Todays course authoring tools, whether web or software based, continue to evolve well beyond the presentation software that sired it. Demand for advanced, interactive courseware that produces measurable performance improvement is driving development of robust multimedia authoring tools. Course designers, builders, and authors now have access to a wide range of content formats and tools previously unavailable.
The feature set included with leading course building tools enable authors to combine a variety of different file formats, from a variety of different sources, to produce courseware containing text, images, audio and video, assessments, animations and simulations. Involving the student in simulations, encouraging them through the use of assessments and feedback raises their level of interest.
Heightened interest equals increased retention.
But not all mediums are created equally. Each has strengths and weaknesses and, as a result, are more effective at conveying one kind of information over another. In the chart below, media elements common to higher end authoring tools are listed along with typical learning strategies (how they are best applied) and their strengths and weaknesses relative to each other:
|Medium||Learning Strategies||+ Pos||– Neg|
|Text||Discussion, Explanation, Assessments||Easily modified and can convey complex information||Least engaging of media. Text heavy course can lose user|
|Images, Photos, Maps, Drawings||Convey or enhance textual or narrated content, Assessments||Illustrative, adds visual interest||Sourcing images can be time consuming|
|Audio including narration, soundtrack, and sound effects||Narrated content, Instructions, add auditory interest to static screens||Easily edited, benefits auditory learners and makes course accessible to sight impaired||Depending on software,* syncing audio with screen events can be a slow process|
|Video||Demonstrate scenarios or skills||Personalizes and establishes strong connection||Can be expensive to produce|
|Simulations & Animations||Interactions, assessments, visual illustrations||Creates immersive
experience for user
|May require special programming skills|
If there is a downside to the expanded media handling in course building tools it is that the ability to edit each content type cant be as robust as it is with proprietary editing software. In other words, an authoring tool will give you the ability to trim a video clips duration but you will still need Final Cut Pro or similar software to key a green screen or splice segments. The same applies to image, audio, and Flash animations. Fortunately there is a solution. Professional grade multimedia authoring tools typically accept the import of multiple file formats so that you can continue to use Aperture for photos and Soundbooth for audio (or whichever are your favorite editing tools). A second solution is to purchase course-ready images, video, and audio from an online supply house.
Bear in mind that multimedia authoring tools with rich media features are of questionable value unless married to advanced underlying logic that provides the builder with a high degree of flexibility and creative application. A library of templates that instructs and guides the builder in the use of multimedia content will contribute to a successful build. The builders goal is to create relationships between the user and content. A multimedia authoring tool that guides the builder through that process frees them to concentrate on their content. Read more about interactive elearning design here.
If you are an author or a course-builder or simply interested in the topic, an appropriate next step would be to read the ebook entitled Learn How to Create Performance Based eLearning.