Just like an artist needs a canvas, an accountant needs a calculator, and an astronaut needs a spaceship, an instructional designer requires specific tools to help him finish his projects effectively and innovatively. E-learning may be a new industry, but dozens of software developers have produced highly advanced tools to help professionals create the computer-based courses they need for success. However, not every e-learning tool is equal — some developers simply don’t understand the needs of instructional designers, and some tools are necessary only for precise assignments.
Still, there are a handful of beloved tools most instructional designers always turn to. As you learn the intricacies in your instructional design master’s program, you will likely get the opportunity to tinker with a wide variety of e-learning software. As you gain experience, you will find that the following five tools are indispensable.
1. Articulate Storyline
Articulate Storyline is one of the first tools instructional designers ever use, and it’s easy to understand why. The system is clean and intuitive, which is perfect for beginners. However, plenty of hard-worn professionals continue to use Storyline for its surprising power.
Storyline’s simplicity arises from its diagrammatic scenes, which organize presentations in a pleasingly visual way. It takes precious little time to navigate among scenes, and you can modify any scene much more precisely than in Microsoft PowerPoint or other basic presentation makers.
Plus, Storyline interacts well with Articulate’s other useful e-learning (and non-e-learning) software, including Studio, Engage, and Quizmaker, so you can easily integrate more complex activities into your presentation. Finally, Storyline supports outputs to HTML5, Flash, and AMP, which makes it easier to make your work mobile.
Articulate Storyline 2 in full currently costs $1,398, but it is basically a one-stop-shop for e-learning software, and many instructional designers attest it is well worth the cost.
2. Adobe Captivate
For most computer users, Adobe is a familiar name. With ubiquitous software like Flash, Photoshop, and Acrobat, Adobe has long been established as a trusted software giant. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Adobe’s e-learning software, Captivate, is one of the most fundamental tools for instructional designers. Indeed, currently in its eighth installment, Captivate has led the e-learning software market for nearly a decade.
Most recently, Adobe has made moves to make Captivate more approachable for novices, with a more visual interface and less technical terminology. Additionally, Adobe has become focused on mobility, and Captivate’s Responsive Project capability makes creating flexible courses for varied devices incredibly simple.
A full download of Adobe Captivate 8 will cost $999. However, the software is also available for a $29.99 monthly subscription.
3. Lectora Inspire
For a long time, Lectora was a big name in instructional design software. Now, Articulate and Adobe are the go-to software for e-learning. However, Lectora Inspire, now in its 12th edition, still has a devoted group of followers, and it’s easy to see why.
Inspire actually comprises four distinct products: Lectora, Camtasia, Snagit, and FlyPaper. All four work in sync to provide any feature an instructional designer could need. Additionally, in its recent releases, Inspire has made the software much more user-friendly, cleaning up interfaces and automating several frustrating tasks. Many designers confess that they prefer Inspire’s accessibility and power to any other e-learning software’s familiarity.
As indicated by its price — nearly $2,500 — you can probably infer that Lectora Inspire is best for serious developers who are well established in the field.
4. Learning Nexus Course Builder
While the previous three software platforms are unbeatable when it comes to usability and design, Learning Nexus’s Course Builder is the only cloud-based tool that allows instructional designers to effortlessly collaborate with other e-learning professionals.
In truth, even the most experienced instructional designer isn’t an authority in all the subjects he will create training tools for; most instructional design projects require a topic expert to design and complete. Thus, having the ability to work in partnership through a single, functional e-learning tool is critical.
Learning Nexus Course Builder has customizable title options that vary the pricing, but limited use can be as low as about $20.
Though the education technology giant has had a tumultuous ride for the past couple years, Blackboard remains one of the e-learning industry’s biggest platforms. Nearly 6,000 colleges and universities use Blackboard in some capacity, — by far the biggest e-learning host in America — which means ambitious instructional designers should be perfectly comfortable navigating within it. Fortunately, Blackboard provides a handful of certification classes to help you build proficiency with this e-learning titan.