Monthly Archives: April 2014

Considering an Online Learning Platform: Ask the Right Questions

The Right Questions

When comparing Online Learning Plaftorms, ask the right questions:

• What instructional experiences deliver superior student learning outcomes for my niche?

• What student outcome measures translate into benefits that sell students on my courses, turn students into raving fans, and drive students to promote my courses for me?

• What Learning Management System integrations connect to the Up Sells, Down Sells, Cross Sells, Continuity Programs and Product and Service Sales that form the core of my business?

• How does the platform stack up to trends that show a move away from traditional course delivery?

• How scalable is the platform?

• What is the Service Level Agreement?

• What size is the Platform Development Team?

• How accessible and well documented is the platform for hiring my own developers and designing my own customizations?

• How much development can I outsource?

• Etc.

Avoid Focusing on Feature Sets

The problem with the question you asked is that the question presupposes that the feature sets of either of the two options match your students’ learning needs.

For example, individual feedback on student-submitted projects, student collaboration on assignments, student posting of successes on a forum or the ability to drip feed content when students achieve specific competency levels may be requirements for your courses.

Or, you may offer courses in a niche where PDF-image and screen-capture tutorials make more sense than video.

Think first about the ideal ways that your students master and achieve, and use those learning preferences to develop your requirements.

What to Ask

This is the way you should ask…

Here are the requirements I need to deliver a superior learning experience to my students.

• Measurable student outcome #1

• Measurable student outcome #2

• Measurable student outcome #3

• Etc.

1.) How many of these does the platform deliver now?

2.) What is the “Guaranteed Timeline” for bringing the other required components online (Beware promised feature sets without specific financial compensation for missed timelines)?

3.) How seamlessly does the platform integrate missing requirements compared to other platforms?

4.) What completive options deliver a better total student learning experience?

Why Comparing Feature Sets is Short Sighted

The difficulty of comparing platforms without specifying outcomes leads to solutions based upon features. What you need to know are benefits and costs…including opportunity costs…that lead to measurable student outcomes.

You also must evaluate long-term viability based upon where an industry is heading, rather than building based upon a “Looking-Backwards” analysis of what has been done.

For example, a lot of current courses focus on selling static videos and those platforms promote limited student-to-instructor and student-to-student interaction.

Other models deliver indefinite course access for a one-time payment when continuity programs for a specific duration make more economic sense.

Other considerations: How proprietary are platform components, and how easy will it be to port course content to another platform?

Due Diligence Required

You must perform your own due diligence and evaluate solutions; but make those comparisons on your students’ requirements, rather than on platform feature sets.

MOOC Video Effectiveness Study: A Review

A large scale evaluation of video delivery practices tells part of the story…

Read the entire study…


“…Videos are central to the student learning experience in the current generation of MOOCs…”

Short comments (A full review would require a book)…

• Videos are central to the passive learning experience of MOOCs because the numbers of students exceed the capacity of professors to deliver the attention that students deserve

• Engagement as measured by time on task is a “Self-Fulfilling Measure.” More time is spent on watching video because videos are more time consuming”

• The research explains more about online learning remaining in “Lock Step” with traditional learning than the capacities of online learning

• The term “Learning Experience” seems ill-defined. Specific, targeted, measurable student outcomes would add power, relevancy and confidence to the conclusions of the study

“…video producers currently base their production decisions on anecdotes, folk wisdom, and best practices…”

• The correct measures for independent online course developers include 1.) Conversion Rates, 2.) Enrollment Numbers, 3.) Income Figures from Enrollments, Up Sells, Cross Sells, Membership Retention, Affiliate Sales of Support Products and Services

“…people eventually develop creative ways to take full advantage of the new medium….”

• The Learning Management Systems (LMSs) remain in a state of infancy, and will not evolve until income stagnates

• Piecing together existing components remains daunting for the Technology Challenged, but components parts exist as free and low-cost, Open Source solutions

• A comprehensive model of online learning needs to identify patterns where online learning out delivers all other learning modalities, and focus on measuring these outcomes


Study authors fail to recognize that the reasons that video predominated in MOOCs remains incongruent with the value of video in guaranteeing Application and Performance (AnP) learning outcomes.

Video instruction remains the weak link in online learning, mimicking traditional, low-outcome, Industrial Age Model, “Sage on the Stage,” “Talk is Cheap” idea delivery.

Expect video content delivery to predominate until definitive research shows that video represents as “Weak a Link” in online instruction as classroom lectures.

Visit the Texas Canvas Users’ Group Presentation for ideas and a case study of the capacities of online learning…

=> Online Teaching Tools, Tactics and Techniques: Strengthening, Stretching and Supercharging your LMS