Cool Tools for Instructional Designers

I love new tools. It’s fun to try new things and make my deliverables a little more interesting. I’d love to hear about cool tools from other folks – so comment away on this blog. In the meantime, I’ll share my favorite tools with you. I’m not promoting any of these products (with one exception noted below), just sharing my favorites. I’ve divided them up by how they can be used:

Overall Design:

  • eLearning Blueprint


  • DropBox
  • revuuIT
  • Review


  • eLearning Brothers
  • DIY eLearning
  • The Narrator Files
  • Voice123
  • iStockPhoto
  • PresentationPro

Editing Tools:

  • Audacity
  • Snagit


Overall Design:

eLearning Blueprint:

Cathy Moore’s eLearning design blueprint tool is not an authoring platform. It’s also not a substitute for understanding basic Instructional Systems Design. Instead, it’s a great tool to make good designers much better. She has some great tools that if used step by step through design will result in engaging, effective, and relevant elearning. It’s very reasonably priced so it’s worth a try if you’re relatively new to Instructional Design.

Current Price: $95 for 3 months




DropBox not only offers you a way to store your files online, but you can very easily share them with your virtual team mates. By creating a project folder and sharing it with the other designers, project manager, graphic artist, developer, etc… you can avoid clogged emails, out of date versions, and generally people not knowing where the project stands. You can use it on a limited basis for free, or use it as a back-up for your files for a small fee. There is a download involved, but it is very easy to access once you start using it.

Current price: Free, $10 / month, or $20 / month depending on space requirements


OK – here’s where I need to offer my disclaimer. This product was my brainchild and I’m associated with revuuIT- so clearly I’m going to like it. Please feel free to ignore my obvious pride in this product.

revuuIT is a way to facilitate SME reviews of PowerPoint files online. You can set deadlines for providing feedback, invite people to review the file, let everyone see each other’s reviews as they go, mark spots on the slide, and create one consolidated report of feedback.

Why I love this product: 

  • It saves my email from sending 10 MB files back and forth
  • It saves me from having to read messy handwritten notes
  • It saves me from keeping stacks of paper with changes in file drawer until I’m sure the project is finished.
  • It saves me from trying to take late feedback on last week’s version of the PowerPoint and incorporate it on this week’s version.

Current price: $9.97 per month


Once your eLearning course has been developed, you can gather feedback on the art placement, narration, activities, and synchronization using Review by Rapid Intake. You upload your finished course to their tool and invite reviewers. I’ve had a few technical issue with the product. My reviewers needed some coaching on adding feedback, but they enjoyed seeing the course without much work on their part. Overall, it’s an easy way to show your course to your reviewers.

Current price: $49 / month



eLearning Brothers:

Quick note: I know these brothers so feel free to ignore my comments here if you think I’m biased.

These guys have put together a whole suite of products that are designed to enhance your eLearning toolbelt and make your end product look better than other designer’s end product. My first favorite of theirs are their Articulate Skins:

At around $450, they are a great re-usable addition to your eLearning toolkit. They will make your Articulate courses look un-Articulate like.

They have some cool eLearning games that are easy to customize quickly and add to your eLearning.

Additional offerings include great model set pictures for a low cost (a lot of pictures of the same person with transparent backgrounds to put on your deliverables) and Articulate templates. This is a great website for eLearning designers and developers to bookmark for frequent visits. Subscribe to their blog for updates.  

Current price:

  • $450 per Articulate template
  • $40 per month for eLearning activities
  • $99 for 75 images of the same person in different poses
  • eLearning templates : prices vary

DIY eLearning:

DIY offers prebuilt eLearning interactions that you purchase and customize. At $79 it’s a good price since having them built from scratch costs hundreds. I’ve not tried these myself but they look interesting.

Current price: $79 / activity

Disclaimer: I’m rather partial to this product since it was originally conceived and developed by my own company. ePathLearning Online purchased the tool from us to complete their entire suite of eLearning products.

This is another tool where you can create your interaction online and insert the results into your course. You can have a free trial and if you find it useful  switch over to a monthly fee to use the tool.

Current price: $49 / month

The Narrator Files

I know some of the people at this company and have used their product for years.

At The Narrator Files, they offer two different types of products that will help with PowerPoints and/or eLearning: The first is photo sets. They have professional, casual, call center, and medical photo sets. These are sets of up to 250 poses of the same person with a transparent background that you can use in your ILT or eLearning.

The second product is narration. You can provide your script to them and they will have it professionally narrated and sent to you.

Lastly, they offer some animated flash characters. I’ve not tried these yet so I’d love to hear comments on their use.

Current price:

  • $49 – $299 for picture sets
  • $20 / page for voice talent


Voice123 is the best kept secret in the eLearning business. This is a brokerage location for voice talent. You can find folks here that do national commercials for radio and TV as well as character voices. I’ve found people with different accents, bi-lingual narrators, etc…   You simply post the requirements for your narration project, post the amount you’ll pay, and open it up for auditions. You’ll get a nice set of demos that you can share with your client or choose from yourself. I’ve been very happy with the work of these narrators. Most of them have a studio in their home so the cost is minimal.

Current price: Free to find talent


I love using this site to find royalty-free images for my ILT and eLearning courses. I just type in a description of what I want to portray and I get several pages of images to look over. You can purchase in different ways, either by a monthly subscription or pay per picture. Since I’m not a huge user I pay per picture and end up paying about $3 per picture. Read the license agreement to compare it to your own use.

Current price: It depends on the individual picture.


There is a lot available here to make your presentations exciting.

  • templates
  • graphics
  • icons
  • slide layouts
  • flash converter
  • interactive menus
  • animated slides

I’ve been a big fan of this product for several years. If you haven’t tried it you should definitely check it out.


Editing Tools:


Audacity is an easy-to-use, audio editing tool. This is great if your subject matter expert or your trainer is supplying the narration for your course. With Audacity, you can cut up the audio to fit the slides as well as easily edit out the “umms” and other non-word sounds. It will take you about an hour to become proficient, but will save you money on professional narration in the long run.

Current price: Free


Snagit is still a great tool for Instructional Designers, Technical Writers, and eLearnign Developers for quick easy images. You can quickly “snag” anything seen on your screen. Using Snagit Editor, you can do some really interesting things with the pictures. The team at Snagit keeps adding new features, so if you haven’t seen what it can do lately, I suggest you take another look. The image here was edited in Snagit editor with the torn edge effect.

Current price: $49.95


There are so many cool tools out there I couldn’t get to them all. These are just a few that I have used lately. I’d love your comments and emails on what else you are using. Please email me at

-Leigh Anne Lankford / Instructional Designer

6 Responses to “Cool Tools for Instructional Designers”
  1. scott gassman says:

    thanks for a good share.

  2. Very helpful content, engaging, and nice to look at! Kudos!

  3. Good list, I would add to the asset part of the list for background audio, opening stings etc. Amongst all the different themes including corporate styles, they have a great 70’s cop show theme, that I wish I could find a work related use for….

  4. A few tools which I use regularly are:

    Freemind: A mind mapping tool. I use this with clients in the analysis phase.

    Evernote: I actually use the paid version as it allows me to share my stuff. I use it to organize my snippets and research.

    I’m also a big fan of Livescribe for general meetings, notes, and designing away from the computer.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] – I have lots of tools I love to use for Instructional Design, (see my Cool Tools blog) but over the last year I’ve really learned to depend on one in particular. It’s not […]

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