Key considerations you should make when choosing an authoring tool

Did you know that most L&D teams spend over a quarter of their budget on learning technologies? That’s a huge chunk of money, so it’s not surprising that many organisations are tempted to cut-corners to save a few pounds. But sometimes, these shortcuts can prove detrimental to your future digital learning success, and cost a lot more in the long run.
 
One of the most common short-cuts is choosing an all-in-one learning tech solution. For example, a learning platform with a built-in authoring tool. Of course, these kinds of solutions are great in some circumstances, but can also be self-limiting in the future. So, we thought highlight some considerations you should make before jumping in head-first with the built-in authoring tool.
 

Built-in vs. independent authoring tools

Advantages of using an in-built authoring tool

Before we get started, it’s important to remember that each of these benefits are subjective. Things like publishing and compatibility will be different for each platform, so check with your platform first! But these are the three key benefits of using the built-in authoring tool to create your eLearning courses:
 
  1. Quick publishing
    Like many business functions, L&D is time poor. So anything that saves a little bit of time is appealing. Which is why some digital learning practitioners favour the built-in tool for content creation. After building your course or module, it takes just a few clicks to push your course live to your platform and unveil it to your learners.
  2. Slick user experience
    Another benefit of using the authoring tool that comes with your learning platform is that you know the course will display exactly as you intend it to. The in-built authoring tool will be perfectly compatible with your LMS or LXP. Which will improve the user experience and result in fewer queries from learners!
  3. More cost effective
    Although this advantage is seemingly obvious, it’s an important one to address. Instead of paying for two or more separate tools, you have just one contract, with one supplier, and one price to pay. This can reduce administrative headaches for L&D and is often kinder on budgets.
 

Advantages of using an independent, third-party authoring tool

So, with many clear benefits to using the in-built tool, why would we want to use an independent authoring solution? Well, here are the top three reasons (in our opinion, of course!):
 
  1. Freedom
    According to Brandon Hall Group’s “The State of Learning Technology” report in 2020, less than half of businesses keep their LMS for more than 4 years. One downside of a built-in tool is that you can rarely transfer the content away from the platform to another learning platform. So this means when the time comes for a new platform – all your content will need recreating in a different authoring tool. Now, that certainly mitigates the time you saved by using the in-built tool, doesn’t it?Whereas, if you use an independent authoring tool, you will have the SCORM and/or xAPI files. This means you have the freedom to migrate your content to your new platform. Which will make the already stressful process of a learning platform migration much easier.

  2. Focused on authoring tool development
    Learning professionals want more from their tools than ever before. They want to push their development skills to the limit, and they need a tool that meets their needs. It’s often assumed that a tool bundled in with many others will get less development attention, and lag behind the independent tools. So, many L&D professional favour an independent tool, created by an organisation who are invested in evolving their tool.
  3. Flexibility
    The flexibility that comes with using a third-party authoring tool follows on nicely from our last point. A third party tool will give you the flexibility to push the limits on your development skills. Many third party-authoring tools have started to push the boundaries of ‘eLearning’. This includes integrating features such as VR, touch-screen gesture and game-based learning. Unfortunately, many built-in authoring tools are less feature-rich and limit the full potential of eLearning. Therefore, if you want to create show-stopping digital learning, an independent authoring tool might be your best bet.
 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach

The truth is, when it comes to digital learning design and development, there’s rarely a ‘right’ answer. What works for your organisation may not work for another, and vice versa. You could decide that using the authoring tool that comes with your learning platform is the perfect solution for your business, and that’s great! But others disagree and want the innovation of an independent authoring tool. But as long as you weigh up the pros and cons of each option, we’re sure you’ll make the right choice for your organisation.