What makes for good online learning?
Perhaps one of strongest temptations when approaching online solutions is to start by converting existing training resources into web resources. Since much face-to-face delivery is backed up by print materials, putting print documents online is often a popular starting point. If learners are academic, highly motivated and good at organising their study, they'll probably cope with large volumes of text. They'll print it out, read it, file it logically and use it.
Is this profile you're dealing with? Probably not. The reality is that Web is a visual medium. It's also true that reading large amounts of text from a screen is unpleasant and learners will avoid it where possible.
One of other advantages of online learning is that content can be linked and accessed in non-linear ways. Large blocks of text online can limit potential to make learning a dynamic process.
The challenge is to design education and training solutions that draw on strengths of media selected. Future updaters will pick up on educational design as a tool for achieving this.
Generic development/delivery tools, what's out there?
The last 5 years have seen a raft of Learning Management Systems (LMSs) hit market. They offer, in varying degrees, ability to develop, deliver and administer online learning solutions. Mainstream products include:
"TopClass" (http://www.wbtsystems.com/), "Learning Space" (http://www.lotus.com/home.nsf abs/learnspace), "WebCT" (http://homebrew.cs.ubc.ca/webct/), "Web Crossing" (http://webcrossing.com/) "CourseInfo" (http://product.blackboard.net/CourseInfo/) "FirstClass" (http://www.firstclass.com/)
Core features generally include: - file structures for making materials available online - chat and bulletin board communication systems - administration systems for managing students' progress
Each touts a list a mile long of institutions that use them, but in our experience, often only part of product is used. For example, communication and student management facilities of FirstClass are popular, but some organisations choose not to use it for content delivery for various technical reasons.
If subscribers have an opinion on a particular LMS, they're invited to forward it to us. We'll collate your responses and feed them back to list....