The short answer is that rapid authoring is as its name describes: quick creation. And if we apply it to education or training, it would be quick creation of course material. To understand it more fully, though, we have to go back a ways…
About 10 years ago
I was still creating lesson plans for my English language learners with paper and pencil. Material was mostly presented physically via coursebook or photocopied work pages. If I took my students to the computer room, it was to access online material such as a YouTube video, a TED talk, or to have them play online, Adobe Flash, language games which someone else had created. Students used the computer to prepare PowerPoint presentations or Word documents.
There was little interactivity.
As you can imagine, preparing language tasks took hours…and the results were relatively boring! If I wanted to prepare a multiple-choice work page, for example, I typed it into Microsoft Word, and then photocopied. Students then circled the correct answer. While this did the trick, it was not very engaging.
For “fun and motivational” activities, we needed to use a variety of project-based learning tasks (PBL). While they were highly engaging and students loved them, not everything is best taught or practised in this way. Still, the basic prep [the basic language learning, practice, drilling] was quite dull.
While there were some rapid authoring tools available, they were generally used by software developers and not known by the general public, at least not to any of the teachers I knew or any of the “teaching material” courses I attended.
Mobile phone explosion
As the mobile phone climbed towards #1 digital device status, educational/training companies realized that learning could come off the page and even off the computer. It could now be transferred to a hand-held device for anywhere, any time learning.
To be effective, though, the nature of the activities had to change. For one thing, mobile screens were (and still are) much smaller than those of computers. For another, people who were becoming used to texting were looking for faster, more interactive tasks that involved clicking and swiping. The development of interactive, online learning is what we now call eLearning, and rapid authoring is how these eLearning courses are created.
Most educators or trainers are not software people. So, they don’t know any programming languages. As a result, they would not be able to create interactive course activities. They would need to hire an eLearning developer to do it for them. Average time for such development? Roughly 14 weeks. By then, given the rapid pace of some informational change, the courses could be out-of-date before they were even finished.
Yet, what would happen if educational companies could create “fill in and use” interactive templates and make them available to anyone? In other words, the educators or trainers just choose a template, fill in the content [like filling in a form], click SAVE, and the software behind the scenes does the rest.
The next step was identifying activity types that educators like to use…and even developing some new ones. We’re speaking about templates such as:
- Visually interesting ways to display course content
- Tasks which practice spelling and sentence structure
- A wide range of multiple-choice options
- Number-based activities such as ratios and percentages
- Building relationships like matching, sequencing, and selecting in order
How rapid authoring works
Let’s look at a concrete example.
This is a “relationships” template. Basically, it asks learners to make correct pairs between the items in the left-hand column and those in the right-hand one.
On a word level, matching could be between pictures and words, words and definitions, or words in one language and their translations in another.
On a higher level, pairing could be between cities and their top-rated tourist destinations, body parts and their characteristics, or customer questions and the relevant responses, just to name a few.
Advantages of rapid authoring
As we mentioned, the huge benefit is time. Educators and trainers can create tasks in minutes, rather than hours. They can complete courses in hours or days, not weeks. Need a few new training modules? If you know the material you want to use, and you have a few hours, you’ll have the course you need before the end of the day.
Yet, there are other important advantages, too.
Engagement and motivation
Rapid authoring tasks are fun to do as they involve clicking and swiping. In fact, many of them feel more like a game than like learning.
They look that way also. The preset templates make your activities look professional in an eye-catching way, using great colors and aesthetic graphic design. Your tasks always appear inviting.
In addition, they are available on demand. Got 5 minutes waiting in line somewhere? Catch up on your training by doing an eLearning activity.
As a result, learners tend to be more engaged in their learning and more highly motivated to complete their courses.
Most people will be able to use rapid authoring tools quickly, and the rest within a relatively short time. This means course development can be done in-house with the people you already employ, no need to pay a developer. The cost of the rapid authoring tool, if any, will be far less than any outsourcing costs.
Ready to begin your “career” as a rapid author of educational or training materials?
For more information about the EdApp free authoring tool, click here.
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