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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Making Learning with an LMS Fun? Help Needed!

Got a question from a reader - (and I love questions) - but this time I think I need help with suggestions. Here's the question:

I am the Manager of Education and Training in a non-profit that serves homeless youth and whose mission is to get the kids off the streets by offering services which include getting their GED. Grants demand accountability on success rate and outcomes of our GED teaching process. As a non-profit, buying an LMS program that would track our GED students in math, writing, reading, social sciences and science would be extraordinary. Our need is also to make the learning process fun! How can we both have a system which engages the student and tracks their academic progress?


Any recommendations?

11 comments:

Karyn Romeis said...

I would suggest Moodle. It's free, and you can customise it so the front end looks pretty much however you want it to, so you can create a really funky look-and-feel.

Ryan said...

I looked at a similar project for a venture as part of one of my MBA classes. For our approach, we looked at hosting "South Park"-like cartoons to get the attention of students. See an example at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uiYb-qiZa8

(Note: We did not make the original cartoon, just added new audio and definition callouts).

With an LMS, you may be able to track how many students accessed the video. You may also want to consider giving students the tools to create thier own instructional videos using static characters that they can then share with their cohorts.

If you want a copy of the business plan for this project, email me at ryanjsparks@gmail.com.

Cheers,
Ryan

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest looking at this from a gaming-and-community perspective.

You may be able to start with a central backbone system such as Moodle or another LMS (which would be the hub from your administrative/reporting standpoint) and create/tie-in game-based content.

Foster community (online AND OFF [you probably are already offline I'd guess])...discussion, contribution, events.

Check out the "badge" sort of systems and other status/development aspects of online gaming communities such as Kongregate.

Check out the community-focused sites (which also include lots of stats i.e. data) of many games these days, such as those built on the AgoraGames Catapult platform.

Point/link to entertaining/funny and *short* content on the web (videos, games, quizzes) that supports your curriculum.

Give your clients compelling reasons to login to the system often, routinely!

Andy

Larry said...

I am no expert, but I would research what the virtual high schools are doing. You may be able to link up to an existing program that is already very good or at least get a lot of ideas. You may be trying to recreate the wheel by doing it yourself.

If you find that you need an LMS, I'd write the LMS providers, give them your requirements and ask them if they would donate an LMS to your organization. This is not as crazy as it sounds because you are helping kids and it sounds like you could not afford an LMS. Some providers will donate if they know you could not afford one. Ask them if they can set something up for you which will allow you to upload data easily without having to create a whole technical infrastructure to support it. My limited experience with Open Source software is that it requires more technical espertise to manage than something that is sold. If you have technical expertise at your disposal, then you can go in that direction if needed. If you don't it can be a penney wise and pound foolish decision.

Steve Flowers said...

Kids like community and competition. Adults do too, but they aren't as ready to admit it.

Interface is also critical for the younger crowd. You want to draw them in, don't make them wade through a catalog of crap to get to what they need.

Let them explore a world and unlock things in a progression. Let them see how well they bode against other 'players' and gradually reveal something special, provide virtual rewards, or show them something cool.

A reason to play is a reason to learn. Even if the learning is a dull activity (with limits of course) I can see kids taking on a small task for the rewards and propulsion through the experience.

Others mention Moodle, that could be an EXCELLENT baseline for tracking the learning. Most LMS products don't display public scores, nor are they established to track aggregate results in any way that is valuable in a community sense.

Imagine this, you are a kid and you log into a system that reflects a variety of simple environments (ever played World of Warcraft?), you get to create your character and enter a community space where you can interact with other kids (this creates problems without supervision and facilitation). You explore the world and unlock challenges and knowledge quests. You can go back to the main block to see your score and compare with others.

Complex - maybe. Doesn't have to be overboard to be engaging for this group. Just rich enough to drive progression. http://www.smartfoxserver.com is one technology I'm assessing for similar applications for adult learners. I think with the right finesse, some great design, and some elbow grease some pretty simple technology backends could be integrated into a solid experience.

Suz said...

Some interesting comments here already. Having looked at several LMS's, including moodle, during a tender process, I would come back to the fact that no matter how 'funky' it looks, it is not the LMS that engages students, but the content that is put up on it. The LMS wont solve that problem, or create engaging material for you. I would agree with Karyn that Moodle might be a good option, as its free. In response to what Larry said about expertise - yes, you may need someone with technical knowledge, but if you dont have that, there are companies that provide support for moodle, which may be cheaper in long run, that purchasing software (that also includes support and customisation).

Ray Jimenez, PhD said...

Tony,

Make the projects as off-line assignments.

1. In a page in the LMS, ask students to read, study lessons and off-line assignments.

2. Assign to work groups real life assignments.

3. Ask students to present or submit to teacher or group either face to face or as an attachment online.

4. Add a tool in the LMS that the teacher and check the uploaded work or submit an assessment of the student.

Hmmmm.. this is a good idea/market for the project we spoke off.

Best, Ray

Anonymous said...

We're a non-profit as well, with one small asynchronous online course, and no need for an expensive LMS "solution." We also don't have the staff with expertise for customizing or working with Moodle. We engaged the services of a company that provides us with "LMS Rental Space" that's affordable and reliable, and provides the reports we need for tracking completions.

It's a business model that's outside of their normal way of doing things, but one I encourage other Web-enabled LMS providers to consider, as it's the perfect answer for organizations like ours!

Contact me offline at ebehrens@nacufs.org for more details and info about the company we've partnered with. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Regardless of LMS, I agree with other comments that it is the content and content experience that will make or break you. I am not biased towards any particular products but I have noticed that Adobe has a good non-profit program. If the price is right for their development tools, one advantage they have is that there is a lot of published information on using their products.

A combination of Moodle as an LMS and Captivate for interactive content might work well for your situation.

As Karyn suggested, you can skin Moodle to be fun and attractive to your particular audience. I'd then suggest carrying the theme through to the templates you use for courses you build.

Martin M-B said...

I'm bothered - 'Our need is also to make the learning process fun! How can we both have a system which engages the student and tracks their academic progress?' - when things are fun (enjoyable?), we learn, because it's fun Enjoyable = less 'effort'?) to do so - let's not separate the two things, bacuse from enjoyment (fun? engagement?) will come success - lasting success.

Lex said...

I too am in a similar situation and I would suggest the scalability of your project is problematic. I am now finishing my degree as Masters student in Educational Technology and I am currently doing an internship. I have quite a bit of experience with different LMSs (mostly open source) yet (in my current real world application) I am discovering that in the GUI and usability of an LMS are trumped by having enough (good and epistemologically sound) content. I am currently researching the options for a project that involves setting up a LMS to teach (and potentially test) the GED in correctional institutions. Firstly I would suggest building your learning objects, sequencing your lessons, and developing your testing strategies THEN I would consider your LMS environment. This task alone is enormous and I would suggest the most important. In my research I have found that electronic and multi-media resources for the GED are far and few between. There are some instructional videos put out by KET that are used in conjunction with a PBS Literacy online program, however the use and delivery of content is dated for the most part. There is no interactive (flash or other) media that I have been able to find, most are stactic text based tutorials or lesson. For your consideration I am posting the following links that may (or may not) be of help:

- http://www.literacylink.org/ PBS Literacy Link GED program
- http://www.ket.org/ged2002/ KET GED Resources
- http://www.ket.org/enterprise/ Kentucky Educational Television
- http://www.valrc.org/ged/ Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center

There is also a new Opens Source LMS called Dokeos that looks promising. Although Moodle has improved it can be frustrating for teachers to administer. If you are dealing with a small number of students it should work without having to get too much IT support, however as I recommended, I would work on the content first … How do you want to teach the GED and how will you make those resources. I can be contacted at lexmilton@etmadeez.com.