desktop and cloud-based authoring tools
– which is best?

category: software
Authoring tools come in all shapes and sizes, with different features and formats available to you. Knowing which one is best for your project might seem difficult at first, but there are a few key features to look out for. One of the things to consider is whether your potential authoring tool is desktop or cloud-based, as they provide very different levels of functionality. Your personal requirements will determine which type is best for you.
desktop vs cloud authoring tool

Generally speaking, computer programs have come in a desktop-based format in the past. When it comes to software which helps you do your job, programs have often been big and clunky. It has always made sense to run such large pieces of software as desktop programs.

But cloud computing has since become easier, cheaper, and more popular. This means that the backend of software can now be kept on the cloud, being accessed through the internet. This can be particularly beneficial in the workplace where there are multiple locations and employees. Often computer programs come with licensing costs (like Microsoft Office) which can be costly. This isn’t always the case with cloud software, which can be used as and when its needed.

when desktop might be the best option

One situation where you may benefit from desktop software is if your internet access is limited. If you are also working individually, then desktop programs might be just right for you. You’ll have everything stored on your hard-drive, accessible wherever you are working, regardless of internet connection. This can work fine if you have a small project, or one you know won’t require much editing. Just remember to back up your work, as there is only one copy.

when cloud might be the best option

These days though it’s unlikely that an entire course is going to be completed from one machine, or even by one person. Of course desktop-based tools will share a backend across your company’s server, but there’s still a requirement to have it installed on the device. Now that hot-desking and remote working is so common, it makes us all a little more reliant on the cloud to give us access on the go. With a cloud-based authoring tool you only require an internet connection, as it can be accessed through the web browser.

keeping your technology up to date

Remember that if you stripped down your eLearning course to the bare basics, it would be a long list of programming code. While authoring tools flip this into a user-friendly program for non-tech individuals, there is still a lot of work that goes into building that software behind the scenes. Particularly in an industry that has strict technical compliance through SCORM, developers need to be able to constantly adapt and improve the system so that you can continue to build with no issues. Cloud programs will be updated automatically and you will not face any disruption, whereas you will need to install new applications or versions of desktop tools.

access and teams

Just like you can have 10 tabs open in your browser at once, you can work on different projects simultaneously in a cloud-based tool. Not every user will need this, but it comes in handy if you are also looking to create multiple versions of the same content. On the flipside you might have one course but multiple people working on it – a cloud-based tool will ensure every user is working on the same version.

We suggest you always include someone else in the content development project, even if it’s just for feedback. A second pair of eyes is always useful to review just to get a different perspective. With desktop based tools they’ll need to have the program too, which might not necessarily be straightforward. Your subject matter expert for example might be from outside your company. With a cloud-based authoring tool others can review content within the application, so there’s no need to publish the course before it is complete.

When comparing both formats at face value, there isn’t much difference in their design abilities. Pre-made templates and interactive tools will be the norm across any platform you use. But cloud-based tools have that edge for accessibility, collaboration and potentially even price. The bigger the team you work with, the greater the benefits.