There are tons of eLearning authoring tools out there, and it’s hard to keep up with what’s what. If you’re feeling lost in the sea of options, you’re not alone. Luckily, creating eLearning experiences is kind of our thing—and that means we’ve done our homework on eLearning solutions.

One of the top tools out there right now is Articulate 360, a subscription-based suite of applications and tools that includes Storyline 360 and Rise, plus Articulate Review, a content library, and live online training. The idea is that the subscription gives you all of the authoring tools you need in one place, from course assets to collaborative reviewing. Articulate has been around for a while, and its apps are award-winning and popular—78,000 organizations worldwide create courses with Articulate.

We’ve authored all kinds of eLearning using Articulate, and we’ve learned a lot about how the different tools work and what you can (and can’t) build with them. Here’s what you need to know about Articulate 360.

What Is Storyline 360?

Storyline 360 is the latest iteration of Storyline, Articulate’s authoring tool for building interactive courses. This version is fully responsive and more mobile-friendly than its predecessors, so your courses will automatically optimize for most devices. With Storyline, you’ll build courses manually by choosing from a library of slide templates and customizing them with interactions, variables, and assets.

Articulate’s content library comes in handy here—your Articulate subscription comes with millions (literally) of photos, templates, icons, and characters to create your courses. There are hundreds of slide templates to choose from, and you can build pretty much any interaction you want. Storyline 360 has dials, sliders, hotspots, and tons of other variables to create engaging interactions. There’s also video, screencasts, and simulations to create visual learning experiences.

Thanks to those features, Storyline’s user experience is highly interactive and engaging. Learners will be clicking, dragging, and dropping on nearly every slide. You can also use the platform’s library of characters to build scenario-based experiences, or work with an illustrator to import your own. An assessments feature allows you to build quizzes from 25 different question types and decision-making activities, plus the option to add cumulative scoring at the end of the course. Remember that Storyline courses are Powerpoint-style and a linear, slide-by-slide affair, so that means longer seat times and more restrictive navigation.

What We Think

Storyline has been around for years, and it has a great reputation in the eLearning world. Here’s what we really love: you can build virtually any interaction in Storyline—there are very few limits. That’s a big pro for complex learning topics that require an experiential element. You can layer and personalize interactions, and even add triggers to certain actions. It’s also easy to maintain Storyline courses because you can create new lessons and update existing material.

That said, the manual authoring process means that Storyline is more time-consuming for developers—and the end result is a pretty traditional eLearning experience. Because Storyline is linear-based, course navigation is restricted and voiceover-driven. Users advance through slides without the ability to scroll or jump in and out of lessons. If you’re looking to deliver a more flexible, self-directed learning experience, Storyline isn’t for you.

What Is Rise?

Articulate Rise is a web-based, responsive authoring tool for creating component-based courses. Articulate touts Rise as a rapid authoring alternative to Storyline, but there’s way more to it than that. Rise has a completely different look and feel than Storyline. Rise uses components to structure course content so that you can organize your multimedia content into pre-designed, customizable blocks. Rise courses are minimalistic, media-rich, and user-driven.

Rise is fully-responsive and mobile-friendly, which means learners can experience the course on any platform—desktop, tablet, or smartphone—without any extra work for developers. You build it once for all devices. Because Rise is web-based, you’ll author courses online, too (no software or programs to download!). Your subscription also comes with Articulate Review, a web-based project review app that facilitates easy collaboration for stakeholders. The tool, which is available for both Storyline and Rise, makes project review more efficient by consolidating feedback in one place so that subject-matter experts can review and provide in-context input.

What We Think

While Rise doesn’t provide the level of design customization that Storyline does, we love Rise’s innovative approach to eLearning. Rise courses put the user at the center of the experience, allowing them to engage directly with multimedia content and learn at their own pace. Unlike Storyline, learners control the interactions and navigate freely within a course without having to wait on each slide while elements animate and voiceover plays. Rise still tracks completion progress, but it doesn’t restrict navigation or rely on voiceover to drive the learner journey.

For developers, Rise is easy to use, intuitive, and lends to iterative workflows. The platform allows for large output, which is great for clients with robust training needs. While the component-based design limits some of what you can customize, stacking and customizing the pre-built lesson types allows for an endless combination of unique courses. Plus, the component model actually makes quality assurance more efficient and effective. But if there is something you can’t do in Rise, there’s also a Storyline 360 integration—so you could easily add a Storyline module to your Rise course to get the best of both worlds.

There’s a lot you can do with Rise, and it doesn’t stop at eLearning. Rise doubles as a content delivery platform. If you’re looking for a responsive tool to host a page, Rise is easy to use and looks really, really good. It’s a great way to share a style guide or manual without going through the trouble of designing something from scratch.

Bottom line: For the Rise tool alone, Articulate is worth it. Rise is a much-needed eLearning solution, giving us a new way to author and users a new way to learn. Not many tools are truly user-centric, but Rise’s interactive, media-driven lessons actually get it right. We think Rise is the best tool out there to create responsive, self-paced eLearning courses.

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