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Since the ASTD TK show, people have been hot on these three software packages: Articulate, Captivate and Lectora. On my webinar series, with email and via twitter, people have been asking me about these packages. Here is my summary of each - I actually replied to someone on LinkedIn about a month ago. Here is a copy of that interaction.
Articulate: Uses PowerPoint as the main development environment and overlays interactions, audio and Flash media over the top. Then, it exports it out into a handy, single .SWF file for distribution on the web. It has a nice wrapper that creates a nice, contained package for navigation and user controls.
Captivate: Uses itself as a development platform and does screen recordings and your desktop. It adds interactions and demonstration pop ups, while also allowing for a degree of branching, quizzes and the new version has great audio controls. Then, when you are done, it exports out to a handy, single .swf file for distribution. It also has a nice wrapper that has great navigation and user controls.
Lectora: Is its own development platform specifically designed for eLearning creation. It allows for the most flexibility, and the pro package has screen capture, audio capture and PPT import as well. It has lots of interaction templates, learning templates and other features that allow you to jump right in and start programming great eLearning.
As for use, it depends on what you want to use it for. I'm not a big fan of PPT for eLearning, but I know lots of people who are. If lots of your training is already in PPT, then maybe Articulate is a good bet : Import your PPT, add some audio and a couple questions and after export, you are good to go. The problem for me is that it uses PPT as the basic development platform and plugs in over the top. Your training looks like a glorified PPT.
Captivate is great for screen capture. Sure, it can do other things, but when you boil it down, its great for capturing mouse movements and screen shots. If you are developing training on a new computer system or software Captivate is really, really good. But for other more advanced elearning things, I've had struggles.
Lectora is great for everything, but there is a learning curve. Everything Articulate and Captivate does, you can do it in Lectora. Plus, the flexibility of Lectora allows you to go beyond and really do some creative eLearning. If you want to build training distributed over the web, and you have a team of creative designers who want no limits, try Lectora.
For each platform, you buy them and install them on your computer. Once you have them, you don't have any additional investment. If you want to upgrade, of course there is a fee, but they don't have any on-going licensing fees. Lectora has some great training courses you can purchase (like $500 a day).
In my work, I program everything using the Adobe Creative 4 suite. I build everything from scratch. However, I've worked with all of these tools. The new version of Articulate is great, and now allows you to use PowerPoint 2007 for PC. If you are a PPT based house, it might work for you.
Captivate allows me to tweak quite a bit, but when all is said and done, it does great screen captures. I currently use it when my client wants me to build training on a software installation ("Let's learn how to use XYZ software). Captivate is also great because of the .swf export. I can bring Captivate files into my flash work if a consistent look and feel is required. I've also talked clients OUT of hiring me, INTO purchasing Captivate and then hiring me to teach them Captivate. Teach a man to fish...
Lectora is the closest thing to building everything from scratch. I am actually using Lectora for a couple of project now, building templates, interactions and full training courses that non-programmers can go in and edit. With Lectora, you can build whatever structure you like, into whatever look and feel you like. Its really, really powerful stuff...not as powerful as building from scratch, but very good. If you want to dive in with no limits, Lectora is a good product.
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