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Jul
22
2013

Lectora Inspire vs Articulate Storyline – Side by Side Comparison

Lectora Inspire Review

 

 

 

 

This post is a continuation of my research series on rapid e-learning tools and focus on mobile learning. If you want to track the previous post on this series then you check out – Adobe Captivate 6 vs Articulate Storyline – Side by Side Comparison

I assume you have some basic idea about the features of Articulate Storyline. If not you can try this post to get the basic understanding of articulate storyline’s capabilities – Articulate Storyline – A real value add for the e-learning industry?

As I have promised in my earlier posts, I am covering about the Lectora Inspire 11 and analyzing its strengths and weaknesses against its prime competitor Articulate Storyline here.

It is not a Xerox, yet there are so many similarities to talk about

After playing with Lectora Inspire for few days, It was surprising to see Lectora Inspire was so(!!) much similar to Storyline in many of the capabilities. Few of them listed below.

 

Feature

Storyline

Lectora

Interface

Tabs/Ribbon Interface Controls on the top similar to MS Office

Tabs/Ribbon Interface Controls on the top similar to MS Office

Characters

Real and Cartoon Characters

Real Characters

Variables and their usage Info

Supported

Supported

Dynamic Events/Events linked to variables

Called as Triggers

Called as Actions

Direct Youtube video insertion

Supported

Supported

Simulations/Screen Capture

Supported directly on the tool

Supported through Camtasia/Snagit Add-ons packaged with the tool

Built-in Themes

Supported

Supported

Web/HTML Objects

Called as Web Objects

Called as WebWindow

You can see how close these two tools trying to match each other (I guess this is the reason the product makers keeping the details of new features very confidential!). The table lists just few examples; I have not considered many other similarities such as Powerpoint import feature as content source or audio recording, which could be considered as an essential feature for any rapid e-learning tool.

Let’s focus into some specific areas.

Built-in Themes

Lectora Inspire ships with 75 built-in themes

  • Many of them are in similar patterns but with slight color variations
  • The designs remind me of very old style e-learning (existed 10 years ago unlike modern e-learning courses with rich designs)

 

Storyline vs Lectora Themes

Built-in themes – Storyline vs Lectora

Obviously storyline themes were much better in look and feel.

Templates

 

Built-In Templates - Storyline vs Lectora

Built-In Templates – Storyline vs Lectora

Templates may not be the right term for Lectora, because all the built-in templates are layout variables based (text, image, and video place holders in multiple layouts). Storyline obviously comes with much better template options.

Both Lectora and Storyline support custom templates development and sharing.

Building interactive templates (like tabbed content pages) seems to be much easier to create with storyline as they have many nice built-in templates. Surprisingly, I could not find any straight forward way of building such interactive content with Lectora Inspire.

 

Characters and Clip Arts

 

Characters Libraries - Storyline vs Lectora

Characters Libraries – Storyline vs Lectora

Lectora Inspire packs 23 human character libraries and lot of clip arts. Storyline comes with one human character library and other libraries are cartoon based. However additional human libraries can be purchased as storyline.

However Lectora’s characters preview could have been organized better from usability perspective. We cannot preview all the poses of one character in a single view (the preview is uncomfortably organized).

Simulations

Lectora uses Camtasia Studio for simulations recording. I found this tool a little advanced to work compare to the straight forwardly created simulation with storyline. The advanced camtasia interface might have its own benefits (I did not dig deep into it), but it feels like a bit too much for non techies for producing simple step by step simulation with captions (used in many e-learning courses today)

Variables and Actions

 

Variables - Storyline vs Lectora

Variables Manager – Storyline vs Lectora

Lectora’s variables and actions feature looks so much similar to storyline. You can define custom variables and dynamic events can be controlled with variables changes.

Actions/Triggers - Storyline vs Lectora

Actions/Triggers – Storyline vs Lectora

Again, the possible actions (triggers in storyline) are very similar in both tools.

 

Web Objects

With Lectora, you can insert a piece of html page/web page or a local web application. Storyline calls this functionality as Web Object; Lectora calls this as Web Window. Lectora comes with one more feature called HTML Extension. HTML Extension feature is to extend Lectora’s capabilities with the help of server side/html technologies. This is very similar to javascript triggers on storyline (add javascript code and associate it to some event like start of timeline).

Lectora HTML Extension Options

Lectora HTML Extension Options

 

There is one powerful feature which makes Lectora Inspire to stands out. The HTML Extension supports tags not just the code (like shown below). This means the entire code library (like jQuery) can be added very easily into the extension. Storyline does not allows this directly. I love this particular feature with Lectora because this allows:

  • the creation of highly powerful/rich extensions
  • developers to strongly integrate lectora content into external applications/systems

 

Lectora HTML Extension Support With Tags

HTML Extension Support With Tags

Publish Area & Tool Interface

This is one of the most annoying thing with Lectora Inspire – the publish errors and warnings. A lot of warnings and publish errors simply prompts before publishing and debugging them would really require developer skills.

Lectora Publish Errors and Warnings

Similar to this, I have noticed many other bad usability aspects with Lectora. Overall, Lectora Inspire’s authoring interface is no match for Storyline’s user friendly interface and it requires tons of improvements to be user friendly.

 

Lectora Only Features

These are some Lectora only unique features grabbed my attention:

Text to Speech – Similar to Captivate 6 Lectora offers text to speech option. However like I have mentioned in my earlier posts, the professional e-learning courses hardly uses robotic voice.

Quick Page Numbering – There is a handy option to insert page numbering on the course quickly. I don’t know why storyline not thought about this.

Lectora Page Numbering Utility

Fly Paper – Another add-in packed with Lectora Inspire for creating flash based animations. This feature is only good for PCs though (as mobile devices not going to play flash content).

Lectora Inspire - FlyPaper Add-on

Lectora Inspire – FlyPaper Add-on

Certificate of Completion – Another handy feature with Lectora, to insert many predesigned certificates for learners to print their certificate of completion.

Built-in Completion Certificate Options available with Lectora

Built-in Completion Certificate Options available with Lectora

Lectora Review Link - Review link is an external service from Lectora for simplifying content review cycles of e-learning development. It looks to have a lot potential. But this is an external service (Lectora Inspire can publish its contents into this review system)

Other (Weird) But Unique Stuff - There are some other ‘weird’ features as well. They do not make sense for their existence. For example ‘Social Sharing Buttons’ –  they are be used with websites not with e-learning content. Similarly QR Code Component, again I don’t know how often anyone would require that. A ‘charting control’ which generates a horrible looking chart with very little customization options (I would prefer simply take an image of an excel generated chart instead).

Lectora Inspire Unique Features

Some Interesting/Weird Stuff in Lectora – Anyone Needs Them?

Mobile Learning

The flash output created by Storyline as well as Lectora is not going to be compatible with mobile devices. Storyline offers two alternatives – HTML5 and iOS app format. Storyline’s iOS format supports tracking only through Tin Can (Experience) API which many big LMSs do not yet support. So the only option left for everyone is to go with the HTML5 format.

Here is the big catch, Lectora does not create flash output separated from HTML. It produces only one output format which is HTML (the flash content if any in it will not simply display on the mobile devices). Similar to previous Lectora versions the output is made of light weight HTML pages (each slide as one page). It does not seem to be using any heavy weight HTML5 features. Each page works independently so as a result creates loosely coupled architecture. Lectora’s output also seems to be using very light weight javascript code for functioning.

Storyline’s HTML5 output on the other side uses very heavy javascript code and HTML5 features (like HTML5 local storage).

Core JS Library - Storyline vs Lectora

Core JS Library – Storyline vs Lectora

As a result Lectora produces relatively stable output than Storyline’s HTML5 build. The performance of lectora published e-learning content on my iPad was much superior (minimal lag time, no flickering, no freezing, no crashing – just some load delays within page objects) than Storyline’s HTML5 output.

Storyline’s HTML5 output known for its performance issues on mobile devices. Storyline team blames the performance issues on the HTML5’s immaturity and limited resources of mobile devices.

The performance different between these two HTML outputs (storyline vs lectora) can be easily observed for multimedia heavy courses. I have noticed that Storyline HTML5 output sometimes simply crashes the mobile browsers when many multimedia objects are used (video, audio, images etc.)

Producing nice looking courses through Lectora may require professional touch. Lectora’s authoring interface requires tons of improvements and there are many other areas the tool overall could improve. But all the troubles are only for course makers/authors and not for the learners.

For me, such an advantage is absolutely crucial. The last thing my client would want is to get a ton of complaints from their learners about performance and stability issues when the content is consumed from mobile devices. Corporate clients and their learners don’t care if I give them Flash/HTML/HTML5 or something else. All they want will be trouble free learning experience.

Honestly speaking, I would be ready to give up on the storyline entirely for a stable output from something else!

So in summary,

  • If your target platform is mobile or hybrid (mobile + PC) and your course is going to have a lot of multimedia, then Lectora Inspire would be a good choice. But you would need assistance from professional e-learning vendors for building nice courses
  • On the other hand, if your target platform is only PC (or) if you can make use of iOS format output then Articulate Storyline will be your best choice

Pricing

  • Articulate Storyline license costs about $1,400 and additional photographic 8-characters bundle costs $599 separately
  • Lectora Inspire costs about $2,500. They might have priced it on the higher end because it is a product suite with Lectora Inspire and fly paper, camtasia studio and snagit (Note that Camtasia studio and Snagit are seperatly sold products in the market)

Community & Support

Storyline comes with fantastic technical documentation on the product website and one of the best product communities i have ever seen and centered on their official forums.

Lectora on the other hand seems to be having very small community and every time I have faced an issue, it wasn’t easy to find the solution in their forums or in any other specific locations.

You can view the sample course I have created with Lectora Inspire from here and download its source from here

 

Lectora in Summary

The Good

  • Stable HTML output
  • Offers wide variety of capabilities similar to storyline
  • Packs some very powerful features for Developers compare to storyline

The Bad

  • Tool Interface is poor and no match for storyline
  • Professional assistance needed (like e-learning vendors) for producing nice courses
  • Lack of big community and reference resources
  • Expensive than storyline

Where Adobe Captivate 6 fits in – Captivate is still a simulation tool with some badly implemented/unusable HTML5 capabilities and it cannot be considered as a rapid e-learning tool. In other words, Captivate 6 is simply no match against Storyline or Lectora.

[Update – 9/4] The newer post to compare Lectora vs Captivate7 vs Storyline live here

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8 comments

  1. Phil says:

    Good review!! As a long time Lectora user I think this review is fairly accurate. I like the under-the-hood capabilities of Lectora (in its ability to use various types of scripting in the HTML Object). I’ve successfully used Lectora to generate mobile content (iPad) and am working further in that area.

    I was never impressed with the Articulate Suite as it had no support for variables and actions… everything seemed canned/templated…. and I really didn’t care for developing in PowerPoint as a base tool. (In comparisons between authoring products, the cost of PowerPoint is rarely added to the total price of the PowerPoint dependent tools like Articulate. This omission skews the data.)

    That said, I have downloaded the Storyline trial to take a look. Not that I’m dissatisfied with Lectora, but because I’m curious! Again, good review.

    1. electron says:

      Thanks phil for taking time to go through my review and providing valuable feedback.

  2. markjspivey says:

    The one hide thing you didnt touch on is timeline based authoring environment, which includes audio on the timeline in order to sync content.

    Storyline and captivate has that, Lectora doesn’t, right? this is mostly what leads to inflated JS in storyline.

    Html5 audio synced animation authoring is huge. lectora is great for website type learning styles, but I dont think it’s very friendly for multimedia authoring… You do your animations elsewhere and would have to include as an html5 animation or video.

    1. electron says:

      You are right, i did not cover about timeline. Not intentional, but the post already gone so huge so i was not able to cover every aspect. Certainly timeline is one important aspect. I will consider making an update to my post for this. Thanks and i greatly value your feedback and opinions.

  3. questions says:

    Hi- Good article but I’m left wondering a couple of things:

    How do their animation capabilities compare? I know Storyline’s animation capabilities are pathetic, but how does Lectora handle this?

    Do you happen to know when the newest version of Lectora will be released? I really want something better than Storyline but your comments on Lectora’s UI give me pause.

    Thank you!

    1. electron says:

      Thanks for the feedback! Lectora do not have much animation capabilities. We can only simulate some simple animations programmatically (control object movements or apply transitions using triggers). Lectora uses an add-in called Fly Paper to produce somewhat decent animations but it produces Flash based animation, so not suitable for Mobile. Honestly speaking Rapid e-learning tools (Be it Storyline, Lectora or Captivate) are suitable to produce only simple animations like motion tweens or transitions. If you are looking to produce complex/advanced animations (similar to Adobe Flash) then you can check out ‘Adobe Edge Animate’. It is an HTML5 based animation tool and it is free as of now. You can create animations in it and insert into your e-learning as HTML objects. By any chance if you want to stick with ‘Flash’ based e-learning then you can use Adobe Flash to create animations and insert into e-learnings.

  4. markjspivey says:

    Yea thats cool, I saw your original storyline vs captivate, real good info!

    Ive been evaluating adobe edge animate and tumult hype and hippo animator for html5 eLearning, and an interesting more is that currently none of them support audio on the timeline like storyline or captivate.

    All three of the first ones are awesome html5 animation and interaction authoring tools, but the lack of audio has been huge for me, in addition to not outputting the same content to both flash and html5.

    both storyline and captivate have suffered their own different iPad issues for me… I dont like the refreshing page of lectora, and then the performance problems on storyline. Captivate had buttons randomly disappear.

    Edge and hype both work awesome any device I’ve tested.

    1. electron says:

      That is an interesting perspective. I have tried Edge Animate and looks good but the other two i did not get a chance to explore. It looks like the mobile learning/multimedia industry is currently centered around ‘learning’ only and least attention given to high end animations with perfect audio sync (the strength of Adobe Flash).

      As far as the random issues you are suffering with all these tools, i would bet you are certainly not alone. We are in the middle of big transition from plug-in centric world into browsers based world and obviously such massive transitions expected to have some hiccups at the beginning. Earlier i wrote a post about HTML5’s evolution into e-learning world Can HTML5 be a game changer for the tech industry?

      As always, thanks for the feedback and sharing your perspective.

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