eLearning Content Distribution made easier, right when we need it most.

With scares like the Coronavirus shutting down universities, conferences, and corporate training events the world over, there’s an increasing pressure to put more and more training content online again.

 

Well, we’ve been doing this for over 20 years, so it’s reasonable to expect we all have it down by now, isn’t it? We can just make or buy a course to help us, right?

 

Even in the year 2020, hindsight still isn’t. Unfortunately, simply moving online training content from one place to another does not mean it will work. If you’ve ever tried to do this, then you probably already know about some of the intricacies and frequent gotchas involved in eLearning content distribution.

 

There are usually issues. There are always questions.

Questions Regarding eLearning Content Distribution

  1. Is it SCORM/AICC? (this is where most people stop, but you should keep going)
  2. What kind of SCORM is it?
  3. Now, is that SCORM-compliant or SCORM-conformant?
  4. What kind of content does it contain? (and please don’t say Flash!)
  5. What platforms/browsers does this need to work on?
  6. Where is it hosted? How secure is that? And how secure does it need to be?
  7. What parameters does it pass and to where?
  8. What info do we need to report upon?

Yes, one would think all these things would be known by now, that eLearning content distribution was standardized and the kinks were ironed out long ago.

 

And one would be wrong.

 

I think life would be easier if everyone knew this dirty little secret of eLearning. Because then, at least in my ideal world, we’d always get the chance to try before we buy and make vendors support before they abort.

 

Yet in my experience, for whatever reason, the content licensing agreements typically get signed first. They’re signed by well-meaning people who just need to solve a problem, and they don’t stop to think about any new problems that they might be causing for us doing the eLearning content distribution parts downstream. They think that buying “standards compliant” courseware means that it will work like we all want it to. Yeah, that’d be great…if it were ever true.

 

The truth is that there is a wide variety of eLearning content out there in the world, and regardless of how beautiful the content licensing contract may be, painfully few of those courses are optimized for things like reusability or accessibility.

 

The Solution

Good thing there are folks like JCA Solutions and others who can help us with such things. You don’t have to become an expert on all this stuff when you can hire one. They may work quickly, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the work is easy. Yes, we all agree it should be easy — and maybe someday it will be — but we’re not there yet. And with xAPI courseware coming soon to a training system near you, I’d bet it’s about to get even more confusing before it gets simpler.

 

I mention JCA Solutions specifically because of brilliant little tools of theirs like the Simple SCORM LMS Adapter (SSLA) or Simple SCORM Packager (SSP). These can typically make short work of hairy content licensing problem where what you bought just doesn’t seem to work with your LMS, or it isn’t reporting the data that you need in the way that was promised.

 

You can also ask them specific questions about things like why your learners using the Chrome browser seem to be having trouble completing courses or using bookmarks in the last month or so. Hint: Google’s recent Chrome 80 update may have broken some SCORM courseware by capping the amount of data that can be passed back to the LMS, and ignoring everything that’s too big. There was a fair amount of panic about this right before it happened, and there’s been a lot of confusion ever since.

 

eLearning content distribution is always a moving target. It’s really good to have people smarter than us about such things to talk us down from the ledge every so often.

 

The Training Vault

And here’s a bright idea that might help extend the budget in lean times, the Training Vault can help us host the content we made and master our own content licensing infrastructure. We may finally be able to actually turn our L&D Department profit center after all! That would be a good thing to do right about now, indeed.

 

Or here’s another maybe more realistic thought, what if we want to take courses we already have and extend them to other partner or vendor or customer LMSs, but we don’t want to give up hosting them right there where we have them for legal/security/updatability reasons? I haven’t tried this yet, but apparently it is now possible to host a stub file on the distant LMS that points back to the content on our internal LMS and make everything work together nicely. I’ve seen the data model and it involves proxy SCORM and JCA’s S4XDM bridge and strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff that’s fascinating and slightly more than I’m probably going to take the time to understand fully.

 

I’m just grateful that others in our field do understand it so well, and that they are willing to help people like you and me solve the business problems that we face.

 

And if you do want to go the extra mile and increase your expertise, there are whitepapers and books and entire trainings on both SCORM and xAPI that I’m sure nice folks at JCA Solutions would be happy to tell you all about. So are you ready to get your eLearning geek on? Or just call one in when you need one? Either way, I highly recommend checking out what handy help they can provide.

 

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