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SmartBuilder Comparison

SmartBuilder

What's better, an apple or an orange?

It's a ridiculous question of course. We can't compare technologies or products until we agree on a useful basis of comparison.

For eLearning development tools, two key criteria are:

  • What is the capability of the tool to create effective eLearning?
    If your goal is to facilitate learning rather than just provide performance support, your content must contain interactions that help learners achieve a desired level of mastery, and then recall and apply skills on the job. In other words, if your e-learning doesn’t impact your learners’ performance (what they “do”), then your development efforts, and your learners’ time will be wasted.
  • How quickly and easily can content be created and maintained?
    In any project, time and cost are always key considerations. With eLearning, the main cost is the training team's time. Team members include subject matter experts, instructional designers, media specialists, and others.

Using these criteria, how does SmartBuilder compare to other tools?

 

SmartBuilder brief overview

No download required

       
Tool
Can create effective eLearning
Can quickly & easily create and maintain content

Adobe Flash

  • Powerful, flexible scripting tool
  • Hard to learn
  • Time consuming to use

HTML authoring tools
E.g. Lectora, Toolbook, Dreamweaver

  • Quick and easy to create text intensive content
  • Some tools can create basic interactivity
  • Difficult or impossible to create rich interactivity
Flash template tools
E.g. Raptivity, Flashform, Engage
  • Quick and easy to create canned interactions
  • Not flexible enough to create learner-centric content
PowerPoint converter tools
E.g. Articulate Presenter, Adobe Presenter, Wildform Flair
  • Quick and easy to create content
  • Can create "tell-and-test" awareness courses
  • Cannot create rich interactivity that drives behavioral change in learners
Screen capture tools
E.g. Captivate, Camtasia, Qarbon
  • Good for software simulations
  • Can be imported into SmartBuilder
  • Lack flexibility required for effective conceptual or soft-skill content
When used in conjunction with SmartBuilder
SmartBuilder
  • Powerful and flexible enough to create rich interactivity
  • Easy-to-use authoring environment with point-and-click menus
  • Streamlines updates with content management features
           
           

Adobe Flash

The Flash application is rated by the eLearning Guild as the most popular e-learning development tool. Because of its capabilities to create media rich, interactive content, it provides the flexibility needed to create effective e-learning. However, it was not designed specifically for e-learning, and interactivity is achieved through scripting. This makes it too difficult for most instructional designers to learn and use. Even experienced Flash users will find it time consuming to creating rich interactivity using Flash.

           

SmartBuilder

  • Like Flash, SmartBuilder has the power to create rich and effective interactivity
  • Unlike Flash, SmartBuilder provides a point-and-click environment that makes authoring quick and easy
    • Instructional designers can create content themselves
    • Flash users will realise significant time savings
    • Enables much more efficient rapid prototyping than using native Flash
  • With the SmartBuilder Flash SDK, you don't have to sacrifice flexibility and power; if you can build it in Flash, you can build it in SmartBuilder
 
           
           

HTML authoring tools
E.g. Lectora, Toolbook, Dreamweaver

HTML is the most pervasive web technology. HTML tools are good for creating page turner content, with limited interactivity such as quizzes and "click to show more" presentations. Many of these tools also provide wizards and templates to make authoring easier.

However, unlike Flash, which can display multiple layers of content and interactivity, HTML can only replicate some of this functionality, and to do so requires complex scripting such as DHTML. This scripting will often play differently in different browsers and operating systems, making cross-platform compatibility a real headache.

If this explanation seems too technical, just take a look at these SmartBuilder eLearning examples and try to replicate any of it using an HTML authoring tool. Please let us know if you succeed!

           

SmartBuilder

  • Can create rich interactions without scripting
  • Enables users to include dozens of objects (text, media, buttons, etc.), or groups of objects, on a single page, and manipulate the objects based on learner actions
  • Produces Flash content that plays seamlessly on different browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions

 

 
           
           

Flash template tools
E.g. Raptivity, Articulate Engage, Flashform

Flash template tools can produce great looking, media rich content. Plus, they're easy to use, and quick to configure.

However, effective e-learning must be tailored to the business requirements, skill gaps, work environment, and learner motivators of the situation. Even with hundreds of templates, template tools do not provide enough flexibility to do this. Instead, you must match your content to the best fitting template. This technology-centric design process often leaves you with glorified page turner content, where interactivity is neither relevant, nor inspiring. Often, the interactivity is "click-to-view more" exercises, or simple games which don't appeal to real-world motivators.

           

Take a look at these SmartBuilder eLearning examples, then decide if any of the samples could be replicated using a Flash template tool. Sure, some templates provide some elements of these interactions, but just like a car with 3 wheels and half an engine, a partial solution won't take you where you want to go.

 
           

SmartBuilder

  • Has the flexibility to create content around the needs of learners
  • Provides an object-based system to build anything, from the simple to the complex
  • Provides templates as a starting point for common layouts or interactions
  • Allows users to create custom templates that can be shared across the organisation
 
           
           

PowerPoint converter tools
E.g. Articulate Presenter, Adobe Presenter, Wildform Flair

PowerPoint converters are certainly easy to use, and can rapidly generate content in a tell-and-test format, which is good for awareness courses.

However, you should ask yourself, what is the real value of an awareness course? Will learners be checking their email by slide #6? Will learners be able to practice and learn new skills? For example, if you tell a distributor about the 5 benefits of your new widget, does that mean that they will effectively sell it? If employees are told about the new company safety policy, does that mean they will act properly in an emergency?

Telling someone something is not as memorable or as fun as letting them apply concepts and learn from their mistakes.

Learners want to be engaged and challenged through contextually relevant exercises. These often include multi-step tasks, intrinsic feedback, and rich branching that cannot be provided by PowerPoint converters.

 
           

SmartBuilder

  • Provides an authoring environment that was designed for e-learning, not just presentations.
  • Provides you with the power and flexibility to create meaningful and memorable content, fast.
  • Can import text from PowerPoint slides.
  • Can embed links to PowerPoint slides, or any other third party resources such as PDF and DOC files.
  • Provides collaboration and content management features that streamline the development and updating of content.
 
           
           

Screen capture tools
E.g. Captivate, Camtasia, Qarbon

These tools include screen capture and audio recording features, making them good for creating software simulations and presentations. However, they lack the flexibility to create rich learning environments where multiple objects on a page are updated based on learner actions. Also, they do not support use of variables or persistent elements such as visual score trackers, navigators, timers and help resources.

SmartBuilder enables users to seamlessly integrate the output of these tools into SmartBuilder lessons.

SmartBuilder

  • Is complementary to software simulation tools
  • Is object-based rather than frame-based, providing greater flexibility for conceptual or soft-skill content
  • Enhances the learning experience for software training by enabling authors to create complete courses that include “why” and “when” topics, in addition to step-by-step software simulations