LMS Administrators Community Shaping Up

Blog Post by Joey Watkins, LINGOs LMS Administrator and IT Support

Happy 2012! Many of us make resolutions… to get in shape or make changes to be better in the coming year. LINGOs is no exception. We are putting into action some of what we learned at our 2011 member meeting from Tom Kuhlmann’s super presentation on the power of growing a shared practice community.

If you haven’t had a chance to look yet, January 1 brought a few changes to LINGOs Support and the LMS Administrators Community area of our member site. While it’s still a sharepoint site, you’ll see that we’ve reorganized to make it easier for you to find the answers to your questions. We’d like for the LMS Administrator Community to become your first stop when you have questions or experience issues with your LMS portal.  Over time, we’ll expand and beautify the site as members identify and share new issues and questions with LINGOs Support.  You can access the new site at http://ngolearning.org/learningtools/intralearnlms/lmsadmin/default.aspx

But the website is only part of the community. We’re working hard to strengthen and build the community and enable all of us to learn from each other. We’ve initiated a series of Quarterly LMS Administrators Community Q&A virtual sessions.  The first one was January 10, 2012. With about a quarter of LINGOs member agencies participating in real time, it was a great success.  A few of the topics covered were:

  • Using discussion features in the LMS for self-paced courses
  • Using the Event Manager for staff to register for face to face and virtual classroom learning events
  • Branding/re-branding/editing an LMS portal
  • SCORM Dispatch

If you missed the first Q&A session, you can click here to view the recording or, as always, you can find links to past events by going to the Events section of http://ngolearning.org.  

We are confident that the enriched community will be a valuable resource to all of LINGOs’ 75+ international member organizations. By actively participating: seeking information from and contributing knowledge to the community, you’ll help LINGOs move its technology and tech support forward.  With the new year we also documented and put into effect our Member Service Level Agreement for Technical Support.  This document outlines the level of support for the LMS portal included in your LINGOs Membership, as well as the services that will incur additional fees.  You’ll find it on the LMS Administrators Community site.

We hope these changes make getting support for your LMS portal as worry-free as possible, and are looking forward to working with you throughout 2012.

The next LMS Administrator Q&A  is scheduled for April 24, 2012 at 11:00 AM Eastern Time. Member Agency LMS Administrators, please click on the button below to register.

Register for LINGOs LMS Administrator Community Q & A - April 24, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. eastern time on Eventbrite

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Considering an LMS for your international NGO? Some food for thought and useful tips from LINGOs Member Agencies

Posted by Marian Abernathy, LINGOs Director of Member Services & Communications

Most of the 70+ international development, humanitarian relief, social justice, and conservation NGOs that are members of LINGOs are using a Learning Management System (LMS) to distribute courses to their global staff and track their progress, all in a secure environment!

LINGOs INGO memberships include the deployment of a secure LMS, which is available, and accessible by any staff member with a web connection and an Internet browser.  One of the main advantages an LMS offers over a traditional website is its reporting capability: agencies can record their learners’ participation in courses and events and share these reports in several useful formats.

The LMS provides capability for Instructor-led synchronous and asynchronous learning as well as providing scheduling and tracking of online and live events!

As you are considering putting an LMS in place for your organization, there are a number of issues to consider. Many of these have been asked in the LINGOs Discussion Group on LinkedIn, are posted on the LINGOs Member Site (http://ngolearning.org) or have been touched upon in earlier posts here. This blog post curates many of those responses.

How much effort should we expect to set up the Portal?

There are several aspects of setting up the LMS. The technical set-up is actually the easiest, and LINGOs will establish the portal, train several of your staff on how to get it to look the way you want, and show you how to manage it (plan for 1-2.5 hours for this on-line training).

Then comes the larger start-up process of planning, branding, selecting courses and preparing a communications plan. Few agencies have personnel dedicated 100% to this effort, so it can stretch out over weeks to several months.  However, with a tight time frame and a dedicated and experienced new staff person, The Grameen Foundation, which  joined LINGOs in early October 2011 as a Level 2 Member*, was able to set up, brand and launch their portal in less than two weeks. (Discussion of this in the LINGOs group on LinkedIn).

*Level 2 Membership benefits include a brandable LMS portal and the ability to select courses for it from among the LINGOs Catalog and ability to post custom-developed courses, or purchased seats to SCORM Conformant commercially supplied courseware.

FHI 360 documented its process of planning, piloting and launching its portal in a great post on the LINGOs Blog in January 2011 (click here for the post) and in the June 2011 Virtual Coffee Break (click here for recording)

What are the Steps to Getting Started? See the summer 2011 Series of Posts by Ruth Kustoff on the LINGOs Blog:

 

Getting started: Identify Top Learner Needs and Develop a Plan

 

Selecting Courses to Meet Learner Needs

 

If you build it, will they come? Develop Communications Plan 

Please also see info below, about upcoming December 8 Virtual Coffee Break on Building Engagement and Marketing Learning Resources to Global Employees 

How much time should we plan for ongoing management of portal? The answer to this varies tremendously, depending on size of organization, set-up of the portal, and whether there had recently been an activity that increased demand for courses. In a LinkedIn Group discussion on this, members reported the time ranged from  20 minutes to an hour a day on a heavy day for Habitat for Humanity, with 2600 registered users. Other agencies spend 2-20 minutes per day responding to registration requests and inquiries from present users. With the order manager functionality in place (Level 2 Portals), processing requests for existing student accounts should take 1-2 minutes.

Where can we find additional resources?  You can find manuals, tips, tricks, recorded webinars and a wealth of resources on planning, branding, Developing, Launching courses in the IntraLearn environment on the LINGOs LMS Administrator Community Site.

Participate in two upcoming live (virtual) events: 

Join the Dec 8, 2011 LINGOs Member Virtual Coffee Break in which “Barista” Catriona Moriarty of Conservation International in an informal virtual coffee around engagement and marketing of self-paced learning resources. Conservation International (CI) launched its eCampus just about a year ago. Learn a bit about CI’s experience, share your experiences and ideas. What ideas and approaches have you used to build interest, excitement and utilization of learning resources globally in your organization? What’s worked well? What would you like to try?

LINGOs’ LMS Administrator Joey Watkins will facilitate the first LMS Administrators Q&A Session on Tuesday January 10, 2012 from 11am- noon Eastern time (same as New York). LINGOs member agency LMS Administrators are encouraged to register to attend this session. To register, visit http://lingoslmsjan2012.eventbrite.com.

LINGOs’ Support Strategy for the IntraLearn LMS

Through their participation in LINGOs, member agencies can access hundreds of e-learning courses on a variety of topics of interest to their staff around the world.  The majority of these courses are SCORM compatible and can be tracked via the IntraLearn LMS sub-portals that are provided through LINGOs.  However, for most member agencies, this is the first experience they have implementing a learning management system and there are many questions regarding the design, launch and maintenance of an LMS.

It is normal for agencies to contact LINGOs with a variety of questions regarding all aspects of their IntraLearn LMS sub-portal:   “What orientation resources can they access?”  “Is there training for Administrators?” “What usage reports can LINGOs member agencies access?”  “What if I need help troubleshooting?”  “Can my agency sub-portal be customized?”  “What if I lose my password?”

The LINGOs Support Strategy for the IntraLearn LMS provides a single location with answers to  all these questions and more.  This workspace will evolve and expand over time, but its current state reflects the existing support structure LINGOs provides to its member agencies.   Please, If there are any points that are not covered in the strategy, add a comment to this blog post and we will address the topic.

Loading OutStart Trainer courses in the IntraLearn LMS

Increasingly, LINGOs member agencies are building custom developed courses to deploy to staff around the world.  One of the initial steps in the course design process, is to review course requirements (interactivity, navigation, aesthetics, tracking) and decide which development tool to use. 

This blog post is designed to help designers as they make this decision,  Posted below is a link to a course on Instructional Design that was built using OutStart Trainer and has been loaded in the LINGOs IntraLearn LMS Test Portal.  This course provides a proof of concept of the feature  mix that can be used in Trainer-developed courses and also demonstrates the ability to track course completion of Trainer-built courses in the IntraLearn LMS.

This Proof of Concept Course is especially useful, because it includes an array of interactive features in the course design.  These include embedded video, embedded flash, at least 6 different question formats, embedded scrollable windows, learning games, links to the web, links to Microsoft Office documents and much more. 

Furthermore, the course also demonstrates the ability of Trainer-built courses to report out test scores to users and to “smart jump” test-takers to different pages based on their success with a test. 

To access the Proof of Concept Course follow these instructions;

go to http://lingostest.org 

username:  sample

password:  s1mple

(for clarity’s sack that password is s(the number one)mple)

Increasing the Quality and Consistency of User Access to LMS Content

As more agencies adopt Outstart Trainer and the Articulate Rapid e-Learning Suite to develop custom-made content for their Learning Management System (LMS), the frequency with which users encounter challenges accessing this content will increase.  This is due to the complexity of the LMS’ task- processing SCORM code, managing interactions, and tracking learner progress through a variety of operating systems, software versions, pop-up windows, browser configurations, firewalls and security settings. 

 

Despite the complexity of the challenge, however, there are some best practices that are highly recommended to increase the quality and consistency of  user access to LMS-loaded content.  These  recommendations are the following:

  1. Ensure that end-user workstations meet the minimum requirements for operating the LMS – The best way to ensure that learners’ workstations are configured so as to avoid problems with pop-up blockers, tracking cookies, managing Java applets, and accessing ActiveX commands is to require users to complete a minimum requirements test.  LINGOs provides access to a “Plug-In Test” that checks user workstation configurations to ensure that they are compatible with the IntraLearn LMS and its courses.  All LMS users should check their workstation configurations by accessing the Plug-In Test at the following URL:   http://lingoscatalog.org/vhelpdesk/index.cfm .
  2. Ensure that end-users understand how to install the Java plug-in and accept session cookies – While a user might have no problem accessing a course outside the LMS, once a course is embedded inside a sub-portal, the LMS needs to track the user’s progress in the course.  In order for this functionality to work correctly, users need to ensure that Java is installed on their machine and that their browsers are configured to accept cookies.  If the results of the Plug-In Test reveal that the machine does not meet these minimum standards, instructions on how to allow Cookies permissions and install Java plug-ins are found at the following link:  http://lingoscatalog.org/vhelpdesk/docs/browser_settings.pdf
  3. Avoid loading custom-developed courses into pop-up windows-  Experienced LMS users might have noticed that the pre-loaded off-the-shelf courses available on LINGOs’ LMS sub-portals generally do not open in pop-up windows.  Instead, they are embedded in a frame of the LMS.  When courses are loaded in pop-up windows, the complexity of the communication between the course and the LMS increases significantly and there is a much higher likelihood of running into access problems.  Given the increased complexity resulting from loading courses in pop-up windows, it is highly recommended that all custom-made courses be loaded as embedded content in the LMS frame.

These three recommendations will not prevent agencies from having any problems with user access to their custom-made courses.  However, they should  significantly improve the consistency with which users can successfully access your content.