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Virtual Learning Platforms Thread, Selecting VLE for online education venture in Pakistan in Technical; ...
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    Selecting VLE for online education venture in Pakistan

    Greetings, I am a new member and am not a tech person. I would like some guidance on selecting a VLE for a venture I am setting up to provide quality online learning to students in Pakistan.

    The objective of the venture is to bring a significantly higher quality of education to students in developing countries. A major gap in education provision that many developing countries face is the poor quality of teaching. We are looking to fill this gap by providing technology enabled learning to improve the quality of education at an affordable price in developing countries. We will offer blended online-offline learning - where content is delivered off a technology platform into a physical classroom environment in which teacher-supported guided learning takes place. We will initially focus on core subjects: Maths, English, Sciences, and at primary level (year 1-6). Later we will grow the offering to other subjects and higher levels.

    I have been looking at a number of VLEs to find one that is best suited to my needs. My main criteria, in addition to the functional and technical capabilities listed below, are ease of use (should not require a lot of technical support); nice look and feel; affordable pricing; and no lock-in (if I decide to switch VLE later).

    I have explored Frog, Fronter, StudyWiz, and Moodle - and thought that StudyWiz would best suit my needs (although the UI was not as good as some others). But i have recently seen some new VLEs on the market at BETT (e.g. kite, My Learning UK, firefly). The demos I saw of at least two of these looked very good, so I am now reevaluating my earlier choice. I would be very grateful for comments and reactions to this, to help me to select. Thanks.

    The functional requirements for the VLE are listed below:

    1. Instructor
    • Create online courses using:
    o Open source web-based instructional content, including streaming videos (e.g. through links to websites, embedded content in VLE)
    o Proprietary instructional content (self authored and licensed)
    o Exercises (Q&A) – using self-authored and licensed content
    • Automatic grading of exercises
    o Automatic scoring (e.g. Measuring both accuracy of answers and speed to complete)
    o Provide students with "rewards" (e.g. Stars, publicity, etc.) for good performance – e.g. successful completion of different levels/exercises
    • Track student performance through Teacher Dashboard:
    o Track individual student performance over time
    o Track group performance (able to compare multiple students selected by teacher)
    o Create performance reports for students
    • Add administrative notices, e.g. student reports, changes to centre hours, etc.
    o For entire class, sub-group of students or individual student
    • Interact with students online
    o Asynchronous: threaded discussions at topic level, group level or individual student level
    o Synchronous: online chat and videoconferencing with individual students (not necessary in first release)
    2. Student
    • Access individual learning home page
    o View the entire course curriculum and student’s own specific position in the course (what has been completed successfully and what he needs to work on now)
    • Access courseware
    o Click to particular topic that he needs to work on
    • View instructional material
    • Complete online exercises
    • View score on exercises completed and suggested next steps
    • Receive rewards automatically if student completes exercise at specified level of accuracy and speed
    • Access choice of publicly available online games (pre-selected to each level of competency – e.g. mathletics) accessible through VLE
    o Interact asynchronously and synchronously (not in first version) with remote teacher
    • Private, so others cannot see communication
    • Public, accessible to others (asynchronous)
    • Access course forum where students can interact (teacher moderated) around specific topics
    o Interact asynchronously and synchronously (not in first version) with other students at similar level in course
    • Selected sub-group, e.g. by topic or level
    o Able to contribute to course related discussions via threaded discussion
    o Able to publish video content to course forum (e.g. explanation of concepts, worked out examples, etc.)
    • Access individual performance reports
    o See ongoing record of awards on students’ individual home page
    o See top performer awards on class web page
    3. Parent
    • View student performance reports
    o Showing student progression, skill level for each topic completed, rewards received
    o Printed and sent to parents periodically (e.g. quarterly)
    o Online access

    The technical requirements include:

    • Customisable User Interface
    o Simple, user friendly look and feel with required functionality (not too overloaded with functionality that is not necessary)
    • Application
    o Modular and extendable
    o Easily scalable (features and design)
    o Interoperability with multiple platforms (Windows, UNIX/LINUX)
    o SCORM compliant
    o Integration with multiple industry standard CMSs
    • Data
    o Ability to easily create content
    o Ability to easily extract data from VLE whenever required in standard format files
    • Hardware
    o High availability (99.9%+)
    o Managed servers
    o Option to have local and remote hosting (to reduce internet access problems)

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    plexer's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting such a detailed set of requirements I'm sure our members will be able to take them on board and give some advice and recommendations.

    Ben

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    glennda's Avatar
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    I'm a moodle user and pretty sure it does most of what you have mentioned above. Its open-source so need to shell out. It's pretty felixble and there are lots of modules available (both free and paid for) which then extend what the solution can do.

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    Thanks glennda. I've looked at user reviews of moodle, which suggest that (1) it is a very powerful tool, and (2) while free (open source), it requires quite an investment in customising to need. At this stage in the venture, I don't want to invest much time in customising moodle; instead, I prefer to go with a off-the-shelf solution that requires minimal work in setting up. That's why I'm looking at some of the other commercial VLEs. I'd be grateful for any thoughts on which of these would serve my needs best at an affordable price.

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    plexer's Avatar
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    As discussed yesterday the other option rather than a commercial closed source vle is to employ the services of a company to support and customise a moodle vle as per your requirements this way you have a lot of the functionality out of the box but have the support needed to implement your other requirements.

    One of the suggestions made to me by John was to speak to the guys at the cutter project.

    Ben

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    Looking at your requirements I feel it may be difficult to get all of this without a lot of development and up keep I have used and been involved in the setup 4 VLE's at different establishments (Learnwise,Uniservity, Frog and Moodle) all of which have their pro's and con's but all of which need development and upkeep to differing degrees and depending how much you wish to do with them. I feel you will find it very difficult to find a VLE solution that meets your criteria without developing the VLE and up keep.

    An alternative to this might be to find a solution that you think fits you best and get some organisation to host and develop this for you or to have the VLE as a central source as it were with other solutuions linked in.

    As regards the VLE's I have had experience with I found Frog and Moodle the best with FROG being excellent for developing resources with Moodle being free and being a bit more flexible but more work to setup but once setup not to bad to maintain.

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    mthomas08's Avatar
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    As Steven Cleaver has mentioned all that list is going to be difficult, as a Frog user which is considered to be one of the top VLE's out there it still has a lot of work to do to accomplish our big list of "wants". I have to say though it is getting there, we recently learnt from BETT that their Lesson Planner is being created (although they currently have a SET Work which you use for the Lesson Plan).

    If I was you I would contact Frog, i know they currently have a support structure for other countries which is something else you have to consider but I am not sure Pakistan is on their list. I do know they have a FrogAsia so you might want to give them a call.

    Frog though is relatively expensive because you are purchasing more of a platform than a simple VLE solution but due to that it can be individually grown to suit your needs and developed. You may get a different price though considering that Frog may want to get developing in more countries - they recently won a VLE production for Bermuda and Cayman Islands so they are wanting to expand. I am happy for them to expand because it means they release more on their updates

    If you do have questions about Frog, don't hesitate to PM me I will never be afraid to say that Frog does have its flaws but then again so does every VLE.

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    No matter what VLE you choose, you will need to spend time setting it up (There arent really any out of the box VLEs - they may be "ready to use" but they certainly arent in a form that you would actually throw at a class), and also maintaining.
    They can be very expensive, and there are lots of tales around about how expensive Moodle can work out to be - but you need to factor in a considerable amount of money and time for these two tasks.

    Go with Moodle, and employ an apprentice who can maintain it for you, it will be better in the long run and you can hire their services out to other organisations.

    By the way, your list was very comprehensive and actually a really useful checklist for any VLE manager - thank you!

    Phil

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    Quote Originally Posted by mthomas08 View Post
    As Steven Cleaver has mentioned all that list is going to be difficult, as a Frog user which is considered to be one of the top VLE's out there it still has a lot of work to do to accomplish our big list of "wants". I have to say though it is getting there, we recently learnt from BETT that their Lesson Planner is being created (although they currently have a SET Work which you use for the Lesson Plan).

    If I was you I would contact Frog, i know they currently have a support structure for other countries which is something else you have to consider but I am not sure Pakistan is on their list. I do know they have a FrogAsia so you might want to give them a call.

    Frog though is relatively expensive because you are purchasing more of a platform than a simple VLE solution but due to that it can be individually grown to suit your needs and developed. You may get a different price though considering that Frog may want to get developing in more countries - they recently won a VLE production for Bermuda and Cayman Islands so they are wanting to expand. I am happy for them to expand because it means they release more on their updates

    If you do have questions about Frog, don't hesitate to PM me I will never be afraid to say that Frog does have its flaws but then again so does every VLE.
    Thank you Mark - Frog UK currently supports Schools globally (Frog Malaysia has been set up to specifically look at supporting schools in Malaysia). Pakistan is supported from the UK

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    Hello Ameen
    As everybody said, it is a bit difficult to fill your all requirements with single product. I think better to start with something and keep adding according to your requirements. I am not using frog, but I have seen the demonstration it is good product.

    I would like to add, it is better for you to go local hosting solution instead of remote.

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    Thank you to everyone for their inputs. Much appreciated.

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