The Rapid Elearning Blog

ID ZONE Presentation (March 11, 2009)

There are a dozen or more tools that allow SME’s and other non-ID content creators to turn PowerPoint and other sources into e-Learning! Do these tools help you as an instructional designer? Are they truly rapid? Do they allow creation of good e-Learning? You’ll see examples of e-Learning created with rapid development tools, and learn how these tools impact e-Learning design.

Rapid elearning is not a myth.  In fact, it’s the norm.  The tools are getting more sophisticated and easier to use.  The real question is how long will organizations continue to invest in more expensive solutions when the rapid elearning tools give them a cost effective and viable solution.

In fact, rapid is so easy, even a monkey can do it.

Rapid E-Learning Overview

There are basically three types of elearning tools: form, freeform, and screencasting.


The software does everything. You add your content into a form. When you publish you get a nice product that required no programming. This can be a standalone or one that you add to other products.

These tools are fast and make production easy. Because they are form-based, they do present some limitations. Think of it like a Jello mold. You get what the form is designed to give you.


This offers a blank screen and you can do what you want. There are some parts that are automated and some that require programming. Authorware and Flash are good examples of freeform tools. PowerPoint also gives you freeform authoring.

Freeform tools offer unlimited opportunities, but typically have a higher learning curve and require a lot more skill than using a form-based tool.

So the challenge is to balance the ease of development in a form and no programming with freeform authoring that gives you more custom options but requires a higher learning curve. That’s why PowerPoint is so valuable. You get a good balance of easy freeform authoring with little programming and a lower learning curve since many people are familiar with PowerPoint.


Think of screencasting like making a movie of your computer screen. They’re very popular tools to do software demos and simulations. They can be standalone or inserted into other courses as a Flash file.

Rapid Elearning Tools

Many of the rapid elearning tools and courses offer some sort of hybrid version of these three types. PowerPoint-to-Flash tools leverage PowerPoint’s easy freeform authoring environment to build Flash animations and interactions. They usually let you insert Flash content, whether created in Flash or using another rapid elearning product whether form-based, custom coded, or screencast.

Examples of Rapid Elearning Content

Rapid Elearning Strategies

A few demos built with rapid authoring tools that also discuss some strategic elements of rapid authoring.


There are many ways to build interactive content using rapid authoring tools. Some of the form-based tools offer exploration of content, decision-making branches, and other sorts of interactivity. Even if you work inside PowerPoint only, you can create quite a bit of interactivity.

  • Office Ergonomics
    Prometheus: effective use of Engage (form-based) as a quick, interactive assessment
  • Xcelsius demo
    Rapid elearning lets you integrate multimedia. This I a good example of an interactive Flash file created in one tool and inserted into the PowerPoint slide. This is true for screencasts and other form-based products.
  • Branching examples
    Three ways to build branches in rapid elearning courses
  • Frog Dissection
    Prototype based on the flash course demo
  • Scenario
    PowerPoint based branching
  • Single Screen branch
    Built in PowerPoint
  • Multi-screen branch
    Built in PowerPoint
  • Xcelsius demo
    Rapid elearning lets you integrate multimedia. This I a good example of an interactive Flash file created in one tool and inserted into the PowerPoint slide. This is true for screencasts and other form-based products.

Form-based authoring

These examples were all built with form-based tools. The software does all of the work to pull it together and publish. You just add the content.

  • FAQ interaction
    Built in just a few minutes using form-entry
  • Mini Cooper
    Prototype of a similar interaction from a Michael Allen course. This was built in about 5 minutes compared to having a Flash programmer build it.
  • Web 2.0 Overview
    Adding multimedia to the form is easy and only takes a few minutes.
  • Scenario
    Scenario built with a form-based tool and inserted into PowerPoint


Most quiz tools are form-based and look pretty standard. These are examples of assessments built in a form and then manipulated in a freeform environment. As you can see there’s a lot of variation to what you can do.

Leverage Web 2.0 Technology

There are a number of social media sites and web technologies that you can bring into your course. This wasn’t possible a few years ago, and not easy to do with custom development. However, with a rapid authoring tool you can add these technologies with just a few mouse clicks.

  • Google Map Youtube Mash Up
    Great way to bring the web into your course. Combine Google maps with Youtube to introduce students to the seven wonders of the world. Demo works better in Firefox.
  • demo
    Leverage all sorts of widgets from the web. This is an online storage site. You can extend what you can add to your course.
  • Chat room
    Add chat features to your course.
  • Virtual world
    Make a virtual world part of your rapid elearning course. Requires downloading the virtual world player.
  • Web Objects Overview
    From the Rapid Elearning Blog


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.