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E-Learning Authoring Tools vs. Course Distribution Software

Discover the differences between course authoring tools and course distribution tools so you can make the best choice for your business.

8 min read

What’s the difference between e-learning authoring tools and course distribution software?

If your company is considering creating your own e-learning courses, you’ve likely come across the term “course authoring tools” as you search for the right software solutions to bring your goals to life. 

For those new to the content creation process, terms like these can be overwhelming to understand. You might wonder:

  • “Is an authoring system the same as a learning management system?” 
  • “What exactly does each tool do?”  
  • “How many different apps do I need to get my online courses in the hands of learners?”

If you’ve found yourself with more questions than answers as you gather information, this post is for you. Below, we’ll break down all of these questions to cover the basics of course authoring and distribution software so you can choose the right tools when you create e-learning content for your business. 

Looking for information on course authoring with Articulate? Check out our guide to the basics of course authoring apps.

Key Takeaways

  • Content authoring tools, also called course creation apps, allow users to build and develop online training materials without the need for coding skills.
  • E-learning course distribution, in which learning content is delivered to end-users, may require different software depending on the authoring software you choose.
  • Businesses often (but not always) require both a course authoring tool and a distribution app to meet their unique goals.

What is course authoring software or e-learning software? 

Course authoring tools, also called course creation apps, are computer applications used to develop training content—that is, courses learners can view on computers, tablets, and mobile devices via cloud-based tools. Simply put, this type of software allows you to build your cloud-based online course. Users don’t need coding skills to combine text, graphics, audio, video, and other multimedia elements into engaging content and online courses. Note: E-learning and course authoring are synonymous.

What can you make with course creation apps?

Content creation apps are great for presenting educational information via text, audio, video, and other mediums. These apps also offer ways to present all kinds of different course elements to your learners. Elements vary depending on the app you choose, and may include: 

  • Quizzes, final exams, and short answer or essay questions that test learners’ knowledge 
  • Screen recordings that walk users through how to perform different actions on a computer or mobile device 
  • 360° images and immersive experiences, like virtual tours with clickable landmarks that engage learners as they explore
  • Games and other interactions that allow users to exercise their skills in entertaining ways

As you assess the right authoring tool for your business, note which features are most important to your course material and learning experience. Look for examples of work other users have created with these tools so you can select the best software for your needs.

What are the different types of e-learning content creation apps?

There are a variety of authoring tools on the market, and they continue to evolve and change with the needs of learners today. While each empowers instructional designers to create online training, the app you choose, will impact how you create courses.

Three key categories of course authoring tools to know are: 

  • Web applications. With these cloud based authoring tools, you don’t need to download or install anything on your computer to create e-learning courses. Rather, creators host the course on the web, allowing them to build interactive elements that learners can access anywhere. 
  • Desktop applications. Unlike web applications, desktop-based tools are installed on your computer, which often means you can use them without an internet connection. Typically, these applications offer a wider range of features than web applications, which may allow you more advanced opportunities for learning content focused more on interactivity and customization.
  • PowerPoint plug-ins. If your business frequently uses Microsoft PowerPoint for training purposes, you may consider this type of authoring tool. Powerpoint plug-ins allow you to increase the functionality of your presentations by adding features like narration or assessments.

Understanding the differences between these types of solutions can help you select the right tool for your learners’ and business needs.


What is e-learning course distribution software? 

We know that course authoring tools allow you to create content to enhance the learning experience. But how do those courses get shared with your learners? Enter course distribution software. The type of course distribution software that most frequently comes to mind for instructional designers and e-learning professionals is a learning management system, or LMS.

Beyond allowing you to distribute your courses to end-users, an LMS also provides advanced features, letting you track and measure key data about your course performance and learner engagement and activity. For example, these tools offer insights into how much progress users have made in your courses, whether they’ve interacted with certain course elements, and what they scored on an important assessment.

Keep in mind that different learning management systems have different prices and implementation times, which can be a major factor in the solution you choose. If your business needs to adapt quickly to changes in your industry, legislation updates, or other factors, you may want to consider a lightweight solution, like Reach, that allows for faster implementation.

LMSs and privacy

If your organization’s e-learning courses contain proprietary or sensitive information, LMS platforms are great options to consider. These tools allow you to store your content safely and securely and can even enable you to share content only with specific users and not the general public.

Can you distribute your online courses without an LMS?

Depending on the authoring tool you choose, you may not always need an LMS to deliver your courses to your learners—for example, if your course authoring solution has the ability to publish courses to the web. Web hosting your e-learning courses can be a great, budget-friendly option for some organizations. For more information, check out our tips for sharing e-learning courses on the intranet or internet.

Building out your e-learning toolbox 

Course authoring and course distribution are separate yet crucial functions for the success of e-learning. Some businesses will need both an authoring and distribution tool to reach their learners effectively and achieve their business goals, while some may not. By learning about the nuances of different tools, you can make the best decision for your business and set your e-learning courses up for success.

To learn more about e-learning software with Articulate, explore our guide on the basics of course creation apps.

8 min read

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