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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Archive for April, 2010

More LMS Options for Associations on a Budget

Posted by Ellen on April 26, 2010

And the emails just keep coming in!

Of course I welcome more leads and suggestions for LMSes that are well-suited to the association sector and will continue to include links periodically.

I am finding that I just don’t have the time to try out all of them. I am hoping to get a sample course together to post in various places so you can see how the same course or tutorial would work/look in different environments, but what I produce and what you’re going to offer are likely different anyway, so doing your own experimentation is your best option.

For the time being, know that I’ll note where I’ve experimented and where I haven’t… none of these comments are endorsements; no one paid for a chance to be listed here. Right now we can afford to be financially independent, so we mention anybody we want without offending an advertiser or sponsor, and that’s how we like it¬†ūüôā

Finally, a few words of caution:¬†¬†You’ve probably heard that the wiki platform Ning is shutting down its free option; subscribers either have to move their content off Ning or start ante-ing up for the paid version. Always keep a backup of anything you put on a free site and have a Plan B in case that option suddenly isn’t available to you.

That said…

Here are a few more LMS and LCMS options to consider:

Nancy Safer [] at edCetra Training tells me they have a “mini” LMS as part of their edXact! product, which is primarily a tracking and reporting system. Their fees sound reasonable, compared to many others, roughly $6000-$11,000 annually. The case studies I read (I confess I didn’t read them all) suggest a client base of primarly large organizations with implementations with other systems. If you have a courses requiring tracking and reporting that must integrate with a large AMS, this option is worth exploring.


This update came in from Susan Lewis at Rustici (some of you asked for updates after she posted a comment in a previous post here):
“I just wanted to update you on where we are in our move toward a delivery platform. The big update being that you can now deliver training via our SCORM Cloud product. Just upload a course, then send it to a group of learners directly from the SCORM Cloud dashboard. Learners click the link in the email and the course launches. Easy peasy. And while we’re mostly talking to people about it in terms of being able to see how SCORM Cloud works before they take the step of integrating it into their LMS, it could be used by anyone who needs a simple delivery system. Small association chapters for example.

“This makes the SCORM Cloud platform a viable option for anyone looking for something really, really basic. And we’re encouraging outside developers to take advantage of our open API to connect SCORM Cloud to other websites, which could add pretty much every feature you listed at some point. (That’s the part we get really excited about!)”

You can contact Susan directly at or by calling (615) 852-5123.


Educadium¬† has a nice platform called Easy Campus. I’ve been working on a course about Webinars to upload there, but rather than hold up mention of their system while I keep trying to make castles in the sandbox, take a look yourself. There’s a blank sample at Login with the username “alearning2” and use “alearning” as your password.

This was a free option, so set up your own campus if you’d like and see what you can do! For more information about Easy Campus, contact Jim Friscia at

“Patrick” added a comment to LMS = Losing My Smile, which said, in part: “Our company has created TOPYX and TOPYX Lite, a very affordable fully hosted Learning Management offering that allows an organisation have a fully branded, e-commerce enabled, with no user or course limits, for as little as $500 for TOPYX Lite, $999 for TOPYX, plus monthly plus minor hosting fees.

“An association can present and track courses, integrate member and course communities, and even integrate to a number of social networking sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

“There‚Äôs a lot more included with a subscription, but I don‚Äôt want to turn this into a blatant sales pitch. I just want to make you aware of some highly capable alternatives to either the high priced LMSs or the high manpower expenses associated with implementing and customizing the various open source alternatives.

For more information, feel free to have a look at:

I promised Patrick I’d take a look but frankly haven’t had a chance to do so. Didn’t want to hold up this mention, either, so take a look around and see what you think.


Jennifer from ShareKnowledge added this comment: “We are brand new to the US with ShareKnowledge LMS, a Microsoft SharePoint-based e-learning system for corporations. Right now we are preparing to release version 3.1 in June with major design enhancements to be compatible with SharePoint 2010. But you can download it now for free ‚Äď our special is for one year 100/users. All future upgrades are complimentary and includes an Author tool and is fully SCORM compliant.”

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Jennifer at (425) 996-4201.

I’m not sure about you, but their focus still sounds sort of corporate-oriented to me. But it’s worth checking into if a Sharepoint-based system is what you’re looking for.

And awhile back I mentioned MyiCourse. I think you can see the sample via this URL (if not, let me know and I’ll see what we can do to make it work):


I’d provide the UDUTU option I’ve been using, but they’ll charge me $$ and I’m all about free when I can advocate for those options, so though I was able to create a neat little course with it, I’m still trying to get it hooked into the back-end of my Web site to make it work. In the meantime, you can set up your own UDUTU account at to see what’s possible there.


Have heard about the EZ LCMS but haven’t tried it, either.¬†They have a free trial, so prep something then upload it to see how it works if you want at Cost is $399/mo for up to 1000 users, with PPT plug in, ILT and Web conferencing options.


Vignettes Learning¬†¬†offers LMSSimplify, which they describe as enabling you to “construct and publish online learning programs developed with Articulate, Captivate, Flash, Lectora, and other authoring tools, register participants, assign curricula, set up training schedules and alerts, build pre- and post-tests and multiple methods of reviews, tests, and evaluations. The LMSSimplify provides an advance randomized certification function, as well as extensive reporting on learning performance and certification. It also provides a classroom registration system and email alerts.” Pricing starts at $500/month and its hosted with Vignettes Learning rather than on your server (which makes it a SaaS system).

Note that the base fee noted here *probably* doesn’t include the certification functions. For more questions, contact Ray Jimenez, PhD, at


Don’t forget to get a copy of¬†Association Learning Management Systems from Tagoras . Originally priced at $199, the report is currently available for just $99! This is a bargain for all¬†the info you’ll get — but this price is listed as “temporary,” so don’t wait to order.

If you’ve used any of the systems mentioned here in the aLearning Blog —¬†or a one that hasn’t been mentioned yet —¬†I hope you’ll share¬†your experience by adding a comment about what you’re using or leaning toward using, and why. Or if you aren’t using an LMS… why you made that choice.

And let me know if you’d like these quick descriptions and links saved to a wiki or someplace where they’re more easily accessible in one place.

Whew!¬† Next LMS post will include some handy-dandy blogs and sites for getting even better LMS info than you get here ūüôā

Posted in LMS | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

aLearning Noted as a Top LMS Blog

Posted by Ellen on April 23, 2010

Many thanks to Amit Gautam at the Upside Learning Solutions Blog for including aLearning as one of the Top 13 Blogs they follow for the latest info on LMSes!

You can see the others in the list here.

What fabulous company we are in!

Thank you, Amit!

Posted in Blogroll, LMS | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Remote? Mobile?

Posted by Ellen on April 22, 2010

In response to a comment I made awhile back about being a “remote” member to the associations I’ve joined, someone said, “All members are remote.”

Not exactly. As an MSAE member (Michigan chapter of ASAE) in Lansing, I was local to the organization’s office. I could be on the premises to help as a volunteer within ten minutes. I watched for the events that were held in the office or in town to see if my schedule would permit me to attend. I felt connected.

But because I was outside the DC area, I didn’t feel as connected to ASAE. I volunteered on “remote” projects — helping with Associopedia’s original content, writing for the PD enewsletter, serving as a chat leader for the eLearning Conference.

Now, living on the road, I’m not only remote to those associations (and the eLearning Guild, and other associations I’m a member of), but I’m mobile as well.

I’m on the move.

So you’d think I’d be the idea target audience for mobile learning (“m-learning”).

m-Learning has been trending for awhile as a way to deliver training via cell phones. It’s a great way to get JIT (just-in-time) nuggets of information, data, and training to folks on the go.

  • Sales people can access updated training on the newest features of the products or services they sell — in the cab on the way to their next appointment.
  • Consultants can quickly learn about the latest advances in their clients’ key industry before walking down the hall and into the meeting room.

The possibilities are endless!

But don’t design your m-learning strategy with someone like me in mind.

All tech and adoption issues aside (how readable is some of that stuff on those tiny screens, anyway — especially to older eyes?), there’s a more fundamental reason I’m not your model learner:

I’m remote and I’m mobile, but I don’t use my cell phone for anything other than the occasional call.

Sounds old-fashioned, I know.

But the fact is, those maps you see floating over people’s heads in TV commercials still show a lot of white, empty reception areas.

We’ve been on the road for nearly a year and often find ourselves in places where there is no cell phone reception.

Or getting reception requires going someplace like the top of a hill:

Yes, I’m probably in the minority. My situation is probably unique.

But maybe not. How well do you know your members?

Too often we’re quick to make assumptions about what our members want and need. When you live in an environment, use your cell or iPad or Blackberry or other gadgets for certain tasks, it’s easy to assume that everyone else does the same thing. “Remote” and “mobile” might be connected, but they’re not the same thing.

So before you spend a lot of time on m-learning, and especially before you make an investment in it, find out:

  • who your mobile learners are
  • whether there are enough of them to justify m-learning
  • and if they’ll be able to access the m-learning you deliver

To do otherwise is to waste resources and create excitement or interest around something that just isn’t worth it. At least not yet.

Your time is better spent figuring out ways to keep your “remote” members feeling connected by giving them ways to contribute.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Presenting Vs. Facilitating

Posted by Ellen on April 14, 2010

Let’s get something straight:

Just as there’s a difference between¬†meetings and educational events*, there are differences between presenting and facilitating.

Unfortunately, issues arising from boring presentations are the result of morphing meetings and educational events into these oddball concepts of¬† “conferences” and “conventions.” Presentations that can work in meetings don’t travel into the area of educational events very well.

And that’s our problem. Here’s why.

A presentation is usually when an individual (sometimes a pair or a few people) formally address a group:

  • A vendor representative wants to win your LMS business, and visits your office to show you, your executive director/CEO, your education staff, and your education committee what their LMS can do. She leads the conversation by walking through the features of the LMS using projected images from her laptop onto a screen. This is a presentation within the context of a meeting (though you are still likely to learn something, it’s not the objective of meeting nor the presentation to teach you the system, so this is not an educational event).


  • You need buy-in from your board of directors to fund the new LMS to advance your association’s educational goals and they have included you on their meeting agenda. You walk them through some PowerPoint slides that show projected costs, revenue, break-even analysis, features and uses of the LMS under consideration, and other key points. This is also a formal presentation within the context of a meeting.


  • An expert is invited to give the keynote address at an association’s annual conference. The conference is expected to attract 1500, about a third of whom will probably attend the keynote session. The expert asks for 40 minutes, as she’s well aware that no matter how engaging she is, attention spans are short and the chairs are uncomfortable. The event organizers say they can’t justify her fee for just an hour and that the keynote session is scheduled for 90 minutes. With 500 people in the room, she does what she can to fill the time and keep everyone engaged. This is a presentation within the context of an educational event.

The first two make sense, don’t they? Sometimes we just need the facts and information, and to have the opportunity to discuss¬†the issue or choice¬†and clarify it. Within a small meeting, these sorts of presentations can do all of that: at the end of the presentation by the vendor rep or your presentation to the board, through questions and answers and discussion, everyone is better able to place the decision they need to make in the appropriate context.

The third example is what Jeff Hurt’s been blogging about over at Midcourse Corrections.¬†Nixing the tried (and no longer true) lectures that plague our conferences.

Here’s my contention: Though Jeff offers a few good ideas, the speaker in the third situation I’ve described¬†is limited in what she can do to open up the session:

  • First of all, what educational objectives¬†frame her presentation, if any? ¬†Keynotes are usually not organized based on learning objectives. Neither are general sessions. Instead, they’re meant to “motivate” or “inspire” or “get people talking.” You can’t expect learning to occur if the intent of the session isn’t to educate or train in the first place.
  • Second, how can she effectively lead learning to a group of 500? Especially in an “active” way?

Be careful not to put lipstick on the pig. A keynote is a keynote is a keynote. A general session is a general session is a general session.

Which brings us to facilitating:

  • An LMS company representative visits your office to show you and your staff the advanced features of the system. He starts by finding out from everyone what they feel most — and least — comfortable doing in the system, and what they most want to be able to do. In an organized way, he walks everyone through the steps and tasks, then has those who are less sure of themselves perform the steps and tasks until they are comfortable with the new tasks too. This is facilitated training. This is an educational event, though it might have been on everyone’s calendar as a “meeting.”


  • An association member¬†has been using Twitter at her institution to promote safety procedures at a time when several avoidable accidents have occurred. The association asks her to present on her experience at an interest or concurrent session at their next annual conference. She asks that the room be equipped with Internet access as well as the usual AV. She designs her session so that she can “show and tell” on the screen, and then has the participants practice on their own while she answers questions and helps anyone who gets stuck. In this case, a “presentation” quickly moves to “facilitated exercise.”


  • You’ve had such success with the launch of your new LMS that you’ve been asked to present a case study on how you scoped the project and selected your vendor. You’ve been paired with another association leader whose organization has also successfully implemented an LMS, though they came at the process from a very different angle. The program description is so popular that you find out you can expect 150 people in your session.¬†Despite the size of the group, you don’t want to¬†present each¬†case study followed by Q&A — you want the attendees to learn through the process, too. So¬†you split the room in¬†half and deliver the problem of your case study to one half and the problem posed by your partner’s case study to the other. You ask each table to determine how they would define the scope, what vendor selection process they¬†would¬†implement, etc. You reserve time for various tables to report what their group discussed and the hurdles they encountered. You and your partner provide the endings to your stories as well as a chart comparing the two different processes each of you used, and decision-making aids the learners can implement or adapt for their own use. As a facilitator, you’ve adapted the large group as best you can to accommodate participation in the case studies via practice with the process, rather than just “presenting.”

We’ll often be in non-ideal situations, but knowing we have choices is key. Understanding how to implement those choices will benefit our members in ways they can’t even guess right now.

And it starts with identifying…

  • Where we are: Is this a meeting¬†or an educational event?
  • ¬†Why we’re there: Is the purpose to make a decision? To motive¬†or inspire people?¬† To open up conversations? Or to elevate someone’s skill level?

Presenting has its place. Let’s just make sure we leave it there.

* Quick review: Meetings are held for the purpose of advancing business, are guided by an agenda, and sometimes use Robert Rules of Order as a organizational structure. Educational events are held for the purpose of enhancing knowledge and understanding and elevate skill levels, are guided by learning objectives, and are organized based on the the type of content and delivery medium.

Posted in Conferences, Learning in General | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Can You Learn from a Recording?

Posted by Ellen on April 13, 2010

We make recordings all the time: podcasts, recorded audio conferences, recorded Webinars. We make them available to our members via our Web sites and from other Web sources, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee.

We make them available because we can. Oh, yeah — and because our members ask for them.

But should we?

Do people learn from them? Well, they must or they wouldn’t want them, right?

Let’s look at this another way… Do you read books? What kind? Wait — that doesn’t really matter. Have you learned anything from the books you’ve read? Textbooks? How-tos? Cookbooks? Travel guides? Novels?

I’ve learned from all of these different types of books, and I’ll go out on a limb here and say that you have, too.

And how about those magazine articles? White papers? Case studies?

Did they include fun quizzes or puzzles to help me check my comprehension of my reading? No.

Did I log into an online forum to record my thoughts about the book and read those others posted? No.

Did I call the author and ask a lot of questions to make sure I understood what he or she was getting at? No.

Did that mean I didn’t learn something? No.

I learned anyway. I learned from the nonfiction books and articles because I engaged myself in the process of turning those words and ideas over in my mind, making some notes sometimes, and thinking of ways I could transform what I was reading into reality.

The things I learned from novels came to me more serendipitously — a story set in Rome can help me understand the local culture… a character’s job in the hotel business can teach me something about what it takes to succeed in the hospitality industry… I see myself in the relationships that unfold on the page, and gain insight into my own foibles by walking in someone else’s shoes.

These aren’t “active” learning situations, at least not as we have been defining the term, though we are actively engaging our brain to process what we’re reading.¬†

So… having said that…

Can someone learn from a recorded Webinar, even though it’s passive rather than active? Yes, they can.

So Why Offer the Live Session? Why Not Go Straight to the Recording?

Recognizing the reasons people register for live sessions and why they opt for a recording is important here — because the reasons are different.

Some Reasons for Attending a Live Webinar

  • As I mentioned in comments¬†to an earlier post, sometimes the power of a live Webinar comes from the impact it can have on a group. If your members are institutions and the topic will appeal to a group of employees within that institution, a live Webinar can give that team the opportunity to attend together to process the content relative to their own objectives and needs.


  • Sometimes a presenter’s expertise draws an individual to register because that expert is seen as having ideas or answers to a particular challenge or question. Even if the presentation doesn’t address the need, the attendee has the opportunity to ask that question or pose the issue during the Q&A session — something they wouldn’t be able to do with a recording.


  • While it doesn’t make sense on the surface to register for a Webinar when you believe you know the content, vendor representatives, consultants, and others will sometimes attend to hear what’s being said, what’s being asked, and to find out who’s registered. This gives them valuable information: are there gaps they can fill in the topic? What are the issues current or potential customers have around the topic? Are any of those questions coming from current customers? Prospects? Although they could get this from a recording, the live session gives them the opportunity to chime in via the chat option, and is more immediate for reaching out offline than waiting for the recording would allow.


  • Another reason people register for a live session is because they know it’s the one way they’ll commit the time to it. Saying, “I’ll wait for the recording” is a two-fold risk: one, will there be a recording? and two: will they actually take the time to view the recording once it’s available, or will they procrastinate watching it until it’s no longer available or important?

Some Reasons for Watching a Webinar Recording

  • Probably the biggest reason is that the content is intriguing or important, but not more important that other things that conflict — maybe someone is on the road and can’t access the live session. Maybe the live session will be held at the same time as an important meeting.


  • Sometimes people prefer the recordings — especially on topics they already feel familiar with – because they want to be able to fast-forward (when the option is available) to the subtopics that most interest them.

Is this a bad thing? Not if we believe that the learner should decide what’s important to know and should be able to easily zero in on that content.

The Bottom Line:

1. Organize and design the Webinar for the best learning it can deliver.

2. Plan to record the session and offer it afterwards.

3. Make it easy to access various pieces of the Webinar — via a fast-forward option or a menu — knowing that learners will take that they want and leave the rest.

Yes, active learning is the best way to learn.

And yes, a well-designed Webinar can deliver passive learning that’s still effective.

If not, we should ditch every textbook, cookbook, travel guide, how-to manual, instruction sheet, and a bunch of other resources we learn from every day, even when they don’t have quizzes; live chat; branching, matching, drag-and-drop and other interactions, or other activities.

Shouldn’t we?

Posted in Asynchronous Learning Types, Webinars | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »