Online learning tools are of great utility; they are widely used in learning practice. Market offers a variety of solutions that differ in their level of sophistication and functions offered. The purpose of this paper is to discuss three available solutions and model their utilization in learning process, namely FlexTaining, Rollbook, and Moodle. The FlexTraining Total e-Learning Solution by National Training Systems is effective software for e-learning management. Since online education is becoming increasingly more common and popular, e-learning management solutions have gradually started to gain greater relevance.
The software is utile and user-friendly, therefore it can be effectively used during the online learning phase. It provides for a possibility to incorporate various file formats, including Video, PowerPoint, Flash, and PDF; it can be used to crate a truly multimedia environment. The solution has won recognition from leading educational institutions, major multinational companies, and governmental agencies alike. The software is powering e-learning for Duke University, Stanford University, Microsoft, Phillips, U. S. Department of Labor, U. S.
Department of Air Force, and a host of other institutions and organizations. The tools offered by the FlexTraining Total e-Learning Solution include Visual Course Builder (allows creating classes), Assessment Tool (allows creating online tests), FlexAuthoring (allows developing course content), and Reporting and Analysis (allows tracking students’ performance). While most of the functions offered by the FlexTraining are available in other software solutions, its unique feature and most useful tool is, in my opinion, FlexAuthoring. It offers template-based authoring for creating lesson plans and course content.
It is an invaluable tool for inexperienced teachers who need guidance in structuring their material. Another powerful feature of the FlexTraining is pre- and post-assessment. It is useful as a monitoring tool that enables teachers to determine whether training needs have been fulfilled. It can further become the basis for teachers’ self-assessment and continuous improvement. Availability of interactive exercises is also a useful feature of the FlexTraining. It compensates for lack of face-to-face contact with a teacher; lack of such contact is often cited as one of the biggest disadvantages of distance education.
In addition, the software offers opportunities for self-paced training, thus being accommodating students’ preferences for instructor-led or individual learning. Searchable document libraries make navigation easier both for teachers and students. All these functions can be of enormous use during the online learning phase and are enabling for students in their work in online environment. Rollbook by Intellum is usually used for corporate training, yet it has a number of unique features that can be of great utility in classroom settings.
This software solution is rather simple as compared with other programs available on the market. Its unique features include a calendar (a personal schedule of events and authorized sessions), a branching group structure (a structure that allows forming smaller subgroups within large groups and customizing functions such as reports or mailing lists for these smaller groups), learning paths (a function that groups relevant courses into learning tracks) and design of course certificates. An alterative to the proprietary FlexTraining and Rollbook is the open source solution called Moodle.
It offers most of the functions FlexTraining and Rollbook have (such as chat, forum, polls, assignments, quizzes, etc. ), yet it has several advantages. The strength of all open source technologies, apart from the apparent cost cutting, is the ability of different software developers to continuously improve and update solutions. Moodle’s focus is on interaction between teacher and students and especially among students. For instance, similar courses can be grouped together as a meta course, allowing students fro different yet related course to interact with each other.
Moddle is also better suited to accommodate multimedia: students can upload multiple files in any format as one assignment (for instance, if a research project consists of a text file, several images, and a video, this function is very handy). All the aforementioned resources enable students to use the Internet in an ethical, legal, and educational way. All these software packages, by virtue of their functional orientation, are empowering tools, since e-learning makes education more available and affordable for all.
Their focus on continuous education is another significant advantage of online learning method. The FlexTraining software also allows teachers to check for plagiarism. All the documents uploaded to the system by students can be compared with Internet sources, sources from the Document Library, and previous works submitted by the same student or other students. This function gives teacher an opportunity to detect plagiarism immediately and take appropriate administrative action. Plagiarism is one of the most widespread and harmful examples of dishonest academic practices.
Although this phenomenon is condemned by all educational institutions, plagiarism still pervades many spheres of education. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to ensure that student’s academic essays and papers are original. A student who engages in plagiarism deprives him/herself of the opportunity to benefit fully from the education s/he is undertaking. Since every assignment is designed in order to help students to gain deeper knowledge of a certain subject, evading independent research and analysis hinders the continuity and integrity of the education process.
Copying the ideas of other people without proper acknowledgement is a practice that all teachers should try to eliminate completely. This is possible to do only with special software. Helping students to understand and avoid plagiarism is the key to introducing them to Internet use following the principles of ethical, legal, and educational approaches. As concerns Moodle, its open source philosophy is the software’s added value: together with better quality, it makes students reflect on the differences between proprietary and open source programs.
Such a critical reflection on the role of the Internet in challenging the fundamentals of capitalism and empowering creative commons might make students more aware of the problems of Internet governance and ethical use of this powerful tool for the benefits of all and not only privileged few. Rollbook and Moodle have a closer focus on individual and peer-to-peer learning, as opposed to the FlexTraining’s focus on instruction-led teaching and strict progress monitoring.
Thus, Rollbook and Moodle are better suited to educate students about Internet’s ability to offer innumerable opportunities for individual and collective learning. References Intellum, Inc. (2008). ‘Hosted Learning Management System. ’ Retrieved July 4, 2008, ffrom http://www. intellum. com/web2006/hosted_lms National Training Systems. (2008). ‘FlexTraining Total E-Learning Software Solution. ’ Retrieved July 3, 2008, from http://www. flextraining. com N/a. (N/d). ‘Moodle. ’ Retrieved July 3, 2008, from http://moodle. org