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Best practices for an online learning system

The online learning industry is projected to grow to US$325 billion by 2025. Bricks-and-mortar higher education institutes have already started developing e-learning solutions to be used in conjunction with classroom learning and others to be used completely on their own. E-learning has revolutionised the way we learn. Seeing how fast technology is evolving, it will continue to do so into the future.

After having been involved with online learning systems for a number of years, Marc Schneider: IT Manager at the Digital School of Marketing notes that many new systems are currently being launched. This can make choosing the correct platform quite a challenge.

Every education provider has their own needs. There are many factors which determine what these are. For example:
• Meeting accreditation requirements (if you are accredited);
• Volume of anticipated students;
• Region and language requirements;
• Access to coders; and
• Your budget.

‘We decided,’ said Marc, ‘to develop our own online learning system. We opted for this for the following reasons:
• DSM had the correct internal expertise to embark on such a big project.
• We were able to access software engineers to perform the development.
• One of our primary needs was to have a system that would be compliant with the various South African Accreditation Bodies.
• We needed a proprietary solution that is scalable for our business needs.

‘For smaller companies, this may not not be a realistic option owing to the initial upfront investment. In this case, an “off-the-shelf” option would be more suited. There are many solutions to choose from.’
So, in order to help you make the correct choice, here are some of the best practices that should be considered when choosing an online learning system.

Things to Keep in Mind When Deciding on a Learner Management System

1. Ease of use
How easy is it to load content and assessments onto the back-end of the system? The system you choose needs to offer you the flexibility of adding content and assessments with ease.

2. Scorm
Choose a system that is ‘Scorm’ (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) compliant. This means that your content can be moved to another system should you decide to migrate at some stage.
3. Assessments

To give your students an enjoyable learning experience, offer multiple assessment tools. For example:
• Short answers;
• Long answers;
• MCQ (Multiple-Choice Questions);
• Labelling; and
• Document download/upload/submission.

4. Multimedia
Online learning becomes a powerful tool when it incorporates multimedia into the learning experience. Be careful of only offering PDF documents that students can download. You want a system that can incorporate images, videos, voice, animations and slides.

5. User Experience
Online learning systems are complex by nature. This means you need to keep the student in mind and pay particular attention to making the learning experience easy and enjoyable for the student. Take a look at demos, take note of the course dashboards and various navigation features of LMS’s out there.

6. Price
There are many great deals out there. You need to find a system that will suit your pocket:
• Be careful of cost per learner as the LMS provider charges you a fee for each student per month. You do not want your success to be your downfall.
• Large upfront licence fees are no longer best practice. Many LMS companies have very affordable monthly fees that do not fluctuate with the number of students you have.
‘You will need to budget for hosting fees,’ said Schneider. ‘I would recommend a dedicated server because, as your needs grow, this will ensure that the system does not lag.’

7. Multiple devices
Ensure that the system you choose can adapt to multiple devices such as smart phones and tablets. Choose a system that is responsive.

8. Gamification
Gamification is becoming a must-have in online learning so you need to have it too. Use your technology to engage your student in a challenging and fun educational journey.

9. Support
Once your students are on a system, to migrate to another is extremely difficult. With this in mind you need a system that offers you great support.

Do not get bogged down with the sheer variety of LMS’s. If you keep your company’s requirements in mind when you make your choices, you will find your task a lot easier. The Digital School of Marketing is an online provider of accredited brand management, social media and digital marketing education.

To find out more, visit www.digitalschoolofmarketing.co.za . or call 0861 428 710 or e-mail: info@digitalschoolofmarketing.co.za .

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