Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Having trouble publishing your course to your LMS?

Many beginners, especially the not so technical ones, seem to struggle initially in publishing the course material successfully onto an LMS. All that hard work of collecting those PowerPoints, documents, videos and test materials in order to create the perfect course for your customers washed away in an instant when the LMS fails to read your course or the quiz not reporting as you had wanted it to. You probably knew beforehand that you had to publish the course from your course development tool as a SCORM output but you did not see an option anywhere and you were too quick to publish the course.

There begins the saga of endless email communications with the support staff. It will settle down ultimately and you will learn the process eventually but the question us: Was that all necessary? That is the question we are  trying to address here. After all publishing your course to any LMS that supports SCORM/AICC (or any similar standards) should not be that difficult?

Here are four simple steps that you might bear in mind before you build a course for an LMS. The tool
does not matter here as long as it meets the above mentioned standards.

1. Publish to an LMS and not as MP4 or FLVs

The publish settings in the course creation tool will most certainly have an option to publish to an LMS and so identifying those screens or switches in the tool is the key. The quick publish options in some tools might take you through a different route. Avoid those and make sure you publish to an LMS. A zip file might be the most suitable output format for an LMS.

2. Is there a quiz that needs reporting?

If your package includes a quiz whose results need to be reported and stored in the LMS then check for the quiz settings in the same page (where you publish to LMS). The quiz settings are something that most non-technical users routinely seem to miss. There will be options to report the score as score itself or as percentage to the LMS. Also there will be options to send the users responses, the Passed/Failed or Complete/Incomplete status etc. Make sure you know which options are supported by the LMS.

Tip: Status as Passed/Failed and score as percentage should work in most cases. And multiple quizzes
might not report to an LMS.

3. Make sure that the course does not have too many fancy features.

This might sound weird. "Why did I purchase the tool for if I can't use it to fullest extent?" True but we say this from experience. Creating a fancy course is one thing. Making sure that it works as intended is quite another story. Most course developers who use too many fancy features almost always end up with some problem or the other at some stage or the other. By fancy features, we mean those multiple clickable objects in pages, those multi-level pages and those drag and drop items embedded into quizzes and similar features. They may make the course look better but most likely will negatively impact end-user experience depending on their environment (PC, browser, mobile, flash version etc.) So keep it simple is the best advice.

4. The ultimate success lies in end-user being able to successfully view/take the course.

As a course creator the end-user becomes your responsibility and you will have to ensure that he/she
has a painless user-experience while taking the course. Unfortunately the eternal browser compatibility issues are a cause of concern. Though there is very little that you can do about this, it still emphasizes the idea of keeping it simple. The simpler the content the likelier it is going to play seamlessly across all the browsers for all users.

There was a recent issue that involved a popular course development tool. Course developers who were using certain fancy features found that courses that worked previously suddenly stopped working. After a lot of painful investigation it was narrowed down to a problem that occurs when the end user is using particular version of a browser with a recent version of flash! So despite your honest intentions and following the right steps your end users might still have trouble with your course. So keep it simple!

Do think about these steps before you start building your first course for an LMS. Hopefully these tips will make things easier for you and could save you a little bit of time in the future.

Contributed by Anoop Mukundan (Product Specialist at Vitalect)