Action Research Cycle 4 – Technology Platform

Online Delivery: Platforms, Technology and Software

  • Traditional Learning Management Systems (Google, Adobe & Droople)
  • Cloud Based School and Course Systems (Skillshare, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity)
  • Open Source Platforms For Customization (Moodle and Sakai)
  • Licensed Software Platform – Sell Content (WeSpire, Tralliant and EnVision)

I have concluded that the least expensive model would ultimately be to engage experts to customize solution on open source platform like Moodle.  However the USGreen Building Council seems like the quickest way to get our content up and begin to get exposure.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 3.22.26 PMUSGBC Educational Library


SB must find the tools that best suit their specific needs – no one tool can do it all. In addition, it is not advisable to add to the current overweight site structure but think in a simpler, new direction.

It is important to understand the differences between things like Drupal, which is content management software, not an LMS.  Word press is also an online, open source website creation tool and it’s probably the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system in existence today. This has more to do with how prolific it is, rather than whether it is the best. So the library can exist on these systems but E-Learning is not native to these systems. We would need to use something like Docebo, which is a cloud platform for E-Learning, also known as a Learning Management System (LMS).

There are multiple factors when considering what to use and who to partner with including:

  1. Cost
  2. Scalability
  3. Easy data interfacing and CMS management
  4. Ability to link to Event purchase – to cross-sell at event sign up/purchase
  5. Ability to handle video at scale
  6. Mobile adaptation

7.1 Choices for Online Delivery: Platforms, Technology and Software

  1. Traditional Learning Management Systems (Google, Adobe & Drupal)
  2. MOOCs – Cloud Based Course Systems (Skillshare, Coursera, EDx, Udemy, Udacity)
  3. Open Source Platforms For Customization (Moodle and Sakai)
  4. Licensed Software Platform – Sell Content& Design(WeSpire, Traliant and Tripos)

One of the first exercises I engaged in for this research cycle was reaching out and seeing what some other associations are using their technology. Thompson Reuters used Docebo and paid $7 Million to build a platform for hosting courses and generating revenue. They have access to their own LMS at this point. Vistage wants their members to have access to information. They incent people to buy and keep their memberships.  They use Udemy to market the site and the courses and operate similar to an online university and simply give a large chunk of revenue to them. By providing their members with the online education they help them become experts. The Association of Corporate Council charges their 60,000 members for training. They have conferences and they sell them additional services from approved online training vendors for 28K per year. ThinkHR – HR hotline plus E-Learning platform based on Moodle. They sell it through insurance brokers and give their training away to their customers.

After reviewing much of the technology that exists in the marketplace, I have concluded that the least expensive model would be to engage experts to customize an E-Learning solution on open source platform like Moodle and I discuss this below.  However, this takes a great deal of time on the part of one of two staff people who would need to constantly and consistently provide inputs on customer requirements.

I spent a significant amount of time talking to Software Vendors who build E-Learning courses and platforms for the B2B (Business to Business) marketplace. They will typically run on any LMS that supports SCORM (learning platform standard) and sell licenses for numbers of users.  Large companies still want to use outsourced Learning Management Systems (LMS), so they don’t deal with internal Information Technology (IT) Departments. They have typically bought LMS systems or paid per major courseware transaction including a number of seats.

7.2 Open Source Learning Management Systems or Shareware

One of the software providers I talked to suggested that the better systems are custom designed where technical people may do the design on top of open source platforms like Moodle.  Moodle, Sakai and Blackboard are “Freemium” shareware products that have traditionally been geared towards academic institutions. Users have different needs and ways of viewing and interacting with these open source LMS systems. Due to this, it becomes vital to be able to easily configure the environment to needs, instead of adapting to the application. Although these systems say they allow users to customize their experience to one degree or another, the fact is that there are a lot of global settings and restrictions that ultimately limit the usability and accessibility when trying to personalize the system to meet specific needs.

What ends up happening in the end result is that we need developers and designers that end up tailoring the structure, format, and fields and then add features.  Many we find these open source systems in academic and or government environments where the costs can be kept down. In fact, we have been using Sakai at Pepperdine during this degree program.

Several private software providers I spoke to stated that they would be interested in supporting Sustainable Brands and that they are currently building a reminder engine, building graphical metrics and dashboards and back-end analytics for the buyers or management. Building quizzes and games into courses are pretty standard now, but still rather expensive.  The video is expensive and will typically take more than 30 to 60 days. Back end administrators are typically built into most shareware systems so that basic changes can be made. This really is the make versus buy scenario.

I performed extensive research many platforms and have included a table below, which highlights some of the features and or differences in traditional LMS systems. I have concluded that these systems are the most costly approach. Companies already have many of these in place and building our systems so that they are compatible is time-consuming and costly.

7.3 Traditional Learning Management Systems

Degreed   Degreed’s learning platform allows companies to capture and measure ALL the learning people do, both formal and informal. Visit Website BridgeBridge was created with one goal in mind: to make corporate learning easy for everyone.     Visit Website LearnUponLearnUpon is easy to use cloud-based LMS designed for organizations of all sizes.Visit Website
PROPEL eLearningScitent builds successful eLearning businesses that reach new learners and audiences and generate sustainable revenue. Let’s Dream Big.Visit Website Inquisiq R4Compact package that allows you to quickly load and deploy content to internal and external users with minimal administration effort.Visit Website GrovoWe empowers the digital workforce with a truly simple end-to-end training solution that delivers the best results in the shortest time. Visit Website
Litmos LMS Thousands of companies have switched from their old LMS to Litmos over the years. Visit Website eSSential Feature rich, configurable functionality for eLearning, ILT, e-commerce and certification management competencies with robust reporting Visit Website ExpertusONE Cloud LMSRanked #1 next-gen LMS for 2015-2016, ExpertusONE has a mobile app, gamification, integration & built-in virtual conferencing.
Table 6: Traditional Learning Management Systems

(Source:, 2015)

One of SB’s partners, WeFirst did a decent amount of research on LMS systems and came up with the following summary.

Table 7: LMS systems – Summary

(Source: )

7.4 MooCs

The next category of platform offerings I researched was MooCs. It is important that I insert a clear definition that I found of MooCs on the Cool College Helpers website. I had no idea what MooCs were when I began this research. Since then, I have discovered a wealth of information and free and paid courses in thousands of domain areas upon the most well-known sites such as Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, EDx, and Skillshare. The differences of these sites have more to do with how they emerged, the audiences they cater to, the variety of courses, schedules, budgets, etc. The business model is not ideal for SB as they charge a significant commission to put courses up on their sites – up to 50% and they offer no organization or white label scenario.

What are MooCs?

MooC is short for the massive open online course. In layman’s terms, it is a course of study made available over the Internet to a large number of people.

MooCs typically have specific start and end dates. Scholars watch video lectures online, complete the assignments, and receive it back graded immediately most of the time. With the rise of globalization and technology, the accessibility to higher education has increased dramatically.

MooCs are usually free, and the courses offered online are often from some of the most prestigious universities like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. Every year MooCs become more popular. There are more available courses and the quality of online education increases.

MooCs are characterized by massiveness, openness, and connectivity. They use strategies similar to social networking, connecting the masses with the benefits of learning.

MooCs are used by millions of people from all corners of our planet. These courses offer educational access to a large number of individuals who would otherwise not be able to participate because of geographic location, formal prerequisites, and financial hardship.

MooCs allow participants to pursue their interest and continue their professional development. One of the most amazing things about MooCs is they offer lifelong learning experiences and educational opportunities for underprivileged populations.

Table 8: Coursera

(Source: Coursera, 2016)

7.5 Technology Approach

One of the Software Companies I spoke with said that they had talked to 20 different Instructional Designers and asked them what you do differently. Software Companies typically settle on Designers that they are 70% comfortable with and contract with them. Larger companies have creative graphic designers, authoring tools and build storyboards in the house. A lot of the larger companies also have an LMS currently intact.  A high percentage of customers will have their own LMS and they may want to load our courses into their system.  Smaller companies want to go to the Cloud for everything.

One of the E-Learning experts, Jeremy Faludi, Faculty from Minneapolis College of Art & Design and Faludi Design suggested I consult with tried 5 or so platforms including Blackboard and Moodle. He said that they are all deficient in some way and you try to mold it to meet the needs. There are a lot of free-standing white label platforms. He suggested that we choose one that we all like and recognize that each one has its own limitations and figure out how to work around it. Whoever we end up working with in the end we need to ensure that they have a flexible content management system where we can post up reading, links, etc. We also want to make sure that it is media rich capable including gamification opportunities. Years ago, Jeremy Faludi used WordPress and Google docs and HTML that could tie things together. We agreed that the best approach is to try to invest in one of the off the shelf LMS systems then try to build something. Choose the best thing that is around and be aware that we might want to migrate later. Not worth the effort to build one. We agree, let’s buy versus build! And once again, I will suggest that we build on or collaborate with a partner who has already gone through the exercise like USGBC.   USGBC Educational Library

Figure 17: USGBC Educational Library

(Source:, 2016)