Advice From An eLearning Engineer
The events of the past 18 months led to a surge in the use of learning technologies, as companies embraced digital transformation. Today, as more organizations announce a permanent move to hybrid and fully remote workspaces, digital learning is here to stay. With this shift comes a new challenge for L&D professionals: to offer their audience the best possible digital learning experiences, no matter where they’re located or what device(s) they like to learn on.
From an Instructional Design standpoint, designing for mobile-first or mobile-friendly learning experiences is no different from designing for any other modality, in the sense that you must always take the modality into consideration when designing the instruction and activities. The same is true from a development and engineering perspective: you need to consider which tools will provide the best User Experience for mobile learning.
But with more than 150 eLearning authoring tools to choose from , it can be difficult to know where to start. Over the past 16 years, I’ve worked with a lot of different tools. Today, I’m lifting the lid on my toolkit to share my go-to tried and tested favorites for developing mobile learning solutions. Some you’ll recognize, and some you might not have heard of yet.
Which one(s) will you try?
Rise 360 is a responsive, web-based authoring tool from Articulate. Because it’s web-based, you don’t need to download or install anything to get started. And because it generates fully responsive outputs, you can rest assured that the content you create will display beautifully on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone without any additional effort on your part. What’s more, Rise 360 publishes courses as HTML5, making the content compatible with different browsers—a key factor for mobile learning solutions.
What’s great about Rise 360 is that anyone can get started with it very quickly. The interface is intuitive, and you don’t need any programming knowledge to use it. Courses are created by selecting and arranging content “blocks.” Simply insert the type of content you want—choose from text, image, multimedia, interactions, assessments, and even Storyline 360 slides (more on this below)—into the right spot and then fill it out. It’s that easy! Customize colors, fonts, and backgrounds to make it your own.
Engineers and web developers will find this tool lacking in terms of advanced customization options, but it wasn’t designed with engineers in mind. It was designed to be a rapid, intuitive authoring tool—and on those fronts, it ticks all the boxes.
Storyline 360 is another authoring tool from Articulate that also publishes in HTML5. It’s one of the most powerful and versatile eLearning authoring tools on the market and has been in my toolkit for many years.
Unlike Rise 360, which produces fully responsive outputs, Storyline 360 has a responsive player which optimizes content for viewing on different devices. As an engineer, I usually prefer to have full control over how the content displays on different devices, but even I have to admit, it works well and looks great!
Like Rise 360, Storyline 360 includes a series of templates or “slides” you can use to build out content. Where it differs is that you can also start with a blank slide and create your own layouts and templates. While it’s more complex to use than Rise 360, anyone who is familiar with Microsoft PowerPoint should find it intuitive. Simply select the type of slide you want—and there are lots to choose from!—and add your content. Storyline 360 supports a variety of multimedia elements including audio/video recording, GIFs, and screen capture. Its built-in editing tools make it easy to cut, clip, and layer media.
Advanced features allow you to customize not only the branding and look and feel but also the functionality of the slides. You can edit how many elements are displayed on each slide, how long they are displayed for, and in what order without any expertise in programming or code. That said, the option is there if you want to—at SweetRush we often layer on code to further customize the look, feel, and functionality of our Storyline 360 courses.
I can’t discuss Articulate products without giving a nod to their support team and community of practice—both of which are among the best in the industry. Help and advice from L&D experts, including engineers, developers, and Instructional Designers, is just a click away!
dominKnow | ONE
Next up is dominKnow | ONE, a fully responsive, web-based authoring tool from dominKnow that publishes in HTML5. If you’re familiar with the dominKnow brand, you’ll probably be familiar with dominKnow Flow and Claro. These tools now coexist as “modes” within the dominKnow | ONE ecosystem. Use the Claro mode to build traditional eLearning courses and the Flow mode for responsive eLearning design.
On the surface, dominKnow | ONE appears to be quite similar to Rise 360. It has an intuitive interface, and courses are built by assembling ready-made templates and content blocks. Under the surface, however, it’s much more advanced. Out of the box, dominKnow | ONE will automatically adapt your content for different devices, but its advanced settings enable you to select layouts for different devices and screen resolutions. You can also apply programming variables to customize the templates and content blocks.
Where dominKnow | ONE really shines is translation and reviews. Want to convert your mobile learning course to another language? Simply clone it and select from one of the 50 preloaded languages and then watch as it automatically converts all built-in system text—such as the User Interface, tooltips, and navigation—to that language. The internal review process is equally slick with built-in functionality to collect and track feedback from multiple reviewers.
Evolve, offered by Intellum, is another web-based fully responsive eLearning authoring tool that publishes HTML5 content. Of the tools we’ve looked at so far, Evolve is more similar to dominKnow | ONE. The main difference between the two is that dominKnow | ONE was designed to be used by corporate learning teams who may or may not have experience developing eLearning content, and it has technical support in place for that customer base. In contrast, Evolve is targeted toward smaller teams and individual developers who may not need that level of support. In addition, a large proportion of Evolve’s features and functionality are designed to work exclusively within Intellum’s learning platform .
Featuring a simple and intuitive design, you can use Evolve out of the box. If, however, you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you also have the option to customize templates, including themes, interaction components, extensions, and content. Of course, this level of customization takes time not only to master but also to build! However, it doesn’t require extensive skill or programming knowledge to do.
Advanced users may notice some limitations—for example, the aforementioned features that only work if you are linking courses to the Intellum Platform—but the majority of users, especially those using more basic features and customization options, won’t be affected.
The payoff? Complete control over everything. You can customize and then change layouts for different devices, you can mix and match components, and you can even change component functionality for mobile learning purposes. For example, you can reprogram an interactive component that displays well on a desktop—but not so well on a mobile device—to work as a simple text or graphics block for mobile learning.
Of course, the development process for mobile learning courses built using the Adapt Framework takes longer than when building with Storyline 360 or Rise 360, but the end result is a more interactive, engaging, and beautiful experience.
Which Mobile Learning Tool Is Right For Me?
Still not sure which mobile learning tool is right for you? Here are a few thought starters in case you’re undecided. Which scenario describes you/your needs best?
- I’m brand new to eLearning and designing for mobile learning
Try Rise 360. It’s designed with beginners like you in mind.
- I’ve got the basics down, but I want to add a bit more customization to my mobile learning solutions
Give dominKnow | ONE or Evolve a try. Both tools offer advanced customization options that scale with your expertise.
- I need to create a desktop-first solution that is also mobile-friendly
In my opinion, you can’t beat Storyline 360. Just keep in mind that the mobile player optimizes but retains the slide-show format for mobile devices.
- I’ve got programming skills and want to have complete control over my mobile learning solution
You have to try the Adapt Framework.
Try New Things!
It’s an exciting time to be in this industry. One of the things I love most is that it is constantly evolving. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with this piece of advice: be open to trying new things.
As you’ve seen, I am always experimenting and trying out new tools and new products as they are released. Don’t be afraid to do the same! Good luck!
In need of some mobile learning inspiration? Check out chapter 1 of our eBook, Virtual Training, Sweetrush Style: 5 Inspiring Case Studies for a Learner-Centered Approach, to see how we created a mobile-friendly learning solution for frontline and essential healthcare workers who needed just-in-time access to critical information during the COVID-19 pandemic.