Tag: visual learners

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Using Moodle for Business

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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 contentMoodle 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!

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Monday, March 15th, 2010

eLearning Audio, Video, and Screencasts: What Tools Do You Need?

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As I write this post, I realize that it’s hard – as a viewer – to draw clear distinctions amongst these eLearning features: audio, video, and screen casts (depicting mouse movement, with or without audio).  For the sake of brevity (which is not one of my strengths), I’ll refer to them collectively as “moving media”.   Some will involve using graphics (including screen prints), which are covered in a previous post, and many will output to a variety of formats, including flash. 

Five Things to consider when choosing tools to create or edit “moving media” for your eLearning courses:

Will “moving media” add value to my training design? Yes, if it reinforces the lesson and isn’t used simply to showcase the technology.  Most of the time, some simple versions will add a lot of value; in some cases, studio quality versions are called for.  To make eLearning GREAT, many types of media should be used to present the same message.  For each major learning point, I write the message (plain old text) and depict it graphically, I paraphrase what I wrote in an audio recording, and I combine all three in an Articulate Engage animation. Sometimes, I add a video or screencast. This provides something for both auditory and visual learners, for slow and fast connections, new and older technology, and reinforces the lesson. 

Do I have the skill? For “moving media”, I do not.  I have a tiny microphone that came with a computer – three computers ago.  I don’t even have audio recording software (that I know of) and I don’t have a video camera!  I use the Engage audio editor, which has features I am not talented enough to use.  The biggest issue with most novice-recording is that it sounds s-l-o-w.  To make a good recording, you almost need to talk too fast.  If the audio or video is of an actual event, careful editing is probably required, which also takes skills I don’t have.  Creating screencasts is a whole lot harder than one would think. You’ve watched them: “Uhm”…”Ahh”, [typing that goes on forever]… If you think you have the skill and want to learn more, check out Lynda.com for tutorials.

What are the options? The options range from desktop audio recording and cell phone videos to productions with actors and a script.  The biggest source of videos for me is YouTube (which I always embed so that my students aren’t bombarded with the rest of it).  If your training material warrants it, such as safety training for an electrical worker, you can hire a video production company like Creative Works at quite reasonable rates.  A short, well-produced video could add a lot more value than several amateur ones.  For high end screencasts and audio try Captivate, Camtasia, or Screenflow.  I tried several, but I found Articulate Screenr to be all that I could handle. When I wanted something special to promote eLearning, I hired Flexigroup to create an eWheel flash. You could use this in an eLearning course, too.  If you don’t have the time or the money to spend on any of these, you might try using PowerPoint if you already have it. You can save your presentation (with or without audio and animation) as a PowerPoint Show and upload it to your LMS/VLE like any other file. 

How much functionality do I need from this tool?  Most of the time, I get by with my simple mic, graphics, and SPX Instant Screen Capture, which I combine in Engage as alternatives to screencast tutorials.   Because I don’t have the skill to edit audio or piece together video, I don’t need much functionality.  If you do have the skill or need to produce really professional screencasts with studio-quality audio, you’ll need the high-end applications and good equipment as well.  If you’re like me and have dogs that bark at all the wrong times, you’ll need a sound room, too.  Again, the amount of functionality you need depends on what your training calls for and what you are capable of doing.  For most small businesses, the authoring tools should be simple and inexpensive unless media is your business; otherwise, your good information will go a long way in the simpler formats.  If you’re teaching how to use a software application, you must have good quality screencasts.  If your course is on good public speaking you must have high quality video.  If your course is in statistics, low tech cartoons might be better to ease the pain.

Will this tool work within my LMS? This is a good question to ask before spending any time or money on the authoring tool or the media itself.  Matt Bury just released a media player module for Moodle that adds both form and function to audio and video in a course.  I embed or link to most of this type of media; rarely do I upload it to a Moodle course.  If your LMS will allow you to open external links, but has strict limitations on what can be uploaded to your servers, this is probably your best option.  If you have restrictions on opening external sites, you’ll have to make sure the specific application is supported by your LMS.

For giggles, check out the history of sound recording at Wikipedia.  Until next time, Penny

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