Thursday, June 3, 2010

Development Tools I Would Learn If I Were You - June's Big Question

June's Big Question over at the Learning Circuits blog is regarding tools one should "...learn today in order to be a valuable eLearning professional in 2015."

So you know my perspective, since my start in e-learning I have always been both a designer and developer. Although my degree is in instructional design I have worked in corporate training departments where I am responsible for both. This is not unusual in corporate environments, especially among small to mid-size companies. In my instructional design graduate program, UMBC, I took several courses that focused on development, but they really only scratched the surface. They provided just enough to make us dangerous with HTML, Flash, Photoshop and Authorware. Most of which gave me a good baseline for further developing my e-learning development skills. No, I do not use Authorware now, but it is hard to predict what will be an essential tool 10 years down the road. Five years is tough to predict too, but I will attempt it anyway.

A pertinent point is that you can learn any number of development tools, but when you get to a new position your employer may have tools already available that they prefer you use or they may have you determine what tools to use. I have experienced both situations. One thing you can count on, if they already have an LMS you are stuck with it unless they already had plans to change the LMS and you are the sucker, I mean expert, who is to select and implement a new one.

So back to the big question, I would recommend the following types of tools, and examples where appropriate, that you  should "...learn today in order to be a valuable eLearning professional in 2015."

Social/informal learning: Microblogging (e.g. Yammer or Twitter), blogs, social bookmarking (e.g. Delicious), virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life).

Games: We are already seeing more and more games in e-learning and I think that will increase even more in the next five years. For me, I use Flash to develop games, but whether it is Flash or other game development tools get to know how to use them.

Learning Management System (LMS): I would get familiar with the features of an LMS, how they function,  how companies' use them and where they are going. I believe they will still be very present in corporate training in 2015, but will integrate more informal learning tools along with mobile learning, virtual worlds and alternative reality games (ARG).

SCORM: Learn at least the basics of SCORM including how to make basic edits to a SCORM manifest. Because the LMS will still be present in corporate training, like it or not, SCORM will still be very needed in 2015.

Graphics editing: There is a good chance you will need to create and/or edit graphics for your courses (e.g. Photoshop or Fireworks). If you are lucky enough to have a graphic artist on staff, it is still good to know the basics and be able to "speak their language."

e-Learning web-based training (WBT) development tool: This will most likely be your "go to" tool for developing asynchronous online courses and/or assessments (OutStart Trainer, Articulate, ToolBook, etc., etc., etc.,). Keep in mind some may be DHTML output, others create Flash SWFs. By 2015, I am sure many will create HTML5 files too.

Flash: Yes, Flash is still very much alive and well in e-learning and because it is so embedded in our industry and there is nothing at this time that can provide the rich interactive elements that it provides, I do not see it being "dead" in our field anytime soon. The fact is HTML5 is not there yet and if it ever does get there it will probably be more than 5 years before it is at the level of quality and ease of development that Flash currently provides. However, see my comments under HTML/HTML5.

HTML/HTML5: Learning HTML will come in very handy, especially if your WBT tool creates DHTML files, which you may need to edit at times. As far as HTML5, it is not officially released yet nor is at a point where it can be used to create the level of interactive content you should expect in e-learning courses. However, years from now it may be much more practical and creating HTML5 content will probably be best done via Adobe Dreamweaver. So, learn Dreamweaver now and as HTML5 emerges keep up to date with how to use Dreamweaver to create HTML5 content.

Here are few resources for learning more about e-learning tools and how to developing your skills in using them:

  • eLearningLearning, which aggregates many useful e-learning blogs including many discussions on development tools.

  • Social bookmarks is always a great way to find useful resources. Here are some of my bookmarks  - development_toolscloud, gamesflash_tutorial, SCORM, HTMLHTML5.

  • Learning Tools Zone (C4LPT) has a very expansive list of learning tools.

  • Once you determine the tools you want to use, search out the application's development center and blogs that focus on the tool. For example, the  Captivate blog or their development center, Articulate's Rapid eLearning Blog and Word of Mouth Blog, etc.

  • Try the tools that interest you. Many tools have trial periods or are free. Give them a try along with any tutorials available.

  • The best resource is talk to people in the field who are developing e-learning. Ask them about the tools they use, how they use each, their recommendations on getting started with the tools and what they think with be valuable to you in 2015.


  1. I think HTML5 will be common place in the next 2-3 years to deliver some of the thingsthat Flash has traditionaly looked after (animation, audio, video). Flash is becoming a cumbersome tool to use and alientating new developers with its complexity.

    HTML5 in eLearning will all depend on when the modern browsers will be adopted and what those using IE6 now, will upgrade to.

    Lectora is another great authoring tool. Unless Toolbook has improved vastly in the last couple of years, I'd avoind it. It crashed way too frequently and was pretty difficult to develop with.

  2. Clive,

    Interesting points. I'm not saying this eloquently enough but I truly think most learning professionals need a grounding in business principles. As learning professionals one of our goals should be driving performance not just imparting knowledge. Rather than spend time on technical tools--I think it would be smart to learn the basic tools of business and management first.

  3. Sanjay,

    I absolutely agree. However, this post was focused on development tools which is why I did not approach the importance of having a solid understanding of ISD, human performance, business principles, etc.

    FYI: I am Jeff. Clive is another blogger who also posted to the Big Question. His post is at

    Thank you for reading and commenting on my post.

  4. Another ID student checking in here...if our school (Post University) does not offer the chance to learn these tools-where does one go to learn them?

  5. Jacquie,

    In the case of specific authoring tools, I would look to the the software company and see if they have training programs or vendors that provide the training. Some will list such resources on their sites.

    In the case of Flash there are plenty of resources online (see There are also many Adobe certified training programs and colleges that offer Flash courses.

    Also, a great conference that has great workshops on many of these tools is the eLearning Devcon (

    I hope these help.

    Good luck,



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