Hello from Berlin.   As OEB 2015 wraps up, Friday (today) being its last day, the air of excitement still reigns supreme. But that and the complete review for the conference is next week (Wednesday). To make up for lost time, let’s get started.

Did you know? That when people often say they dislike online learning and/or prefer face to face to online learning, that the main culprit is not the LMS?  Actually it is the course or courses and specifically how and what they look like.

At my workshop, a couple of folks said that their students disliked online learning and preferred face to face. At that point it doesn’t surprise me that if others heard that, it would be enough to say “aha, I told you so.”

However, if you as I did, dig deeper you would have found that the reason of the disliking?  The courses themselves, built by the faculty in HE, or by someone in L&D, HR or training who were not instructional designers and/or had zero interest in learning how to build a course.

Overwhelmingly on the HE side, it was people who built their courses with the built-in authoring tool of the LMS.  On the corporate side a mixture of built-in authoring tool and a rapid course authoring tool, but with limited experience in making it more robust.

The usual M.O. for the course look?  Static content (i.e. lots of text), images, YouTube or similar link embed or a video embed itself.  Interactivity? None.  Engaging? None. It’s no wonder people hated it.

Oh, and from the HE, all the courses were linear in nature – in other words, synchronous based, not asynchronous (which is self-contained and people bounce around to focus on what they are interested in learning – I know, a radical concept!).

As I have said over and over again, yes courses today are commodities, but the content contained within and how it is designed makes a HUGE difference.  Interactivity does work and non-linear, really works!

Did you know? At least on the HE (higher ed) side, people in general do not like the built-in authoring tools that come with the HE platorms, most notably Blackboard, Instructure and D2L/Brightspace.

But, for the second year in a row, I found the vast majority of HE people in my sessions use 3rd party authoring tools.  The most popular? Storyline. In my workshop this year, not one person was using Studio.  Nor Lectora.

It was by far Storyline 2 or the older version of Storyline. As for what was the most popular system in this year’s workshop session?  A close race between Blackboard and Moodle.

However, there were people using Sakai, OLAT and other open source systems.  But again, the gripes on Moodle – not user friendly or intuitive.

For Blackboard?  Not user friendly, confusing, challenging – feedback I might add from the students (the question posted to attendees – what is one thing you like about your LMS or have heard from students/faculty and one thing you have heard from students/faculty that they dislike about their current LMS).

A big gripe was the mobile apps, although one person said he did like the BB mobile app. No one in the workshop was using Brightspace/D2L.  One was using Instructure.

In my own data, I find the big two players in HE to be, Blackboard and Instructure Canvas.  Yes, Moodle too, but I’m talking from a commercial standpoint.  Moodle though, is dropping a bit in HE – from what I have heard and seen in the past year.

Still a huge player though. Another note of interest, repeatedly, folks mentioned (regardless of the system) integration issues and/or difficulty with integration of this and that with their LMS.

One attendee asked me if any universities or colleges have gone to corporate/business LMSs rather than stay with HE systems.

The answer is yes.  Honestly, if you can live without plagiarism detection (which you can API), you could pull off what you want to do in a corporate system, the semantics/vernacular is different though.

Did you know?

That security has become a hot inquiry in the corporate side of the house, and HE for that matter.

Security on the business side is now a top “we need to know” item for an LMS.  Vendors report seeing anywhere from a dozen questions to more than 500 in some cases.

Let’s break down the reality in terms of security and save your IT/IS person and you time to post all those questions:

  • Most LMS vendors host their LMS on hosting sites Amazon S3, Rackspace, Akamai, AWS – all of which are extremely secure, especially Amazon S3
  • If you want to know the security levels, go directly to those hosting sites and you can read about it – the vendors tend to send you the same information anyway; they might increase say (assuming the hosting site is 128 bit AES) to 256 AES, but as a whole – it is right there for your eyes on the hosting server site
  • The systems are in the cloud on these hosted server sites, and these hosting sites, have servers located in many countries so even if the vendor is based in the US, they will have servers in all if not most European countries, Canada, Australia, most of Asia, Middle East and Africa.  I have yet to see or hear someone’s country not have a server available to them, from those hosted server sites.
  • If you are based in Germany, a recent article I read, found many Germany companies actually host their data in Switzerland, oh and guess what Amazon S3, Rackspace have servers in Switzerland and Germany.
  • If you need to have the data physically on a data center in your country, these hosting sites offer it – (there are exceptions)
  • I find that IT/IS people tend to post security questions that are aligned more to either a legacy system or the company (them) hosting the server at their company or some location, behind their firewall, as such, the inquiries are not applicable to hosting sites in the cloud (SaaS)
  • An article a few years back from CIO (Chief Information Officer) magazine, found that many people in IT/IS did not know or fully understand SaaS (cloud); yes, your folks might, but I’m just saying you cannot assume that if someone works or runs IT, they will know the ins and outs of SaaS, let alone SaaS hybrid or PaaS (Platform as a Service)
  • Amazon S3 and Rackspace have good load balance, I’d argue Amazon S3 is better
  • There are corporate entities (non LMS) that use these same hosting server site
  • Good security questions to ask:  Have you ever done a stress test?  If yes, when was the last time, what was the number of concurrent users you had at one time and what was the release time?   Do you have at least AES 256 (although you can find this data on the hosting server site)?
  • In the 17 yrs I have been doing this, I have yet to hear of one LMS vendor whose LMS has been hacked. Not ONE.  Could it happen sure.  I mean credit card companies, retail companies, government sites have been hacked.  But think about it this way, to get the hack, the person first has to hack into the hosting server site, let’s say Amazon S3 and then find the LMS among the thousands of other companies, that are using Amazon S3 for example.
  • Another question to ask – are you (the soon to be client) on a shared server OR can you be on your own private server (they usually cost extra)?  Cornerstone for example, has all their clients on a shared server and according to them (in a discussion mid 2015) did not offer private servers.   Shared simply means you are silo’d, so your data is not “shared” with anyone else.. think of it as a pie, you a slice, someone else is a slice and so forth.

As aforementioned, HE is inquiring and again, what I find is that the IT person is thinking of the security from having it at the college’s site or somewhere else and behind their firewall.

I don’t know about you, but I worked at companies, even tech ones, who I sometimes worried about how safe our clients data was on our own servers.

I recall having one time our LMS on our own servers, and I had to request a couple of new servers with better load balance.

Other Things to ask – just two ones many folks forget:

a.  What is your SLA?  You want to see it BTW.

b.  How often do you do maintenance on the LMS, how far in advance do you give notice (it should be at least 72 hrs), when do you typically do your maintenance (should be overnight, usually starts around 12 a.m. to 5 a.m.).

Lastly, speaking of IT, I heard something that is universal as it relates to reaching out and having someone or some folks come to you, from IT to help..

It is often difficult to do so, since they have other things they are working on – heard this from higher ed folks, K-12 folks and corporate.  Yet, there are LMS vendors who just assume that IT is ready and standing by to come to your office or go to your business locations and help out.

Game Based Learning

I saw two LMS vendors who have created custom built courses in a game format that well, was AWESOME.. I mean, fun was an understatement.  Both had the look and feel of an arcade game (that you would want to play) and one of them, was something you would play on a game station like XBox 360/one and Playstation.  Oh, and on a PC.

IMC-AG, created a course for BMW for the i3 (all electric car) and it was a racing game on a track going around places and it was using this game scenario (with the content added by BMW – i.e. what folks needed to know), after people had completed or were still in the WBT course first.  Think of it as a scenario to build upon the learning.

If I was BMW, I would place this game at all the dealership locations for the customers to play around with and gain some insight into the product itself.

In certain sections of the course itself, there were codes, that the learner then could type in at various points in the game, that would then open new pathways or race tracks if you will.  Graphics rocked.

Worked great on mobile devices.

A second game was for a green tech (climate) company.

Reminded me of a mix of a Sid Meirer game like Civilization and a SimCity like game.  The course was the game, and so they learned the information while in the course.  They had to make decisions base on the learning which would impact this area (city, agriculture land, water, etc.) and its climate change.

The learning content including research data, and there was a “breaking news” thread that included latest findings, etc.  Anyway, graphics were very cool, I mean the houses had fireplace smoke coming out – chimney.

Saw it on a computer and mobile tablet – both were strong.   IMC-AG makes the Clix Learning System and recently launched IMC Teach (which is free for everyone), the Learning System though is in my Top 50 for 2016 LMS.

The other cool game based custom built course came from Unicorn Training who make SkillsServe.  It was a racing game specifically for mobile.  Again, the company (client) adds in their own content, knowledge bits of you will.

Unicorn Training is in my Top 50 for 2016 LMS.

Bottom Line

Just a couple of quick tidbits and items to think over for this next week (or whenever you are reading).

Alas, I forgot to mention one last bit..

Did you know that not every LMS vendor who offers mobile learning, has it touch enabled?  This means that even within their native app and/or self-contained native app, you cannot use your touch screen laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone – via the touching on the screen side of things?   Rather you have to use your mouse or click buttons.

Always ask, if that matters.  To me, it does – it is just easier.

And Did you Know

That I wish you well this coming week and weeks thereafter.  Be safe, be willing to think out of the box

and be willing to empower your learners.

With e-learning

That is.

E-Learning 24/7