01 May eLearning Curve: A snapshot of course delivery options
She was successful. Her pets-as-therapy service had bookings a year in advance. She was the leading expert.
Then coronavirus hit. There were massive cancellations.
Overnight, the business became no longer viable with isolation, quarantines, and social distancing.
Her reaction? To sell the accreditation course online.
How to Sell a Course Online
You may well have the same idea. It makes sense. We live in a Knowledge Economy. It’s time you used it to help people and with the Internet, you can reach a lot of people.
What are the best systems for you?
Let me take you through the process I used with my client and my recommendations.
Online Course Delivery Options
I researched the wider market, then made a shortlist.
There are a lot of proprietary systems that offer course building and delivery online. Many of them charge monthly fees that are by no means exorbitant. That’s the good news.
The criteria my client needed for the system was:
- able to run quizzes and video
- content must be protected, especially the videos
- certificates for course completion be provided
- ability to automate as much as possible
My additional criterion was SCORM compliance.
What is SCORM?
The acronym stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model. It is a set of standards for eLearning. Why I considered that to be important is so content authors (like you) can readily move between one Learning Management System (LMS) and another.
If you make a poor choice to start, you want it to be easy to move the content elsewhere.
It’s also a mark of trust, thing. I see SCORM package and I know it adheres to a certain standard of professionalism.
For example, a SCORM compliant course is able to bookmark where a student is up to. If I need to log out and do something else, it will remember where I was up to.
SCORM will also know what sections I completed, what’s not completed, passed, or failed. There’s a lot more to it than that, but you probably don’t need to dive any deeper. (This helpful SCORM article goes into more detail if you want to know more.)
The shortlisted systems I chose were Moodle, Google Classroom, Sensei, LearnDash, Teachable. Here is an overview of the strengths and features of each.
Released in 2014, Google Classroom is a web-based service is getting traction now because of the coronavirus pandemic and enforced closures of many learning facilities.
The great thing about Google spin-offs is that they are familiar to people. We all know and — to a degree — trust Google. Google makes things easy.
As the name classroom suggests, this is popular for schools that are teaching real-time classes. It specifically serves teachers who need to create assignments and deliver grades without paper.
Can you use it for business?
Yes. It is available with G-Suite Basic, Business, and Enterprise accounts.
To use Google Classroom for business, you need to set up a G-Suite account.
With all the documentation in the same place, it is a handy business space for employees and workplace training
Google Classroom is easy. The level of technical skill required is not high. You can also use assets and resources that are available in your Google Drive and apps.
Being a hugely subscribed service means that resources are plentiful. One of the best I found was Pocketful of Primary
These instructional videos are easy to follow and have created by an enthusiastic primary school teacher, helping other teachers, with technology.
Verdict? All in all, Google Classroom wins on ease of use and usefulness for real-time classes with assignments and teacher oversight.
On the downside, it is currently not set up to take payments from paying students to an online course. You would need to manage payments elsewhere, which might be okay for some.
Google also is known to drop products without warning. I’m thinking of Google Author, Google Plus (remember the social network), Google Glass )not dead but transformed into something else), probably many others. So there is that inherent risk.
Will you invest a lot of time and energy, and then have everything change? No one really knows.
Moodle is wonderful. It’s open-source and thereby free of charge. It is cloud-based so doesn’t require full hosting that will crash your local machine and need a server. It is also widely used in universities, colleges, training, and large organisations.
There is so much flexibility with what you can create, as there are many different plugin components that can be added.
Yes, it also offers video, quizzes, documents, audio, and certificates. For learning on-the-go, there is a mobile Moodle app.
I previously used Moodle for a group training doctors and specialist medical professionals.
That organisation hired a full-time Moodle operator to create and manage the courses.
Does Moodle require coding?
No. But it helps. In fact, I really wouldn’t recommend using Moodle unless you, or someone you work with, knows some code.
One of the other benefits for business is the opportunity to create a branded mobile Moodle site. This would require some coding.
Another advantage is the extensive library of tutorials and resources.
Yes, it is SCORM compliant as a matter of course.
Verdict? Moodle is great, but unless you are of a scale it may be too unwieldy. Expect to dedicate a fair chunk of time to setting this up and creating the courses. Alternatively, there are Moodle specialists around, but not as many as there are web designers, for example. Also, your students can’t dive straight in, they will need to download Moodle in order to complete the course.
There are quite a few online course websites that fall into the same category. They include well-known (or at least well-advertised) platforms like Udemy and Coursera. I like teachable.com the best because of the price, the sexiness of the interface, and the ease of use.
Teachable.com is perfect for those set-and-forget courses that you want to make and sell, especially if they are video-based and creative. You don’t need to have a Course Start date. Once you build it, you start promoting and selling it.
There are international payment options including Paypal and Stripe.
Students can get certificates and resources can be developed from standard video, image, text, audio. These can be imported/uploaded from your Dropbox, Google Drive, PDFs, Onedrive.
It promises an intuitive drag and drop builder that you could style su=imilarly to an existing website or brand style. It is also responsive across devices, which is terribly important.
You can connect it as a subdomain to your website. Each course can have its own sales page you create with the drag and drop ‘Power Editor’.
In terms of integrations, there is Mailchimp, Zapier, Infusionsoft, and solid analytics about enrolments, revenue, refunds, and instructor support all found in a clean Dashboard.
Verdict? Teachable gets my thumbs up for looks, functionality, and ease-of-use. Under the bonnet, it appears to be a well-built machine of SCORM-compliant, user-friendly elearning. The cost is $360 per year AUD, which makes it affordable.
LearnDash is a plugin for WordPress meaning you can build and deliver courses through your own WordPress LMS on your website.
It proclaims to be the most trusted WordPress LMS available. That I do not dispute. In fact, its mission is to be the best elearning software on the market. (This sounds like an affiliate link. It’s not.)
With a fully functional course builder with advanced quizzes, drip-feed content, grade books, certificates and badges, and more, it is capable.
It also has some tenure. LearnDash has been around for a few years while its competitor plugin, Sensei, has gone into hiatus. This one keeps being vigorously developed with LearnDash 3.0 now available.
The features are fantastic.
Monetization offers one time fees or subscriptions.
LearnDash is now also used for major universities, companies, and entrepreneurs. It promises to work with modern WordPress websites that are mobile-friendly.
It has been rated as number one by Capterra for eLearning systems. It is now widely used and well supported.
One thing I love about LearnDash is that it excels at automation where others fail to consider.
It comes with an Uncanny Automator plugin which can be used for multiple trigger events such as quiz fails and other engagement triggers.
LearnDash enables content authors to control user groups and enrolments, and communication. It’s polished.
The best thing of all is LearnDash gives your students a positive learning experience.
Verdict? Hallelujah! The cost is $189 USD for 10 site licenses and $159 for one site license, so this system is bent on market penetration. With support as good as this, good on it.
In a nutshell
Like most crises, this coronavirus curveball has thrown us opportunities.
My client and I have chosen LearnDash but that decision is based on her specific circumstances. Yours will be different.
There is no right or wrong system. To be fair, so many online course delivery systems look good. They probably are.
For my money, I would recommend trying teachable.com for its speed and well-considered design. The ease of use for a student is also a key factor.
If you’re in WordPress, go for LearnDash, which I see as a seriously excellent addition.
If, however, I was wearing my Corporate Hat and was in charge of learning for internal purposes— such as showing staff how to use the website or get acquainted with our brand values — I would go with Google Classroom and keep all the resources handy in one location. And if I were at a university or a large organisation, Moodle might be the best bet.
Start with a clear and simple set of necessary criteria. Then consider any constraints you may have, such as time or money. Hopefully, the answer will be easy enough. If you’re SCORM compliant, it should be straightforward if you decide to change the system later.
Let me know how you go. Good luck to you.