What feature is missing from your e-learning development tool?

I have some simple questions I’d love to get feedback on.

I’m curious about what people are looking for in their e-learning authoring tools, specifically:

  1. What feature is your current tool missing that you would love to see implemented? Support for team collaboration? Support for themes or custom CSS styling? Support for language localization? A beer dispenser? Etc.
  2. What feature does someone else’s tool have that you’re jealous of?

For me? I wish the most popular tools (Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, etc.) would output cleaner HTML and JavaScript. I also wish there was less reliance on Flash and PowerPoint. But if you read my blog regularly, you probably already knew that!

Please post your opinion in the comments below, and please ask others to give their 2 cents. (You can also reply via twitter if you prefer)

I’m really looking forward to your comments. Thanks!

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15 Replies to “What feature is missing from your e-learning development tool?”

  1. Hi there, I read your blog all the time and have implemented your SCORM wrapper in my own developments.

    As the designer and developer at the company I work for, I was tasked to find an authoring tool for our team that would be used by a wide range of skills. It had to; be easy to use, simple to author, include a range of interactions, be collaborative, create SCORM compliant courses, be skinnable and also be FREE!!

    I found that Udutu ticked all of these boxes, and seems to do them well.

    The problem that I’ve found with it, is that because it’s web-based, it’s quite slow sometimes. It is also a bit buggy, and doesn’t remember what I’ve authored, meaning me having to re-enter information, but on the whole it’s really good. I’d like it to just be faster, I think it has all the features we need.

    Has anyone else tried Udutu?

    Gary

  2. Gary, I’ve dabbled in Udutu, but I find the interface a little ponderous, and have yet to publish even a short demo course.

    Anyway, my company’s policy is to stick with Adobe Presenter. I’ve found lots of resources on how to do cool things with Powerpoint (rollovers, using slide masters to separate design from content) and now the learning curves for me are making sure PPT animations play nice with Presenter, and then making sure the LMS plays nice with the courses.

    What I wish I had was an easy way to make Drag&Drop interactions that save as SWF, because we don’t use Flash. So I guess it’s obvious that Flash is what I’m jealous of…

    Cheers,

    Carlos

  3. I wish Articulate had a more robust SDK with perhaps AS3 support. I also with Articulate had screen capture ablities, something like screenr.com would be OK but something more like captivate would be better.

    I wish Captivate would handle ppt import better. I also with captivate was stable!

  4. Collaboration functionality would be very nice. Articulate is annoying because you have to marry the PPT and PPTA files, and it’s still clunky when you move files around.

    Captivate is just too bloated. I feel it needs to be redesigned from the ground up, to make it cleaner, and simpler. Maybe Captivate for Mac will be that? Doubt it.

    The rest are just as bad in one way or another. Either the interface sucks, the output sucks, or it relies on PowerPoint.

    I didn’t get a chance to see Allen Interactions’ new tool. Did you?

    What I’d like to see:
    A clean storyboarding/creation tool with multiple input and output options. Where you could map out your course, import PPT, Video, Flash, PDF, HTML, add some basic pre-built interactions and questions.

    The focus of this app would be on the method of creating a COURSE. The other stuff, annotation, demonstration, animations, etc. would come from elsewhere.

    One thing I do NOT want: an all-in-one tool. Many have tried, in many different industries, and failed (see Dreamweaver). I want one tool that does one thing VERY well (see Coda).

  5. Personally I would like an editing tool that adheres to best practices of development such as versioning (SVN, git), TDD, modern
    frameworks (symfony, Django, RoR…), JS libs (jQuery, Mootools, …).
    If content developers were adopting versioning for example, collaboration in production would be much easier today.

  6. inevitably, i see content packages created using many of the vendors mentioned in the post/comments, and in 90% of the cases its the last 10% of development which gets stuck. With one it may a simple incorrect use of providing success_status info, but no completion_status. Another is often bloated sequencing/navigation code in the manifest which is ultimately not needed, and depending on the end-point delivery scorm player, well throw up some dice and take your chances. Some of these often simple issues are complicated further by having the source of what drives their SCORM CMI javascript, interface, actionscript, code period, compiled in a file(s) which are inaccessible by the end users/integrators for packages, which have been exported/compiled from the said authoring application.

    The latter is more of a case particularly once content packages have been hosted, issues found, and no real way to resolve a seemingly simple issue without having to resort back to the original source project.

    Let’s face it also, the ‘authoring’ tools are typically made for end-users which have little experience with programming, but are now working to create richer content and experience.

    Going beyond, “Would you like to create a quiz?” to “Select the instructional flow and testing strategy template of choice” which would provide some good solid use-case package/organization template approaches for the author to create for their package of learning.

    Now that i have somewhat complained, i guess, the reality is there are so many more choices in the authoring tools environment than even 5 years ago. They do keep getting better, and hopefully if they read Philip’s blog, well it can continue to make a better development world for us all.

    p.s. – “Versioning” – well is that moving towards being the ‘Holy Grail’ of learning development & lifecycle maintenance?

  7. We currently develop everything withbespoke templates we’ve built internally. no current product was able to offer the level of accessibility we required as a company delivering to the uk government.

    Until one does we’ll be doing the dev work ourselves

  8. I think a pain point in all authoring tools is getting rich& pinpointed client/SME/stakeholder feedback throughout the development phase of the project. I recently saw a Rapid Intake Demo that did some of what I was looking for, but didn’t seem to robust.

  9. I don’t want a tool that shapes the instructional output. I’d prefer to see the industry move in a direction that abstracted the instructional scientists from the other layers of design. The current set of tools not only influences (prevents) appropriate media selection / methods, but encourages poor application. Exposing the cognitive ‘blueprint’ level to these tools tends not to do the solutions justice.

    As it is now, tool developers know very well that the ISD is the general labor currency – and all seem to be exploiting it. What folks don’t seem to get is that while their ISD is diluting their time performing tasks that are below their paygrade, the real power of the ISD suffers. When I walk into a shop of 10 ISD’s, see that they all have development, preparation, or assembly tools on their desktops – I know that I am in a den of crappy output. 5% of an ISD’s time spent on cognitive solution architecture and validation is a poor use of resource and the outputs will almost always suffer. Add in that well over 60% (often approaching 90%) of time / money resources of every project I’ve been involved with has been eaten up by the design section. This delineation of resources is a symptom of the problem. Tool vendors seem to cater to the ‘all in one’. This contributes to the sickness of the industry.

    I also agree with Brian and with your comments in the article. The all in one tool quickly becomes the tool that produces mediocre outputs. Most of the tools on the market (if not all) provide an output that is either (1) really dirty html, (2) compiled swf, or both.

    It has become way too easy to build things that don’t apply any media selection model in particular. Spoon fed reading assignments with zero activity, unless you count the quiz…

    Tools are one part of the equation. The principles and resource usage are another, perhaps larger, part of the equation that is only exacerbated by the proliferation of ‘easy button’ toolsets.

    On a side, I don’t think focusing on tool functions is where the greatest successes will be had. Standardizing the input / output layers might help to make toolsets built for specific purposes interoperate. I like to abstract process outputs into specific categories (though they will rarely be executed in isolation): Planning, Preparation, Development, Assembly. Too often I see folks that should be planning (something that’s done well with a pencil, paper, and brain capable of synthesis and problem solving) working in the assembly tool before their planning is finished… Sadness ensues.

    Would love to see an XML transport for design data that could easily and predictably load into subsequent stages. Extend these standards a bit and you have some hope of future proofing. As it is, most of the outputs of current tools rely on proprietary tools that compile to inaccessible files (SWF.) I’m not anti-Flash, but it’s not being used in many situations where something else wouldn’t suffice — probably in a more flexible and clean format.

  10. Steve, I think you’ve addressed a lot of my issues with the current state of instructonal design in regards to designers and the tools they use. At one time, you had designers and developers collaborating to create rich, meaningful, muti-media interactions… which got expensive to develop. Then, development started getting outsourced abroad (TATA). Those same development houses started pushing their instructional design capablilities. So, now (in the US anyway) in order to keep their jobs, designers have to do it all and in the same amount of time that they used to take to just design.
    You’re right, what we get from Captivate and Presenter (and PowerPoint) is often crap. Well, mostly crap, but at least I’ll get to keep my job until they make Captivate so easy to use that I’m replaced by SMEs.
    You know what I want? I want a tool that did what Authorware did, but with better vector handling and SWF or AIR output. With A’ware you could create complex interactions and save them as models for re-use, easily read in external text and variables, and pull from a variety of datasources. And it took forever to learn. Ahhhh, those were the days…

  11. I agree, Tom.

    America built and paid for India’s instructional services industry. In the beginning, the outputs I saw were pretty bad – but it was cheap as hell. Now, like anything else, since it continues to be cheap – India’s industry sharpens their craft. We essentially exported heaps of capability. Great for India (I’ve got zero hard feelings, really – hard work deserves the just rewards and Indian companies put in the work) but not so good for the home team.

    Great job revenue grubbing training manager. Kudo’s:)

    One of the many factors that brings the industry to the current state.

    A tool like Authorware (sometimes a pain, but always ahead of its time) would be great. But I’d prefer it to be modular. Planning and structuring should be portable, if a new export module is available (HTML5 / CSS3) I should have the choice to swap with a default export module or other options. Could be neat-o.

  12. To Tom (UK). Are you referring to DDA requirements for accessibility? If so, check out CourseAvenue. Specifically, their CourseAvenue Studio and accessibility player. Published courses can be used by everyone, including the disabled.

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