Authoring Tool Trends for 2017

The authoring tool industry continues to evolve. Adapt? Yes in some cases, no in other cases.  If you are inquiring adoption across all learning tech capabilities and consumer demand (from the consumer marketplace and learners), then the answer is half yes and half no. 

I won’t regurgitate everything that appeared and did not for that matter in the authoring tool space as a whole in 2016, but a few have crossed over in a positive light, which is pushing trend.

Speaking of trends. 

Similar to the one I had for an LMS, here is the Authoring Tool version for 2017.  Each item will be covered a bit afterwards. 



This is more of a two-prong approach.

  • Direct integration with an LMS, whether it is via an API (most likely) or some other fashion. 

The big item to remember here is that it will be a separate license or licenses to use the authoring tool that is directly integrated with the LMS.  I suspect some vendors might tie it together in some pricing approach, giving an appearance that it is free.    

This I should note is different than the common way – most common – whereas you upload your courses directly into the LMS whether it be via a desktop or SaaS.  You can use any third party authoring tool that accepts whatever course standards the LMS accepts.

With the integration you still will be able to, but the advantage to the direct integration is a quick push to the LMS, repeatedly if you decide. 

In other words, create the course, then click publish and whammo it appears in the LMS (on admin side, where they then have it go live).  Afterwards, when you make changes to the course, fix it and push.  Real time updating without all the hassle of finding it on your desktop and uploading directly.   

  • With other tools via API

Let’s say you are using Survey Monkey.  You love Survey Monkey.  Your 3rd party authoring tool has a survey function but it is not as strong as Survey Monkey.  Right now, your option is to either use the survey tool in the authoring tool or use Survey Monkey separately (which is what folks do).

In API integration Survey Monkey now appears in your 3rd party authoring tool, thus you can create surveys with Survey Monkey in the authoring tool, publish out those surveys wherever, including in the LMS (the benefit here). 

The data on results not only appear as they would in the LMS since it is via the course tool, but analytics appear in Survey Monkey as they would for a survey tool.

If the authoring tool has analytics (a trend, but one I am not a fan of), then the data could at some point, down the road, appear there too.

Expect early integration to be tied to such items as Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and iCloud.   However, the possibilities to other API options is endless.  And yes, I will add that integration to Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook do appear today, but that is just minimal to the potential.

I should add that the integration oomph is best served with a SaaS authoring tool.  


No shock here.  The buzz word “Mobile First” is already in play in the LMS world and now it is appearing more frequently in the authoring tool space, especially among SaaS vendors.   Yeah, got it.

The same with “Mobile Responsive”, which everyone does.  The difference though is that when published the course should look like the course and not something smushed together and looks different than what you initially created.  With some mobile responsive, the smushed version is what you see. 

I’m still a m-learning purist. These are folks who believe that a course designed for mobile, looks great in mobile – whatever the device size is and type- but looks crummy on a desktop/laptop screen.  

As a whole, we are not there yet.  But at least, the trend of looking good on a mobile device with exact similarity to what you created is the start.  

Expect to see some mobile tools show up here as well.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few authoring tool vendors enable the users to upload their mobile videos,images, etc. directly into a client specific asset library in the authoring tool, for which the designer or whomever is creating the courses can utilize it. 

Yeah, you can do it now – but they the user has to send the item to you as a file and basically you have to take it from there.  Time consuming.

Publish or Perish

I talked about that up there a bit, but the basics are this:

  • Create your course, content, etc. 
  • Click the format you choose for publish
  • Click publish
  • Goes right into the LMS
  • You need to update, you can in real time (although I recommend that the update is offline in the LMS, until the admin is ready to update the “live” version). 
  • Versioning is kept within the authoring tool, with notes for example

Publish/Perish is designed for SaaS btw.  Which leads to


The uptick is still there, growing more and more, but 100% not a chance.  I expect to see more growth this year.  Why are some vendors reticent about going cloud?

Cost is a major factor.  It is a big time investment and some vendors just have no desire to do it, even if they have the funds.  Another is design. A cloud based authoring tool behaves differently and the whole UI/UX is different.  Which is what?  Another cost.

Personally, I would never buy a desktop authoring tool.  Too many minuses today, including the infamous, if something happens to my laptop/desktop and I lose the app, I have to download again and install. 

Sure, you can save the app somewhere else, but still, it involves re-stall.  Oh, and I want it on other desktops, yeah more installs.  Thank you, my friend. 

For those wondering  – best cloud based authoring tools are

  • dominKnow Claro – #1
  • Lectora Online 
  • Gomo

Storyline 360 is not a 100% cloud based authoring tool, just fyi.

Basic 2 Advanced

The world of authoring tools started at the advanced level, Authorware, Toolbook and to an extent DazzlerMax.  You either needed a tech skill set (at least moderate) or authoring tool design/development experience and preferably both.  They all had a learning curve.

But wide adoption for the masses wasn’t there.

Then Articulate Studio appeared.  Actually it was more of Dreamweaver that came with templates (at least IMO).   Anyway, Studio was perfect for those who wanted to build a course but had no  ID/e-learning developer skill set nor moderate tech skills (no offense on either).

It was and still is a PowerPoint converter with feature sets.  But it is easy to use.

The Rapid Content Authoring Tool market took off from there.  The premise is simple.  Anyone can come in off the street and create a course.   The problem though was that folks who had the authorware and so forth experience AND/OR folks who were ID and e-learning developers were stuck.

The RCATs weren’t designed nor made for them.  But you have to use what is available.

Fast Forward.

Products like Captive, Claro, Lectora and Storyline enabled the ID folks to create robust courses.  I know plenty of people who work in custom development at places  who use these products.  And the course capabilities and output is amazing.

Nowadays there are quite a few tools that offer that power.

But here is the twist.

They also offer the ability to still create a course with either no ID/e-learning development background, course background or tech skills beyond the basics.   This is a big jump.

You can see it with really four tools (and this is not a slight mind you) – Claro, Lectora Online, Storyline 360 (started in Storyline2) and Gomo. 

 I’m sure other vendors will say, you can do it with us too, and yeah in some cases you can, but I’m basing it on my testing and others I know who are at elite level with course design and build them daily. 

Anyway, the trend will continue.  Good for all.  Oh, and sorry Captivate your tool is not easy. 

More of This/One Stop Shop

This trend is on a big upswing.  More of this simply means more features, capabilities and assets.  Oh those assets.  Vendors love to toss out big numbers.  10,000, 20,000, 50,000 assets.  My question is will you use all those assets?

My take is highly unlikely.  I’d rather have outstanding assets numbering in 200 range, than 10,000 assets, of which 9,995 represent either clip art of old days, lame templates even as HTML5, audio clips that sound like they were recorded in a garage and so on.

Regardless, the asset increase is continuing.  I expect to see an easier to find search, than exists for most vendors today, using metadata.  And cross-categories, which as a whole vendors are awful in.  A cross-category means you have a video clip.  The clip is a 15 seconds of waves.

Cross categories would be video as a category, and nature as another category.  After all some folks first instinct is to look for “nature”, others are “video”.  This is a big plus in RLOs (reusable learning objects).  

If you have the right amount of assets, with drag and drop functionality (which expect to see more of this capability on the product itself), along with my own library of assets which I create (and is expanding with more options), then when you think about it, why would I need to purchase assets from a vendor, such as eLearning Brothers.

Great assets there, but the “one stop shop” approach is emerging in the authoring tool market.  Let’s take video capture and recording.  Yes, most vendors already have it, but is it as strong as say Camtasia? 

The result is you have to purchase another tool to do that, along with your 3rd party authoring tool.   This is changing.  One stop shop.  Lots of assets, robust screen recording and capturing, video capabilities (beyond just adding a video to a course), web cam options and so on.


People are wanting to create a video course.  Not just add a video to a course or upload a video into a system, but actually take a video, create bookmarking, table of contents and ability for folks to jump into different sections of the video (with tracking analytical data that goes beyond, how often Casey watched it or downloaded it).

Expect to see more vendors enabling this capability.  It will not be as robust as some of us want, but it will be better than what it is today, which is virtually nil.

Micro Learning

First off, anyone can create micro-learning with the tool they have and have had for years. I created micro learning, real life scenario based courses back in 2000.

All it means, micro-learning that is, is to have a short in length/time course.  That’s it.  It does not mean it will be engaging, interactive or useful (which all courses should be regardless of size).

You can still have a TOC with a micro-learning course and I strongly recommend it.  And if you are going video, 2-3 minutes in length.  A micro-learning course should focus on one topic only, two or three points at max on what you are covering.   Thus, you can create lots of micro courses.

Anyway, vendors will push out this capability more in 2017.   The micro-learning capability that is.   Expect ad nauseum. 

Already noted analytical data on the back end for authoring tool vendors.  Not a fan as noted. An authoring tool should uh focus on being an authoring tool, not a pseudo or lite LMS.  Plenty of those out there.  

Preview in Real Time

Many, many vendors pitch this already as a feature.  The ideal way is to see the preview in various modes, by selecting the image – i.e. it looks like a smartphone, click I see in real time what it looks like.  The challenge is to actually move around the preview, click a few screens in the preview.   

Some do it today, more – in the real time preview in specific modes, will do so in 2017.  The movement around is slow, but I expect more to incorporate.

Other Trends 


We are all hearing it and will going forward.  There are a few items to note here (I also recommend reading my previous post on VR/AR/MR).

  • Custom development shops and individual folks are creating VR content
  • There are authoring tools where you can play and playback VR content
  • Consumers – companies – are expressing great interest in VR content
  • When people think of VR content – they overwhemingly think of it from an Oculus Rift or similar type headset device – This is one of the problems – and here is why

All the data that is out there shows that the explosion of VR content will come via smartphones using a VR headset and not devices such as Oculus Rift.   With an Android smartphone (the market is geared specifically for them and not iOS), you can purchase well over 75 headsets including Google Daydream that will work (or claim to) with your Android device.  Lots of apps exist in the Google Play store for VR too.

Pricing ranges from several dollars and up.  Sure there are some minuses to be aware of – 10 minutes to play then get off the thing before you get sick, then play again;  but many more people already have a smartphone. 

Another problem – the authoring tool vendors themselves.  I’ve spoken with quite a few, and no one is jumping into the VR creation option within their tool.  Well, if you want something to really take off with VR courses, you need that capability within a 3rd party authoring tool.

There are a couple of VR tools out there – NOT AUTHORING TOOL VENDORS – so if you are one of the folks who loves to mention this, then yes VR tools exist. 

I expect a vendor or two, to test the waters in 2018, late 2017.  

The same with AR, no authoring tool vendor is jumping into it and it has been around for years.

Last thing on VR – The Sony VR headset for Playstation is hot.  They are on pace to surpass their projections by mid-year.  You need a Playstation to use it (its tethered).  And for those who said to me, Oculus Rift does not offer tethered to a PC, they in fact do.

The more popular one, and the one more people are using is the non-tethered one.  Oh, I would recommend that if you are in a crowd and someone is passing around a headset, that you bring some wippies.  I have yet to see a headset be wiped with some anti-germ wipes before handing it to someone else. 

I’m waiting for the day that Xenia starts a Pink-Eye epidemic at a convention. 


Look authoring tools can be expensive.  Buying a license can be in some cases past $1,500 (per).   So, when I say cost, I’m referring to a different model.

Subscription by seats (course developers).   Expect to see this model zoom in 2017.   It is yearly, and as you can see in the consumer marketplace (Office365, Adobe Creative Cloud, to name just two) are popular.  

I’ve seen a vendor go subscription by content (it is confusing), but the better model is by humans.  As long as you maintain the subscription, you get free updates, maintenance (if SaaS based) and a higher level of customer support (not just e-mail or go to our community for example).   

Not Trends, but something you should do

Take the authoring tool for more than a test drive.  I’ve seen vendors offer seven day trials – which honestly is way too short, others higher.  I always recommend 30 days after all, someone testing it, has other things to do – and isn’t just going to sit there all day or part of each day, playing with it.

Make sure everything is active.  If they offer a tool that comes with your package – test that out and test it to see if it works as they say it does with your other tool(s), i.e. authoring tool.  

If you have a lot of course designers, test out that collaboration feature, heck if you do not, get some folks to test it out while you are in your own location.  Does it do what they say it will do? 

Do you hit any lag time?  Try it out of the workplace.  Many people nowadays create courses at the workplace but also out of the workplace.

After creating a course, test to see if it works in your LMS or see if the authoring tool vendor has a sandbox you can test in. 

A sandbox though – when it comes to an authoring tool only – doesn’t really get you the true sense if you have an LMS.  Better to test in the LMS or your LMS sandbox  (if you have one – and yeah, it is a new trend in the industry).


I expect to see more authoring tool vendors having a community, beyond just a help guide/manual and/or tutorials.  

A community should include the following

  • Humans – end users and even folks exploring the product
  • Topics, categories – look for one “new users” or something along those lines
  • Moderator who responds to any question.  Take a look to see how many questions in that topic have zero responses.  What types of questions?  If it is related to the product, it should have a response.   See the lag date.  Does the moderator respond daily, hourly or once in a blue moon?  
  • Best practices or how-to that are easy to find and use.  
  • Examples –  step by step is ideal, gets back to how to do something
  • Video tutorials that follow the “show me, let me try it” model.  Majority of vendors who have video tutorials are just showing a video – i.e. screen recording.  That is fine, but seriously if you are pitching your authoring tool as something that can be interactive shouldn’t I see tutorials that are?

Knowledge banks are basic, but some are difficult to use. No offense to Microsoft here, but the search bank within Word for example is not easy.  Frustration is a better response. 

Nor do I recommend telling folks to go find videos on YouTube on how to use the product.  If that is your mantra, then I can only imagine your customer support.  

Find out if they have courses that they built, that you can see and play around in – in the community or wherever on the site. 

I want to see the true power of the what the product can do, not what I can do or someone who is brand new to it.  We want people to learn new skills and expand – you can’t to that, if you do not show me what is possible.

Lastly, negotiate if you have multiple folks.  If they want you they will do a discount, especially if you have at least ten course builders.   Unlikely to score a deal with less than that, but you never know – unless you ask.

And ask a salesperson, not someone in the community.

Bottom Line

The emerging trends for 2017.

Authoring tool style.

The market is mature.  

They range from poor to great.  The size of the space is not large, not even close.

Thus, you’ll have an easier time to find what you are looking for.

And the trends in 2017.

Will assist you in that


E-Learning 24/7

Next post – March 13th, will cover the VR/AR conference, what I saw – related to products, along with the latest on Immersive learning as a whole – new data, insight for this new market.  Oh, and for those wondering, playing a video game is not immersive learning.  I’m just saying.  : )






Tagged: authoring tools, learning tech, micro learning, trends in e-learning, VR

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