The role of Instructional Designers (IDs) is as important as that of a skeleton to a body. They give shape and structure to the eLearning course. Some compare them to architects who will create better framework for developing learning modules or lessons for effective knowledge transfer. They understand the learning design strategies that work best to engage learners.
Now the challenge for IDs is to incorporate the learning design strategy in the context of eLearning development tools available in the market today.
Traditionally, IDs designed curricula for face to face, classroom instruction but that is not the case today. Today’s instructional designers have to design curricula that are developed using authoring tools and delivered online. Therefore, they need to have a good understanding of the technology, tools and multimedia components along with a comprehensive understanding of the subject.
In this context, it is important for IDs to know the software options available in the market for the development of eLearning courses. This will help them in incorporating the design elements, audio-visual elements into the Graphical User Interface that best caters to the learning needs of their end users.
Rapid authoring tools have dramatically changed the way eLearning courses are developed. Earlier, authoring tools had limited options curtailing the creativity of IDs. However, today, highly interactive and rich courses can be developed through these software tools.
Broadly speaking, these rapid authoring tools can be divided into three groups.
Let’s look at the tools that are part of each of the above groups.
PowerPoint add-ins are similar to plug-ins that sit in the PowerPoint interface. They appear as a tab on the top along with other tabs in the PowerPoint interface. As a result, those who are experts in using PowerPoint can easily create eLearning courses using one of the software applications. Some of the latest PowerPoint add-ins used for eLearning course development are:
Organizations that are looking at simple eLearning courses, which need to be developed fast and do not require customization can go in for these options. When using this option, IDs should know that there would be little or no room for customization of templates. Interactivities and customized features will not be there, and one has to work within the limitations of the tool.
The second option is the use of stand-alone software tools. There can be installed on the computer. These tools are independent software for which a separate license needs to be purchased. Cost would vary depending on the type of license and number of users. They are considerably expensive when compared to other options. The learning curve is steep and one can take time to be able to fully utilize the potential of the tools. Some of the stand-alone software tools available in the market today are:
Organizations that develop eLearning courses on a continual basis and have a dedicated team to manage instructional designing and development can consider purchasing one of the tools. Even when a course is developed by an external developer, having a license to the tool provides the flexibility to organizations to update the content internally or make changes without having to refer it back to the developer.
The third option that IDs should be aware of is the cloud based eLearning solutions. These are usually offered as Software as a Service (SaaS). You don't have to install anything on the system physically, but can login to your account and access the tool online. They are cheaper and do not have the problem of updates and maintenance as the service provider takes care of them. Some of the cloud based tools are:
Organizations with IDs or subject matter experts who travel or are located in multiple locations can benefit from this option. However, despite its advantages, the concept of storing content in the cloud is questioned by many organizations because of security reasons. Also, cloud-based technologies are still at a nascent stage. It may take some time before these solutions are well-accepted. Nevertheless, it is important that IDs are aware of these options as well.
The technologies used for learning and development are constantly evolving. It is important that IDs keep themselves up to date with the available tools and resources. This helps them tweak and align their learning curricula to best capitalize the features and options provided by the tools.
E-learning development tools are only one facet of the trends in the eLearning domain today. If you want to know about other trends in the domain, check out the presentation below.