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Monday, November 30, 2020

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Using CBTs in an LMS: The Future of eLearning in the Maritime Industry

Posted to Maritime Training Issues with Murray Goldberg (by on December 16, 2013

This short series of articles is about the use of CBTs and other eLearning content, and how that use is related to learning management systems. But the implications go beyond the use of technology and provide a glimpse into the future of the “eLearning business” in the maritime industry.

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Using CBTs in a Learning Management System

(or)

“The Future of eLearning in the Maritime Industry - a Lesson From History”

Introduction

This short series of articles is about the use of CBTs and other eLearning content, and how that use is related to learning management systems. But the implications go beyond the use of technology and provide a glimpse into the future of the “eLearning business” in the maritime industry.

In this first article, I am going to recount a bit of history taken from other industries that came to eLearning earlier than the maritime industry. If you wish to skip this history, then feel free to skip this article and await the next installment. BUT (capitalized  and bolded to catch you before you stop reading), the purpose of this article is not simply a history lesson. It provides insight into this “thing” which is a growing eLearning movement in maritime training. It is information describing business aspects of the eLearning industry that have come to be the norm in other industries - and for good reason: they are good for training, the users of training, and the providers of training. So more than a history lesson, this article  provides some potential insight into the future of maritime eLearning that every user in this industry should understand.

The second article in this series will return to the “learning” aspects of the use of CBTs and LMSs in the maritime industry - answering the questions of “why would you want to use them together”, and “how would you do so”? If you would like to be notified when that article comes out, and have not already signed up for notifications, please feel free to do so here. But for now - some insight into the future of maritime eLearning.

Training Content (CBTs) and Training Delivery (LMSs)

Recently I have been getting quite a few questions about the use of CBTs (computer-based training programs) within an LMS (Learning Management System). Although I write almost exclusively about educational technologies in Maritime Training, I have always tried hard to avoid writing proprietary articles about my company. While I will still avoid doing so in this article, the reason for the article’s existence has come about because of a recently announced cooperative effort between my company (Marine Learning Systems) and one of the preeminent publishers of maritime training products, Seagull AS. This partnership has caused me to receive a significant number of queries on this topic - and thus I have decided to write about it here.

Keep in mind that this article, although it came about as a result of a partnership between two specific companies, can apply to any content provider and and LMS - as long as those two companies are willing to work together. And I would argue that there are very compelling reasons that benefit maritime training consumers when eLearning providers do agree to work together.

Evolution of the eLearning Movement

Let’s start by discussing how eLearning content and delivery has evolved in other industries - ones which widely deployed eLearning earlier than the maritime industry.

As you may know, my background is higher education. In the 1990s I was a computer science faculty member at a large university doing research on the effectiveness of web-based learning. My research caused me to create one of the first learning management systems in 1995/96. That system, WebCT, came to be used in 80 countries and served about 14 million students annually. WebCT was born at a time when the world did not really have a precedent for eLearning - it was a new tool. However, the world did have a precedent for content creation by way of the world’s large textbook publishers (and large they were - and very much still are). You know who they are - the Pearsons, McGraw Hills, Wileys and so on of the world.

Content and LMS As a Package

As eLearning became a “thing” in higher education, the established purveyors of content (the textbook publishers) started to build learning management systems to deliver their eLearning content to university students. This made sense - they needed to deliver their content so they all built some form of delivery mechanism (typically some simple form of LMS). Very quickly, each publisher of content had their own simple LMS platform. They were not sophisticated, but they did the job they were designed to do. This worked very well for many of their customers, but for some there were limitations:

  • First - it meant that choosing content locked the customer into an LMS - or that choosing an LMS locked that customer into some specific content. This was a problem in those cases where a customer may have liked a content offering, but where they liked the accompanying LMS less so - or vice versa.
  • Second, as use of content grew in higher education (universities were buying more and more digital learning content), they often found that they wished to add to their “learning library” content from more than one publisher. Because publishers at that time did not allow their content to be “played” in other learning management systems, the only way to do this was to support multiple LMSs on campus - which was a problem both for students and for IT departments.
  • And finally, some customers, even though they loved the content from their selected publisher, wished to supplement that content (or the associated assessments) with their own content. This was sometimes impossible, or at least problematic, when using the LMS created by one content publisher.

Content and LMS as Independent Choices

Some of the above applies in the maritime industry today - but things are starting to change. For an idea of how they may change, let’s look at what happened in higher education. What happened? Two main things:

  • The first thing that happened was the creation of what became the SCORM set of standards. SCORM is a set of technical standards which allowed (and still allows) content to easily be moved from one LMS to another. In fact, I acted as an advisor to the early efforts in this area - occasionally offering opinions and other input to a late friend and pioneer in sharable content, Mark Resmer, while he was at the IMS. We have SCORM now - and we can (and do) use it in the maritime industry. SCORM was the necessary step in removing the technical impediments to creating content that can be played in any (or at least almost any) LMS.
  • The second thing that happened was that content providers started allowing their content to be played in other LMSs - not necessarily in the LMSs of their publishing competitors, but in some variety of LMSs. Because content creators own their content, it is their prerogative to decide in which LMS it can be delivered. Allowing content to be played in other LMSs is now ubiquitous in other industries, and I suspect will become so before long in the maritime industry. This is starting to happen in the maritime industry now in the case of some forward-thinking content publishers (as made evident by our announcement with Seagull).

So now in higher education, and in most other industries where eLearning has taken hold (which is pretty much every industry, world-wide), the landscape has changed significantly from those early days. While content publishers still typically do provide some form of (usually) free LMS to their content customers, the tight binding between content and LMS has gone away.

Now customers can choose the content of the provider(s) that works best for them and separately choose the technology (LMS) that works best for them. If the LMS accompanying the content is sufficient then they may use it - usually for free. However, those customers who wish to choose a different LMS or use content from a mix of providers (including self-created content) are free to do so. In other words, they are free to choose the LMS that works best for them, and separately the content that works best for them.

Implications for the Maritime eLearning Industry

What this meant for my previous company as an LMS provider to higher education was that we focused only on the LMS - never on content. There were other experts who could create content much better than we could. And we felt that we had expertise in the creation of technology that not everyone else had. As such, WebCT was always “content-agnostic” - meaning we were happy to play content from any eLearning content publisher. At the time, I think this was a major contributor to our success. It also gave rise to thriving competition in the LMS sector - companies creating content-agnostic LMS platforms and competing on the basis of LMS features alone. This is healthy.

Keep in mind that most of the higher education content providers still have their own proprietary LMS platforms. However, they tend to be fairly simple and tend to be given away for free with the for-purchase content. So this has not been a radical shift for the content producers, but has simply provided choice to the “market”.

What this has meant for content providers in higher education is that they found new markets which were previously closed off to them. For example, if one university was primarily using Pearson content, it would be essentially impossible for a competitor like McGraw Hill to sell to that college because it would mean the college having to adopt a second LMS - typically a non-starter. However, with the rise of content-agnostic LMSs, the content provider with the best “title” on any particular topic could always find a ready buyer regardless of previous purchase decisions.

What has this meant for eLearning in higher education as a whole? In the end it has benefited all. It has provided choice of LMS platform and broadened choice of content. It has grown the market in terms of both size of the companies serving it, and in the range of solutions they offer. It has given an amazing boost to innovation in the industry - as competition always does. One thing that can be said for certain is that content providers and LMS providers are doing very well in higher education. There, established publishers of content are huge multi-billion dollar companies. And while the LMS providers are rarely multi-billion dollar companies, the top couple are, and there are a tremendous number of smaller ones. This creates a great deal of variety and choice in the market. I believe this to be a very healthy case of market competition. Content providers and LMS providers are competing within their respective niche, always innovating, and always providing better and more products. This creates stronger companies, and a far better array of selections (both for content and LMSs) for the users of these products.

Conclusion

Enough about business. The next article in this series is going to return the focus to learning. In it, we will discuss in which cases it makes sense to use CBTs or other maritime training content from one provider and an LMS from another. It will then go on to discuss how to do so to improve training outcomes.

If you would like to be notified when that article comes out, and have not already signed up for notifications, please feel free to do so here. Until then, keep safe and I wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy safe and together holiday season and entire 2014. Best wishes to all of you.

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About The Author:

Murray Goldberg is the founder and President of Marine Learning Systems (www.marinels.com), the creator of MarineLMS - the learning management system designed specifically for maritime industry training. Murray began research in eLearning in 1995 as a faculty member of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. He went on to create WebCT, the world’s first commercially successful LMS for higher education; serving 14 million students in 80 countries. Murray has won over a dozen University, National and International awards for teaching excellence and his pioneering contributions to the field of educational technology. Now, in Marine Learning Systems, Murray is hoping to play a part in advancing the art and science of learning in the maritime industry.

Maritime Training: The full library of maritime training articles can be found here.

Blog Notifications: For the latest maritime training articles, visit our company blog here. You can receive notifications of new articles on our company blog by following the blog.

Maritime Mentoring: International Maritime Mentoring Community - Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor