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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Custom LMS Anymore?

Happy new year.  I took some time off from blogging over the holidays.  I’m just now getting back into the swing of things.  To help me get moving, I just posted Storyboard Templates and iPhones – Best of December 2009 over on eLearning Learning.  Some great content posted back in December that I need to go back and review.

I’m hoping that folks might be able to help someone who just sent me a question. 

This is a company that sells mostly compliance training to the healthcare market (Hospitals, healthcare practices, individual physicians etc…).  They have a licensed LMS, but want to move away from it and build a custom LMS that meets their specific needs.

Their questions:

1. What are some features that they might not be thinking about that people will be asking for in the near future?  In their words, “what is the need of the hour”?

2. Is it a good idea to start with an open source LMS?  Their team strength is principally .NET, ASP 2.0.  Are there  any open source LMS on those technologies?

And my question:

3. Does it make that much sense to build a custom LMS anymore?  I’ve seen it numerous times, but I feel like some of the low cost LMS or rapid LMS solutions would make more sense?

Appreciate any thoughts you have on this.


Unknown said...

If they are looking to customize an LMS for the Healthcare market, I recommend that they read and really understand the newer Accreditation Requirements of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, (ACCME).

Somethings we find missing in our LMS.
1. Inability to relaunch a course after completion without overriding the completion status. Most Continuing Medical Education (CME) courses are completed for credit but learners also want to use the content for reference purposes.
2. Ability to use the system to send variuos scheduled follow-ups. CME providers need to prove that their courses made a lasting impact on physician behavior and patient outcomes; thus they need to follow-up with learners several times.
3. Required course evaluations built so the data is easy to manage and manipulate. Multiple evaluations per course.
4. Ability to allow users to "claim" up to a max number of credits per course - instead of providing a fixed amount of credit.

Carlos Rondón said...

You must try icomet, . But i really recommend you Moodle, it's not ASP but it's a very versatile solution in PHP technologies, You can customize it, and adapt your company requeriments.

If you want to create your own LMS, it takes so much time and money.

Good Luck

V Yonkers said...

I wrote about this topic in a recent post. I am assuming they want the LMS because of the privacy issue. However, as a teacher and a student, I want choice. The one college I work at has a standard format which is alright for basic tasks such as "testing", grades, and even a central depository for resources (including tying in to the library). However, I don't find the LMS is sufficient for developing community, a community of practice and common knowledge, sharing of knowledge, feedback, access to experts, or even access to targeted or updated information (including those in emerging technology such as videocasts, interactive video and/or learning objects, and collaborative resource creation).

If they are going to customize an LMS, they should also be prepared to add apps to the LMS (so whatever they choose should be flexible to add apps...even those that aren't created yet).

They should also make sure that any LMS they use can be used by mobile technology, including the 3G networks. Otherwise, they will be be outdated before the LMS is even up and running.

Unknown said...

I was the VP of Engineering at a So Cal company providing legal compliance education to the Fortune 1000 and we built our own LMS. At the time, that probably made some sense - and it was there when I arrived, so I wasn't making a build vs. buy decision.

I can say of my experience that building your own is in no way worth the trouble. There are too many good alternatives today. I believe Moodle was already mentioned, and I would definitely start there.

Use your scarce resources to choose a good platform (an open source one would be my preference) and get your team up to speed on customizing it and building out any custom modules needed for your sepcific user base.

I don't know of any open source LMSs built on MS technologies and I wouldn't let that be a requirement - any good programmer can learn PHP. If the team has programmers who are not up for new challenges, this is the right time to start upgrading the team to set the cmopany up for the future.

Wish them luck!

Tim Martin said...

There are dozens of potential solutions out there... existing LMSs that probably capture a lot of the desired functionality. In my mind, the avant garde approach, though, is aggregating the best pieces of various software solutions.

We think about this in the context of our SCORM Cloud solution, but there are countless other solutions that are "best of breed"... For me, it's fascinating to consider aggregating the relevant functionality for the situation.

Do the potential clients already have a network of users into which they could integrate? Where do the ultimate users already live and work? So, rather than crafting a massive application in which only a portion of it is relevant, try to craft something from existing tools that serves the users where they are.

Unknown said...

1. What we see requested a lot is a shop-functionality for courses, buy one-time access to a course through a payment service provider. One phase less would be payment of the LMS for the amounts of courses done by X learners, so special reports would be needed. For the rest I would say leave as much functionality “away”, people seem to be done with university-like platforms.

2. On the open source thing, if programming is not your core business I would not recommend it. People in the end always return to the person/company who developed it when they have problems, if somebody leaves the company it is your problem. If you buy a solution it is not your problem. But that is basically the same discussion everybody will have when it comes to closed and open source. Our LMS is based on Dot Net Nuke so an opensource form of .NET. We have built the e-learning modules ourselves but the basic website and portal functionality is based on DNN, so they can implement it fully in their own desired way.

3. As you suggested I would also say not to develop an LMS from scratch, there are so many options of tools that already fulfill 99% of the functionality and for the price of 1 FTE a specialized company can make a better tailormade solution than the people in the suggested company

Tony Karrer said...

Great comments. Some thoughts as I'm reading.

Cathy - fantastic points about the requirements. The follow-up, notification systems I find are often lacking in LMS products. Having a system with flexible rules is likely important.

@Virginia - good post. Interesting questions there. I'm not sure they will get community in their case - but certainly that's important in a lot of other scenarios. Good points on the requirements.

@Erick - thanks for stopping by! I know the company and the complexity they dealt with. My guess is that you are right about the complexity that will be involved. Great to have you weigh in.

@Tim - you somewhat lost me. If you are saying to poll existing users/learners for requirements - that's always a good thing to do - but often not sufficient. But I think you are suggesting something else.

@Christiaan - great points. Thanks for jumping in with them.

V Yonkers said...

Perhaps I misinterpreted Tim's comment (jump in an correct me if I'm wrong Tim), but my understanding from what he wrote was to have an over arching frame work that integrates current tools and technology so that there does not have to be a total reconstruction of what is already out there being used in the organization.

I have now been through two platform changes when I had to completely revamp all of my educational designs and courses because the differences in what the tools could do were not compatible. I know what I want the course to do, but how I achieve those goals and objectives are limited by the tools I was then forced to use. For example, using the template designed in lotus notes, I could check on new activity within groups using a view menu that popped up on the home page of the course. This allowed me to quickly view which groups were active and which ones needed more support. When we changed to BLS, I had to actually go into the small group discussions for each group and see what had been contributed which resulted in me being a lot more involved in the student learning, often resulting in more teacher direction than I wanted for the course. I ended up modifying the design, developing group updates and making the group aware that I would not be interfering unless they contacted me directly. This resulted in a lot more work on my part, not only in the design, but the teaching of the course.

A platform that could take existing tools and resources and weave them together makes the transition to the new platform (not to mention less training time and investment) easier and more cost effective.

Amit Gautam said...

Its a classic example of build vs. buy and looking at the LMS world today I personally recommend a buy here.

Generally companies with strong technical skill sets have an inclination to build but the main concern here is not technology but the understanding of the LMS itself even if they are building it for their own use.

Without a doubt on the technical skills and expertise the company would have, I would still submit that the whole development process itself would take a high amount of time and since there are hardly any open source tools available in the ASP/.NET technologies its going to be a challenging task just to build even something like a basic SCORM RTE.

They could however go for a completely open source LMS in PHP/MySQL and customize that (if required). I posted the right way to go about open source LMS which can be handy here. It would also be worth the time to quickly check five things not to do while selecting an LMS when they start evaluating various LMS systems.
There are also commercial LMS systems available with a host of features readily useful for their situation. e.g. UpsideLMS Professional which are affordable, flexible and a long-term buy from support and maintenance perspective.

My final word would still be to go with an available LMS - be it open source or a commercial one. I am sure they would save a lot of time and also get all this at a low total cost of ownership.

Amit Gautam
Upside Learning

Joe Deegan said...

In this situation I think Moodle would be a great starting point because it is Rapid to get started with yet still highly customizable. You can jump right in and use Moodle out of the box if you just need a Vanilla LMS or put those tech skills to work and customize it to your organizations needs. Great conversation!

Faisal Shah said...

I would like to point out that the product he is querying about can fall under
Physicians or resident physicians

Just one man's opinion

Faisal Shah said...

Very good insight Cathy specially on CME.

Faisal Shah
IT Project Manager for American College of Physcians and American College of Surgery.