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Starting an Online School

Posted by Richard | Posted in E-Learning Moodle | Posted on 04-05-2012

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For those at the beginning of starting an online school or training center there are many things to consider. First, the sheer number of Learning Management System platforms to choose from can add to the frustration of getting a project started. Every LMS has its own set of features and no two are the same. Cost is also a major consideration for most organizations. Each LMS has its own unique pricing structure. Some charge on a per learner basis while others charge a flat fee on a monthly or annual basis. There are many variants within these two basic approaches.

The first step is to determine your annual budget. This can quickly eliminate some platforms from consideration. Initial costs can often be more than ongoing annual costs. Your startup budget can be several times what your normal operating budget will turn out to be.

The second step is to determine what your specific requirements are for an LMS. Write those down and use them when you are talking to LMS vendors. If you have special requirements that are not met by a particular platform ask if the vendor will modify his system to meet your needs. Some will, many will not. If they are willing to modify their system be sure to get a firm quote for the work.

Once you determine the LMS platform that will fit your budget and your specific requirements the real work begins. Depending on your goals there are a number of approaches you can take. Your eLearning platform can be part of a blended learning system, it can provide live scheduled classes, it can provide solely on demand online classes or any combination of these. You can create your own courses, have courses created by a third party or buy SCORM (Scalable Content Object Reference Model) packaged courses and import them to your LMS. Generally, when you purchase SCORM courses you will pay on a per user basis.

You can learn more about the details of getting started in online training by going to http://www.Avasoft.net or by calling 239-567-9725.

I recommend you take a close look at Moodle.  This is an open source Learning Content Management System. It can be used free of charge. It is a feature rich system that can provide all the various approaches mentioned above.  Avasoft can host and even modify the system for you. Setup is free.

LMS Purchasing Guide

Posted by Richard | Posted in E-Learning Moodle | Posted on 03-05-2012

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Shopping for a learning management system (LMS) is made difficult by the number of systems from which to choose. This blog will attempt to remove some of the confusion and mystery surrounding learning management systems.

There are many things to consider when looking for an LMS. The major considerations are budget, scope (number of learners and amount of content), hosted vs. non-hosted options, brandable vs. non-brandable systems, SCORM vs. non-SCORM systems and last but not least what you see is what you get vs. systems that can be customized to meet special requirements.

Budget:

Organizations generally start their initiative into distance learning with a fixed budget. The size of this budget can eleminate a host of LMS’s or not.

SCORM based systems tend to be high priced and license fees are often paid on an annual basis. In addition to this, per learner fees can raise the price beyond many budgets. LMS’s range in price from $5,000.00 to $50,000.00 or more. Some are cheaper initially but charge additional fees for features, number of learners, number of courses and bandwidth usage. These fees are repeated on a monthly basis raising the cost of ownership significantly.

Scope:

The size of the installation is often not given careful consideration. Are you expecting to have 50 learners or 10,000 learners, one course or 500 courses, a lot of video (this can lead to additional bandwidth charges).

Most systems charge extra for file storage beyond a set limit and bandwidth beyond a certain limit. This is no different than how a hosting company charges a Website owner for storage and bandwidth. Certainly the scope of the installation will influence this.

Hosted vs. Non-Hosted:

Some systems offer only a hosted option, others offer both options. For a number of reasons such as security, some organizations require they host the LMS themselves. Another obvious advantage to that is saving the cost of hosting with the LMS vendor. Generally expect to pay more to have the LMS vendor setup the system on your server. Many variables can make the setup more time consuming in a hosting environment not 100% controlled by the vendor.

Branded vs. Non-Branded:

Many LMS’s do not offer this option. Basically it allows you to offer your courses to organizations that want the content to appear to be coming from them. In other words, the look and feel the learner experiences is the same as the look and feel of the organization’s Website. This is usually a very costly option in those LMS’s that provide it.

SCORM vs. Non-SCORM:

As mentioned before, SCORM complient LMS’s are more costly than non-SCORM systems. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a complex specification designed in response to a Department of Defense initiative to bring standardization to eLearning. One of the biggest advantages to having a SCORM based system is you can take a SCORM based course, packaged in a zip file, and easily import it into a SCORM LMS. This portability is very useful if you have several LMS’s and need to add the same course to them. SCORM content can also be added to non-SCORM systems but it is a more tedious process. If your content is free form such as a variety of Word documents, PowerPoint files, video files and Flash files, then a non-SCORM system will work just fine and you can save a great deal of money.

Here are some examples of LMS’s that fit a range of budget categories.

www.elearningmanagementsystem.com - This LMS is designed for small to mid-size installations. It is not SCORM complient. The vendor offers hosted or non-hosted options, branded or non-branded options and is customizable.

It is priced on the lower end of the scale.

www.xtention.com - This is a mid-range SCORM complient system. It offers branded and non-branded options.

http://www.Avasoft.net/e-learningmoodle.aspx - Avasoft works with organizations that choose the Moodle LCMS as their e-learning platform.

 

Moodle is open source so there is no charge for using it. The only cost incurred would be for hosting Moodle or any consultation or development services provided by Avasoft. For more information call 239-567-9725.

www.wsi-ole.com - This is a SCORM based LMS at the lower end of the price range. It offers branded functionality at no additonal cost. It is suitable for small to large installations. No non-hosted option is available.

www.blackboard.com - This is a very high-end system at the high end of the price scale. It is very capable and offers a large variety of add-on features.

To SCORM or Not to SCORM

Posted by Richard | Posted in E-Learning Moodle | Posted on 03-05-2012

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If you are interested in training students or employees online you are most likely mired in researching the many options and systems available. This can be a daunting task. Here we will attempt to get you past the first decision you will be faced with in your quest. That is to focus your research on a SCORM complient Learning Management System (LMS) or a non-SCORM LMS.

SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a complex specification designed in response to a Department of Defense initiative to bring standardization to eLearning. Without getting into the technical aspects of SCORM which would make the eyes of many scholars glaze over, I will attempt to hit the high points of whether it is right for you from an online training perspective.

 

The main reason to purchase a SCORM system is portability. Most content providers use SCORM complient authoring tools. If you are interested in purchasing a course from such a provider, having a SCORM complient LMS will greatly facilitate importing the course into your system. If you are a large college or university with many different SCORM LMS’s you could easily move courses between these different systems.

The main reason to avoid SCORM is cost. Most vendors charge large annual licensing fees for SCORM systems. In addition, they charge monthly fees based on the number of learners you have in the system. To add insult to injury they often charge additional fees for add-on services and features.

One example would be branding. If you want to sell your courses to different institutions and brand them accordingly, you will pay dearly for the privilege. A stark exception to this is Moodle. This is a SCORM compliant LCMS that is open source and free to use. The only costs associated with using Moodle are hosting, training, consulting or course development services. Avasoft is a company that will setup Moodle on their servers at no charge and offer many services to get your school online.

For more information go to http://www.Avasoft.net/e-learningmoodle.aspx or call 239-567-9725.