Spooked by MOOC’s? Debunking TLA’s in the distance learning spectrum
If you’re thinking about implementing an online learning project, and you’re new to the industry, you’ll probably find the use of jargon and the range of products and services somewhat bewildering. If you have found that the number of TLA’s (Three Letter Abbreviations!) being thrown around is enough to make you see double, then you’re not alone. So, if you need help to understand why your colleague is ROFL when you’re AFK because you asked for help to Like a Follower or because you thought a MOOC was a bovine sneeze, then you’ll know what I mean.
Unless you have a high level of tolerance for frustration then selecting your online partner should be a question of looking beyond the platform on offer and slickness of content production. Finding companies that rise above an abbreviation punctuated and jingoistic pitch and finding people who offer the things that you really need, such as help in getting set up; real ongoing support; product upgrades pushed as standard; daily data back ups and robust disaster recovery plans etc is one of your key challenges. In other words, finding someone to work with who provides the elements that make the experience a pleasure and makes your plan a success.
Some business relationships are simple, but life does become more complicated when the purchase is for something more dynamic such as online learning platforms and programmes. Comparison of the options can be complex and time-consuming and all too often we hear stories of projects going wrong because, somewhere along the line, someone failed to understand what was being requested or what was on offer.
The market for e-learning is growing rapidly.
Estimates suggest a growth rate of 23% pa for the five years to 2017 and according to IBIS Capital, around 42% of Fortune 500 companies make use of e-learning already. Delivering the services to meet this growth has led to an explosion of companies, although consolidation is starting to happen.
The global corporate e-learning market is expected to double over the next 3 years as market acceptance of e-learning results in increasingly widespread use. This take-up is being seen in both large and small companies.
The industry can be divided into four key areas:
- Consultancy: Companies and individuals who work with businesses to identify learning needs and help specify and/or provide solutions to meet those needs.
- Content: Companies that design and produce bespoke learning materials.
- Learning Management System (‘‘LMS’’): Companies that provide software platforms for managing learning and content. LMS’s are primarily web-based.
- Distribution: It isn’t all about the PC these days… Tablets and smartphones mean that learners can access content on an anywhere/anytime basis.
On your journey to decide what type of product is appropriate you’re going to encounter a range of terms. The list below isn’t exhaustive, but it will give you much of the information you will need to succeed. Once you’ve digested the range of possibilities out there the question becomes, how to decide? One of the key elements that will help you make that decision will be your budget. There are some great ways to generate high quality, interesting, interactive learning content without breaking the bank - again, it comes down to working with people that you feel a connection to.
But before you can make any decisions, it’s of paramount importance to understand what it is that you actually want to buy. Understanding the role of an online learning programme is fundamental to that choice. Online training and education has evolved and developed over the past decade and change is being driven by increasingly robust expectations from learners. Your chosen partner should help keep you up to date with the latest trends and demands from learners.
We hope that this list is a useful starting point on your journey and we hope to have an opportunity to discuss your requirements with you soon.
Asynchronous Learning. Interactions between instructors and students that occur periodically and with a time delay. For example, self-paced courses taken online, Q&A mentoring, online discussion groups, and email.
Authoring tools. These are pieces of software that allows users to create multimedia content and to build programmes, without needing to have coding skills.
Blended Learning. Where a programme combines face-to-face classes with content delivered online.
e-Learning. Describes the use of digital media, information and communication technologies in education and includes all forms of educational technology in learning and teaching.
Flipped classroom. Describes a situation where you ask learners to work through online content in their own time outside the classroom, and then use the classroom time to discuss problems.
HTML5. Hypertext Markup Language v5. HTML is the standardised method for tagging files for web pages. HTML5 is a modern extensible markup language that can be used to describe presentation semantically. Not only does HTML5 include more semantic tags than its predecessors but it also includes a markup specification called Microdata, allowing the meaning of the content to be tagged more specifically. HTML5 provides a good foundation that can be easily ported to other devices and formats in a meaningful way.
LCMS (Learning Content Management System). An LCMS provides an authoring application, a data repository, a delivery interface, and administration tools. The authoring tools provide templates and storyboarding capabilities, and may be used to convert existing content. Some LCMS's offer collaboration tools.
Learning environment. The physical or virtual setting in which learning takes place.
Learning object. A reusable, media-independent collection of information used as a modular building block for e-learning content. Learning objects are most effective when organized by a meta data classification system and stored in a data repository such as an LCMS.
Learning portal. Any website that offers learners access to learning and training resources from multiple sources. Operators of learning portals are also called content aggregators.
LMS (Learning Management System). This is the software platform used to manage the learning process and the associated content.
LRS (Learning Record Store). A digital place to store learning records.
MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). Future Learn was a high profile UK example launched in September 2013. MOOC’s are online courses offered for free with the aim of attracting very high enrollment numbers. Providers often charge for ‘value added’ parts such as final assessments and certificates.
Open learning. Where learning is more than a simple knowledge transfer; where organic development of learning can come about from, for example, studying outside of a formal environment. The use of social media style tools can facilitate this goal.
SaaS. Software as a Service is online software to run behind a firewall on a local area network or personal computer.
SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model). This describes technical specifications that enable the re-use of web-based learning content across multiple environments. SCORM dictates how an LMS must make the API (Application Programme Interface) available to the content, so content developers know exactly how to write the code to locate and call the API.
Social learning. This is where a platform is designed for learners to express their views and opinions on what they are learning. These debates can result in more knowledge being gained, along with a greater understanding of the material. Integrating social media into learning can further develop the learning.
Synchronous Learning. Real-time, instructor-led online learning in which all participants are logged on at the same time and communicate directly with each other. Interaction may occur via audio or video conferencing, Internet telephony (e.g., Skype), or two-way live broadcasts.
Tin Can API. A specification for learning technology that makes it possible to collect data about the wide range of experiences a person has online and offline. Can be thought of as next generation SCORM.