Whichever format you choose for your content, you need a way to make this accessible to learners. As ever, there are plenty of options:
Use your intranet or internet web site: A relatively simple option is to make your content available directly on your web site. It’s probable that your organisation uses a content management system (CMS) of some sort (such as Microsoft SharePoint) as a platform for your website, in which case you can work directly within this. As well as inputting the HTML content, you’ll need to upload any additional files such as Flash movies, audio, video, PDFs and native documents and either embed these in the HTML or link to them for download. This may sound complex, but it won’t take long before you know your way around the CMS. An advantage of having your learning content on your website is that it will be easily searchable and linkable alongside all your other website content. Note that, while you will be able to track the number of users of your content, you will not normally be able to identify them by name, nor will you be able to record how they fared.
Use a learning management system (LMS): If you need to catalogue and make available large volumes of formal learning content and to track learner scores or progress, then you are going to require some form of LMS or virtual learning environment (VLE). These systems are compliant with e-learning standards such as SCORM, AICC or IMS, which provide important functionality such as the ability to track learner scores and progress, to describe content with metadata (descriptive labels) and to specify the sequence in which learning content should be presented. None of these features are going to work unless your authoring tool is also compliant with the standards, but you can expect this to be the case.
Use a content sharing site: Another way to make your content available is by using site specially designed to allow users to share content. This could be a public site, such as YouTube (for video) or SlideShare (for presentation), or a system offering similar functionality but sitting inside the firewall. Content sharing sites are designed to achieve much more than deliver top-down, formal learning content: they allow users to rate, tag (categorise), recommend and comment on the content they view; more importantly, these systems allow users to upload their own content. Clearly a content sharing site is much more informal and collaborative in nature than an LMS, but they can work happily side-by-side; indeed some LMSs now include content sharing modules.
Distribute through an app store: Smart phone and tablet users can access content on any of the platforms described above through their device’s own web browser. In many cases this will be adequate. However, content distributed this way is rarely formatted with the mobile user in mind and may be slow and cumbersome to access. For regularly used content, a much more elegant solution is to create applications which can be downloaded using the device’s app store and then accessed with a single touch. Given the technical differences between the various mobile devices, this may for now seem a rather complex way to distribute your content, but the process of app development will inevitably become much simpler as new tools become available. In the meantime, some forms of content can be made available for mobile devices without being formatted as apps. Podcasts and vodcasts can be made available through Apple’s iTunes software for use on iPods and other Apple devices. Reference manuals and books can be formatted for use on e-book readers such as the Kindle or Sony Reader, or for smart phones and tablets.
|Your internet or intranet web site||You want users to be able to easily search for and link to your content from within your website
You don’t want to have to set up a new platform for your content
|An LMS||You want to include your content within formal courses
You need to record learner progress and scores
|A content sharing site||You want your content to act as a catalyst for peer-to-peer user interaction
You want users to be able to upload their own content
|An app store||You want your content to be specifically tailored for mobile use
You want to provide the quickest possible access to your content
Coming in part 4: Establishing copyright
First published in Inside Learning Technologies, December 2011