May 30, 2008

Free tool to create learning in Microsoft-style: LCDS

Microsoft develops a lot of e-learning on its own products, and you can find samples on the Microsoft E-learning site. They all follow the same template and style, and are in my humble opinions excellent pieces of learning content for the intended type of subject and audience.

And now for the good part: the internal tool they use to develop these courses is now freely available on the Microsoft site. It is called the Learning Content Development System or LCDS, installs easily and has a simple form-based editor. It shows the course structure, a list of templates you can use, and the properties like text, animations and images that go on that template screen. There is a preview button, and the output is SCORM content. Voila. What do you want more?

There is an online help, but not much more documentation or tutorials then that. So I would recommend you first go to the Microsoft E-learning site. There are always one or two courses available for free that should give you a good feel of what the type of screens is you can make with this tool. (All the animation comes from flash you need to develop outside of the tool.)

I played around with the tool and I'm impressed with its ease. Here are my observations and tips:

- The tool is very strict in what it allows: it comes with its list of templates, and the resulting course will have the Microsoft defined look and navigation in it. If you don't like that, search for another tool that gives you other templates or full flexibility. If you are fine with the approach, you'll love the tool.

- Tip for Vista users: by default the tool installs in the c:\Program Files\Microsoft\Learning folder. It also stores all courses here (and you cannot configure that). As that part of the hard disk is not writeable for non-administrators on Vista, it will cause a lot of problems and security popups. My suggestion: after you install LCDS, move or copy the folder somewhere under 'My Documents', and start up the author.exe file from there.

- Tip for media: the images, animations, video you want to include all need to be in the media folder underneath the course folder. The form will only let you pick media that you have manually copied there first. So open up the media folder with the button on the toolbar, and drag/drop all media in there first, before using them in the course pages. This is a little something that could have been solved more nicely, but once you know it works out just fine.

May 27, 2008

Open source evaluation software: exams

There is an open source exam or evaluation software available, called EXAMS. It is made by the university of Liege if I'm not mistaken (in Belgium that is), and has the necessary components for test takers, makers and administrators.

It is a php application that runs on an MySQL database, and the online demo looked very nice. It didn't open in Internet Explorer (kept saying something irrelevant about cookies), but worked fine in Firefox.

A list of serious games

There is a lot of talk about games that do not just intend to entertain, but also serve one or more learning objectives. There is an excellent site that lists those type of games:

As with all kind of experience-based learning, it takes some time to cover one learning objective, but I do think this (at this point more expensive) kind of learning will pass the hype and remain in the ever enlarging blend of learning formats. And hey, you can't get further away from ye old pageturner learning than this :-)

George Siemens interview

Good interview with George Siemens on the link below.

I clipped this:

1- A conceptual shift in how we view learning. Learning is increasingly seen as comprising social, contextual and situated perspectives. The social dimension of learning is certainly not new, as it has been advocated by Vygotsky, Bandura and others for almost a century. Within education today, however, these concepts are not merely receiving theoretical acknowledgement, but are now actively implemented at classroom and system-wide levels.
2- A technological shift in how we interact with information and each other. The development of technology has reduced access barriers, enabling individuals from around the world to access information and each other with far greater ease than possible even five or ten years ago.

May 26, 2008

Sample course on

In this post, I would like to mention a third party example of 'amazing e-learning.' Point your browser to '', and on the home page, click on the 'How to build effective online courses' organge box. This will open a small sample course on how to create a course. The first page is a bit of advertising.

What makes this course special?
- I find the course look and feel and interaction just average, so that is not what makes it special. This is your typical pageturner+ kind of course.

- But I like the content: it has some nice sections on instructional design such as the often used Bloom taxonomy and definitions for constructivism and behaviorism and other popular instructional design theories. It also has a nice video based example of scenario based learning. I think everyone in the e-learning production chain benefits from a high level understanding of these principles. (Take the test: aks an instructional designer what social constructivism is, if they can't answer you can have their job :-) ).

- And above all, this is a sample course created on a new kind of platform: a completely online authoring tool with templates for the most common types of screens, customisable layout, SCORM export, etc. It is called and they have an interesting business model. The use of the authoring environment is free. They just charge 1$ per screen per month if you want to host the course with them. If you export if for your own LMS, it doesn't cost a thing. Obviously, this tool does not have all features that something as rich and complex as IBM Content Producer or Lectora have. But mark my words: these tools will become the 'powerpoint' of e-learning, taking down the barrier to create simple pageturner courses that enlightened SMEs can use for themselves.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating...
So I took the test myself and gave me one hour to make a little course with the tool. I will let you judge for yourself, but here is a preview link to the course 'Hello E-learning World':

Actually, it took me more like 1h30 hours because on two occastions, the tool frooze and I had to log in again (but without loosing any work). So in 1h30 I made 17 screens with some audio/pics etc. And no, this is not 'amazing e-learning' :-) It is just an example of what can be done by simple, dumb, thirteen in a dozen SMEs in a very near (or now?) future...

May 25, 2008

YouTube for teachers? Sure: TeacherTube

You know it exists, you just don't know where it is on het internet: a youtube-like site for educational material. I'm sure it's not the only one, but I stumbled upon

One example is a funny video on how not to use powerpoint. (seen it before, probably on big brother youtube)

Top 100 learning tools

From the website : 'Between January and March 2008 155 learning professionals shared their Top 10 favourite tools for learning (either for their own personal learning or for creating learning for others). We used these lists to compile the Top 100 Tools for Learning Spring 2008. '

The list actually has only a few tools or links to sites that are education-specific. Most are your typical links like Google Docs,, Wink, NVU, etc. Does this mean the area of specialized learning tools is over and we just pick whatever we need from the mainstream toolset?

The link to the free PDF: