Advanced Authoring Tools including Adaptive Learning

January 2015December 2019

What is an advanced authoring tool?

You may be aware of iSpring SuiteCaptivateAdobe PresenterArticulate Storyline, and Kaltura.  These are amongst some of the most well-known authoring tools for eLearning content. These tools typically go beyond simple slide text and audio recording and include 'branching', quizzes, and multimedia (pictures, video, audio), seamlessly integrated together, with quiz marks exportable to Grade Centre (in the Blackboard Learning Management System). 

There is also increasing interest in adaptive learning tools that re-present information to students on a personal basis depending on their interactions. Currently the Blackboard quiz unallows feedback directing students to revision material based on responses. The iSpring advanced authoring tool was trialed at UQ and it offered a more advanced version of the Blackboard capability. The Cerego adaptive learning tool is available as part of  EdX and is also available for Blackboard at no cost. Coordinators are invited to provide feedback on whether this tool should be integrated. The tool helps with rote learning based on principles of neuroscience and cognitive science. Instructors can create quizzes that remember a student’s progress and reinforce weak points using the scientific method of spaced rehearsal. Cerego was awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a study indicates it can help increase grades in math and biology at least.

What have we done with advanced authoring tools?

In 2015 we were asked to investigate demand for a university-wide advanced authoring tool. At that time, SmartSparrow was offering an enterprise-wide licence, but demand beyond the existing user base could not be identified. We then undertook a consultation process with UQ's eLearning developers, instructional designers, learning and training professionals to collect requirements, and shortlist options. Pilots of iSpring and Office Mix were run between 2015 and 2018. Mix was seen as more suitable but alas was cancelled by Microsoft evantually. Since 2021 UQ has adopted H5P as its main advanced authoring tool.

The current situation

There is already a basic level of functionality built into Blackboard which is suitable for fundamental learning resource production. More advanced rich media authoring tools often require significant expertise to operate and significant investment in licencing that does not scale across the University.  Since 2021 UQ has provided a centrally supported instance of H5P which can be used in all UQ courses to generate rich engaging content. For H5P ITaLI provides workshops, online guides, helpdesk support, and one on one advisor service consults. H5P is an open-source online toolbox of activities that allows staff to create and share interactive content in courses. The number of available H5P content types expands on a monthly basis. H5P assessment tools integrate reliably with Blackboard Gradecenter. H5P provides an easy way to create small interactive learning objects in courses, providing students with engaging resources and formative assessment activities, providing immediate feedback. Interactive videos, interactive presentations, quizzes, interactive timelines and more have been developed and shared using H5P on Since June 2018 H5P has been supported financially by the Mozilla Foundation. The framework consists of a web-based content editor, a website for sharing content types, plugins for existing content management systems and a file format for bundling together HTML5 resources.


Warning: SCORM (“Sharable Content Object Reference Model”) defines how to create “sharable content objects” or “SCOs” that can be reused in different systems and contexts. Due to the SCORM standard being inconsistant across platforms,  and dependant often on client side (student PC) factors outside UQ's control, packages cannot be made to work reliably for any learning management platform (including Learn.UQ - Blackboard). It is  therefore recommended that modules be published as HTML5, or use H5P instead for the content and assessment, or use a Blackboard quiz for the assessment. This means that only formative quizzes can be included in your presentation i.e. marks cannot be returned to Grade Centre reliably. Due to known unsolvable limitations with SCORM its not possible to provide support to investigate problems for coordinators that choose to use it. Any assessment of learning should be done using a Blackboard Quiz/Test to reliably pass on the grades.