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Choosing the right e-learning tool

From online linear courses with simple exercises, to scenario based learning or serious games, there is a wide range of possibilities in e-learning. Suppose you have a good business case and want to get started, which e-learning tools would you need?

Authoring tool 
At the top of the list is an authoring tool. This is a software package that makes it easy for non-programmers to create e-learning modules.

Developing images, animations, or videos is usually not part of the authoring tool. These tools are mainly intended to combine different elements such as text, questions and multimedia assets into a course structure. You can create a linear learning path or an adaptive course, with a study advice. Most authoring tools allow you to create interactions such as multiple choice, hotspot and drag questions.

LMS 
If you want to track who is following which training and what the results are, you need a Learning Management System (LMS). An LMS facilitates the distribution of web-based course material. When using the SCORM standard (see below in this blog post), an LMS can also automatically track which courses students have opened, completed and what their results were.

LCMS
In addition to an authoring tool and LMS, people often mention learning content management systems (LCMS). Unlike an LMS and an authoring tool, an LCMS is more like a functionality than a stand-alone tool. It makes it easy to manage your content. With an LCMS you can easily reuse existing content and it provides the possibility of managing different versions, which assures the most recent versions of files being used. An example is the ‘library’ in the authoring tool easygenerator in which all images are displayed. When a developer changes an image in the library, this image also changes on all course pages on which it is used. This is an LCMS functionality within an authoring tool focused on managing elements in an e-learning. In the more LCMS-oriented tools, content can be managed at text, page and chapter level. In some LMS’es, this functionality allows you to manage complete courses. There are also tools that are more known for their LCMS functionality compared to the authoring features. This applies to Xyleme and LearneXact for example.

Connection between tools
Visually, the connection between the different types of tools looks like this:

Blogpost e-learningtools

An LMS tool, an authoring tool and the LCMS functionality that can be in both.

Nowadays, it is more and more common for an LMS to have a limited authoring functionality in addition to an LCMS functionality. This will be a simple editor that you can use to design questions. Examples are Moodlea New Spring and Net Dimensions EKP.

Publishing e-learning 
To be able to view the e-learning created in an authoring tool in an LMS, you will need to publish it in the SCORM format. SCORM is short for Sharable Content Object Reference Model and it is the current international standard for e-learning. SCORM ensures that the e-learning developed in an authoring tool can communicate with any SCORM compliant LMS. Currently, a newer standard is on the rise: TinCan.

In addition to SCORM, many authoring tools offer the ability to publish to html or stand alone. Those options allow you to publish the course on the Internet or intranet or locally on a PC. By doing so, it is no longer possible to to register the progress of the learners.

l will publish part two of this blog soon, together with a roadmap to determine which e-learning tools will fit your learning goals the best.

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