Cloud-based authoring tools: Five things your desktop tool can’t help you with

Illustration of clouds
May 21, 2020
14 minutes
Illustration of clouds

Confession: I’m pretty spoiled.

I’ve been working in a cloud-based authoring tool for almost two decades. (Um, wow, it’s crazy to see that in actual type!)

And it’s been interesting to see how organizations have changed their views on cloud-based tools over that time.

Just think of how many cloud-based tools are used in your organization today. Three examples from our own organization that come to mind immediately for me:

  • the sales department’s customer relationship management system
  • the marketing team’s website and analytics tools
  • the software development team’s communications tools

For all of these tools, being cloud-based makes so much sense for so many reasons.

So, back to being spoiled.

Because I’ve been working in a cloud-based authoring tool for so long, I sometimes take it for granted that I can do things with a couple of clicks that desktop-tool users just can’t do easily.

As much as the learning and development world thinks of itself as one of constant change, in many ways our industry is slow to actually alter our practices.  I’m sure a few specific things come to your mind right away, so I won’t go down a rabbit hole here.

What’s made cloud-based tools so successful for other areas of our organizations is that they solve real business problems.

So here are five things that aren’t problems for our elearning development team because a cloud-based authoring tool solves them every day.

Cloud-based authoring tools help you work well with others

This benefit is the probably most obvious.

When you create projects in a centralized, cloud-based authoring tool they can be accessed from anywhere at any time.

More importantly– they can be accessed by anyone* from anywhere at any time. (* with permission – more on this in a minute!)

And that sets up real opportunities for collaboration.

You can work on one part of a project while your colleague works on another section, all in real time and without any limitations on where either of you is located. No more waiting for your colleague to finish their work and send the file back to you or save it back to the shared drive on the network (and then remember to let you know).

In this project, I’m working on the first topic, shown by the checkmarks to the left of each page title. And you can see by their avatars that my colleagues are working on pages 1.2.1 and 1.3.1 at the same time.

A cloud-based authoring tool can extend collaboration beyond authoring – it covers the review process as well.  

When it’s time to get your subject matter experts (SMEs) to provide feedback, just invite them into the tool as reviewers. In the case of dominKnow | ONE, we provide a tracking workflow for all comments. And reviewers can access the project from their laptop, tablet or even smartphone to review.

Cloud-based authoring tools help you share

Since everything our elearning development team creates is all in one place, we can easily share content across projects.

Why start from scratch if a topic is already covered in a project you did last year?

We can share topics across courses and keep them synchronized for updates and changes, so no matter what course a topic is used in, it’s always up to date. Plus we can mix in new topics, which allows us to address specific needs for specific audiences while still leveraging shared topics for content that is identical.

You know that saying, “Sharing is caring”? Well, with content re-use sharing is also cost-saving.

A few years ago a client team was rolling out an update to its employee benefits software. They needed to target two learning audiences:

  • Main tool users who needed to know a set of 20 tasks
  • Managers who only needed to know 10 of those tasks

The course for the 20-task group was built first. Once that was done, the course for the managers was created, the lessons for 10 already-created tasks were copied into it and a new title page and conclusion page were created. All of this took a mere minutes. Plus, later on the shared task lessons only needed to be edited once because the two courses were synchronized to receive the updates at the same time.

We can also share at the more granular level of media assets as well.

An image added to a page in one course is actually stored in the cloud-based authoring tool’s Media Libraryand is easily re-used in any other project.

No need to upload a new logo for every project – just re-use the one already uploaded. And when the marketing team send you a new logo because of a branding change you can easily replace the image in the Media Library which automatically updates every page using the logo.

The Media Library makes it easy to re-use any asset file like a company logo and see exactly all the courses where it’s being used.

Obviously, this covers media like images, audio and video files but it also includes documents like PDFs.

Upload a PDF of the company personnel policy once and use it as a downloadable resource across a dozen HR-related courses. Next year when the policy gets updated you only need to replace the PDF once in dominKnow | ONE and it will automatically be updated in all the courses sharing it.

Cloud-based authoring tools help you keep control

It’s probably obvious, but in a cloud-based authoring tool every user has an account.

Of course, this means security in the form of unique usernames and passwords.

It also means the tool can provide roles and tracking based on each unique account.

In dominKnow | ONE, we have three roles, Administrators, Authors and Reviewers. Each of these has different permission levels so users only have access to the content they should have access to, and can only perform actions related to their role (Reviewers can only provide feedback comments but not make any edits, for example).

The tool also tracks users’ comings and goings. You can see reports for login details, for example.

A cloud-based authoring tool automatically knows who has logged in and when, and can track that as a Login History report.

Plus, as authors work on a course all the changes they make are tracked based on their unique user identity so you always know who did what.

Cloud-based authoring tools help you keep it all together

With a cloud-based authoring tool, your elearning projects are all in one place.

There’s no wondering, “Did Alex save the latest version of that course to the shared drive or is it still on her computer hard drive?”  

If Alex leaves your team, there’s absolutely no concern about where her projects are – they’re exactly where she made them, in dominKnow | ONE.

As team members change, you can assign them permission to edit past courses whenever needed. The licence seats and permissions are totally in your organization’s control.

As well as searching, you can set up categories and other filters help you find those past course projects quickly, which is a big help after your team has worked in a cloud-based authoring tool for a few years.

Cloud-based authoring tools help you cover your assets

Here’s one last problem our elearning development team never has: losing the things we’ve made.

We’ve never lost a course project because someone’s computer hard drive has crashed. If one of our team is working and their computer goes down, they just log in on a different computer and everything is right there just as they left it.

Heck, it doesn’t matter if one computer is Windows and the other is a Mac. The tool is browser based, so literally just log in and get back to work.

We’ve never lost a course project because someone forgot to save, because everything an author does is saved automatically.  And cloud-based authoring tools have automatic backup policies at the server level to make sure your content stays even safer.

Other features like checking content in and out and creating page versions automatically as part of the same Commit process give us even more confidence in our content.

Is there anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a cloud-based authoring tool?

It’s true, maybe a cloud-based authoring tool isn’t something everyone needs.

Maybe you’re a one-person authoring team and you don’t have to deal with SMEs or stakeholders for reviewing and you’ve never had a hard drive crash and you’re absolutely perfect at making sure things are all saved to the shared drive on your organization’s server.

But then, dominKnow | ONE is also a full-scale elearning authoring tool, with no authoring limitations. With two authoring options – Claro for traditional slides-based elearning and Flow for truly responsive content – plus built-in screen lesson recording, dominKnow | ONE can handle any elearning design need you have. And even ones you don’t yet have.

So in addition to the advantages provided by using a cloud-based authoring tool, our elearning development team also gets the benefits of a great authoring tool, period.

Want to understand how spoiled we are?

Sign up for a free dominKnow | ONE trial or request a demo with one of our experts.