Mindflash.com bills itself as a training management system, with the ability to create and upload courses, invite end users (learners) and track results.
What I found was a solution that is a rapid e-learning authoring tool that offers easy to use functions as uploading learners and basic tracking results. While understanding this is a first stage beta, there are some nice pieces to it, but sadly, they have a way to go.
Administration view – back end
A course dashboard that offers some intuitiveness and simple to use, with easy to follow tools. View Screenshot!
You will also have a home page, from where you can:
- Create a course – New
- Manage your account – Review your information, change password, profile details
- Manage trainees – Add end users to your course/courses – Also remove them
- Manage logos & colors – Change the color of your entry page that your end users will see before logging in and after they login. You are provided with a few color options, which are eye pleasing and can see a preview prior to launching it. You can also add your logo – uploading the file into their system which appears on the page. Nice. View Screenshot
If you have already created courses, you will see them listed by “Active” “Draft” or “Archived”.
To return back to the home page from the course dashboard, which you will want to do after launching it, you must click “Home”.
Create a Course
Let me be clear this is very simple to do. Tech skills virtually nil. To start, you select a PowerPoint that you have created or are creating and upload it into the system. Each PowerPoint slide appears in order, following your PPT order. Next you can add elements – which are separate files the course. The system shows this in a timeline mechanism. For example: your first PPT slide is on the timeline then you add a word document, next an image file, another slide (your 2nd one in the deck u uploaded), then audio/movie and so on.
After finishing up, you can move the files around (you can also do it after each upload) to create your “course”. The screen shows you the files as graphic images that look like pages. If you want to remove a page or slide you can.
Course or Presentation?
Even though it is a “course dashboard”, they state “create a course”, when you actually go to “create the course”, they use the terminology, “upload presentation” and then when you want to arrange or edit, it is listed as “arrange presentation”. View Screenshot!
The system provides an assessment tool that is built-in within the product. You can add quiz questions – to your “course”. Quiz options are multiple choice, T/F, labeling (two types) and sequencing. Creating the question is extremely simple and preview is available – which is nice. Next you can place the question anywhere you want in the “course”. View Screenshot!
To add another question, you need to select “create” a question, and then post it in another place in the course. What is funky with this system is if you are not paying attention, it is easy to think that you are starting a whole new set of questions, i.e. new quiz and not a continuation of the same quiz questions.
Options with each question
Passing Grade Requirement by percentage and/or can take the quiz as often as they want. Random capability is an available option.
Launch, Edit, Remove Course
You can preview it or if you want to hold it – place it in draft. Otherwise, simply click “launch” and it is live. After it is live, you can click on the course title and edit it – which creates a copy (if you choose) and places it into the “draft” mode. Editing offers you the ability to add or remove “pages, i.e. doc., ppt slide, quiz, image, etc.). When you are ready to go live again, re-launch. View Screenshot!
If you want to remove the course permanently, I have to click the course title in the “Active” bar on the home page, then once it opens in the “course dashboard”, click “Archive” and then from the “Archive” bar on the home page, delete it.
From “draft” I can keep the copy and make changes, activate it or remove it.
Student Logs in and then wants to Enroll in that Course
Track Results & Report
Speed was quick
To see the preview, to work on the course, to launch and then from the end user side – to login, see/take a course and move around. My testing showed with a 56K modem – a tad under 21 seconds to go from click to view, if you have a Cable/DSL line the speed dropped to less than 3 seconds. T1 or higher – just a tad over 1.5 seconds.
What I did not Like
The program had three areas of real concern to me, okay – really bothered me and from an e-learning perspective it is just hard to figure out why they would want to do this.
Table of Contents
Doesn’t exist. You cannot create one, it does not create one for you – say after you launch or near launch. It just is never there. So, what you have is a flash based course with no table of contents – so people have to go in a linear fashion to take the course. They cannot bounce around to topic a or page e to page v, because they would have no idea on what the topics or drilled down pages are, unless they go linear (when you are starting out).
As I mentioned you go in a linear fashion with the course. However, you can do non-linear once you get past the first slide, but you can only go backwards (non-linear), not forward. Confused? Example: As the end user you go to page 5 (linear), you want to jump to page 8. The system won’t allow you to do it. But you can go backward – to page 2, page 4, page 1, page 3. Page 6 – yes. But page 7? Nope. Back non-linear. If you wanted to hit page 2 then jump to page 5 and you have not read page 5 yet, won’t work.
Huh? You can upload the photo of the person (listed as trainer) for the course, which end users will see, their name and e-mail address. Photo is optional. Name and e-mail address is not. Even if you have no desire to use any part of this function, you cannot without providing the trainer’s name and email address. View Screenshot! Uh, Oh – No Trainer?
Now, if this is a WBT, why would you want to see the person’s name on the course and e-mail address? You wouldn’t. Unless you planned to use the course in the classroom, which in this case, it would be an ILT course. Recall, that the course is built upon PowerPoint slides, and the connotation is that in an ILT course what do you typically see on a screen, when you sit down and start to go? The introduction to the seminar slide on the classroom screen, with the trainer’s name, maybe their photo and sometimes e-mail address.
Who did they ask about this amazing feature in their solution? Trainers. And, where do we find trainers? Providing instructor led training, regardless of size. Trainers love it, but this is WBT – “e-learning”, not “classroom/seminar training”. This “ILT” on the net angle, is equally seen with the term, “presentation” rather than course (as mentioned above). Again, “presentation” – ILT.
Even if you wanted to include the e-mail address on the opening page of the course, there are privacy concerns/issues at various companies. Do you really want everyone to know your instructional designer’s or developer’s email address? If you are an ID or developer do you want the general populous emailing you – on everything including issues – technical they may have with the course? I seriously doubt it.
When you go to select a file to upload into your course, the system opens up the infamous pop up box on your system to locate your files. No worries, it should. But nowhere in the system does it tell you what types of files it accepts. You can only see that after the box opens and then you have to pay close attention to something that says “Mindflash accepted files”, which is where the file extension on the box is located.
The file choices include the usual, but does not list .mp3 but rather .mpg – which is multiple variations including .mp3, but if you are targeting someone who is unaware of .mpg and is only aware of .mp3, then they will have no idea. Yet, they show .mp4 files. View Screenshot!
No. And not planning on – anytime in the near future.
The Bottom Line
Mindflash.com 1st beta has some pieces to it and offers people who are seeking a very simple and easy solution to create and launch courses. Perfect for someone who wants rapid uploads of content. If you do not mind the only tracking feature I mentioned above and are seeking something very simple, then it may be the choice for you.
Mindflash.com did notify me that they plan to have a public beta and will make some additional changes based on user feedback for that beta version. I plan to stay on it and see if they make changes that truly make this an all encompassing e-learning solution, because right now it isn’t.