Top 6 Trends In Authoring Tools For 2016

Trends In Authoring Tools For 2016

Where are content authoring tools heading in the mid- to long-term perspective? Apparently, we are still looking for user-friendly interfaces, a rich feature set and compatibility, mobile support and a wealth of publishing options. However, will the merely functional characteristics suffice in the coming Web 3.0/4.0 era? Are modern authoring vendors ready for the looming transition? As it happens, there is a technical and methodological side to it. Let’s see what the market has in mind to address our questions. There is a plethora of professional opinions on the subject of trends in authoring tools, so I’ll try to narrow this down to the fundamentals as I see them.

  1. Rise of eLearning. 
    To some extent, the concepts of content authoring and eLearning have come to be synonymous. Experts maintain the web-based training segment will reach the astonishing figure of $125 bln. by as soon as 2020. Since traditional brick-and-mortar methods of creating and distributing content fall behind learners’ needs and interests, it’s only fair that software makers come up with nicely designed solutions. The big guys in the industry are building customer-centric tools that allow flexible customization and a multitude of supported formats: Text, video, audio, animations, simulations, and whatnot. Everything is easy to share, easy to publish online, easy to track. As a result, instructor and learner engage in communication. The process goes both ways, laying the foundation for a mutually rewarding knowledge environment.
  2. From analytics to targeting.
    Now that the message is received, it’s crucial to understand how your audience responds to the content. Detailed analytics is old news in eLearning. The goal is to track every conscious action your learners take and decide how you can help. Software like Adobe Captivate or Presenter comes with a built-in reporting panel for deeper insights into course performance and consumption. And that’s before you place the content in a Learning Management System! In line with pattern-based content delivery and web 3.0 tendencies, I anticipate a transformation of analytics into smarter targeting techniques. This adds up to personalization in the emerging learner-centric education model. Here’s a primordial trend that authoring and eLearning have in common – the leap from the traditional course to providing tools for improvement. Generally, authoring programs can now glean information about most common device types, format preferences, troublesome topics, course bottlenecks, user groups, and a host of criteria that need deep analysis and timely follow up. Feel free to compare how popular authoring tools deal with the issue, and see if any of them suits your objectives. Are modern instructors jumping on the bandwagon and willing to go beyond a nice-looking data-rich course? They’d better be.
  3. Use of XML or JSON. 
    Interspersing consumer values with programming, I’d mention the predominant pattern here. We’re seeing authoring tools wipe out older technology in favor of XML (Extensible Markup Language) or JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), the main reasons being ease of use and compatibility. These formats offer flexible content storage and sharing across versatile platforms and apps. Since XML or JSON tend not to employ any proprietary code for storing data, the editing of courses in a third-party environment raises no technical issues or inconsistencies. Another perk of XML or JSON is seamless direct interoperability with text processing software and interfaces, which enables easy content updates for authors.
  4. Compatibility with Tin Can. 
    In my opinion, every authoring tool should enable Tin Can (xAPI) integration. As far as statistics and performance tracking are concerned, Tin Can is a much better option than SCORM. Since interaction and substantiated feedback are key in the training process, you don’t want to fully rely on older standards. With SCORM, you can only keep track of quiz results and test completion, whereas other scenarios like mobile learning, gaming or simulations are left out of the picture. Not surprisingly, most prominent market players are adding Tin Can compatibility. My ballpark estimate for unanimous format adoption is around 2018–2019. In fact, given the growing demand for mobile-based learning, that may even be an overly cautious forecast.
  5. The advent of augmented reality. 
    How about an opportunity to view tedious subjects from a different angle, throw in some digital input like images, video or GPS data to augment a familiar environment? Cutting-edge authoring tools can now do that, too. Augmented reality can be a great motivator to capture student attention in blended learning or flipped classroom models. Celebrated schools like Carnegie Mellon University have taken on board specific authoring tools, such as EON’s Creator that helps to develop engaging learning simulations. Is this the beginning of a new trend in authoring? Who knows, chances are five years from now augmented reality builders will be listed as commodity software.
  6. SaaS takes the crown. 
    Had someone told me just a few years ago that people would be loath to install software on their computers, I would’ve sniggered and paid no heed. Turns out I would have been wrong. Web-based software rules the game, and the same applies to content authoring tools. Bigger brands like Trivantis Lectora or Adobe, for instance, provide online editions of their tools – and more often than not, they are a better deal than desktop software. Just a tad short on functionality yet providing greater flexibility, moderate subscription rates and versatile plans, SaaS offerings will always have the right use scenario for your project. If you put the evolution of SaaS into a timeline, you’ll see how it’s been getting more condensed lately. In the 2010s, SaaS is becoming majorly accepted by the global user community. In the next couple of years, I prophesy that most instructional designers will switch to web-based authoring and storage. They’ll sync up their projects in a learning management system and make changes and updates on the fly – all from their browser or smartphone.

In Conclusion

From my standpoint, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in content development. On reaching the pivotal point, we’ll stop asking ourselves and the community how to craft an appealing course, and start wondering what’s next. How do we cherry-pick content for specific target groups, how do we manage perceptions, tackle individual needs, and provide timely relevant feedback?

Let’s see what the future brings and keep an eye open for innovations.

Close