Archive for September, 2010

10 Must-Have eLearning Tools

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

These tools are listed in order of importance.  Most of my choices are commercial products that help me get my courses up as rapidly as possible while maintaining a high degree of professionalism.  These benefits are already worth the extra money. But maybe more importantly, by using common commercial products, my eLearning courses are portable. That’s because they are 1) SCORM-compliant and can work in any SCORM-compliant LMS and 2) can be changed by anybody who owns a license to the same software.

top ten

In this list, I also place emphasis on those tools that reduce my dependence on outside resources.

1. PowerPoint  2010 – This is a great tool for keeping your content organized and sending developing courseware back and forth to your clients. It is the accepted standard, and accepted standards make life easier, even if they are less fun and have fewer bells and whistles.

2.  Articulate 09 – (Can’t wait for ’10!)  This is the best thing ever to happen to rapid eLearning.  Once you get rolling with these tools, you can make just about anything happen.  Who needs custom flash?  You can make just about anything happen with the custom mapping tools in Quizmaker and Engage.  The compatibility with PowerPoint 2010 is almost flawless, and it was compatible the day PowerPoint 2010 came out of the box!  Somebody is paying attention to Microsoft.

3. PowerPoint 2010 –  Did I put this twice?  That’s because PowerPoint is now two products in one:  the traditional slideshow presentation tool and now a super glammed-up image-editing tool as well.   The photo-editing function in PowerPoint 2010 has changed my course-creating life.  No longer do I have to send my image ideas with descriptions to a graphic artist.  I can now do what I want right at idea inception with intuitive ease.  Layers, who needs layers?  And who needs a big monster image-editing program?  I can do all kind of image tricks such as setting transparencies, cropping to a selected shape, recoloring objects, and making really cool thought bubbles.

4.  Snag-it – Don’t leave home without it.  I take images of everything.  Can’t even start to extol the usefulness of high-quality screen capture that is ready whenever you are. It would be a whole blog entry.

5. Camtasia – My first eLearning love.  I bought my first copy about 5 years ago and used it to screen-capture software application videos.  It was heads and shoulders above everything else.  Then I moved to the Picture in Picture (PIP) function and did several talking-head videos.  Now, I use Camtasia for all kinds of miscellaneous tasks. It’s not my major hammer, but it still is extremely useful for aggregating all kinds of media into one single timeline and outputting to a standard format.  One trick I use is to record the screen while slowly typing with a script font: it looks like someone writing out letters by hand on the screen.

6.Thinkstock photo subscription – It’s expensive, but I bit the bullet and bought a year’s subscription.  I now have the potential to own 25 luscious images a day.  Having them available forces me to use them.  The gamble has paid off: I don’t think twice about creating a visual demo, and I freely use graphics throughout my work product to great effect.

7. Your own SCORM-compliant LMS system – This may cause some disagreement.  But having access to your own system both for testing and for revenue-generating purposes is imperative.  I can offer the full package and guarantee reliability.

8. SWF-converter – It always seems like you have to translate a swf file from somewhere.  Usually from a customer using Captivate for screen captures.  This tool is easy and the output is high-quality.

9. Serious Magic Ultra (to Adobe Ultra, to no Ultra) – Sadly, this super-easy-to-use chroma-keying (green screen) product is no longer available.  Adobe bought Serious Magic and made the product available for two years, then shelved it.  You can see an example of what I made many moons ago here at

10. DVD extraction tool – Turning a DVD into a usable video file or ripping a DVD comes in very handy.  I recently purchased Pavtube Video Converter, and it works fine.  It is just a utility, though, so no great love affair.