Open Source Versus Commercial CMS/LMS: Financial Considerations

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When considering open source versus a commercial/proprietary CMS/LMS to deliver eLearning financial considerations greatly impact the eLearning manager’s decision making process. Below please find my interactive presentations on financial considerations when weighing the options for which method might best fit your organization’s needs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3pi2eQjsk0

Please let me know what you think:

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Top Ten List: Things to Consider When Thinking About Starting an eLearning Program

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1. What is the purpose or mission of starting an eLearning program at your organization? In other words: what are you trying to accomplish?

Determining your need for starting an eLearning program is important as you need to know what educational gap you are trying to fill. Research and evaluations can be a good indicator that there’s a need for a new eLearning program

2.  Who will be responsible for the management of the overall project budget and how will your budget be determined?

Understanding the budget is imperative for starting your online learning planning process as you need to know what you’re working with in terms of dollars and staffing.

3. Do you have a plan in place to evaluate both the educational gap you are looking to fill and also the success of your program?

There are a plethora of electronic survey tools out there such as SurveyMonkey that are easy to use and allow you to quickly gather data. Many eLearning systems even have build-in pre and post-course evaluations to collect information to determine knowledge learned.

4. Do you have IT infrastructure in place to support things such as student access (e.g. registration)?

A course could be amazing, but if there’s no way for the learner to access it then it’s pretty pointless. Planning for access, for example, perhaps with your organization’s database can be tricky and needs to be planned for well in advance.

5. How will you ensure your course is designed so that it is pedagogically appropriate for online learning?

Not all content is “eLearning worthy” nor is it “eLearning ready”—meaning  something that worked well in a brick and mortar establishment many not work for eLearning.

6. Do you have a eLearning support plan for course content?

A poorly supported course will overshadow the best of the best content hands down! Don’t ruin your eLearning program failing to properly support the course content inquiries as well as technological issues.

7. Do you have an eLearning interface/platform/technology design plan?

Planning for what is the best interface and platform to deliver your eLearning program are important to consider and looking at your audience is critical. In most cases making your program easy to use/navigate will produce a positive learning experience.

8. Do you have a plan for designing a program that is easy to use and appealing for the adult learner?

This ties in to number 7, but it is more so related to the content itself—making a course that utilizes a variety of media such as videos, forums,  and on-demand lectures  are all examples.

9. Do you have a plan to market your eLearning program to achieve the usage results and reach the audience you desire?

Working with a marketing team to develop the promotional content is a good way to ensure that they are in alignment and that you are getting learners to your program that are getting what they expected.

10. How will the eLearning program be protected?

Considering copy-writing your eLearning program or minimally using Creative Commons to provide some protection  to your program are all good ways to ensure that your hard work is not for nothing.

Are We Being Left to the Wolves? A Closer Look at Online Support

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I recently read Professor Mary Thorpe’s article from 2002 on Rethinking Learner Support: the challenge of collaborative online learning. Thorpe is the former Director of the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University. The Open University was incepted in the 1960’s and provided university level distance education that didn’t require prerequisites for attendance. This all sounds great in theory, but it also presents a need to support students at all levels for both course content and technological needs (Thorpe 110). Thorpe discusses providing personalized support and I completely agree that understanding the specific needs of the person you’re supporting are crucial in producing a positive support experience.

In adult education I have experienced first-hand that the support can be an afterthought by senior management and that getting the program launched so it can produce ROI is paramount. The problem with this is that a bad experience with elearning product support will cause hesitancy for the learner to look to this source for future education. The course materials may be top notch, but if the registration and technological support experience was poor it will can overshadow the course content.  Also, word spreads fast so if one had a bad experience they’ll have no problem telling their friends. Regardless if the other learners would require support that would also produce a support issue the bad experience is already in their mind.

In some ways I think that support for online interactions has gotten worse primarily at the corporate level. Many companies providing education on their products or services have faltered greatly in by providing sub-par services that have been sent off-shore. Additionally, many use FAQs and key word searches in order to try and avoid transitioning the user to the less then quality “live” support it will be providing. I think all online support, not just in academia, needs to re-evaluate support needs and put the end-user first. Can you remember a really bad support experience you had? I’m sure there’s at least one that you’ll never forget!

Thorpe, M. (2002). Rethinking Learner Support: the challenge of collaborative online learning

Adoption of Educational Technology at a Medical Nonprofit Organization

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When I was hired as an eLearning Manager at a medical nonprofit early 2012 I had no idea what was in store for me. During the interview process it became clear that there was very little eLearning happening, but they had recently purchased a Learning Management System (LMS). If it had been five years ago I probably would have already been out the door, but the carte blanche was exciting to me.  In order to demonstrate the value of the LMS quickly I began by re-purposing recent recordings of webinars that were being completely underutilized; a few edits with the video/audio editing tool Camtasia, and soon we had 3 quality content eLearning modules ready to launch as a free benefit to our 40,000 members. Marketing assisted with the development and promotion, and we decided to charge non-members to entice people to join and add ROI.

The newly launched 3 eLearning courses were a great way to show departments of my organization the capabilities of the LMS and the benefit eLearning can bring to education by reaching the unreachable. I was soon being invited to meetings by directors of various departments looking to me to consult on what they could take online.  The early adopters had high expectations and were excited to be the one of the first to use the technology. My biggest challenges were actually all things I had little control over: database issues and no internal tech support. These challenges although not my doing or the LMS were viewed as “problems” with the eLearning, and the uniformed whispering led to skepticism by others considering adopting the launch of their education online.

Building relationships with IT staff and quality technological infrastructure for the LMS is still a daily challenge for me. It’s a large part of my position to bridge this gap in order to create a successful, high quality eLearning experience for our users as well as meet the strategic goals of our departments. I’ve recently been able to hire more staff for my team to help with not only the development of eLearning, but to manage the crucial support my programs require to be sustainable. I’m excited about where I’ve taken, and will be taking my organization moving forward. I’ve gone from a Lone Ranger to by next month leading an eLearning team of 5 staff, including a dedicated eLearning technology support staff.

Blog 2: Planning Your Vision

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The readings and other assignments really resonated with me in this module as I have direct experience with challenges in the implementation of eLearning within an institution. In the Dr. Johnson interview he discusses the challenges of overcoming the negative perception of eLearning and also setting up the expectation that an online course will be the same as a face to face. In my experience at my nonprofit organization we first hand are looking to overcome push back from our nursing instructors in the testing procedure we took online in mid-2012.

Originally a face to face testing procedure for those that need recertification to teach an Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course we determined a need to take the live testing process and manual scoring to an online format. The challenge was that many of our seasoned instructors were reluctant to change and uncomfortable with the technology. I don’t necessarily agree with Bates that vision is more important than planning, but I think that one cannot exist without the other. Without a clear vision what are you planning for? In the case at my organization we could have done better with developing our vision with all leaders and stakeholders to ensure readiness for taking the process online. If we had better understood the importance in automation so as to prevent human errors and manual processes we could have then educated the instructors on why the change should be made and had them be an integral part of the planning process. Instead they felt uninformed and uncomfortable with the online testing and outcomes were less than stellar. Bates said, “…the decision about whether or not to use technology in the first place should be reached through a strategic planning exercise that takes into account the overall needs of learners and the teaching goals or mission for the institution or department.” (45). My organization made the decision to automate the testing process based on their need to reduce staff time and failed at strategically developing a solid vision and plan with those that it would directly impact.

Bates, A.W. (2000.) Chapter 2. Leadership, Vision, and Planning in a Post-Fordist Organization.

First Official Blog: What is eLearning?

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I define eLearning as learning that occurs through the leveraging of technology. The management of eLearning I define as the all-encompassing management of all aspects of the design, development, implementation, and continued maintenance of eLearning.  I suspect both of these personal definitions will change over the period of the semester. I also think that the management of eLearning has so many components that it is far too complex to try and sum it all up in a brief definition that I feel comfortable with.

As we are currently studying Tony Bates’s, “Managing Technological Change,” I was quite curious how he defines eLearning. I did a search of his website and shortly located his definition. He defines eLearning as, “all computer and Internet-based activities that support teaching and learning – both on-campus and at a distance,” (Bates 2008).  In some ways I question his definition because to me it seems inclusive of academia. I would argue that anytime learning is occurring regardless of the audience or content elearning is taking place. If my argument is valid, then would surfing the internet and learning something new from a webpage be eLearning?

References.

A.W. Bates (2005). Managing Technological Change

A.W. Bates (2008). What is eLearning?  Retrieved from: http://www.tonybates.ca/2008/07/07/what-is-e-learning/