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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Archive for February, 2010

Bad News for Social Learning

Posted by Ellen on February 27, 2010

A few months ago, Robert Half  Technology surveyed CIOs at for-profit companies about their social networking policies. Their results are not only striking, but essential for associations and non-profits to be aware of:

  • 54% prohibit all social networking use
  • 19% permit business use only
  • 16% permit limited personal use (“limited personal use” was not defined)
  • 10% permit permit any use of social networking

Wow! If you’re an association staffer planning to integrate social networking into your learning strategy, maybe you need to hold up at least long enough to find out what the policies are for your members.

If you’ve already incorporated Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, or other social networking (or other social media options) into your alearning offerings and aren’t seeing much interaction, maybe it’s because your members are in that majority of companies that have blocked access.

We can build it, but if there’s a huge fence between what we’ve built and their ability to get to it, then we need to know about that fence.

Especially if we’re assuming they’ll be accessing their learning and interactions from their place of employment.

Especially since 54% means the odds are — at least for now — slightly against us.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Social Learning | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Yes, There Are No Learning Styles

Posted by Ellen on February 21, 2010

According to the Association for Psychological Science, “There is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.”

Their report goes on to say:

An obvious point is that the optimal instructional method is likely to vary across disciplines. For instance, the optimal curriculum for a writing course probably includes a heavy verbal emphasis, whereas the most efficient and effective method of teaching geometry obviously requires visual–spatial materials.

Of course! Matching the instructional approach to the content!! What have I been saying all this time?!?

Many thanks to Will Thalheimer for posting about the report. For more details, read his post and follow the links he provides to the report itself.

ASAE and The Center — isn’t it time you revisited your treatment of learning styles in your PD materials?

Posted in Learning in General, Measuring Results, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Ideal LMS for Associations (and Probably All Training Depts Everywhere)

Posted by Ellen on February 17, 2010

In the last few weeks I’ve given more thought to LMSes and examined more LMS options than I  have in a long time, all while advocating for better choices — especially when it comes to numbers preceded by dollar signs — for small associations needing to  install a workable and affordable LMS.

The discussions — via blog comments (thanks, Peter, Susan, Todd, Rodolpho and others who added to the conversation!) and offline dialogues — resulting from my “LMS = Losing My Smile” post really got me thinking about what would be the ideal LMS for associations.

And after I jotted out the must-haves (!), I realized it would be an ideal LMS for any education or training department, not just within the not-for-profit community, but in the for-profit world as well.

As I see it, an ideal LMS for associations would include:

  •  course management features for online, instructor-led offerings
  • learning management features for asynchronous offerings, including object-by-object storage for reuse, controlled by learners to assemble their own “courses” using the learning objects as building blocks
  • Web conferencing functionality with the ability to record, archive, and save sessions for later access, searching, and attendee completion tracking (i.e., the admin would be able to see who actually attended live and stayed for the full session, and who viewed the entire recorded version)
  • simulations and gaming capacity for organizations wishing to incorporate them and “attach” them to any of the above options
  • training management system (yes!) to assign and track attendees of face-to-face (FTF) programs (still a large part of association education)
  • social learning features to allow learners to network with others who any and all programs, FTF and online (right now the course management systems seem to be the only ones that do this — I’d love to see a system that isn’t specific to one system but to the organization)
  • progress tracking, scoring, testing, and other recordkeeping across all programs (the system would have a sort of “hot-sync” with the AMS — so updated membership records for e-mail addresses, etc. would feed from AMS to the LMS and the scoring, certification, and other records from the LMS would feed to the AMS)


And of course, it would have to be easy to learn, maneuver within, and it would be affordable 🙂


As far as I know, no such system exists, though some vendors are combining various pieces like never before, which is a step in the right direction.


I did say it was ideal, right?

Or does someone know of such a system?

Posted in LMS, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

More Than One LMS Option

Posted by Ellen on February 15, 2010

Knowing I’d open a can of worms by venturing into discussions about LMSes (Learning Management Systems), I pulled out my opener anyway and yanked off the lid (see LMS = Losing My Smile and LMS Business Model for Associations?).

First, let me say that I don’t endorse any product or service, but that I will pass along suggestions when something sounds like a good fit.

Required Reading

Second, no association learning leader (or other executive) should venture into LMS possibilities without having devoured — with highlighter in hand — the Tagoras reports on this topic  (did I mention if you purchase the package you get a copy of the aLearning book as well?!?).

Having said all that, some things became really clear to me over the last week or so as I thought about LMSes for associations. I posted a question the the ASAE’s LinkedIn Group and got some very helpful responses, and I’ve likewise been holding some long and detailed e-mail discussions with representatives of some LMS providers.

Flower of a Different Color

What started as a rant about average pricing for an LMS has blossomed into a flower of an entirely different color and type than I would have expected.

Here are just a five of the petals:

— We need LMSes for different purposes. LMS providers have designed various systems to meet our various needs. But they’re all called LMSes, so the distinctions get blurred (more on this later).

— Pricing is all over the place because  of these different types of LMSes, each with their own features and ways they can be accessed, among other variables.

— Unless we clearly define what we need, we can’t know what we’re looking for, nor which type of LMS would best suit our needs.

— LMS providers are quickly adapting what they offer to what we need. This is a blessing and a curse — we have more choices, but there’s also more confusion.

— Finally, unless I haven’t come across it yet, the ideal LMS has yet to be invented (more on this in an upcoming post).

Distinguishing Among LMS Types

Yes, an LMS is a learning management system. But some learning we offer online is instructor led, and some isn’t. Some of us offer Webinars, some don’t. A few of us make asynchronous, stand-alone courses available, others don’t.

LMSes have come through a long series of revisions over the years. Iterations have included training systems designed primarily for classroom use to those designed to launch only asynchronous, stand- alone courses. Others, such as Blackboard, started as instructor-led course management systems but have evolved to include more features designed to enhance interactivity and incorporate more social media, such as video sharing.

So the first question to ask yourself is “What do we plan to do with our LMS?” Do we intend to offer instructor-led online courses? Asynchronous courses only? Structures for member-to-member, informal learning? Webinars?

Let’s face it: some systems work for certain types of content delivery better than others.

It’s time we talked about those various types of LMSes, even though many overlap in what they can deliver.

Here’s a loose list of LMSes you might want to investigate, based on the primary way they deliver online learning (remember, these aren’t endorsements, just suggestions for further research — and don’t forget to consult the Tagoras report!):

For instructor-led online courses:
 — Blackboard ProSites : Probably the grand-daddy of all instructor-led course management systems, Blackboard once provided its platform for free use (I had a novel-writing course on it for awhile). Pricing now = $9500/year for 200 users and 50MB course limit.
 — iCohere SaaS : This system provides all the bells and whistles you’d want from an instructor-led course management platform: ways to post announcements, notes, Powerpoint slides and other materials, conduct live and asynchronous chat sessions, etc. Pricing starts at  $5500/year for “5G of user storage.”
 — CCNet  : This LMS has a free option if you don’t mind banner adds and don’t need testing; paid levels start at just $49/year without ads and testing, and with 100 MB of handout space; they go up from there. The LMS is plain but hardworking, and will probably require a bit of upfront customization to change the labels and grade options so they are less academic and more in tune with your organization. [Note that this is primarily an LMS for instructor-led courses, but I was able to enter an active link and launch an asynchronous course from this LMS; no tracking or scoring was attempted.]

For Webinars:
 — Cisco WebEx  : The WebEx Meeting option allows just 25 participants — or so it says. We were able to add more participants at a small per-user fee to leverage this option for Webinars. Starting at just $49/month, this option is provides for online recording and replay.
 — KRM  : All-in-one Webinar provider, from marketing through production and archiving/re-sale, KRM has been in the association sector a long time.
 — CommPartners : Webinar production and archiving/library creation vendor.

For asynchronous courses:
 — DigitecInteractive’s Knowledge Direct WEB : Features include content search (including Flash content), discussions and wikis, pre-testing, regional versioning, built-in eCommerce, and the capacity to export PowerPoint content into MP3 “podblasts,” cell phone, and Flash delivery.

 — CNNet : Asynchronous courses, at least those contained in Flash files, can be launched through this LMS, though record-keeping hasn’t been tested.

 — Element K’s Knowledgehub : Element K has been in the elearning business for nearly thirty years, outlasting most of the other companies that started at the same time. They offer custom content development and an array of ready-made titles as well as a feature-laden LMS complete with Web 2.0 communication and collaboration tools.

For a combination of some of the above:
 — Web Courseworks’ CourseStage LCMS : What Web Courseworks has done is taken Moodle (an open-source LMS), developed a “derivative” system from it so that you won’t have to hire a programmer or company to adapt Moodle to your needs. They’ve created a system that’s ready to go and still affordable. It enables access to stand-alone asynchronous courses, interactive games, and includes an eCommerce feature that integrates with membership database systems, education credit tracking, and built-in course development so you can create your own tutorials or full courses and offer them through the system. The system also accommodates Webinars through a partnership with CommPartners. Podcasts, video files, RSS feeds, blogs and other social learning tools are embedded as well.
  — ePath Learning’s ASAP  : CEO Ralph Pastor describes their system as a “fully functional hybrid LMS/ LCMS service offering … that is a Web 2.0/cloud/ multi-tenant solution,” perhaps the only such system on the market. Pricing starts at about $350/month.
If I missed anyone’s recommendation, let me know.

Okay, there is Moodle. That one’s simple: if you have the tech savvy in-house to customize it (and the time), go for it. If not, seek a Moodle “derivative” like CourseStage.

Oh, and the perfect LMS for associations? More on that next time.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, LMS | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

Roundup Time!

Posted by Ellen on February 12, 2010

Too many things out there of wonderful value to delay sharing… and, in the spirit of my recent posts on making the most of our time, here’s a roundup of some items you might find of interest (in no particular order:

Jane Hart’s “Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009” — many of them free. Just when you think you’ve heard of them all, you see something new and intriguing that you just have to try!

Jeff De Cagna’s “Top Ten 2010 Trends for Associations” includes not only some recurring themes, but new ones while identifying their risks and benefits.

The E-Learning 24/7 Blog’s post “Here, Data Data Data” provides some crucial questions to ask your potential vendors when considering an LMS. See nearby links on this page for more great posts from them on related LMS topics.

Lessons on Learning (LOL)’s post on “Managing Subject Matter Experts and Using Them as Learning Developers” might not sound relelvant, but substitute “volunteer facilitator,” or “member as a content leader” for “subject matter expert,” and you’ll see immediate connections. This is the first in a planned series of posts on working together with your content providers, so tune in and follow along.

Tom Kuhlman’s Rapid eLearning Blog has been on my list of regularly read blogs for awhile, and his post on “Why eLearning is So Effective” is one of the best summaries of the advantages of online learning I’ve seen. It’s as complete as I can imagine such a list being, and is succinct to boot. If you’re looking for support to get buy-in for elearning, you MUST read this blog.

One of the best resources I’ve found for delivering lots of current info across the range of elearning is Tony Karrer’s eLearningLearning site (which I get via RSS, making it much easier and faster to scan so many relevant blogs). Even so, their periodic “best” lists helps me to further hone in on the posts I might have missed. Here’s one for the Top 25 posts from the last two weeks of January.

Watch for more Roundups in the Future 🙂

Posted in aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Justifying aLearning, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »