Master the Elearning Software Selection Process
Choosing the right elearning software for your university courses, employee training and communication, or customer training, can be a daunting task. The fact that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of different pieces of online training software, and educational software in the market today can be impressive enough, but then add the fact that there are hundreds more being added each year makes it seem even more of a challenge!
Before you toss your hands up in the air in disgust thinking you will never figure out which elearning software is right for you, your university, or your business, rest assured that this website will help you narrow down your options and tame the training software beast!
Different Terms Used for Elearning
Before discussing elearning software, it would be prudent to define what is meant by “elearning” since there are many perceptions and misconceptions of what elearning truly is.
Note: If you care to skip the “definition discussion,” feel free to skip this section and jump down to the actionable “Ten Tips for Choosing the Elearning Software That is Right for You” section below.
First of all, recognize that there are many different terms used when referring to elearning. Even the word “elearning” does not have a decidedly unanimous spelling. You will see it spelled as “e-learning” or even “e learning.” For those of you who remember the early days of email (or should we say “e-mail”), there was always a debate as to whether the hyphen should be there or not. It is probably best (and most conveniently) omitted. The same will likely become true for the word “e-learning” as well and the hyphen should just be dropped.
Elearning may also be referred to as “distance learning,” “online learning,” “electronic learning,” “digital learning,” “virtual learning,” “computer learning,” “mobile learning,” “Web-based training,” “internet-based training,” or, in the case of combining online learning with face-to-face learning, “hybrid learning.”
Phew! Now that the debris of terms are out of the way, how does one define elearning? Since the “e” in elearning really stands for “electronic,” elearning could be defined (in its simplest form) as this:
Elearning / e-learning / electronic learning – “Any learning facilitated by some electronic means”
Though this is decidedly the best definition for elearning that www.ElearningSoftware.org can produce (and feel free to make it a standard, ha, ha!), the bottom line is that there is no clear agreed-upon definition.
Here are a few other (extended) definitions found among the interwebs:
Elearning / e-learning / electronic learning – Learning that is accomplished over the Internet, a computer network, via CD-ROM, interactive TV, or satellite broadcast.
Elearning / e-learning / electronic learning – All forms of electronically supported learning and teaching
Elearning / e-learning / electronic learning – An internet-based teaching system
Elearning / e-learning / electronic learning - the process of learning online, esp. via the Internet and email
Okay, there are many more extended definitions that could be included among the glut of elearning definitions, but you shall be spared. Just stick with our definition above and you’ll be fine.
Ten Tips for Choosing the Elearning Software That is Right for You
Use these 10 tips for choosing the elearning software that’s right for you.
- Know your learning outcome from the start.
What is it that you want to make happen? This may seem obvious but many people miss this. Know what end result you need BEFORE you get enamored by the “bells, whistles, and neon lights” of all the elearning software providers that will be clamoring for your attention… especially if you are a large company looking for a large elearning software solution.
- Know elearning software usability.
One of the first things to consider for your online training software is ease of use. Whether you like it or not, if your employees or educators find your new elearning software difficult to use or too complex, they are not going to use it. And if they do, they might fail to use it effectively.The only caveat to this would be that if you have an amazing employee training plan in place with solid ongoing support, you can stand to have a more complex system. Regardless of complexity, however, definitely choose elearning software that is intuitive and easy to use with proper training
- Know your budget from the start, but be flexible if you can.
Most people have heard the expression “you pay for what you get.” This is also true in elearning software. Even though you have a tight budget and you may be able to find a cheap or free elearning software solution for your 50,201 employees or students, consider all aspects of your need (see tip #1 above) and then decide whether that free solution can truly serve that need.If you try to make an inferior software fit your need based on price, in the end, you will likely pay for it anyways whether it’s through customer support issues, bad customer experience, wasted hours on tasks that your elearning software SHOULD have been able to do for you… and the list goes on.Guard your budget, but also realize that if a few extra hundred or a few extra thousand gets you the elearning solution you really need, do it. You will thank yourself for it.
- Know your elearning software retailer/producer.
Treat your potential elearning software solutions like an employee. Do the background check. Get to know not only the software itself but the company who sells it. Find (real) customer testimonies.Ask which companies or universities are already using the elearning software and call them for their honest feedback. Companies are often more willing to share their thoughts on software more readily than you may think.If you live in the United States and you want to learn more about the integrity of a business, use a resource such as the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/).
- Know how long your elearning software retailer/producer has been in business.
Even though this could go with #3, this is important enough to be its own tip. With so many new businesses and elearning software coming to market each month, it pays to consider the length of time a company has been in business.Do you want a company that has been around for a while and will likely stand firm in the market? If you decide to go with a “brand new,” “cutting edge” elearning software solution, are you willing to adapt if that software company fails within a year or two? This is not to disparage new software companies, but you as the customer need to be aware of the potential risks involved.
- Know your options for customer support.
Will your company need to support the software once it is setup? Who will answer employee or teacher questions when problems arise? One of the worst things a company or school can do is purchase great software and then not provide proper support to keep its use effective. If you will be receiving long-term support from the elearning software company, make sure you have it laid out in your purchase agreement.
- Know elearning software maintainability.
This goes along with customer support but even deeper. Will the software itself be easily maintained over time? Are updates free for life or will regular (paid) upgrades need to be made as technology advances? Ensure your software will adapt with you and your organization.
- Know elearning software compatibility.
Do not purchase your educational software without first ensure it will be compatible with other software/systems you already have in place. For example, if you already have a learning management system (LMS) and you are purchasing video distance learning software, make sure that the two will integrate seamlessly.
- Know elearning software modularity.
Many institutions find great value in the modularity and portability of learning objects. Learning objects are learning units or bits of educational content that can be used in many different contexts.For example, a lesson on statistics could be used in the business department AND the education department at a university. Once content is created, you want a system that easily allows for transferring those learning objects from one place to another.
- Know elearning software accessibility.
This tip is two-fold: 1) You may need to ensure your e-learning software conforms to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Section 508 standards (http://www.ada.gov/). Does your elearning software provide effective ways of meeting these standards such as with closed captioning or with audio/visual components?And 2) Is your educational software available to all users with varying Internet speeds, computer hardware, or other? Always be aware of accessibility standards as you may be bound by law to abide by them.
All the best to you and your elearning software (and e-learning software, haha) endeavors. Feel free to share this website with anyone who may find this information beneficial or decision-makers at your company or university.“We do not learn; and what we call learning is only a process of recollection.”
–Plato E-learning image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net.