Top 8 Free and Open Source Course Authoring Software
The world’s digital footprint is ever-expanding -, especially in the 21st century. With Work From Home (WFH) a fruitful work method - scarcely imaginable 25 years ago - organizations and institutions have been dabbling with a new concept since the turn of the century - Learning from anywhere and at any time.
As eLearning modules take off, it’s important to remember that they are effectively built on great instructional content, with the right elements to pique user interest and keep them engaged throughout the course. Therefore, for online courses to succeed and for tutors to expand their instructional delivery skills, great Course Authoring Software is absolutely essential.
Whether free and open source course authoring software or premium eLearning systems, course building tools are being deployed on numerous computers as expert lecturers, teachers, professors, and regular users share their knowledge and experiences online with millions of users worldwide.
Course Authoring Software is extremely important to produce information on scale for employees undergoing training to students and fresh graduates looking to add an edge to their talent. This blog looks at some of the best course authoring tools available.
What is Course Authoring?
For structured learning to take place in an institution or an online certification program, dissemination of information on a topic must follow a particular structure.
Course authoring is the process of creating a curriculum and learning material to help students, professionals, and other teachers acquire information either online or offline.
Course authoring involves usage of digital tools as well as traditional methods to bring requisite information to students in a way that is fluid and easy to understand. The ultimate goal is to help people studying the course, gain critical information implementable in real-world scenarios, and not just theoretically passing an exam to gain a certificate or degree.
Course authoring impacts all subjects we can possibly know of today - From Theology to Astronomy.
Is eLearning re-imagining Course Authoring?
Thanks to advances in computer technology, information acquisition has become incredibly easy. One needs to just log onto the internet and surf through hundreds of pages of information, on a particular subject.
It is the philosophy of bringing easy and quick access to expert information that universities, institutions, and even organizations over the world are vying to tap into. E-Learning (or eLearning) has grown in tremendous importance thanks to the scope of quality information available online at an affordable price.
To make this information available to wider audiences all over the world, tutors need to create their curriculum in numerous formats - not limited to pictorial slideshows or even video. The content must be precise, and to the point, unlike subject text-books of old. The content must be engaging as well as informative. Students must not drop off in the middle of a course, especially when some parts of the course are free.
How has online Course Authoring grown in importance over the last decade?
As per a study by Investopedia, roughly 40 million people use Coursera in 2019, a sharp rise from their 2018 user base. It must be remembered, this is just one platform alone. The growing importance of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) over the last decade has led to institutions such as Harvard, Princeton, and even Oxford opening up their rich, powerhouse curriculum for the global audience to dabble in.
In such scenarios competing stakeholders need exceptional course offerings and content to draw in, engage, and retain audiences. This is where online course authoring has made gains. With incredible presentation formats, flexible schedules of learning, well-structured curricula, and precise testing options online courses are becoming incredibly popular.
Recording of online courses can happen anywhere - its ubiquity is an asset. Plus language subtitling tools, speech to text converters, and third-party applications all help tutors create courses that are hard to forget and unique in their own methods.
What are the Keys to Authoring eLearning Content?
Just like the ten commandments, good course authoring has a few prominent principles. They are as follows -
Content is King - Make sure that the content produced is grammatically correct, authentic, and is a “one-size-fits-all” for learners. Without good, informative content, there is little purpose in having a course authoring tool. Authors may experiment with different kinds of content but must be easy to access and download (if necessary for learners).
However, a steady course structure and curriculum needs constructing first. Outlining the objective, evaluation criteria, course prerequisites, etc., needs doing first and foremost.
- Presentation - Great learners value presentation of information more than just the depth of material. Depiction includes everything - from the clarity of audio/video of course material, to structured and easy to comprehend written subject materials. Here, finalizing templates with an accurate distribution of information is important. Inexperienced authors may enlist the help of design, and content professionals to create a flawlessly designed course.
- Context - Ensuring your audience’s interest in a particular subject/topic is important. Providing educational context in these courses will engage the audiences further. Integrating historical precedent and common theories on concepts of a course will be beneficial. Disintegrating various topics into smaller sections with contextual relevance will also prove significant.
- Testing - It’s important to test some vital aspects of the created course before publishing. Does the structure have a good flow? Are questions on tests easily discernible? Is course content concise and legible? One must have a feedback loop integrated to consistently improve quality. Content audits and reviews on different subsets of users are a must too to gauge popular opinion.
- Extra Resources - Offering a variety of supplementary resources through the course helps users glean necessary knowledge about a subject. These include third-party applications, white papers, author blogs, magazines, presentations, ebooks, etc.
What is a Course Authoring tool?
Course authoring software provides the necessary digital tools and applications for users (professors, teachers, managers, etc.) to create and distribute educational content or courseware.
Course authoring systems help create e-learning modules, keeping in mind presentation techniques, online storage and security of created coursework, and easy distribution to online education platforms. The creation of content for courses in multiple formats is possible viz. audio, video, and text.
Employers use course authoring tools to create courses and content to help employees upskill themselves, or to train new inductees. eLearning software is also used by teachers to distribute content to students in virtual classrooms or in the form of academic assignments.
How does a Course Authoring software work?
Course Authoring tools are relatively easy to use for a variety of tech-oriented and non-tech course creators. A variety of online course authoring tools and e-learning systems exist which are easy to use.
They usually consist of interfaces where creators can create course content in multiple forms. Most interfaces have access to predefined templates for content and quiz creation. Test interfaces allow users to see the order of content creation.
Usually experienced users create highly gamified interfaces, simulated learning experiences, and highly customized learning processes - all of which the elearning systems will facilitate through in-app functions or third-party integrations.
How have education institutions adapted to life in a virtual classroom with course authoring software?
With many more schools opting to go virtual with certain classes, it’s no surprise that teachers have been at the forefront of creating cutting edged courses for their students using Online Course authoring Systems.
As per a recent study by an Open University, allowing people to use eLearning systems allows for up to 90 percent energy saving, while lowering CO2 emissions by up to 85 percent. Despite students’ preferences, education societies collectively feel that online education that makes courses affordable to the masses is the future of learning.
A large number of higher education institutions themselves are using course authoring software in an effort to monetize their courses and certifications online. Platforms like Coursera, and Udacity have courses from Harvard et. al. People of differentiated capabilities generally complete these courses on-the-go, increasing the university’s footprint, despite the person not being an Alumnus.
Institutions are also looking at corporate tie-ups. With virtual classrooms being a hit, live streaming of classes for professionals to upskill and gain knowledge of a new role in other companies, via the online educational platform, is also a high-potential revenue avenue for institutions.
The common linkages between all these factors are the impact course authoring systems are having in challenging traditional norms for new avenues for learning by virtue of producing exceptional content that is easily monetizable and distributable.
Who can use Course Authoring systems?
In general, anyone with access to the internet and a good laptop/computer, with the right set of hardware tools can use course authoring systems.
It is, however, advisable that personnel at a particular rank or designation within an educational institution or private company use course authoring software, as specified by the organization. This is to ensure those subject matter experts in a particular area have de facto control over the dissipation of information heading out over the internet under a particular banner.
Everyone from the learning and development office manager to the CEO of the company will have access to the software. Heads of departments within firms - such as Marketing and product management directors - have access to the software, to make courses for employee development, as well.
Besides just professionals in organizations, industries use Course Authoring Software for a multitude of reasons.
- Packaging industries use course authoring software to build modules on industry best practices for workers.
- The IT industry’s heavily dependent on professionals increasing their skills using online platforms
- The Public Relations and Marketing Industry relies on people completing courses and gaining affinity to marketing techniques over online mediums from reputed institutes.
The Impact of Course Authoring Software on workforce efficiency?
Course Authoring software has led to the creation of exceptional educational content that has ultimately led to widespread adoption of online learning. Online course authoring tools have enabled personnel at various stages of management to create content to educate employees on better Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), as well as efficient methods of working.
The information gleaned over years of work and being easily dissipated through eLearning tools allows employees to absorb knowledge and implement tips in everyday work. This not only helps the accomplishment of regular work faster but also quenches the employees’ ambitions of upgrading their skill set.
With free and open source authoring software, employees can turn organizations into a rich repository of information, in a bid to increase not just theirs but also organizational performance.
Top 7 Free and Open Source Course Authoring Software
A free and open source course authoring tool, Open eLearning provides a platform to build and create learning content. A course authoring system, Open eLearning is Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) compatible, which means a variety of eLearning tools can import and use the content and educational games on their platforms.
A user need not learn to code on the platform to create content, while the software’s easy installation on laptops allow it to be used anywhere. The intention is to give creators all the necessary tools to make engaging content in multiple formats.
Source - Open eLearning
Some features of the free and open source Free and open Source Course Authoring system are as follows -
- Easy content sharing tools
- Third-party tool integration
- Bundling with Photoflare
- Quizzes, test creator platform
- Platform independent program
- Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) implementation
- Presentation creation tool (Slide sharing, numbering, editing, etc.)
- Object locking tools
- In-app plugin implementation - Moodle and other important educational game implementations
- Gamification interface and methods
#2 Open EdX
While many learners are familiar with the exceptional EdX learning platform, the Open EdX Learning Management System (LMS) is the muscle behind it. Created as an open source course authoring tool, Open Edx enables the creation of instructor-led, online campus, degree, and self-paced curricula on the same platform.
The eLearning system has already facilitated 40 million learners to achieve their educational ambitions. Close to 20,000 courses have also been created on the platform. The Harvard and MIT co-founded open project is massively scalable for learners and instructors alike. This helps large organizations, enterprises, and governments turn to EdX for their learning needs.
Some features of the advanced online course authoring system are as follows -
- Platform independent and easily scalable across multiple devices
- Instructor View to Courses - Edit grades, manage teams, publish courses, etc.
- Customizable learner platforms to showcase the educational brand
- Documentation and use of Open XML (OLX) standards using Open EdX Studio
- Access to a vast library of third-party integrations and toolsets
- Open EdX analytics and reporting dashboard
- Availability of high storage Learning Record Store (LSR)
- Content management (import and export) across multiple platforms
An HTML-based eLearning and course authoring tool, eXe is a specifically designed tool to create, edit, and distribute online pedagogy. It can be used by teachers, professionals, and non-qualified teachers alike.
It helps create content on self-contained web pages which can be loaded onto Learning Management Systems (LMS). It can also be exported as SCORM packages. Descriptive content as well as interactive modules could be easily developed using the software.
Source - eXe
Some features of the free and open source Course Authoring tool are as follows -
- Ability to generate complete websites of content
- XLIFF, IMS, and SCORM compatible projects
- Interactive Content production elements (iDevices)
- WYSIWYG functionality on pages.
- Pedagogical tips around iDevice implementation
- Rich Text editor
- Powerpoint Conversion
- Quiz and Interactive assessment support
- Image and document upload support
A free and open source course authoring system, Xerte is a browser-based application that helps tutors to design and create highly interactive learning content. This content is easily distributable to large and small screen devices - all supporting compatible HTML5 versions.
The online course authoring tool has been created with the aim of being easy to use. The platform prides itself on hosting a vibrant community and giving content developers sophisticated tools to create engaging materials.
Some features of the course authoring platform are as follows -
- Accessible content delivery keeping in mind users with special needs
- Detailed authoring interface
- Reporting dashboard using SCORM xAPI
- Predefined templates in XOT format to create multiple page types and categories
- Bootstrap template to convert the website into learning resource material
- Accessibility guidance for authors
- Third-party tool integration - DSpeech, ClaroRead, etc.
- Easy sharing and repurposing of content for varied user needs and contextual purposes
- Self-testing tools with contextual feedback engines
- Learning objects tagged as Open Educational Resources (OERs) - for easy discovery
- Innovative collaboration suites between teachers and media specialists
As Google’s contribution to the Open Online Education ecosystem, Course Builder is an eLearning software that helps teachers create and deliver multi-form content to millions of learners worldwide.
Built on Apache 2.0, the online course authoring software runs on Google infrastructure. The platform is easy to use and has strict data privacy and protection rules encoded. Multiple courses can also be accessed by a single instance of the application. The online course authoring system is also extremely easy to use and is integrated with Google Tag Manager.
Source - Google Course Builder
Some features of the free and open source course authoring tools are as follows -
- Integration with Google Analytics
- Accessibility focused - ARIA, Header tags, Alternative text, etc.
- Export data to BigQuery tool
- Student registration and custom track management
- Assessment checking and storage
- User Authentication and access restrictions
- Gradebook management per students
- Multi-lingual support
- Student upload management
A free and open source course authoring system, Adapt has the ability to build curriculum in a visually engaging and device responsive manner. The course authoring software has implemented a single page application, which prevents multiple calls to an internet server to load files.
It is easily customizable to reflect the singularity of your brand or tutorship. Being a SCORM compliant software, the modules and content can be uploaded onto multiple compatible LMSes. Adapt also uses a deep scrolling feature which helps lessen the creation of unnecessary web pages.
Source - Adapt Learning
- Some features of the free and open source course authoring tool is as follows -
- Multi-lingual support
- Asset Management - Document, pictures, videos, etc.
- ARIA accessibility support
- Alerts and Notifications
- Plugins for components, templates, etc.
- Reporting and Analytics
- Course Management
- Track Training and support
- Course Library
A free and open source course authoring platform, Scalar allows users to collate media from multiple sources and create a flawlessly written version with minimal technical expertise. Furthermore, the online course authoring tool is one that brings flexibility to the structure and style of a course.
Focusing specifically on Scholarship, and digital first-course content, the course authoring tool allows users to collaborate and publish book-length written works in digital, nested, recursive, and other non-linear writing formats.
Scalar can be used for data model innovation. It is a product of the Alliance Network for Visual Culture (ANVC) and is already being implemented into a number of visual workflows in publication and research houses.
Source - Scalar Visualization
Some features of the free and open source course authoring tool are as follows -
- Media integration support
- Third-party application integration
- Content Customization tools
- Book-level and page-level visualization
- Multiple author support
- Support with Archive Partners
- Multiple author support
- Web standardization
- Reader Feedback systems
Specifically tilting toward the research community, Authorea is a free course authoring software where users collaborate to read, write, and publish insightful scientific text and findings.
Created in 2012, Authorea came into existence as a course authoring software that addressed a specific shortage in the scientific community - writing and editing tools for scientists engaging a digital-first audience. Buy nature, Authorea is a document editor, but it offers so much more especially in the course authoring discipline. The document editor makes it easy for the research paper to be made citable while publishing all content online, while also facilitating 24x7 support for users.
Source - Authorea
Some of the best features of the free eLearning systems are as follows -
- Ability to host and publish data
- Data hosting libraries linked to tables in the document
- Forking of documents to preserve versions
- Collaborative review table
- Third-Party Integrations (Plotly, Jupyter, etc.)
- Advanced document export type conversion
- Use of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for easy citation
- White Label design templates for content presentation
- Rich Media and interactive figure tools
- Powerful document upload tools
Besides the above, there is a long list of popular course building platforms, such as Elucidat, Articulate360, and Teachable. Let us look closely at one of the most popular eLearning software, iSpring Suite.
An award-winning course authoring software, iSpring Suite offers course builders the chance to build interactive and highly shareable learning content to distribute onto multiple platforms.
iSpring uses the prop of a PowerPoint presentation to help users insert content pieces onto it - such as videos, narration, and quizzes. The combination is then uploaded onto an LMS. The course authoring system is compatible with 156 LMSs, all of which support standards such as mi5, xAPI (Tin Can), SCORM 2004, SCORM 1.2, and AICÐ¡.
iSpring Learn is a proprietary LMS which helps businesses conduct a variety of learning initiatives online such as a Product, Compliance, and Sales training - all through the cloud.
Some features of the popular online course authoring system include the following
- Automatic Content adaptation to Device specifics
- iSpring Learn integration
- Easy sharing of course materials and feedback mechanism
- Predefined course template library
- Enhanced visual assets in courses, background locale settings, 30,000 character images
- In-course role-playing and dialogue simulations for employee communication
- Video and picture editing tools
- Multiple quiz templates for interactive assignments and assessment initiatives
- Drag and drop course creation mechanism
- Multi-LMS integration
With a dedicated shift in education toward online learning methods and tools over the past decade, the demand for tutors to become exceptional course creators has grown manifold. The course authoring software list described in detail above, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Interactive video, Augmented Reality (AR) learning and digital sciences are hot new fields which eLearning tools are set to clutch with exceptional product development. Online course authoring software, and offline course authoring tools have been the lifeline of instructors in the digital era. Their continued iterative development is essential for tutors and students alike in the 21st century.
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