The online learning landscape has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Learners are spoilt for choice particularly when it comes to MOOCs in terms of subject, delivery style and pace. As a result learners are more sophisticated in their taste and rightly have expectations of high production values. We know that attention spans are reducing even for video content, so if you’re delivering learning content online you will want to engage your audience right from the get go and keep them focused by using everything you can from interactive elements, gamification, personalised learning paths, consistent course navigation right through to appropriate and timely in-course feedback. Content is still king but delivery that supports student engagement must be a high priority for any online educator if you are going to ensure satisfactory course completion rates.
I’ve used a variety of elearning tools to create online or shareable content over the years from basic PowerPoint right through to scorm and tin can authoring tools for use in learning management systems such as Moodle and Learndash for WordPress. Just like learners we as educators have a growing arsenal of authoring tools at our disposal from freemium to premium and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s worth the financial and time investment.
In the last few months I’ve been using Articulate 360 desktop app which offers a suite of powerful tools for course creators including:
- Storyline 360
- Studio 360 – Presenter 360, Quizmaker 360 and Engage 360
- Replay 360 – video editing and screencasting
- Peek – standalone screen recordings
With your subscription you also get access to an incredibly easy to use online course creator called RISE which gives you the ability to build courses very quickly using pre-built elements that you drop and drag directly into your course. It’s so simple to use and would be great for students building their own shared resources.
In fact, unlike some of the authoring apps available, Articulate’s Storyline 360 app can be used right out of the box with minimal training as its using skills you probably already have. Storyline is akin to PowerPoint on steroids, allowing you to import your own slide deck, add interactivity and offer multiple learning paths based on learner’s responses. Added to this it allows you to present scenario based learning, allowing the learner to reflect and apply what they’ve just learned and receive immediate feedback; perfect for the creation of self-paced courses with inbuilt self-assessment opportunities. Once you download and open Storyline you will recognise the interface – it’s basically PowerPoint with a huge bunch of additional functionality. So far so good. However getting the transitions and multi-layered interactivity right will take time and all of the bells and whistles it offers can be a little overwhelming initially.
One of the main benefits I’ve found is the access to a huge media library that allows me to create pretty much any type of interactive diagram, multi-branch scenario or video model that I need. I no longer have to spend wasteful time trying to find the right icon, character, video or image – it’s all there available for me from within the app with an easy search facility. This has been a huge time saver and also allows me to create content with a UI and graphic consistency – with a result that all of the output looks polished and professional. This is particularly true if you choose to use the multiple slide templates that already have inbuilt transitions. It also has an inbuilt screen recording tool that allows you create video walkthroughs and software simulations and even motion-pathing so you can create your own animations, all from within the app.
In terms of publishing your content Storyline gives you complete control with different publishing options:
- Articulate 360 – allows for team collaboration and review.
- Web – outputs to html which you can then place directly on your website. Perfect if you don’t need to track learners. Articulate published content is responsive and mobile ready, a real plus when you want your course to look good on any device which if often tricky to achieve for non-developers.
- Video – great if you want to produce a series of video lessons.
- Articulate Online – this is Articulate’s own hosting service for elearning courses so offers reporting and learner tracking. It’s expensive but offers a 30 day free trial.
- LMS – this is one of my favourite options as it allows me to produce scorm or tin can content which can be used on any LMS and allows for learner tracking/reports.
- CD or other media – Great for offline distribution of your course via CD, DVD, USB or email.
- Word – great for creating downloadable resources to support your course.
Articulate 360 is not cheap, this is pretty much the swiss army knife of elearning authoring tools, so I would only buy it if you were sure that you were going to use most of its features. However the company does offer a substantial discount to educators; proof of status and documentation required. When it comes to try before you buy, you can get quite a generous 60 day trial period which considering the cost is appropriate.