eLearning Development: Articulate vs. Code

In the dynamic realm of eLearning development, there are several approaches to content development. Of these, the debate between using authoring tools like Articulate and coding content from scratch is a hot topic. While Articulate offers user-friendly tools for swift development, custom coding offers a lot of flexibility and control. 

In this article, you will know more about Articulate Storyline (a popular content authoring tool with an intuitive interface and robust features) and custom coding in the eLearning domain and the advantages and disadvantages of both. Join us as we explore the pros and cons of Articulate vs. Code in the realm of eLearning content development.

Brief Overview Of Elearning Development

The domain of eLearning development has undergone a vast transformation over the years. This growth has been propelled by increasing internet accessibility, the ubiquity of mobile device usage, and the shift towards digital solutions. Developers have also strived to enrich the eLearning experience by leveraging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR). But the core of eLearning development still remains tied to either custom coding or utilizing specialized authoring tools like Articulate Storyline 360, Lectora, Adobe Captivate, Elucidat, etc.  

Custom coding allows for a high degree of tailor-made solutions, offering limitless possibilities in interactivity and design. However, it also requires deep knowledge of coding and multimedia technology. Authoring tools like Articulate 360 streamlines the course creation process with an user-friendly interface and a suite of pre-built interactive elements.These tools allow for faster course creation without the need for extensive coding knowledge However, the scope for customization is limited.

For the purpose of this blog, we are considering Articulate as a representative of the many eLearning authoring tools in the market.

What is Articulate in eLearning?

In the eLearning domain, “Articulate” is known to be a suite of software tools that have been developed by Articulate Global, LLC. These include Articulate Rise, Peek, Storyline, and Preso. Articulate Rise makes it easy for developers to create responsive eLearning courses, while Articulate Peek can be used for creating software simulations. The mobile app, Articulate Preso, can also be used to create engaging presentations on iOS devices. To gather recommendations for improving the course, the development team can later use Articulate Review. 

Among the applications, Articulate Storyline is known as an advanced authoring tool that enables developers to create custom and interactive eLearning courses with advanced functionality. While developers proceed with the Articulate Storyline course design, they can adapt to the specifications of devices and make the course accessible to a large audience. 

Course creators can also gain flexibility in delivering and distributing courses due to many publishing options, such as HTML5 and Flash. However, Articulate Storyline may not provide additional flexibility and control when compatibility has to be ensured for different browsers. Advanced interactivity developed through the authoring tool may also affect the performance on different devices.

Key Features of Authoring tools like Articulate

Articulate offers many features through its suite of applications. Here are some of the features you will come across in Articulate. 

User-friendly Interface: The user-friendly interface of the Articulate applications makes it easy for eLearning developers to create engaging eLearning course content

Interactivity: As Articulate enables the creation of highly interactive eLearning content, along with simulations, quizzes, and interactive multimedia elements, it helps to enhance interactivity and keep the learners engaged throughout the course. 

Responsive Design: Through Articulate Rise, developers can create responsive eLearning courses that adapt to the different touch screens of mobile devices. This ensures a consistent learning experience on different devices, like laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets. 

Multimedia Integration: With the support of several multimedia elements, Articulate not only helps to cater to different learning styles, but also enhances the overall learning experience. 

Feedback and Assessment: By using many assessment features, Articulate enables course developers to create quizzes, assessments, and surveys with different questions and feedback options. This enables the learners to test their comprehension level and receive feedback based on their performance. 

Collaboration and Review: Through a certain platform, Articulate Review helps project stakeholders collaborate among themselves. While they review the eLearning content, they can leave behind suggestions for improvement in eLearning courses. The platform can also be used for tracking changes in real-time. 

Tracking and Reporting: As Articulate applications support many eLearning standards, it helps developers keep track of the learner’s progress and overall performance. This feature also enables organizations to monitor the learners’s engagement, course completion rates, and assessment results. 

Templates and Assets: Through a vast library of customizable templates, icons, and several assets, many developers can expedite the course development process and maintain visual consistency across the eLearning course modules. 

Regular Support and Updates: To ensure access to the most recent tools and technologies, Articulate always updates its applications with new features and bug fixes. Besides, Articulate also offers comprehensive support documentation to help users with the eLearning project.

Pros of Using Authoring tools like Articulate

There are many benefits of using Articulate in the eLearning space. 

User-Friendly Interface: Using the intuitive interfaces of the Articulate tools can help developers create engaging eLearning content without any technical knowledge or programming skills. 

Interactivity: With features like simulations, branching scenarios, quizzes, and various multimedia elements, Articulate allows course developers to create a highly interactive experience with the eLearning course. 

Responsive Design: Applications like Articulate Rise support the creation of responsive designs to ensure that the online courses adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes of mobile devices. 

Multimedia Integration: By integrating various multimedia elements, including videos, images, animations, and audio clips, Articulate helps to enhance the learning experience and accommodate different learning styles. 

Collaboration and Review: With the use of Articulate Review, stakeholders can review and suggest improvements in the eLearning course during the development process. The platform also helps to track changes in real-time when individuals leave their recommendations.  

Scalability: When organizations have to create eLearning courses for a large audience, then the set of tools ensure scalability. Soon after the courses are developed, the features help to deploy them across numerous locations or departments. 

Compatibility: As the applications support many standards for eLearning services, they ensure compatibility with the most commonly used Learning Management Systems. This helps companies know more about the learner’s progress and performance seamlessly. 

Eventually, Articulate streamlines the course development process, enabling developers to create high-quality courses in less time and at a low cost. Comprehensive support is also offered to ensure access to the latest technologies and assist them with their projects.

Cons of Using Articulate

While there are many benefits of using eLearning authoring tools like Articulate, it has some disadvantages as well.  

Learning Curve: Even though the tools have user-friendly interfaces, new users still have to be on a learning curve, especially when they have less experience in eLearning course development. 

Cost: As Articulate can be used based on a subscription plan, many small scale companies may not prefer using the set of tools. Additionally, organizations may not be able to afford to purchase perpetual licenses when professionals have to use the tools frequently. 

Dependency on software updates: While regular updates to various applications often introduce different features, they can disrupt the workflow. The users may encounter bugs or compatibility issues with the projects they are working on. Dependency on updates may also require users to adapt to the changes in the functionality and the user interface. 

Offline Access: Some Articulate applications may need a strong and reliable internet connection for access. This can be a limitation when users have devices with unreliable internet connectivity. 

Limited Advanced Features: Users with complex requirements may not prefer using Articulate because the tools lack advanced capabilities. 

Performance: Depending on the complexity of the courses, users may face performance issues. These issues can arise, particularly when courses have to be developed with multimedia elements and high levels of interactivity. 

Lack of Control: While regular updates can enhance the functionality of the tools, users may prefer to gain more control over how the updates are applied. This issue may arise in environments where consistency and stability are crucial.

Exploring Custom Coding for eLearning

Custom coding in the eLearning space is known as the practice of writing a program to develop bespoke eLearning solutions. Unlike tools like Articulate, custom coding involves creating an eLearning course with the content and functionalities right from scratch. 

Developers use coding languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build the framework of eLearning courses. For advanced interactivity, languages like Unity (C#) or Unreal (C++) can be used to create simulations and games. Now, here are some scenarios in which custom coding can be useful. 

Custom Interactions: When you need to develop unique interactive elements beyond the capabilities of an authoring tool, custom coding can help you create exactly what you need. 

Integration with Systems: Through custom coding, you can integrate the eLearning courses with CRM platforms, ERP systems, and Learning Management Systems such that you are able to exchange data seamlessly, authenticate users, and enable progress tracking across the platforms. 

Data Analytics: Custom coding can help create personalized learning paths and adaptive learning experiences based  on the data gathered from learner’s performance and interaction with the course content. 

Gamification: Developing custom gamification mechanics for an eLearning course can also be done through custom coding. 

Content Management: Custom coding enables the development of bespoke eLearning solutions that can streamline content delivery in addition to the creation of the course content. 

Security: Implementing custom security measures to secure eLearning content against unauthorized access can be accomplished through coding.

Technologies Involved In Custom Coding

When developers create specialized eLearning solutions, they leverage several coding languages while writing a program. 

HTML/CSS: They are the building blocks of web content. These programming languages are used to create the overall structure and format of eLearning content and control the placement and appearance of text, backgrounds, images, videos and interactive elements. Developers usually use these technologies to design user interfaces, visual elements, and custom layouts. 

Javascript: This programming language is used to add dynamic behavior and interactivity to the eLearning content. When the development team writes the code in Javascript, it enables them to create simulations, interactive exercises, and unique multimedia experiences. 

PHP/Python/Ruby: Course creators use server-side scripting languages like PHP, Python, and Ruby to develop custom backend functionality in the eLearning applications. Some of these functionalities are processing form submissions, managing user sessions, and interacting with a database to store or retrieve data. Developers may also use the scripting languages for integrating databases, managing content, and many other processes at the server’s end. 

SCORM/xAPI (Tin Can API): These are standards for tracking and recording learners’ activities. By implementing the Tin Can API through custom coding, developers can track relevant data in the courses and ensure interoperability. 

Web APIs: APIs allow different software systems to communicate. In eLearning, APIs can be used to integrate different platforms and external services like social media, payment gateways, or analytics tools, extending the functionality of the learning platform. 

JSON/XML: They are formats for structuring data. Codes can be written to parse and implement JSON/XML data for smooth communication between the eLearning content and the backend servers. 

Using the above programming languages, custom coding can help create, manage and deliver eLearning content. Custom coding with responsive web design frameworks also enable developers to create eLearning courses that adapt to different screen sizes and mobile devices.

Pros Of Custom Coding

Custom coding has many benefits for those who are looking to develop specialized eLearning solutions. 

Flexibility and Customization: Custom coding enables developers to create eLearning courses with precision as per the unique needs and learners’ preferences. As developers have full control over the design and user experience, it helps to customize the course accurately. 

Advanced Interactivity: Through programming, developers are able to incorporate complex interactions, simulations, and multimedia elements to engage the learners throughout the course. 

Integration Capabilities: Writing suitable programs allows the development team to seamlessly integrate the platforms with external systems. By building custom integrations, the developers are able to enhance the interconnectivity between different platforms and systems used to create, deliver and track eLearning courses. 

Extensibility and Scalability: When developing eLearning content, it’s important to consider how it can be updated, reused and scaled up in the future.. By building modular and reusable components, the system can be easily expanded to accommodate more learners and content as well as allow certain components (like modules, quizzes, or activities) to be used in multiple courses. 

Performance Optimization: With custom coding developers are able to optimize the performance and responsiveness of eLearning solutions. This is useful when courses are built with high levels of interactivity and complicated functionality. To ensure smooth user experiences, the developers can also optimize the utilization of resources, reduce the loading time, and implement certain coding practices. 

Security and Compliance: Custom coding helps to gain more control over security and compliance requirements in the eLearning content and delivery systems. With the implementation of robust security measures, user authentication mechanisms, and various encryption techniques, professionals can secure sensitive data and ensure compliance with industry standards. 

Innovation and Differentiation: Using new and advanced code to create their own proprietary software enables companies to stand out with innovation in the eLearning market. They can also differentiate themselves in the online world when unique and innovative eLearning experiences are developed.

Cons Of Custom Coding

While custom coding can offer flexibility and customization to a considerable extent, it also has its own disadvantages. 

Cost: Custom coding can seem quite expensive because companies have to hire skilled developers or outsource the project to a eLearning development firm. 

Time-consuming: A lot of time is required for custom code development, especially when you want to develop a feature-rich eLearning platform. This can delay the launch of the eLearning courses when the project has to be completed within a deadline. 

Maintenance: After the custom code is developed and implemented, it needs ongoing maintenance. As you maintain and update the code regularly, you will have to allocate resources to fix issues and ensure compatibility with evolving technologies. 

Scalability: Custom-coded solutions may not always be scalable to accommodate changing requirements. Even if they can be scaled up,  redevelopment entails additional costs. 

Dependency on Developers: Companies that rely on custom code have to constantly be dependent on the developers. If the developers are not available after the launch of the eLearning course, then it’s challenging to maintain the course components. 

Compatibility issues: Custom developed code may not always work smoothly with certain systems or technologies. There may be compatibility issues during integration of third-party tools or platforms due to different data formats, browser compatibility, legacy systems, specific software dependencies, etc. 

Security risks: Organizations may face security breaches if the custom code is not safeguarded properly and the developers don’t consider implementing robust security measures. Putting in place strong security measures in custom coding is critical to protect eLearning content and user data from various cyber threats.

Comparison of the Two Development Methods


Now, let’s compare Articulate development with custom code development.

Custom Code Development Articulate Development
Team structure Specialists with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. The developer only works on the technical elements Every individual has a designated role but there is room for flexibility. Team members may switch roles and get involved with other phases of the project outside their designated responsibilities
Development Process Linear process, with steps following one after the other Iterative process, with modifications made at different stages
User acceptance testing Testing is carried out once the developer finishes the task of coding Testing is conducted at every iteration to ensure that the feedback is incorporated
Time and cost Owing to the linear approach, there’s less productivity and flexibility The iterative process is extremely productive and flexible
Maintenance costs If you’re not aware of the programming languages, then you have to constantly depend on the developer for adjustments Minimal maintenance costs as it’s easy to make updates without the help of technical experts

What Can You Outsource?

When you’re planning to develop an eLearning course, you can outsource to an eLearning content development company to develop a custom course using coding. You can also get in touch with a development company if you have no experience using Articulate or an authoring tool. Once your custom developed eLearning courses and associated systems are up and running, you can work with third-party eLearning development companies for regular updates and maintenance. Integrating eLearning solutions with a CRM and an LMS can also be tough, so you can entrust this task to experienced and professional developers. You can also seek assistance when you want to create and integrate advanced multimedia elements and interactivities in your courses.

What You Shouldn't Do While Outsourcing Elearning?

Partnering with an eLearning development company can help you develop effective training solutions. Here are the things that you shouldn’t do while outsourcing the project.  

Neglecting to define clear requirements: Before you outsource an eLearning project, you should be clear about what you want to achieve. If you don’t have well-defined expectations and goals, then it will be challenging to achieve results as per organizational needs. 

Selecting a company solely due to the cost: While you may have a budget in mind, you shouldn’t choose an eLearning development company just because the team offers the lowest quote. Low-cost solutions may not meet the quality standards or may lead to additional costs due to deviation of the output from the specified requirements.  

Inadequate research on the vendor’s expertise: Not all eLearning providers are suitable for every type of project. It’s crucial to conduct thorough due diligence to ensure that the provider has experience and positive outcomes in projects similar to yours. 

Not Considering Quality Assurance Processes: To ensure the final eLearning solution meets your needs, you need to have quality check systems in place or work with an eLearning development partner who has a robust QA process.. This includes checking for the user experience, technical functionality, and content accuracy.


If you are looking to outsource the development of your custom eLearning courses, then you can depend on MITR Learning & Media. Leveraging  our experience, we deliver high-quality bespoke eLearning solutions to meet the needs of diverse organizations.

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