CourseBuilder Review

CourseBuilder is a server-based authoring tool developed by Edvantage – who were recently acquired by Lumesse, a talent management company. but we’re not here to talk about the glamorous world of acquisitions. We’re here to look at the every bit as glamorous world of what you can do with CourseBuilder.

We’ve been using it for about a year with different clients – and – we must declare an interest – we are a reseller. But that doesn’t stop us from having an independent opinion, of course. So here it is...

Things we like

Overall we’re impressed: CourseBuilder is easy to use and flexible. As a server-based authoring tool, there are no fiddly downloads or plug-ins needed, and of course handing over a project to someone else to work on or update is simple: there’s only one version in one place. With its visual editor, it’s great for non-techies or an in-house team to get up and running in no time. For more expert developers wanting to develop something a bit special, it can be a great way to integrate and wrap up Flash content.

We really like the way that text can be edited by people without Flash skills. Whether you need to correct a typo in a native CourseBuilder screen or rewrite the company policy in your high-end Flash animation, the text sits within CourseBuilder, allowing you to edit to your heart’s content. If XML gives you the fear, then worry not. One of our clients is going to use it to enable local markets to localise content and create their own language/policy specific versions, and the tool gives them the flexibility to do just that.

One thing we enjoy playing with is the inbuilt CBVoice. The voices are pretty realistic, some might even say ‘sexy’, and can be easily manipulated for prototypes or audio on a budget.

The in-built comments function is great for reviewers – they just need to click the comments button available on any screen and note down the bug. Leave your Excel spreadsheets at home and make your SMEs happier.

It comes with some nice accessible outputs as standard too, so you can generate a high-contrast, tab-enabled or screenreader-compatible version. A little care is required to get the output you want – but lots of authoring tools do nothing at all for accessibility – so this is real plus if you’ve got accessibility requirements.

We do get tripped up occasionally – a steady hand is needed as you build your screens. It’s ever so easy to accidentally nudge content out of place. Not such a problem when you’re starting out, but can be frustrating when you’re putting the finishing touches to a finely-crafted masterpiece. A keyboard shortcut or two wouldn’t be unwelcome either.

On our wish list...

We’ve heard rumours of a new release out next year. Here are some of the things on our wish list, to make a very good tool that bit better:

  • Layers – We’d like to go all PowerPoint on it - to be able to move things forward, back and somewhere in between whenever the fancy takes us. You can add delays to text boxes but we’d be very happy to see a basic timeline for text and images.
  • Copy and paste – You can already copy and paste screens and even complete sections. What we’d like is to copy and paste sequences of screens... any sequence we like.
  • Formatting – Each time we insert a new text box, we have to set the font attributes from scratch. Sometimes we’d just like it to know what we were thinking... especially if we think it a lot.
  • Tasks – CourseBuilder has a task list and to-do list where you can assign roles and subtasks, prioritise, estimate and verify tasks. In reality it’s way too complex for us and it takes a frustrating number of clicks to assure that, yes, we really are sure that the bug has been fixed.
  • Assessments – You can create a scored assessment, which is really valuable for many of our clients. But getting to the assessment can be a bit fiddly for the learner as it sits outside the main course structure. The learner has to click an innocuous looking link which, if missed, would mean completing the course without doing the assessment. Imagine missing out on the possibility of getting full marks. Unthinkable, isn’t it?
Criteria Ratings Comments

Ease of use

Good

Easy for newbies to get going quickly without a great deal of technical knowledge. Trickier once you try to do more advanced things and work around some of the limitations.

Instructional design flexibility

Very good

There are a range of basic interactions – Flash components are easily added and it allows for branching. You can also import Captivate movies.

Good

You can upload PowerPoint files – but these would be presentational rather than interactive. If you have existing SWFs or media files, you can work these in.

Ability to handle a variety of topics

Very good

You could throw anything at it from process to systems training and scenarios.

Ability to handle translation and localisation to multiple languages

Very good

One of the nice features of CB. It supports all languages including multi-byte character sets, support for XML Localisation Interchange File Format (XLIFF), and automatic version control.

Ability to incorporate graphics and media

Very good

Great – and the media library means you can update multiple instances of images very easily.

Ability to publish SCORM/AICC compliant courses

Very good

It supports SCORM and AICC standards including PENS (Packet Exchange Notification Services).

Technical support available

Very good

There’s a wealth of supporting documentation and the CourseBuilder team have been helpful when we’ve had questions too.

Use CourseBuilder? Like it? Have a different view? Or want to see examples of what it can do?

Just get in touch with us or join the discussion in our eLearning Professionals LinkedIn Group.

 
 
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