It’s time for upgrades, and a Poll

It looks like it’s time to open up the wallet and start purchasing software upgrades. In the past couple of weeks two important eLearning software upgrades have hit the virtual streets:

  • Adobe CS4 came out this week
  • Articulate released the Studio 09 update to all their tools a couple of weeks ago

Tools are constantly going through upgrade cycles, but these are two of the biggest names in the eLearning development tool market, so they caught my attention.

Adobe CS4

This is a huge upgrade, and the first time Adobe has released a unified upgrade for all the Adobe and former Macromedia products. They’ve also changed the bundles – thank you Adobe. The CS4 Web Premium bundle now includes:

The upgrade from most CS3 bundles is $599, even the old Web Standard which did not include Soundbooth, Photoshop or Illustrator. I think Adobe has finally gotten their bundles right making the new CS4 Web Premium bundle an essential upgrade for eLearning developers. I will be upgrading my license at work as soon as possible. The full version is $1699 if anyone wants to buy me an early Christmas present for personal use.

Articulate Studio 09

Articulate Presenter is arguably the most popular PowerPoint to Flash conversion tool available. That’s no fluke, the tool works well and streamlines development. With the right hacking, you can accomplish a lot with Presenter and make it do things it wasn’t designed to do. It’s also an easy way to create Flash animations from slides. I’ve used it for several months and haven’t been disappointed.

Studio 09 Standard includes Presenter, Quizmaker and Video Encoder. The Professional version adds Engage. I downloaded Studio 09, but haven’t tried the new Presenter yet. There were a few quirks and bugs in the old version of Presenter that I hope are fixed. When I have time, I’ll publish some courses and let you know what I think.

For Studio 09, Articualte added Articulate Video Encoder ’09. This tool converts video files to FLV for inclusion in courses. I did take some time to test out this tool and can’t say I was overly impressed. If you don’t already have the Flash Video Encoder (which comes with Flash) then this tool will be useful. It works fine, I just prefer Flash Video Encoder. One feature that Articulate Video Encoder includes that the Flash encoder doesn’t is the ability to record your webcam and convert the file to FLV. I didn’t test this feature, and probably won’t use it. I wouldn’t buy this product as a stand alone purchase, especially for $149, but it’s a nice addition to the Studio 09 bundle, especially for people who don’t have Flash.

Poll

WordPress also added a new tool recently – Polling. Let’s give it a try and see how it works.

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And the LMS selection winner is…

After over a year of looking and talking with several LMS vendors, I finally chose an LMS – ClickCourse from Rapid Intake.

My requirements were pretty simple with cost at the top of the list. I wanted something that could track courses reliably, integrate with our existing customer extranet, generate basic reports, and be relatively easy to use. ClickCourse met those criteria at the best price. With ClickCourse I’m not paying for a bunch features I don’t need. Inquisiq was my first runner up. It’s also very affordable and was recommended by a few people.

There are well over 100 LMS products on the market and they all do mostly the same thing – track training. True, many do a lot more and offer some impressive features for managing learning and learners, but in the end I just wanted SCORM tracking at a fair price. If money were no concern, I probably would have chosen a different product and expanded the scope of the LMS. In that case I probably would have went with Thinking Cap or SyberWorks.

Price wasn’t my only consideration. Another primary factor was the company and their customer service. If you’ve been following this blog, you may recall my past posts about Rapid Intake’s Unison and Flashform. (By the way, Unison just won the Brandon Hall Gold Award for Best Innovation in Learning Technology.) Through this blog and subsequent in-person meetings I’ve gotten to know Garin Hess on a professional level and have been impressed with his (and others at Rapid Intake) willingness to help me and answer my questions. Even though I have yet to purchase any Rapid Intake products, I’ve gotten better customer service from them than from many companies I’ve purchased products from.  I’m confident Garin and his team can help us get our LMS up and running smoothly.

Now that the decision is behind me, I’m looking forward to the implementation. I know that will be… interesting. On a related note, Tracy Hamilton has been blogging about her experiences with her LMS over at Discovery Through eLearning. I’m sure I’ll be in touch.

Finally, to all those that have helped with this process through comments and emails, thank you.