e-learning data: how data analytics helps e-learning

The plethora of e-learning data available

e-learning data analytics - e-learning data logs - digital learning data - online course data With the digital revolution, periods such as the Covid lockdown, e-learning has become an increasingly popular way of delivering education. With it, the amount of data available from e-learning has grown exponentially. E-learning platforms such as Learning Management Systems (LMSs), Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and other such systems generate a plethora of data about the online courses they host, as well as the content, activities, learners, instructors and the interactions between them. This data can be of great benefit to educators and learners alike, as well as to the subject matter specialists, the content creators, the tutors, the course manager and beyond. Such benefits only happen as long as these stakeholders know how to harness that data within the boundaries set by regulations, and as long as the platforms and these courses are set up to optimise the generation of such data.

The importance of knowing what e-learning data is generated

Data can play a vital role in e-learning once it is understood. E-learning systems such as LMSs and VLEs record or generate a wide diversity of data about users (learners, instructors/tutors, and other users), courses, and interactions) so it becomes vital to know what data is needed, what data is generated, how data can be accessed (directly and indirectly) and how it can be interpreted. While not all these systems will record or generated all of these, and some integration with peripheral systems such as information systems (student registration) might be responsible for getting part of the data, understanding the sort of data that is available goes a long way towards a better grasp on what is happening in the digital learning environment,

The data recorded or generated on or via e-learning systems

The e-learning data recorded or generated on or via e-learning systems differs from one system to the other and from one digital course to another. However, the following data is often encountered:

  • Learner demographics may include the age, gender, location, and/or occupation of the learner. Sometimes, the data even provide learner preferences.
  • e-learning data analytics - e-learning data logs - digital learning data - online course dataLearner performance data tracks how well learners have performed on given activities and their scores on assessments.
  • Learner participation data tracks user engagement and contribution in discussions e.g., in fora.
  • Learning experience: Focused feedback activities such as surveys, polls, or comments, to cite a few, are as many ways to collect targeted data from learners about their learning experience.
  • Learning content access: This data tracks how often learners log in to an e-learning course, what content they access, and how long they spend on each screen.
  • Learning activity: This data tracks which learning activities learners have completed and how long they have spent on each of these.
  • Learning context data tracks the context in which learners are completing learning activities, such as the time of day, the location, the browser and the device they are using.
  • Learning environment infrastructure: e-learning systems may also generate data such as the number of users, the amount of bandwidth used, and the number of errors that occur.

How much of this e-learning data generated is available and how reliable is it?

First, not all systems generate all possible data. Secondly, not all generated data is readily available for use via a user-friendly graphical interface; sometimes, it needs to be extracted from logs. Thirdly, the amount of data available, whether readily or not, is regulated by privacy policies effective in the country where the online course is setup but also should take into account the privacy policies from the e-learners’ and other users’ countries of residence. Four, the modularisation of the e-learning content will determine the level of detail of the data analytics returned. This will also vary according to the e-learning standard used, e.g., SCORM or TinCan/xAPI. Finally (and definitely not least), the acuracy in data literacy is vital in understanding the e-learning data generated. For example, we may say that a system will track whether a learner has opened a page but not whether they have read it, unlike what some systems would allegate. We might consider that the country of access recorded for a learner’s session is their country of residence, but this might just be the headquarters of their Internet provider or a stopover. It is therefore essential to be clear what the data means so it can be used appropriately and to its full benefits.

How can we use the e-learning data thus generated?

Once you know what the data truly is (not what it appears to be), you can use different strands of it for different purposes. The main uses of e-learning data are:

  • Better understand learners and identify learner needs: By using e-learning platforms to track learner progress and engagement, e-learning professionals can identify areas where learners are struggling or need additional support, and troubleshoot issues. This information can be used to better understand the target audience for an e-learning course and to tailor the content accordingly and thus create personalized learning paths and more personalized learning experiences. Educators can also thus identify which learning resources are most popular and recommend additional resources to learners.
  • Improving course content and activities: The data collected from e-learning platforms can also be used to improve the course content itself. For example, if learners are consistently struggling with a particular concept, the course content can be revised to provide more explanation or practice opportunities. This information helps to measure the effectiveness of the online course and of learning interventions, identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions about the design and delivery of e-learning courses. For example, if learners are more likely to engage with a particular type of content or activity, the platform can be configured to provide more of that type of content. It can be used to continuously track the overall effectiveness of e-learning initiatives.  You can identify the most effective learning activities and resources and improve the overall quality of learning.
  • Optimise the learning environment: Data about the learning context can be used to troubleshoot problems with the learning environment and to ensure that it is running smoothly. It also allows relevant parties to make informed decisions about how to allocate resources and improve the overall learning experience. Knowing what devices, browser and other client tools learners use also helps to guide learners into configuring their devices to optimise their experience of the learning environment.

However, the amount of data available and the amount that can be done remain disproportional to the advances observed in popular e-learning practices.

e-learning data literacy among e-learning professionals

The importance of data in e-learning cannot be challenged. However, e-learning data literacy is disproportional to its impact on the discipline. A 2021 survey by eLearning Industry found that only 34% of e-learning professionals feel confident in their data literacy skills. The same survey found that 66% of e-learning professionals believe that data literacy is important for their job.

A 2020 study by the Society for Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK) found that e-learning professionals are most confident in their ability to interpret data visualizations, but they are less confident in their ability to collect and analyze data.

The LAK study also found that e-learning professionals are most likely to use data to track learner engagement and performance, but they are less likely to use data to make decisions about the design and delivery of their courses. The former fosters a reactive culture while the latter encourages a more proactive and even innovative one. In addition, this study hints at the latent belief that sissociates the effectiveness of a course and its instructional design.

These statistics suggest that there is a need for e-learning professionals to improve their data literacy skills and to fully harness e-learning data for the purposes of improving the learner experience through their engagement, their performance but also the course design. By doing so, they can use data to improve the learning experience for their learners in a 360 degree and make their work more efficient.

Challenges faced by e-learning professionals in improving their data literacy

e-Learning professionals face many challenges with e-learning data, from being stuck with the wrong tools to facing barriers to improving their data literacy:

  • Lack of time: Many e-learning professionals are busy with other tasks, so they don’t have time to learn about data literacy.
  • Wrong tools: Many instructional designers must develop the online courses with available tools which are not always the right tools for the job.
  • Outdated standards: Many online courses still use the popular SCORM standard which does not give as much data for perusal and informed decision-making.
  • Lack of resources: There are not many resources available to help e-learning professionals learn about data literacy.
  • Lack of confidence: Some e-learning professionals may feel that they are not good at math or statistics, so they may not be confident in their ability to learn about data literacy.
  • The compartmentalisation of educational roles can hinder advances in e-learning. There are still silos around responsibilities and accountabilities, which stops the seamless flow among professionals about the data, the awareness of the relevant data and the correct interpretation and application of the information it could bring to instructional designers, SMEs, educators, tutors, researchers, e-learning initiatives and groups and different level of Education.
  • The threat of Artificial intelligence (AI): The rise of Artificial intelligence (AI) is often seen as a threat and thee-learning domain isn’t an exception. The plethora of data does also mean the feeding of AI. This threat may influence the way that e-learning stakeholders enter, process or interpret data. While the rising of AI has the potential to revolutionize e-learning, it still must overcome some potential threats, including the potential displacement of educators and e-learning professionals, biases affecting data ccuracy, the lack of transparency or accountability, and seccurity and privacy linked to the vast amounts of data collected on e-learning users and its potential misuse if hacked. Clearer regulations about the role of AI and the boundaries around this would clarify things.

How can e-learning professionals improve their data literacy

Despite these challenges, there are things that e-learning professionals can do to improve their data literacy:

  • Look at e-learning from the perspective of providing decision-making insights for business strategy, course improvement, learner engagement and retention or subject matter refinement
  • Take a data literacy course: There are many online and in-person courses available that can teach e-learning professionals the basics of data literacy. My personal favourite is the one I am experiencing with Correlation One.
  • Read data literacy articles and books: There are many resources available that can help e-learning professionals learn more about data literacy. On LinkedIn, you will find a few, but my favourite is of course, is to Follow Correlation One’s Data Science for all.
  • Attend data literacy workshops and conferences: There are many events that are held each year that can help e-learning professionals learn about data literacy.
  • Find a mentor: A mentor can help e-learning professionals learn about data literacy and apply their skills to their work.

By taking these steps, e-learning professionals can improve their data literacy skills and use data to improve the learning experience for their learners.

Choosing the right e-learning tools

Choosing the right e-learning tools, e-learning standards and e-learning practices play a fundamental role in obtaining relevant data. A typical example is the widespread use of the SCORM standard in e-learning courses. xAPI, or Experience API, is a newer standard for tracking e-learning data than SCORM. It offers a number of advantages over SCORM, including:

  • Flexibility: xAPI can track learning experiences from a variety of sources, including online courses, mobile apps, and even real-world experiences and non-formal learning experiences, such as attending a conference or reading a book. This data can be used to get a complete picture of a learner’s learning journey. SCORM is limited to tracking learning experiences from online courses.
  • Extensibility: xAPI is designed to be extensible, which means that it can be adapted to track new types of learning experiences as they emerge. SCORM is a more rigid standard, and it is not as easy to adapt to new types of learning experiences.
  • Reliability: xAPI uses newer technologies than SCORM, which makes it more reliable and secure. SCORM uses older technologies, which can be less reliable and secure.
  • Interoperability: xAPI is more interoperable than SCORM, which means that it can be used with a wider range of learning platforms and tools. SCORM is less interoperable, and it can be more difficult to use with some learning platforms and tools.

Overall, xAPI is a more flexible, extensible, reliable, and interoperable standard for tracking e-learning data than SCORM. If you are looking for a standard that can track learning experiences from a variety of sources, and that can be adapted to new types of learning experiences as they emerge, then xAPI is the better choice. Looking at it from a strategic perspective, you would want to adopt a powerful standard that will provide digital courses, learners and educators with the ability to gain insights into how to faciliate positively unforgettable learning experiences, with all the success and marketing impact that this generates.

Adopting the best e-learning practices

The way that an instructional design breaks down and structures their content as well as the way that they match learning outcomes with content and learning activities also has a great deal of impact in the effectiveness of e-learning. By adopting the most effective e-learning practices based on their target audience, they create online courses in a way that informative data can be better extracted. For example, creating bite-size content individually related to the achievement of an outcome helps track the progress of a learner against that outcome and pinpoint the part(s) with which the learner is struggling when trying to achieve that outcome.

It is important to keep in mind that the expected learning outcome plays a key role. It is not just about matching activities with the correct tools but also formulating the associated content appropriately. For example, an instructional designer or an educator wanting to ensure that the learner has read and understood a piece of content can add a question at the end summing up the main takeaway. When articulating the question, they must remember that it is a test of the learner’s ability to understand and/or apply the particular related outcome of the subject, not to test their English, their spelling or their overall cleverness. Clarity and simplicity within a learning-outcome focused question will nicely round up the piece of content and give the learner a sense of achievement, a sense of another building block solidified in the erection of the building of their subject matter expertise.

Choosing the right tools

There are over 1000 Learning Management Systems in existence and a few dozens rapid e-learning tools. This makes choosing one a difficult task. For many educators in established organisations, the choice is made for them which is sometimes a relief and sometimes a pain. Either way, being given the tool before you have worked out your need makes it harder to have your goals drive the technology. There is no right answer as to how to do that, but keeping in mind your goals and not letting technology limit your imagination is a nice trick to start. Your goals will determine the data that you need to extract and this can guide the segmentation of your course and even the way you use the tools you have, whether you selected them or not.

Taking into account the limitations of data

Here are some of the challenges associated with collecting and analyzing e-learning data:

  • Data privacy: It is important to protect the privacy of learners when collecting and analyzing e-learning data. Data privacy policies must be clear and transparent and comply with the relevant regulations such as GDPR in Europe, among others. There are also policies linked to the age of the learners, their consent and more. Either way, respecting the learner’s privacy and making this transparent makes the learning environment and the organisation behind it more trustworthy. Free courses are not exempt from this.
  • Data quality: The data collected from e-learning platforms must be accurate and reliable in order to be useful. Data literacy develops critical thinking towards generated data.
  • Data interpretation: The data collected from e-learning platforms can be complex and difficult to interpret. A data literateprofessional is able to interpret the data that they are given without making it say what it doesn’t and making sure they ask themselves relevant questions about the story the data tells.

Conclusion

A wealth of data is generated in e-Learning when the right systems, best practices, useful standards are used and that strategic and educational goals drive the process. With the right mindset and expertise, this data can be used to improve the learning experience, the digital course, the subject matter and even e-learning itself. The opportunity to create more satisfying, personalised, engaging and effective learning experiences and to measure the impact of learning interventions are motivations that incites e-learning professionals to improve their data literacy adn contribute to the better understanding and practices in e-learning, despite the many challenges that they are bound to encounter.

The data collected from e-learning platforms can be a valuable resource for improving the learning experience. By carefully considering the privacy, quality, and interpretation of this data, e-learning professionals can use it to make informed decisions about how to improve their courses and programs.

While the challenges cannot be ignored, the benefits are worth the effort. Becoming data literate to make better informed decisions regarding the improvement of the course content, the proactive support of our learners, the better understanding, improvement and even personalisation of their learning experience, the contribution to improving the subject matter and more.

What is e-learning? Your questions answered

What is e-learning?

E-learning is a type of learning that takes place through electronic media, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. It can be accessed anywhere and anytime, making it a convenient and flexible way to learn. E-learning can be used for a variety of purposes, including training employees, providing professional development, and teaching students. In this article, we will answer all the questions you may have about what e-learning is, the types of e-learning, the tools, the process, the techniques and more. We will use the terms e-learning, electronic learning, elearning, and digital learning interchangeably, and always to include desktop and laptop-based learning and mobile learning. We will also use the terms online course, e-course, digital course, digital learning course and ecourse interchangeably. You will also encounter e-learner, elearner, digital learner and online learner.

What types of e-learning are there?

Face-to-face e-learning There are many different types of e-learning, depending on whether they are:

  • Autonomous, educator-guided or both: Self-paced courses allow learners to progress at their own pace, without being tied to a specific schedule whereas instructor-led courses tend to have to be scheduled
  • Face-to-face (as in in-person, on-site), distant or both: e-learning is often confused with distance learning. However, just as distance learning does not always use digital tools, face-to-face learning may use them, after all, using electronic tools does not mean that you have to be at a distance from your tutor
  • Real-time, asynchronous or both: e-learning is often associated with asynchronous learning which means learning happens in your time at your own pace. However, learning can also happen in real time and there is no reason why one should prevent the other
  • Static, interactive, immersive: Interactive ecourses allow learners to interact with the content through a variety of methods, such as quizzes, games, simulations, and virtual worlds.
    The digital learning is said to be immersive when the ecourses uses immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or 360-degree video to plunge the learner into a realistic learning experience. There are less advanced ways that immersion can be create, e.g., through the design of the digital learning environment. Interactive and more so immersive e-learning create a more engaging and realistic learning experience and make the learning experience more enjoyable. In that, they differ enormously from read-only learning content, which appear often as PDF and other static content repositories.
  • Social, independent or both: Social learning platforms allow learners to connect with each other and share ideas and resources.
  • Mobile or computer-based (desktop, laptop..): Mobile learning  is designed to take advantage of the specificities of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets to enrich the learning experience.

What are some advantages of digital learning?

e-learning: One type of e-learning is social learning

E-learning has a number of advantages over traditional classroom learning, including:

  • Flexibility: Electronic learning can be accessed anywhere and at anytime, making it a convenient option for busy learners. Online courses can followed at one’s own pace.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Electronic learning can be less expensive than traditional classroom learning, as it does not require the same level of infrastructure and resources. It also bring about digital opportunities that are less costly than their traditional counterpart, such as the Internet (you can listen to a foreign language right there for free) and its many apps.
  • Personalization: Electronic learning can be tailored to the individual learner’s needs, styles and interests, making it a more effective learning experience.
  • Opportunity for Better Engagement and Retention: Electronic learning can be more engaging than traditional classroom learning, when it harnesses the power of multimedia and other interactive and immersive elements to keep learners interested.

What are some drawbacks of digital learning?

However, e-learning also has some disadvantages, depending on the types you chose to foster, including:

  • Potential Lack of social interaction:** Electronic learning can be isolating, as learners do not have the same opportunities for social interaction as they do in a traditional classroom setting.
  • Technology requirements: Electronic learning requires access to technology, such as a computer or smartphone. This can be a barrier for some learners, especially those who do not have access to these resources.
  • Motivation: Electronic learning can be challenging, as learners must be self-motivated to complete the course.
  • Time management issues: With autonomous courses, time management is often an issue for those elearners who are used to instructor-led course delivery.

Face-to-face e-learning - Synchronous e-learning - Classroom-e-learning - How do you create e-learning? The process

There are many ways to create e-learning. Here are some basic steps you can follow:

  1. Plan your e-course: What are you trying to teach? Who is your target audience? What are their learning needs?
  2. Design your e-course: This includes creating a storyboard, developing the content, creating the prototype, choosing your tools, and creating the visuals.
  3. Develop your e-course: This includes creating the modules, adding interactivity, and testing the course.
  4. Deliver your e-course: This includes choosing a platform, setting up the course, and marketing the course.
  5. Evaluate your e-course: This includes collecting feedback from learners, collecting feedback from a professional and independent e-learning consultant and making improvements to the course.

What is ADDIE?

You may use the most common e-learning and instructional design and deliver model, ADDIE. It is a five-phase process too, that includes:

  1. Analysis: The analysis phase involves identifying the learning needs of the target audience and the educational objectives.
  2. Design: The design phase involves creating a detailed plan for the instruction, including the content, activities, and assessments.
  3. Development: The development phase involves creating the actual instructional materials.
  4. Implementation: The implementation phase involves delivering the instruction to the target audience.
  5. Evaluation: The evaluation phase involves assessing the effectiveness of the instruction.

ADDIE is a flexible model that can be adapted to different instructional situations. It is a good starting point for developing instructional materials, but it is important to be aware of its limitations. For example, ADDIE does not take into account the social and cultural context of learning.

What tools can you use in digital learning?

e-learning for everyoneThere are many different e-learning tools available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The commonly used e-learning tools include:

  • Learning management systems (LMS) are software applications that help organizations deliver, track, and manage e-learning, more specifically e-courses (aka digital courses or online courses). They provide a centralized platform for learners to access courses, track their progress, and communicate with instructors.
  • Authoring tools aka rapid e-learning tools or e-learning authorware are software applications that help you create e-learning content. They provide a variety of features that can be used to create interactive and engaging content, such as text, images, videos, audio, and quizzes.
  • Assessment tools are applications that help you assess learner progress or provide the environment for different types of such assessment. They provide a variety of features that can be used to create and deliver assessments, such as quizzes, tests, and surveys.
  • Social learning platforms are online communities where learners can connect with each other and share knowledge. They provide a variety of features that can be used to facilitate collaboration, such as discussion forums, chat rooms, and wikis.

Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

A learning management system (LMS) is a software application that helps organizations deliver, track, and manage e-learning. LMSs provide a centralized platform for learners to access courses, track their progress, and communicate with instructors. They also provide administrators with tools to manage the e-learning program, such as setting up courses, assigning users, and tracking learner performance.

LMSs play an important role in e-learning because they provide a number of benefits that can help to improve the effectiveness of the program, including:

  • Provides centralized course access: for learners, educators, guests, assessors and administrators: LMSs provide a single place for learners to access all of their e-learning content. This can be helpful for learners who are working on multiple courses or who need to access content from different sources. They al
  • Tracking and reporting: LMSs track learner progress and provide reports that can be used by administrators and educators to measure the effectiveness of the e-learning program. This information can be used to identify areas that need improvement and to make changes to the program. It also helps learners check what gaps they need to fill and what lessons they need to revisit.
  • Communication: LMSs provide a way for learners to communicate with instructors and other learners. This can be helpful for learners who need help with the content or who want to collaborate on projects.
  • Course Administration: LMSs provide tools that can be used to manage the e-learning program, such as ecourse creation, ecourse set up, courses bundling into programs, user enrollment and more. This can help to save time and effort for administrators.
  • User Management: LMSs user management features allow administrators and educators to create groups, learning paths, send individual messages or feedback, track learner performance and more. This can help to save time and effort for administrators.

elearning authorware

e-learning for everyoneE-learning authoring tools are software applications that provide a variety of features that allow you to:

  • Create high-quality, interactive and engaging digital learning content, including text, images, videos, audio, self-tests, and other interactive elements.
  • Manage your content by providing features such as version control, and tracking changes. This can help you to ensure that your content is up-to-date and accurate.

  • Deliver / publish / convert your content into various elearning-friendly formats such as xAPI/Tin Can, SCORM (e.g., SCORM 1.2 or SCORM 2.4 making it SCORM compliant), mobile learning, and social learning. This can help you to ensure that your content is accessible to your learners, regardless of their location or device.

  • Be effective in meeting your learning objectives and save time and effort, as they provide a number of features that can automate the creation of e-learning content.

There are many dfferent e-learning authoring tools available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some of the most popular e-learning authoring tools include: Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, iSpring Suite, H5P, Adapt, Lectora, eFront and WizIQ. We have dedicated a whole article on top e-learning authoring tools here.

Choosing the correct e-learning tools

When choosing e-learning tools, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Your working context: For example, you may be in a University that already uses specific ones, you may be working within a discipline that require specific features, and so on
  • The technological context: Technology won’t cease to evolve. Make sure you harness the assets brought about by state-of-the-art functionalities in relationship to your subject and your learner needs
  • The needs of your learners: What are your learners’ learning styles? What are their needs and goals?
  • The type of content you want to create: What type of content do you want to create? What features do you need to create that content?
  • Your budget: How much are you willing to spend on e-learning tools?
  • Your technical expertise: How much technical expertise do you have? Do you need tools that are easy to use?

Once you have considered these factors, you can start to evaluate different e-learning tools. There are over 1000 LMSs around and a few dozens of digital learning authorware. So, check the many resources available to help you with this, such as online reviews, comparison charts, and product demos or enlist the services of a professional digital learning specialist for that work. Either way, you will need tools to create, deliver, assess, and evaluate your course as a minimum.

How long does it take to create an e-course?

The time it takes to create an e-course depends on the duration of your ecourse, whether or not you already have the content, the types of digital learning you are planning to add and their degree of complexity, the expertise at hand and the tools you use. The more complex and diverse the types, the more engaged and retained the learner is likely to be, but also the more time it will take to develop. Check your deadlines to adapt to them, knowing that, in  time, you may and should always improve your course, making it increasingly more interactive, more immersive, and more responsive to learners’ feedback. Choosing a platform and tools that allow you to scale the quality of your ecourse and the quantity of your learners AND concurrent learners is best practice. Another option is to create parts of a course at a time, especially in face-to-face delivery so eventually you can have a full course. However, as a general rule, it can take anywhere from a few weeks (although I have create one mini-course in a few days) to several months to create a high-quality e-learning course.

How long does it take to convert an existing course into an e-course?

The total duration for converting an existing course to an e-course is actually quite similar to creating e-courses from scratch. It will take less time since you already have the content, however, you should not let the existence of content stop you from harnessing the full potential of your digital learning as the new environment may offer answers to the limitations of your previous environment. Always remember your overarching goals: your content and methods should remain fluid to allow your course to always be improved.

When you are planning, make sure that your criteria for selecting an e-learning authoring tool include a quick and efficient conversion. For example, there are many e-course templates available online but rather than designing one to look like something you have seen, having something suitable directly available in the tool you are using can help you get started quickly. These templates can provide you with a basic structure to follow, which can save you a lot of time and effort. Take into account the format of your existing course and that required for your choice of delivery platform. For example, if you often create courses as PowerPoint slides, choose a rapid e-learning authorware from the many available that will repurpose PowerPoint slides into e-learning content. This can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

What are best practices for developing e-learning courses?

Best practice ensures learners’ engagement, motivation and retention, course manageability and maintainability, content clarity and maintainability which means:

creating courses that are learner-centered, bite-sized, and engaging. Best practice also ensures that a course is maintainable, content is reusable/optimizable and continually improved.

  • elearner-centered e-courses: Keep the elearner at the center of the instructional design process. The design should be visually appealing but also may help to immerse them in the subject (through e.g., couleur locale), reflect this targeted audience, facilitate the navigation, while the content takes into account their learning styles and preferences, needs and outcomes and is optimized for their digital learning environment.
  • Provide opportunities for learner interaction with the course and with other learners. Social participation should only be obligatory if it is an essential outcome of the course but should be available for the more social learners.
  • Break the content into small chunks: This will make it easier for learners to digest and retain the information. Ideally, each chunk should relate and help them achieve a learning outcome. Each piece of content should be clear and concise, using simple language and only use jargon (without explanation) once it has been explained a few times and confirmed acquired.
  • Give learners control over their learning: beyond interactive learning, elearners should be able to choose their learning pace of their learning as well as be guided through it.
  • Use a variety of media to make the content more engaging and memorable. Consider using images, videos, audio, AR, VR, simulations, games to break up the text and make your content more visually appealing and more exciting. Use multimedia, yes but remember there is hypermedia, interactive media, and more.
  • Include activities and assessments to help learners practice and assess what they have learned. This will help them retain the information and make sure they are understanding the material but also allow them to confirm which learning outcome they have achieve. I use crosswords in some of my courses!
  • Illustrate: an image is worth 1000 words but it is not only graphic illustrations that this applies to. So, if you can exemplify pieces of the course through relatable storytelling, passages of a film, and as many relaxed alternatives as you can, you will create more engagement. Use humour if you can but sparingly so as not to make it distracting.
  • Test your e-learning course: Before you deliver your e-learning course, be sure to test it thoroughly. This will help to ensure that the course is error-free and that it is effective in meeting your learning objectives. A pilot will also help to give you a learner’s perspective for your review.
  • Evaluate your e-learning course: After you’ve delivered your e-learning course, be sure to evaluate it. This will help you to identify areas that need improvement and to make your e-learning courses even more effective in the future.
  • Use mobile learning and take advantages of its very particular features such as geolocation to create content that is dynamic, responsive and exciting.

Conclusion

e-learning in your own time and placeOverall, e-learning is a flexible and cost-effective way to teach/train and learn. It can be used for a variety of purposes, and it has a number of advantages over traditional classroom learning. However, it also has some disadvantages, such as the lack of social interaction and the need for technology. A great way to implement digital learning requires that you are aware of all advantages and drawbacks and put measures in place to manage (mitigate or eliminate) risks and known issues. Learners also benefit from experiencing a combination of all types of digital learning, as does the management of digital learning risks and issues. Digital learning tools should be chosen to match your learners’ needs, your business goals, your budget, your deadlines, and fit your context of delivery. They should include a delivery platform or LMS, an authorware and assessment systems. Harnessing the tools you use will allow you to chose the fitting ones and match their features to your course functionalities. A professional e-learning consultant can help you at any and all stages of your online course creation and delivery.

Further resources

3E Top Rapid e-learning authoring tools

There is an increasing range of e-learning authoring software designed to help professional learning designers, learning technologists, e-learning developers and even amateur course developers create an e-learning experience. This article explores some of the most popular ones and the features they offer.

Criteria

These authoring tools will allow organisations to develop media-rich, visually striking, quality, interactive e-learning content for an investable online course product. Criteria include:

  • They must enable the creation of interactions, media rich content, and quality design, in a relatively rapid manner i.e it should be easy to learn and to use, with the presence of quality templates to make development time even shorter.
  • They should allow the publishing to portable output formats including particularly SCORM,  Tin Can and or HTML5, allow the importing of external content and be LTI compliant
  • They should, of course, make cost sense including have a reasonable learning curve.

Presentation Technologies

Of all the authoring tools being used, presentation technologies remain the most used to create e-learning. They are not originally web-based so some of the rapid authoring tools are used to convert them to scorm or tin can/xapi compliant content that can be played in virtual learning environments or learning management systems.

Rapid e-learning authoring tools

The most popular rapid e-learning authoring tools include:

  • Adapt Learning  is an increasingly popular HTML5 e-learning authoring software. Although it is free, it might require infrastructure which can be set up on adequate hosting for little money or rented on already setup facilities. The software offers quite a lot of options for e-learning activities and content presentation.
  • Adobe Captivate is probably the most flexible, adaptable, programmable of all the e-learning authoring tools on offer, giving thereby the greatest amount of content types. The only downsides are the relatively steep learning curve, the costs and the limitations with the output formats.
  • Articulate 360: this suite of rapid e-learning authoring tools are offer a relatively easy to learn suite of options, familiar PowerPoint slide interface, most if not all of the variety of multimedia content and output formats listed above. The suite is not the horribly expensive but is not the most affordable.
  • Camtasia is one of the oldest offerings. It has been known from the beginning as the way to capture screens and create videos with captions and engagement. It is a rapid authoring tool but unless the whole course is a demonstration that should be capture in this way, it generally is one of the tools rather than the main one.
  • H5P is a free swiss knife offering the web-based course a wide number of media forms. Apart from its monetary costs or lack of it thereof, its ability to integrate with popular content management systems such as WordPress or Drupal make it a great option for developing engaging online courses. The drawbacks are the difficulties in customising the style, and the need to have a learning resource if ever the instructor wants to see or monitor the results of any activities created with H5P. Also since it is directly on the web, it does not export as anything else than HTML5, although that should not be a disadvantage.
  • iSpring Suite is among the most diverse, popular and affordable e-learning authoring tools. They are a plugin to PowePoint allowing the use of a familiar environment to develop more engaging teaching that include a great number of really easy to incorporate media. The tools are easy to learn, affordable and the support is very good.
  • Udutu e-learning authoring tool is a little clunky in terms of using it, but it is free, and allows a wide variety of customisations and interactive media. It can be complemented with the Udutu PowerPoint to web authoring tool which costs less than a tenner a month, to quicken the e-learning process.
  • Other such tools include elucidat, Gomo Learning, Lectora Inspire and Shift

References – comparisons from G2Crowd, e-learning rapid authoring tools include Captivate product documentation for HTML5 limits, SCORM/Tin Can, how-to and YouTube how tos and our own testing of free trials and actual use with clients’ projects.

Exceed your goals with Technology

Overview

Here is an IT infographics about how 3E Web Media is helping Businesses exceed their goals with Digital Technology

IT infographics digital technology

How does 3E Web Media help Businesses exceed their goals with Digital Technology? www.3ewebmedia.com

  • Increase Reach
  • Increase Revenue
  • Increase Reputation
  • Empower Relationships

Services include –

  • Digital Marketing
  • SEO
  • Websites
  • Online Courses
  • Multimedia Design
  • Digital content writing and editing

Contact us

  • in the UK at contact@3ewebmedia.com
  • in the US at info@vertikalmediagroup.com

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series – 1. A digital presence in the digital age

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses Series help organisations and individuals reconcile their professional goals with the many solutions offered by digital platforms. So these are real benefits and uses of a website?

  1. A digital presence in the digital age
  2. Getting to your audience everywhere
  3. Visualising a Unique Brand
  4. Multimedia, multisensory experience
  5. Control and ownership
  6. Understanding visitors and customers
  7. Eco-friendly and money-saving
  8. Optimising the efficiency of operations
  9. Showcasing your expertise
  10. Conclusion

Why have a website? Real benefits and uses – 1. A digital presence in the digital age

Having a digital presence and succeeding online have become a necessity. Search engines are now default go-to places for finding information, services, products, advice, friendship and even love. The business that Google, Bing or Yahoo does not list loses out. This is particularly relevant when you consider that Google alone counts 40,000 searches every second*! This has forced companies to have a website and ensure they are listed on search engines as soon as possible and as highly ranked as possible to get more clients. In today’s world, a company’s position is increasingly judged digitally.

The emotional blackmail and the fashionable pressure of needing to be online could never be the right way of getting a business into the real benefits and uses of having a website. As a result, it could hardly be the right premises for a business to create the digital presence that would indeed make the right difference for the brand. There is so much more to presenting one’s venture in a relevant manner without drowning one’s Unique Selling Point (USP), marketing it correctly and harvesting its advantages. In fact, many a time we have stumbled upon websites that just scream of having checked the box of the necessary online presence and indeed stopped right there.

So what more is there to a website than having a domain name, a logo, and some information about business services? Well this article argues that a Website is more than just displaying company’s information and brand. It is a global medium of interaction with existing and potential clients and is about continually attracting and retaining your client based on what your business does best, uniquely in a manner that satisfy your clients.

3E Top online course platforms

Online Course Platforms – Overview

There was a time when Higher Education led the pack as far as putting courses online was concerned. With this trend and from over 120 online learning systems identified by Landon in 2000 (then called Virtual Learning Environments), two main ones had survived to take up the majority of the market, namely proprietary/commercial Blackboard and Open Source Moodle. However, these platforms primarily offered systems in a way that the customer would have to provide the hosting, security, and overall support.

A few years ago, this gap in the market was recognised and Blackboard and other suppliers started providing outsourced or so-called managed hosting complementing their original specialist consultancy services to assist businesses in the implementation of their e-learning solutions. More recently, the popularisation of MOOCS and other such open online learning resources has prompted the development of such increasingly cloud-based, supplier-hosted, user-accessible environments where an individual (trainer, teacher…) no longer needs the backing of a larger institution to create, sell or promote their courses.

In effect, these Online Course Platforms, as they would soon be known, were seeing a rapid development outside of the Higher Education realm, with Udemy starting what turned out to be a system that would work for and correspond to an existing set of users’ needs. Indeed, that was the case as a number of online course platforms developed, many of them learning from the user feedback on Udemy and harnessing the larger opportunities of a continually evolving technology. There are now dozens of these websites that allow course instructors to concentrate on creating and sometimes selling their courses whilst the upheaval of hosting, monitoring, maintenance and security are taken care of by these professionals.

Of course, there remains the types of companies that offer only part of the service but will boast both the advantage of being specialised and thereby more sophisticated but also facilitating integration with other complementary tools, specialist in another aspect of the requirement. This is the case for the likes of WP CourseWare and LearnDash that plug into WordPress to turn the content management system into an e-learning platform. It is also the case of Course for Merchant and Cogno that require an appropriate third party integration before offering a full e-learning system. Those solutions may indeed have a point as we increasingly see all-in-one applications failing at developing specialist features. On the other hand, their reliance on third-party integration can leave tools like Cogno vulnerable in various aspects: eg. Cogno’s content analytics might be less specific as content it analyses (SCORM) is viewed more as a whole package than as the individual items it contains. Finally and as always, there are newcomers such as Google Education. They might indeed show promise but they still will be too much in their infancy to have gathered enough traction or feedback to allow for a full evaluation.

Whatever the tools claim to do and whatever the requirements of the course instructor, there are a number of features that will make these online course platforms meet the needs of the modern student and the stakeholders’ common expectations. First, it is not all to offer the creation of courses, these have to allow a variety of media, importing of content. It is great to be online, but are they web-optimised, usable, and increasingly paramount, mobile responsive? Where they are hosted, are they backed up, is the technology regularly monitored and maintained? And most of all, does the content still belongs to its creator? On this, let us explore the online course environments that make up our top choices and the reasons why they do. It is important to note that this list is based on a research of platforms based on their advertised features, opinions from users and experts on forums and own general knowledge of the subtleties of e-learning functionality. This post is a practical guuide for autonomous educators, from instructors, to trainers, to lecturers. For a more in-depth look into these or for an educational or training organisation’s specific requirements, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

1. Academy of mine

academy of mineThis online course platform is often recommended by experts mainly because it appears to them as an all-in-one solution although our research found it hard to dig up evidence that the features presented showed completeness: unlimited courses and students  sell courses including subscriptions track progress multimedia course creation learning tools (blog, quiz, assignments, video-conferencing, live chat, screen sharing and white-boarding) custom domain progress tracking create badges and certificates. Prices are $199 per month to $499/m custom domain  hosting / monitoring / SSL / auto-upgrades social platform.

2. Teachable

This is a definite favourite in online course platform solutions, offering solid features, extensive options and a low price. It is also often cited as one of the best, especially since it was created to make up for the downsides of Udemy. The website information is detailed and clear. It offers multimedia course creation learning tools (quiz, blog, discussion forum student feedback) course selling (including coupons, pricing flexibility, worldwide payments for 130+ currencies and student refunds, full and partial) affiliate management school branding custom domain progress tracking MailChimp integration . It is also multi-language, mobile responsive web-optimised. Content can be imported from Udemy, Dropbox, Box and exported. Prices are $0 + fees to $299/m; enterprise plan options  hosting/monitoring/SSL/auto-upgrades you own your own data. Popularity: 5000+ users/creators

Pathwright3. Pathwright

Pathwright is free until you start selling, then it is $19/m +4% sales to $299/m +$3/extra member +4% sales. It is a favourite online course platform on the forums but it seems to be most adapted for hands-on project works. It offers multimedia course creation learning tools course selling (including pricing flexibility). There is not much other information unless you try it.

4. Thinkific

ThinkificAlthough there is not much out there about Thinkific, their website gives the picture of a very much all-in one online course platform, powerful and growing in popularity. Features listed include:  unlimited courses multimedia course creation learning tools (quiz, blog, discussion forum, survey student feedback but also the possibility of embedding third party tools, storyline/captivate and more e-learning tools) a high capacity for integration with third party to enhance the tools offered including for learning, teaching and marketing course selling (including coupons, pricing flexibility, multiple currencies and payment methods) affiliate management school branding custom domain progress tracking MailChimp integration . It is also multi-language, mobile responsive web-optimised. Content can be imported and exported. They also confirm that you own your content. There is a free starter option but to have the real benefits, it costs from $39/m+5%transaction fee to $219/m+no transaction fees.

5. Edloud

EdLoud logoEdloud does indeed scream loud above many of its competitors if you look at their features. For $99/m, it offers what everyone else offers plus help from an online training strategist, unlimited everything and social media integration and even training! Specific features are: Work with an Online Training Strategist (which I must admit is really important as online courses is not just uploading content!)  Completely Mobile-Responsive  Complete Affiliate Marketing Engine  Discount codes and coupons  Hassle-free instant upgrades and updates 99.98% uptime and 24/7 monitoring  Deep analytics and reports  24/7 Customer Support Secure payments with credit cards and PayPal  handles taxes and billing  Social media integration  Integration with 300+ services including Mailchimp  Unlimited courses and students/customers  Unlimited bandwidth and traffic  Sell in any currency to any country around the world Offer Online Courses, Webinars, Live Sessions, E-Books, … create interactive courses  Brand your school Everything you need to know about selling education and training products online. Unfortunately the site does not mention anything about student refund.

6. Ruzuku

RuzukuThis online course platform’s website has a number of testimonies mainly from women using the and loving its simplicity and straightforwardness. It does look easy to get a course online but the result looks a little outdated from what is shown. Its USP is its highly developed platform as a community of students and teachers identified by their social profiles, its Easy access to support via extensive media, and especially that students have easy access to Ruzuku support as they register, pay, and access your courses. Students are empowered and can post images, PDFs, and videos in their responses Ruzuku integrates with MailChimp, allows payments including via Stripe and Paypal. You can track students Create free courses Invite or remove participants from courses  Create Live (scheduled calendar-based) courses with automatic email notifications  Create On Demand courses with drip content  Create Self-Directed courses  Create new AND copy your existing courses Host and load multimedia files including for download. It offers Daily backups. Outisde of its website, Ruzuku is often cited as one of the best ones.

7. Teachery

TeacheryTeachery.co looks like a small contender in the online course platform arena. It fails to show a complete offer and this, in spite of many great features, including:  Unlimited Courses, Lessons, and Students  simple live course editor Multimedia content including slideshare presentation course style editor / branding payment pages and promo codes easy customer export custom domains custom course homepage tracking code and analytics comments and community welcome emails and course completed emails customer support email integration including with Mailchimp landing pages sales pages email capture pages

8. Udemy

UdemyUdemy is arguably the most known online course platforms. It is highly popular, mainly because it is one of the first one established that is free although you give up to 50% of your sales if Udemy brings in a student for you, otherwise you keep it all! The main medium is video but you can upload other content types. I don’t really feel it is a complete online learning course in the traditional sense but more of an opportunity to access a large community (namely over 9 million students) to showcase what is mainly video-based courses.

9. Content Management System powered online courses

Of course, there is also the option to sell courses from our own hosted-website.

SenseiLearnDashWordPress-powered websites can use
plugins such as WP Courseware, Learndash or
Wootheme’s Sensei.

joomlalmsWebsites using Joomla can extend the Content Management System with the add-on 
JoomlaLMS
and Drupal users can integrate Opigno.

If you are looking for hosted solutions like for the online course platforms described above, then there are very few that offer these and it is more of a niche market. wp-coursewareWordPress.com itself, in spite of offering free hosted WordPress blogging, does not enable addition of WordPress plugins so online learning will be impossible since WP Courseware and LearnDash are both WordPress plugins. Eiman Academy 1InMusic.com allows music courses to be created and sold via their WordPress and LearnDash powered website. African-Counter.com welcomes any online course that teaches African heritage.

10. Blackboard / Moodle

BlackboardBlackboard LOGO is the leading Enterprise e-learning system in Higher Education. Although the Blackboard Academic Suite is mostly hosted within the institutions that purchase them, the company does offer paid, outsourced and managed hosting.  This is generally per active user per calendar period. So-called managed hosting clients include the likes of the University of Manchester. The actual provision will depend on contracts, but the advantages are having technical experts at hand for your Blackboard servers, 24/7 server support and maintenance. Blackboard also offers cheaper to free alternatives with CourseSites: you can create up to 5 course websites for free in which you can engage students in social learning, add multimedia into class content, assess performance, manage grades and share Open Education Resources.

11. Moodle

MoodleMoodle is the leading free open source (under the GPL licence) e-learning system used in Higher Education. It deals effectively with content and users from small and bigger organisations. Institutions can acquire Moodle simply by downloading it onto their servers. They can then brand it, as well as extend it with any of the wide range of available Moodle plugins. The website contains a lot of resources helping developers to build additional resources, users to share their courses (https://moodle.net/) and a lot more. It is important to note that, although Moodle itself and associated plugins are free, there is a cost associated with setting it up, configuring and customising it. Apart from the obvious time cost, that many disregard on the basis of DIY, a number of users, such as big adopter the Open University, have found that heavy customisation is needed to tailor what in effect is a generic e-learning solution, to their very particular needs. This has not been the case for all however, as Moodle does boast a plethora of learning activities including, as per their website:  a modern and easy to use interface  a personalised Dashboard  a variety of Collaborative tools and activities  an All-in-one calendar  a convenient file management system  a simple and intuitive text editor  notifications and progress tracking   Customisable site design and layout  Secure authentication and mass enrolment, Multilingual capability  Bulk course creation and easy backup  user and role permissions control  open standards support including SCORM and IMS-LTI as well as High interoperability  Simple plugin management  Regular security updates  and  Detailed reporting and logs.

12. TalentLMS

There is an annoying advert that keeps on coming up when I am watching YouTube clips. I guess it has worked because I have remembered to include TalentLMS on this list, in spite of not really seeing it anywhere else during my research. A lot of things seem to be annoying about their presentation of themselves, from the ad to their so-called yes list (a list of all they have presented as a list of close-answer FAQs for which the answer is always yes, but also does not allow a full list that truly allows you to see what is NOT available) and yet this online course platform could be a serious contender. Allowing you to have up to 10 free courses with up to 5 students with no time limit (and even advocating it as a first point of call), its prices go up to $449/m + $4 per additional active user. Its list of customers is impressive and it is mobile-friendly, acknowledges learning paths, allows reports, is free of tech headaches as it hosts/installs/automatically updates/backups and allows you to create rich multimedia courses and sell them. They claim that is so simple that you can start your learning portal in less than 3 minutes… and it is free to start with no credit card needed…

Conclusion

Choices always depend on business requirements, personal preferences and available budgets. At different times and under varied circumstances, I have recommended different LMS and sometimes the same. This list and quick summary gives enough insight into what is available to make an aware primary decision before drilling down to testing a couple, at the most three. It is also worth noting that the market changes often due to continual technology enhancement, and as a consequence, looking beyond this list is a must and consideration should be given to the life expectancy of any selected piece of software.