20 Killer Instructional Design Tools to Make Your Course Authoring a Snap

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You have enough to worry about.

You’ve got content to develop, lessons to research, standards to implement. And all of this has to actually engage students.

It’s hard enough being an instructional designer without having to waste time starting from scratch with things like ease of use, student accessibility, and making your eLearning lessons look good on the page.

But why worry about those problems at all? Instead, take advantage of these fantastic instructional design tools to streamline your course authoring so you can get back to your real job: creating great educational content for your students.

Templates and Design

Want to spend less time fiddling and more time creating memorable content? Templates and design programs are the first things you need. The cool thing here is that these ones are all free.

Articulate Rapid eLearning Free Blog

Tons of templates to be had here, some even gamified and mobile-friendly. This blog also has plenty of advice and educational technology articles.

eLearning Brothers

Templates and stock images and sound clips, oh my! eLearning Brothers is a big name in instructional design for a reason, and this comprehensive list is part of that. Give them your email and they’ll give you a solid block of free content.

eLearning’s Free Templates

Pretty and clear, eLearning has a library of free design themes and bases. They’re all attractive and manage to avoid the cheesy design uncanny valley most free lists seem to fall into.


I promise that’s not a typo. eLearningLearning offers a rich database full of free template lists and links. This link is less its own free template and more like a ton of articles offering pages full of templates. Yah, I know, I love me too.

Faster Course

I’m cheating, since not all of these are free. But nestled in Faster Course’s template library are several lovely little “free” banners, and the design is just as good. Some are even award winning.

Books and Publications

The internet is a beautiful place. Researching, writing, and sharing instructional design resources has never been easier. Here are a few written things to help you out when building courses.


A library of  thousands of pre-designed courses. And it has its own fully mobile app called BizMobile, so you don’t need to be tied to your laptop or eReader.

Learning Solutions

A magazine with fourteen years of experience and thousands of articles, including plenty about instructional tech and design, Learning Solutions is totally online and totally free.


An eBook library every bit as good as a physical library. The options are fabulously diverse, from children’s books to business advice. The value here is less in professional development and more in you having a wealth of sources relating to your specific course at your fingertips. Especially useful for those of you in eLearning for schools!

Web Tools

A beautiful LMS might be all you need. But if you want to branch out, consider these options for innovative online classrooms.


Bit cheesy? Maybe. Comprehensive and diverse? Absolutely. ClassTools offers a wide and accessible variety of free gamifying and learning game templates to make your course more game-like. Their faux websites – Facebook, Twitter, and this super cool GoogleMaps game – are my personal favorites and would work great for education course design.


Offbeat and effective. Instagram is already fully mobile, familiar, and is an excellent support for microlearning and infographics. It’s a pretty popular way to engage with Instagram from an educational standpoint already; just check out the #infographic tag. Social Media Examiner has a nice blog post on how to make your own effectively.


PowerPoint is so 2003. With its smooth transitions, elegant visuals, and wide library of customized designs, Prezi is where it’s at nowadays.


It’s hard to trust traditional spell check programs, especially when you’re sharing vital content. Improve style, spelling, and grammar for free, and add a plagiarism checker for a small subscription fee.


An online successor to the physical whiteboard that lets you share, diagram, and explain concepts in real time. The convenient part is that it’s a free standalone program rather than a minor piece of a larger software system.


Slightly less offbeat, no less effective! YouTube is perfect for video-based learning, both for instructors and students. YouTube has channels and playlists you can use for professional development, and you can also use it to create your own content and share it with your learners without stressing over content compatibility.

Info Sources

You’re not in the industry alone! I’ve rounded up a variety of free resources to jumpstart your educational technologist brain.


A Twitter account focused on curriculum design infographics. And who doesn’t love a good infographic? (Nobody. Nobody doesn’t love a good infographic.)

eLearning Industry

Comprehensive eLearning and instructional design trends and methods blog, chock full of additional resources. They’re rich with interesting and thought-provoking instructional design articles.

eLearning Stuff

This excellent podcast originally wrapped up in 2012, but as of 2016 it’s back with an insightful bang. While only a few episodes specify a curriculum design focus (like this super cool episode about designing lessons that are accessible to the most diverse group possible), almost all of them are helpful, mostly offering new ways of thinking about eLearning.

Rod Pulse Podcast

A ten year old, syndicated Podcast with eLearning advice, interviews, and technology info. You may have to look for it, but there are plenty of instructional design specific advice, such as this interview with ID research specialist, Victor Yocco.


I know you know Twitter. The link above will take you to a list of 27 useful eLearning Twitter experts to follow. And, like, I guess you could also follow us @CapterraLMS. Ya’ know. If you want to.

Capterra Training Blog

Much more than this article, our blog is filled with eLearning and LMS tips, tricks, and advice. Start here for even more instructional tech resources.


What more could you want? No, really! Comment below and tell me how you like these resources and what other ones you’ve found to push your instructional design efforts to new heights.


Looking for Training software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Training software solutions.

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About the Author


Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.


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