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?
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
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.