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Developer, Developer, who is the fairest among us – Lectora, Captivate or Articulate?

Way back in the ‘80s, the only authoring tool people were talking about was Authorware, developed by Dr.Michael Allen (It was later acquired by Macromedia, now Adobe) for the convenience of the non-technical instructional designers. Today, we use a number of them – Lectora of Trivantis, Articulate of Articulate, Captivate of Adobe, Camtasia of TechSmith, ToolBook of SumTotal…the list goes on.

A small list of advantages and disadvantages of each:

Lectora of Trivantis:

  • Can develop multiple HTML pages simultaneously
  • Can develop simple interactive elements without knowing either Flash or JavaScript
  • Can develop multi-lingual courses easily
  • Can publish courses which are SCORM/ AICC compliant
  • The flip side is that the screens load rather slowly as it does not have the facility of background loading.

Captivate

  • Very good for capturing screen-based simulations
  • Ease of developing interactive elements without using Flash
  • Good collection of assessments
  • On the flip side that as each screen is considered as an image, the file size is relatively high.

Articulate

  • Excellent Quiz maker
  • Easy, intuitive navigation
  • Pages load fast as there is background loading
  • However there is a limitation of design flexibility.

However, some of the practicing Learning experts have expressed their views on “what they think is the fairest among Lectora, Captivate and Articulate?” Here are some of the responses in verbatim:

  • With regard to Articulate, they brand themselves as a RAPID e-learning authoring tool. This means that for a 'quick and dirty' or basic development, it fits the bill. To some degree, the same goes for Captivate. Flash, Action Scripting, JavaScript, etc., are all more code intensive and the average instructional designer/developer does not have those skill sets, especially for smaller jobs. I think you will agree that more complex development, or what you guys have termed "true" development takes quite some time and planning. These tools that we have mentioned are simply tools with templates, and pre-programmed ways for quicker development. Although they can be used for LARGER projects, I don't think that was their original intent.
  • Instructional Design principles evolved long before "flash" and computer animation. While these are great tools for enhancing the vehicle for learning, are they necessary for effective training that achieves the desired learning objectives? I believe the garbage-in/garbage-out principle applies here: if you don't build a course that is well-designed and well-executed, it won't matter how "spiffy" the medium of delivery is. My guess is that a lot of people, like me, are looking for a "good" tool that has sufficient capabilities to rapidly develop engaging, effective training without a lot of technical expertise, training that can be deployed quickly and at a reasonable cost.
  • Articulate, I see as a really quick and easy to use tool for the rapid developer. Kind of like, on the fly use. Captivate on the other hand is much more flexible when it comes to customizing templates and making the look and feel of a product different.
  • There is no "fairest." They're different authoring tools with different strengths. I can easily envision projects for each that would make them appear to be the best.
  • You just have to consider the goals of the project and select the most accommodating software. For example, when I create Level 1 interactive modules, I can easily use Captivate and deliver an award-winning e-Learning product to the client. But for Level 3 interactive courses, I have to jump to Lectora.
  • It depends on who is your target audience for the learning content and who are the teachers/producers of content? In case of professional knowledge sharing (as opposed to academic formal learning) Articulate and Captivate are very good. Also, if you examine the standard LMS - the main application has always been in formal learning environment, but we actually spend 70% of our life learning from INFORMAL learning. So while LMS might be suitable for formal learning - the above tools are good ones to develop informal learning content and give the power to the professional and people at workplace to share their knowledge and learn from peers and collaborate.
  • Depends on what you want to teach, how you want to teach and who you want to teach. For me Lectora and Articulate are easy to use for Level 1 and maybe Level 2 content while I would use Captivate/Flash for Level 3 and more too. And Brenda, show me one LCMS that has the capabilities of even the most outdated authoring tool and I will show you life on the moon (or maybe Mars). The SMEs want more control over their content and they will vote for authoring tools which are simple to use and easy to learn, with ever improving features and capabilities with newer versions being released sooner than later (much too often for my comfort actually). LCMS those are worthwhile (if) are/will be way too expensive. Nothing wrong with standards ...AICC, SCORM as long as they adapt and are interpreted properly, they at least enable us to choose and there will be tweaks, but worthwhile ones. And all learning content is not always about the LMS and what sits well in one.
  • My experience has shown that one tool may be a better fit for an organization than another regardless of feature set, market share, or community endorsements.
    • Captivate. I love the tool - especially version 4 because they added variables. I like Adobe's support. I do however feel that Camtasia sometimes does a better job in capturing some applications.
    • Lectora. For me, this is an average tool. It would be my choice if I was working with a company that already had this infrastructure in place. I found previous versions of this tool to be a bit buggy depending upon the Java implementation and quizzes were a pain at integration when I was at Verizon. That was a few versions ago and I'm sure they fixed those annoyances by now. Still a Lectora course took more work to integrate than others.
    • Articulate. I've had a hate/love relationship with this tool since day one. Being an experienced developer, I thought this tool cheapened the whole development process. However as more people want to move to utilizing e-learning, you can't beat a tool that integrates right into PowerPoint. That would be the reason I recommend this tool. And in the hands of someone capable - you can produce some really nice content.
  • In today's rapid eLearning environment the essence lies in
    • Having a product which can be used equally well by technical/non- technical users.
    • It's ability to products content rapidly.
    • Integration with other applications which are widely used in the industry (not just PowerPoint).
    • Last but not the least the ability to publish to various channels which are widely used.
  • First of all, I wouldn't use Captivate for anything other than screen capture and simulation. I have created courses in it, but it was very, very painful. (Hey Adobe, when will you make this a real development tool?) Articulate is absolutely the easiest, but it lacks flexibility. I am not the biggest fan of the whole left side of the screen being used for navigation (and yes, I do know that you can set the screens up to not show that) Lectora has great flexibility but it is severely buggy. You have to know how to tweak things to make them work. I have a great drop-down menu that I put together for my courses, but it doesn't work consistently. That is frustrating.
  • If you are going to use one of the template driven apps - okay I am biased -- I like only flash built solutions. Anyway, I have found Articulate Pro Studio to work the best. Especially with the new functionality and the video encoder application. Lectora: I once purchased this for some of my staff who did not have technical skills. Sent them to their training in Flash. It was horrible. The solution stinks in my opinion. Camtasia - is a nice solution as well, but there are a lot of products out there, besides just these three.
  • A few years ago one of my clients was trying to decide which authoring program to use as their standard. To help make the decision, I created a spreadsheet that listed all the [known] features of each application. Being a programmer first and an instructional designer second, I lean toward the applications that give me the most control over how the information is presented. At that time, I selected Authorware [for myself], and Lectora for the client. I have since learned to make Lectora do things that were not documented - which pleased the client when they asked "Can you..."
    Many applications have some features that are not available in other apps. The question should not be which of the applications is the fairest (or best), but which provides the best or easiest way to accomplish what I need to do for this course. I still use and like Captivate for screen grabs when I am developing an application based training, but would never use it for a highly-interactive course that requires multiple branching options and scenarios.
  • Lectora has a lot to offer, but it is my understanding that the new Captivate 4 is now being used as an e-learning authoring tool, and that this is the next hot trend in e-learning. The new features are supposedly pretty comprehensive; so much so that a representative at an Adobe training center I spoke with recently here in Atlanta is recommending those who are already skilled at Captivate 3 return for follow up training because the updates are substantial.
  • I feel they are all different, and I've used them at the same time for the same course. I would never build a whole course in captivate even 4.0. I would use Lectora as the shell of the course and use captivate components within the course. I would use Articulate for quick solutions, i.e. a sales person needs a presentation online for users who have low bandwidth. I do agree they fall in the category of Rapid E-Learning Tools but they really are not the same tool, and they do very different things.
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