Further authoring tool developments

This month we are in sunny Orlando at the E-Learning Guild’s E-Learning Solutions conference checking out the latest market trends and why rapid e-learning is still the core growth area in the US. We share some key market research findings on rapid e-learning from Forrester and news from Atlantic Link, Mohive, Suddenly Smart, Captivate and a potential tool newcomer Zebra. Busy times...


We start with an interesting webinar by Forrester on the rise and rise of rapid e-learning. The latest Forrester research for Adobe was undertaken in November 2009, 49% of respondents had 20,000 or more employees. The survey showed that rapid e-learning has outpaced traditional e-learning custom development which is perceived as too slow and too expensive. 24% of corporate learning content is now rapid e-learning content. Furthermore, 25% of companies are now using rapid e-learning instead of outsourcing custom content development.

The key findings from Forrester were that rapid e-learning is:

  • the fastest growning learning market and companies use more rapid e-learning than custom e-learning
  • lowering the costs of e-learning content creation
  • faster and supporting the need for speed in organizations
  • changing the way content is developed and consumed
  • not limited to routine content
  • enabling non technical people to create content
  • resulting in more content being created than before.

According to Forrester rapid e-learning is enabling organizations to deliver training now that that they simply could not do before without rapid elearning.

Rapid e-learning is supporting the trend to shorter pieces of e-learning content. Forrester found learners like shorter e-learning content because they can fit it into their schedule and they found e-learning managers like shorter content because it leads to more learning completions

Forrester found rapid elearning is ideal where:

  • speed is an issue
  • content needs updating frequently
  • content is being repurposed from other documents
  • content which has a short shelf life
  • budgets are low

Over 50% of organisations surveyed used rapid e-learning for:

  • Compliance training
  • Process and procedure training
  • Desktop Systems/application training

The trends forecast by Forrester were that rapid e-learning will:

  • continue to grow
  • fill an important gap
  • spread outside of learning
  • change the nature and roles of Instructional Designers
  • get more sophisticated

Fundamentally Forrester found that ease, speed and cost savings will remain the primary drivers and drive the growth of rapid e-learning.

Since we at Kineo have been talking about the advantages of rapid approaches since 2006, we're happy to see continued growth in this area - certainly has been the case for us. For ourselves, we've certainly seen those forecast trends come true, as rapid e-learning has certainly become more sophisticated and our approach and use of tools has evolved. We've always said rapid is about a streamlined approach, not just the technology, and really it's about one supporting the other.

This growth in rapid e-learning highlighted by Forrester is leading to acquisitions, new authoring tools and updating of existing tools. We report on some of the latest developments.

Whilst we were reviewing the latest that the authoring companies have to offer, two of our favourite server based authoring tools, Mohive and Atlantic Link, were acquired.

First off the mark was Kaplan who acquired Atlantic Link. The strategic rationale appears to have been to slot Atlantic Link in as a complementary product in their current range of tools including STT Trainer, STT InfoShare, and PerformIT. STT Trainer is an authoring tool focused on developing training for enterprise wide applications. Atlantic Link provides the Kaplan suite with a new tool for soft skills training. Brian Sholly, President of Kaplan IT Learning commented “Our clients are very interested in creating professional training lessons for soft skills as well as IT application training, so bringing Atlantic Link on board will help meet their needs.”

This was reinforced by Mike Alcock, formerly Atlantic Link managing director “Our complementary product suites will offer our customers a complete solution for all of their e-learning needs, with the strength and reassurance of the Kaplan brand behind them.”

The Atlantic Link acquisition was followed quickly by CrossKnowledge’s acquisition of Mohive. The strategic focus of this acquisition appears to be partly combining technical research and development but also widening the CrossKnowledge offering. Both companies are strong in Europe and providing multi-language solutions, so there is some market synergy.

CrossKnowledge is a French company that has over the past 10 years built up extensive library of over 10.000 titles, that are available in 15 languages. It has grown very impressively over the years, and has an established client base of over 150 major corporates. We understand that future content from CrossKnowledge will be built in Mohive.

See an authoring tool you like out there? Why buy a site licence when you could buy the company?

There continues to be no shortage of e-learning authoring tools available. At E-Learning Solutions Michael Allen gave a sneak preview of their new tool called Zebra which was first outlined at DevLearn. Michael previously developed Authorware which was dropped by Adobe as other faster, simpler and more collaborative online tools were developed. We are looking forward to seeing Zebra as Michael is someone who really understands e-learning design, and to see if he has found ways to streamline e-learning development to meet the needs to today’s businesses in terms of ease of use, time and cost.

At E-Learning Solutions we were impressed by the Suddenly Smart authoring tool and in particular its branching scenario capabilities. Full branching scenarios are not easy to map out or to develop but this tool appears to make developing them much easier than before and enables you to manage complex feedback. We hope to review Suddenly Smart in a future newsletter.

Also keep an eye out for a new version of Captivate, one of the world’s favourite and most used authoring tools, later this year. According to the blogs Captivate is being recreated from the ground-up. The new software is being written in C++ instead of Delphi (which was the programming language used for the other versions of Captivate). As a result, the Mac and PC versions will be the same. Look out for improved video synching, branching and improved photoshop support.

Finally, Articulate continue to impress with the support and services behind their product. It was great to see Tom, David and Mark at the show and congratulations to them for winning the LINGOS award.