Choosing eLearning Development Tools – Part 1

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about my experience evaluating eLearning tools. I started this endeavor a few weeks ago, and was surprised by the lack of real-world evaluations of tools. There are lots of generic articles and the tool companies have lots of white-papers and success stories, but there are not a lot of real evaluations. If you know of some, please let me know. I don’t know how long this series will go, but my list of tools is at about 20, so it could take a while.

Defining Requirement and Goals

Suppose your company doesn’t have any eLearning. You provide training, but no eLearning. What if you had to start from scratch and choose eLearning development and deployment tools? You have a clean slate. Well, the slate isn’t entirely clean – you have Microsoft Office, but that’s it. What tools would you choose? Where would you start? Do you start with development tools or an LMS? Your budget is minimal, staff resources are limited, as is eLearning development experience. You have to come up with a plan for eLearning development and implementation. That is exactly the scenario I’m in right now- figuring out what tools we need to develop and deploy eLearning.

I decided to tackle it on two different levels – development and deployment. Since eLearning is generally deployed via an LMS and most of them ultimately end up with the same basic capabilities, I started with development tools.

Once I started my research, I realized I was putting the cart before the horse. I had a come up with a list of some tools to evaluate, but hadn’t established my evaluation criteria, other than less money is more better. Even worse, I hadn’t even defined our organizational goals for eLearning. We want (and need) to offer eLearning, but we have no goals and haven’t defined what we hope to accomplish by offering eLearning in addition to classroom training. I’ve been in the eLearning field for a long time and have a lot of development experience, so of course I jumped right to the tools, but I really needed to step back and do a proper analysis.

About this same time I read B. J. Schone’s blog post Introducing eLearning into an Organization (Part 1 of 3). That’s really where I am, the introduction phase of eLearning. Unfortunately that requires a lot of meetings and discussions and can move just a little too slowly for me, so while I’m working on the defining goals stage, I’m starting research on development tools and LMS solutions. I figure regardless of goals, we will need tools, and in general tools are goal agnostic. They’re just tools – it’s how we use them that’s important.

Defining Requirements

I have experience with various development tools and would probably choose Flash and Dreamweaver for the bulk of my development work, but those tools are a little daunting to the other developers and SMEs I work with. They need a much simpler, easier to use tool. So, foregoing my wants and desires, I went back and started my analysis by defining some requirements for development tools – who are the developers, what is their prior experience, and what are my constraints.

Developer Description:

  • Highly computer literate
  • Experienced with Content Management Systems
  • Highly technical
  • Some experience with HTML
  • Some experience with screen recording tools
  • Content experts – they know the subject matter very well
  • Extensive PowerPoint experience

I also came up with some constraints and requirements:

  • Spend as little as possible – both initially and over time
  • IT will let us install software, but we have to manage it ourselves, so LCMS-type tools aren’t an option
  • 5 developers (including me)
  • Windows XP Pro operating system, 2 gigs RAM, around 2 GHz processor

That pretty much sums up my requirements. My primary concerns are cost and ease of use. While the other developers are computer literate, they still need a tool that is relatively easy to use and has a low learning curve. Since we already have a CMS and PowerPoint, it would be nice if our new tools could take advantage of our existing content. 

In the next post I’ll discuss my evaluation criteria for development tools. After that, I’ll get into specific tools and share my experiences with the tool and the companies that make them.

One Response to Choosing eLearning Development Tools – Part 1

  1. Nils says:

    A very interesting post (and series, and blog) which I only discovered via Google’s blog search since I’m in the same situation too. Well, nearly. The company I started with a few months back is in classroom training but we’re moving onto the web with tutorials and screencasts.

    Still, eLearning is in the back of our minds as we investigate new possibilities for presenting and interacting. Right now, I’m looking into Opus Creator as a tool for that.

    I subscribed to the feed and am looking forward to reading both your archives and new posts.

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