What tools should instructional designers use?

June 25, 2021

With 33% of employees describing corporate training content as “uninspiring,” the pressure is always on instructional designers to create compelling courses that really pop.

In this blog post, we’re taking a look at what authoring tools top instructional design teams turn to, and which are most appropriate and each stage of the course development lifecycle.

What tools do instructional designers use?

Course development software

A course development software is the most important authoring tool for an instructional designer. It will allow you to build interactive courses from scratch or turn training materials into eLearning courses.

Instructional design storyboard software

Storyboard software allows you to gather your thoughts before you start with course development. It’s an important part of the process, so you can understand the overall narrative of your training before you start laying it out.

Mind mapping software

You need to collect your thoughts and work with your subject matter experts and come up with a solution to the project. Representing your thoughts visually is an effective way to take notes, so mind mapping software is a good way to begin laying out what’s required.

Presentation Tools 

Corporate training is often delivered using presentations and slideshows. You can create engaging and beautiful learning materials with just a strong understanding of instructional design and some skill with presentation software. Presentation tools can be used alongside course development software, but is often integrated into it. 

Learning Management Systems

The built-in course authoring software in some Learning Management Systems replaces the need for stand-alone software. But if you don’t have a way of collating your courses together, investing in an LMS can significantly improve your learning experience.

Choosing The Right Instructional Design Software Tool

Now you know what types of software you may end up using, you can start to build a shortlist.

Consider the following questions when you’re building out your instructional design software suite.

  • What can your organization afford? Explore free, open source options as well as commercial software. 
  • What files will you be using?
  • Will you be able to easily send your output to your LMS?
  • What kind of functions do you need?
  • Are you making online courses that include videos, audios, or games? Will your software support this?
  • Does the authoring program come with training or online support?
  • Do you think the product is easy to learn?
  • Do you know if others are using the tool in your organization?

Top eLearning Authoring Tools To Consider in 2021


If you’re training employees on how to use internal software or common cloud-based software packages, you should consider Nickelled. We offer easy, on-screen guidance which can be delivered direct from the cloud and integrated into your employee’s workflows, rather than requiring dedicated learning time. It’s easy enough that any instructional designer will be able to create courses and deploy them to the Nickelled cloud.

Adobe Captivate

Adobe Captivate allows you to seamlessly go from storyboarding to responsive eLearning courses. We reviewed Captivate more fully here, but it’s a popular tool for a reason, with a broad range of capabilities and full functionality across mobile and desktop.

Articulate 360

​Articulate 360 includes both Storyline 360 and Rise 360, plus a number of other authoring tools. Use Storyline 360 to create interactive, device-agnostic courses.

TechSmith Camtasia

Camtasia is only a video recording and editing tool, which can be used to design multimedia training packages, so it is appropriate if you are only looking to create videos for your course. The technology allows for the insertion of text, audio, video, and other multimedia elements. You are able to use a number of special effects and filters or you are able to use the pre-built video templates.

iSpring Suite

iSpring Suite is a powerful, easy to use and affordable tool designed to help you build mobile-compatible courses in PowerPoint and other common office software package. It allows you to create presentations, quizzes, and videos without any special training. ISpring allows you to create interactive e-books from existing Word, PDF, and PPT manuals and textbooks with the click of a button.


Lectora can be used for both school work and video courses. It can be used to create screencast lessons with images and text, or to mix and record sounds and add them to your content.

Lectora Online is a complete elearning authoring tool that allows you to create interactive, online and mobile learning courses. It offers many features and provides powerful options for instructional designers. You can rapidly create quizzes, games, and other educational content.


Elucidat is a great instructional design tool because it lets designers create responsive content that’s compatible with HTML5. The content you create on Elucidat loads quickly and is compatible with most browsers. Elucidat also uses cloud technology, which is great for collaboration.

Why do we need eLearning authoring tools at all?

The main goal of eLearning authoring tools is to save instructional designers’ time and energy. The idea of these tools is to provide instructional designers with a set of ready-made functions and templates that can be used to create courses quickly and easily, using a set of drag and drop functions. These tools are used to create interactive e-learning courses that can be delivered over the Internet. These interactive courses can include simulations, games, video content, quizzes, and so on, which can be difficult to implement without an eLearning tool to hand!

When should I use an eLearning authoring package vs a digital adoption platform?

Authoring tools and digital adoptions platforms are both used to create online courses. However, these two types of software are designed for different purposes.

Digital adoption platforms are used to help learners adopt new digital technologies, such as a new software package being implemented in the workplace. Digital adoption platforms are also used to create online courses that can be sent out to learners via that software, so the learning process is less obtrusive for learners.

Authoring tools can be used for a broader set of learning use cases. For instance, you can create an eLearning package which helps employees pick up a new legal compliance process which has nothing to do with software. A digital adoption platform may not be the right tool to pick in this scenario.