Thursday, October 28, 2010

5 Tips for creating Portable eLearning Products

If you needed to convert your products to a new LMS tomorrow how prepared are you?

Having just finished working on a large scale conversion project (explaining the absence of posting) I feel that I have learned a lot regarding how we should develop our products to prepare for the future. Sometimes we make decisions to band aid problems, or to try and utilize every last functionality of an LMS, and while this is not always a bad thing, we must keep in mind the consequences they could have if we ever try and use our content in a different system.

For now here are 5 things to think about regarding developing portable eLearning products:

  1. Don't use authorware specific to a Learning Management System

    There are fantastic Authorware products out there that can help you build courses not tied to any specific LMS, you may think you're saving time by using your LMS's page builder, but you could be trapping your content, and giving yourself unnecessary functionality constraints.

  2. SCORM or other standards

    Always build products with a standard in mind. And don't just rely on publish settings, take a read through some resources online or take a small course to get yourself knowledgeable about what it means to create a SCORM package, or to have SCORM reporting.

  3. Always test the import and export functionality

    Taking nothing for granted when it comes to this! SCORM packages are quite gentle and every LMS has it's own quirks, just go hang out in a thread 27 pages deep in a moodle forum to find that out. My advice to you, test your LMS export, take that package and try it out using something like Scorm Cloud.

    Shopping for a new system? Make sure you test your exported packages with their import functionality so you don't get stuck make small changes to xml files!

  4. CSS!

    I like to do a little trick where all my SCORM packages point to two different CSS files, one hosted on my LMS and referenced by packages I import to hold style that brands the courses with the organization. And one in the package with some default styles (for H1 p a br etc.) so that the course would display well on it's own.

    This way if the organization needed to complete a system wide branding change, we could achieve this through all products by modifying one file.

    Is this completely against the idea of portable packages? maybe, ha! but I can still give share or move this course and have it display just as well with the css file included in the package.

  5. Don't trap your assessments in the Learning Management System

    Most Learning Management Systems have Assessment tools, and some of them can build really great Exercises or Exams. However, if you want to be prepared to migrate your content between systems, you are way better off using an application that will publish SCORM based SCO's that are not confined to one LMS.

Have you had experience with course conversion? I would love to hear about other development strategies to keep in mind!