What exactly is a Learning Management System and why do I need one?
Any e-learning solution consists of two major components:
1) the course content, activities and assessments (created by a course designer), and
2) the server solution that securely hosts and delivers the course to the learners
A Learning Management System (LMS) is the name for the software or web based technology that provides the second component of the solution.
The LMS allows the instructor to:
- create courses
- create course content and assessments
- deliver SCORM content (see next question)
- create learners and enrol them in courses (or they can be auto-enrolled)
- monitor learner progress
- assess learner performance.
More complex LMS’s (as often used in corporate environments) have additional functionality related to:
- the creation of learning plans
- scheduling and management of training events
- calculation and reporting of training costs (for SETA and BBBEE recognition)
- definition of organisational hierarchies
- integration into other corporate systems (such as HR and performance management systems)
What is SCORM and Tin Can and why is it important to me?
SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is an international standard, originally developed by the US Department of Defence, for the creation and sharing of e-learning content.
In simple terms, think of SCORM as a common language that any SCORM compliant LMS understands.
If SCORM did not exist, your content developer would need to build your e-learning content in the specific language of your LMS. If you decided to move your e-learning solution to a different LMS, there would be a good chance that your new LMS would not understand your content and you would need to pay to have it re-written in the appropriate LMS language.
By starting your e-learning journey with a SCORM compliant LMS, your content developer can use whatever tool they want to develop your content without having to worry about the specific language of the LMS. Once they are ready to publish the content on the LMS they simply need to save it in SCORM format. Using SCORM also means that if you choose to move to a different LMS in future, your content will work seamlessly on the new LMS as long as it is also SCORM compliant.
The picture on the right shows some of the activities that can be created on a course in Moodle. With the exception of the SCORM Package activity, all the rest are native to Moodle and will not be understood by another LMS.
Tin Can is a new common language which is gaining popularity. It does a similar thing to SCORM with some additional benefits but is so new it has not yet gained wide-spread use.
The most widely used content development tools can export content in either SCORM or Tin Can. Moodle can also handle Tin Can modules.
What exactly is Moodle and is it really free?
Moodle is the world’s most popular LMS with over 68 million users and 55,000 sites world-wide.
Moodle is hugely popular as it is powerful, user-friendly, flexible and free!
Moodle is distributed under an open-source GNU General Public License which allows anyone to download and use it without paying any licenses fees. Moodle and Moodle Partners make their money by providing additional services and support around the free-to-use Moodle platform.
Moodle provides the LMS functionality required for the majority of training need so be wary of a vendor who is trying to sell you on a different solution that costs an arm and a leg!
Check out additional information on Moodle by clicking here
Do I always need a LMS?
You do not need a LMS if you want to make your training content freely available on the internet with no need to record learner details and track their progress. In this case you could just load SCORM content up onto a web service such as Amazon S3 and allow anyone to access it from there.
The moment that you have a need to control access to the courses and track learner progress, you need a LMS.
Can’t I just host and Moodle myself if the code is freely available?
If your organisation has good IT support then there is nothing stopping them downloading the Moodle code and installing it on one of your servers or at an Internet Service Provider. Configuring and managing Moodle does, however, require expertise that most IT departments don’t natively have so they would have to undergo a steep learning curve.
In reality, most SME’s do not have the resources or desire to host their own LMS and choose to outsource this to a service provide such as Academy Box who specialise in LMS hosting and management.