By Edmund Pawelec and Jeffrey Ball

 

A few weeks ago one of our readers asked us which e-learning development tool is best for the novice developer.  With the explosive growth in mobile learning it’s not uncommon for someone with little development experience to be tasked with updating their learning catalogue to be mobile friendly.  Since a number of new versions have been released over the last year it seemed worthwhile to take a quick look at the big three e-learning development applications from the perspective of a new or novice user.

For this comparison, we created simple identical modules in Adobe Captivate CS6, Articulate Storyline, and Lectora Inspire v11.  The idea was to compare not only price but also user interface, features, (interactivity, assessments, etc.), and output.  We developed short demos on how to use the fill handle in MS Excel that incorporated the basic elements of an e-learning module: text boxes, images, recorded demos, sound, etc.

What’s your budget?

Inevitably people want to know what it is going to cost them.  Let’s get that out of the way so we can dig a little deeper.  Without a doubt the budget conscious developer is going to want to go with Captivate CS6.  Not only is it the least expensive from the perspective of purchasing the software outright (at $900) but, from our research, it was the only one of the three that offered an on demand monthly subscription at $40/month.  That is a really good deal if you only plan on using the software for a short period of time.

Articulate Storyline was in the middle of the pack at $1400, and Lectora Inspire v11 busted the budget at $2500.  Remember neither offers a monthly subscription.  That is a pretty wide range of prices, so what do you get for the money?

How does this thing work?

Keep in mind we were trying to look at this from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience.  Professionals who have dedicated their careers to e-learning development are likely to have some different biases and we would love to hear your comments, but for the novice, consider the following:

Captivate CS6

Captivate may fit your budget, but plan to spend a fair amount of time learning how to use the program.  The interface is very busy and not particularly intuitive.  Of course you could say the same about nearly any Adobe product if you don’t have a solid familiarity with their interface.  Captivate does offer a wide variety of features but they can be hard to find and difficult to figure out.  That being said the software includes some excellent customizable interactive options like Process Cycle, Glossary, Accordion, Pyramid and Animated Rollovers. The animation options are expansive.

Articulate Storyline

Articulate was very intuitive and is not likely to throw the first timer user for a loop.  The terminology on the toolbars is obvious for a developer but won’t be a mystery to an instructional designer.  For example, labels like “Interactive Objects” and “Entrance and Exit Animations” might require some translation for an instructional designer or someone who spends more time in content development.  Slide layers and triggers allow for a high level of interactive customization in this feature rich environment. Also, Articulate offers a great design wizard which is for key for someone who needs a quick and polished module.

Lectora Inspire v11

Lectora’s User Interface is similar to Microsoft products which can be very helpful for the new developer since nearly everyone has used an MS product sometime in their lives.  One thing that differs in Lectora is the way some features, like video and image capture, work.  In Captivate and Articulate these are native to the programs whereas Lectora launches external apps, like Camtasia, Snagit, and Flypaper, from within the program.  It’s not a big deal but it does mean you will have to get familiar with the navigation of three additional apps.

Oddly, Lectora, through the Camtasia app, doesn’t offer an “automatic record” feature.  Both Captivate and Articulate offer a clean capture that automatically eliminates erroneous mouse clicks during the recording process while at the same time adding callouts.  The same end result can be accomplished in Lectora but it requires manually adding callouts by “marking” the clicks that require additional explanation.

That being said, Lectora offers assessment tools that, in our opinion, are better than the other two.  It has more options for actions and variables than Articulate and is easier to use in this regard than Captivate.

Other considerations

The final product is probably the most important consideration and quite frankly there is not a ton of difference between the three.  All offer an HTML5 option that is required for mobile use while keeping your modules SCORM and 508 compliant.

Finally, before you decide, check out the support and user forums.  This will depend on how much you rely on them for problem solving.  Lectora appears to have very active forums with company experts contributing regularly whereas Captivate falls at the other end of the spectrum.

Bottom Line 

All three programs are capable of creating engaging and interactive e-learning modules. Captivate is inexpensive but may be difficult for new users. The monthly subscription is an excellent option for those that are on a budget.   Articulate and Lectora are easier to use and if budget allows, may be better options for new users.  Cost aside, Articulate gets the nod for novices due to its fairly intuitive interface, wealth of features, and excellent design wizard.

 

 Mr. Pawelec is co-founder, Chief Executive and Financial Officer of MeteMeme LLC.  His primary focus is on strategic growth and management of the company.  Mr. Ball is co-founder, Chief Operating and Technology Officer of MeteMeme LLC.  To find out more about how MetaMeme can help your company visit our website: www.metamemeworld.com.