You’ve been tasked with producing learning content for your organisation. You don’t have the budget to outsource the job. You’re not a professional eLearning developer but have a good understanding of your company and capacity to produce content in-house. As an ‘accidental’ eLearning developer you now need an authoring tool that has intuitive design features, can be tailored to your company’s specific learning requirements and produces professional looking modules quickly. If this sounds familiar, we can help. We believe the two best authoring tools for this situation are FLOWSPARKS and Rise. They have shorter learning curves than programs like Storyline or Captivate and are packed with handy features to assist you in creating engaging content. Here at GuyKat we are proud users of both.  For full disclosure we are a FLOWSPARKS reseller, but we still use Rise daily. In this article we will outline our view of the best fit for each tool.  

1. How easy are they to use?

Both FLOWSPARKS and Rise are easy to use. If you can use PowerPoint, you will be able to create decent content. They are both cloud-based, there is no need to download specific software. You can insert interactions instantly, such as drag-and-drops or quizzing, without any programming skills. With either you can create professional looking online content that will engage your audience.

We believe FLOWSPARKS has an edge here because of the thought that has gone into their templates. They accelerate the creation of great looking content, but also ensure it is built with solid instructional design in mind. This means that you can even delegate content creation to your subject matter experts without the need for them to understand learning theory or have any ‘design’ skills.

2. What features do they have to have to engage learners?

In both authoring tools you can add video, multiple choice questions, interactive elements and gamification to make your content pop. Both have intuitive design capability so your modules will look professional and be engaging.

FLOWSPARKS, in particular, also has some clever features that we love. As part of your modules you can add surveys to gain learner feedback and turn on adaptive learning to ensure the correct information is tailored to the individual’s knowledge level. Versioning is another brilliant feature of FLOWSPARKSs. Unlike Rise, which saves automatically every few seconds, FLOWSPARKS will give you access to past versions of your module which may come in handy when using a decentralised approach to creating content. Finally, real-time updates have to be our favourite feature of FLOWSPARKS. Not only can you future proof your content by making it easily editable, but you can apply these changes across different modules ensuring your courses always contain the latest information.

3. How much do they cost?

Generally we would recommend Rise for freelancers or single-author organisations and FLOWSPARKS for larger companies. Both tools work on an annual subscription basis and Rise comes with a free trial. A single Rise user will cost $999 per annum. FLOWSPARKS entry price point is higher and the minimum investment requires 5 authoring accounts, this is why we would recommend it for larger organisations with multiple projects to create. Deals and bespoke offers are available for both so speaking to a consultant is highly recommended.

4. What about customer care?

Both have customer support packages with varying access points. Rise offers live chat through their website, video tutorials, a support centre contact and has an active online community. FLOWSPARKS customer care can be accessed through; email support, FAQ pages, knowledge base resources, an online forum and a helpline you can call. In either case, you may be able to access enhanced support if you bought the product through a reseller.

5. What devices are these tools available on?

Rise and FLOWSPARKS content is designed to work on desktop, tablet and mobile. With responsive and intuitive design, content can be accessed on whichever device is most convenient.

The authoring tools themselves are cloud based so any device with a browser can be used to make content. However, the best authoring experience is on a laptop or desktop computer.

6. What are the translation options with these authoring tools?

Each authoring tool can translate into several languages, however the way they do this differs. Rise uses XLIFF imports so the possibilities are pretty much endless, including being able to translate into specific dialects such as Catalan for example. You can also use company specific terms without anything getting lost in translation. The only limitation at the moment is right to left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. There are workarounds that can be coded, however this takes time and expertise. Also using XLIFF means you have to create a separate file for each language whereas FLOWSPARKS has 30 languages available that can be automatically applied across all content. Due to this functionality learners can also select their preferred language and switch between languages that have been activated. A handy feature of both tools is automatic formatting, when you translate any content it resizes so redesigns are minimal.

7. How easily can they be integrated into our current L&D?

If you already have an LMS you are happy with, the content from either product will work great.

On the technical side, both have similar supported specifications including SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004, xAPI/Tin Can API. Rise also supports AICC exports and FLOWSPARKS can export IMS LTI.

The way FLOWSPARKS content is deployed means that once you update the ‘master’ copy of a course it can be instantly updated everywhere it is hosted. This is also possible in Rise, but we think the workflow in FLOWSPARKS around both content deployment and change control is more attractive to large enterprises.

Our verdict 

Overall Rise and FLOWSPARKS are both fantastic content authoring tools. When it comes to choosing between the two it is more about your organisation’s resources, budget and learning needs. If you are a team of one with a small budget, Rise is a good option. However, if you work for a larger company with many subject matter experts where content change control is important, we believe FLOWSPARKS may be the better choice.