How to Build Effective Online Courses, Part 3

Part 3: The Importance of Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

An exploration of why choosing the right tool makes all the difference in creating online courses.

Imagine painting someone’s portrait with the wrong sized paintbrush, building furniture with the wrong type of screwdriver, or trying to bake a cake with the wrong ingredients. With the wrong tools these tasks are pretty much impossible, right? Instructional design works the same way; not all eLearning authoring tools are created equally and using the right tool can lead designers to quickly and easily create online courses that engage learners and effectively communicate the intended message.

If you are choosing between authoring programs, ask yourself the following questions:

Is it easy to use?

Today’s authoring programs are known as rapid development tools, meaning no knowledge of coding is required! Instructional designers can build impressive, engaging content simply by learning the features of the authoring program. Besides the turn-key nature of these programs, today’s tools allow learners to effortlessly create content. Just like course navigation should be intuitive for learners, a well-designed authoring tool should provide an intuitive user experience for designers. Functions and items should be clearly labeled and quick to access, and menus should be similarly easy to move through. Don’t let your creative flow be slowed down with a program that has a steep learning curve!

Is it responsive?

Today’s learners are on the go and expect online courses to perform flawlessly on their mobile devices. A 2018 study conducted by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research reports that 67 percent of students now use mobile devices to complete online coursework. Online courses don’t just live in learning management systems anymore; today’s learners use tablets and phones in addition to traditional laptop and desktop computers. That means instructional designers must create courses that are not just mobile “friendly,” but are truly responsive and are designed to be used on mobile devices. Make sure that your authoring tool is responsive to your learners’ expectations.

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Is it customizable?

Are you required to brand your online courses in accordance with your organization’s color schemes and fonts? Are you bored by templates that make every course look the same? Are you ready to put your graphic design skills to the test in your instructional design work? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these questions, you need a tool that is truly customizable. Tools that allow you to configure every element and interaction to your specifications give you complete creative control over what you design, giving you the freedom to create anything you can envision.

Is it in the cloud?

Today’s learners aren’t the only people working on mobile devices, oftentimes instructional designers are too! In today’s gig economy, freelance instructional design work is becoming more and more common, and even traditional full-time designers may find themselves working remotely. Having content stored on one device or in one location is outdated and risky, compared to the flexibility and security that cloud storage solutions offer. Cloud-based authoring tools allow you to access and create your content securely from anywhere, anytime, anyplace you go.

Does it publish in flexible outputs?

Do you design online courses for the web? For learning management systems? For learning experience platforms? For learning engagement platforms? No matter where your final product is stored, you need an authoring tool that is prepared to go there. Ideally, your authoring tool should be able to publish to multiple platforms. Growing organizations may publish to one location today, then expand their offerings over time. An authoring tool that publishes in multiple formats is ready to grow with you and to continue serving you long into the future so that designers don’t have to waste time starting over in new tools.

Can I collaborate with my colleagues?

Teamwork makes the dream work, but only if a team’s tools allow collaboration between colleagues. Maybe a project is so large it needs to be shared between designers, maybe a new designer is updating an old course that was previously designed by someone else or maybe a designer went out on vacation before a project concluded. Whatever the reason, collaboration is a critical process for productive teams. Authoring tools that restrict content to one device or one designer’s account don’t allow teams of colleagues to properly collaborate. Beyond being inconvenient, this is a tremendous waste of an organization’s time and resources. You may not realize the importance of this issue until you find yourself in need of content that is only accessible on another coworker’s device or account, but the ability to collaboratively design and create content is a factor that distinguishes top authoring tools from the others.

Are you interested in trying an authoring tool that meets all of these criteria and more?  Reach out to us here for a trial of our intuitive cloud-based authoring tool that’s built for teams.

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