Lots of stuff has been going on these past few weeks s0 let’s just jump right in.

Standalone Quiz/Assessment Tools

I’ve really been watching this space for the past two years, and while there continues to be enough products that fit within this category, I’m on the belief that this space is on the downside.

I love Questionmark, its a wonderful product and it can use a “connector” to integrate into your learning platform or system. Yes, it has a mobile component too. However, times are continuing to change in regards to the overall standalone quiz/assessment tools market.

  • Increase in the number of rapid course authoring tools that offer assessment tool capabilities including randomization, quiz banks, numerous question options and can be part of the course to be uploaded as a SCORM package
  • Greater increase in the number of learning management systems offering quiz/assessment tools. While this has been happening for quite a few years now, my “greater increase” comes in terms of the analytical data that can be extracted from assessment results. The days of limited output are slowly being phased out. This is not to say that every LMS can do this, nor does it say that what the end user sees is uber-robust, but on the back end the analytical data for many systems can be significant.
  • When you toss in ad-hoc reporting and filters for assessment data, it adds another push
  • PLUS if you have APIs that offer additional assessment or data functionality and it can be integrated into your system – all the better

The quiz/assessment market is similar to the LMS space in terms of its slowness moving into mobile specifically for tablets. There are tools that have achieved mobile, but the majority are smartphones and one I recall is specifically for the Blackberry.

End Game

Considering the growth of authoring tools, learning platforms, even mobile platforms jumping into the assessment tool space with equal performance, it just seems to be moving down the opposite side of the bell curve.

The same can be said for survey tools. The standalone market for these seems to no longer make sense. Again, you can find them in most learning systems and even some authoring tools. They equally match the survey tools, and for some systems their survey tool is better.

The only real gain for survey tools – specifically polling – is the mobile real time polling option, but even then, it is starting to slide into some learning platforms.

Bottom Line

I do not expect to see the end of days with the standalone assessment market anytime soon. That said, if I was looking to enter the e-learning space, I wouldn’t choose the standalone survey, assessment or combination of the two market.

Online Proctoring – which I differentiate from a standalone typical assessment tool

While it is true that there are vendors who are pure online proctoring solutions, it would seem to me, that having it as part of a learning management or platform is a better route then just a self-contained OP solution.

The keys to success with online proctoring include

  • Web cam – ideally one that has an extensive viewing side by side angle
  • Security features – a must –
  • Electronic signature – for validation purposes
  • Enter in their Social Security number and other data for verification – some people are quite leery about entering in their SS# online and it is quite understandable. Even a DL# can be worrisome. Perhaps a few questions asked when they register for the courses. Then at a later point you ask them and they need to respond before taking the test. This might eliminate the “friend” takes the test, since it is unlikely the “friend” would know the answers, especially if there is a waiting period before a test is administered.
  • Records IP address – verification purposes
  • Viewing on the other side by an employee or proctor from the company (i.e. someone is watching)
  • Robust data analytics – which is ideal

If I was a school or college who offers courses online and has their students take tests as part of their courses, an online proctoring system makes sense rather then having the student or employee physically drive somewhere to take the test. I know of people who have had to do this and when they arrive, they sit down to take the test on a computer, with a proctor standing behind them.

I don’t know about you, but why not just have them do it at their place of residence? I mean isn’t one of the benefits of online learning is that you do not have to physically go to the location to take your courses?

On the business side including associations where certification is a requirement, the online proctoring system again offers real value.

What about cheating?

This is the one downside to taking exams online, even if you have a time limit. You never really know who is taking the exam, test or assessment. Equally, you should assume that the student has their notes and book open for the test.

I know of educators who have said that because it is timed, there is no way someone could view their notes, etc. and still complete the test.

I disagree. It is easy to do and if you have enough time to prep, and a big enough table or layout where you are taking your test, very doable.

In the end, no matter what type of security you setup, if someone really wants to cheat even with a 360 web cam that the vendor provides, it can be done. Anyone who says their product is 100% foolproof and can never be hacked is misleading you. Anything can be hacked – just ask the DOD.

Bottom Line

I believe that unlike the standalone true assessment/quiz tools, online proctoring systems will continue to grow, especially with more and more colleges and schools offering 100% of courses and even some degrees online.

Collaborative Learning Systems

As discused in my Linkedin group, over the past several months there has been a huge upswing on the online authoring system market. The challenge though comes in terms of what should they be called. Names such as training management system and elearning collaboration are out there.

Some systems call themselves a learning management system, but what they offer is clearly an online authoring system.

The problem lies that having something called “authoring system” can easily be assigned to the SaaS authoring tools that are continuing to grow in the space. Especially since they are continuing to add features that are not typical in the old days of authoring solutions.

However, one thing is certain, they do not offer the specific set of features that you find in a pure online authoring system.

Thus, to eliminate confusion with this or that term, I analyzed what would be name that can be assigned to these new breed of systems – i.e. online authoring systems. The term that seemed to make the most sense is “Collaborative Learning Systems”.

In order for a CLS to exist the following has to exist within the product

  • Primary feature is the built in rapid course authoring tool
  • Peer review or collaboration review (more in a sec on my definition on that)
  • Cannot upload third party content into the CLS – this removes the LMS angle
  • Cannot upload courses/content created by another content authoring tool
  • E-mail notification – becoming very common
  • Most tend to be proprietary, but I have seen a few that are SCORM/AICC and yes even PENS
  • Includes a few reports – and I mean a few – nothing robust here
  • Include some very basic analytical data
  • After creating the courses they stay within the system, they cannot be outputted into a learning platform or system (standard, but guess what? One system offers the ability to do so – but prefers that people use just their product rather then pushing it via PENS to a LMS or downloading the course in a SCORM wrapper, then uploading it into a SCORM LMS)

These are the standard set of features for an online authoring system. However, just as anything that occurs in the e-learning space, new features are beginning to appear.

They include:

  • Offers a note section – i.e. the person creating the courses or SMEs or reviewers can leave notes, comments, recommend changes, often time stamped, date stamped
  • Some CLSs have version stamps, i.e. ver. 1, then ver 2 – which can be archived with the notes being retained
  • Ability for two authors or more to work on the course simultaneously. How? As long as the folks are not in the same section of the course it can be achieved
  • Templates
  • Can use PowerPoint

Defining Collaboration

As noted in previous posts, what one person defines as collaboration is not necessarily what someone else defines as it. For online authoring systems, collaboration means two or more people either

  • Working on the course – one is online then goes offline and the other author goes online. and so on..again, CLSs are now starting to offer the multiple authors online at the same time, just not in the same section
  • Peer Review – multiple SMEs or whomever reviewing the course and leaving notes or comments

It should be noted that for many rapid content authoring tools that are SaaS, collaboration is in fact very similar if not the exact duplicate of CLSs.

A Collaborative Learning System is different then a SaaS rapid course authoring tool

Key differences:

  • CLSs have reports and provide some analytical data – RCATs do not
  • With 99% of CLSs you can not output your course into any LMS or learning platform, RCATs you can – unless the RCAT is proprietary. As aforementioned one CLS vendor says you can push your course into a LMS, but they recommend/prefer that you use their system, rather than the LMS

Podcast Mania

As many of you may be aware, E-Learning 1 on 1 is a new podcast series from E-Learning 24/7. Each week, I interview a senior executive or CEO from various e-learning companies around the world. The interview is uneditied and the executives are not provided the questions ahead of time.

The podcast is available for download via iTunes, but you can also visit the podcast site directly and either listen on the site or download the mp3 for listening for wherever, including on your mp3 player or tablet.

Past Shows

  • 2/24/12 – Tim Martin, foremost expert on SCORM, Partner of Rustici Software
  • 2/16/12 – Chris Wingerden, VP of Learning Solutions, dominKnow
  • 2/9/12 – Mike Eggermont, Partner of Blatant Media, Absorb and Absorb SmartLab LMS
  • 2/1/12- Ara Ohanian, CEO, President and Chief Happiness Officer, CertPoint
  • 1/23/12 – Jack McGrath, President of Digitec Interactive, Knowledge Direct
  • 1/18/12 – Volkner Zimmerman, Executive Board Member, IMC-AG
  • 1/10/12 – Robert Gadd, President and Chief Mobile Officer, OnPoint Digital

The week of March 5th, there will not be a new blog posting. I am relocating to San Francisco, where E-Learning 24/7 will now have its corporate headquarters.

The next blog post will be March 14th.


There were a lot of inquiries regarding advanced analytics for administrators in a LMS. As a result, it made sense to create one more survey, with one question. The question is about advanced analytics for administrators. The results will be published on this blog at the end of March.

Please take a brief moment and complete the one question advanced analytics survey.

E-Learning 24/7