Moodle for Business Category

Friday, September 30th, 2011

How Much Do I Charge for Moodle Courses?

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How much should I charge?  Let me pick something out of the air.Of all the questions I get when I’m consulting with a new or potential eLearning client, only one leaves me speechless:  “How much should I charge for my courses?”  That one question tells me that this person is not ready to embark on offering eLearning as a product or service.

Why?

  • In order to prepare a business case for your eLearning site, you need to know what courses in your subject area should sell for.
  • You have to know what price the market will bear before you can estimate revenues (and profits!).
  • To create a curriculum, you have to know how much content should be included in each course – this is the other side of the price coin.

Knowledge – and the transfer of it from one person to another – is not a commodity.  Learning is not something you pay for by the unit.  There is no such thing as a “standard charge per hour or page”.

To prove my point, I want you to go to the nearest university book store. Find three text books that are about the same size; one should be written by the world’s leading expert in that subject.  These books are likely to be – oh, I don’t know – $75, $150, maybe a lot more.  The one by the world’s leading expert is going to cost considerably more than the others.  Now, find a current bestselling novel that is about the same number of pages of your selected text books.  Chances are, it is somewhere between $15 and $25.

You’re not paying for the paper or the ink, or the time it takes you to read it.  The same is true when it comes to eLearning; people are not buying hours or pages.

If you’re reading this and thinking “uh-oh”, don’t despair!

Here’s what you should do:

  • Create a curriculum for your content, based on traditional training you’ve done, what others are doing, and/or your best judgment. This curriculum should contain:
    • Topic Categories (such as History/Math/Arts, Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced, or Young Children/Teenagers/Young Adults.)
    • Course Syllabi (outline, time, elapsed calendar time, objectives, prerequisites)
  • Get online and search for eLearning courses in your subject.
    • Do others have similar curricula?  If not, how do they differ?  Is this something you want to consider changing, or do you have a “better way”?
    • What are others charging for their courses?  If there is a large variation, can you tell why?  Is it their reputation?  Are they offering more personal attention or other extras?  What accounts for the price difference? Are they bundling courses or services?
  • Remember that your competitors are not just other online courses in this topic.  Your competition also includes online courses in other subjects, face-to-face courses in the same or similar topic, and even self-help videos (often free on YouTube!) and books.  The world is full of options. What are the alternatives to your online courses?  What are their costs and perceived value?
  • If you plan to offer CEUs, make sure your curriculum meets those requirements.

Once you know how much content will go into each course, who the audience will be, who will be paying for the courses, and what others are charging, you can begin to price your online courses.

The factors that go into pricing intellectual property (which your eLearning is) include (but are not limited to):

  • The reputation of the author/expert.
  • The complexity of the topic (and how good you are at explaining it, compared to your competitors).
  • The need to know the topic.
  • The desirability of the knowledge. How eager are people to know this?
  • The perceived value of the knowledge.  This can be high if students believe they will see a return on their investment in a short time, through better jobs, weight loss, improved quality of life, etc.
  • The ability of those who want to take the courses to pay the price.  To overcome the budget shortcomings of your otherwise-eager students, you can offer smaller chunks at lower prices, bundle courses for volume discounts, offer free services to go with paid courses, etc.

Once you have priced your courses, you definitely want to revisit your business case and make sure this is still a business you want to be in.

For more on the steps to launching eLearning as a new product or service, view the presentation in Using Moodle for Business: Moot Presentation.  Pricing is a critical component of the Business Case, Step 1.

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Thursday, September 15th, 2011

A Few Words About: Getting Help in Moodle

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Last month I asked my Moodle host to upgrade BeeLearn.com to 2.1.  I’m getting antsy to overhaul my curriculum using the new features of Moodle.  It took him about two hours to complete the entire site upgrade, including the back-ups of the old site. Everything works swell, except for a couple of third-party modules that we knew wouldn’t work beyond Moodle 1.9x (not yet, anyway).

A few days earlier, I had set up my new desktop PC, with the latest of every version of software for every application you can imagine.  As of today, I am still trying to get to the same level of functionality I had before the upgrade.  Since I had the same computer, with the same version of the operating system and application software for five years, I had many customized settings.  I had grown accustomed to the location of tools and options.  Now, I can barely delete an email.

The thing is, when I have a question such as “how do I enable conditional activities in Moodle” I have four choices:

  1. Poke around until I figure it out myself
  2. Read through the online documentation (always easy to locate)
  3. Post a question at a forum and wait for a response from another user
  4. Ask a Moodle expert, such as my host (if I have engaged him for a support contract)

All of these options are reasonable, by my standards.  I typically receive helpful answers in a short period of time.  Option # 4 is the only one that costs anything and it is also the most reliable.

In the six years that I’ve been using Moodle, I’ve heard some folks express concern that since it is open source there’s really no one to respond to questions; no one is responsible to provide explanation of a feature or help troubleshoot a problem.  That seemed like a valid concern, if options 1-3 above were not feasible for certain people.  I get it. Not everyone has my curiosity or tenacity; maybe they are more interested in rock climbing than learning Moodle.  That’s cool, too.

Now I’m wondering how those people are coping.  When I clicked on the Help icon in my brand-spanking new desktop software (it doesn’t matter which application; they’re all the same), I was stunned, horrified, mortified (you get my point) to be taken to an online community forum and presented with literally hundreds of posts that were somewhat related to my keyword.

What happened to the help index?  Where is the comprehensive list of how to do whatever?  I’m fine with that process when the software is open source and I didn’t pay to download it.  But when the application costs $1000 and I have to accept legal terms to use it, I do not expect to receive support from some other user who happened to figure something out!

What this tells me is that open source software (such as Moodle) just took one more giant leap toward “the business model of the future”.  That one advantage of proprietary software – paying more for the product to ensure technical support – just went down the drain.

If you had any reservations about Moodle – or any other open source application – because of the “lack of support” – you can rest assured that you will get at least – and probably better – support from the enthusiastic Moodle community than you will from the reluctant and desperate users of those “other products”. Most Moodle Partners offer on-going support contracts (essentially, personal help forums) that are less money than the purchase price of my desktop suite that has no such support.

Note:  When you’re building your business case and determining your budget, be sure to include the costs of training and support for Moodle if you plan to do most of the build yourself. If you don’t have the time or desire to learn Moodle to that extent, include the costs of a course developer in your budget.  Actually, these costs are added on to any project, regardless of whether you use Moodle, other open source, or proprietary software.  None of them come out of the box with your content in them!

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Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Emotional Pitfalls of eLearning as a New Business

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Falling into a deep hole

In Using Moodle for Business, I put “lack of objectivity” at the top of Common Mistakes.  As with any new venture, deciding to launch an eLearning site has its risks.  There will be costs, there will need to be a great deal of time invested to make it work, and the revenue stream is never guaranteed.

No matter how excited you are about the unlimited potential of having your content online, you must harness that excitement and write a business case.  This business case must be based on facts and data from market research, financial considerations, and your own self-assessment. It should not be an emotionally-driven document.

This doesn’t mean that you should be dispassionate in the implementation of your plan.  Passion is what makes most businesses succeed.  Even the largest corporations today began as ideas of passionate people, undaunted by potential risks.

Be passionate in the work.  Be objective and calculating in the decision-making.

Another Common Mistake is the lack of a budget – a realistic budget.  I really did have one client tell me her budget was “angel’s wings”.  I’m not really sure how many dollars or euros that is, but I’m pretty sure it meant that she had no budget at all.  For a rare few, that can mean they have unlimited resources.  For most of us, it means that we will need to make some choices, based on what we can afford.  Failure to make those choices in the beginning almost always leads to overall project failure.

Even if you have narrowed your search and have decided on Moodle, it can cost from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars to construct a site.  Know what you must have and know what you can afford!

It is intuitive to most people that a building – factory, store-front, warehouse – will be a large expense for any business moving in.  There will be lease or mortgage payments, utilities, the cost of moving in and setting up.  Equipment and supplies will be needed.

Rarely do I see a sign that reads “FREE WAREHOUSE SPACE.  MOVE IN TODAY!”

But when it comes to eLearning (not just Moodle), we are teased and lured in by the promise of “free hosting”, “free downloads”, “free domains”.  This has led many people to believe that a web presence – unlike a physical presence – is free.  There is nothing to pay for; it’s all free!

As my client Kyle* says, “It doesn’t take much to do it poorly.  It is, in fact, effortless”.

Quality of Your ELearning Site =

Money You Put Into It + Time You Put Into It + Planning You Put Into It

Even if you don’t have much money, you can have a great site.  The better you plan and the more time you put in yourself, the less it will cost.  But again, don’t let your passion drive your budget.  Be realistic about your financial resources and passionate with the time you put into the planning and the building of the content.

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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

More Ways to Make Your eLearning GREAT

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A little creativity goes a long way.

Last month, at the Midwest Moodle Moot, I attended a workshop by Melinda Kraft of Albion College.  “The Moodle Mash – It’s a Web 2.0 Splash” covered many free (or inexpensive) and easy-to-use online applications that you can use to add more connectivity, interaction, and interest to your Moodle courses.  I’m splitting this into two posts:  this one on multi-media and a second one on collaboration and interaction.  Both build on previous posts…if you have time, read them all!

Create your own multi-media for your content. These will make your eLearning GREAT without breaking the budget on production costs.  You don’t have to be an artist, but a  little creativity helps…Here are some of the applications Melinda demonstrated, with my business content take on them.  Warning: some of these examples are, uh, rough around the edges.  I would recommend more polished versions for real courses.

  • GoAnimate.com Create cartoons for memorable lessons.  So much business training is so dry, so boring.  Lighten it up with a cartoon here and there (don’t overdo it) to highlight really critical messages you want students to remember.  Or, use them to offer a mental break after a particularly intense topic. Watch Zeb help Gerry remember the things to look for in a 10 Second Inspection in the Fort Swampy course at BeeLearn.com.
  • Xtranormal is another site that allows you to create animated movies online.  There is also a desktop version.  There is more functionality here than with GoAnimate.com, but you’ll have to pay for everything after the initial test.  Here is my first creation; crude, but not so bad for ten minutes worth of my time.
  • Aviary.com Super easy online image editing.  A picture is worth 1000 words and every eLearning course should contain some!  I have spent hours searching for just the right stock image or trying to adjust an existing image with Photoshop.

    Buzzy Made-over at Aviary.com

    I don’t recommend dressing your logo up like he’s been out on an all-night bender, but you can do it in a few minutes if you choose. You can get a free screen capture/editor as a browser extension, too.  A great time saver when you are building content.

  • Create and edit more than images with AviaryTools. Obtaining a license to use copyrighted material in a commercial project (which applies to eLearning courses used by all business, for profit or not), can be expensive or forbidden.  These online tools are affordable and useful when you want to:
    • Include music in your content.  Create your own score!
    • Add sound effects (including your own voice) to your Engage animations, GoAnimate or Xtranormal videos, or as stand-alone content in your courses.
    • Add comments or otherwise mark-up screen captures and images.
  • Snagit and Jing by TechSmith – Easily create “how-to” videos, narrated slideshows, and other objects to show your students, comment on what they’ve done, and help them collaborate with each other.
  • WidgetBox.com Mix up the way your content is presented by displaying it in a widget (copy the code into any HTML area in your course). Some ideas for displaying content in a widget:
  • BrainPOP was not covered at the Moot; Brent Schlenker tweeted this one about Hurricanes (given the current event of Hurricane Irene threatening the east coast of the US and Canada).  Very, very nice…

Most of these come with widgets and buttons that you can place in your content to direct students to create their own as part of assignments.

Mobile Widgets at WidgetBox.com. This is a fee-based service, but you can try it out for 30 days.  Offer your clients a free app that supports your training content. Even if one already exists, customize your own with your logo and contact information, specific to your training content and expertise:

  • A mobile version of a quick reference like the Pill Identifier or Seafood Watch (above).
  • Things to look for in a 10 Second Inspection; any checklist or guide that would be helpful to people when the job takes them away from their computers.
  • Calendar with important events.  Include your “office hours”, required web meetings, chats, and even assignment due dates.
  • Assignments.  This app could provide details on the assignment, links to resources, quick tip guides.  This is especially helpful if your course requires field work, whether it be in a hospital, a mall, the manufacturing floor, or literally a field.

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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

More ways to Jazz up Your Moodle Courses with Collaboration and Interaction

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Jazz up your Moodle coursesBuilding on an earlier post and a Moot workshop presentation by Melinda Kraft of Albion College, here are some ideas for using online applications to stay connected with your students and to encourage them to interact with each other. Make sure you check out the companion post to this one, More Ways to Make Your eLearning GREAT.

WidgetBox.com Add unlimited features to any Moodle course or Front Page– for learning, communicating, or just plain fun. Create an account, design your widget, using one of their many templates or your own, and copy the code into an HTML block in your Moodle course (or front page). Some ideas for using their templates to make your courses more engaging:

  • An RSS feed from your blog (much nicer formatting than the standard Moodle RSS block), a YouTube widget, Twitter updates; you can see examples in the Pluto course at BeeLearn.com.
  • Poll widget – use on the home page to gather demographics about your site visitors; within courses you can use this much like the Moodle Choice activity to gather instant feedback such as “Would you like to see more examples like this one?” or “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”
  • Form – use as a sign up form for an event, a newsletter, a free information product, a follow-up call for a quote, a free consultation…View an example in the Fort Swampy course at BeeLearn.com where the form is used to sign up for peer study groups.
  • Countdown – are you holding a webinar or speaking at a conference?  The Countdown widget lets you customize the event name, the countdown display, and a custom message once the event is over.  You can put “Sorry, you missed it, but you can download the presentation here” and put a link. See an example in the Pluto course at BeeLearn.com.

Note that the WidgetBox.com Basic account is free, but has fewer design options than the fee-based Pro account.

Chat, VOIP, and Web meeting clients that add interactivity to any eLearning course:

  • Meebo Put the Meebo Bar on your site to make it easy for both visitors and participants to share with others, connect with you, and even allow affiliate advertisements without negatively affecting the aesthetics or distracting learners.
  • Trillian I am not an online chatter anymore.  Twenty-five years ago I was enthralled with, so I avoid the temptation now.  But if you are, Trillian is the IM client for you, aggregating all of your screen names in one place so you can keep up.
  • For VOIP calls and web meetings, Skype remains a favorite.  There was a Skype activity module (plugin) for Moodle; I’m not sure if it’s working for 2.x or not.  Regardless of that, you can create a customized Skype button and place it in any HTML content area in Moodle.

Use these scheduling applications to connect with your students/clients for coaching sessions, consulting, speaking engagements.  You’re not bogged down by multiple “are you available” emails; you don’t need a personal assistant to schedule for you.  These can be linked or embedded in your Moodle course content and can sync with your Moodle calendar.

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Saturday, July 16th, 2011

A Gathering For Everyone: Midwest Moodle Moot July 20-22

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From absolute beginners to advanced users, everyone is invited! Participants include teachers, trainers, administrators and support staff from a wide range of education, business, non-profit and service sectors. Learn more…

My presentation Using Moodle for Business will be available for download on July 25.

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Sunday, June 19th, 2011

A Few Words About: Using Moodle Outcomes

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A Few Words AboutA question was recently posed regarding certification for Lean Six Sigma.  There is no governing body and no standard test.  Many companies, including my own, offer certification. How can that be?  How can someone be certified to do something when there is no standard against which to measure that person’s competence?

The irony here is that Lean Six Sigma is all about measurements, standards, and processes.  As a professional in the field for more than two decades, I know the importance of operational definitions, standard processes, and calibrated measurements.  This is no less important when it comes to certifying experts.

Whether your profession has standards for certification or not, you can – and should – use reliable and valid instruments for measuring competencies and skills.  The scales that you use to grade need to be applied consistently. You also need to ensure that what you’re measuring is correlated to competency in that job; i.e.: a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

Assuming that you’re training for certification, not just administering tests, a great way to design and validate your certification process is to use Moodle Outcomes.

Outcomes are not simply pass/fail grades.  Grades of tests and assignments, along with other demonstrations of competence, are used to determine the outcomes based on a set of evaluation criteria.  This set of criteria is known as a rubric.

Outcomes – and rubrics – can become quite complicated and they aren’t something you can apply directly from one curriculum to another.  You can, however, follow good examples, such as this one at Moodle.org.

Before you can create your own rubric, you need to:

  1. Determine the competencies required for the certification or diploma you are awarding.
  2. Design the training that will teach these required skills.
  3. Design the testing that will reliably measure the competencies gained by your training.

Once you have defined the set of criteria for each outcome, then you can:

  1. Deliver the training and testing (tests, written assignments, hands-on assignments…)
  2. Evaluate each student against those criteria.

Stay tuned to this blog and Buzzy’s Beehive for many more posts on rating scales, grades, good question writing, and how to implement them in Moodle.

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Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Competency Frameworks: A First Step

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I’ve been seeing the phrase “competency frameworks” a lot lately.  I’m glad.  I’ve long been concerned about the disconnect between training content and job performance.  In a quarter decade of business training, I have rarely felt much attention was given to the question: “What do these people need to know to do better in their jobs?”  I often felt that training was designed from the starting point of “here’s what I know so that’s what I’ll teach”.

So, what is a competency framework and how will it improve the effectiveness of training?

Ratings of Exceptional, Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, etc.The HR Dictionary defines competency framework as “the set of duties or tasks performed as part of a job with the standards which should be achieved in these duties”.

OK, so for every training course we design, we need to know:

  • What job are we training for?  In other words, what duties or tasks are we teaching someone how to do?
  • What are the standards that we will measure against?  How will we know if our students have learned enough of the right things to perform those duties?  How will we know our training accomplished this?

In my mind, competencies for education are fairly well-defined and adhered to by a very strict accreditation system.  It is relatively easy to accurately measure students’ understanding of geometry, grammar, or DaVinci’s work.  Education provides foundational knowledge; training is the application of that knowledge in a specific situation.  My brother-in-law (a math whiz) was always amazed at how his grandfather used calculus in his machine working job.  But Granddad didn’t actually know calculus; he knew some rules for machining.  My brother-in-law, with his foundational knowledge, can apply what he knows about math to just about any situation.

The difficulty with business training is that job descriptions (and their related competencies) change frequently.  People in those jobs come from varying backgrounds.  Often, people have to adapt to new job requirements because that’s the best thing for the company.  An example would be that of typists.  There’s no such thing as a typing pool any more.  For awhile, typists were converted to word processors (using machines of the same name).  That transition required an entirely new competency: using a computer.

Businesses try to fill the gap between “knowledge/skill” of workers (old, young, new, tenured) and what they need at that moment, with training.  Not only is it difficult to determine what training is required for that gap, it is even harder to measure if the training is effective.  Sadly, it is even more difficult because often the very people in charge of these efforts are not competent in training design or testing!  I’m hoping that with increased emphasis on it from a software view, there will be some attention to the concept itself.

Much the same as when mapping a process, the people who do the job should be involved in the determination of the necessary competencies.  Mind Tools™ has posted an excellent article on the subject, which includes a step by step guide to get it done.  As they say, it will take a lot of effort; effort by the people who actually know the positions.

The US Army is very good at defining job duties and training to them. Every job, at every classification, has defined skills within the MOS system. (Note: this term varies by branch of service, but the structure is very similar.)  Here is an example for a US Army Corp of Engineers Diver for five skill levels.  Notice how this also includes required scores on fitness and written tests, as well as other requirements.  Those developing the training would start with these requirements, not with what they felt like teaching!

I encourage you to read as much as you can about the concept of competency frameworks (start with this Wikipedia article), browse through the Army’s MOS listings (for ideas on how to structure yours), and do your own Internet searches.  To read more on how competency frameworks are critical to the success of your business, visit my blog for earlier posts (such as this one) on testing in a business environment and this one on Purpose-Objectives-Goals for business training.  Future posts are planned for how Moodle supports competency frameworks through grades, scales, and outcomes.

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Friday, March 25th, 2011

Web Accessibility Issues and Options for eLearning Text and Images

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image of a laptop with a megaphone speakerIn response to my post on why web accessibility for elearning is important and how even small businesses can achieve it, I received an email from ReadSpeaker, informing me of their free WordPress plugin.  They tell me they’re working on a plugin for Moodle.  If it works as well as the WordPress version, I can’t wait!

This post addresses how to make text and images accessible to the vision impaired by use of a screen reader such as ReadSpeaker.  Since I’m going to talk about web accessibility as it applies to elearning content only – not any particular LMS – what I learned with the WordPress installation will also apply to Moodle and other LMS content. Obviously, other eLearning elements (such as forms, games, and flash) will be more or less accessible than text and images, depending upon the specific disability. These will be covered in future posts (as I have a chance to check out the options.)

ReadSpeaker was the only screen reader I tested and I tested only their free version.  It took me about five minutes to install on my other blog, Bee-Learn.com.  I was both pleased and surprised at what I found.

What I found with ReadSpeaker, which gives me a really good idea of how my content would be read by any screen reader:

How it treats text

  • In a post on the Lean 5S, the speaker read “fives”; it never occurred to me that it could be interpreted as a plural term.  I will make a point of putting a space in terms like that so that they will be read as “five ess”, which is how it is intended.
  • Slashes are read, which is ok because we would often say it.
  • It pauses at commas, periods, and line breaks.
  • Ellipses are not read, but do result in a pause.  I suppose that’s good because I wouldn’t want it to read “dot dot dot”, but a little meaning is lost… I am not sure how to compensate for this but at least I’m aware of it now.
  • “Cool” is read Coool. Cool!
  • mmmm… is read as Em Em Em Em Not good, but ReadSpeaker has a process for submitting mispronounced words.  Although eLearning is typically more formal than emails, blogs, and text messages, I can see enormous value in adding colloquialisms and acronyms to the screen reader’s vocabulary.
  • I know that acronyms and sounds can be added to the vocabulary because it correctly reads WYSIWYG.  That’s awesome!
  • The title of the page was never spoken.  Presumably this is because it is a different element of the page, although to a sighted person, it appears as part of the same page (by design).

How it treats images

  • The title of the image is read by the screen reader.  This is the stuff that pops up when you run your mouse over the image.  (Note: In WordPress this is typically the name/title of the image file; in Moodle it is the alternate text.  Most articles on this refer to the alternate text.  Test it out on your site, just to make sure you’ve got your description in the right place to be read.)  Because the screen reader can detect it, you can improve the experience for the vision impaired by creating alternate text that is descriptive of the photo.  For example:
    • In this post on the new Moodle navigation button, I originally had titled the image “beelearncoursehome”.  I changed it to “This image represents the original home navigation button on BeeLearn.com, from 2006”, which is read by ReadSpeaker.
    • In this post on Lean 5 S, I changed the title of the image of the desk to read “shown here is an antique roll top desk, piled high with a number of unrelated items.  There are flooring samples, shorts, shirts, books, baskets… It is a mess!”
  • Image captions are also read, so make sure they say something useful – and different – than the alternate text. In the above desk example, the title is read, then the caption; this is a huge improvement over my original version which had titled the image “desk5s”.
  • Since the screen reader doesn’t distinguish image alternate text from the rest of the text, I will make it a point to begin each title with something like “this photo shows…”

Writing carefully and appropriately describing images are things we should all do anyway.  They are also not the only things we can do to make our content richer for the vision impaired.  The good news is that for the most part, good instructional design principles are also good web accessibility design principles. Some advice to improve your content for everyone:

Avoid:

  • Content embedded in images, such as those produced by saving a PowerPoint file as jpegs and simply uploading them.  The individual elements (text, for instance) are not linkable and difficult to edit.  As far as a screen reader is concerned, an image is an image; there is no text on it.
  • Content residing in desktop applications (non-HTML) such as PowerPoint, Word, or PDF.  These documents have many drawbacks as online content ; they also have their own set of accessibility issues.  This will be covered in much more detail in a future post.
  • Long, scrolling pages of nothing but text.  This makes it difficult to follow, even for the most focused student without disabilities.
  • Low content to background junk ratio.  I’ve recently seen some examples of courses written in various LMS, where less than 25% of the screen was dedicated to learning content.  The rest was for navigation, warnings, frames, and even ads!  This sends a message to everyone that your content takes a backseat and it can make it difficult for a disabled student to focus on the real content.
  • Overriding CSS formatting.  Read this post on how theme and content are two separate elements.  Then read this Moodle tip on how simple copy/paste from a web page or a file can mess up your HTML formatting and override your CSS formats.

Do:

  • Build each course with all learning styles and disabilities in mind.  Even a person without a hearing disability may prefer to read about a concept than to listen to you talk about it.
  • Lay out each course and each page with those outlining skills you learned in school.  Headings make your content more sensible for everyone.  (Note: I always add a page title to the top of each Moodle page.  Moodle 2.0 will have this as an option, eliminating the need to retype the page name.)
  • Go ahead and use pictures, graphs, and even cartoons.  Keep your content rich.  Sure, there will be some elements that someone won’t be able to access.  But if you provide that content in more than one format, you’ll reach everyone.  For instance, use the alternate text option in photos to describe the photo, rather than just giving it a name.
  • Go ahead and use color.  But don’t rely on color to get your point across.  Color is highly effective for those who can see it; it is worthless for those who can’t.  Use color and at least one other distinguishing characteristic.

For more detail on designing for web accessibility, view this page at WebAIM.org.  On their site you will also find updated information on screen readers, research on web accessibility, discussions of various disabilities and how they are affected by technology.

Another great resource I found is this page from the University of Wisconsin.

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Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Moodle 2.0: Completion Status for Resources and Activities

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A checkmark in the box indicates complete!In my previous post on availability settings for Moodle resources and activities, I stated that one of the triggers of availability is the completion status of another.  Not only is completion status one of the conditions for availability of additional material, but it provides an excellent way to engage students, track their progress, and allow them to keep on a project schedule.  

For small businesses offering Moodle courses in any topic, for any reason, this new functionality is huge.  In at least half of the conversations I have with potential clients, there is a functional requirement to be able to mark items as complete, track completed items, and/or limit access to material based on the completion of other material.  In previous versions of Moodle, this was possible, but not practical for a small organization with limited resources (time to do it manually or money to custom code it). 

This post addresses how to determine completion status; to learn about how both student and teacher can monitor that status, stay tuned.

So, what defines “complete” in Moodle 2.0? 

In all cases, it is possible to choose from “don’t mark as complete”, “the student may mark as complete manually”, or “conditions must be met”.  The conditional settings vary for each activity, because not all settings make sense for everything. My suggestion is to create your content first, then go back and add conditions where it makes sense; don’t do it just to do it.

For non-graded activities such as Web Pages, Wikis, and Chats, there is on option for conditions:

  • Student must view to be marked complete (or not)

For Quizzes and Assignments, completion options are:

  • Student must view to be marked complete (or not)
  • Student must get a grade (or not).  This grade will be determined by other settings which haven’t changed from 1.9.  To learn more about the other settings in Quizzes and Assignments, and how to best use them in business training, follow the links to applicable posts by clicking here.

For Glossaries, the completion options are:

  • Student must view to be marked complete (or not)
  • Student must get a grade (or not)
  • Student must create (enter #) entries*

Forums have the most options for determining completion status:

  • Student must view to be marked complete (or not)
  • Student must get a grade (or not)
  • Student must post (enter #) discussions*
  • Student must create (enter #) discussions*
  • Student must reply to (enter #) discussions*

When choosing to mark an activity as complete when it has been viewed, do so with caution.  For longer courses and for students who are genuinely interested in learning the material, viewed is a great bookmark for where the student left off during the last visit. 

However, I think it is folly to believe that if you require students to view every page, you are guaranteeing that learning has taken place.  It isn’t too hard to hit “next” without comprehending, reading, or even looking at the monitor!  If you really want to ensure competency, use well-written quizzes and assignments and require participation in collaborative activities.

*For ideas on how to engage students by requiring participation in forums, glossaries, and other collaborative activities, read “Jazzing Up Your Moodle Courses with Collaborative Features“.

I’d like to thank the creators of the Mt. Orange School demo site for providing a place for me to learn about these features; if you’d like to play around with Moodle 2.0 yourself, check it out!

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