Comparison of Top eLearning Content Development Tools

Evaluation of Top eLearning Content Development Tools

There is a vast array of eLearning content development tools on the market today, with more being introduced every year, so it’s challenging to keep up to date with what is available.

We are a content development, management and hosting company, and our instructional designers have a broad knowledge of eLearning content development tools accumulated over many years project experience. We don’t develop any software ourselves, although we choose to align with key vendors that offer solutions suitable for our client’s requirements and are continuously evaluating the market to ensure we are able to discuss all potential solutions with our clients.

Three of our Instructional Designers have completed an in-depth review of four of the most well-known eLearning content development tools, which are frequently found on lists of the best performing platforms including eLearning Industry and Training Industry’s Top eLearning Authoring Tools.

The tools are:

  1. Adobe Captivate
  2. Articulate Storyline
  3. dominKnow | ONE
  4. Gomo Learning Suite

We have chosen these tools because, on the surface, they appear to be highly comparable, offering similar functionality and features. Each of these tools is marketed by its vendor as a solution for rapid eLearning content development, citing ease of use and speed to deployment as key benefits.

Please note, however, that the reviews given in this article are based on limited investigation and the personal opinions of our Instructional Designers. Although we have experience of many eLearning content development tools and will use any tool as stipulated by our client, due to the profile of our client base and the nature of our projects we do find ourselves using some of these tools more frequently. It is our hope that this article will encourage further discussion to help the community learn more about what is available as well as provide feedback on their own experience.

Key Features of eLearning Content Development Tools

There are certain key features that we consider to be important for an eLearning Content Development tool and we have therefore evaluated each tool against these particular requirements. These features are based on what is likely to be the expectation of a content authoring team:

  1. Authoring Features
  2. Authoring Environment
  3. User roles / levels
  4. Templates and Themes
  5. Assets and Stock Library
  6. Publishing
  7. Data Tracking and Reporting
  8. Technical Requirements

Adobe Captivate – by Thomas Leigh, Graphic Designer

Adobe Captivate provides a smart eLearning content authoring platform that allows you to create responsive eLearning content and transform non-mobile courses to mobile learning content. It’s been around in its current guise since 2006 when Adobe acquired Macromedia and it subsequently became known as Adobe Captivate.

Introduction

Authoring Features

Adobe Captivate enables you to select from six different authoring modes:

1. Responsive Project
An author can edit the layout of a project for different screen sizes, with a live preview. The screen is divided into horizontal and vertical boxes to structure the page and content is inserted into the sections. The content and objects can be manipulated to optimise the screen size being used.

The content has intelligent containers, known as Fluid Boxes, that allow the content to realign itself. Fluid Boxes are responsive areas of each training course slide. In my opinion, although they offer a good option to divide up slides to display on smaller devices, they are over-complicated, and the wrapping options don’t quite work as you would expect.

The author can edit the content flow and wrap options to change the way the content appears – this includes options to keep certain content static. Each area can behave differently to build up an overall responsive appearance dependent upon the screen size.

Adobe Captivate Project Menu

2. Virtual Reality Project
Adobe Captivate provides hundreds of stock 360 images that authors can use to build courses with depth. Learners use their mouse to click and drag around images, to experience an immersive 360 interactive experience. Authors can also import their own 360 images if they have a compatible camera.

Hotspots can be added to parts of the image to highlight details or to trigger actions, for example play a song, display an image or display text, etc. The author can set up their course to guide the learners, preventing them from progressing until sections have been completed, explored, or certain conditions have been achieved.

Adobe Captivate VR experience

3. Software Simulation
Adobe Captivate enables content authors to create software simulations with multiple learning modes, in a single recording session. The tool detects screen activity in the recording window and pans to those areas to create screen capture output for tablet and mobile views.

This simulation can capture all on-screen actions, including mouse movements, system audio and keyboard activity, that will play seamlessly across devices. It is possible to edit each step of the simulation and you can add audio, dependent on the simulation being played.

The Software Simulation feature includes three learner modes – Show Me, Try It and Test Me, which are self-explanatory. Simulations can be tracked through the LMS.

4. Video Demo
The author can use a personal computer webcam to create a moving image that can then be integrated within a learning course.

5. Import from PowerPoint
Microsoft PowerPoint presentations can be imported and converted into interactive eLearning courses within Adobe Captivate. Once imported, the author can edit slides, add interactive elements, assets and quizzes. These will all respond seamlessly across all devices. However, the images and assets within these PowerPoint presentations are not automatically stored assets for further repeated use.

6. Blank Project
This effectively allows the author to start with a blank canvas, should you wish to create your own course from scratch.

Authoring Environment

Adobe Captivate does not offer what we would call a multi-author environment whereby a team of content authors is able to collaborate on a project, providing access to the same resources and allowing multiple authors to work on a single course simultaneously.

However, Adobe does offer a separate application called Adobe Captivate Draft which allows collaborative reviewing for storyboarding. This also enables authors to create a “pre-production workflow” to subsequently be used in Captivate. It is also possible for reviewers to add comments in a box or even doodle on the slides. After the feedback stage, comments can be incorporated into the storyboards with ease.

The reviewers on eLearning projects are not required to be users of the Draft application or Adobe Captivate. However, the feature is only available for iPad users and does not allow feedback on course pages, only the storyboard before the course is built.

User Roles and Levels

There are not multiple roles to define accessibility within Adobe Captivate. It seems to be a stand-alone application primarily targeted at single working designers and freelancers. Everyone who uses the application will have access to the same functionality.

Templates and Themes

There are specific setups available within Adobe Captivate depending on what type of project an author chooses to create (see Authoring Features section above). Whether the author selects a responsive project, or a VR setup, all relevant buttons and authoring tools will appear on sidebars, for ease of use and access to features. When an author begins with a blank project, all authoring features and capabilities continue to be accessible.

The top bar contains functions to help build a course. There are multiple slide styles to choose from that work with set themes, both customisable and pre-installed. There is no limitation to the number of themes that can be utilised in one project. All interactive elements can also be accessed from the top bar.

Assets and Stock Library

In conjunction with the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite and Adobe Stock, authors can save work and share assets in the cloud. Depending on whether the user licence held is for personal or business use, these assets can be shared with the whole authoring team. However, it is only those assets accessed from Adobe Stock, and not images or videos, etc. uploaded from any personal drives.

Adobe Stock gives users access to thousands of industry standard stock images and videos, as well as assets and community creations – at a cost. Pricing is variable but ranges from £20 to £200 per month.

A large part of the interactive features and functionality in Adobe Captivate is based around widgets. These elements make courses stand out and can be tracked by an LMS.

In Adobe Captivate, there is a large library of widgets to add into relevant courses. Third party widgets can also be imported. The program recognises both .wdgt and .swf files to add new functionality not offered by Adobe.

As Captivate can publish courses as an .swf file, I assume that the widgets can also be exported to use in other content authoring tools, but I have not tested this feature.

Publishing

Once a project is complete, Adobe Captivate provides the author with these publishing options:

  1. Content can be published so that it is viewable as an HTML5 format webpage.
  2. Print project as a readable document (MS Word). These documents can have company theme templates added to them before printing.
  3. Publish as a hand-out, a lesson or a step by step guide.
  4. A course can also be published to Adobe’s LMS, Adobe Captivate Prime.

Data Tracking and Reporting

Adobe Captivate allows tracking and reporting to various LMS platforms, including Moodle and Adobe Connect, as well as its own LMS, Adobe Captivate Prime, and internal servers.  Data can be tracked through SCORM1.2, SCORM 2004, AICC and xAPI.

Technical Requirements and Support

Adobe Captivate is an application that requires local installation – Adobe does not offer a Cloud solution.

Adobe offers users Technical Support 24 hours a day during working days (5 days per week) and there is a large, active Adobe Captivate community with a lot of content and user collaboration.

Whilst there is no information on translation for courses, Adobe claims that the following languages are supported:

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Portuguese (Brazilian)
  • Spanish

When your Captivate project has the Enable Accessibility preference set in the Project’s Publish Settings you can output content that is compliant with Section 508 for users who have visual or hearing impairments, mobility impairments, or other types of disabilities. Adobe also offers advice on their website on additional steps that authors can take, at a design level, to ensure content is fully accessible.

Summary

Adobe Captivate is a good eLearning content authoring tool which ties in well with the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. Although the authoring features include responsive design capabilities and software simulation capture, because it requires local installation and does not offer collaborative authoring features, I believe it is better suited to single authors and freelancers, rather than a larger team. There is little collaborative functionality for content development teams to work together on projects and share assets, or for lead authors/project managers to assign or review work. The lack of user profiles further demonstrates this.

In classic Adobe fashion, this product is unique and enables content authors to explore new technologies by including VR, for example, into their courses. If you’re not familiar with any of the Adobe products it is quite a steep learning curve to understand its functionality and to get the most out of it. It is not intuitive. However, Adobe offers a massive library of online tutorials and step by step guides as well as a large community providing a great support network.

Articulate Storyline – by Tom Clark, Instructional Designer

Introduction

The Articulate Platform has been on the market for many years, with the first release coming upon formulation of the company in 2002. Articulate Storyline was introduced in 2012, which evolved into Articulate 360 in 2016. The platform as it is now known encompasses both Storyline 360 and Rise 360, plus a collection of other authoring applications.

Authors can use Storyline 360 to develop custom, interactive eLearning courses that work on every device, without any manual tweaking. Whereas Rise 360 would be used to build fully responsive courses.

Authoring Features

In order to review the authoring capabilities of Articulate 360, we need to look at the applications available through the platform as each offers different functionality depending on what you wish to create.

1. Storyline 360
Storyline 360 uses a hierarchical structure of scenes, slides, and layers to organise content. Scenes are the largest organisational units. Each scene contains one or more slides and each slide can have multiple layers. Story View provides the author with a big-picture view of the entire project. It’s where you manage your content, including adding scenes, deleting scenes, and rearranging the slides that appear in those scenes. Triggers are used to animate the content, which can also be viewed and updated from this view.

In addition to creating new content from scratch, PowerPoint projects can be uploaded as a standalone project directly from the Storyline home screen or added to a scene within a course. All aspects of the PowerPoint can be edited within Storyline 360, and all imported imagery is automatically stored within your Media Library which can be shared in Team Slides.

Storyline 360 doesn’t offer fully responsive behaviour, but the Player does automatically resize published course content for viewing on any device without content authors having to tweak the content itself. Depending on what device you’re using to view the content, ie. tablet or smartphone, the content shrinks to fit the screen size.

Articulate 360 Authoring options

2. Rise 360
Rise 360 offers full responsive design capability, enabling authors to collaborate and create fully responsive eLearning content based upon templates.

In fully responsive design you are always thinking about how your course will look on different screen sizes. Often objects require hiding at different screen sizes to make the page work ie. a text size will work on a laptop but not on a mobile so two text boxes may be required at different font sizes which show at different breakpoints. The templates in Rise 360 make it very easy to create content for different screen sizes.

3. Studio 360
Enables authors to create online courses with quizzes and interactions for computers, tablets, and smartphones. It also includes the following additional applications:

Presenter 360: Create a Course within PowerPoint using the Articulate tab which gives you a lot of Articulate’s features and Content Library for which to create your course.

Quizmaker 360: Create a Question Bank which can be published and used within your course. Questions can be drawn upon specifically or randomly.

Engage 360: Create stand-alone pages that can be published to Presenter 360, Storyline 360 or as a Course on its own.

4. Replay 360
A streamlined app for combining media clips into training videos. The Replay app within Articulate 360 provides a video editor.

5. Peek 360
Enables quick capture of screencasts on Mac or Windows PC, which can then be incorporated into the course content. Authors can also record a screencast directly from the Storyline 360 homepage and from within the Story View. Recorded screencasts can be inserted into a course multiple times and be used across Projects. There are four modes available:

  • Video on a single slide
  • View Mode
  • Try Mode
  • Test Mode

Authoring Environment

Storyline 360 does not offer a multi-author environment. However, it does provide some collaborative functionality with a Teams subscription, in the form of Teams Slides, which is a folder structure allowing authors within a Team to share content. This can be a Scene, Slide, Template or full course. Authors can create the required content, share within the relevant Team Slide, and a Lead Author would then build the full course using the shared content. Unfortunately, it is not possible for more than one author to work on a project at the same time.

Rise 360 does offer a full multi-author environment whereby authors can work on the same projects at the same time. Authors can invite team members to create and edit different lessons simultaneously, or take turns fine-tuning the same one. Changes happen in real time, so everyone is always working on the most recent version of a course. Plus, with block templates, anyone on an Articulate 360 Teams account can create and share custom block templates with the group.

The Review 360 application enables users to gather and share feedback on all Articulate 360 content in an online app (no user account is required). Reviewers can add comments to scenes within the course and all comments can be seen by all reviewers. You can’t make a comment against an individual object within a slide, but only on the slide itself. A notification is sent with every comment made, which can include an email – this can potentially mean content authors will receive a large number of notifications per course. However, this function can be switched off.

Articulate Storyline Reviewer

User Roles / Levels

There are multiple user roles available within Articulate 360, as follows:

  • Account Owner – the person who owns the subscription to Articulate 360 and can make purchasing decisions. They will manage the number of user accounts.
  • Account Admin – manages all users, groups and admins for the whole team.
  • Group Admin – manages users in a particular group.
  • Users – have access to the Articulate 360 apps and can create courses as well as collaborate on projects. You can only be a user on one Team.

Templates and Themes

Content Library 360 offers authors access to pre-created eLearning templates that can be accessed directly from Storyline 360 and Studio 360 and include pre-programmed interactions. They can also be customised to reflect corporate branding, colours, font, etc., shared and reused.

Courses or pages can be saved locally as a template file and then shared and imported for future use.

Articulate also offers the ability to apply a particular design theme allowing authors to ensure a consistent look is maintained throughout a course. The theme dictates text styles, theme colours, theme fonts, slide masters, and feedback masters. It is possible to use more than one theme in a course and you can also apply a theme based on the master slide that has been used.

Assets and Stock Library

Content Library 360 also offers authors access to a well-stocked media library (around 7 million assets), including photos, avatars, icons and videos. As this Content Library is available to all Articulate 360 subscribers it’s not possible to save or amend anything there.

When using your own images or creating your own templates, you save them into the Storyline 360 Media Library. If you need to share assets amongst your development team, you need to create a library within a set of Team Slides which the team can then access from Storyline 360. When you share slides, all media library assets get shared too, so this is a simple way to share standard assets like company logos and other brand elements without having to send files back and forth.

There isn’t a central media library available in Rise 360, so all your assets need to be saved locally, which unfortunately does make it more difficult to collaborate and share resources with others in your development team.

Articulate Content Library 360

Publishing

There are three publishing options available in Articulate 360:

  1. HTML5 – This publishes your course as HTML5-only output and is therefore future proof when browsers stop supporting Flash. However, there is also a Flash publish option for older browsers.
  2. Mobile Player – this can be included as another publishing option so that learners can view content on a tablet or mobile. However, it is for xAPI LMSs only and doesn’t support SCORM or AICC.
  3. Publishing to a Word document and save locally.

With this last option, you can only print the whole course, which includes every slide and its elements. When a final course is published, there are always ‘landing pages’ which are used for navigation, contents pages, etc, which don’t require documentation. If you need to be able to generate documentation for particular areas of the course, then each slides document would have to be published separately.

The screenshot used in the document is displayed showing all objects at the start of the timeline, which means if objects are animated to show at different times, they will all be displayed making the screenshot quite confusing. Simulations are also generated within the document and all bubbles etc, are shown.

Data Tracking and Reporting

Storyline 360 and Rise 360 support AICC, SCORM, xAPI and cmi5 (the newest LMS standard). You simply choose the LMS publishing option for tracking and reporting your courses to your chosen LMS.  It is not possible to track and report learner progress without publishing the course to an LMS.

Technical Requirements and Support

Articulate Storyline, Studio, Replay and Peek are all installed locally and not available on the cloud. However, all the training content, the Content Library, Review and Rise are all web-based.

Storyline 360, Studio and Replay are only available on a Windows platform. However, if you use a Mac, there is a workaround using a parallel desktop application which allows you to load up Windows onto a Mac, but it is a bit clumsy.

Articulate 360 Training provides access to pre-created training from industry-leading eLearning gurus as well as access to a very supportive online community known as ‘E-Learning Heroes’.

Storyline supports all languages and scripts, including right-to-left scripts. The process is simple – export, translate and then import back in. The Storyline 360, Studio 360, Replay 360, and Peek 360 interfaces are available in English, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish.

Storyline 360 has been built to support Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Section 508 accessibility standards, and Rise 360 partially supports WCAG Level A and Level AA. Articulate states that they are continuing to refine their tools, so the courses created go beyond technical compliance with these guidelines to become truly accessible and easy to consume.

Summary

The Articulate platform as a whole is easy to use and very comprehensive. I particularly like Story View, which is a great tool if you are creating a course with branching scenarios.

Articulate Storyline

The lack of a multi-author environment within Storyline 360 does let the side down and the way that Review 360 collates feedback is cumbersome. However, if you’re creating fully responsive content then Rise 360 does offer full collaborative authoring. The compromise is that Rise 360 is heavily template-based and basic in appearance.

There are also limitations with the ease of sharing media, but the workarounds using Teams slides do offer some collaboration possibilities.

The screen recording capabilities offered with the Peek 360 application are excellent and the publishing options are extensive, covering all the standards for outputting to an LMS. However, the documentation output is basic.

dominKnow | ONE – by Jamie Blacoe, Instructional Designer

Introduction

dominKnow | ONE is perhaps lesser known than products such as Adobe Captivate and Articulate 360, however, dominKnow has been a learning content creation software provider for over 20 years.

dominKnow Claro was the company’s first offering – a native HTML5 fixed position authoring tool. Next came dominKnow Flow, also native HTML5, but introducing responsive design functionality.

dominKnow | ONE combines Claro and Flow into a single authoring platform and also integrates system simulation recordings using dominKnow Capture.

Authoring Features

dominKnow | ONE comprises of three authoring modes: Claro, Flow and Capture. Let’s look at each in turn.

dominKnow ONE authoring platform

Claro
Claro provides functionality for authors to create what we call “fixed position” eLearning content, i.e. the object on the screen is placed with (X,Y) coordinates and then does not move. Microsoft PowerPoint is a fixed position tool. This means that authoring using Claro is a fairly easy learning curve for anyone who has used PowerPoint, or similar tools. As a bonus, PowerPoint slides can be imported into Claro to create new courses.

Flow
Flow provides additional functionality to Claro, enabling authors to produce responsive eLearning that can be consumed on desktop or mobile devices. Objects in Flow do not have a fixed position, as authors build pages where objects change position, show/hide or switch design dependent on the device size they are viewed on. This does mean that Flow has a steeper learning curve than Claro, however, this is balanced by providing a responsive framework.

Both Claro and Flow provide support for the use of Variables, which is key to being able to add dynamic content and to allow learner choices to determine how the course narrative unfolds.

Capture
Capture is the system simulation app within dominKnow | ONE. Desktop or browser-based applications can be recorded and then learners can playback the Capture simulations as demonstrations, hands-on practice or tests. The Capture simulations are deployed by embedding them in a Claro or Flow course.

Authoring Environment

As a cloud-based platform, dominKnow | ONE provides a collaborative approach for content development. All content is stored in a central repository that allows authors to create courses as a solo or group activity and also share assets across projects. Each author is free to invite any other author to collaborate on a course. Additionally, authors can allow other authors to reuse all or part of their course in their design.

Another great feature for managing content development projects is the content status and lifecycle management. This allows lead developers to track courses from initial build, right through to sign-off and publishing for learners. A full audit trail of review comments and subsequent edits/actions is stored against each course.

User roles / levels

There are three distinct user roles within dominKnow | ONE:

  • Administrators: Can invite Administrators, Authors or Reviewers to create a new account. Can see and edit all content.
  • Authors: Can invite Reviewers to preview their work and can invite existing Authors to collaborate on a course. Authors only see content that they have created or have been invited to collaborate on.
  • Reviewers: Do not create any content. Their role is to review and provide comments. These comments are collated by dominKnow | ONE to provide a full audit trail. Additionally, Reviewers do not require a dominKnow licence.

Templates and Themes

dominKnow | ONE provides a means of standardising the “look and feel” of courses through the use of themes and templates.

Themes
A Theme is a method of standardising how a learner will navigate through and access the content of a course, while also ensuring that the author of the course adheres to design standards, such as font type and colour pallet. dominKnow | ONE includes pre-built themes and allows Administrators to create bespoke versions of these themes. A key strength of Themes is that they are not hard-linked to the course content, meaning that the same content can be published with different themes without the author having to re-work/re-create the course. Some examples are shown here.

The Course Player Theme uses traditional eLearning presentation. There is a top navigation bar with a logo displayed in the left corner, followed by the Menu (with default options), Transcript and Audio icons, with back and next buttons on the right. The course progress button is displayed immediately below the navigation bar.

The Knowledge Base Theme is ideal for information learning aid, knowledge base or performance support. Learners use the Search field to help them locate the information they need to carry out their tasks, or they can navigate through the menu.

dominKnow ONE course player template

Templates
dominKnow | ONE comes with a variety of page templates that can be inserted into courses and then edited as required. Authors can also make their own page designs, or in-fact full courses, available for re-use by themselves or other authors.

Administrators can turn full courses into templates, aka Baselines, which allow all authors to use them as starting points for course creation.

dominKnow ONE Knowledge base theme

Assets and Stock Library

dominKnow | ONE has a central media library that holds all assets (images, videos, document files, Capture simulations, etc.) used in course creation. Assets can be stored at a course level so as to only provide visibility to authors on a particular course, or they can be stored at a “company” level to provide visibility to all authors.

There is also a substantial Stock Library of images, including avatars, that is maintained by dominKnow and available to all authors.

A key benefit of the Asset Library is that assets can be replaced or updated centrally and these changes can be automatically rolled out to any course that uses that asset. For example, you can update a centrally stored logo so that any course using that logo is also updated.

dominKnow ONE media library

Publishing

dominKnow | ONE provides the following publishing outputs:

Web

  • An HTML5 package that can be deployed to any web server
  • Can also generate and send xAPI statements to a specified Learning Record Store (LRS)

Learning Management System (LMS)

  • SCORM or AICC package for deployment to a compliant LMS
  • Tracking via the LMS
  • Can also generate and send xAPI statements to a specified LRS

Learning Record Store (LRS)

  • LRS package for the integration with an xAPI LRS
  • Tracking via xAPI LRS

Document

  • PDF, MS Word or ePub document that has a Table of Contents and a page reflecting each page of a course
  • Some manual editing is usually required to turn this into a “training guide”

Desktop

  • A desktop executable package
  • Can also generate and send xAPI statements to a specified LRS

Data Tracking and Reporting

As we saw in the Publishing section, dominKnow | ONE can provide packages that can be tracked using SCORM, AICC or xAPI. It is also possible to include xAPI statements in Web, LMS or the Desktop publishes, which opens opportunities to use xAPI. A couple of examples:

  • Upload a SCORM package to a non-xAPI compliant LMS. Send the xAPI statements from that package to a separate LRS. This enables an organisation to take advantage of LMS functionality, such as a course catalogue or specific job-role related training paths, while also leveraging the power of xAPI tracking in the LRS.
  • A Web package is deployed to a public-facing web server. Deployment to an LMS is either too costly, due to user licensing, or not applicable due to the nature of the content. Anonymous xAPI statements can be sent by the web package to an LRS, which would provide insight into how the public was interacting with the web content.

Technical Requirements and Support

dominKnow | ONE is a cloud-based platform that allows content authoring directly from the web browser. The only installation required is when using Capture to create system simulations. If not installed, dominKnow | ONE will invite the author to download and install Capture.

dominKnow offers training and support within the platform and there is also an online support community that shares examples of courses created using the tool.

Translation functionality enables you to duplicate a course and translate it into over 50 languages – automatically updating system text and the course interface for things like tool tips and navigation. Non-system text can be manually exported to Microsoft Excel, translated and then imported back into the course.

dominKnow supports Section 508, WCAG 2 Level AA, and WAI-ARIA compliance for accessibility of the learning content created using dominKnow | ONE.

Summary

dominKnow | ONE is a feature-rich, multi-author/reviewer eLearning development tool that provides the means to create a wide range of content, including simulations. The ability to design fixed-position or responsive content provides authors with great flexibility, and also a choice between a shallower or steeper learning curve when first starting to use the tool.

Authors working in silos may not see the benefit of the multi-author/reviewer functionality, however, as an enterprise solution this functionality is invaluable.

The full range of publishing options (simple documentation right through to xAPI) allows content created by dominKnow | ONE to fit into a host of use-cases.

Gomo Learning Suite – by Tom Clark, Instructional Designer

Introduction

First released in 2013 by Learning Technologies Group, Gomo Learning Suite is a cloud-based, mobile-first, responsive HTML5 eLearning authoring platform used to collaboratively author and deliver digital learning content.

The unified platform enables authors to create, discover, track and deliver video and eLearning content.

Authoring Features

Gomo is fully responsive and will adjust the content created to match the screen size. Authors create content to appear in a two, three or four column layout, which will display on each device in the most effective way possible. Assets can be dragged and dropped on to the page, making content creation very easy.

The Course Structure view is a great way to review the full structure of a project, visually. It is possible to use a range of variables to set actions dynamically on a page.

Gomo Course Structure view

A feature that I particularly like is the ability to add videos within the background of a page, allowing the video to display across the entire page. Third party web content can be embedded from YouTube, Vimeo, and other sources, directly into courses using the iFrame asset.

Authors can incorporate an extensive range of interactions into a project. Numerous question types can also be created and imported.

It is not possible to record screencasts using Gomo, or import PowerPoint presentations.

Gomo Learning Suite

Authoring Environment

Gomo offers a full multi-author environment with shared central resources and a team-based approach. Team members can work on the same project at the same time and all content, including variables can be shared. Tasks can also be created and assigned.

Courses can be reviewed by another author or an assigned reviewer via a direct link or a QR code. Links can be emailed for direct course access. By using a QR code reader, colleagues can transfer the course straight to their smartphone or tablet.

Gomo authors

User roles / levels

There are three user levels within Gomo:

  1. Administrator – can create, edit, preview and publish a project
  2. Editor – can edit, preview and publish a project
  3. Reviewer – can only preview a project. Content is viewed from the Learning Portal. Team members can assign tasks to other team members requesting a review of a specific page or element.

Templates and Themes

In Gomo the pre-created Themes provide the backdrop and screen layout for your course, which dictates the look and feel. The look and feel can be customised via the Theme Control Panel, and then saved for repeat use. By updating a Theme within Gomo, you automatically update all courses that are using that Theme, which makes it very easy to reflect branding changes across all course content.

There are also number of pre-built templates available in Gomo including screen templates that include all the required interactions, as well as storyboard templates. It is not possible for a user to create their own templates.

Assets and Stock Library

As a cloud-based tool, all assets are stored and accessible by your development team via a central repository to enable authors to store and share media, images and other assets.

Publishing

Gomo content is HTML5-based and can be published to a website, accessible on any device. All content is SCORM compatible and can therefore also be output to an LMS. Gomo does not offer the option to publish documents that can be used as training guides.

Gomo also offers a SCORM LMS wrapper enabling authors to embed Gomo courses directly into any SCORM LMS with the addition of a small LMS wrapper file. This enables you to update your courses directly from Gomo without having to republish.

Data Tracking and Reporting

As I mentioned above, Gomo can be output to an LMS for tracking and reporting using SCORM or xAPI.

Gomo also offers full tracking directly from the tool using its xAPI Reporting Dashboard with various reports available to see project related data such as launches, completions, passes and failures; locations and device use. The data can be exported to Excel or Google Sheets.

Technical Requirements and Support

Gomo is a fully cloud-based platform and therefore no local installation is required.

Gomo also offers multiple language support via XLIFF translation; simply export the file for translation and then import the completed translation.

Gomo endeavours to meet the requirements of Section 508 for accessibility, although doesn’t categorically state that the tool is compliant. Courses can be switched into an ‘Accessible’ mode which is more suitable for learners with a visual impairment (animations on screen transitions are removed) and certain asset types are more suited to a screen reader.

Summary

This felt like a great tool to use. The ease of use offered by the Themes and Templates provides an excellent platform for novices. It is very simple in design, using drag and drop to add content to the page and it is easy to get creative with your course design, eg, adding videos as background images.

In my opinion, it offers an attractive user interface and one of the best-looking finished products by far, as the content is viewed using the entire screen, rather than in a ‘player’ like other tools use.

One thing I did notice is that a lot of browser tabs were opened as I went along. This put me off straight away as it seemed very easy to get lost.

The downside is that Gomo does not offer anything for creating simulation recordings, which is a big loss in my opinion.

Overall Summary

We haven’t crowned an overall winner based on our evaluations of these four eLearning content development tools. Although some tools may stand out in certain areas, what is most important when selecting an eLearning authoring tool is that it’s fit for purpose. Your choice of eLearning content development tool will depend on a multitude of different factors including budget, skillset of your developer(s), size of your team (if indeed you have a team at all), as well as how your learners will access your content – via LMS, desktop, mobile device, etc.

If you are considering a lower cost tool, you may need to compromise on functionality, as you would expect, but you may not need all the bells and whistles. For example, if you will only have one content author then you don’t need an eLearning content development tool that offers a multi-author environment. However, the peace of mind and simplicity of a cloud-based tool may still be beneficial if you would prefer not to rely on a locally installed application.

Comparison of eLearning Content Development Tools

Your choice will also be affected by the importance of these considerations. For instance, if your eLearning content development team or single author is relatively inexperienced, then the most important factor may be finding an eLearning content development tool that is easy to use (perhaps heavily template-based) rather than a solution which, although offers richer features, may have a much steeper learning curve.

You will also need to consider what type of eLearning content you wish to create and how your learners are likely to access it. Do you wish to include videos and screen captures? If the content needs to be accessible on a mobile device, then an eLearning content development tool that offers responsive design is imperative. Perhaps you have legacy PowerPoint slides that you need to convert to eLearning, in which case a tool that allows you to import slides would be a key feature requirement. And so it goes on.

This market is ever changing as new technologies are developed and our clients’ requirements evolve, and it is important to keep abreast of these developments. If you have any experience of using one or more of the eLearning content development tools that we have discussed in this article, we would be keen to get your thoughts and look forward to receiving your comments below.