Outstart’s ForceTen: Tips on using the e-learning authoring tool

What is “Outstart’s ForceTen?”

Outstart is a company who bought out Eedo the company who originally owned ForceTen which is an LCMS (Learning Content Management System) authoring tool. Got it?

We have been using ForceTen for a little over a year now for a client, and have gone through some “ForceTen growing pains” and thought you out there might be interested in what we’ve learned and embraced during our ForceTen experience thus far.

First, let’s get it out in the open now, ForceTen is not Flash and the “force” is not at all involved. The truth is, ForceTen was not built with multimedia developers (those who are proficient in Flash, HTML, Lectora, etc.) in mind. ForceTen is built for the business content developer who needs to deliver lots of content quickly to a lot of people. It allows you to store documents, images, charts, or anything else you would want to put in a course, in one central searchable repository. The metadata functionality is a huge plus for developers who share content (why create things twice?) and for updating content – because content is always changing!

So, what are the challenges? How did we overcome them? Read on to learn about some of the challenges we faced and how we overcame them…

One challenge, regardless of the tool, is how to organize the information on the screen. For this course on facilitation skills, we wanted to explain the differences in facilitating a course in several different countries. At first, we thought a table would be the best way. But after laying everything out on screen, that was way toooooo much text. Instead, we decided to create a graphic that highlights the different countries; using the graphic, the learners can rollover one or more of the countries to learn some facilitating tips for that area. The lesson here = graphics still play a large part in what you develop and ForceTen allows you to store and reuse common graphics.

Another particularly large challenge for the same course was the use of multiple videos. One issue we faced was the file size: they had to be small enough to fit the 20 MB limit of ForceTen. The larger (and unexpected limitation) was the video player. We wanted the video to play on click, but the ForceTen player auto-starts when you reach a screen. The custom player we traditionally use couldn’t be uploaded into the course. Then, when it was finally in the course, it interacted and broke our navigation. Eventually, we gave up the custom player and went with a much simpler solution. A black screen counting down to the start of the video. Not a perfect solution, but it did give learners some time to read the onscreen text before the video began to play. The lesson here = we can still add video (and a lot of the other “flashy” stuff we currently use), but have to think of creative workarounds to get the same desired effect.

Using ForceTen as a development tool has certainly challenged our processes and how we develop courses, but it has allowed us to explore creative ways to present content and still get the same learner outcome. And really, I could say that about any new tool we try! Each tool in a developer’s tool box has its strengths and weaknesses, the key is to now how to play up the strengths, use the right combination of tools, and always keep the end goal in mind…the learner’s experience!

Who Is Using Moodle? We are!

I checked today and since April we’ve logged about 160 hours getting Moodle installed and configured as well as getting 3 courses created in it. We’ve also input a whopping 16 users (who I still haven’t figured out how to send a mass email to). In general, we’re having a ball learning Moodle and I am extremely excited about its power to enhance learning in an organization.

When I say “we,” I mean two people with some peaks over the shoulder from a third one. Thank goodness I have a “techie” person who did the installation and some initial configuration tasks. I’ve taken it from there and done tons of work setting up courses and continuing to configure the site. Moodle is definitely a learn by trying it kind of thing; it also simply takes TIME to do system admin and course creation tasks.  Yes, it’s “free” in that the code doesn’t cost you anything, but I don’t work for free and neither does my “techie” partner, Kelly. We get paid, and when we’re workin’ on Moodle we aren’t doing the other parts of our jobs.

I’m excited by the possibilites and I really, really want to know: who else in the corporate world is Moodling? If you are using Moodle:

  1. Why did you choose it as your LMS?
  2. What have been your greatest triumphs?
  3. What has been your greatest challenge that you want to share with others?

If you aren’t using it, share what you’ve heard about it!

I’ll be posting more on Moodle the rest of this month. In my next post, I’ll share what two other Moodlers have done with it – and why they chose it for their organizations.

Every multimedia developer's nightmare…the LCMS

It seems important to begin this post with a disclaimer…this is my “multimedia developer” opinion. You’ve been warned.

As a multimedia developer the thought of developing e-Learning with an LCMS development tool sends shivers up my spine (not the good kind, like when you learn a new way to make something animate in Flash…yes, I know I need to get out more).

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of LCMS development tools are great for rapid development, and are a great way to manage content and content objects with a single application. However, my experience is that if you want sophisticated or slick-looking/functioning e-Learning, you won’t want to use the development software of an LCMS. Although huge strides have been made in improvements of this software, it is still necessary to incorporate Flash elements to get that slick movement and learner interaction that only Flash offers.

As I step down from my “Flash soap box”, I acknowledge that as with every other e-Learning development tool purchase (whether it’s Flash, Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, etc.) you need to be sure that when deciding on an LCMS you are clear what the LCMS development tool can and cannot do. Your learners have a certain level of sophistication (different in every situation) and will expect a certain level of interaction, function, and look.

So, when researching an LCMS be sure that when evaluating all the great “LMS” capabilities you don’t forget the “C” in LCMS. You don’t want to get stuck with an LCMS development tool that is no better than PowerPoint circa 1993.