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What is a content authoring tool?

Read Time 3 Mins
Learning & Development

What are the capabilities of today’s content authoring tools?

As online education and e-learning continue to grow and advance, you may have noticed that you’re hearing the term “authoring tool” more frequently. But what exactly is an authoring tool, and what are its capabilities?

The term authoring tool is somewhat misleading. Admittedly, on joining the edtech industry, I made the assumption that an authoring tool was something like a word processing software. Or, at the very least, a digital writing device.

An e-learning authoring tool is a name given to content development tools that are typically used for creating educational content. These type of tools go far beyond the capabilities of a word processor and are typically quite advanced.

Today, more and more jobs are being created in the educational content and authoring areas, as the popularity of Technology-Enhanced Items and e-Assessments continues to grow significantly each year. The popularity of authoring tools coincides with this, as they are being used by professional content authors as well as teachers to create interactive, engaging educational content.

What can authoring tools create?

Authoring tools can differ hugely, offering content authors a variety of features. Choosing an authoring tool really depending on what features are important to your authoring team. Here, we’ve looked at three key features of today’s best authoring tools and why they might be important to your team.

Question types & features

First and foremost, you want your authoring tool to have what’s required to author engaging educational assessments. Of course, the question types and features required by your authors depends largely on your subject content areas and their complexity.

Technology-Enhanced Items (TEIs) have been developed to naturally increase student engagement levels, due to their interactive nature. While their auto-scoring capabilities make for a smoother and more efficient grading experience, one of the greatest benefits of these interactive question types is their ability to transform educational content. While some feel that Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) are sufficient in assessing the knowledge and understanding of a subject, there are often other TEIs which can be used to author more powerful questions which add benefit the student’s higher order thinking skills.

Depending on your subject content, it’s worth considering the onscreen protractors that are available in a content authoring tool. For math, for example, you might benefit from onscreen calculators and protractors. For vocational education programmes, it might be of benefit to have the option of including a video or other multimedia file in the question stimulus.

Simplified authoring

A common challenge when choosing an assessment authoring tool is finding a balance between the needs of professional authors and more casual authors, such as teachers.

Having the ability to create complex question types is essential for more advanced content, for example, chemistry and math. However, today, teachers are expected to be able to create digital assessments too.

It’s often the case that advanced authoring tools, while offering numerous benefits to full-time, professional content authors, are too complex for teachers to use. Empowering teachers and other, more casual users is something that is offered through some assessment tools and something worth considering ahead of choosing an authoring tool.

Content management

Building a content workflow that suits your organization’s requirements is essential. When choosing an e-authoring tool, this is something to consider. While some organizations choose to store their own items, others prefer to manage their item bank with an item banking software.

Managing your item bank can mean everything from creating your items, testing them out, and making them appear as you want them to. Ensure you choose an authoring tool which is flexible in nature and allows you to do this in a way that you’re comfortable with.