Moodle has emerged as one of the most visible brands for creating and managing e-learning content online. As one of the few packages built on open-source software, it also enjoys a certain cachet among the digerati.
But as with all open-source software, there are trade-offs to using Moodle — the main one being the amount of programming work required to adapt it to your needs and maintain it over time. Every time you want to add a new feature to your lesson, you add that much more complexity and need for programmers. For small organizations, this alone can make Moodle cost-prohibitive.
Note: Mindflash is not affiliated with and does not endorse or recommend Moodle. We are presenting this information only for the purposes of understanding the various online options available. The Mindflash solution is the simplest on the web requiring no investment in IT or software or any complicated downloads.
Consider the Cloud
Many content management and e-learning systems take the form of a cloud solution — meaning that all data and activity is housed on external servers. These services offer an obvious upside when it comes to scalability and giving trainees access from anywhere (so long as you’ve got an Internet connection — and preferably a fast one). Still, anticipate a learning curve for course designers who have to familiarize themselves with a new system.
Cloud-based solutions are especially helpful because they can be applied to virtually every type of content distribution scenario you can image. But there are some other choices, too, besides content-management software. It all starts with knowing what you need to get accomplished.
Training for Specific Groups of Employees
One thing to keep in mind is what direction information is flowing. For instance, sometimes you’ll need to distribute information to employees for a specific goal, such as sales techniques or the specifications of new products. This can be a more active scenario than simply passing out information directly, but the flow is still essentially one-way.
- In-Person Training: Call it ‘old-school,’ this is the traditional training scenario as most people understand it: instructor and students, in a room together. Physical proximity allows for hands-on instruction by the trainer, who can also provide answers to question in real-time. However, keeping professional trainers on staff is a cost burden, hiring them as-needed doesn’t cost much less, and everyone must adhere to the limitations of being in a specific place at a specific time.
- Conference Calls: The telephone can unite a staff that is otherwise spread around the country, and allows for real-time interaction just as an in-person training might. But without a visual component, there are limitations to how much can get accomplished this way.
- Skype: When a visual component is a big part of the training, Skype offers a virtual classroom environment for sharing documents and other visuals. Again, like conference calls, employees can dial in from anywhere, but the technology is only usable for small groups, and sessions can be of inconsistent quality.
A Complete Suite of Tools for E-Learning and Testing
If your training needs require more sophisticated tools, or if you’re trying to teach a lot of employees in different locations, consider a Moodle alternative with a little more heft. Here again, cloud solutions can be implemented in a lot of cases.
- Corporate Software: Non-open source software packages are available that can be installed on corporate IT systems and run internally, or hosted in the cloud. Some are quite extensive, and allow companies to house their own data, manage tests, and protect user data. The packages tend to be designed to scale for thousands of users – many were created for universities to use – which means they’ll be more expensive than the DIY-style solutions.
- Custom Software: Good programmers can make just about anything from scratch, and a project that’s well managed can result in a system that matches the organizational need precisely. Software development is expensive and time-consuming, however, so this is not a choice that should be entered into without plenty of forethought and planning.
Transmitting Information to Your Workforce
When the content stream only needs to flow one way – from the company to its employees – there are a few good, simple, options for packaging that content.
- Digital Materials: Content like instructional videos, practice worksheets, and informative PDFs can be archived quite simply on company servers, and distributed on removable media like DVDs and memory sticks. The portability can make this method quite convenient for employees, but does require resources and time to create.
- Social Media: Blogs, Facebook groups, and other social media sites can be a great way to share information quickly and have control over what audience has access. The learning curve is low and delivery can be almost instant, but it puts a burden on employees to regularly check those sites and services where the content is hosted.
- Internal Wiki: Based on the popular — if not-always-reliable crowd-sourced encyclopedia — wikis can scale to store huge amounts of information, and allow for establishing rules about who can contribute what. It’s a collaborative environment with a short learning curve, but it doesn’t feature tools for evaluation and testing.
By thinking through their needs, priorities and available resources, organizations can make informed decisions about how best to implement an e-learning system for their own use.