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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What makes an E-Learning system?

12:07:00 PM Posted by Unknown , No comments
There are a lot of vendors out there claiming that they have the best educational platform and it is of course suitable and configurable for almost any organization. In the hype 2.0 era there seem to be even more players arguing that they now can provide an e-learning platform just by offering the new collaborative techniques. Social networks, wikis and blogs are great tools and should be features or integrated modules in a learning environment but to me they are not enough to make a proper e-learning solution.

Google for Educators is probably the biggest and most obvious example of tools packaged under one umbrella but contrary to many others they are very careful in the description of what they offer and are more accurate when talking about helpful tools. To me this is really a set of collaborative tools suitable for communication and for sharing course material but hardly anything else. DIGI[Cation] and Elgg are other examples offering almost the same kind of functionality and for a huge list of other similar products targeted schools with a rather soft categorization I recommend taking a look at the posts given by Brian Benzinger on Solution Watch.

Having said this, what would make a decent e-learning system according to my humble opinion? Without getting into any details about the major features I would expect at least the following:

  • Collaboration tools on different levels
  • Course structure and Learning objects management (the actual content should preferably be integrated and/or imported)
  • Course assignment capabilities
  • Tracking facilities
  • Classroom management (Physical and Virtual)
  • An open API for integrating course content and course statistic modules
  • Access control and user management

Unfortunately finding a solution satisfying all above is not that easy and the major LMS/VLE vendors stating that they can fulfil these requirements offer platforms with poor usability that usually are complex, expensive and hard to adapt to the needs of your organization. I hope that we in the near future will see hosted quality e-learning systems with open interfaces possibly as a further development in some of the more basic collaborative tools referenced above.

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