What’s the Best Way to Learn a New E-Learning Authoring Tool?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I get asked this question a lot by people either entering the e-learning field or looking to pick up a new e-learning authoring tool. Whether you want to learn Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, or any other tool, there are many ways to get started. What’s most important is finding the best approach for you and how you learn best. Here are a few of the most common methods and some factors to consider before making a decision. 

Free Online Tutorials 

Most authoring tools have an online community offering a ton of free content. For example, the Articulate E-Learning Heroes community has more content than you could consume in a lifetime, in the form of short videos, blog posts, and examples. 


  • It’s free content! 
  • You can pick and choose what you want to learn.


  • Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, either because there’s so much of it or because you don’t really know what you need to know. 
  • If you are completely new to a tool and to e-learning, it can be challenging to put all the little pieces together to get the big picture. 

Help Documentation 

Most e-learning software comes with some sort of manual or help documentation, often as a PDF. 


  • It’s free. 
  • It’s likely to be very accurate because it’s provided by the people who make the software. 
  • If you are the type who likes to jump in and figure it out, help documentation can be good if you just need to look up something specific.



  • Help documentation quality varies widely from software to software.  
  • Help documentation may not explain the core concepts and the reasoning behind the options, such as why you might pick one option on a drop-down menu over another. 
  • Most people aren’t likely to read help documentation from beginning to end, so it might be hard to get the full picture. 


There are a number of books on the major e-learning authoring tools available, either in print or e-book format. 


  • Books can provide a lot of detail, often explaining every checkbox and option. 
  • They are a handy reference to use while you are working.


  • Books rely mainly on words (and a few representative screen captures) to explain concepts, which can be harder to interpret for some people than a live or recorded demonstration. 

Instructor-Led Training 

For the major authoring tools, you can find live or recorded instructor-led training that’s presented in person or online. 


  • By taking a comprehensive course, you get the full picture of how to use the software and will usually learn about using the different features—not just what to click. 
  • In live training, you have the opportunity to ask questions. 
  • By seeing someone use the software, most people can better grasp how the software works.


  • You might have to sit through information you already know. 
  • There’s a fee for most comprehensive training of this type.

To help you pick the right method, consider whether you need to see the big picture or only need a little help. Think about whether you prefer a lot of structure or to figure things out on your own with help as needed. Even consider how you have been most successful learning other software, such as Excel. 

ATD also offers a deeper dive into some popular authoring tools. Check out Articulate Storyline Certificate or the Adobe Captivate Certificate.

About the Author

Diane Elkins is the president of Artisan E-Learning, a custom e-learning development company specializing in Articulate Studio, Storyline, Lectora, and Captivate. She has built a reputation as a national e-learning expert by being a frequent speaker at major industry events such as ATD's International Conference & Exposition, ATD TechKnowledge, DevLearn, and Learning Solutions. She is also the co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series as well as E-Learning Fundamentals: A Practical Guide from ATD Press. She is a past president of the Northeast Florida and Metro DC chapters of ATD.

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