More ways to develop e-learning material

Corporate training and learning is vital to an organization’s growth, but for a smaller organizations the cost and burden of maintaining a Learning Management System and develop high-end e-learning modules is hard to justify. ROI calculations may look good on paper, but the cost outlays at the onset are often too high. There are  generally other business priorities that get in the way.

Nevertheless, training and on-going leaning are essential to the long-term success of an organization. Fortunately, there are many affordable tools that can help disseminate knowledge to staff. Some of these may require a little more technical skills, but they can either be learnt or you could hire a freelancer to develop the material.

In this article we’ll discuss three such tools: Apple’s iBooks Author, 3D Issue Flipbooks, and Kotobee. Here’s a quick rundown of each:

  1. iBooks Author: Apple introduced the free software in January 2012 and its designed to be an intuitive way to create, design and publish interactive ebooks that can be viewed on Apple devices. There are a few interactive widgets that come with the software, but it’s main strength, besides ease-of-use, is the ability to import custom HTML widgets. These can pretty much be pretty much any interactivity developed using HTML5, CSS, and javascript. While the level of skills required to create these custom widgets is fairly high, you can create very advanced ebooks with the tools that come with the software. The big disadvantage is that the ebooks produced can only be viewed on Apple devices. There are no readers for PC or Android.
  2. 3D Issue is an Irish company that developed a software designed primarily for recurring publications such as magazines, but we have used it to create stand-alone interactive ebooks. You import a PDF and add interactivity such audio, video, image galleries, etc. In that sense it’s very similar to iBook Author, except that you start form a PDF and once the content is loaded into 3D Issue, you can’t modify it. And this is a big problem unless you are absolutely sure you are dealing with the final version of the content. Nonetheless, it’s a fairly easy software to learn, and that also means if you want to hire a 3D Issue expert, it should add too much to the total project cost.One advantage it has over iBooks Author is that you can produce an ebook that is viewable on the Web, an iOS device or an Android device, using the free 3D Issue Flipbook viewer app. It does require an extra step for the user, but well worth it if your users are using multiple types of devices. One note: It’s a rather expensive solution if you’re going to create a small amount of ebooks.
  3. Kotobee:  company based in Egypt, Kotobee has a similar workflow to create ebooks as 3D Issue. You start with a PDF and add interactivity to the imported pages. Although you can start from scratch, like you do in iBooks Author, and design the material directly in Kotobee Author, in our opinion, it doesn’t have a powerful enough editor to do that. One nice feature for advanced users, is that you can look at the HTML code it generates and change it on the fly. Just like 3D Issue you can view the produced ebook on a Web browser, but you can also view it as a native Mac, Windows, iOS  or Android app. That’s right, you can create apps that you upload to the respective stores. Now, it’s not perfect and may require some trial and error, but it does work quite well. It’s pricing model is more reasonable than 3D Issue.

So, as you can see, there are a few ways to use different tools to create e-learning material for your end-user. If you know your users have Apple devices, the easy choice is iBooks Author. However, if you user base is using different devices, then the main options are 3D Issue or Kotobee, and the choice depends on your specific needs.