Whether you’re a novice or experienced instructional designer (ID), you need eLearning tools that help you streamline your course building. We’ve made an extensive list of the popular instructional design software (ID software) and resources and, for simplicity, divided it into categories, from authoring tools to audio-video software and photo sharing platforms. Check them out today to choose the right instructional design software for your needs.
What Is Instructional Design Software?
Instructional design software is any software used by instructional designers to create courses and other eLearning content. This content may come in multiple formats, from texts and interactive presentations to podcasts, videos, and many others. Let’s say you need to edit photos for your onboarding course or any other employee training course, and you choose Adobe Lightroom to do this. Although Adobe Lightroom is used by specialists from different areas, for us it’ll be an instructional design software tool.
Best Instructional Design Software Tools
Whether you need to track your ideas while brainstorming, create custom elearning courses or presentations — here you’ll find top instructional design software for various needs and operating systems.
Course development software is the primary tool for an instructional designer. With it, you can build engaging interactive courses from scratch or turn existing instructional materials into eLearning courses. We also put authoring tools first because, among the other instructional design software covered in this article, they are the ones designed especially for eLearning.
1. iSpring Suite
iSpring Suite is a fully stocked instructional design software designed to create interactive SCORM-compliant and multi-device courses from PowerPoint presentations and easily publish them to any learning management system. It has an easy-to-use interface and allows you to create assessments in the form of quizzes, video presentations, and dialogue simulations quickly, without any special training or coding knowledge. It also replaces a video editor, allowing you to record and edit training videos under one roof. With iSpring, you can convert your existing Word, PDF, and PPT manuals and textbooks into interactive e-books with just a few clicks.
The tool comes with an extensive library of characters, backgrounds, slide templates that make content authoring several times faster. It also includes Character Builder that allows you to create custom characters and make engaging course content for personalized training.
Cost: $970/year (1-year subscription to iSpring Suite and advanced features, such as Content Library, iSpring Space, as well as Technical Support, and upgrades). User onboarding. Free trial for 14 days. Request a demo.
2. iSpring Page
iSpring Page is a cloud-based authoring tool for creating microlearning courses and mobile learning content. It allows you to create responsive courses right in your browser, thus simplifying and speeding up the development and design process. With iSpring Page, you can build micro courses with video, knowledge checks (quizzes with multiple choice questions, for example), and custom branding in a matter of minutes. The tool supports teamwork, so multiple authors can collaborate on the same learning content online to get the project done in less time.
Cost: $370/year for individuals; $1850/year for teams. Free 14-day trial.
3. Articulate 360
Articulate 360 is a bundle of nine various tools, including prominent eLearning authoring tools like Articulate Storyline 360 and Rise 360.
Articulate Rise 360 is an online tool for creating courses based on simple longreads, right in a browser. It enables you to assemble fully responsive courses from different pre-made ‘building blocks.’
Articulate Storyline 360 is a more sophisticated stand-alone tool for Windows. It allows you to build complex interactive courses, and experiment with triggers and layers. Created content can be uploaded to most LMS platforms. However, it has a pretty steep learning curve so it can not be the right instructional design tool for non tech-savvy users.
Cost: from $1,099/user per year. Free 30-day trial.
4. Adobe Captivate
Adobe Captivate is is a powerful instructional design software that is perfectly suited for building complex courses with interactive multimedia. It has great capabilities for making interactive videos, Virtual Reality (VR) projects, and software simulations, but comes with a steep learning curve. Courses you create can be uploaded to most LMS platforms.
Cost: $33.99/month (billed annually). Free 30-day trial.
Also read: → Articulate Storyline vs Adobe Captivate
5. DomiKnow ONE
DomiKnow ONE is an instructional design software that combines traditional e-course authoring with robust responsive authoring, screen capture, and software simulation into one integrated system. This instructional design software has a Microsoft look, so most all the features will be intuitive for novice designers, but reviews highlight the limited support offered.
Cost: upon request. Free 14-day trial.
Lectora is an old hand in the eLearning field, and their desktop course design software has been around for a long time. Lectora will help you build courses with media and assessments, but it’s not easy to get started – you need to be an experienced instructional designer to work with this eLearning software. Both desktop and web applications are available.
Cost: $117/month. Billed annually. Free 30-day trial.
Brainshark is a eLearning software solution designed to be a sales enablement platform for business and can be used for workplace learning or sales training. It combines features of authoring software and a learning management system (LMS). With the platform, companies can create and deliver text- and video-based learning content to train a sales team. Brainshark also provides options for the tracking and evaluation of learner results.
Cost: upon request.
While planning an eLearning project, you need to collect ideas, exchange feedback, and brainstorm. Mind mapping is an effective way to take notes of your thoughts and represent them visually. Here we’ll offer you a number of mind mapping tools to help you decide which is the right one for you.
XMind is a full-featured mind mapping and brainstorming tool that’ll help you collect your ideas and craft them in a logical structure. You can export your mind map into different formats, including PDF, TXT, HTML, JPEG, and more. In addition to the mind map structure, XMind also offers tree, logic and fishbone charts.
Cost: $5.99/month (if you pay monthly) or $59.99/year (if you pay annually).
MindMeister is another popular instructional design software. It’s a market-leading online mind mapping tool that allows you brainstorm great ideas, take notes, and plan projects together with your team or subject matter experts – even when you are thousands of miles apart. You can also use this tool to manage meetings, and store, share, and manage corporate knowledge.
Cost: Free Basic plan. Individual accounts start at $5.99/month.
Presentations and slideshows are some of the most common ways of delivering corporate training. With a strong understanding of instructional design and advanced skills working with presentation software, you can create beautiful and engaging content which will help your learners achieve real results. You probably already know these instructional design tools, but we might as well mention them, anyway.
Also read: → Best Interactive Presentation Software
10. Microsoft PowerPoint
Microsoft PowerPoint is the most popular and arguably the best free instructional design software that allows you to create and show slides. You can combine text, graphics, and multimedia content to build professional presentations. You can make presentations even more interactive by creating triggers and animation effects, and setting up navigation by using hyperlinks.
Cost: Microsoft offers a Microsoft 365 subscription that includes PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Outlook, and 1 TB of cloud storage per person. This subscription starts at $6.99 per month.
Prezi is a web-based tool for creating engaging presentations (called prezis for short). It’s similar to MS PowerPoint but has some unique features. For example, you can add 3D backgrounds and import PDF files into your prezis.
Cost: The Standard plan for personal use starts from $5/month
Visual content is an easy way to enhance eLearning. If you want to spend less time creating graphics or don’t have enough skills to work with complex photo editors like Photoshop, use simple instructional design tools that make great visuals without needing any design expertise at all. The nice thing here is that most of them are free.
Canva is a graphic-design tool website and one of the best instructional design tools. It uses a drag-and-drop format and provides access to over a million photos, graphics, and fonts. The service allows you to create content of different types, such as social media images to presentations, invitations, marketing, and training material.
Paint.NET is free image and photo editing software for Microsoft Windows. It has a simple interface and a minimum set of features needed for an instructional designer. So it’s easy-to-use for those with no technical knowledge. Paint.NET includes simple tools for drawing shapes, the Gradient tool, the Magic Wand, a lot of special effects, support for layers, and much more.
Figma is a cloud-based instructional design software. It provides all the tools you need for the design phase of a project, including vector tools, prototyping capabilities, and code generation. The nice part is that you can share designs with your customers without them needing to download any software to view or edit. Figma is a great solution for advanced instructional designers.
Cost: The Starter pricing plan for individuals is free.
Vectornator is a graphic design and illustration app for iOS and macOS devices. Use this software to create layout mockups, prototypes, branding elements, vector graphics, and custom typography. Its highly intuitive interface is designed to be used by novices and experts alike: gesture controls and a text-editing tool make design faster and easier. Achieve beautiful results with Vectornator’s numerous integrations, export/import options, social media templates, and drag-and-drop functionality.
Infogram is an easy-to-use visualization and infographics platform. It has options for creating and sharing beautiful infographics, online reports, digital charts, maps with interactive elements, dashboards, and social media visuals. Infogram has an intuitive drag-and-drop editor that converts users’ data into infographics that can be published, embedded, or shared.
Cost: The Basic plan for personal use is free.
Imgflip helps to make static visual design come alive with movement and humor. It’s an easy-to-use tool that lets you create your own engaging elements such as GIF images relating to your eLearning content. You can make animated GIFs from video files, Youtube, and pictures.
Often a photo or set of photos comprises a theme for an eLearning course, and it’s important to find colors that complement that imagery. You can do this with Photocopa, which creates a palette based on your photos.
19. Comic Life 3
Comic Life 3 is an app for progressive instructional designers who are ready to build eLearning courses in the form of comics. The tool has everything for making stunning comics: fonts, templates, panels, balloons, captions, and lettering art.
Cost: $29.99 (lifetime license).
Training videos are much more engaging than manuals and even simple slides. With the video creation software applications listed here, you can make screen capture, talking head videos, and presentations with a voice recording explaining the content.
20. Free Cam
Free Cam is a simple screen recorder for Windows. It provides a full set of features for screen video capture such as selecting a recording area, recording a voice over and system sounds, and highlighting the mouse cursor. You can save screencasts on your desktop or share them on YouTube.
21. iSpring Cam Pro
iSpring Cam Pro is an advanced video program for creating video training and screen recording. With this tool, you can record professional-looking video courses, how-to videos, and software tutorials. While making video lessons, you may need to add titles, annotate, do voice overs, create a freeze frame, and more. iSpring Cam Pro will help you do all that in the quickest and easiest way possible.
Cost: $227 (annual subscription). Free 14-day trial.
Camtasia is a popular instructional design software for creating training videos, tutorials, screencasts, etc. It comes with powerful editing capabilities and is especially handy for screen recording. With Camtasia, you can add annotations, music, and 4 types of quizzes and surveys to videos and convert them to SCORM files.
Cost: $299.99/per year
Introducing audio into training is a great way to engage learners and keep them involved in the process. We’ve compiled a few instructional design tools that will help you create first-rate audios for your eLearning courses. And as a bonus, we will review a service where you can find free music tracks.
Audacity is free cross-platform software for recording and editing audio. With this tool, you can record live audio, cut, copy, or mix sounds together, change the speed or pitch of a recording, and much more.
24. Watson Text to Speech
Watson Text to Speech automatically converts written text into natural-sounding audio. This service is a great solution for instructional designers who don’t want to voice over courses themselves or hire a professional voice actor. It’s available in 13 voices across 7 languages.
Cost: You can convert 10,000 characters per month for free.
25. BBC Sound Effects
BBC Sound Effects is a library of 16,000 audio samples, which can be streamed or downloaded in WAV format and may be used for personal, educational, or research purposes. Sounds include people walking, a cash register, crowds cheering, a car engine, and much more.
Game-based learning offers a lot of advantages. This is a motivational, challenging, and fun experience that can hold learners’ attention longer and increase knowledge retention. We’ve collected a list of interactive learning tools which will help you produce even more effective training content.
Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform. It lets you create fun learning games (called kahoots) in minutes. You can make quizzes on any subject in any language. The format is up to you. For example, you can add videos, images, and diagrams to your questions.
Cost: From $17/host per month.
QuizGame is another instructional design software tool for gamifying training. It offers a few games like Prison break, Do or die, or the Big escape, which can excite learners, create a competitive environment and manage the learning process in a fun manner.
Cost: Upon request.
WIREWAX is a browser-based editor that allows you to transform any video into an interactive experience by easily adding hotspots. Videos play on mobile devices, tablets, and desktops. In 2021, WIREWAX became a part of Vimeo, a global online video platform and leading video software solution.
Cost: Upon request.
Vyond lets you create animated video courses. It has a big library of built-in customizable templates, sounds, props, and other interactive multimedia, so you can make dynamic content that is unique. To speed up learners’ immersion in the courses, you can use dialogue, lip-sync, and realistic movements.
Cost: From $299/year.
Survey tools are crucial for user research before and after course creation. The pre-training survey can help define the learning goals and understand learners’ expectations. The post-training survey is a final step that will help you identify which activities learners enjoyed most, what they struggled with, and how much they learned. If you have a content creation tool, you can create both quizzes and surveys right in your course builder. If not, you may use one of the following popular tools:
SurveyMonkey is online instructional design software that allows you to launch different kinds of questionnaires. You can use standard templates or create customized surveys, send them to your learners, and monitor how learners complete surveys in real time.
Cost: The Standard Monthly plan costs $99 per month.
CrowdSignal is a simple survey tool for creating customizable, interactive surveys. You can prevent double voting and spam, analyze data in real time, export results in Excel, PDF, CSV, Google Docs, or XML formats, and much more.
Cost: Has a free plan. Paid subscription starts at $15 per month.
PDF documents are not always designed to be compatible with screen readers. It’s a good decision to turn them into a page-turn experience. PDFs will automatically adapt to screen size and orientation, and it’s easy to read them on tablets and smartphones.
32. iSpring Flip
With iSpring Flip, you can quickly turn PowerPoint, PDF, and Word documents into attractive e-books with a realistic pageflip effect. After conversion, all fonts, images, links, references, and navigation elements are preserved.
Cost: $227 per user (annual subscription).
Alternative Tools: See our article about the top 5 flipbook software programs.
SmallPDF is a platform for converting and editing PDF output online. You can convert Word, PPT, and Excel files to and from PDF, compress, remove pages, add text, shapes, images, and annotations, extract images, and more.
Cost: Has a free plan with access to 21 Smallpdf tools. $7/month per user (team plan), $9/month per user (individual plan).
An eLearning course is not just about design, technology, and interactivity. High-quality content is based on some story that helps to create an immersive learning experience. So text is another important part of a course which hasn’t lost its shine amidst graphics and media. We’ve collected a list of several useful instructional design software which can help course developers write texts and make them better.
Grammarly is an online platform that will help you make your writing clear and mistake-free. It automatically detects grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style mistakes. It’s available via a browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge.
Cost: Basic writing suggestions are available in the free account (100 prompts per month).
Hemingway is a cloud-based software for making writing bold and clear. It checks the text for readability and helps you find complex sentences and phrases, excessive adverbs, and passive voice constructions that you can turn into active voice.
36. Google Docs
Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Forms are a part of an office suite. It has smart editing and styling tools to help you easily format text and paragraphs. You can choose from hundreds of fonts, add links and images, and more.
Whether you’re an independent instructional designer or one of the team members, you’re likely to need some tools which will help you be more organized thereby boosting your performance. We’ve made the task easier and by drawing up a short list of such tools. Check out what’s special about them, and find a solution that meets your requirements.
Trello is an easy to use software known for visualizing project tasks. It includes boards, lists, and cards that help you organize your project and track all its aspects in a quick visual way. The tool seamlessly syncs between devices, so you can use it wherever you go.
Cost: Free for personal use.
38. Google Calendar
Google Calendar is a time-management and scheduling calendar service. It allows you to easily keep track of your daily schedule by creating specific tasks, reminders, and events. You can share your calendars with others and even create team calendars.
39. Tomato Timer
Tomato Timer is an online Pomodoro Technique timer. The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into 25-minute intervals (pomodori), separated by short breaks. It’s based on the idea that frequent breaks improve mental agility. Tomato Timer lets you set custom times, audio tone, and volume.
Some instructional designers work remotely, as well as asynchronously or in different timezones with their customers. The designer and customer should always keep in touch so projects don’t go off the rails. You can easily do that by using the following communication tools:
Skype allows audio and video calls and messaging between multiple devices. You can also easily share presentations or anything on your screen during a call, record Skype calls, and use live subtitles to read the words that are spoken. This can be a good solution for conducting virtual classroom sessions.
Cost: Essential features are free.
Slack is a collaboration tool used by remote teams. It supports direct messaging and group messaging, as well as audio and video conferencing. One of its outstanding features is an advanced search engine. You can search everything within the message threads and documents to quickly find the information you’re looking for.
Cost: Has a free plan. Paid plans start from $2.25/month.
GoToMeeting has everything to host a web meeting well. You can launch a meeting from anywhere, on any device. It also has some other features such as the ability to hand over control of your computer and one-click recording.
Cost: Pricing plans start from $12/month.
43. Google Drive
Google Drive is a safe place for storing files and putting them within reach from any device. It allows users to store files on Google servers, synchronize files across smartphones and computers, and share documents. You can easily invite others to view, edit, or leave comments on any of your files or folders.
Cost: The first 15 GB of storage is free with a Google account.
Best Instructional Design Resources
In addition to instructional design software tools, you’re likely to need resources such as templates, images, and articles on eLearning. Fortunately, we’ve collected the best resources for instructional design. Check them out!
Creating a unique course from scratch takes a lot of time. To quickly create engaging training courses, you can use ready-made templates. If you’re looking for quality ones, check out the following resources:
44. eLearning Brothers Asset Library
eLearning Brothers Asset Library is perhaps the biggest name among training resources and the industry leader when it comes to templates. It has a large and constantly evolving library of 1,500+ templates including interactions, games, scenarios, quizzes, and layouts. There are also thousands of cutout characters, PowerPoint graphics, stock images, and more.
Cost: $117 per month or $1,398 per year.
45. Faster Course
Faster Course has an attractive library of templates with a primary focus on Adobe Captivate, Articulate, and Lectora. You just need to download a template, copy and paste in your texts, images, and videos, and publish interactive courses.
Cost: Starts at $349 per year.
46. Rapid eLearning Templates
Rapid eLearning Templates offers full-featured templates for Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate. It has a few free downloads as well as a collection of premium templates. You can also order a custom template on this website.
Cost: The price for premium templates starts from $30.
eLearning.net produces high-quality free templates, graphics, and related services. The site also offers free sets of illustrated characters.
Cost: The price for one template is $29.95
If you don’t want to create graphics on your own, you can take ready-made pictures from photo sharing platforms. There’s a vast variety of high-quality beautiful images, vector graphics, and art illustrations there, which will help you make your eLearning content more engaging.
Unsplash gives you access to thousands of free stock photos with a Creative Commons Zero license. That means you can use the images and edit them for free, without asking permission from the photographer or website.
49. Microsoft Clipart Library
Microsoft Clipart Library presents to you a selection of 40 Microsoft Cliparts. You can choose any clip arts that suit your eLearning courses.
Flaticon is the largest resource of free icons available in PNG, SVG, EPS, PSD, and BASE 64 formats. It includes 1,649,000 vector icons. You can edit their size, position and colors.
Cost: Free. Pricing plans for premium icons and stickers start at $7.50/month (billed annually).
51. Google Fonts
Google Fonts is a great instructional design software because it has a library of 915 libre licensed fonts. All fonts are released under open source licenses, so they’re allowed for both personal and commercial use.
Inspiration and new knowledge are the essentials of success in any profession. Instructional designers are no exception and need to constantly learn in their careers. Here are the three best eLearning resources to give great insights, tips, and trends in instructional design:
52. eLearning Industry
eLearning Industry is a comprehensive blog about digital learning and instructional design. It offers a lot of interesting and thought-provoking articles on eLearning trends, strategies, and software used by instructional designers, free eBooks, and webinars.
53. The eLearning Guild
The eLearning Guild is another website where digital learning professionals can share their knowledge, expertise, and ideas to build better training experiences. The Guild hosts several conferences, including DevLearn, Learning Solutions, and Realities360.
54. CommLab India
CommLab India is a global leader for rapid eLearning solutions. It offers a lot of useful instructional design specific tips, tricks, and advice.
To Sum Up
Well, now you know about lots of different instructional design software and resources and will easily select the right tool for creating effective learning materials. All of them together will get you creating eLearning courses faster and make them more beautiful and engaging. Good luck!