Advanced Authoring Tools including Adaptive Learning

January 2015December 2019

What is an advanced authoring tool?

You may be aware of iSpring, CaptivateAdobe 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 allows 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.

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 it is not yet clear that the majority of coordinators can justify the time investment required.  A wide variety of tools were found to be in use in various parts of UQ, but no single authoring tool could be identified that met all, or even the majority, of the needs collected.

A potential advantage of some tools is cloud storage of objects for sharing (Learning Object Repository - LOR) which would lower the cost of production. Objects may require access control to comply with copyright if the content is not built from open access material. It could be argues that SPOCs and MOOCs are advanced authoring tools. Any material should be accessible from the LMS (Blackboard) by students and display and execute reliably.


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,  outside UQ's control, packages cannot be made to work reliably on 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.