Choosing the most suitable authoring tools is an essential component of delivering a successful elearning project. Alice Denham, Senior Lead Learning Designer for the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at NHS England, provides insights on selecting the most appropriate supplier in a busy marketplace.
Stepping into a coffee shop with an array of blends can be overwhelming. Similarly, attending a conference like Learning Technologies can present a similar challenge: multiple suppliers offering similar products with slight variations. How does one choose the correct blend? This is how we approached our search for learning content collaborators.
The quest for information: Armed with a list of basic requirements, we began our inquiry by posing essential questions to each supplier. One of the initial queries centred around SCORM compliance, and to our delight, most suppliers responded positively. However, we delved further and inquired about other standards like xAPI, Tin Can, and cmi5. While most suppliers affirmed their compatibility, only one claimed AICC compliance. At this point, the question arises: should the absence of AICC compatibility automatically lead us to reject other suppliers?
The quality assurance dilemma: Moving forward, we sought to gauge the quality assurance (QA) processes of each supplier. Unsurprisingly, all suppliers boasted a flawless ten out of ten rating. However, it’s important to note that they also mentioned weekly bug fixes—an oddly familiar response across the board. This begs the question: are their QA processes truly distinguishable, or is there a commonality that diminishes the significance of this factor?
Accessibility matters: Ensuring accessibility in learning content is paramount. Each supplier claimed to produce accessible content, but one stood out by emphasizing their compliance with the Equality Act, catering not only to learners but also to users. Does meeting legal requirements make this supplier the obvious choice? Additionally, we probed about alternative accessible versions like PDFs. Some suppliers already provided them, while others had it on their roadmap. The availability of such alternatives could be a differentiating factor.
Assessment and scoring: The ability to conduct assessments and scoring is crucial in learning platforms. Most suppliers had these functions, except for one that claimed to be working on implementing them. While this supplier may seem lacking at present, their commitment to development cannot be disregarded. It raises the question of whether their future offerings outweigh the immediate availability of these features.
Usability for Learning designers: Considering the ease of use for learning designers, we delved into the level of skill required and the training provided by each supplier. Some suppliers appeared to excel in this aspect, suggesting that their product may be more intuitive than others. However, true evaluation can only be done through testing and hands-on experience.
The distractor factor: Free gifts sometimes, seemingly insignificant details can catch our attention. In this case, it was the free gifts offered by the suppliers. A contrast in the quality and environmental friendliness of tote bags—bleached cotton versus unbleached, sturdy fabric—caught our eye. While not directly related to the core product, it raises questions about the underlying strengths and values of each supplier.
The power of AI in elearning: To conclude the day, we attended a talk on the use of AI to create eLearning content. Witnessing the creation of a bitesize eLearning module tailored for healthcare professionals within 8 minutes, complete with customizable images and questions, left us in awe. This introduces an element that cannot be ignored: the potential for AI to revolutionize the learning landscape. Should we embrace this technology or disregard it as a mere novelty?
Choosing the right blend of learning technologies can be as intricate as selecting the perfect coffee. While there may be similarities among suppliers, it is crucial to analyse the differences and evaluate their significance in meeting your specific requirements. Factors such as compliance with standards, accessibility, assessments, usability, and even attention to detail, can contribute to the overall suitability of a supplier. Furthermore, the emergence of AI in eLearning poses an intriguing opportunity worth considering. In the end, finding the ideal supplier requires thorough research, hands-on testing, and a consideration of both immediate needs and future potential.