E-learning: Track Online Course Delivery And Student Performance Without A LMS - Articulate Online
Delivering and tracking effective e-learning content is an essential part of many companies daily workflow, and there are no shortage of services offering solutions to this problem. Not all of them offer an easy way to integrate your existing training materials with the need to monitor and assess their impact, however. A newly launched service hopes to do just that - bringing the easy web delivery of PowerPoint slides, interactive quizzes and surveys together with powerful reporting and usage tracking functionality.
Setting up an e-learning platform that allows you to easily deliver, and then effectively monitor, your learning content is not always cheap. The yearly license fees for some of the bigger learning management systems can be astronomical, and while there are free open-source alternatives, their complexity and lack of reliable support make them a less desirable option for some.
Today I'm taking a look at a newly launched e-learning platform that pitches itself on the grounds of rich reporting features, easy content publishing and affordability. The premise is simple - you create your presentations and quizzes, and they will make it as easy as possible for you to publish and monitor your content.
In my review of the platform I take you through some of its key features, supported by a video remix of the company's own video introduction to the service. In a nutshell, these include:
- One click publishing - the ability to quickly upload content created with simple, easy to use e-learning tools
- People management - Resources that make grouping and managing a learning cohort a piece of cake
- Easy sharing and tagging - The ability to quickly share and categorize your content using tags
- Data rich reports - The ability to produce a range of easy to understand, highly visual reports on your learners' progress
Articulate Online is the latest offering from the creators of PowerPoint / Flash e-learning solution Articulate Presenter and its sidekick, the able quiz and survey creation tool Quizmaker. In actual fact, Articulate Online taps directly into these technologies as the source of its e-learning content.
Content is created from your desktop, making use of Articulate's suite of e-learning tools, and then easily published to your Articulate Online account to be distributed, shared and tracked. What we are looking at here, then, is a platform designed to make publishing your learning materials easy, and reporting on your learners' progress a visual, readily understandable experience.
Articulate Online might be said to be an incomplete learning management system, given that you have to purchase and use the aforementioned offline tools to create content for your online learning environment. However, the emphasis here is on the management part of the equation, and the service's features firmly focus on making it easy to share, track and create reports from your users interactions with your content.
But let me show you now some of Articulate Online specific features:
In my two minute remix of Articulate Online's own introduction to their new service, I talk you through a some of the service's major features:
The workflow begins with the creation of content using Articulate Presenter and / or Quizmaker. Between the two, you have the capacity to make interactive flash learning content, enhanced PowerPoint presentations, quizzes and surveys. There isn't the space in this review to go into detail about the authoring process, although Robin Good wrote a full review of Articulate Presenter in an earlier post.
Once learning content has been created, you are ready to publish it to your Articulate Online account, a simple prospect that you can literally do with a single click.
As the latest versions of both applications now feature this Articulate Online tab in their menus, it's very simple to get your content from the application and onto the website, ready for distribution and tracking. Content is transferred to the accessible Flash format before being delivered to your account, so that even users that don't have PowerPoint installed on their machines will have no problem instantly accessing your interactive presentations.
By making it this easy Articulate have managed to take away the usual headaches of uploading your information by means of an FTP client, which can be enough to put off many from engaging with web publishing.
Managing your content online
Once you have uploaded your content, you can set about viewing, managing and tracking its use by the learners within your environment. A full list of your content presents you at the beginning of this process, and depending upon the items you have uploaded you will see one of the following three icons:
- The presentation icon
- The quiz icon
- The presentation with an embedded quiz icon
These are the three types of content you will be able to author with Presenter and Quizmaker, and then share via Articulate Online. In addition to these icons and descriptions, you can sort your content by title, date, or number of views. Furthermore, as it is possible to tag your content as you upload it to the platform, you can also search through your library of material via a tag search, which could prove very useful to those with an extensive collection of learning materials.
Looking at specific items from this list in more detail, it is possible to preview the content in your browser, change its description and select from a number of options that further define how your content will be used, and by whom. It's possible to set up and view reports, set permissions as to which groups will be granted access to the material, create a guestbook for it, so that information about users can be tracked, assign tags, and send out invitations to groups of individuals to come and access your content.
The guestbook feature is useful, and very flexible, in that you can choose from a vast range of required or optional information about your users, from name and company, to anything else that might be important for you to register via a custom field option. This is not only useful in terms of tracking your content users, but also in individualizing them, an essential requirement if your organization is of a certain size.
The inclusion of permissions also makes a big difference, giving you the opportunity to tailor specific content to specific groups within your organization. By default your content will be set to public, so that anyone with a link to it will be able to access it. But a private setting can be activated, from which you can select specific individuals by name, or groups into which these individuals have been sorted:
At a certain volume of content, and size of organization, features like this become essential in your content management, and they have been well implemented in Articulate Online. Add to this the ability to send out invitations to your content, and the aforementioned tagging options and you have a very easy to use way of managing both your content and the people accessing it.
Articulate Online excels at reports, helping you to keep tabs on how your users interact with your learning content, the scores that they achieved in quizzes, their responses to surveys , and a host of user activity data. There are a great many report types, divided into the following varieties:
- Reports about quiz and survey results - detailing how users scored, the choices most popular within a group, and how users answered
- Reports about your content - which will let you know how often your content was viewed, what user activity was, how many slides they viewed and which was the most popular content
- Reports about your people - detailing the activity of groups, specific users, the most active groups and users, and the responses left in your guestbooks
This proves very useful in terms of keeping an eye on the progress your users are making, but also on reflecting on which parts of your learning content could benefit from extra work. If you find that the same errors recur every time users take a certain quiz, or that you have a particular presentation that pulls in the crowds every time, this can be a great opportunity to reflect on and further hone your learning materials.
Reports are created using simple wizards, and can be viewed online or else exported to a variety of formats, including the ubiquitous Excel. This is another nice feature, which makes sharing your findings significantly easier than having to invite colleagues or clients to the online environment, which isn't always appropriate. Reports can also be emailed or printed.
The results, as you can see, are well laid out, easy to understand and minimal in design - telling you exactly what you need to know at a moment's glance. The Articulate team have obviously spent a lot of time making reports accessible and eminently 'scannable'. With the use of colour coding backing up numerical data, it is easy to see in this example how different users are progressing through a particular content item.
As already touched on users can be invited to your content either individually, or if you are working with larger groups, en masse. One great feature that they have included to make this easier is the ability to import a csv file in which you have already created a list of users that wish to invite. For those that already have key data on their users in a spreadsheet format, this is real lifesaver, and makes the process of bulk invitations a breeze.
When you get to a certain size of organization, managing user permissions isn't something you are going to want to do on an individual basis. Being able to assign individuals to specific groups, however. and then assign permissions to those groups makes for another great way of saving a lot of time. Making use of this feature, it is possible to create a range of access levels without having to go through every single user in your list.
You can create as many groups as you like, and it is as simple as clicking on the 'add group' icon and creating a new group, into which you can gather individuals from your organization.
Another nice feature is the ability to brand your content by adding a custom logo. This logo will appear on all guestbook entries and at the login for private content pages, as your other content will be immediately accessible to users when they click on the appropriate link.
With support for JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP and TIFF formats, there should be no obstacle to the easy implementation of your company logo, which will be of interest to many of Articulate Online's target user-base.
To publish content to Articulate Online from Articulate Presenter or Articulate Quizmaker, you will need the following minimum system requirements:
Articulate Software Requirements:
- Articulate Presenter: 5.20 or later
- Articulate Quizmaker: 2.10 or later
General Hardware Requirements:
- CPU: Pentium II or later
- Memory: 64MB (128MB recommended)
- Available disk space: 25MB
- Multimedia: Sound card (if recording narration)
- Recording Device: Microphone (if recording narration)
General Software Requirements:
- Operating System: Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, or 2003
- Macromedia Flash Player: Macromedia Flash Player 7 or later (http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflash)
Managing content in Articulate Online
To manage content via your Web browser in Articulate Online, you will need the following minimum system requirements:
- Windows 2000: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.x, Firefox 1.5
- Windows 2003: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.x, Firefox 1.5
- Windows XP: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.x, Firefox 1.5
Viewing content from Articulate Online
To view content from Articulate Online, you will need:
- Flash Player 6,0,79 or later (http://www.macromedia.com/go/getflash)
One of the following browsers:
- Windows 98: Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.x, Netscape 4.7, Netscape 7.x, Firefox 1.x, AOL 8, and Opera 7.11
- Windows 2000: Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.x, Netscape 4.7, Netscape 7.x, Firefox 1.x, CompuServe 7, AOL 8, and Opera 7.11
- Windows XP: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, Netscape 7.x, Firefox 1.x, CompuServe 7, AOL 8, and Opera 7.11
- Mac OS 9.x: Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.1, Netscape 4.8, Netscape 7.x, Mozilla 1.x, and Opera 6
- Mac OS 10.x: Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.2, Netscape 7.x, Mozilla 1.x, AOL 7, Opera 6, and Safari 1.0 (Mac OS 10.2x or later only)
- Linux: Konqueror 3.3.1, Mozilla 1.7.3, Firefox 1.x
Pricing plans range from $199 / month for the basic plan, right up to $499 / month for the service's Premium plan. Full details of the differences between the plans on offer, and their requisite pricing can be found in the matrix below:
Articulate Online does a good job of managing and reporting on your content, and this is its main strength. By updating Articulate Presenter and Quizmaker so that either will quickly publish content to your Articulate Online account, you have an easy way to get up and running.
Articulate Online could well be of interest to small-to-medium and larger companies looking for a user-friendly way to facilitate the easy sharing and tracking of their e-learning content. With a tight integration with Articulate's PowerPoint presentation, quiz and survey making tools Articulate Online is well placed to cater to the needs of corporate training departments in a variety of settings.
Smaller companies and professionals will likely be put off by the $200 - $500 per month price tag, and would most likely find themselves finding less value in the platform's feature-rich usage and user-response reports.
While the service doesn't offer content creation tools, it is a simple prospect to publish pre-existing content, make it easy to share and access over the Internet and provide incredibly detailed reports on how this content was used and responded to. In spite of the possible complexity of these reports, however, Articulate has done an excellent good job of making the entire interface intuitive and very easy to use. I had no difficulty in understanding the detailed reports produced by Articulate Online, and found the minimalistic layout and design to be intuitive and easy to grasp.
Support-wise the Articulate team has made a commendable effort to create quick, easy to grasp tutorials on just about every aspect of Articulate Online, and should anything seem unfamiliar these well-produced screencasts very quickly clarify what you need to know.
Furthermore, Articulate Online offers a rich variety of features while keeping the service highly customizable. Various access permissions can be assigned to individual users, content can be branded with your company logo, and data can be easily imported and exported for passing on to clients and colleagues.
The company is currently running a 30 day test drive promotion on the Articulate Online service, and if it sounds like this might be a solution that you could use, it would certainly be worth taking advantage of the chance to check it out for yourself.
If you would like to learn more about Articulate Online, you can visit the following websites:
- Articulate Online's homepage
- A huge selection of AO tutorials
- Further pricing details
- Full system requirements
- Test drive it for yourself with the company's current 30-day free trial promotion
Originally written by Michael Pick for Master New Media as: E-learning: Track Online Course Delivery And Student Performance Without A LMS - Articulate Online
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