SCORM “student_name” format in Moodle not according to SCORM specs

I use a Moodle platform often for testing SCORM packages, especially because Moodle has a very extensive SCORM debugger.

At a certain point, I got into trouble because the student name (cmi.core.student_name) was in a “weird” format: where the SCORM specifications expect something in the format lastname,firstname, I suddenly got firstname middlename lastname. Because of the missing comma, our LMS no longer managed to distinguish the last name from the first name.

Turns out that there is a new option under Dashboard > Site administration > Plugins > Activity modules > SCORM package called SCORM standards mode. By default, it is set to No (why o why?) and that causes the format of the student_name to be different.

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iSpring Suite 9.7 review

More than 7 years ago, one of my customers asked me to organize an e-learning authoring workshop. The purpose was to empower the team leaders of people working on an assembly line to create short e-learning courses about very hands-on subjects. Their IT department recently had purchased iSpring licenses, so that was the tool to use for the development.
I was truly impressed that at the end of the day, “e-learning newbies” walked out of the class with a course that was ready for production.
So, after all those years, I was happy to get the opportunity to evaluate the latest version, iSpring Suite 9.7

Concept

iSpring Suite is not a stand-alone authoring tool: it uses Microsoft PowerPoint and adds tons of typical “e-learning” features to it. Simply calling it a “PowerPoint add-on” would not do it much right: it is a true “suite” because after installation you get several different applications. Some of them can be used independently, but the main activity will still happen in PowerPoint.

iSpring Suite applications

Some experienced e-learning developers might see the tight integration with PowerPoint as a disadvantage, because it limits the canvas, and you are tempted to create “slide based” content (sequential page turners), but on the other hand, it empowers people with less e-learning authoring experience to produce interactive content in no time.

In times where information is rapidly changing and content production needs to be “just in time”, the fact that any subject matter expert with good PowerPoint skills can easily produce course content is a huge advantage.

Installation

iSpring is only available for Windows (Windows 7 or higher, PowerPoint 2007 or higher), so unfortunately not on MacOS. Pricing is very reasonable and is a yearly fee per user.

“There is nothing I can’t do with PowerPoint”

The feature set of the latest versions of PowerPoint is so rich that it is maybe hard to imagine that there is something that PowerPoint can NOT do. Still iSpring manages to add several features that make the production of professional e-learning content much easier:

Content Library: an extensive library of backgrounds, cut-out characters, icons, templates complement the existing PowerPoint clip art

Content Library

Quiz: iSpring Quizmaker has a really impressive feature set with multiple question templates, question pooling, branching, flexible feedback and scoring options… It is good to know that you can also use it independently of PowerPoint and publish your quiz to SCORM or another learning standard. The output is fully responsive, so ideal for a quick mobile assessment or a survey.

iSpring Quizmaker question templates

Enhanced audio/video recording: you can already record narrations with PowerPoint, but iSpring brings it to the next level with a microphone setup wizard, noise reduction, webcam recording and an Audio-Video editor that makes post-processing of your narration much easier. iSpring Cam Pro records your screen and/or your webcam and can produce stand-alone recordings that can be published directly to YouTube.

Interactions: iSpring Visual lets you select one of the 14 different interactions. They are especially useful if you want to break the “page flipping” and engage your learner with a “do it yourself” activity.
If you would prefer using an external tool, you can use the “Web Object” to integrate a web site or an embed code easily in your presentation.

Interaction types

Dialogs: iSpring Talkmaster is a conversation simulation editor. It allows you to script a dialog with complex branching scenarios; it can be very useful in courses on communication, negotiation skills, sales pitches…

Output (publishing)

When your course is ready, you can publish it directly from PowerPoint in multiple outputs:

  • Local file (html5 or video)
  • iSpring Cloud or iSpring Learn (the iSpring LMS solution)
  • LMS (SCORM 1.2, 2004, AICC, xAPI or cmi5)
  • Youtube

Because the output is based on PowerPoint, the rendering on mobile devices is an attention point. PowerPoint slides simply scale to the size of the screen and are not truly responsive, unlike the “iSpring content” like quizzes and interactions, which are adapted on mobile.

In the SCORM output (which is still probably the most popular output), the completion and scoring options can be adapted, which is a real plus to get the correct tracking information in your LMS. You rarely find these options in other authoring tools.
When published, the course is embedded in a player (navigation, resources, course outline…) that can be customized with author information, a custom logo…

What else?

iSpring Flip deserves a special mention, as I have been looking for a long time for a tool that can easily create a SCORM package from a Word or Pdf document. My quest is over, this is exactly what it does: you open your Word, PDF or PowerPoint, publish as stand-alone HTML or as a (SCORM or others) package to your LMS.
When published to an LMS, it tracks the progress of the learner in the book. Unfortunately, it does not seem to track the time spent but hey, you can’t have it all.
iSpring Cloud is a small hosting solution that allows you to publish your course online if you don’t have an LMS (or just want to make your content public).

Conclusion

iSpring Suite 9.7 turns PowerPoint into a very powerful desktop authoring tool. It is the ideal toolset for trainers, subject matter experts, product specialists… to add the necessary interactivity to their already existing material and produce standards-compliant courses that can easily be published online or integrated into any LMS, without a steep learning curve.

More info

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My Top 10 learning tools for 2016

Jane Hart has a long tradition (10 years, congrats!) in gathering the world’s Top learning tools and I am happy to contribute again this year.

Some changes: there will now be a top 200, and a split on education, workplace learning, and personal and professional learning.

Here we go, in random order:

  • Twitter: the best way to generate your own “information streams” about various subjects. (personal & professional learning)
  • Microsoft OneNote: still the best note-taking application on the Windows platform. Unbeatable in combination with SharePoint or OneDrive, and a tablet pc with a digitizer pen (like the Surface). It is fully cross platform with a nice and stable client for OS X! (personal and professional learning)
  • Office Lens: a Microsoft mobile app (Windows, iOS, Android) that “scans” about everything with the camera of your phone. I especially like the way it “straightens” pictures of documents, whiteboards, flipcharts…
    Invaluable for capturing the notes of a meeting. (personal and professional learning)
  • Office Mix: the top tool to “convert your PowerPoint to e-learning” (even if that is not always a good idea), almost dropped out of my list because Microsoft suddenly removed the support for SCORM export. But I give it the benefit of the doubt for another year, there is still LTI compatibility. (workplace learning)
  • Pocket: with the “read later” button in your browser toolbar, you can save interesting articles for later, and read them afterwards. Love the fact that it is available on and syncing with my e-reader. (personal & professional learning)
  • WordPress: excellent blogging platform. Recent releases have been focussing on the usability for the writer, and it is setting the standards for usability. Administration is now a piece of cake, even for non-tech users, with e.g. the auto-update feature. (personal & professional learning)
  • Fever: this “self-hosted Google Reader” is still my main information hub, gathering hundreds of RSS feeds that would otherwise be impossible to follow. Fever is exceptionally easy to install and very stable. (personal & professional learning)
  • WebEx: a very reliable, easy to use and complete web conferencing tool.  An international company could not do without it. (workplace learning)
  • Microsoft Snip is a “garage project” that goes beyond the functionalities of the traditional “screen capture” tool. Love the fact that you can easily annotate your screen captures to document your findings, and the idea to let you record voice annotations is very useful for support purposes. And it is free. (workplace learning)
  • Office 365: the “swiss army knife” of productivity tools: enterprise-grade e-mail and calendar, SharePoint sites for collaborating or storing knowledge, and OneDrive that has 1TB of storage and that is a serious competitor for tools like Google Drive and DropBox.
    Some nice extensions became available, like Sway and Flow, but for me it is too early to mention them separately …(workplace learning)
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Top 100 learning tools for 2015 – my top 10

It is that time of the year again: Jane Hart is gathering votes for the Top 100 learning tools for 2015. This is a very interesting way of getting to know new learning tools and explore their possibilities. Just exploring the top 100 of last year is already a nice learning experience.

This is my top 10, in random order:

  • Twitter: the best way to generate your own “information streams” about various subjects.
  • Tweetdeck: invaluable for organizing my twitter stream. I like the fact that it is cross-platform.
  • Microsoft OneNote: the best note-taking application on the Windows platform. Unbeatable in combination with SharePoint or OneDrive, and a tablet pc with a digitizer pen (like the Surface). It is now fully cross platform with a nice and stable client for OS X!
  • Office Mix: my “new kid on the block” this year. Why would you invest in expensive and complicated authoring tools if you just want to “convert your PowerPoint to e-learning” (even if that is not always a good idea)? Although this is certainly not a full blown, finished product, I think Microsoft deserves to be in the list because they seem to take this very seriously (SCORM export, LTI compatibility…) Certainly a tool to watch closely in the coming year!
  • Instapaper: with the “read later” button in your browser toolbar, you can save interesting articles for later, and read them e.g. in the iPad app.
  • WordPress: excellent blogging platform. Recent releases have been focussing on the usability for the writer, and it is setting the standards for usability. Administration is now a piece of cake, even for non-tech users, with e.g. the auto-update feature.
  • Fever: this “self-hosted Google Reader” is still my main information hub, gathering hundreds of RSS feeds that would otherwise be impossible to follow. Fever is exceptionally easy to install and very stable, and has some nice clients like ReadKit.
  • WebEx: a very reliable, easy to use and complete web conferencing tool. An international company could not do without it.
  • Yammer: the enterprise social network in our company keeps us up to date of what is happening in the various locations and business units.
  • Office 365: the “swiss army knife” of productivity tools: enterprise-grade e-mail and calendar, SharePoint sites for collaborating or storing knowledge, and OneDrive that has 1TB of storage and that is a serious competitor for tools like Google Drive and DropBox.

You can still post your own top 10 and contribute to the list until September 18.

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What if Captivate 6 or 7 sends zero-scores to your LMS?

Recently, we ran into an issue with a piece of Captivate 6 content in our LMS. Although the content did not contain any quizzes, the content sent a score of 0 to the LMS, messing up the reporting.

We had a look at the reporting settings in Captivate, these were the settings used:

captivate quiz

If you use these settings, the content communicates the following to your LMS:

[2013-06-16 09:15:49] LMSSetValue(“cmi.core.score.raw”, “0”)
[2013-06-16 09:15:49] LMSSetValue(“cmi.core.score.max”, “0”)
[2013-06-16 09:15:49] LMSSetValue(“cmi.core.score.min”, “0”)

Strangely enough, the solution is very simple: under Data to Report, you change the option Quiz Score to Percentage. This stops sending cmi.core.score values to the LMS. You would expect that this setting has no importance because you specified that you do not want to track the Quiz, but it does make a difference.

quiz data

I have noticed exactly the same behaviour in Captivate 7.

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