By Elliot Gowans, Vice President EMEA at D2L
Selecting a learning platform is a big decision. You want to be sure the choice you make will meet the needs of your learners, administrators and instructors, now and in the future. To help you focus in on your requirements, here’s a list of questions to consider:
1. How quickly and easily can I build courses?
Course creation and management is where most of your instructors’ time is concentrated, so it has to be quick and easy and this is where ‘drag-and-drop’ functionality helps. Being able to drag-and-drop files directly from your desktop or favourite online tool into course content areas is the quickest and most convenient way to build course modules. With a platform that fully supports drag and drop you can add multiple pieces of content quickly, as well as simply rearrange course material between modules if necessary. You can also copy and paste content to where you need it.
2. What’s the mobile experience like?
The way we learn is changing. Learning is no longer limited to specific times and places. We learn where we are – sometimes in a place of learning, sometimes at work, sometimes at home. People expect to be able to take their learning with them. They also want the same experience regardless of which device they’re using, and to be able to seamlessly pick up from where they left off with access to full functionality whether they’re on a PC, tablet or smart phone. Many learning platforms have an app, but does it provide the same experience? What’s the experience like for students with devices not supported by the app? Look out for responsive web design as it adapts layout according to the device’s screen so that the entire learning environment can be accessed from any browser, including mobile.
3. Can I get help building courses and transitioning to an online way of learning?
You might need some help getting to grips with creating courses that are going to engage your learners. You might want support in getting the most out of the tools a digital platform can provide – such as gamification – to enhance your courses. Change is a big thing, not just for learners but for administrators and decision makers too, so consider how your platform provider might help you with goal-setting and strategy, managing change, stakeholder engagement, and marketing and communicating your new platform to users.
4. How accessible is it?
The learning platform must meet the needs of students with accessibility requirements so look for features that include speech-to-text and text-to-speech. With these tools, students can concentrate on their studies without needing to manage adjustments themselves.
5. Can media and documents be viewed in line on any device?
You probably have a range of document types in your course content and you want learners to be able to view them whether they’re on a PC or accessing through an app without continually being sent out to separate document viewers. It’s important, therefore, that you have support for all major document formats and reliable document viewing at the platform level.
6. Can I release activities based on student progress, results and behaviours?
To help learners progress through a range of modules you might want to set your course up to release activities based on when they complete or do not complete things. This ensures that learners are guided through their learning journey on the platform and establishes a unique and personal experience for each learner based on their actions and needs.
7. Can I schedule communications to learners through the platform?
Scheduled communications can be a real time-saver. You might want to create a welcome message for new learners joining a course, re-engage inactive or struggling learners, or send congratulations for achieving a target. Make sure that the platform you choose enables you to create these messages once, set the rules for them and automatically send them when triggered.
8. What insight will it give me into learner progress?
Analytics are a great benefit of digital-based learning. Being able to track, measure and report on learner progress, as well as spot any indications that individuals or groups are falling behind can be the difference between meeting and missing learning targets and improving learning outcomes. Simple progress dashboards and data exports help administrators facilitate data-driven action and improvement while ‘differential’ datasets make it easy to focus on only data that has changed.
9. How will I get access to platform updates?
A learning platform, like all IT solutions, must evolve. When this happens, you want updates to be delivered simply and in a timely way. This can be achieved through continuous delivery which means you won’t have to manage a manual update process. It’s important to include the cost of staff time when evaluating a learning solution – if management and maintenance of the platform is time-intensive this could be significant.
10. Will it support a competency-based education (CBE) approach?
Competency-based education (CBE) recognises that, within a given timeframe for a period of study, learners will progress at different rates. It is tipped by many to be the future of education. Some learners will need to spend more time on particular topics than others, and they might even need to supplement course material with other sources of information to fill gaps in their knowledge. If your course adopts an innovative CBE approach you’ll need a flexible, outcomes-based learning platform with built-in logic that facilitates learners moving onto a new topic only once they’ve mastered the preceding one.
11. How secure is it?
Security is all-important to prevent unauthorised access and to protect student data. Look out for certification, such as ISO27001 and ISO27018 for peace of mind that the platform you choose has been developed and is maintained according to strict security protocols.
12. What support will I get?
A dedicated customer contact point provides reassurance that help is there if you need it and that you’ll get the most out of the platform by being able to consult with experts once you’re up-and-running. This level of support means you’ll be able to keep your staff focused on the jobs they’re there to do, rather than having them take on the burden of supporting the learning platform.
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