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Creating a Blended Learning program in EZ LCMS

“Blended Learning” is a somewhat formal term for creating a learning experience that comes from more than one source. Frequently, learning environments and systems will try to create a learning experience that consists of one single “training type”, like a single online course or live training session. As you can probably guess, this is not always the most effective solution. Though there are many industry buzz-words like “Hybrid Learning” and “Mixed-Mode Instruction” that go hand-in-hand with “Blended Learning”, they all boil down to the same “blended learning” principal which is that people can’t always learn everything about a subject from a single source.

Actually, almost all true learning experiences are “Blended Learning” experiences. For example, if you want to learn how to use a sophisticated new software program, you will most likely turn to a number of sources. You may start with a seminar or live class on the basics of using the software. Then when you return home, you may watch a few videos on YouTube and search a couple of online forums for “tips and tricks”. Very rarely does a person learn everything they need to know about a subject from one single source.

Though this may seem like a fairly intuitive and easy-to-understand concept, many Learning Management Systems and platforms struggle to enable their users to learn in this way. Many Training Systems were built for a single purpose, the delivery of online training courses. These short-sighted, restrictive systems only facilitate the delivery of online training content, and expect that to be enough to provide a thorough training experience.

EZ LCMS on the other hand, was built with Blended Training at its core. Every “Course” in your catalog can be constructed with online training modules, live training sessions, links to online resources, videos, and more. When building a “Course” in EZ LCMS, you are encouraged to build a robust experience for your Learners that provides them with resources and learning experiences beyond the simple “Online Lesson”.

For example, instead of building a course on the “Basics of MS Excel” that looks like this:

The Basics of MS Excel:

  • Lesson 1
  • Lesson 2
  • Lesson 3
  • Lesson 4
  • Quiz

It might be wise to build a “Basics of MS Excel” course that looks like this:

The Basics of MS Excel:

  • A Video introduction to MS Excel (5 minute video)
  • Getting to know the MS Excel User Interface (Live class every Thursday at 7:00 PM)
  • MS Excel User Interface Quick reference sheet (PDF)
  • Formatting a spreadsheet in MS Excel (Online Lesson)
  • Formatting “Quick Quiz”
  • Performing calculations in MS Excel (Online Lesson)
  • Calculations “Quick Quiz”
  • The “MS Excel User’s group” basic tips and tricks (online forum)
  • “Taking MS Excel to the next level” YouTube video by John Doe.
  • “The Basics of MS Excel” Conclusion and summary (5 minute video)
  • MS Excel training survey

In most cases, building a blended learning experience for you students that works in harmony with the way students normally learn, is the most effective way to provide training. And using the EZ LCMS Learning Management System, creating a blended learning program is very easy. Give it a try for yourself with the EZ LCMS 15 Day Free Trial and see how easy blended learning can be.

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EZ LCMS Celebrates 10 years of success

Ten years ago, a number of training technology experts broke off from their careers at Large Computer Software engineering firms to create EZ LCMS.  At the time, the only Learning Management Systems available were VERY expensive, very difficult to implement and quite unreliable. Large, bloated training software organizations were offering large bloated training platforms that required hundreds of thousands of dollars to license, lots of hardware to install, and thousands of man hours to maintain. Companies were forced to hire network engineers and software developers just to keep their Learning Management Platform up and running on a daily basis.

At the time, we saw a number of forward thinking small business owners and training managers going to Large Software firms looking to bring the efficiencies of a Learning Management System into their own company, only to be turned away because their budget did not have enough comas and zeros in it. It was at that point that the idea for EZ LCMS was born. Why wasn’t there an online Learning Management Platform that was affordable, easy to use and easy to maintain?

After a year of research, development and programming, the first version of EZ LCMS was implemented and offered to the public. EZ LCMS offered a robust, easy to use, standards-based Learning Management Platform to businesses of any size, with just about any training budget, with no maintenance costs whatsoever, and was an immediate success. EZ LCMS was so successful that a number of other companies began to try and replicate the success that EZ LCMS had providing Learning Management Solutions to smaller businesses with smaller budgets. Even the Large, bloated training software organizations have recently begun to try and offer small-business level Learning Management Platforms at affordable prices, but they have done so simply by stripping our features and functionality from their already-overcomplicated platforms.

Over the Years EZ LCMS has worked with a large variety of customers from numerous industries. Our customers have included companies of all different sizes, from local and state government agencies in a number of countries, fast food chains, schools and other public organizations to small businesses and single Subject Matter Experts selling their expertise and certifications in the form of online training products.

EZ LCMS has evolved with the times and has managed to stay on the cutting edge of training and learning technologies while still maintaining the core principals of affordability and ease of use. Some of the past enhancements to EZ LCMS have included a completely mobile-friendly and responsive interface design, video delivery (with video bookmarking), an Integration API, an improved (and still FREE) PowerPoint Plug-In, and up-to-date standards integration like the recently released Tin Can (xAPI) integration.

As we reflect on the our past success delivering an affordable, easy to use Learning Management Solution to companies of all shaped and sizes, we renew our pledge to implement many new cutting edge training technology features into the core of EZ LCMS without losing the elegant simplicity and affordability that have made EZ LCMS so successful.

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, for the remainder of 2015 we are offering a FREE iPad to EVERY customer who signs up for EZ LCMS before the year ends and choose the annual payment option. To learn more about this 10th anniversary celebration, click here. And to learn more about EZ LCMS and try it yourself free for 15 days, click here.

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Avoid Beginner Mistakes in eLearning – Part 1: Visual Consistency and the Style Guide.

Part 1 in a series of tips and tricks to avoid making the same mistakes we all make when getting started in eLearning.

You are probably familiar with the statement from the Doctor’s Hippocratic Oath “First, do no harm”. This credo more than aptly applies to the visual styles you use in your eLearning content. Before you can create eLearning content that is exciting, engaging and entertaining, you have to first make sure you are not doing things visually in your course that are distracting, annoying and aggravating.

Here are a few items to keep in mind to ensure that your visual style is appealing, professional and above all, does not take away from the learning experience. This document assumes you are building a more traditional “Page-based” E-Learning course using an application like PowerPoint, Articulate or Adobe Captivate. Read more

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A simple trick to create a great WIIFM (What’s in it for me) statement for your training.

As human beings, almost all decisions we make have an underlying thought process. That thought process is “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM). It’s what drives us to make big decisions like career choices, and small decisions like what to eat. By nature, we seek to find value in just about everything we do.

Advertisers understand this more than just about anyone. Just about every advertisement today includes some sort of method of communicating to the potential customer, “What’s in it for you”. This same simple concept can and should be employed in your training efforts.

Most e-learning courses give some sort of introduction very early on. Frequently, this is a simple ‘In this course you will learn …”. This type of statement is somewhat standard, and “informs” the student, but generally does not “motivate” them. We all know that students learn better when they are engaged and motivated, yet frequently when it comes to building online training, we spend lots of time breaking down tasks and objectives, and neglect motivation and engagement.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find a way to motivate students to take a course, particularly when the subject matter is dry or process driven, but it can be done. One simple trick to help you generate a good WIIFM for your course is to do what the advertisers do. Just imagine you are in a situation where you need to SELL the course to the student. What would you say about your course that may motivate your student to buy it?

Let’s look at a course on a fairly dry subject, Ladder Safety.

The standard, dry introduction to a ladder safety course would probably be “In this course you will learn about ladder safety”, or maybe only slightly better, “In this course you will learn how to use a ladder safely.”

But let’s do what the advertisers do and imagine we were selling our ladder safety course. If you were writing an advertisement to sell a ladder safety course, you might write something like this: “40% of FATAL FALLS in the united states last year involved improper use of a ladder. Don’t be one of those statistics! Buy this course now to ensure that you are using a ladder in the safest way possible.”

Now let’s translate our “advertisement” into a simple introduction to our course that includes a great WIIFM. The result might be something like: “40% of FATAL FALLS in the united states last year involved improper use of a ladder. Everyone knows how to use a ladder, but not everyone knows how to use a ladder SAFELY. After completing this course you will know how to SAFELY and PROPERLY use a ladder, and ensure you do not become a ladder accident statistic.”

In this WIIFM, we have taken a somewhat boring topic, Ladder Safety, and given them motivation to take the course and pay attention.

Here are a couple of additional examples where using the “advertising” thought process can help create a great WIIFM:

Subject: Public Speaking

Standard intro: “In this course you will learn how to give a speech.”

Engaging WIIFM: “90% of the top wage earners in this country have one thing in common. They are great public speakers. Effective public speaking is a tool in the toolbox of the most successful people in America. This course will make you a better public speaker.”

Subject: Writing effective emails

Standard Intro: “This course will teach you to write better emails”

Engaging WIIFM: “A well written email can motivate people to do just about anything. An email can convince someone to buy your product, help your cause, or give you a promotion. This course will give you the skills you need to write powerful, influential emails that accomplish your goals.”

Using this simple “advertising-minded” technique to create a great WIIFM for your training will make your courses more effective and engaging, and as a result, your students will be more motivated and better trained.

Why not put this technique to use in an online course in the EZ LCMS Learning Management System? Try it free for 15 days.

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Animation in the EZ LCMS PowerPoint Plug-In

We are pleased to announce that EZ LCMS has just released the latest version of the Free EZ LCMS PowerPoint Plug-In, which now supports PowerPoint Animation! Using the built-in PowerPoint animation features you can create timed, animated pages that add interest to your course, and emphasis to your critical points.

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You can use standard animation methods like “Fade”, “Fly in”, “Float” and “Wipe” to reveal your text at just the right moment, timed to your audio narration. You can have your graphics fade in and out to illustrate a certain point. You can keep the interest of your students by revealing items on the page at just the right moment. The possibilities are endless. Give it a try for yourself at THIS LINK.

 

Five Simple Tips to turn Bad Training into Good Training

At EZ LCMS we have had a lot of experience working with training developers, as well as subject matter experts who are filling the role of training developer. We have seen many good courses, and many bad courses. We have helped folks who are new to the e-learning world build excellent training content, and we have helped experienced training professionals hone their skills in the online training field. As a result of that experience, we have put together the following list of 5 simple things that anyone, professional or amateur, can implement to build better training products.

1)      “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them” – It is generally good form in an online course or lesson to have some sort of introduction up front that says something like “In this course you will learn … “. Likewise, it is usually a great idea to also have a summary at the end that reinforces the major ideas that you want the student to remember from the lesson. So “Tell them what you are going to tell them” in the introduction, “Tell them” in the body of the lesson, and then “Tell them what you told them” in the summary at the end.

2)      “Keep it short and sweet” – You may not be able to control how long your course is overall, but you should be sure to deliver it to your students in digestible chunks. There is an old training adage that says “The mind can only absorb what the butt can endure”. This means that if you are asking the student to sit still for extended periods of time, with no logical break points and no sense of accomplishment until the very end, you are most likely not being as effective as you could be. The simple method to keeping your training short and sweet is to break it down into modules. Generally, a module should be no more than 45 minutes, but we usually recommend even less if at all possible. This will allow your students to feel a sense of accomplishment and progress at numerous points throughout your course. And trust me, your students will thank you when they open your first lesson and see “page 1 of 23” instead of page “1 of 327”!

3)      “Don’t forget the WIIFM!” – WIIFM stands for “What’s In It For Me?” Be sure that you are clear at the beginning of the course, what it is that the student should be getting out of it. Why should I as a student dedicate my time to completion of this product that you have enrolled me in? Will I have a new skill that I did not have before? Will it make me better at my current job? Will I be qualified to do something I was not qualified for before? Will it make me rich and famous? Be sure and be clear early on in your course, what it is the training will do for the student.

4)      “Don’t go crazy with Style” – Once of the most important features an online course interface should have is consistency. This means doing things that make your online course easy on the eyes, and easy to understand. You must remember that the CONTENT of you course is what you want the student to remember, not the style. Generally you should do things like:

  1. Have the page title in the same location, in the same font, size and color of every page.
  2. Use a consistent, clear font throughout the course.
  3. Keep images and media consistently sized and located throughout the course.
  4. Provide simple, unobtrusive and intuitive navigation.

Many times people will argue that “Consistency can be Boring” and things need to be done to “spruce up” the course and keep in engaging and interesting, and we totally agree. BUT, the interesting things you do in your course should be done in a way to reinforce and extend the CONTENT of the course, not just its interface. It is a great idea to cycle your page content through a small number of template designs like “image on the right”, “image on the left”, “Image below the text” to keep the student’s eye moving around in your content. Just make sure that you do not make so many design “disruptions” in your course that your student is being challenged or frustrated by the interface.

We once had a wonderful customer (you know who you are) who came up with the idea to use a different font and font-color on each page of their course to “keep it interesting”. It was like trying to watch a movie in the back seat of a car on a road filled with speed bumps. Every page had a new font and color, and some fonts were so “fancy” that they were nearly unreadable. The ideas being relayed in the course and its content were completely lost (but it was a memorable experience, I must admit). The bottom line is, a good e-learning course interface is one that knows how to “get out of the way” of the content that is being taught.

5)      “Build Quizzes and Tests that evaluate your students, and your training” – often when our customers are developing courses with quizzes and tests we see them asking “should my quiz be more difficult” or “should my quiz be easier”. They will say “Everyone misses question 6, so I need to change question 6”. Some will create questions that try to “trick” their students, thinking that it makes for a challenging exam, and some will make questions that are so easy that even a person who never took the course could pass. What many folks tend to overlook when building a quiz or test, is that the primary function of a quiz or test is to evaluate whether or not a student has learned what you tried to teach them in the course.

When you built your course, you should have had a clear set of objectives that wanted to teach to the student. So when you build a quiz or a test, it should be a clear set of questions that evaluate whether or not the student understood and retained the key points that you were teaching. You should not really be thinking in terms of “Easy” and “Hard” as a way you set up your tests. If you properly trained on your key objectives in your course, and properly structured your test questions to evaluation the understanding and retention of those key objectives, then every student should find every quiz and test to be easy, as a by-product of your excellent training material, and not the way you built your test.

And that completes our simple list of ways you improve your online training. There are of-course many other things you can do to enhance your online course content, but what you see in this simple list are features that just about every great online course has. Whether you are new to the field of e-learning, or a seasoned professional, we hope you will find this list helpful and informative, and we hope you will give EZ LCMS a try at www.ezlcms.com.

Training for the Affordable Care Act

Thousands of organizations around the country are currently preparing for the changes that the new Affordable Care Act will require them to make. As with any organizational change, this means you need to inform and train your employees. You need to let them know how the new policy will affect them, and what changes your company is making and why. You need to train your employees on any new policies and/or procedures that your company will be implementing based on the new Affordable Care Act. Thankfully, EZ LCMS can make the training part very easy!

All over the country, Human Resources and other personnel are breaking down exactly what the Affordable Care Act means to their specific organization ,and preparing to distribute that information to all of their employees. EZ LCMS can provide a simple, systematic way to deliver this new information to your entire organization.

It can be as easy as creating a PowerPoint presentation with the vital information your employees need to know, and then converting and uploading that training presentation into EZ LCMS for delivery. EZ LCMS can automate the email communication, enrollment processing, and deliver up-to-the-minute tracking information about who has received the information and who has not. If you would like, you can even create quizzes and tests that will give you as the administrator a view into just how well your content was understood.

EZ LCMS is a very affordable, full featured Learning Management System that makes creating, delivering and tracking training extremely easy. Over the next year or so, there will be lots of Affordable Car Act training taking place. Why not let EZ LCMS make it easy for you. Give EZ LCMS a try free for 15 days at http://www.ezlcms.com/index.php/free-trial/.

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Build courses and tests within EZ LCMS

[lead]EZ LCMS has just released a completely new system for building online course and test content online, within the Learning Management System itself.[/lead]

This new system allows you to create pages of content using text, images, audio and video, and deliver that content to any platform, including iPad and iPhone. It is now possible to create animated, fully mobile compatible e-learning content without the need for any third party applications or plug-ins.

This system uses HTML5 and javascript to produce rich-media content without need to install anything on your computer. You project is fully maintained in the cloud, and can be accessed from anywhere for development and delivery. Multiple developers may collaborate online within the system to produce one or more courses and tests that are engaging, educational and mobile compatible.

The development capabilities built into EZ LCMS also allow you to create quiz and test questions that are scored, and tracked all the way down to the way in which a particular student answers a specific question.

Theses development capabilities are just the latest innovation from the EZ LCMS Learning Management System.

Is PowerPoint a valid e-learning development tool?

We all know that PowerPoint is a major force in Instructor Led Training, but is PowerPoint a viable online elearning tool? We say absolutely!

If you think about it, there are really a lot of reasons to use PowerPoint:

  • Its very easy to use
  • Most people already know how to use it, and if you don’t, there are countless hours of free instructions available online.
  • Most organizations already have training content in PowerPoint that has been used for years and is user-tested and refined already.
  • PowerPoint is an established force. Its not going anywhere, and its no “new kid on the block”

Read more