Monday, August 13

CourseLab (100% Free e-learning authoring tool?)

URL: http://courselab.com/
Download: http://courselab.com/db/cle/root_id/download/doc.html
Showcase Samples: http://courselab.com/db/cle/root_id/examples/doc.html

"CourseLab is a powerful, yet easy-to-use, e-learning authoring tool that offers programming-free WYSIWYG environment for creating high-quality interactive e-learning content which can be published on the Internet, Learning Management Systems (LMS), CD-ROMS and other devices...It can be used in a variety of learning initiatives including technical training, soft skills training and compliance certifications.

Here is a list of some its yummiest features (click here to see the full list):
  • Familiar PowerPoint-like authoring environment;
  • WYSIWYG environment for creating and managing high-quality interactive e-learning content - no HTML or other programming skills required;
  • Unicode support - use any font and encoding supported by the Windows® operating system, including double-byte character sets;
  • Object-oriented Model allows constructing e-learning content of almost any complexity just as easy as you put together the building blocks;
  • Objects are highly customizable;
  • Dynamic HTML based output can be played by most browsers - no Java® or other special player software required for playing created e-learning content;
  • Built-in assessments and tests creation capabilities;
  • Software Simulations - Embedded Screen Capturing mechanism (without using Adobe Flash® technology) (Costs $99);
  • Import PowerPoint® presentations into the learning material (Costs $99).
  • Additional module templates pack (Costs $9 Only)"

Having been away from researching learning technologies for more than one year, I am really thrilled with all the new free learning tools available to educators and learners. During this period of technology ignorance, I have been struggling learning the art of higher-order thinking skills and teaching (or coaching) it to students. Not sure if I have learnt that much, except for asking questions in a more systematic way using tools such as six thinking hats and CoRT.

CourseLab got me excited first (due to its easy-to-use authoring environment) and the super claim posted on its home page "100% FREE e-learning authoring tool! No time limits. No demo versions (What about no cost for Extras?)", provides the kind of happiness that can turn into frustration if you do not read between the lines.


However, when you realize that you need to fork out a whopping $198 (or 207) to get the really juicy features enabling you to do things that you really want to do (Check the bullets above in red). Although, CourseLab might argue it is not deception or against the law to state that the authoring tool is 100% , it could make it a bit more obvious that you need to pay if you really want to get the juicy stuff (Extras). They might argue that the authoring tool is free, but you need to pay for the Extras. Though, to me the extras is really the reason why I would be interested in using this tool in the first place. In short, the 'Extras' is the real deal. Also, one could argue that this is a great marketing strategy, but overall it is better to get people excited (about 100% free) without indirectly tricking them into it (otherwise they might give CourseLab negative publicity like now). We all know that a company needs money to survive, and that is understandable, but don't use misleading statements such as "100% FREE e-learning authoring tool", which is perhaps legally right, but in my opinion it is an unethical misusage of the original meaning of this phrase.

However, for those of you who do not find the CourseLab 'Extras' important or can survive without them, I do recommend using CourseLab. Though, if you are going to spend money, I would actually recommend that you add a bit more (a few hundred) and invest in either Adobe Captivate or Articulate :)

Note to CourseLab: I really like your authoring tool, and hopefully you could be more creative about your marketing catch phrase (get rid of the 100% nonsense), I would support and promote this product more. Yes, if you make the 'Extras' free and create sufficient revenue using another creative approach then you would have the education world at your feet.

3 comments:

Вячеслав Щинов said...

Hi, Zaid!

Well, perhaps you are right, "100%" might be slightly confusing. Though, and then you're right again, it is not against the law, because the tool is really free. And, in fact, I don't know any other tool on the market that gives you all this stuff for free.
And extras... Maybe the car will be good comparison. Imagine, that you can get the car completely for free, but without GPS navigation (for example), that can be mounted for additional money. The car is absolutely functional and if you know the routes, you don't need GPS. But in some case GPS can make your life a little bit easier :) And, as you say, the company needs the money to survive. Even if you buy all CourseLab extras, it is still less than some competitor's prices.
Anyway, I tell your opinion to marketers, perhaps they will change something.
And of course, thanks for the review! By the way, CourseLab 2.3 released last week - did you check it? A lot of new features added. For free :)

Thanks again,
Slav Shchinov
CourseLab Team
WebSoft Ltd. Russia

(perhaps my Russian Blogger account will be unreadable...)

Zaid Ali Alsagoff said...

Dear Slav Shchinov,

Thanks for your feedback and quick response :)

Interestingly, one of the top e-learning experts named Jane Hart has ranked CourseLab as No. 2 on her top 10 list (Suppose you know by now).

Source:
http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/recommended/janehart.html

I am also thrilled to learn that great authoring tools are now coming out of Russia, too (Simply great!).

Thanks again for your feedback and reflections, and I will probably test the new release soon :)

It will be interesting to see how CourseLab evolves in the future :)

Warm Regards,

Zaid

Ray said...

For something that sounds so good and is '100%' free, I couldn't understand the lack of buzz when I tried to Google Courselab.

Now I know ... thanks for saving me the time wasted in downloading and trialling.

$200 per user is way out of the league of a state school in the UK!

And yes, it just makes me negative (legal or not!)