provides a feedback loop for the user that is vital for knowledge retention. The Three Most Critical Components 22

25 Most authoring tools offer basic test question formats such as: Drag and drop the correct answer True / False answers Multiple choice (single correct answer) Multiple select (multiple correct answers) The Three Most Critical Components 23

26 The simple test questions are necessary but when making your purchase decision, look beyond basic testing for the following capabilities: Placement of tests and knowledge checks before, within, and following the course content. Flexible test placement provides you with two advantages: the ability to test your user immediately following delivery of the knowledge which improves retention, and mid-course testing gives your students insight into their performance at different points within the course not just on completion. The Three Most Critical Components 24

27 Scoring should be based on any kind of interaction ranging from branching scenarios to case studies to true/false questions. Behavioral test questions, like role-plays and simulations, are a better indicator of skill transference and provide a more engaging experience for your user. Better results will put your courseware in higher demand. The Three Most Critical Components 25

28 Weighted scoring - Not all test questions are created equal. The ability to assign different weights to different questions further refines your ability to gauge the student s progress. The ability to obtain precise performance results offers the added benefit of knowing exactly where knowledge gaps exist. Your training is more efficient and provides a higher ROI for your clients. The Three Most Critical Components 26

29 Certificates: Look for a course builder that supports issuance of a certificate to the user on successful completion of a course. Preferably, the certificate should be fully customizable to reflect your brand or that of the issuing organization. It might seem simple but you have an advantage over the competition if you provide a certificate and they don t. The Three Most Critical Components 27

30 SCORM compliancy: A SCORM compliant course can pass information to many LMS (Learning Management System) in order to track results outside of the course. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Module) is one of the two recognized elearning standards. By ensuring your course building tool creates SCORM compliant courses, you are guaranteed compatibility with the leading LMS in the marketplace. Your distribution options grow considerably and compliancy gives your clients a sense of confidence and trust in your training. The Three Most Critical Components 28

31 Building Tool Comparison The following chart compares seven of the more popular authoring tools available today. The research was conducted by the elearning Guild. Each building tool is graded on a scale of one to ten for each of 22 features. Some of the features have been discussed in this ebook but there are also subjective categories based on user experience. The obvious winner is SmartBuilder with 1st place in 12 different categories. The next in line had 5 first place finishes. Hardly close. The Three Most Critical Components 29

32 1 indicates the best ranking Adobe Flash Camtasia Mzinga Firefly Lectora Raptivity SmartBuilder STT Trainer Ease of use Power & flexibility Time to proficiency Cost effectiveness Vendor responsiveness Object capture & edit properties NA 3 2 SCORM/AICC Auto record software procedures Auto creation of navigation controls & screen sequencing Creation & placement of highlighting and visual cues Creation & Placement of Text Bubbles / Captions Customization and navigation controls NA NA NA Import Audio Import External Images Import Video 3 7 NA NA Integration with Courseware Authoring & Rapid elearning Tools Physical Task Demonstration and Simulations Real-time Evaluation & Feedback Rule-based Branching Engine Soft skills demonstration and activities Software demonstration and guided 8tutorials Word or printable document creation NA 2 1 The Three Most Critical Components 30

33 Summary The intent of this ebook was to provide you with information to assist in evaluating and comparing the course authoring tools available today. There are other criteria to be considered in your final decision such as publishing, reporting capabilities, and of course cost. These will be discussed in subsequent ebooks available on the Vantage Path website. Armed with the information in this ebook you can begin to shortlist some of the contenders in the marketplace today. The Three Most Critical Components 31

34 We hope you ve enjoyed this e-book as much as we ve enjoyed creating it for you. If these tips for growing your business were helpful you might enjoy viewing some samples from some of the Learning Professionals that have adopted this strategy. Better yet, let us show you how we can help you get the results you want. Visit vantagepath.com and request a demo today! Or call us at The Three Most Critical Components 32

Articulate Certified Training Courses www.omniplex.co 2 Instructional Design for Rapid elearning Course Synopsis: Join our Instructional Design for Rapid elearning course if you want to get the most out

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