by John Ramsay
On Thursday 4th February, I attended the Learning Technologies event at Olympia in London. Learning Technologies is a showcase for organisations to demonstrate the latest advances in workplace learning and learning technology. With over 140 free seminars over two days, I decided to focus my attention on the latest e-learning authoring tools to see if they offered a viable alternative to established products such as Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline.
The three main seminars that I attended were;
- WMB: E-Learning is Dead!
- eLB: Become an E-Learning Rockstar
- Appitierre Ltd: Enabling Everyone to Create Multi-device E-Learning Content
You can find a short summary of each presentations below.
E-Learning is Dead! WMB Presentation
This was a bit of a misleading presentation title from the company e-Learning WMB. Nevertheless, this somewhat pessimistic title certainly helped to draw a large audience to the seminar. What the company were suggesting, is that the world of e-learning is moving away from paradigms of old and much of the lexicon used today should be revised. In other words, technology has moved on since the term e-learning was first defined/used and therefore this term should be re-evaluated.
So what does the company e-Learning WMB offer? The company have created a cloud based authoring tools solution (Jackdaw Cloud), bespoke ‘off the shelf’ e-learning courses and an open source Learning Management System (Open Elms). On first impressions, the Jackdaw Cloud authoring system looks like it can create some nice looking interactive content. You can click on the links below to view some examples of courses built with Jackdaw;
The Jackdaw Cloud tool has a few advantages over other competitors, such as there are no software downloads or licence restrictions. Therefore, anyone in an organisation (who has the correct permissions) can create courses or edit existing ones. With licences for software such as Articulate restricted to one licence per user, this more open approach to creating content could result in more collaborative work. However, a potential negative of this approach is that if a whole department can edit content then you might get a ‘mishmash’ of ideas and content produced. Furthermore, how would you stop somebody editing or updating your content without the original creators permission? This was not clear in the presentation.
Jackdaw Cloud uses Adobe Flash to create content. WMB emphasised that this can be exported to HTML5 at any time, which is crucial due to the massive usage of mobile devices that do not use flash. Content can supposedly be exported easily to a flash file SWF, HTML5 or iPhone or android app. Overall, WMB gave a good pitch for their products and the Jackdaw Cloud tool created content that looked striking and engaging. However, I do believe that this tool would probably be more suited to a developer creating ‘CPD’ type training courses.
Become an E-Learning Rockstar: E-Learning that is Engaging, Inspiring and Interactive
This was a presentation by the American company eLearning Brothers (eLB) who specialise in producing eLearning templates and designing custom e-Learning courses. The company have produced around 20,000 e-Learning templates and assets (terminology for games, quizzes, interactions, cut out people, stock images etc) that can be opened and edited using a number of authoring tools software including Articulate Storyline, Captivate and Lectora. The company believe that their templates can help you create professional looking content quickly whilst at the same time, increase software developing skills.
Similar to the ‘E-learning is Dead’ presentation, eLB emphasised that an advantage of their product is that it can elevate an entire team to create excellent content. In other words, the templates are so easy use that you no longer need to rely on one ‘expert’ in a team to create good looking content. You can view some of the more popular templates via the link below.
Although I liked the look of the templates that were demonstrated, I have to question if it is worth the cost. A one year full ‘master’ membership (per designer) costs $1399. Therefore, If you are using Articulate Storyline, is it worth the additional cost to pay for the eLB templates when you already have a number of these that come free when you purchase Articulate Storyline? Furthermore, websites such as E-learning Heroes https://community.articulate.com/downloads provide a number of downloadable templates that are also free to use.
Enabling Everyone to Create Multi-device eLearning Content
The final presentation (and the first that I was able to get a seat for) focused on the Evolve authoring tool created by Appitierre Ltd. The company have tried to create a low cost, easy to use authoring tool that outputs HTML5 and works effectively on desktops, tablets and mobiles. Click here for some further information about the Evolve product.
Appitierre use what they call ‘interactions’ when creating course content. For instance, Presentation Interactions would cover interactive video content, sliders and flip cards in a course. Question interactions cover a range of different question types, including drag and drop and multiple choice. Some of the key features include being able to easily update the look and feel of your courses. The ‘Theme Editor’ function seems straight forward to use and you are able to tailor all the ‘interactions’ in your courses. They have also made branding content straightforward for users that need to use specific logos and colours in their courses.
Another key feature Appitierre were keen to demonstrate was the use of gamification features in Evolve. Gamification is the concept of applying gaming techniques to a task and the company feel that this can encourage learners to fully interact and engage with e-learning content. By adding ‘achievements’, learners can gain points, collect stars, earn badges and lose lives. They believe this function will encourage competition for each learner. Although it is an interesting development, I believe that there are a number of potential problems with introducing gamification to e-learning courses. For example, if it is a poorly designed course then it could potentially lead to disengagement and confusion for the user. It also has the potential to distract the user from learning objectives.
Although Evolve has some nice features, I felt that the content did not look as striking as what WMB and eLB had produced. However, it did seem more competitively priced than the other products (£25 a month per user or £99 a month for a team of 5 users).
In conclusion, there seemed to be a running theme with all the authoring tool presentations. Each presentation emphasised that you do not need to be an e-learning developer wiz to use their products effectively. They also encouraged the need for sharing the usage of these authoring tools within a team instead of them being the sole responsibility of a single user. It is argued that this can potentially elevate an entire team and offer the opportunity for larger groups to learn new skills. Nevertheless, despite the pitches from the three companies, I still feel there are better authoring tool alternatives available such as Adobe Captivate 9 and Articulate Storyline. These are the two that would be top of my list when creating new e-learning content.