Common eLearning Development Tools

April 13th, 2020

This article discusses three common elearning development tools; Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and HTML5. If you would like to download our more comprehensive eLearning Authoring Tool Guide, click here.

Storyline and Captivate are elearning authoring tools. This means that they include built in logic to assist in the development of elearning courseware. For example, both of these tools include several navigation and quiz making options, enabling you to focus on the content rather than the logic that enables the course to function. HTML5 is a raw programming language that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. As such, it does not offer any elearning specific logic so all of the course functionality will need to be created from scratch. Some developers like using HTML5 because it provides for more flexibility, but its lack of built-in elearning logic requires more development time.

Articulate Storyline

Storyline by Articulate has quickly become the industry’s favorite elearning authoring tool. This easy-to-use program provides many features to help create engaging and effective training courses, and deliver them in a format that works well on every device.

Storyline offers an intuitive and customizable interface. Toggle between different views to streamline course production: "Story View" shows the big-picture layout, and manages slide organization and navigation; "Slide View" builds individual slides. The interface is customizable with dockable panels, which allow you to arrange your workspace, even across two monitors.

The timeline-based environment in Slide View is one of our favorite features. The timeline quickly synchronizes text and graphics to audio track. Being able to visualize screen elements in a timeline—and how they interact on screen—benefits developer creativity. Built-in transitions and animations present content fluidly.

Storyline's motion path feature lets you move an object along a predetermined path at any point on the timeline, adding a new level of interest to any object on screen. Enhanced text editing gives more control over how text appears on screen, allowing developers to fine tune lines, character spacing, and text alignment for better readability.

The ability to quickly create stunning interactions in Storyline is key for designers. Designers can select one of many designed interaction templates, but the real power is in the “Covert to Freeform” tool. This allows the user to go beyond the standard template and use their imagination for near limitless interactions.

Alternatively, it's also possible to create an interaction from scratch by using features such as slide layers, object states, and triggers:

  • Slide layers. Design and organize all interaction content on one screen.
  • Object states. Change the appearance of an object.
  • Triggers. Direct on-screen actions when specific events occur, at certain times, or when specified conditions are met.

For example, reveal content in a slide layer when a learner clicks a button, then change the color of the button after it’s clicked. Setting up triggers and object states to create these interactions is simple—they're menu-driven with standard dropdown selections. Complex and time-consuming coding are unnecessary.

Storyline can publish courses to a variety of formats, including HTML5, Learning Management Systems, the Articulate Mobile Player app for iPad and Android, video, CD, or a Word document. Courses can be downloaded for offline viewing and read by screen readers, such as JAWS, for visually impaired learners. Courses can also be published to Review 360, which allows teams and clients to easily review and provide feedback on the training in development.

As more and more of clients take advantage of mobile learning solutions, Storyline offers comprehensive, media-rich elearning that adapts easily to different platforms. While not all features work similarly on different platforms and browsers, Storyline provides the necessary tools to address these design challenges.

Adobe Captivate

Adobe Captivate has proven to be a powerful and effective tool for creating engaging training courses. When clients need to train employees, salespeople, or customers on their proprietary software application, we often turn to Captivate for the powerful software training features it provides.

When designing application-specific software training, there are two types of interactions:

  • Demonstrations. Teach a new concept, show step-by-step scenarios within the application, highlight key features, and provide tips for best practices.
  • Simulations. Guide the learner through a relative situation or scenario to practice new skills and reinforce mastery of content. Assess knowledge and verify that learners know how to use an application by requiring them to perform specific tasks.

Whether creating demonstrations or simulations, the key to a successful training experience is effectively engaging the learner and capturing their attention throughout the training. At LeanForward, we do that by adding a variety of interactive and multimedia elements, all of which are available in Captivate.

To create effective application-specific training, it's important to develop a simulated training environment that mimics the functionality and usability of the real application. We achieve this with the automatic screen capture feature in Captivate. This functionality captures all screen actions and backgrounds, and records all mouse movements.

Captured sequences can be edited further by changing the order and timing of screens. When updates are necessary, Captivate provides the ability to modify backgrounds or record and insert additional sequences quickly. Recorded mouse movements and clicks can be changed to fine-tune the interaction.

Once screen captures are complete, we enhance training with a variety of media elements and effects available in Captivate:

  • Display text captions and synchronized audio to coincide with on-screen actions.
  • Reveal additional content when learners roll their mouse over a hot spot.
  • Use highlights and zoom-in features to focus learners' attention on particular areas of the screen.
  • Use animated text and subtle transitions to add visual interest.
  • Add click-boxes so learners can practice step-by-step procedures in a simulated environment.

These elements, when used appropriately and consistently, keep learners engaged and focused, ultimately providing a positive and memorable learning experience.


Flash played an important role in elearning development for many years but the Adobe Flash plug-in will no longer be supported in all web browsers (Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari) as of the end of 2020. Developers that need a lot of flexibility in their elearning development have moved to HTML5. When Apple threw its weight behind the early stages of HTML5, progress in development and adoption of HTML5 quickly accelerated and made it a viable alternative to Flash.

Content providers have reevaluated how much content used Flash, and whether they needed to update their content to alternative technologies. At LeanForward, we've migrated from Flash to HTML for courseware development and continue to reach out to clients with older courseware to help them evaluate their options.

The migration from Flash to HTML has been aided significantly by the upgrade to HTML5. HTML5 enables developers to create more exciting and interactive content, which was a struggle in previous r versions of HTML. Content developed in HMTL5 is universally accessible across mobile and desktop platforms.

eLearning developers that want more flexibility than they can find in an elearning authoring tool, and have the skills and time to develop in HTML5, can now produce highly engaging and interactive courseware. However, even in 2020, many corporations and government agencies use older browser versions, such as Internet Explorer 11, that does not fully support HTML5 content.

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