Recently, I recommended that smaller businesses forget the custom coding to integrate all their web needs and stick to one site for eLearning, one (or more) site for marketing, and use an existing online merchant (or a simple shopping cart application). So, what functionality should they be looking for in the eLearning (LMS) application?
I wrote an entire section in my eBook, explaining why I chose Moodle over other applications even though Moodle wasn’t (and still isn’t) built specifically for businesses. It doesn’t have some of the features that businesses need. And it has many that we don’t need. But it’s so good at the learning (the L in LMS) part, it has been worth it to us to figure out ways to use it for business.
What does a smaller business need from an LMS?
- Payment methods. If we can’t collect money, we can’t keep doing it. Moodle is great for one course at a time for one stated price. It can’t handle multiple course purchases, discounts coupons, or group pricing. Moodle Solution: Use Meta Courses, which will solve some of the problem. CourseMerchant is a third party application built for Moodle that should solve the rest of it.
- Enrollments. Most businesses want this to be automatic. The only way to do this automatically in Moodle is to have the student pay for the course or enter an enrollment key. In an academic environment, students don’t generally take courses they don’t get credit for. In business applications, it is likely that some will want to review the material just to learn (or steal) it. Moodle Solution: You’ll probably need something like Course Merchant as well as another database enrollment method. I have done it manually with bulk uploads which was not automatic but not too tedious.
- Privacy/Confidentiality. I have to laugh at the Moodle 2.0 feature that posts the highest grades of a quiz in course, with or without names. Can you imagine doing that in a business training course? Can you spell lawsuit? Not only are grades rarely published (never with names), often the course titles are kept private. The Business Uses forums are filled with questions like “How do I keep one client from seeing the course titles of another client on the same site?” Moodle Solution: Use Groups and Permissions.
- Branding. Most businesses have spent some money and thought on corporate branding, marketing, and message. It is important that the eLearning courses support this branding. Another common question is “How do I brand the courses for each client?” Moodle Solution: Course themes are an inexpensive and easy way to “custom brand” each course.
- Audience. There are obvious differences between academic students and adults taking business training. I’m not sure which one is more tolerant of bad content, but I am sure that the business student is less likely to take a course if it’s difficult to access or navigate. Just because of age, people taking business courses might be less internet savvy than college-age kids; this is becoming less and less of a concern. Moodle Solution: Moodle is as easy to access and navigate as any website I’ve used.
- Validation of knowledge and attendance. In my experience, certificates and some form of credit are far more important to business clients than academic students. Perhaps in academia, this is taken for granted. Moodle Solution: Use Certificates linked to course grades and attendance.
- Interaction with others. In a business application, this is called ‘networking” and is more focused on the application of the content in one’s job than on “social networking”. Moodle Solution: Use Forums, Wikis, and Glossaries focused on project or job applications of the content.
- Content. Content has to be good, accurate, useful, timely, and interesting regardless of the purpose of the training. It should always have great content. Moodle Solution: Creating content in Moodle requires knowledge of the topic, good instructional design, and some computer skills. This is true, no matter what authoring tool you use. A very small business or entrepreneur should probably hire someone to help with this.
I hope to see you in the Moodle for Business Uses forums soon!