Authoring system

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Draft 1

Editor: Jan van der Meij, ELAN. Institute for Teacher Education and Science Communication, University of Twente

Contributors: Wouter van Joolingen, ELAN. Institute for Teacher Education and Science Communication, University of Twente


An authoring system is a computer-based system which allows creating (educational) software without the need for programming. Usually the author creates a learning environment by combining several available building blocks, each providing a template to specify its behavior.

Comments on the history

The term Authoring system is used for many different software tools. It is unclear who coined the term and when it was first used. We believe the first authoring systems were developed in the early eighties of the 20th century when the microcomputer became popular in education. By then, non-programmers (mainly teachers) wanted to be able to develop their own educational software without the need for programming. Guide (Hardman, Jones, & Winder, 1988) and Taiga (Pilot, 1988) are examples of the first authoring systems for Microsoft DOS based computers. Course of Action (the predecessor of AuthorWare, e.g., (Wolfe, 1992)) and HyperCard (Atkinson, 1987) are examples of the first authoring systems for Apple Macintosh computers. Around 1990 most authoring systems focused on the development of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS), like simulation-based learning environments and educational games. Examples are SimQuest (de Jong, van Joolingen, Veermans, & Van der Meij, 2005) and Game Maker (Habgood & Overmars, 2006).

Related terms

Authoring environment, Authoring tool, Authoring language

Translation issues


Disciplinary issues

With the advent of the web, dedicated authoring systems are becoming less important. General web-based programming languages like Java, Java Script, and HTML5 are beginning to take over or already have. Authors can be supported by content management systems such as Plone, Joomla or Drupal, as well as specific course management systems such as Moodle or BlackBoard.

Key references

Atkinson, W. (1987). HyperCard. In Software for Macintosh Computers. Apple Computer Co, Cupertino.

[1] de Jong, T., van Joolingen, W. R., Veermans, K., & Van der Meij, J. (2005). Authoring discovery learning environments: In search for reusable components. In J. M. Spector & D. A. Wiley (Eds.), Innovations in Instructional Technology: Essays in Honor of M. David Merrill (pp. 11–28). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

[2] Habgood, J., & Overmars, M. (2006). The Game Maker's Apprentice: Game Development for Beginners. New York: Apress.

[3] Hardman, H. L., Jones, D. M., & Winder, R. (1988). Hypertext Tips: Experiences in Developing a Hypertext Tutorial.

[4] Pilot, A. (1988). TAIGA: Twente Advanced Interactive Graphic Authoring System. A New Concept in Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) and Educational Research. Doc 88-18.

[5] Wolfe, C. R. (1992). Using Authorware Professional for developing courseware. Behavior Research Methods, 24(2), 273–276.