eLearning Development 101: The Guide to eLearning Authoring Tools

You don’t have to be a software engineer to succeed as an elearning developer. eLearning authoring tools give anyone the ability to make high quality online courses. But with so many tools on the market, how do you know where to start? This is our guide to choosing the right authoring tool for you.

Articulate Studio ‘09

Articulate Studio ‘09 is an easy-to-use elearning authoring tool that works with Microsoft PowerPoint. Studio ‘09 is made up of three different tools: Presenter, Engage, and Quizmaker. These tools give even the least tech savvy elearning developers the ability to create engaging and dynamic elearning content. The new Quizmaker, in particular, is a welcome addition to the Articulate Studio Suite. It makes adding quizzes to courses easier than ever. Articulate also offers phenomenal technical support for Studio ‘09 both over the phone and in their community forum.

Who is it for?

This product is great for elearning developers who have existing PowerPoint training content that they want to convert, or instructional designers that don’t have much developer experience. Users can quickly create new content in a familiar interface, or convert their existing static courses into engaging elearning. Studio ‘09 also lets users publish to multiple platforms, including Articulate Online, mobile devices, podcasts, Word, CDs, or various LMSs by publishing to SCORM.

How much does it cost?

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio ’09 Standard, without Engage, is available for $999. The Professional version starts at $1,398. There is a one month free trial available.

Articulate Storyline

Articulate’s new elearning authoring tool, Storyline, is a big step forward from Studio ‘09. This sleeker, more advanced product allows designers to create virtually any kind of learner interaction. Developers can record screens, import PowerPoints, or expand on existing project templates. One of the best features of Storyline is the number of interactive and complex characters available. Just like Studio ‘09, Storyline is supported by a knowledgeable customer service base that can help users with any problems or concerns.

Who is it for?

This product is great for more experienced developers or for users who want to have more complex branching and interactivity options in their elearning content. Just like Studio ‘09, Storyline is Tin Can, SCORM, and AICC compliant, and content can now can be published to iOS using HTML5.  

How much is it?

Storyline packages start at $1,398. There is also a one month free trial available.

Adobe Captivate

The more robust of Adobe’s rapid elearning softwares, Captivate has come a long way from the simple screen capturing tool it used to be. Adobe Captivate 6 uses the Adobe interface veteran users appreciate, while offering a wider variety of interactions to the elearning developer than other Adobe elearning software. Features like attractive templates and scenario branching cater to new and experienced users alike.

Who is it for?

Adobe Captivate is for developers looking to create more complex and interactive content. This software is also particularly suited for individuals already familiar with the Adobe interface through use of Photoshop or InDesign.

How much is it?

Adobe Captivate costs $800 for a new license, or $359 for an upgrade from Captivate 5.5. There is a one month free trial available.

Adobe Presenter

Adobe Presenter is an elearning creation software that allows you to enhance the videos and presentations embedded in Microsoft PowerPoint. Users are able to modify existing content, or create new courses from engaging elearning templates. Like Captivate, Presenter offers a host of characters to add to your courses, and top notch video editing features. Users can export their videos to mobile, SCORM and AICC compliant platforms. Presenter also allows developers to insert course tracking software to generate training results and reports.

Who is it for?

This program is a good option for developers looking to add attractive video, text, or interactive quizzes to existing PowerPoint slides.

How much is it?

Presenter is $500 for a new license and $200 for an upgrade from Adobe Presenter 7. There is a one month free trial available.

Lectora Inspire

The latest installment of Lectora Inspire comes bundled with three other tools to maximize elearning creativity. Together with FlyPaper, Camtasia, and Snagit, this package will let developers capture screens, record videos, and add flash animations to their elearning content. Lectora allows users to easily input their creations from other tools by dragging and dropping.

Who’s it for?

Lectora is a great option for developers looking for an all-inclusive software. It provides all of the essential tools needed for great content creation, and exports to all of the necessary formats like SCORM and AICC platforms.

How much is it?

A new license for Lectora starts at $2,495. There is a one month free trial license available.

Lectora Online

Lectora Online is a unique content development tool because it allows developers to collaborate on projects with other developers online. Lectora Online includes the standard elearning development features like course templates, clip art, flash conversion, and test creation. The real stand-out qualities (highlighted in this demo video) are the program’s online media repository and the workflow management options for teams. Similar to Inspire, projects can be published to LMSs via SCORM and AICC.

Who is it for?

Lectora Online is an ideal tool for content development teams or for developers who need to access documents remotely. Most other rapid elearning development tools can only be used with an exclusive device, but Lectora Online allows multiple users from various locations to collaborate on the same project.

How much is it?

Subscriptions start from $1290. There is a one month free trial available.


TechSmith combines helpful features and an easy-to-use interface in its elearning authoring tool, Camtasia. The new version, Camtasia Studio 8, is no different. After watching the set of tutorials available on Camtasia’s website, inexperienced users will be able to easily create great elearning courseware. Features new to Camtasia Studio 8 include interactive “Hotspots” on videos, multitrack editing, and “Quizzing,” which allows for instant feedback. Courses made in Camtasia can be shared on virtually any website, on mobile devices, and with an LMS using SCORM.

Who is it for?

This is a great tool for developers who are looking for a cheaper way to create elearning courses. While Camtasia will not give users the same interactivity and features that Adobe or Articulate will, elearning developers won’t have to breaking the bank to create basic, professional-looking courseware.

How much is it?

Camtasia Studio 8 starts at $299. There is a free 30-day trial available.


QuickLessons is an elearning authoring tool that is designed to please everyone. It is simple and has multiple libraries of animated templates, ready to use exercises, and interactive games. What makes QuickLessons unique is that program is completely online, meaning that developers can edit it from anywhere there is an internet connection. For an additional fee, multiple users can log in and edit the course. QuickLessons can be exported for offline, online, and mobile us, as well as LMS access including AICC and SCORM compliance. This includes the ability to convert lessons from PowerPoint presentations to Flash files.

Who is it for?

QuickLessons is useful for designers who travel or work from clients’ offices and need the option to access their projects from anywhere.

How much is it?

QuickLessons offers multiple packages. Developers can use a stripped-down version of the program for free on the QuickLessons website. A solo subscription to the full-feature version of the program is $99 a month. If you want to supply access to multiple users, prices start at $149 a month.

Ready to get started?

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