Six Key Trends We See for Elearning Authoring Tools in 2021

Illustration of a hand holding a crystal ball with text, "2021 Authoring Tool Trends".
December 16, 2020
8 Minutes
Illustration of a hand holding a crystal ball with text, "2021 Authoring Tool Trends".

The end of one year and the arrival of a new year is a time where we pause to take stock.

What's working well in our lives, and how do we get more of it?

What's no longer serving its purpose and needs to change?

What is the coming year likely to bring, and how can we prepare to meet its challenges?

Here at dominKnow, we've been applying some of that introspection to our raison d'être: the improvement of eLearning authoring tools.

We've asked ourselves and our clients questions like, what are you going to need from authoring software in 2021? How do you stay on the cutting edge? How can the right authoring tool help you improve the learning experience? For that matter, how can it make your professional life easier?

Here are six elearning authoring tool trends you'll want to leverage for yourself, based on what we see in our eLearning crystal ball.

Authoring Tool Trend #1: Cloud-Based Software

When COVID-19 lockdowns began, eLearning development teams that were already using cloud-based authoring tools had a lot fewer headaches to contend with than teams using desktop or server-hosted software.

Cloud-based software (and related files) can be accessed from home just as easily as the office. Cloud-based teams didn't need to anticipate what files to take home, or fuss with remote access, or navigate software license issues.

Currently, public health experts are predicting that vaccines won't be widely available until the second half of 2021 (maybe later). That means we're in for another year of cycling between working from home and office.

The continuity and simplicity of cloud-based software will provide a logistical advantage. If your team is thinking about making the switch, you should proceed. We're guessing it'll make 2021 a lot easier.

Authoring Tool Trend #2: Native Collaboration Features

Pandemic logistics didn't just upend software and file access – they also upset your workflow and the mechanics of collaboration.

If your team was 100% face-to-face pre-pandemic, you've probably had a hard time adjusting to remote dynamics.

Many eLearning teams are making do with a patchwork of tools: communication, task management, file-sharing, and more. Sometimes these applications even "plug in" to your authoring tool.

It can be workable but far from ideal. Creating a system out of multiple programs is often frustrating and overly complex.

The best way to streamline remote collaboration is to find an eLearning authoring tool that includes robust and native collaboration features. That includes the ability to:

  • Manage file access and permissions
  • Track who did what for individual accountability
  • Communicate about a project in-context
  • See who's online and active at any moment
  • Co-author a project in real time without version conflict
  • Lock project editing to a single author, if desired
  • Gather in-context reviewer feedback using automated reminders
  • Compile reviewer comments for easier tracking and resolution
  • Analyze development cycles and productivity to improve your teamwork over time

Even after a COVID vaccine, remote work and distance collaboration will become increasingly common. Even if they don't, embedded collaboration tools will reduce confusion even when you're all in the same place. They simply make development more efficient.

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Authoring Tool Trend #3: Completing the Transition to True Responsive Content

If you ever believed mobile learning was a passing trend, the verdict is in: you were wrong.

Despite COVID-19 keeping more folks at home, high mobile adoption's here to stay. Your eLearning needs to be available at all screen sizes, even if you don't intend mobile to be its primary platform.

Learners lose patience with half-measures that make content "available" on mobile but difficult to consume. You need an eLearning authoring tool that produces true responsive content.

If you're a holdout, we think 2021 is the year to make the switch. After all, Flash officially retires before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. If you've held on to old tools in order to protect existing Flash-based assets, you're now free to choose something better.

With the right eLearning authoring tool, the responsive learning curve really isn't painful. Look for a tool that does the heavy lifting on responsive code while letting you maintain creative flexibility.

Authoring Tool Trend #4: Editable Off-the-Shelf Courses

This year saw the rollout of several partnerships between eLearning authoring tools and off-the-shelf course vendors to create something new: customizable off-the-shelf courses.

These products offer a great balance between the cost-efficiency of canned curriculum and the bespoke nature of custom content. It's a smart authoring model for small to mid-sized organizations who want relevant, quality coursework that's more affordable.

It's coming along at a fortuitous time.

Many organizations whose training remained old-school before COVID-19 are now scrambling to convert their L&D to eLearning. It's a huge undertaking in a time crunch. With the help of editable off-the-shelf courses, these teams can keep costs and deadlines reasonable.

Authoring Tool Trend #5: Interactive Video-based Learning

As popular as video-based learning is, it has significant downsides.

For example, video isn't traditionally searchable. That means its SEO value is less than optimal, and it's also somewhat inconvenient for on-demand learners who have to pick through the video manually to find one piece of information.

Some eLearning authoring tools now solve this dilemma with interactive video transcripts.

In an interactive transcript, the video and the transcript are synced, and manipulating one will affect the other. For example, as you advance a video, its transcript "follows along," highlighting the appropriate text and advancing through the document. On the flip side, clicking on a particular part of the transcript will cause the video to jump to the corresponding timestamp.

Interactive transcripts make for better accessibility. You don't have to choose between a transcript (which offers permanent, searchable text but divorced from the visual context) or subtitles (which are synced with visual data, but fleeting and unsearchable).

Interactive transcripts provide the best of both worlds by presenting a full transcript that syncs with the video. Everyone benefits, whether you're Deaf, hard-of-hearing, or simply in a noise-sensitive environment.

The other downside of video-based learning is that it can be a passive activity.

This is where interactive video-based learning comes to the rescue. HTML5 overlays can be used to link off to additional resources, introduce pop-ups with additional supplementary content, and check comprehension with a mid-video quiz.

Towards the end of IDIODC episode 9, you can even see how a point-of-view camera and the right eLearning authoring tool can be used to create a low-cost interactive VR experience.

Authoring Tool Trend #6: WCAG-Compliant Accessibility

There's been a sea change in the last few years towards better adoption of accessibility guidelines.

In the past, many accessibility initiatives were pro forma. Organizations did the bare minimum to meet legal requirements. Often, only organizations with government funding or those focused on disability were interested in optimizing the experience.

The times, they are a-changin'.

As an eLearning authoring tool that takes accessibility very seriously, we're thrilled. We believe that creating accessible content should be baked into your authoring functionality so it's as easy and effective as it can be.

That's why our authorong tool has inline accessibility tips and settings, why we offer WCAG-compliant themes, and why we've optimized our programming for screen readers wherever possible.

Give Change a Chance with dominKnow | ONE

Did any of these trends intrigue you? The future is now in dominKnow | ONE. We're a cloud-based eLearning authoring tool with a perennial goal to improve the learning and authoring experience.

Our users tell us all the time that they find our collaboration and review tools a game-changer. We work hard to make accessibility and responsive design as easy as breathing.

We offer interactive video capabilities, including interactive overlays and multiple interactive transcript configurations.

We also partner with industry-leading vendors to offer a wide array of editable off-the-shelf courses.

Want to learn more, or simply roll up your sleeves with our free 14-day trial?

Contact us today and get a jump on your new year.

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