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TraineeTracker White Paper
SofTrain Inc.
White Paper

by Barbara Stein

SofTrain Inc.
7162 N. Via Lucia Marie
Glendale, AZ 85301
Phone: 623.934.0191
e-mail: sales@softrain.com
Web site
: http://www.softrain.com

TraineeTracker

A Learning Management System (LMS) Solution
for Web-Based Training (WBT)

Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Internet and World Wide Web as a conduit for e-Learning
3. LMS: A universal requirement for WBT delivery
4. TraineeTracker: an effective, low-cost LMS solution
5. How TraineeTracker compares to other LMS products
6. Summary

Abstract

Distributing effective learning solutions in a world facing a delirious rate of change has become a challenge, especially in highly specialized professions, where the central core of knowledge changes continuously. The Internet and World Wide Web (WWW) facilitate access to critical, data rich knowledge by professionals and students all over the world. Increasing demand for this kind of learning poses new challenges for training organizations that must prepare to serve this potential audience. A critical element in successful deployment of Web-based training (WBT) is the engine that manages and drives e-Learning deliverables - the learning management system (LMS). This paper introduces basic WBT concepts and describes an LMS offering from SofTrain Inc. - TraineeTracker.

1. Introduction

"In times of change, the learner will inherit the earth while the learned are beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists." -Eric Hoffer

"There is a way to do it better...find it." -Thomas Edison

Glossary of terms

E-Learning - Any formal learning material delivered electronically. Whether an online course or a tutorial distributed on CD-ROM, e-Learning teaches students what they need to know when and where it is most convenient. Users need a desktop computer and/or Internet appliance and, for Web-based training, access to the Internet.

LMS - Learning management system. A software application that uses a computer to organize courseware and track student records and progress. WBT is often combined with LMS. CMI (Computer Managed Instruction) is another name for LMS.

WBT - Web-based training. Training delivered over the Internet using the World Wide Web (WWW). (Also referred to as e-Learning and IBT - Internet-based training.)

Overview

"Just as investors have been richly rewarded for their investments in B2B solutions providers...we believe we are at the beginning of an enormous implementation of B2B e-Learning content, infrastructure and services that has big potential for investors." - Thomas Weisel Partners

The demand for online learning is growing as market pressures drive the need for more effective learning solutions. The increasing popularity of Web-based training (WBT) presents significant new revenue opportunities for education and training companies, who must address this demand to stay competitive.

The market for Internet-based education commerce is growing rapidly. According to International Data Corporation in Framingham, Massachusetts, the U.S. market will grow from $600 million in 2000 to $5 billion in 2002.

An effective Web enabled learning management system (LMS) is critical to the successful delivery of training over the Internet. TraineeTracker, a new LMS software application from SofTrain Inc., delivers a feature-rich, cost-effective solution for managing WBT.

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2. The Internet and World Wide Web as a conduit for e-Learning

The explosive growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) is transforming teaching and learning at all levels of education, both corporate and K-12. The electronic learning (e-Learning) environment is significantly different from traditional training delivery. Training and education organizations that understand the issues surrounding e-Learning and implement effective solutions will achieve the greatest success in the 21st century.

The Web and Web browsers, like Internet Explorer and Netscape, have made the Internet a more user-friendly environment. The ability to integrate graphics, animation, text, and sound into a single tool means that novice users do not have to struggle with a steep learning curve. The Web also provides a mechanism for adding value to existing courseware, including pre- and post-assessments, personalized learning plans, online registration, and competency and performance modeling.

e-Learning highlights

  • Learning in the Internet age - real-time, 24/7, anywhere, anytime.
  • Learner-centered - personalized to the individual and customized to the organization.
  • Network-assisted - often assembling learning experiences real time, "on the fly."
  • A mix of learning methods - including virtual classroom, simulation, collaboration, community and more.
  • The whole learning experience - from assessment through testing and, optionally, certification.
  • Online administration - learning management systems (LMS) handle administrative tasks like security, registration, payment, and monitoring learner progress.

Figure 1 - e-Learning Environment

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3. LMS: A universal requirement for WBT delivery

There is a universal requirement for all companies that implement WBT: an online system to house, organize, and manage it. No matter what authoring tool or platform is used, there must be a tool to perform key functions, such as course administration and student tracking. These applications are known as learning management systems (LMS).

What is an LMS?

An LMS is the umbrella over all of a company's authoring tools and courses. It is the organizer that performs critical administrative tasks: managing, delivering, and tracking a company's training over the external Internet or internal Intranet. The LMS is a strategic e-Learning tool that must work seamlessly with the courses and the databases that hold the training records.

Traditional LMS pricing: sticker shock

Traditional LMS systems run from $11 to $50 per user, per year plus approximately the same amount for setup and installation (source: Online Learning Magazine, September, 2000). For example, a company with 1,000 employees can expect to pay $11,000 for installation and another $11,000 for user fees.

Effective training for all

The typically large investment necessary for effective training and development has been a limiting factor for small- to medium-size organizations. Traditionally, small businesses have been unable to afford more than a single trainer or occasional off-site workshop or conference. They were priced out of most broad-based training solutions essential to long-term success. The advent of Web-based training and low-cost LMS tools, such as TraineeTracker, changes the landscape of learning, offering reasonably priced training strategies most smaller groups can now afford.

4. TraineeTracker: an effective, low-cost LMS solution

SofTrain Inc., a Phoenix-based Internet consulting company (www.softrain.com), has created an efficient, cost-effective e-Learning LMS software tool. TraineeTracker (www.TraineeTracker.com) provides an Internet-based solution for housing and managing customers' training material and content delivery. It facilitates online distributed learning activities across a variety of platforms and provides key functions, such as locating and accessing courses, tracking learner progress, and reporting learner performance - all for a fraction of the cost of competing products. TraineeTracker can be used by any organization to manage their electronic training deliverables in an asynchronous, Web-based environment (corporate training and K-12).

TraineeTracker Features

  • Login for registered users.
  • Routing tool that manages course availability and selection for registered users.
  • Add/Edit/Delete Users page (for the TraineeTracker Administrator).
  • Administrator can add/edit special accounts for groups of lessons and students.
  • Managers can view/modify Manager and Student records (not Administrator records).
  • Survey results in a database can be accessed and viewed by an Administrator.
  • Search Lessons feature (from Reference button).
  • Personalized Web pages - Call variables from within the database to customize Web pages.
  • Logout and security - Logout button resets variables; book marked pages within a course force the user to Login again.
  • Quiz scores are posted to the database, which Administrators/Managers can view.
  • Administrator Reporting Function - Includes ability to view student data using a password-protected area with a Web browser. All data is stored in the database. Reports include Student History. Developers have control over history reports pages.
  • Interactive conferencing system available for students/instructors communication.
  • Can run from SofTrain servers, customer servers, and ISP (Internet Service Providers) servers that support ColdFusion and Access/SQL.
  • Functions, as well as look and feel, are fully customizable.
  • Runs on multiple platforms, including:
    • Windows NT/2000/XP with ColdFusion and MS Access or SQL Server
    • Linux with ColdFusion and MySQL
  • Technical support -- Purchase price includes telephone and/or e-mail support for four months. For customers that use SofTrain, Inc. after the initial four months ends, we provide support and hosting for $150 per month.

TraineeTracker Benefits

  • Low cost
    • Purchase price (unlimited users) includes installation support.
  • A variety of hosting options
    • Hosting by SofTrain Inc. is available (SofTrain acts as the ISP, hosting courseware on their servers and performing all maintenance.)
    • Can be hosted by any ISP that supports ColdFusion and Microsoft Access or SQL Server running under Windows 2000/XP or running under LInux using MySQL (maintained by ISP and/or SofTrain).
  • Not tied to a single platform vendor
    • Developed using standard tools that run on a variety of platforms.
  • Works with popular WBT content authoring software
  • Fully customizable
    • Can be modified/enhanced by customers or value added resellers (VARs).
  • Supports unlimited growth TraineeTracker can be run in a clustered environment, with several servers acting as one virtual machine. This provides 24/7 uptime and "load balance" across machines (requests for server access is balanced across all machines). This robust architecture means that customers preserve the value of their content investment as their needs and number of active learners increase.

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5. How TraineeTracker compares to other LMS products

  • TraineeTracker contains key LMS functionality for a fraction of the price of competing products.
  • Unlike other LMS products that have been "retrofitted" for use on the Internet, TraineeTracker has been designed "from the ground up" for Internet/Web use. The development language used - ColdFusion - is a standard scripting language designed strictly for use on the Internet. ColdFusion development time is approximately one-third of the time required using other tools.
  • TraineeTracker includes source code, so it is completely customizable - from design to functionality. There are no modification restrictions. (Most competing products do not include source code in the purchase price.).
  • TraineeTracker runs on multiple database platforms: Linux, UNIX, Windows NT, SQL Server, Oracle, and MySQL. (Other LMS tools that incorporate Active Server Pages run primarily on Windows NT/2000/XP.)

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6. Summary

Education as we know it is changing before our very eyes. The Internet offers tremendous potential as a ubiquitous training delivery mechanism. In the new millennium, the power of technology and the Internet will drive an enormous implementation of e-Learning content, infrastructure, and services.

E-Learning is one of the fastest growing and most promising markets in the education industry, as emerging platforms offer effective solutions for WBT with price tags that allow even small businesses to compete in the global marketplace.

TraineeTracker, from SofTrain Inc., is a robust, scalable e-Learning management system that contains key LMS functionality for one half or less the price of competing products.

References

Burke, Bob. "How Small Business can benefit from e-Learning," e-Learning, October, 2000.

Kiser, Kim. "House Call - Words of advice for building your WBT dream house," Online Learning Magazine, September, 2000.

Wagner, Ellen D., Ph.D. "Emerging Technology Trends in e-Learning," LiNE Zine, Fall, 2000.

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