IV.1. Identifyingcourse contentCreating an e-learning course to achievespecified outcomes requires effort in three domains (i) planning (identifyingcourse content and defining measurable learning objectives for it); (ii)instruction (selecting and implementing the methods that will be used todeliver the specified content and facilitate student achievement of theobjectives); and (iii) assessment and evaluation (selecting and implementingthe methods that will be used to determine whether and how well the objectiveshave been achieved and interpreting the results).
The analysis and designstages are essential to ensure course effectiveness and learners’ motivationand participation. Analysing learners’ needs and learning content, and findingthe appropriate mix of learning activities and technical solutions is crucialto creating an effective and engaging course. Course effectiveness andparticipants’ motivation depend on several elements, including:· Relevance of the content and course objectives for theparticipant· Type of learning activities offered by the course· Course duration, timing and number of hours to beinvested· Technical aspects· Feedbacks (regular and relevant) from the tutor ifthere is one (blended learning, for instance)IV.2.
Analysingthe target audience1 Developing an e-learning course that offersinformative, well written content and high quality design elements areessential to any successful e-learning project. However, knowing your audiencecan make the difference between an effective e-learning course and an e-learningcourse that falls short of expectations (even if you’ve spent countless hoursand resources creating a unique e-learning course). As such, one of the mostinvaluable e-learning tasks at your disposal as an Instructional Designer is ane-learning course audience analysis. Here are the six key questions you willhave to ask to effectively analyse your e-learning target audience:1. Whatis the primary goal or objective of your e-learning audience?2. Whatare your learners’ educational background and/or learning abilities? 3. Whenand where will the learners be learning? 4. Whatinformation and skill-sets will the learner need to acquire? 5.
Whatare your audiences’ technical requirements (or limitations)? 6. Whatis your audiences’ learning preferences?By looking at the tasks and contentelements identified in the task and topic analyses, it is possible to translatethe overall course goal into more specific learning objectives2.Learning objectives define the expected outcome of each learning unit. Forexample, will learners be able to memorize the steps of a procedure or willthey actually be able to perform it? A learning objective is a measurablestatement describing a competency or performance capability to be acquired bythe learner. Objectives should be specified for the course as well as for eachsingle activity.
Learning objectives combine two main elements, the expectedlevel of performance (through an action verb, such as “describe” or “explain”);and the learning content (i.e. the type of knowledge or skills that must belearned, such as “the main objectives of a computer security informationsystem”). According to the revised Bloom’s taxonomy3 ofthe cognitive domain, learning objectives can imply six different types ofcognitive performance, ranging from the lowest performance level (remember) tothe highest (create) as can be seen from the figure below.
It can help broadenour view of what learners should learn. Clear learning objectives allow thedevelopment of learning activities which are really focused on learners’ needsand provide the basis for evaluation tests. It is important to ensure thatlearning activities and evaluation tests aim to develop and assess the sametype of performance and learning content as expressed in the learningobjectives; in other words, they need to be aligned with the learningobjectives.IV.3.Defining instructional methodsOnce the course structure has been defined,the best mix of methods and techniques for a specific e-learning course must beproposed.
The design of an e-learning course will involve using a mixture ofthe following instructional methods: · Expositive methods that emphasize “incorporation” ofnew information like presentations, case studies, worked examples,demonstrations.· Application methods highlights the active processeslearners use to perform procedural and principle based tasks and build newknowledge like demonstration, case-based or scenario-based exercises, roleplay, simulations and games, guided research, project work. · Collaborative methods give emphasis to the socialdimension of learning and engage learners sharing knowledge and performingtasks in a collaborative way in terms of online guided discussions,collaborative work and peer tutoring. Each method can be delivered in differentformats, using different types of media and communication tools. IV.4.
Defining the evaluation strategy 45 Another important decision relates to theevaluation strategy for your online course and it is very significant to payattention to this from the course design stage. By establishing the purpose ofthe evaluation, the teacher could check the quality of the course to improve itbefore it is implemented (formative evaluation); measure the effectiveness oftraining and learning immediately after the course has been implemented(confirmative evaluation); evaluate anold course to see if it is still valid or needs to be modified (summativeevaluation); or deciding whether or not to proceed with a course before we havedevoted too much time or too many resources to back out (predictiveevaluation). Then, teachers will need to define if they want to evaluate learners’progress and/or provide recognition. This will also influence the choice of theassessment examinations that will be integrated into the course design.Actually, teacher can assess learners’ knowledge, competences and skills beforethe course starts, at a certain point in the course (e.
g. middle evaluation)and/or after the completion of the entire course. As mentioned previously, itis important to ensure that the assessment examinations are aligned with thecourse learning objectives. For this reason, it is advisable to start draftingthe assessment examinations from the first stages, just after the definition ofthe learning objectives for each learning module. So, the overall evaluationstrategy and the methods for assessing learners’ progress must be defined aspart of the course design stage.IV.5.
Learning platforms6 An e-learning platform is a softwareapplication that integrates different management tools, communication,evaluation, monitoring, etc. with the aim of providing technological support toteachers and students to optimize the various phases of the teaching-learningprocess, either the educational process completely remote, classroom or mixednature and combine both modes in different proportions. Moreover, a learningplatform is an integrated set of interactive online services that provides theteachers, learners, parents and others involved in education with information,tools and resources to support and enhance educational delivery and management.It is a comprehensive system enabling secure, web-based training and e-learningsolution that employs a simple and intuitive user interface.
There many types of learning platforms thatcan be used to host e-learning courses and make them accessible to learners.The learning platforms with different levels of complexity, but their mostsignificant features include learning content management (creation, storage,access to resources), curriculum mapping and planning (lesson planning,personalized learning experience, assessment), learner engagement andmanagement (learner information, progress tracking), and tools and services(forums, messaging system, blogs, group discussions).Learning platforms are usually known asvirtual learning environments (VLEs), learning management systems (LMSs) or learningcontent management systems (LCMSs). These names are often used without knowingits difference but they have many common features. For example virtual learningenvironments are used to replicate traditional face-to-face classroominstruction activities by facilitating teaching and learning with a strongcollaborative component. A learning management system assists in delivery andmanagement of all learning offerings (online, virtual classroom andinstructor-led courses).
It automates the learning course and easily deliverstraining, manages learners and keeps track of their progress and performanceacross training activities, which reduces administrative overhead. And orlearning content management systems which is a multi-user environment where learningdevelopers can author, approve, publish, and manage a learning content.How do VLEsdiffer from LMSs7 Basically, there are no functionaldifferences between LMSs and VLEs, but the distinction comes more from thesetting in which they operate. LMSs are primarily for training while VLEs areprimarily for education.
For example, Moodle is considered to be an LMS withincorporate e-learning, but it is referred to as a VLE in the education sectorwhere it promotes a communicative and collaborative approach. An LMS is used bytraining administrators to manage all aspects of learning and development, suchas skill/competency, personal development plans, learning content management,reporting and workflow. A VLE, instead, supports facilitated online learning withineducation institutions and allows tutors and students to share content. Thismeans that VLEs do not necessary contain all the content within them – they mayonly provide links to content outside. VLEs are increasingly being adopted asLMS replacements; products like Moodle or Blackboard originally adopted for theeducation institutions are now widely used by the corporate market for onlineand blended solutions delivery.An additional type of platform is thelearning content management systems (LCMSs), that focuses mainly on creatinge-learning content. Namely, developers and administrators create chunks ofdigital content material (text books, papers, quizzes, video materials), whichthen are quickly assembled, reused and adapted into different courses accordingto learners’ needs. LCMSs reduce development efforts and allow digital contentto be easily repurposed.
Both LMSs and LCMSs are designed to managecourse content and track learner performance and learning objects, but theydiffer in their purposes. While LMSs manage and track online activities,classrooms and all sources and events, LCMSs do not manage blended learning,but only the digital content, even at its lowest levels. It is difficult to draw a fine line betweenthese platforms.
New generations of platforms are modular – they consist of”plug-ins” and “add-ons”, software components that extend platforms’ basicfunctionalities. Proprietaryvs. open source LMS8 Learning platforms exist as proprietarysoftware or open source. Explicitly, proprietary LMSs are licensed underexclusive legal right, restricted from modification, further distribution,reverse engineering and other uses. They are closed-source with license costsper user. From other side, open-source LMSs instead work under the terms of theGeneral Public License. The license is intended to guarantee freedom to shareand change the program and ensures that it is free for all users. Moreover,proprietary LMS software is developed and owned by a profit-generating bodythat does not let users access and make adjustments to the computer code thatdetermines the structure of the software and the activities it can perform.
Itis a closed system from the side of the organization that deploys it. Examplesof these types of LMS include Blackboard (www.blackboard.com) and Desire2Learn(www.d2l.com). There can be several advantages to implementing a proprietaryLMS:· It is reliable, because it is built by professionalswho are paid to build an effective and efficient product;· It is current, because the product must becompetitive, though there might be some lag time between when a new idea isgenerated and when it is implemented;· It links with various enterprise software systems,such as those that process financial, human resources, and administrative data;· It is supported by a company that provides training,technical support, and warranty service;· It can be hosted by the company that makes it orleased to the user.Not everyone is a fan of proprietary LMSsoftware.
Proprietary software can be expensive, especially for institutionswith small enrolments. The users and their organizations cannot access the underlyingsource code and thus cannot adjust the software, add features, or correct bugsimmediately. There not be kept current and some users consider proprietarysoftware too restrictive.From other side open-source LMSs aredeveloped by individuals for many reasons, but usually because they believethey have a “better idea” about how an LMS should function. The bestexample is Moodle (www.moodle.
org) which is learning-centred and Sakai(www.sakaiproject.org) described as a community creating technology thatenhances teaching, learning and research through the essence of collaborationand community. Following are several advantages of implementing open-source LMSsoftware for instruction and learning:· Can be easy to obtain;· Allows users work on the source code and to makechanges and enhancements;· Permits users to obtain any available updates, whichare accessible to everyone;· Can be set up by an teacher without involvingtechnical support;· Avoids restrictions that institutional administrationmight force;· Supports collaboration with others because isaccessible and can be used by anyone.
An open-source LMS can also bringdisadvantages. Even if mostly the open-source software might appear to be free,funds are required for hosting, maintaining, and upgrading the software as wellas cover additional storage and database support. Very often additionalresources are needed to integrate open-source LMS software with existingadministrative systems. Technical support can be another significant issue. Thequality of the code and the robustness of open-source software might bequestioned. The open-source LMS software might not provide the needed securityand privacy settings by educational institutions.
Nevertheless, the arguments for and againstproprietary and open-source LMSs depend on individual point of view. Moodle and other open-source LMS solutions9Moodle is a widely used learning platformbecause is free of charge and open-source. Moodle promotes a collaborativeapproach. It was originally made for education, training and developmentenvironments to help educators create online courses with a focus oninteraction and collaboration, although lately it has been extended to businesssettings as well. Moodle has most of what you would expect in an LMS, like studentdashboards, progress tracking and support for multimedia classes, andadditionally includes mobile friendly themes, support for third party plug-insand add-ons and the ability to sell courses using PayPal. Because Moodle is thebig open source player in the LMS space, it is supported by a massive andactive community with tons of plug-ins and options to customize it to yourexact specifications.
Moodle is not the only one, exists many open sourcealternatives:· Docebo (www.docebo.com)· Dokeos (www.dokeos.
com)· Claroline (www.claroline.net)· ATutor (www.atutor.ca)· ILIAS (www.
ilias.de)· OLAT (www.olat.org)· .
LRN (www.dotlrn.org)· openelms (www.openelms.org)· Ganesha (www.ganesha.
fr)Solutions for limited or no connectivity Confronted with technical limitations, likevery limited or no online access and an unreliable supply of power electricity,organizations need to evaluate those solutions that will allow users to workwith a lack of connectivity and limited ICT infrastructure. In these cases, apotential solution is to run an LMS on a local-area network (LAN) in theclient-server architecture. In this model, a server provides resources orservices, while client PCs request and retrieve content from the server via acomputer network.
Offline players areanother possible solution in cases with limited or no connectivity. Theseapplications can download and operate offline digital course content and tracklearners’ progress and preferences. Learners can take the course without havingto access the Internet. Once an Internet connection is established, itautomatically synchronizes with the LMS and updates data.
Following are fewoffline players:· Meridian (www.meridianks.com)· blackboard Agilix backpack (http://agilix-backpack.software.
informer.com/)· Harbinger (https://lms.harbingergroup.
com)Standards in e-learning10There are several standards for authoringand publishing content into an e-learning environment, and for that it’simportant to study the capabilities of the platform we’re using before creatingour course content.Before the existence of the standards,creating content implied tailoring it to a specific platform, making itdifficult to migrate it afterwards or to export it to other formats (forexample, for offline viewing).Of the standards still in use, Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is the oldest and stillthe one with the highest compatibility, even though it’s quickly being replacedfor more modern formats. SCORM defines a system of communication between thelearner using the content and the LMS, enabling it to track the completion ofthe activities.
The latest version of SCORM, SCORM 2004, enables sequencing, a set of rules defining the orderof objects to be viewed by a learner. SCORM, however, suffers from being veryoutdated (last update dates from 2009), lacks elaborated analytics on learner’sactivity and has a weak reporting system.SCORM content can be authored with toolssuch as eXelearning.Themost recent and powerful standard that is quickly replacing SCORM as the mainformat for content authoring is Tin Can (alsoknown as xAPI or Experience API). The strongest point of Tin Can is the Learning Record Store (LRS), whichstores the learner activity (even when offline) and sends it to the LMS whenconnected to the Internet.
Tin Can also tracks and stores information of amultitude of use scenarios, including mobile learning. In contrast with SCORM,which only allows to track completion and success of the abilities, Tin Canallows a better integrated content (interactive tools, social techniques orgames that historically were left outside of the LMS) and better tracking (cantrack files, PDF, images, essays, audios, etc. from the learner).Also,the Experience API has received a recent update called cmi51112,aimed to be the future of the standards, that insert a set of rules (Launched,Initialized, Completed, Passed, Failed, Abandoned, Waived, Terminated) allowingthe activities to be integrated with the internal grading system of the LMS.TinCan content can be authored with tools like Articulate Storyline.1https://e-learningindustry.com/6-key-questions-to-effectively-analyze-your-e-learning-course-audiences2 https://www.uwo.ca/tsc/graduate_student_programs/pdf/LearningObjectivesArreola.pdf3 http://educationale-learningresources.yolasite.com/resources/guildresearch_blooms2013%20(1).pdf4http://www.e-learninglist.com/whitepapers/101E-LearningStrategyarticle7-05.pdf5 https://www.efrontlearning.com/blog/2011/01/introduction-to-evaluation-in-e-learning.html6 https://www.ttu.ee/public/h/haridustehnoloogiakeskus/img/12_reasons_web_final-3.pdf7 https://e-learningindustry.com/difference-between-lms-and-vle8 http://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/4/selecting-a-learning-management-system-advice-from-an-academic-perspective9 http://blog.capterra.com/top-8-freeopen-source-lmss/10 https://myelearningworld.com/scorm-vs-tin-can-vs-aicc-the-lms-standard-showdown/11 https://myelearningworld.com/new-cmi5-e-learning-standard/12 https://experienceapi.com/cmi5/