An authoring tool is used to create online (digital) courses. Having the right authoring tool can make e-learning development easier for you. These tools can also greatly benefit learning.

Adult learners need certain elements within their learning experience. E-learning authoring tools can assist with creating those elements. Adults learn differently than children and teenagers, and their learning experiences need to account for that. Using an e-learning authoring tool can assist with the fundamentals of adult learning theory.

In this article, we go over how e-learning authoring tools affect learning and how they can assist you with designing e-learning to meet adult learning principles. We also cover the features of authoring tools and finish with a discussion on how to determine the best tools for your business.

Adult Learning Theory

Almost everyone learns best through storytelling. An e-learning authoring tool can help you create dynamic stories for your learners.


Storytelling is the oldest form of teaching. Stories help us process and remember information. As a training provider, you can create videos to share and load them into your LMS via your e-learning authoring tool.


Adults like being in control. Using an e-learning authoring tool can give them control over their learning. Consider offering your learners “edutainment” (i.e., educational entertainment). When creating your course, you should imagine that you’re designing a “choose your own adventure” story. An e-learning authoring tool can provide that experience for your learners. Be sure to use all the features of your LMS, such as self-enrollment. Give the learner complete control.

Learning by doing

E-learning authoring tools are great for creating simulations. Adults like control, but they also need support, especially performance support. An e-learning authoring tool can help you make content that can be used at the moment of application.

Now that we understand how e-learning authoring tools can affect learning, let’s discuss how we can use the features within the software to build dynamic and impactful learning that can be used at the moment of application.

Features of authoring tools

Here are common features that you should expect an e-learning authoring tool to have:

  • Content management: An e-learning authoring tool should be able to store PDFs, videos, and any other content that you create for learning. But do keep in mind that e-learning is meant to last a long time, but not forever. If you are storing PDFs, they need to be checked regularly as a part of your e-learning strategy.
  • Quizzes: E-learning authoring tools should be able to create quizzes. Your LMS can also probably make quizzes, but it’s important to understand the difference between the quiz functionality within your LMS and within your e-learning authoring tool. Your learners will get a different learning experience depending on how you build a quiz.
  • Branching: If you’re building a “choose your own adventure” for your learners, your e-learning authoring tool should make this easy for you to do.
  • SCORM compliance: An e-learning authoring tool should be able to produce a SCORM-compliant e-learning course. SCORM is the language of the LMS and enables the e-learning course and the LMS to speak to one another. It also means learner progress and course completion information can be tracked. If that’s the case, it needs to be placed in an e-learning authoring tool that can create a SCORM file.
  • Mobile learning: E-learning authoring tools should be able to make a mobile-first design. Learning needs to happen wherever your learners are, so having a tool that creates mobile learning is a must.
  • Interactions: E-learning authoring tools should create dynamic learning experiences. Interactions separate e-learning authoring tools from things like PowerPoint. Interactions enable the learners to “touch” the content. They also provide positive and negative feedback to the learner. That said, you don’t want to overuse anything; the idea is to make the learning experience dynamic. The interactions that you select should create an impact on the learner.
  • Dialogue simulations: A dialogue simulation is an interactive exercise that imitates a real conversation with a person: a customer, a staff member, a colleague, etc. It helps people master communication skills without any risk. The right e-learning authoring tool can create this type of learning experience.

All these features can be great, but how do you determine what kinds of e-learning authoring tools to use?

How to determine the best tools for your business

To figure out what type of tool will work best for you, here are a few things to consider. This list is not extensive, as it’s meant to get you thinking about how to determine the ideal tools for your business.

  • What type of training content are you looking to design? Whether you are trying to design a simulation or mobile-first design, the e-learning tool that you select should make it easy to bring your vision to life. You may find that you need to hire an instructional designer to save time. That is still having the right tool to complete the job.
  • What is your budget? Authoring tools can be expensive, ranging from $300 to $2,000. If you decide to hire someone to build the course, that is another expense. Understanding your budget can help determine what tool(s) to purchase.
  • Understanding how your LMS and e-learning interact: You should know what your LMS does with different types of e-learning content loaded into it. This way, you can determine if your LMS even requires an e-learning authoring tool to do what you need it to do. We recommend speaking with your vendor or LMS administrator to get a good understanding of your system.


E-learning authoring tools can significantly affect learning, especially when you’re designing your courses using adult learning theory. Adults need storytelling, they have a higher sense of self-direction and motivation, and they learn by doing. An e-learning authoring tool can assist you with all those things.

If you are interested in learning more, here are a few additional resources on this topic:

Here at Firmwater, we don’t just sell an LMS for training providers. We partner with our clients, giving them the tools and insights they need to implement the best practices in e-learning course development, growth, and delivery. We care too much about our customers’ businesses to have them wade through forums and chatbots for help.

Ready to use an LMS that’s designed for the way YOU work, with a team dedicated to YOUR needs? Book a no-obligation consultation directly with our team today!