An authoring platform is a program that includes a set of design elements for the development of interactive multimedia software titles. Basically, it’s software that makes software. It allows a non-programmer, usually an instructor, instructional designer or educational technologist, to easily create stand alone e-learning modules with programming features. These programming features are built in and and hidden behind buttons and other tools, so the author does not need to know any programming language.
Many tools exits for the creating of e-learning modules. PC Magazine has listed and reviewed the most widely used products.
- Drill and practice exercises help students build specific skills they need to master before they can move on to more meaningful learning. Use this type of exercise to introduce a topic or section of the course that requires mastery of a new technique or procedure that you usually spend class time covering. Adding gamification features to this type of exercise can make the learning of mundane content more engaging.
- Interactive case studies or scenarios that include branching logic can provide students with low stakes opportunities to bring together aspects of the course content in new ways. Including automated feedback can help reinforce core concepts and provide an opportunity for students to reflect on their choices and make multiple attempts.
- Simulations provide virtual experiences for students where they can build confidence before attempting the task or procedure in the real world.
Generally, authoring systems provide many graphics, interaction, and other tools you need to create a learning module. You can structure and sequence (or not) the instructional content and media, setting the pace in which the content is delivered and how learners engage with the content. With almost any authoring tool you can:
- Provide formative feedback Providing feedback at regular intervals is a great way to break up eLearning content and retain learners’ interest. It’s also useful for ascertaining how well learners are doing before a course is complete.
- Create branching navigation: This technique gives learners control over their outcomes. As learners choose from multiple solutions to given scenarios, different outcomes are presented for the challenges they encounter along the way.
- Allow multiple attempts: This feedback technique gives learners a hint when they answer a question incorrectly, followed by a second chance to respond.
- Provide the correct answer with feedback: When learners answer a question incorrectly, consider providing them with feedback, followed by the correct answer. This technique can help learners to rectify mistakes as they progress through the content.
Although many authoring products come with a high price tag, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to begin creating some interactive elements for your course. Some tools you already have access to, some are free, and some have free trial periods you can take advantage of to author your first online module. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
PowerPoint (as authoring tool) by Microsoft This program that you probably already use is packed with advanced features that can perform many of the same functions as other, more expensive, authoring tools. See demonstration videos.
H5P by an open source community project It is a solid, free eLearning authoring tool that’s ideal for one-off modules and has strong video features. While not as full of features as some products, it is easy to use and totally free. Read Review.
Camtasia by Techsmith This application is not always thought of as an authoring tool, as it’s widely been used as a screen recorder. However, you can add elements like clickable interactions and quizzes with Camtasia. You can also easily import a PowerPoint slide deck so you don’t have to start from scratch. See more about Camtasia’s authoring features. Camtasia offers a free 30 day trial.
Captivate by Adobe This fully-featured application allows for authors to create complex simulations and games. There is also a wide variety of templates (many for free) available that can be customized. It takes some practice using but you can create sophisticated simulations or games using this tool. Captivate offers a free 30 day trial.
Articulate by Articulate This is the competitor to Adobe’s Captivate. It is also a fully-featured application allows for authors to create complex simulations and games. See free game templates for Articulate. Articulate also offers a free 30 day trial.
Scratch by MIT Media Lab Scratch is a creative tool that helps users create interactive stories, animation, music, and art, then share their creations on the web.