My Top 10 Tools for Learning 2021

It has been several years since I last added my top 10 tools for learning as part of Jane Hart’s annual survey. Some of these are my personal learning tools; others are what I use to create learning for others. You can vote for your top 10 tools for learning until August 26. These tools aren’t ranked, but they are categorized based on whether I use them to create learning for others or as a tool for my own personal development.

My Top 10 Tools for Learning 2021

Work: Creating learning experiences for others

I use these tools for creating learning experiences for others.

Articulate 360 (primarily Storyline)

Most of the elearning content I build for clients is created in Articulate Storyline, part of the Articulate 360 suite. Storyline is fairly easy to develop with, but flexible enough to do plenty with if you’re creative.

Articulate Review saves me tons of time collecting feedback from clients and stakeholders. I use Rise for some development as well, depending on the project.

Twine

Twine is my favorite tool for creating branching scenarios. After struggling to write them and make them work in linear tools, it’s amazing how much faster I can develop multiple connected paths in Twine. Plus, it’s free and open source, with an active developer community working to extend its functionality and user communities for support.

Affinity Designer

I use Affinity Designer nearly every week to edit images for elearning. It’s the tool I use for editing SVG characters like in this Twine scenario. I use Affinity Photo as well, often switching between the two depending on which tools I need. These are great replacements for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop at a much more affordable price.

SnagIt

I use SnagIt all the time for quick screenshots. If I need to quickly show a colleague or client how to do something, or I need to show an error for troubleshooting, SnagIt is the perfect tool.

Audacity

While I nearly always pay professional voice over artists rather than record narration myself, I often end up doing minor audio edits. Audacity is free, open source, and does everything I need for quick audio revisions.

PowerPoint

For all that it is a much maligned tool, PowerPoint is still a regular part of my toolbox. I use it to create mock-ups of elearning layouts and occasionally for basic image editing. As I regularly speak at conferences and online events, I also use PowerPoint to create slides for those sessions.

Work and self-development

The line between professional learning and personal learning is somewhat blurry. Zoom and WordPress fill multiple needs for me, both professional and personal.

Zoom

I use Zoom for live delivery of coaching and training. Zoom is the tool we use for the biweekly live Q&A sessions for the eLearning Freelancer Bootcamp.

Professionally, Zoom is the tool I use to communicate with clients. Nearly all of my work was remote even before the pandemic. Zoom is easy to use, so even my less technical clients can manage it. I use regularly screen sharing to help with reviews and to guide calls.

Zoom is also one of the main tools that helps me learn from colleagues. The Online Network of Independent Learning Professionals (ONILP) meets via Zoom twice a month. Sometimes we have a presentation (I’ve spoken to the group several times), but it’s usually a “community hour.” We spend an hour asking questions and helping each other out. This is my primary personal learning network.

I also learn through the online conferences and events I attend, many of which use Zoom as the primary tool.

WordPress

WordPress has been my tool of choice for blogging for nearly 15 years. This is the place I do most of my personal reflective learning. Frequently, I don’t know what I really think about a topic until I write about it. Writing helps me connect ideas and clarifies my understanding.

In addition, my blog is a place where I try to help others learn. When I “work out loud” and demonstrate how I accomplished something, others can read and benefit from that. When readers email me or comment about how helpful something was, I know I’m meeting that goal too. New clients find me through my blog. If they read something I wrote and find it helpful, they already trust my expertise before they even contact me.

Self-development

For my own learning and self-improvement, I also use Slack and Diigo.

Slack

In addition to the live conversations with the ONILP, we have a Slack chat. If I’m stuck on something and need help figuring out how to solve a problem or negotiate with a client, that’s the group I turn to.

As is always the case though, what makes it work well is the community of people, not the tool. I’m in some other Slack chats that are focused on project management or other issues besides learning. Slack certainly enables that community to stay in touch, but no community can happen without the investment of time and effort.

Diigo

Diigo is where I bookmark links and make notes. Reading a lot is great, but I also need a way to find sources again when I need them. When I read something interesting, I bookmark it so it’s easy to find and refer to later when I need it. Diigo is how I collect links for my bookmarks posts.

Past posts

Interested in how this list has changed over time? I posted my top ten tools for learning in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2014.

Don’t forget to add your vote for your top 10 tools for learning!

3 thoughts on “My Top 10 Tools for Learning 2021”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Christy! I love how you said writing helps you clarify your understanding of a topic. I didn’t realize how much this was true for me until I started blogging. It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my own professional learning. I also just signed up with Diigo after seeing it in your list. I have articles, posts, and other resources saved in multiple places, so I’m hoping that helps me get better organized!

    1. My one worry with Diigo is that it’s not a currently updated tool. Everything still works, but there haven’t been any updates in several years. I have so much of my library of links in Diigo, and I still use it, but I worry that it might just stop being supported.

      I looked at Pinboard a little, and that might be a reasonable replacement. It doesn’t do the highlighting of Diigo though, and I like that feature too. Maybe Hypothes.is or Memex would be better for annotation.

      There are a couple of other options here.
      https://alternativeto.net/software/diigo/

      If you’re just getting started now, you might actually want to check those others out. As much as I have loved and still use Diigo, it might be time to move on.

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