In 2015, the global eLearning market was worth $107 billion. Fast forward to the year 2025, where experts predict that it will reach a total market value of over $300 billion. The reason for eLearning’s steady growth is because of its effectiveness for both the learner and the instructor.
As the world continues to progress to online tools in their personal lives, it makes sense that the professional world should follow suit. Since its rising popularity, eLearning authoring tools have been implemented to train, assess, and develop professional teams at scale. Rather than sitting in an outdated training session that corporate organizations became accustomed to, newer and more effective eLearning tools have since emerged.
This article details which features to prioritize when selecting the right authoring tool for you. The best way to do this is to outline the proven effectiveness of each element, arming L&D professionals with the most powerful Learning Management System (LMS) to create and distribute effective learning content.
What are eLearning authoring tools?
Simply put, eLearning authoring tools are a type of software that facilitate your unique digital courseware. Your content can then be distributed to your learners via an LMS. With the shift to learning and training online, authoring tools make it possible for the average person to create professional eLearning content, without extensive design or coding knowledge.
Authoring tools should host a plethora of options to create dynamic and interactive learning content from text, images and animations to quizzes and video.
Best free eLearning authoring tools’ features
The following features are all found in eLearning authoring software. We recommend evaluating which features are most important for your learning structure, or better yet, selecting a platform that already has all of the following elements built in.
1. Free authoring platforms
Obviously cost is a major consideration when selecting the right authoring tools for you. EdApp is an award-winning and agile platform that also happens to be free. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on eLearning authoring tool software when there are plenty to choose from that are extremely cost-effective (or even completely free).
Microlearning is the breakdown of information into easily-digestible chunks. It is one of the most effective forms of learning and training since learning material is much easier to digest and the likelihood of knowledge retention is increased. Microlearning courses are easier to develop, update, and distribute compared to traditional eLearning courses and completion rates are dramatically higher – up to around 90% and beyond whereas traditional eLearning holds completion rates as low as 15%.
Microlearning works because human memory can only hold up to five new pieces of information before it gets overwritten. To adapt, this form of learning focuses on the key elements of any subject area which makes both educational learning and company training much more effective. By focusing on fewer topics, knowledge has a greater likelihood of transferring from short-term to long-term memory.
3. Mobile Learning (m learning)
Smartphone ownership is nearing ubiquity so it makes sense to select a free eLearning authoring tool that is optimised for mobile. If an LMS simply is compatible with mobile it can offer poor user experience and be annoying to use – which distracts from learning. With bright, vibrant screens and powerful computing power, mobile learning is capable of offering an engaging, interactive learning experience.
More than just moving away from the PC and providing a more aesthetically pleasing learning experience, mobile learning is about adapting to the learners’ preferred behaviours by creating interactive components that are intuitive for any smartphone user. Smartphone technology is able to deliver strategies that provide better results than desktop eLearning.
4. Spaced Repetition
Distributed practice is a highly-effective form of learning and the best free eLearning authoring tools have it built-in. With smartphones remembering which answers learners got right, they can focus on content that learners got wrong, making it more effective to use. Spaced repetition ensures that learners aren’t just completing the courseware, they are digesting (and retaining) all the information.
Spaced repetition is also known as distributed practice, where lessons are retaken at increasing intervals until knowledge is fully embedded in long-term memory. The more frequently a lesson is completed, the better the knowledge retention. This concept is linked to Herman Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve theory, whereby a mathematical formula describes the rate at which information is forgotten after it is learned.
Selecting an eLearning authoring tool that includes spaced repetition will ensure a deeper understanding of the material at hand, whereby learners can apply the content they have learned in a meaningful way, rather than walking away from a training session with zero retention.
Learning is most effective when it doesn’t feel like learning. By transforming simple questions and answers into games using templates, it’s simple to create engaging microlessons that are actually fun to complete.
Gamification in learning is an effective approach to make positive changes in students’ behaviour and attitude towards learning, proven to improve their motivation and engagement. Gamification techniques range from leveraging the learners’ natural desires for socializing, competition, mastery, achievement, self-expression, and much more. Including gamelike elements in any eLearning experience can achieve all of this by creating a dynamic learning experience through interactive activities, where courseware completion rates are often 90% or above.
Choosing an authoring tool that enables gamification should be a priority not only because of its proven effectiveness but also because prizing and real rewards commonly have the option to be administered within the LMS. This makes it easy for the administrator and the learner alike by providing instant gratification and rewards in real-time. Learner motivation is also boosted when a healthy amount of competition is introduced, and recognition or prizing within an eLearning authoring tool does just that.
6. Integrated LMS
Many authoring tools are separate to LMSs which means the content was created on one platform in order to distribute on many others. Not surprisingly, advanced features get removed for compatibility and the software doesn’t transfer from one to the other without issues. However, the best free eLearning authoring tools are integrated into the LMS meaning that content created will look and function as well as possible.
Deploying a new LMS can be a daunting task, but your eLearning authoring tool should easily integrate with your existing LMS implementation. Things to look for include compatibility, Single-Sign-On (SS), and API capabilities.
7. Push notifications
Instructional designers and L&D professionals will tell you that getting people to complete their courses can be like herding cats. However, with push notifications going directly to their smartphone, it’s simple to advise them of new courses, prizes won or looming deadlines.
Push notifications enable administrators to easily reach and remind learners to complete necessary tasks. When selecting an authoring tool, be sure to choose one that allows for personalization. Having the option to reach out to individuals or groups of learners with a custom message boosts engagement and reinforces a continuous learning experience, especially when notifications are delivered to learners’ smartphones.
If a free eLearning authoring tool has a leaderboard feature then everyone can see how everyone else is performing – whether it’s individuals or groups. This can motivate competitive learners along with those who are performing poorly.
Linked to the benefits of gamification, leaderboards improve learning outcomes by creating a sense of competition amongst top performers as well as inspiring weaker performers. Many eLearning platforms have the option to see their results when the administrators allow, which enhances peer learning and improves learning outcomes while doing it.
9. Template Library
It’s incredibly useful for free eLearning authoring tools to have template libraries. This allows incredible, interactive, potentially-gamified microlessons to be produced simply by adding existing content to them. It also opens the door to Peer Learning as anyone can create a lesson.
Any modern eLearning authoring tool should have a wide range of templates to choose from. As learning experts, the LMS should have expertly-selected which templates perform the best, making it quick and easy for authors to choose and implement into any given course. A template library should also range in concept and design, providing optimal choice and creating variation, to suit a diverse set of learning methodologies.
10. Just in Time (JIT) training
Learning can be very effective when it is dialled up on demand – minutes before it is needed. This isn’t possible with large eLearning courses but becomes practical on a decent free authoring tool. This is where Just In Time Training (JITT) comes in.
This methodology provides personalized training on-demand according to what specific situation requires. This typically includes machine learning, big data, A.I., and enhanced analytics. This brings with it opportunities for organizations to automatically maintain and enhance workforce performance while significantly reducing errors.
When an authoring tool is simple to use, it’s simple to update content. A disturbing amount of eLearning courseware is old and out-of-date because it is so hard to update. However, if free eLearning authoring tools are simple to access and publish with, you can create or update a lesson in the morning (perhaps with last night’s news) and distribute it in the afternoon. This keeps the content fresh, relevant, engaging and effective.
Template-driven authoring tools should be simple and intuitive, saving the administrator time and resulting in an incredibly smooth learning experience from start to finish.
12. Import/Export to SCORM
Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a set of technical standards that define how online learning content and LMS communicate with each other. With your authoring tool, you should be able to import your existing SCORM content and to export your newly created learning material to SCORM.
Being a widely-compatible format, SCORM can be used to integrate legacy platforms with EdApp, making it a versatile and incredibly useful tool for myriad organisations. EdApp’s free, mobile-based authoring tool allows users the option to import and export course content to SCORM or to use the integrated LMS. Most importantly, SCORM integration should happen seamlessly, simply, and efficiently like it does with EdApp.
13. Cloud Authoring
Cloud authoring tools are different from standard ones, whereby they are designed for the modern learner. It enables L&D instructors to distribute new or updated content from a central cloud-based system, delivered straight to the personal devices of employees. With a cloud authoring tool, content is constantly saved in the trusty cloud, simultaneously providing users with the ease of publication at any given time. The tool also enhances collaboration, whereby users are able to demonstrate their knowledge, compared against that of their counterparts, known as social learning.
If you like the sound of the above features, it’s worth giving EdApp’s eLearning authoring tool a go as it supports all of them for free, forever. To find out more, get in touch at email@example.com. You can also try EdApp’s Mobile LMS and authoring tool for free by signing up here.