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e-Learning Software Tools and Products: A Review

The numbers of tools that are available for e-Learning development are far too many these days. Media creation tools, web publishing tools, online conferencing tools, to multimedia authoring tools, integrated learning environments, collaboration and management tools are just a few such software tools.

Digital multimedia creation tools

Media types can include text, images, graphics, sound, animation, video and virtual reality. The only constraint in using multimedia in e-Learning development on the Internet is bandwidth. Heavy multimedia can slow down your site.

Text creation tools

HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language is the native language read by most web browsers like Internet Explorer and Netscape. Other text formats are Adobe Acrobat .pdf files that offer a 'published and easily printable' look. .TXT, .DOC, .RFT are the more common formats that can be created using any common word processor and text editor.

Graphic and Image creation tools

Images are useful in not just improving the look of content, but also aid in easy understanding of difficult topics. Graphics can be scanned and then imported to the web in various formats (GIF, JPEG, BMP and TIFF formats). Image authoring tools that are used to modify and edit images are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, Freehand, SuperPaint, Fractal Design Painter and so on.

Audio formats on the web are WAV, AU, MPEG, MPEG2, MIDI, RA and they can be played using audio players that are usually bundled along with operating systems. If one is interested in creating audio files, then Macromedia's Shockwave, RealAudio server, and Voxware's ToolVox are the most popular. Video formats for the web are AVI, QuickTime and MPEG and can be played using video players that are supported by common web browsers. Macromedia Director, Moviestar Maker are some of the professional authoring tools to create video.

Animation tools

Animation formats on the web are JAVA, Shock wave, GIF89a and they can be created using tools like CorelWeb Graphics, WebPainter or GIF builder.

Now, the web is going 3D and VRML (virtual reality modeling language) is an emerging standard, but viewing VRML requires a specific web browser like VRScout, Webspace navigator and so on.

Web Publishing Tools

In a web-based education site, the content must be in HTML format. The simplest method is to use a web publishing tool like any HTML editor. Common web publishing tools are Macromedia DreamWeaver, Microsoft Front Page, HTML Assistant Pro, Claris Home Page, HotMetal and so on.

Internet-based Conferencing Tools

The Internet is not just about information anymore. It's about interaction! And to achieve communication and collaboration tools such as email, discussion boards, lists, live chat and newsgroups are a part of this. Newer applications like Internet phones and desktop video conferencing and shared workspace tools are moving collaboration on the Internet to a new level.

Such tools have found a natural home in distance education where they provide remote students with a way to interact with each other and the instructor. Ideal for "learner guidance" and "practice/feedback" elements of instruction, conferencing areas on the web are the most effective and active areas of development today.

Some of the common conferencing tools are:

  • Web Chat
  • Internet Phones
  • Desktop video conferencing
  • Multi-user domains (MUDs) (text-based virtual environments)
  • Collaboration tools like real-time chat, audio and video conferencing, application and document-sharing, white boarding, discussion lists, news groups, email, document/file sharing.

Popular software tools available are the following:

  • LotusNotes Domino
  • Collabra Share
  • First Class
  • Microsoft NetMeeting
  • Intel Proshare
  • Internet Conference Pro

Multimedia Internet Authoring Tools

Tools like Director and Authorware Professional (Macromedia), Quest Net, IconAuthor and ToolBook II Instructor offer different visual programming techniques to create applications. Among others are the Apple Media tool, Course Builder, Hyper Card and so on.

Integrated Learning Distributed Environments

They are a collaborative learning instructional environment that makes extensive use of collaborative tools and comprise media creation tools and authoring tools designed specifically for learning applications. The most popular ones are FORUM, Learning Space, Virtual U, Symposium, Learning Server and so on.

Read more about use case modeling in e-Learning.

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