SCORM Explained in under 4 Minutes

This is a nice simple introduction to SCORM. Anyone seen one for Project Tin Can?

Love your LMS?

LMSDo you love your LMS? In my experience most people have a real love hate relationship with their LMS – with the balance generally tipping in hate’s favour. It looks horrible, has a clunky admin area and generally makes things harder to do than they should be. Why is this? Well an LMS is primarily a ‘management system’ rather that a ‘learning system’. Think little ‘l’ big ‘MS’ not big ‘L’ little ‘ms’.

LMS are designed by techies for administrators to manage learning resources and learners. They don’t actually manage learning at all – only the evidence that some learning may have been done – in the sense that someone accessed a course, went through all the screens and then passed the test. The result is that the learner experience on most LMS’ is pretty dismal. This is a real problem because the LMS effectively provides the ecosystem which is supposed to facilitate learning. In practice it feels like a big repository of stuff.

Things are changing however, with the rise of social media platforms, LMS’ are having to adapt and become more of a learning space rather than a repository of learning resources.

What constitutes e-learning or online learning is also changing with video replacing conventional SCORM modules on some of the newer learning platforms. Add to this the increasing interest in social learning , performance support, curation, gamification and user generated content (UGC) and suddenly existing LMS’ look like a technology from the stone age. Of course most online learning is still directed and managed and requires the structure that a conventional LMS provides but if you are investigating a new online learning platform there are some interesting alternatives out there.

Here are two new kids on the block that are worth a look:

Fuse

A ‘video-centric social learning’ platform from Fusion Universal. Fuse dispenses with the SCORM package and gets down and dirty with lots of videos and UGC YouTube style. It includes quiz functionality too so you get to test your users once they have watched the relevant videos.

Learn more about Fuse

Curatr

This ‘social learning platform’ from Ben Betts and his team majors on curation rather than creation and includes elements of gamification that mean that additional content becomes available only when you get enough points. I love it’s visually rich interface and it also works well on an iPad.

Learn more about Curatr

I have demo admin accounts on both platforms and will be doing a review of both platforms over the coming weeks.

Learning Technologies 2012 Show Review

Learning Technologies 2012

I’m always so late with my post event blogs, but then they say that you should always leave some distance between the experience and your reflection on it. This one is especially late because my website was hacked via some rogue WordPress plug-ins.

I have been attending the Learning Technologies Show (I’m not describing the conference here) almost since it started back in 1999. In the early days it was dominated by learning platforms and systems – primarily LMS’ but also KM and Talent Management systems. Since then it has re-balanced somewhat in favour of content, and these days even the technologies are so much more accessible (and affordable). In particular, the rise of DIY authoring tools and learner friendly LMS’ combined with the focus on learning content has resulted in an event that is as much about learning (or at least learning content) as it is about technology.

I spent two days at the show with a part of each day on the WillowDNA stand. I managed to see some of the free seminars on the floor of the show but didn’t get the chance to participate in the conference. Last year there was some criticism that the conference and the show were out of step but then this is a problem with all conference/show combinations. Emergent ideas don’t productise very well – there needs to be healthy signs of an emerging market before savvy entrepreneurs will risk their cash.

Here are some of my reflections of the show.

e-Learning Content

All the key bespoke content developers were there including Kineo, Epic, Brightwave, Line, Saffron and IMC. Sponge were also there with a refreshed stand and the same yummy sponge cakes. A new player on the content development front was Purple Media – the stand was modelled on the cabin of an airliner – it looked good but suffered a little from putting form before function (just like their painfully slow Flash driven website – which degrades ungracefully on an iPad). Information Transfer had the most elegant stand complete with tulips and a sort of fung-shui feel in the midst of the chaos going on all around.

Off the shelf vendors included SkillSoft and Jenison. SkillSoft were a little cagey on whether their massive back catalogue would work successfully on mobile devices but Jenison’s categorisation of their content into Shapers, Express, Pathways etc. was a useful attempt to direct buyers to content that would be appropriate for different learning contexts and form factors (see my recent article on m-learning).

LMS’ and Platforms

On the LMS front there was a return for the two old boys – Saba and SumTotal. Certpoint were there as were Upside, NetDimensions, Kallidus and Coloni. Most encouragingly there were a variety of flavours of Moodle on show from Kineo, Epic, Webanywhere, Aardpress and Traineasy. I have always liked Moodle for its trainer centric approach so it’s great to see it finally coming of age in the non-education sector. Willow’s Pathway product is actually a sort of ‘Moodle lite’ aimed at the non-education market. So far it’s been really popular with developers of continuous professional development programmes (CPD)

Authoring Tools

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

As far as tools go the usual favourites were there including Adobe, Lectora, Seminar, Zenler, Luminosity and this year Articulate had their own stand manned by Don Freda and Gabe Anderson. They were demonstrating Storyline which as expected was creating a real buzz. They were handing out a Storyline brochure which includes a URL to download a FREE 30 day trial but also when I tried it you only get to register your interest. I’m guessing that Storyline will be available very soon though. The update to Studio is also in the pipeline but I got the impression that we won’t see that until Q4 2012. Kaplan ran mini-classroom sessions taking people through STT Trainer and Content Point (Atlantic Link) but these didn’t seem particularly busy. I just sense that now Mike Alcock has left the business Atlantic Link is going nowhere quickly.

I did a quick demo of Zenler with Rakesh Vallil. Zenler is a really good alternative to Articulate if you have limited budgets. I’m going to evaluate the latest version soon and write an accompanying blog post.

Mobile Learning

Of course mobile learning was high on lots of people’s agendas with mobile authoring solutions from a wide range of vendors but the solution that most impressed me was Epic’s GoMo. This authoring tool takes a straightforward approach to authoring for mobile devices. Articulate’s Storyline is also going to be able to publish content to mobile devices but it will do so on the iOS platform via the special Articulate app. I am on the Storyline beta programme but we have yet to see the ‘publish to HTML5′ option in the beta release. It’s not clear yet whether all the functionality that is available via Flash (Articulate’s standard publishing format) will be available on iOS and whether if publishing for a Flash enabled tablet whether Flash will still be recommended over HTML5.

Video for Learning

The rise of video as a ‘learning channel’ was also apparent at Learning Technologies with the biggest splash made by Fusion with their impressive mini-theatre focussing on 70/20/10 and informal learning through the medium of video. Fusion is the brainchild of ex Fuel CEO Steve Dineen and their ‘informal learning’ platform offers a refreshing change to the standard SCORM centric LMS.

Live Online Learning

Redtray are a custom content developer but their stand this year was majoring on CloudRooms – their own virtual classroom product. Clearly Redtray are confident that 2012 is going to the year that live online learning takes off!

Social Learning

There was some talk of this new ‘paradigm’ in the show but little evidence that any vendor had really developed anything approaching a full social learning solution. I guess that the interpretation of social learning is still a little vague in many people’s eyes so it’s difficult to pin down what features a social learning platform might provide. At LT2012 Fusion were probably closest to the mark with their Fuse product and I’m keen to investigate this, and the whole concept of social learning, more closely in 2012.

Fusion Universal is the first company to design a performance and support solution that addresses the whole 100% of learning. Up until now, nearly all learning suppliers have focused on only one component of the 70/20/10 principle – usually the 10% formal course part. www.fusion-universal.com

Of course the proponents of social and informal learning approaches will hate the idea that the concept could be ‘productised’ along the lines of a traditional LMS or KM type system but there is definitely a gap for a ‘learning sharing’ platform that really combines the best of formal and informal learning approaches.

Follow-up articles planned:

Review of Epic’s GoMo m-learning authoring tool

Evaluation of Zenler authoring software

Social Learning Unconfused

Related:

Twitter stats for #LT12uk

iBooks 2.0 is now in my 'bad books'

Yesterday I wrote about Apple’s two new releases that are significant for those of us working in online learning – iBooks2 and iTunes U2.

One of the issues for those of us in online learning, but in the non-education sector, is that iTunes U is aimed at educational institutions. True we can all consume the FREE content in iTunes U but ONLY educational institutions can use the course development platform (iTunes U Course Manager). This is a pity because it would provide a valuable alternative for those designing learning programmes in the non-education sector. I guess a ‘commercial’ version may feature somewhere on Apple’s secret roadmap but I think Apple also needs to recognise that ‘education’ is a business too and not get too carried away with its ‘free stuff for future Apple customers’ strategy.

More significantly there appears to be an even bigger spanner in the works when it comes to iBooks2. This product isn’t targeted just at the education market; though most of the posts on it over the last 24 hours have made a big play of interactive textbooks for students. Unlike iTunes U the authoring software for iBooks, iBooks Author, is available FREE to all (provided you use a Mac of course). The problem appears to be with the licence agreement. If you develop a book in iBooks Author the copyright of that book belongs to Apple! What’s more you can only sell an iBook through Apple – though you can give it away free on another platform (such as your own website).

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. Dan Wineman

Learn More:

Apple launches new iTunes U

Apple announced two very interesting new developments today for those involved in online learning.

iBooks2

eBooks get multimedia and interactivity embedded in the pages. This is an interesting development considering I have just been blogging about ‘learning from reading’ and ‘learning from watching video‘. iBooks2 even allows notetaking which pleases me immensely since I just blogged about the value of notetaking last month for 24Tips.

The new textbooks offer a host of functions which experts say will transform teaching – including images that turn into slideshows, links from the body text into glossaries, and multiple choice tests which are instantly assessed. Students will be able to create notes by highlighting text with their fingers, and then review all of their notes in one place – instantly creating a tailormade set of study cards. Guardian Online

Learn More: Review on Engadget

iTunes U

The most significant development though for e-learning is iTunes U. Apparently iTunes U has been around for some time but this new app provides a really cool interface for online learning. One of my favourite sayings was ‘If only Apple built an LMS.’ Well now it appears that they have. For me LMS’ have often been about the ‘MS’ not the ‘L’. Primarily they have been designed to enable L&D to manage learners and content as efficiently as possible. Well Apple’s approach has firmly placed the ball in the learner’s court.

If only Apple built an LMS. John Curran

iTunes U works in a similar way to other stuff on iTunes (music, video, apps). You browse the catalog, click to install, enter your password and bingo it downloads to your iOS device.

Currently all courses on iTunes U are free – most of it is provided by leading universities (see list of links at the end of this post). I guess this is Apple moving into the potentially lucrative education space by initially supporting Open Courseware, while the universities are experimenting with the freemium model. Or maybe I am too cynical and it’s all a genuine attempt to make the world a better place. I have only had a brief look at a couple of courses but they are quite comprehensive and clearly would have needed a reasonable amount of investment on the part of the universities. Other ‘courses’ however, such as some of those from Oxford University seem little more than a list of audio files – but it’s likely that this is legacy content from the initial version of iTunes U.

One key downside is that courses are asynchrounous – they are designed primarily for self-study. iTunes U appears to lack the ‘social learning’ activities that are becoming so popular in new LMS’. More significantly the content authoring platform is available to educational institutions ONLY. As a learning designer working in the non-education space I don’t appear to have any way of building programmes in iTunes U. That feels a lot like discrimination. Why not make the service open to all – surely a suitable business model could be identified?

One request please Apple – can we lose the iTunes when we’re not actually selling tunes? What about iOSU?

Here’s a very quick tour of an Open University course in iTunes U:

Learn More:

Related:

Moodle Administration Map

Moodle 2.1 Administration Map

I love this Moodle 2.1 Administration map from those nice guys at Synergy Learning. As an example of information design it doesn’t exactly make Moodle Administration look easy but as someone who has seen under the Moodle bonnet it’s actually quite handy. Most of all though it just looks good and encourages exploration of what is quite a complex learning platform. When is the iPhone App coming I wonder…?

Link: Moodle 2.1 Administration Map (PDF)

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