I was asked at the EduGeek stand to start a topic on the learning platforms.
I intended to go round all 10 BECTA approved stands plus any more but I am running out of time.
Anyway, so far I have been to a few.
UniServity - Seems a bit basic, looks like a web site designed in 1995. The sales rep gave me a tour and it is pretty similar to everything else on offer. He said there biggest difference was that they have the biggest user base. When I asked him about how the Microsoft Sharepoint Learning Kit compares he said it basically puts them out of business! So I don't think I'll bother with that one.
Learning Portal + - This one is basically a hosted Sharepoint system. It did look a lot more impressive and tied in nicely with Exchange E-Mail and calendars.
As I am walking around it seems very hard to differentiate between the portals. Either it is sharepoint based, nasty looking or a completely new UI to anything a user may be used too.
I think I will stop for now and only add to anything that seems unique or amazingly fantastic.
Fronter and FirstClass are both worth considering. Enthusiastic (almost evangelistic on the FirstClass stand) individuals on each of these stands spent a considerable time with myself and a group of interested parties and answered our questions both thoroughly and honestly (IMO). As appears to be the nature of these products, each had strengths in certain areas (e.g. FirstClass seems to be more focussed on communication and collaboration), and one of our questions - what is the history of your product, where has it come from, etc - elicited, perhaps, the reason for the differences that exist between the various offerings (I mean, everyone's got one haven't they - even, (weasel warning) apparently, Promethean). For example, Fronter was created as a reaction to weather conditions and related transport problems affecting the ability of students in all edu-strata (you heard it here first?) to attend school daily thus creating a need for distance learning solutions. FirstClass was built as a reaction to its developers need to communicate and collaborate with each other and their peers. Finding this out certainly is illuminating.
FirstClass is unusual in this (hmm momentary 2nd thoughts as I consider Kaleidos) area because it provides client software (with encouraging low specs - given the trend towards thin clients?) that runs on a variety of archs./OS including, they boasted, W95. In addition of course the system is also accessible through the browser.
Another question we asked was whether the system is hosted by the client or the vendor. Both have their merits, but its worth considering since a locally hosted system would likely require local support, which obviously means cost.
Er. We went to Capita to look at Learnwise. Learnwise is Granada Learning's offering but is delivered (?) by Capita. It might be developed by Capita since it obviously integrates with SIMS as reliably as a SIMS update. I don't know I'm afraid, because the rep we spoke to yesterday was such a bizarre individual that I found myself tuning into their behaviour rather than their words. The rep today was very thorough and really happy to answer questions. The thing is, sometimes, you just know.
FirstClass get a bonus point for having a freebee I have never seen before - a screen sweeper. A small thing, looks like an ice scraper for your car but with a brush where the scraper should be. Fabulous. I got a green one.