• Decoding Management Systems

    LMS, LCMS, CMS and VLE are an integral part of any instructional designers profession. Your world would revolve around these. But when I first came in contact with these abbreviations, I couldn’t quite understand them or differentiate them apart from their full forms. And the best (rather worst…) part is that when you are being trained OTJ, nobody has the time to get these things straightened out for you. You sit in client or team meetings gaping at people who are talking about it, not getting a single word of it. You are expected to just know them, or that’s the idea. So, here is a little write-up about what’s what,to get the ball rolling for you and that you may never again have to sit in a meeting totally blank. Let’s get started…

    VLE or CMS: Virtual Learning Environment or Course Management System

    VLEs are in trend now with many high profile educational institutions to help them deliver learning material to students via the internet. This software system helps tutors to create courseware websites employing minimal technical skills. It can do a host of other things like tracking student progress, on and off-class communication, sharing resource material and can connect to many platforms through RSS feeds. It facilitates learning of regular students as well as those that are off-campus. Simply put, it’s the best thing that ever happened to those of us who despise classrooms and tedious lectures.

    There are several VLEs available and an educational institution needs to have a license for it. Some institutions even build their own bespoke VLEs to suit their needs. To ensure interoperability, these systems are SCORM  and QTI compliant.

    Some common examples are WebCT, Blackboard and Moodle…

    VLE Workflow

    VLE Workflow

     

    CMS: Content Management System

    Well, all I can think of is WordPress. Content Management Systems are fairly simple to understand, they simply manage content for a given platform. It allows writing, creating of pages, and administration of large amount of content (publishing and tracking) making it suitable for large organizations. It gives access to multiple users and allows reviews. It can also manage graphics and audio files.

    However, it is not just tracking content in elearning that’s important, the output and end delivery to the audience is the essence of it. That’s what a CMS is deficient in and hence not a much preferred tool by instructional designers.

    LMS: Learning Management System

    LMS is an automated system that allows delivery, tracking and management of online training material. It generates reports on user performance and results like, the percentage of course completed, time taken to complete it, or the most visited section of the course. It can manage and track such information for a substantial number of learners.

    Some common examples are Elearning Manager, Bluevolt

    LCMS: Learning Content Management System

    You need simple math to cover this one. LCMS = CMS + LMS, and does everything these two can do combined. Fair enough?

    To be precise, an LCMS can author, review, approve, publish, track, and manage. It’s a multi-utility tool and a multi-user environment. LCMSs also have the ability to store older versions of courses and companies that usually just want updates to be made in existing training material make best use of it.

    LMS vs LCMS

    LMS vs LCMS

    To sum it all up, there are a couple of products in each category available in the market and companies should use those that best suit their needs. Why work on an LCMS when all you need is a CMS? The article above only highlights fundamental differences between these management systems whereas there may be more functions and features available in the newer and more recent versions of these.

  • Design Estimation

    One of the major problems that baffle project managers/planners in the present day e-learning scenario is that of estimating time and resource effort in developing e-learning courseware. Though estimation techniques may vary depending on the type of training being produced (ILT, CBT or WBT), the basic objective is to precisely calculate the time needed in designing courseware and appropriately dividing this time between the design and development phases without compromising on quality. However, there is always room for uncertainty. An estimate will never be accurate else it wouldn’t be an estimate.

    Nowadays companies devise their personal estimation ratios for ease. For example, according to Langevin Leaning Services follow 25-60 to 1 ratio when designing ILT, i.e. 25-60 days of effort and time required for designing a one-day instruction; and 75-500 to 1 ratio for a one hour WBT/CBT tutorial, i.e. 75-500 hours of design time for a 1 hour course. However, these ratios cannot be generally applied to all courses.

     

    Estimation may depend on various factors mentioned as under:

    Scope of technical complexity in a project

    It is important to ascertain whether making a course technically advanced within the financial scope of the project. It is advisable to discuss these points during project kick-offs. There may be times when as a vender, an e-learning firm may want to deliver a course with a number of animations but what actually a client may want is plain instruction with minimal interactivity. This is an important aspect, because the more the complexity in the course, more time and resources (ids and developers) will be required for a company to be able to deliver quality product in time.

    Need for documentation and learner base analysis (if required)

    Some clients leave it to the designers to ascertain what kind of instruction will best suit their employees/learners. To minimize error in such a situation, a lot of analysis and documentation is required on the part of the vender firm and hence requires additional time and effort.

    Type and complexity of content

    Instructional designers are not required to be domain experts, therefore it is mandatory for them to first go through raw content, understand it and then chunk it into logical learning objects. The time required to go this will vary according to the content being dealt with. For example, the treatment of a simple course on spreading awareness about a new company policy among the employees will be way different from a medically heavy course no diabetes meant for medical representatives.

    Availability of resources

    Two resources can finish a project in half the time compared with the efforts of only one resource. Further, the estimation of effort and time for those two resources may also vary.

    Design requirements

    It is important to determine the treatment of a course first. There may be content that can be best explained via an animation or without a simulation the course may not be able to fulfill its objective.

     

    All these factors not only hold true for the instructional design team but also for other teams involved in courseware production. Estimates should always be made for small tasks in a phase and then all should be clubbed up. This compilation from various departments gives a much clearer picture of how much time a project is going to be completed in. Lastly, it’s important to take the human factor into consideration and understand that no two resources will yield the same work in the same time and even their efforts are bound to vary.