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Toolkit: Five Lesser-known eLearning Tools

by Joe Ganci

March 25, 2014

Review

by Joe Ganci

March 25, 2014

“The tool itself uses a metaphor of folders and screens. Each folder is a group which is flexible in nature. You can call it a topic, module, chapter, or anything else you like. The folders can be expanded and collapsed and form a tree view on the left. A screen can be one of several basic layouts, such as text and image combinations, a more-info slide, or a short PDF document.”

A word of thanks to those of you who have responded to my survey for those lesser-known eLearning tools that you either use or you would like me to review. This month, I’ll review the top five vote getters.

There were a good number of responses but there is still time to vote because Part 2 will be next month. Vote before March 31 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W57Y8HP.

First, some announcements

The Serious eLearning Manifesto was announced on March 13. The brainchild of Clark Quinn, Michael Allen, Julie Dirksen, and Will Thalheimer, it is a real attempt to change the eLearning world for the better. I am one of the trustees of the manifesto and hope to see many of you sign up and contribute to improving our industry. Go to http://elearningmanifesto.org/.

Raptivity, the cool interaction builder, got a sporting new interface recently. Even more interesting, a public beta version of Raptivity Linker opened on March 19. Up until now, Raptivity interactions were built individually and then typically inserted into a tool like Captivate or Storyline or placed on websites by themselves. With Linker, you can string together Raptivity interactions into sequences or learning arcs. Check out the beta at www.raptivity.com.

easyGenerator has introduced a Starter edition for $19 a month and the first month is free. A cloud-based tool, easyGenerator is worth checking out. It uses a 1-2-3 process: 1. Define your objectives, 2. Create your questions, and 3. Add your learning content. Sign up at http://live.easygenerator.com/try.

You’ve probably heard of the Oppia beta by now. This is a free tool for creating “bite-sized learning journeys” and so it might be considered an authoring tool, though one unlike any other you’ve seen. It was written as an open-source project by a group of Google engineers in their 20 percent time, but it’s not an official Google product. Be aware that anything you create on the site becomes open source for all, so it’s not a tool you’ll want to use for proprietary content. It is mainly meant for teachers and students. See more at https://www.oppia.org/

And now: the first five mini-reviews

Here is the list of the Top Five that you said you wanted to know more about. Note that these have now been removed from the Survey. For four of these tools, I’ve provided a short review of the features and a bar graph showing my rating of the tool’s power and ease of use. (Since Articulate Online is an LMS and fundamentally not the same kind of tool as the other four, rating it for power and ease of use wasn’t appropriate.)

  1. Articulate Online by Articulate
  2. e-Learning Authoring Tool by e-Learning Consulting
  3. nimbleAuthor (was eLearning Course Builder) by eLearning247
  4. FlexAuthoring by FlexTraining
  5. Udutu Online Course Authoring by Udutu Online Learning Solutions

Articulate Online


Articulate Online complements both Articulate Storyline and Articulate Studio; Studio includes Presenter, Quizmaker, and Engage. It takes the place of a learning management system and works only with Articulate tools to gather the data from learner sessions, data that you can then use to generate reports within Articulate Online.

The data you can view range from an individual’s response to a specific question up to discovering group trends for specific questions. You can give learners access to their personal histories so they can generate their own reports. You can organize learners into different groups (create your own if you like) and assign different permission levels to each group.

I find all the interfaces easy to understand and to use. All that data your learners generate need not stay trapped within Articulate Online because there are options to export to CSV (comma delimited files, easy to import into Microsoft Excel) or to XML files, and finally to PDF files as well.

Most learning management systems are very expensive, but Articulate Online ranges from $199 a month for up to 50 users, up to $499 a month for 500 users. You can cancel at any time. Learn more at http://www.articulate.com/products/ao-plans.php.

e-Learning Authoring Tool by e-Learning Consulting


This tool’s name couldn’t be more generic, and the tool itself is easy to use. It does not have a ton of features. The interface uses a tree view menu to create pages and uses mostly dialog boxes for you to lay out Pages, Quizzes, and Tests. Figure 1 shows the types of pages you can create.


Figure 1:
eLearning Authoring Tool’s page choices

You can choose to have learners freely navigate to the next page or be forced to visit, complete, or pass the current page (assuming it’s a question). The learner can use the tree view to jump to any page and you can have standard Previous and Next buttons, along with options for Glossary, Resources, Help, and Close or Open Menu. You can also provide a Progress button that will let learners pop up a window at any time to see what they have accomplished and what they have left to do.

The editor uses ribbons along the top, now familiar to anyone who has used Office applications in the last few years. It contains an HTML editor and you can create cascading style sheets as well.

The tool is installed on your hard drive and the courses you create with it will work with SCORM. It publishes to HTML/DHTML.

The regular retail price for e-Learning Authoring Tool is $799. See more at http://www.e-learningconsulting.com/products/authoring/authoring.html.

Rating for e-Learning Authoring Tool

nimbleAuthor by eLearning247


This tool was originally called eLearning Course Builder but now has the less generic (and niftier) name nimbleAuthor, probably to avoid confusion with Adobe Dreamweaver Course Builder extensions and with Google Course Builder (now called Open edX).

nimbleAuthor also uses the page metaphor—when you add a new page you are given a choice of 10 page templates, as seen in Figure 2. They include presentation, interaction, question pages, and a blank page so that you can construct your own.


Figure 2:
nimbleAuthor provides 10 page templates

When you edit a template page or start with a blank one, you have the flexibility of adding different content types by clicking an Add button and moving objects around after clicking a Drag button. There are also branding options that let you change more global aspects of your lesson. You can also add an Assessment at the end of your lesson.

The tool is cloud-based and publishes to SCORM 1.2. However it does appear that you are highly encouraged to couple nimbleAuthor with nimbleLMS. As a cloud-based tool, nimbleAuthor fits right into nimbleLMS. A library of royalty-free images is included and all courses work across desktops and mobile devices.

eLearning247 is an English vendor, so its pricing is in pounds sterling. If you wish to use nimbleAuthor separately and deploy resulting courses into your own SCORM 1.2 LMS, the cost is £850.00 a year. If you use nimbleLMS along with nimbleAuthor, the cost is a per-learner registration. Check out the tool and the payment options at www.elearning247.com.

Rating for nimbleAuthor

FlexAuthoring by FlexTraining


FlexAuthoring is a cloud-based tool (part of the “Total e-Learning Solution”) that lets you build lessons that contain what are called Learning Screens. Each Learning Screen is based on a template, and you can add text, audio, video, etc. In any case, you are not working in a WYSWIG environment here. Rather, you fill in dialogs to load each screen element. Tests are set up the same way. You add questions and answers to tests through wizard-like dialogs. It works directly with the FlexTraining LMS, therefore everything is integrated and you do not use your own LMS. (People usually call this combination an LCMS.)  

You can sign up for a trial, but it will cost you $500 to do so, though it is reimbursed if you sign up for a full license. A full license starts at $495 per month using the self-service kit provided, which will let you deliver an unlimited number of courses to a maximum of 100 students. You will have to contact the company to obtain license pricing for 250, 1000, 5000, or unlimited students. See more at http://www.flextraining.com/.

Rating for FlexTraining

Udutu Online Course Authoring by Udutu Online Learning Solutions


Udutu Online Course Authoring is a completely free online authoring tool that uses a WYSIWYG environment. Udutu is a services company and so also has its own LMS (called Udutu Guru) and other services to which you can purchase licenses. The tool itself, though, is not limited to the Udutu LMS. You can export your courses and host them on your own server or in your LMS, publish to Udutu’s Facebook page at no cost, and more.

The tool itself uses a metaphor of folders and screens. Each folder is a group that is flexible in nature. You can call it a topic, module, chapter, or anything else you like. The folders can be expanded and collapsed and form a tree view on the left. A screen can be one of several basic layouts, such as text and/or image combinations, a more-info slide, or a short PDF document.

You can also create assessment screens, and these include several types: multiple choice, match labels to images, order the steps, drag and drop, what’s wrong with the picture, phrase matching, order images, and more.

There are also advanced screen types, which include slide shows, rollovers, animated lists, and others.

Most of the screen types are compatible with mobile devices, though some won’t work on iPads (you’ll be told which).

Media can include most types you need, including different image, audio, animation, and video formats.

Several scenario templates are provided, which I think is pretty cool, especially for a free tool. (Figure 3)


Figure 3: Course template categories in Udutu

In short, Udutu offers a pretty impressive cloud-based tool that is free to use. See more at http://www.udutu.com/solutions_udutu.html.

Rating for Udutu Online Course Authoring

Five more tools coming next month

Next month I’ll cover the top five tools that you choose now. Note that the above five tools have been removed from the survey so that we can focus on others. Let me know your thoughts on the above tools, especially if you use them. Finally, be sure to go vote in the survey!


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