Category Archives: E-learning

Read more about designing a great E-learning course while using VdoCipher for secure video hosting.

Free LMS plugins for online course

The Definitive Guide to Free LMS Plugins for WordPress

Are you overwhelmed by the vast range of paid and free LMS plugins available on WordPress? You’ve just started with creating your online course, and do not quite know which LMS plugin – paid or free – to get started with.

Free LMS Plugins are Ideal to Create Your First Online Course

When you are a first time online course creator you are much more likely to want to test your content with a free LMS plugin. Whether it is to cut costs or to simply test the viability of your content in the form of a course, free LMS plugins offer a great opportunity to get started with selling your online course. Whatever the hype around the Senseis and LearnDashs of the world, oftentimes a simple free LMS plugin could do a good enough job of hosting your online course.

The LMS have either a paid pro version, or if not then paid integration to other wordpress plugins.  Because this post is about setting up your website through free tools, I will only be discussing the features that the free LMS and the free integrations offer.

LifterLMS (Paid Pro Version)

LifterLMS has a wizard to guide new users on using the LMS. If you are new to the WordPress ecosystem, a user wizard can be extremely helpful in helping you navigate the tools you’re going to be using. A user wizard signifies that the developers are careful enough about user experience.

Free LMS Plugin - LifterLMS

Beyond the welcome page the LMS wizard tells you about the custom pages that the LMS adds. These include a course catalog, a single archive page for all your courses, a membership catalog wherein all your memberships are listed, a checkout page for integration with a payment gateway, and a student dashboard for students to manage their profiles.

Once you get past the wizard, the LMS welcomes you with a ready-made course on building a Learning Management system with this free LMS plugin. I mean what is a better way to guide your users than through a course built on your LMS plugin. Obvious, right, but LifterLMS are the only ones who have had the ingenuity to come up with the obvious.
The free LMS plugin LifterLMS has a wizard to guide you through the course creation process.

Each Course is broken down into multiple sections, each of which in its place hosts lessons. Within the main page you can manage the entire course structure, manage students and enrollments, and define content access according to membership roles.

Lifter LMS offers everything you can reasonably expect from a free plugin. If you are short on time, LifterLMS is definitely the plugin to help you ease through the learning curve that operating an LMS requires.

Namaste! LMS

Where LifterLMS tops in usability and ease-of-use, Namaste! LMS comes out top in the features department. The interface of this free LMS plugin is pretty straightforward, and does not require much effort. The plugin button on the admin menu directs you to the course, lesson and assignments pages. There is a ‘To Do’ button for administrators to manage pending student enrollments, lesson completion and homework assignment solution approval.

Free LMS Plugin Namaste! LMS

Course Certificates can be created from the same drop down menu. The vast majority of customizations are enabled through the options page. This LMS creates multiple user roles, and lets you decide which student roles are allowed access to content. So for example you may wish to restrict access to content to only enrolled students, in which case this is the plugin for you. Likewise there are WordPress roles for who is allowed to administrate the LMS.

Namaste! LMS creates its own custom post type – the Namaste_Courses. It is however great to find that users can edit this. So if you’ve previously tried other LMS, you can carry on with this plugin quite conveniently by changing the course type to the course type used by the previous LMS used.

I was a little disappointed not to find the option to make quizzes. Namaste! LMS does however support the free Watu plugin, using which you can create quizzes. Both Namaste! LMS and Watu come with Pro versions – the Watu Pro plugin allows creating of question banks and randomizing quizzes. However, for most requirements the integration of the free Namaste! LMS and Watu plugins works out fine for course requirements.

All in all the Namaste! LMS plugin packs a great number of features. There is also a vast number of shortcodes to customize your course pages, all of which makes this one of the most feature-packed free LMS.

CoursePress by WPMUDev 

CoursePress by WPMU DEV offers a free LMS with free integration to eCommerce tool MarketPress. Using MarketPress you can package your course as a product and sell it on the MarketPress platform.

Free LMS Plugin CoursePress

CoursePress is a no-frills LMS plugin. With this free LMS plugin you have  options to create the course, add units and to manage users in one tab. Their seven step course creation process also allows you to manage course details, instructors, classes and enrollments, besides generating certificates on course completion. All these settings are accessible from one page, which does make the process of customizing the course seem convenient.

WordPress Admin Panel for free LMS plugin CoursePress

The User Interface that comes with CoursePress is comfortable, and gets the job done for most requirements. The MarketPress integration however feels a bit bloated – the pages for you to configure the sale prices, discounts seem feature rich, but seem glitchy when you try to implement it.

All in all, CoursePress comes out as a basic plugin to create your course. It provides a basic interface for creating your course. Although most functionality is bare-boned, it can be integrated with any WordPress themes to give a good look to your online course.

LearnPress by ThimPress

All LMS plugins create a new post type. For example CoursePress creates the “Course” post type. If most LMS use the “Course” post type for their courses, the same course can be edited using any of the supporting LMS. While this increases interoperability, this does have the possibility of muddying up content when the LMS plugins are not completely compatible. LearnPress does things right here, as the course category created here is “LP_Course”.

Free LMS plugin LearnPress

The LearnPress interface takes a little getting used to. Using this free LMS plugin you have the option to create courses, lessons and pages directly. It is better to create the course, lesson and quizzes separately, and to then assign quizzes to lessons and lessons to courses. You’ll have a much easier time that way. This is because although course creation, lesson creation and quiz creation happens on different pages, all of them are brought together in the main course page.

LearnPress does not support question banks – you can only use a question once in a quiz, and the quiz only once in a course.

Outside of the Course-Lesson-Quiz structure, LearnPress does not quite offer administrators and instructors much options to communicate with learners. Free integrations to BuddyPress and bbPress are available to enable the creation of a social network and forum around your course. For online course creators looking to sell the course for a one-time-payment, to try a Udemy style-model, LearnPress works out pretty much ok.

 

StudyPress

This is a barebones plugin, and it does not have a pro-version. It enables course, lesson and quiz creation. Quiz only allows for multi-choice or single-choice answers. StudyPress is a free LMS plugin that barely offers any features beyond the mandatory course pages necessary. The few customizations that this LMS offers are adding a ratings page at the end of the course and integration with buddypress.

Free LMS plugin StudyPress

E-Learning Video Production – Selecting a Camera

One of the first step to executing an E-Learning video production is to select a suitable camera. With the multitude of cameras available in the market and the diverse range of features they offer, it is very easy to get confused. In this blog I explore various features and functionalities that different kinds of cameras offer. In this analysis I discuss DSLRs, Camcorders, WebCams and Digital Cameras. Each of these cameras come at different prices, and whether they are right for you depends on what features and functionalities you are looking for. I’ll begin with a discussion of the technical concepts necessary to understand the specs that cameras offer. An understanding of these concepts will help you navigate much of the jargon that goes around regarding cameras for E-Learning Video Production.

Price of the camera often becomes the driving filter when selecting a camera for E-Learning video production. Along with the camera type I have added the price range to expect for the camera.

Camera Features

  1. Lens Quality
  2. Light Sensitivity of Image Sensor
  3. Aperture Size
  4. Camera Shutter Speed
  5. Size of Image Sensor
  6. Resolution
  7. Depth of Field
  8. Autofocus
  9. Monitor Screen
  10. Frames Per Second

Different Cameras

  1. DSLRS
  2. Camcorders
  3. WebCams
  4. Digital Cameras

10 features in a camera for E-Learning Video Production

Quality of image is determined by:

1. Lens Quality

There are three qualities of lenses to consider: Range of focal Length, Material (Glass/Plastic), and angle of capture and Optical Zoom.

Optical Zoom is defined, for cameras with variable focal lengths as the ratio of maximum focal length to the minimum focal length. Basically a high focal length corresponds to higher magnification and narrower angle of view, whereas low focal length is used by wide angle lenses at lower magnifications. Wide Angle Lens have a range between 35 to 24mm focal length, covering angular range of between 64 Degree to 84 Degree.

What kind of focal length to use for your E-Learning Video Production depends on the camera positioning. If your camera is placed at the opposite end of a big classroom you would need a large focal length lens – high optical zoom cameras would come in handy here. On the other hand if the camera is placed close to the teacher, then a wide-angle lens with low focal length is appropriate, to take in the entirety of the blackboard. High optical zoom gives you much more options about where to place the camera to get the desired look.

Wide angle lenses tend to magnify the distance between the foreground and the background. This is not very desirable for E-Learning Videos. For this reason it is recommended that you record your E-Learning videos at high optical zoom.

It is important to note that digital zoom is different from optical zoom, and in fact only causes blurring of the video in exchange for a narrower final image.

2. Light Sensitivity of Image Sensor

The light entering through the lens and the aperture is captured and processed by the image sensor. ISO is a measure of how sensitive the image sensor is to the incoming light. A high ISO number means high sensitivity, meaning that a low exposure time is required for shooting the picture. A high ISO is not always desirable, as it adds noise to the image.

ISO numbers range from 64 to 12800 (with multiples of 2 beginning from 100, as in 100, 200, 400…) A light sensor with ISO 400 has twice the light sensitivity of ISO 200. Along with the aperture size and camera shutter speed, light sensitivity determines that a photo is properly exposed.

3. Aperture Size

Light enters the sensor through the aperture. The greater the aperture size the more light is allowed. High ISO sensors can work with small aperture sizes as well. The f-number is a ratio of the focal length to the aperture size – the lower the f-number the higher the aperture size.

4. Camera Shutter Speed

The camera shutter speed determines the time of exposure of the image sensor. A greater shutter speed means less exposure of sensor to light. High ISO sensors can work with faster shutter speeds.

5. Size of Image Sensor

The size of the image sensor determines how much light is used to form an image. Full Frame Image Sensor size is 35mm, and is used in high-end DSLRs. A higher image sensor requires a high focal length lens, making the camera + lens setup bulky. Most DSLRs and high-end digital cameras use the APS sensor size, in which the size of the image sensor is around 24 X 18mm. APS is less than half the size of the 35mm image sensor, for which reason it is cheaper to manufacture, and considerably less bulky. Most smartphone cameras on the other hand have much smaller image sensors. Along with the Megapixel resolution, the image sensor size determines the quality of images.

Comparison of sensor size for cameras

6. Resolution

This Number of pixels that the image sensor captures. For point and shoot smartphone cameras the number of megapixels is marketed as the most important aspect of the camera required to produce a quality image. However, if the image sensor is small, then higher resolutions means that the image is very noisy.

7. Depth of field

This is the depth of the object that the camera can capture clearly. A shallow Depth of Field means that the subject is in high focus, and stands out from the background. High Depth of Field on the other hand means that a large area of the image is in focus, and for this reason it is great for landscape shooting. is directly proportional to the distance of camera from object. DOF is inversely proportional to size of aperture. DOF is inversely proportional to focal length. For E-Learning videos a shallow depth of field is desirable.

8. Autofocus 

This is the number of points on the viewfinder of the camera that the camera can focus on. The more the number of autofocus points the better is the ability of the camera to focus on a desired object to get an image.

Read more on Autofocus here: https://photographylife.com/dslr-autofocus-modes-explained

9. Monitor Screen

Although a secondary feature, a large monitor screen helps you get a better sense of the video being taken, allowing you to edit settings in real time to get the desired image.

10. Frames Per Second

FPS is the number of frames included in one second of video. Basically, the maths works as follows:

  • The greater the framerate the more continuous does the video feel, and therefore a better resolution is achieved
  • Greater framerate means greater video file size, causing demands on bandwidth
  • Framerate works ideally when the screen refresh rate is proportional to frame rate. US and Canada receive 60Hz power supply. For this reason 30FPS is naturally better for video streaming in these countries. In Europe, India and much of the rest of the world power frequency is 50Hz, for which reason 25fps is ideal in these countries.

Different FPS

  • 15fps – This was the frame rate used by early films
  • 24fps – This is the framerate used by the movie industry. This number was a compromise to strike a balance between minimizing cost of using film while retaining the continuity necessary for the video.
  • 25fps – European and Indian video – It is possible to convert 30fps video to 25fps video
  • 30fps – still some jerky motion, but mostly optimal
  • 60fps – very little jerkiness, but higher frames per second means greater video file size, requiring greater bandwidth

A frame rate in the range of 25-30 fps is optimal for E-Learning video productions, ensuring the quality of video and also not causing the file size to be too big.

Further reading – Video Frame Rates, Steve’s Digicam

Cameras for E-Learning Video Production

DSLRs – Price Range $400-500

DSLR for E-Learning Video Production

Digital Single-Reflex Cameras use a combination of mirrors and lenses to shoot high quality photos and videos. Along with the highest range of quality features, DSLR offers a great ability to control the image. To get the best results for your E-Learning video production from a DSLR, you really need know your camera so that you can control individual settings manually.

An important thing to note is that videos are shot on DSLRs in the RAW format. This makes them very big in size – for example you will need a 32GB card to just shoot 15 minutes of video.

Image sensor in a DSLR is bigger than in point and shoot cameras or camcorders – meaning that even if a camcorder and a DSLR have the same number of megapixels, there would still be a great deal of noise in the camcorder. This is because in smaller sensor the adjacent pixels can communicate, causing noise.

With DSLR you have much greater options to change the depth of field as per your wishes

For E-Learning videos a shallow depth of field is desirable, as the main focus is on the speaker and the blackboard/ whiteboard.

Among lenses, the 70-200mm lens is one of the most popular DSLR lenses. Wide angle lens (24-35mm) are on the other hand used for landscape photography. To cover entire width of the whiteboard from a short distance it may be more desirable.

Most Popular DSLRs

Nikon D5200 24.1MP Digital SLR Camera (Black) – $510

  • This camera boasts an ISO range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400
  • 18-55mm and 18-140mm lens are available with this DSLR
  • 24.1 MP optical sensor resolution

Canon EOS 700D 18MP Digital SLR Camera (Black) – $390

  • Optical Sensor Resolution – 18MP
  • CMOS Optical Sensor Technology
  • 9-point AutoFocus system

Camcorders – Price Range – $150-200

Camcorder is ideal for E-Learning video production

Camcorders are designed specifically for video shooting. Most camcorders support containers such as MPEG-4 and the codec H.264, meaning that you do not need to spend time and computing power encoding the video to a usable format. Sony uses the XAVC format, which supports the H.264 codec. Video editing is a very processor-intensive process, and shooting on a camcorder makes the video editing much more convenient. Some of the key qualities of a good camcorder are:

  • Zoom Lenses – for example optical zooms of 30X can be expected from good camcorders. Glass lens have much better quality than plastic lens.
  • Image stabilization – Because they are designed for video shooting, the processor and lens system can be designed to enhance image stabilization. Additionally face detection features can be incorporated in the software for the camera, enabling ability to better focus the camera. Optical Image Stabilization is better as lenses adjust to movements to steady the image, whereas Electronic Image Stabilization uses algorithms that may degrade picture quality.
  • CMOS Sensors – Most camcorders currently use the CMOS sensor. For example Canon uses EXMOR R sensor, which is about half the size of the APS-C used in DSLRs. The image sensors used by camcorders are much bigger than sensors in the camera phones.

A useful guide to all camcorder features can be found on Lifewire

Some of the most popular camcorders are:

Sony HD Video Recording HDRCX405 Handycam Camcorder

  • 30X Optical Zoom
  • 26.88mm wide angle lens
  • Uses Sony’s XAVC video format supporting H.264 codec
  • Maximum Bitrate: 50Mbps, Frame Rate: 60p
  • Image stabilization
  • Exmor CMOS sensor

Panasonic HC-VX981K Ultra HD Camcorder with Wi-Fi Twin Camera and 4K Photo Features (Black)

  • 20X Optical Zoom
  • Leica Decoma Lens
  • 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization
  • 4K Shooting

WebCams – $60-100

Webcam for E-Learning video production

Webcams are a cheap option, and besides being of use for your E-Learning video production, can also be used for conference calls. Some selling points of webcams include a high megapixel resolution, Auto Focus, glass lens, ability to control brightness exposure, and face tracking. 

Lifewire has a good guide on webcam features to look out for. 

Microsoft Q2F-00013 USB 2.0 LifeCam Webcam

  • 1080p HD sensor
  • Glass element lens
  • Auto focus
  • Wide angle lens

Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam (Black)

  • 1080p HD sensor
  • Glass element lens
  • H.264 video compression
  • Face tracking and motion detection using logitech software for windows

Digital Cameras – $80-100

Digital Camera for E-Learning Video Production

Digital cameras are, along with webcams, the cheapest option for your E-Learning video production. Good high-end digital cameras such as Nikon Coolpix have image sensors much bigger than those of lower end cameras, and are almost comparable to camcorders. In comparison to camcorders, digital cameras may have a smaller range of optical zoom, meaning that your options regarding camera placement for your E-Learning video production are quite limited. On the other hand the image quality, given an optimal camera placement, is comparable to camcorders. When working on a budget, a quality digital camera is a good idea given that you have an understanding of its limitations.

Recommended Cameras:

Sony DSCW800/B 20.1 MP Digital Camera (Black)

Nikon Coolpix S2800 20.1 MP Digital Camera

 

Secure Hosting for Flipped Classroom Videos

Secure Video Hosting for Flipped Classroom

The model of flipped learning has the potential to revolutionize classroom teaching. In this methodology learners are assigned videos to watch before a class. By delivering basic instructions through a flipped classroom video, students are much more informed about the subject before class begins. This makes for a much more engaging classroom discussion, ensuring that the passive learning in the traditional classroom is now replaced by a much more active model of learning.

In this blog post, I seek to explain factors you should consider when hosting Flipped Classroom videos. Designing flipped classroom videos is not straightforward. Prior to flipping you need to map out how you are going to be using your video resources, and how the videos would inform your classroom. You would also need to develop a system to ensure that teachers and parents are able to monitor how students follow the video lessons. Tracking how learners interact with the videos is important in making sure that learning from your flipped classroom videos is effective. A custom secure video hosting solution would enable you to tailor your videos and the technical platform for maximum learner engagement.

Free Resources to Use

There are a large number of free videos that teachers can recommend to students for viewing in Flipped Learning. Some of the most popular resources are KhanAcademy.org and MIT OpenCourseWare. There are a large number of channels on YouTube offering quality videos for education.

Creating Your Own Flipped Classroom Videos – Security

You may wish to create your content for students to watch as part of flipped classroom videos. These videos may be of previous classes, or they may be specially made for the flipped classroom. There are many reasons to consider video security seriously when hosting your flipped classroom video content

    • Information security – When making flipped classroom videos, you need to protect details of learners participating in courses, or special details that you may mention in the course. For videos classes made for a specific audience the information security concern is very much relevant
    • Protection of Intellectual Property
    • Controlling access – You may wish to control access to only the students enrolled in a particular class.
    • Protecting Privacy – You can get students to make videos as part of Project-Based Learning. This encourages an entrepreneurial spirit, as such a project would require them to work collectively and collaboratively through the different stages of video creation. It is necessary to protect the privacy of students making the video.

Stages of security in Secure video hosting

Different parts of secure video hosting for flipped classroom video

Different parts of secure video hosting unpacked

  • Video Storage in Cloud – If the file is not encrypted, anybody with a publicly shareable URL to the file on the cloud can download without requiring authorized access.
  • Encrypted Transmission – Ensuring that while streaming the videos cannot be downloaded and viewed by unauthorized entities, such as during man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Authentication & Whitelisting – The authentication process involves a key being exchanged between the streaming server and the video player (on the viewer’s computer). This key is used by the video player to decrypt the encrypted stream. Private key transfer is necessary to ensure that only learners logged into your system can access the content. Backend Authentication is one implementation of private key transfer
  • Watermarking – The final stage of video delivery is video playback on the video player. Any analog screen recorder can record this stream, and there is no effective way for a DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology to stop this. Viewer Specific Watermarking is a strong deterrent to screen recording videos, as viewers would be deterred from sharing content that has their IP address or contact details on it.

There are numerous paid solutions in the market currently offering security for education providers. When evaluating DRMs for hosting your videos you should consider the above factors, and how the features offered by Online Video Platforms (OVPs) succeed in providing a complete solution. For example RTMP streaming is used by many companies for securing content, RTMP does not involve local storage of video data, and can be encrypted. However the process of backend authentication iUse Learner Analytics in Flipped Classroom Videos not completely secure, as toolkits such as RTMPDump can be used to give access to third-party applications. Here is a guide to implement variety of secure video hosting technologies for your site/app.

Learner Analytics

Research done by T.Lucke et al is inconclusive about how effective flipped classroom method is in contributing to better performance. Flipped classroom videos need to be assisted by developing learner analytics, to better understand the effectiveness of the technique and what further steps may be taken for more effective and engaging learning.

Interactive Video – In-video quiz and surveys

You can add video quizzes to learn how students engage with video. Results from student performance in the quizzes will be a good indication of how effective the videos are in communicating concepts to learners. Participating in quizzes in the flipped classroom video also contributes to knowledge retention. Students who have an understanding of a concept before class would engage more in the classroom, making for active classroom learning. Besides, teachers can incorporate surveys in the video, for feedback from students and also feedback from school administrators. Interactivity features can be implemented by adding an HTML5 pages within the video – most OVP (Online Video Platform) s can offer this functionality.

Use In-video Quiz for effective learning using Flipped Classroom Video

Use In-video Quiz for effective learning using Flipped Classroom Video

Tracking Offline Learning Using Tin Can API

In Project-Based Learning students engage in activities outside the classroom. It is important to be able to track student learning outside of classroom. The emerging paradigm of Tin Can API links up a learning record store (LRS), in which students are able to record their activity. The syntax in which an activity is represented is:

Person A Did Activity

Noun – Person A (Name of student)

Verb – Did (or any verb, such as watched in case of video, or read for lecture)

Activity – Details of video, or text

Analytics on students watching videos can be measured by integrating video player with Tin Can API.

Support for Secure Hosting for Your Flipped Classroom Videos

For custom video hosting solutions, support services are very important in ensuring smooth transition to using video hosting and in integrating with current IT systems. It is important to evaluate the support services that your OVP offers.

Louis Deslauriers et al published findings from 850 Physics Undergrads at University of British Columbia, in which learners in the traditional classroom technology had an average score of 41%, whereas learners in the flipped classroom program had an average score of 74%. Videos are becoming increasingly important in aiding classroom teaching, and it is very important that you get your flipped classroom videos right!

How to Build an E-Learning Website – 5-Point evaluation


Create your e-learning website, and use VdoCipher for secure video hosting

In this blogpost I discuss how you can build an E-learning website. I make the recommendations on the basis of the following five parameters:

  1. Technical Skills required to create the website
  2. Features and Customization available
  3. Cost of solution for building website
  4. Time to build solution
  5. Expected Number of students and scaling with increasing numbers

The four methods that you can use to create your E-learning website are:

  1. Coding using PHP/ ASP/Jave/ Node.JS
  2. Content Management Systems – WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Moodle
  3. Website Builders – Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace
  4. E-Learning Website builders – Teachable, WebAnywhere

Create e-website website, and secure videos using VdoCipher

Here is a video explaining in full detail all the options. A text version of video is also included below.

Coding Using PHP/ ASP/ Node.JS

Technical Skills required

A website may be built from scratch using PHP, ASP and Node.Js. Naturally building these websites would either require an in-house website developer or should be outsourced to web designer. Which of the coding platforms – PHP, ASP or Node.JS you opt for would depend largely on the preferences and comfort levels of the developer in your team/ the web designer that you hire. PHP is one of the most popular scripting languages, while Node.JS is the newest website runtime environment which has seen massive adoption for websites. Alongside choosing the language, you would need to setup the server and database as well. For building a large website you can use a custom solution with a dedicated server on Amazon Web Services. For single-website usages (the more likely scenario) for E-learning websites, you can opt for shared web server hosting, using for example GoDaddy.

Features and Customization

Since your website is being built from the ground up, you have the widest possible options for customization for features that you wish to incorporate. For instance, as a security mechanism against sharing of login credentials, you may set an upper limit on overall time a student may be logged in to the system. Such a solution can be implemented while building the website code.

One thing that you should make clear is to ensure that the code is well documented. Good documentation ensures continuity between different developer teams.

Cost of Solution

Such a solution would require a dedicated development team to build. Support and maintenance are also additional issues that you would need to work on.

Time to Build Solution

Keep a time period of 2-3 months for such a website to build. To minimize site development time you should have developed a good understanding of the design and structure of your website, and communicated that to the developer. This would ensure minimal confusion in the website development process

Scale of website and Expected Number

1,000+ expected annual users – You would be able to incorporate features specifically on the basis of user requirements. It is important to make sure that appropriate security features are installed in the website framework.

Content Management Systems – WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Moodle

Technical Skills required

Such an option mainly requires familiarity with the CMS interface. These skills can be learnt quite easily by beginners. A number of our clients – independent artists and individual teachers – have easily setup their WordPress and Moodle websites for hosting their E-learning courses. There would be a one-time effort in setting up the server though.

Features and Customization

Moodle is an LMS, and is therefore designed as an E-learning platform. WordPress on the other hand is a Content Management System, to which you can add LMS functionality through WordPress plugins.

Cost of Solution

Costs of building websites on Content Management Systems include cost of plugins for adding functionalities. WordPress and Joomla offer plugins such as Sensei, Guru and eMember, which simplify the process of course-creation considerably. Many of the useful plugins available are paid, while a lot of them are free as well (generally free plugins offer specific solutions, while paid plugins bundle a whole lot of useful features together). Cost-wise this is the cheapest solution, as the CMS itself is free – the only costs are the plugins and the server hosting.

Sensei plugin for eLearning - use VdoCipher for secure video hosting

Time to Build Solution

Expect a time to launch between 15 to 30 days for a fully functional CMS hosted site.

Scale of website and Expected Number

Such a solution would work pretty good upto a number of 10,000 students. There is no lower limit to the number of students, as costs are low.

Website Builders – Weebly, Wix, SquareSpace

Technical Skills required

In this solution the website hosting company uses a basic website template that they use.

Features and Customization

Such a website would follow a basic template, and there are not many options to customize additional features.

Cost of Solution

The cost of building such a website include purchasing the website template and server hosting.

Time to Build Solution

Fast – You need very little time to deploy such a video hosting solution. Server setup and configuration of the website would take time between 7-10 days.

Scale of website and Expected Number

Implementing such a website is best for the case of fast-deployment of your e-learning platform. Because time of launch and costs are priority in this, such a solution would be appropriate for upto 100 users paying for the course. Beyond this number this solution fails to add the customizations you need to cater to the growing list of users.

E-Learning Website builders – Teachable, WebAnywhere

Technical Skills required

There is no coding required. Most features can be implemented using drag-and-drop

Features and Customisation

Teachable and WebAnywhere offer ready-to-use E-Learning themes, Student management options, Media and text addition, Membership Access, Server hosting and Database management.

The features that these sites offer are sufficient for most e-learning website creators. These sites however are not very customizable in terms of additional security features or tweaks in User Interface. UI additions such as adding comment sections to pages, and security restrictions such as restricting login time on page, are not available when you opt for this solution.

Cost of Solution

Costs are dependent on the features you integrate, and the number of students enrolled. Because the websites are designed specifically for e-learning such a solution is somewhat more expensive than the case of ready-to-make websites.

Time to Build Solution

7-10 days

Scale of website and Expected Number

Such a website solution would be appropriate for upto 1000 annual users. This is the approximate number of students you can manage without the need to alter your User Interface and backend. Beyond this number you should explore CMS hosting or creating your own website.

Suggestions

When you set about creating an e-learning website I recommend that you check other websites in similar areas. You can use the tool BuiltWith to analyze the tech stack on which any website is made. If you find that 8 out of 10 of your competitors use a particular tech stack, then implementing that stack would be the most reliable way to build an e-learning site.

Streaming E-Learning Videos And Protection From Piracy

The reasons I am specifically writing a different section on video streaming for e-Learning is because:

  1. Video courses are typically the lifeline of any e-Learning portal and second
  2. Video streaming and safeguarding the video content from piracy is a major technical challenge, which the 4 options discussed do not solve inherently themselves. Most of E-Learning sites use some premium video streaming provider to cater to their streaming needs.

Streaming bufferless for HD worldwide and ensuring smooth delivery to regions in Africa and India with slow connections is a major problem. YouTube is quite good in this aspect, but lacks business friendly customization. Vimeo has a B2B offering that is quite popular and is okay in terms of streaming experience. YouTube and Vimeo use standard streaming protocols to deliver video content, and thus a lot of free plugins and downloaders are able to grab and download the videos. For this reason, a more custom video player, providing higher security and flexibility to manage video related features, is needed for premium videos. Here is the link to implement and compare secure technologies used in video hosting for education. Many of the top e-Learning companies either go for a combination of the above solutions or build proprietary systems of their own (for example Udemy and BYJU’s).

Aspect of Comparison Code from Raw: PHP, ASP, NodeJS, JAVA Moodle, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal + LMS themes + Plugins Ready to launch E-learning site – Teachable, Thinkfic etc Ready to Launch Generic Website – Weebly, Wix
Coding Skills Required Every functionality is full coded, require full stack development team One Time server setup required Nil Nil
Features & Customization All customizations are possible, but takes time and cost Most of Elearning functionalities available, Decent customizable. Have to give up on 10-20% of your custom needs Common Elearning functionalities available, except some themes, major customizations not possible. Elearning feature set integration not so varied – suitable for start simple cases
Cost One time considerable cost, recommended for long term control and stability Quite affordable, themes plugins have one time costs Charges monthly basis, not much burden in form of upfront costs Quite affordable , one time costs
Time 2-3 months to go live, each new feature takes time 1 month typically to go live, additional features doable through plugins , not much time taken Go live in a day, not much feature addition can be done, so no time addition Go live in a day, not much feature addition can be done, so no time addition
Scale Effects Good for large user base companies Good if number of students not going more then 10,000 Good till scale of 1000 Good for starting and testing up , upto 500 paid users
Conclusion Choice of technology depends on comfort of your dev team, ideal for large custom required sites Optimizes cost , features and control of all the options- Most popular option I have seen Good for individual teachers. Have to give up on customizations. Affordable Good for experimentation, Better to choose amongst other 3 for full elearning portal

I will be happy to have feedback and questions in the comments section below or on my LinkedIn profile. You can also share your experience with above technologies and any interesting insights.

A version of this blog was first published on E-learningIndustry.com

Using Tin Can API in video: Complete Documentation

Tin Can API is a specification for learning technologies that enables Learning Management Systems to collect data from various learning activities that a student may undertake. Tin Can API has succeeded SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) as the new standard for learner analytics.

tin can api in video

Requirements for Tin Can API

In Tin Can API any learner activity on the web may be integrated and logged to the LMS. This includes activities such as reading a blog and watching a video online. For Tin Can API to succeed, all learning activities that a learner performs should be able to transmit learning data to the LMS.

Statements in the Tin Can API are rendered in the form Noun Verb Activity. For example if Learner A has completed watching a video on “Machine Learning: Supervised Learning Part 1”, the corresponding Tin Can API statement would be:

  • Learner A completed Machine Learning: Supervised Learning Part 1

Tin Can API with videos

The motive of Tin Can API is to have maximum feedback for user experience and act on to improve the key metrics. As in case with video, fetching in side video data becomes quite tricky owing to the variety and scale of actions performed by viewers on a video.

VdoCipher as a part of its secure video hosting service,  currently provides viewer data points on all the relevant analytics requirement for Tin Can API

Below are some of the prominent actions of viewers on video (start, pause, end, seek, progress, repeat, load, buffer, view) which are a part of Tin Can API and VdoCipher provides direct JavaScript codes for them.

It is interesting to note that there is always a debate amongst content creators and marketers on what should be taken as a view for the video ? Should just clicking on the play button be considered sufficient to be counted as a view ? Some times it is decided to take say 10 seconds of playback or 2 mins of playback as a view. With the information collected by VdoCipher’s start and progress event trackers you can easily collect viewer information for your particular definition of a video view.

Start, End, Pause, Mute, Unmute events on video player

Please check this javascript code to capture the play and pause events from the embedded video player:
<script>		
function onVdoCipherAPIReady(){
    console.log("VdoCipher API init");
    var videoObjects = vdo.getObjects();
    var video_ = videoObjects[videoObjects - 1];
    video_.addEventListener("resume", function(){
        console.log("ready event called" , video_.time);
    });
    video_.addEventListener("pause", function(data){
        // document.getElementById('totalPlayed').value = video_.totalPlayed;
    });
    }
</script>
You can similarly listen for “start”, “end” and “mute”, “unmute”.

Time Calculation per video playback

<div id="vdo<?= $OTP ?>" style="height: 300px; width: 520px;"></div>
<input type="text" id="totalPlayed" value="" />

/// this is the embed code

<script>
    (function(v,i,d,e,o){v[o]={}; v[o].a = v[o].a || function V(a){ (v[o].d=v[o].d||[]).push(a);};
    if(!v[o].l) { v[o].l=1*new Date(); a=i.createElement(d), m=i.getElementsByTagName(d)[0];
    a.async=1; a.src=e; m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m);}
    })(window,document,'script','//de122v0opjemw.cloudfront.net/vdo.js','vdo');
    vdo.a({
        o: "<?= $OTP ?>",
    });
</script>

/// this is the script

<script>		
function onVdoCipherAPIReady(){
    console.log("VdoCipher API init");
    var videoObjects = vdo.getObjects();
    var video_ = videoObjects[0];
    video_.addEventListener("ready", function(data){
        console.log("ready event called" , data);
    });
    video_.addEventListener("progress", function(data){
        document.getElementById('totalPlayed').value = data.totalPlayed;
    });
    }
</script>
 
Note: The function wrapper with onVdoCipherAPIReady is needed only when it is part of the document load. If this script is to be run after document load, you can run it directly.
Let us know for any custom tracking functionality you require. Most of them are possible with a combination of the above scripts.

Complete Guide to Creating Your Online Video Course

You feel you have a unique understanding of a subject domain. You also feel that you can effectively communicate your expert knowledge through an online video course. But, however, you do not quite know how and where to get started.

Here at VdoCipher we assist E-learning video providers to securely host their online video course. We bring for you a step-by-step guideline on how to conceptualize and produce your E-learning course.

Pre-Production

Production

Pre-Production in Online Video Course

The steps in the pre-production process are:

  • Identifying the course goal – are the videos the sole educational material, or are they part of a Flipped Classroom
  • Gathering content – At this stage of storyboarding, you consult Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to create basic content
  • Defining objectives – This step involves creating a course outline, specifically to decide how you are going to present the content towards achieving the course goal.
  • Creating assessment criteria – How does the course align with the different targets that an e-learning course must satisfy. Learner assessment criteria include knowledge retention, attitude towards newer material in the discipline, and problem-solving skills. Understanding the importance of each of these three targets is critical to design of your online video course. For example if the course objective is to enhance workplace collaboration, the assessment criteria should be target based.
  • Using Storyboard template – At this stage organize your content into chunks using a storyboarding template
  • Picking design model – Choose which e-learning theory to prioritize. Some of the widely prevalent design models currently in use are: ADDIE, Knirk and Gustafson, SAM, Action Mapping Process, Gagne’s 9 Principles
  • Choosing design elements – Images, videos, interactions, quizzes
  • Selecting an authoring tool – Articulate Storyline, Lectora, Adobe Captivate, Moodle, Claro, Udutu

1. Online Video Course Outline

It is very important to first develop a course outline before beginning production on your online video course. The course outline is very important in bringing all stakeholders involved in the course production on the same level. This ensures that all the scripting and production efforts go smoothly subsequently. The course outline may get updated multiple times, as more feedback is received from people involved in your course. The process of storyboarding involves considerable time and effort, and sketching an outline is necessary to ensure that this process goes smoothly.

Course Outline for Online Video Course

Communicate your Course Outline to your colleagues to ensure agreement in course outline

2. Storyboarding

Storyboarding is the process of graphically organizing your video content for the purpose of pre-visualizing the e-learning video. Storyboarding is a great way to organize ideas, and to ensure that the visual and audio forms you use will be effective in communicating your course in a logical manner.

The term storyboard comes from movie production, and the process was most prominently used by Walt Disney in the 1930s. It is a great way for you to organize your ideas, and to make sure that your ideas are communicated to your audience in a logical manner. For this reason having a carefully designed is crucial to making a quality online course video.

Storyboarding for Online Video Course

Use storyboarding to sketch your online video course.

Storyboarding is distinct from a script in that it is a graphic sketch of the course progression. During the storyboarding stage you decide the visuals for your online course video, and accordingly write your final script to correspond to the visual sequence designed. Storyboarding is essential for scriptwriting in that it decides the visual sequence that the script has to be in sync with.

Using storyboarding, as a course designer you can evaluate multiple scenarios for creating your online course video. Through this means they can understand better at what points during their content creation they should be adding interactive features for a more active response from learners. Storyboarding is the first step in creating a simulation of your course, so that everybody in the development team can come together on board. You can sequence instructions, and document changes conveniently using this method.

One tip when you start your course creation with storyboarding is that you should show the most engaging part of your video course first to the learner. This is useful in hooking their attention. This may be an illustration of the course objective, or could as well be interesting applications of the course. Showing the learners highly relevant and interesting content at the outset is a great way to ensure active learning on the part of learners.

3. Authoring Tools

Online Authoring Tools enable you to integrate different media to bring together content for training and education. A good authoring tool would give you a means for creating your online video course, ensuring that you succeed in making engaging and interactive e-learning content. Authoring tools provide a comprehensive solution for the different stages of online video course creation. These stages of course creation include storyboarding, making video block diagrams, and in editing of video content. Authoring tools also offer a variety of templates to follow in the course creation, using which you can better organize your multimedia content.

Use Authoring Tools such as Articulate Storyline for your Online Video Course. Opt for VdoCipher secure video hosting.

Articulate Storyline is a popular authoring tool for online video courses

A major utility of authoring tools is that they enable custom design of the online video course. Creation of increasingly complex training solutions is facilitated by authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate and Elucidat. Rapid E-Learning is the process of high-speed deployment of training content in response to fast-evolving training requirements. Courses produced in the Rapid E-Learning paradigm are relevant for a short period of time, and speed of course creation is therefore very important. For this particular requirement of rapid course deployment a good E-learning tool is very important.

Production in Online Video Course

1. Lighting

Lighting is the most critical element of the E-learning course creation process. Three-point lighting is the most commonly used method for shooting of E-learning videos. This lighting system comprises of a bright light on one side, and another more gentle light on the other side, with less brightness. This creates a more three-dimensional effect. The third light shining on the backdrop helps make you stand out from the backdrop, and to eliminate shadow.

Use Three-point lighting effectively for uniform illumination

Key Light – This is the main light, placed to the side of the camera. This light is usually the strongest and influences the look of the stage the most. One side is more well lit whereas the second side has some shadow.

Fill Light – Secondary light, placed on the opposite side of the key light. Used to fill shadows created by the key light. This light is necessarily softer and more distant than the fill light. A reflector can be also be used in place of fill light to achieve the same softer, subtle effect.

Back Light – This light is placed behind the subject, and lights the subject from the rear. Its purpose it to provide definition and highlight the subject’s outlines. This provides depth to the video, separating the subject from the background, and providing a three-dimensional look.

In a four-point lighting system, a fourth light is used to lit up the background. This eliminates any shadows from the background, and also adds depth to the video. The three-dimensional effect more significantly separates the subject from the background.

2. White Balance

Achieve right white balance

Credit: Klara Plicanic, Peachpit.com

Every different light setting indoors or outdoors has an associated light temperature. Achieving white balance is the process of identifying the appropriate light temperature at which to do the filming in a particular location. This is useful in designing of lighting systems for shooting indoors, when you are using different indoor locations for your course video. Essentially it is the process of removing color casts, so that an object that appears white in person appears white in camera. Digital Cameras in indoor lighting can create blue, orange or green color casts, giving a white colored object these shades. White Balancing ensures that in the process of post-production they are appropriately edited out. A slate with color chart can be very useful in this.

3. Video Block Diagram

This is the process of making block diagrams of your video shooting space. Shot Designer is a a very good software used for drawing video blocks.

Video Block Diagram, using Shot Designer

Credit: Shot Designer

Blocking is a concept derived from theatre, and is used to figure out the positioning of actors and props on the stage, so that the performance is never obstructed. Block diagrams enable video producers to map potential obstructions on set, camera and actor movement, and lighting, to ensure that placement of all elements on the production stage is optimal.

4. Slate and Clapboard

Video slates are used during the production process to help in editing video shots being taken. During production, scenes are shot incoherently. The production slate is used to help make sense of all the shooting using a visual cue. The production slate includes details for:

  • Roll Number (or SD Card Number)
  • Scene Name
  • Scene Take number
  • Production Working Title
  • Director
  • Camera
  • Camera Number (for multi-camera production)
  • FPS (Frames Per Second)
  • Date of shooting
Use Production Slate for your Online Video Course

Production slate, with a clapboard on top

Because these details are immediately visible when the slate is placed before the video film, any shot can be uniquely identified, even when fast forwarding the video. Essentially when the video is ready for editing, editors can conveniently refer to the information recorded on the slate for easy sorting. In the absence of a production slate you may use other visual cues to identify a successful take, for example covering the camera with your hand at the end of a successful take.

The production slate and the clapboard are often combined. The clapboard is used primarily to sync the audio and video. This is particularly useful in the case wherein the audio mic does not feed directly to the camera, and the two streams are out of sync. During the stage of video editing, there is a large spike in audio at the point when the clapboard is shut, which can be matched to the same point in the video where the clapboard can be seen to be shut. Matching the two becomes very easy once the two time points in audio and video recording are matched. Even when the audio mic feeds directly to the camera, editing using clapboard can be used to eliminate any lag in either audio or video.

Another addition to the production slates is a set of colored stripes. This is used for color grading. Using this it can be ensured that the video is color-correct, so that white, black and all other colors come out in the same color in the video as on the slate.

5. Microphones

A lapel mic placed on the inside of the shirt can be used for recording audio. For higher quality, boom mics may be used. This mic is placed on a boom pole, which can be wired to the camera. This microphone is mostly placed over the speaker, but mostly out of frame of the shot. The microphone may be above or below the frame, but should always be placed in front of the speaker.

Boom mic for audio in online video course

Credit: George Black, https://goo.gl/gUk3Tw

Headphones should be connected to the microphone as well, so that the audio recorded can be monitored live, as the recording actually takes place. This is necessary for ensuring that no ambient noises sneak into the audio. Finding noises in the recording during the stage of editing and post-production is a very nasty surprise, as background noises considerably decrease the overall video quality.

You can also opt for audio recording in a studio for sections of video over a screencast, or in cases of long monologues that do not require a visual performance from the presenter. There is a shift in sound quality between stage audio and studio-recorded sound, but this is not a major problem, as the gains in audio quality during audio-important sections offsets the discontinuity. Better voiceover quality in certain sections will definitely improve the overall quality of your video course.

Headset vs mounted mics – Headset are better when the speaker is moving within the recording. Otherwise mounted mics offer much better quality.

6. Background Audio

It is recommended that light background music is played. This is because only using voiceover narration becomes monotonic after a while, leading to audio fatigue in learners. To modulate the background music so that it does not interfere with the narration you may opt for the following techniques:

Ducking is a technique offered by video editing software Camtasia. This is the process of lowering volume of background track when narration is happening, and raising the volume it when there is no narration.

Use Camtasia for audio editing

Notching is a technique offered by the (free) audio editor Audacity. The frequencies in the background music may overlap with the those of the narrator’s voice. It is important to remove the frequencies from background music that match the majority frequencies in the voice of the narrator. This means that when narrating those frequencies are used exclusively by the narrator, and the brain does not confuse the two. Background music is mainly used to avoid audio fatigue.

7. Using Screencasting

Screencasting is the process of recording a video of your desktop or mobile screen. The recorded video can be edited for using in your online video course. Screencasting is very useful in e-Learning courses that explain use of software tools and coding. Custom screencasting softwares such as Screenflow and Camtasia let you add voiceovers, text and animations. This makes screencasting a very powerful tool in your online video course. Screencasts are combined with subject narrating to offer variety within the video. This makes the video more engaging, and prevents it from becoming monotonous. Articulate Replay works well for integrating webcam video with the screen recording.

There are more basic screencasting tools available for free. Some recommended screencasting tools are Ezvid, Screenr and Rylstim Screen Recorder.

8. Using Whiteboard

Whiteboard presentations are a great way to communicate complex concepts. A whiteboard allows an easy overview of your course content, using which you can then unpack specific elements of the online course. Whiteboards are a great way to walk the audience through complicated steps, as during the process the narrator is providing active commentary on how the problem is solved.

 

Use Whiteboard for effective communication

This is a very easy to use tool, and features both the presenter and the whiteboard. With this additional element in your e-learning video, you also need to manage lighting for the whiteboard so that it is not obstructed by shadows and is uniformly lighted.

For this purpose, a four-point lighting system should be used. This comprises of a key and fill light in front of the presenter, either side of the camera. These 2 lights should be at a height above the presenter, and at the same distance as the camera.

The remaining two lights are to be covered by flatboards to eliminate glare, and should therefore provide uniform illumination of the whiteboard. These 2 fill lights will essentially eliminate shadows and continue the focus on the whiteboard.

9. Whiteboard animation

Whiteboard animations are videos that use the concept of the whiteboard to show the learner a series of concepts, using hand-drawn figures. Whiteboard animation essentially eliminates the physical whiteboard, to be replaced by a digital whiteboard, used by a software such VideoScribe and Adobe AfterEffects. A whiteboard animation video can be made for the duration of 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and is very useful in presenting an information-heavy message effectively.

Use Adobe After Effects for video editing, and use VdoCipher for secure video hosting

Make Your Online Video Course More Engaging with these tips

Making your online video course engaging to students is a very important part of creating quality E-Learning courses. Engaging site design ensures that students are motivated to continue your online course, and ensures better results in terms of course completion and knowledge retention.

We have learnt considerably about E-Learning design through working with online video course creators. Here we bring our insights on how to make your online course more engaging.
This is combined with insights collected from leading E-Learning experts – Christopher Pappas (of elearningindustry.com), Tom Kuhlmann (Chief Learning Architect at Articulate LMS) and Connie Malamed (the eLearning Coach).

E-Learning Design Checklist for Your Online Video Course

checklist for online video course

A checklist for you to consider when designing any activity to make your online course more engaging would be:

  • Activity should be relevant to the online course content
  • Activity should be directly linked to the course objectives and outcomes
  • Encourages students’ active involvement
  • Increases student retention of key concepts
  • Activity should be fun and rewarding

Ideas to keep in mind for E-Learning design

1. Gamify your Online Course

Gamification for online video course

Gamification is the process of using elements from game design to help create an immersive environment for your online video course. This comprises of creating a social element to the game, in which users are given a sense of competition. Rewarding points, leaderboards, badges, and user progress levels are elements that can be used to create an environment in which students can immediately sense their progress in the course. Essentially gamification leverages people’s desire for socializing, competition, achievement and status for achieving greater engagement.

2. Create Learner Personas for Online Course

During the stage of online course design it is highly recommended that you create a learner persona, which would serve as an effective prototype of your learners.Having this well-defined learner persona would help the educator design the course keeping in mind the requirements of the target audience, helping ensure sustained learner engagement. This learner persona would share attributes with your learners, which would include training goals, education background, and skill level.

Create Learner Persona for your online video course

To create an effective learner persona, we suggest that you interview a sample of your target audience. This is to ensure that the learner persona you create for your online video course accurately maps to the real audience. Interviews and conversations would help you develop actionable insights into understanding your learners.

3. Simplify Complex Concepts

Simplifying your online course video to communicate complex concepts effectively is very important to sustain learner engagement. Online video courses offer a great solution through chunking content – that is creating short (say 2-3 minute long) videos, explaining a particular element to the concept. Shorter videos ensure higher knowledge retention, and do not demand much attention span from students. Processing and communicating knowledge piece-wise is an effective method increasingly being used by instructors and designers.

4. Use Quizzes Optimally

It is generally advised that a syllabus quiz is incorporated at the outset of the course. Having a syllabus quiz immediately after the introduction to the course ensures that the learners are aware of the course contents and the desired outcomes of the course, and have successfully create a mental scheme about how the course will progress. An ability to map the course structure helps in reinforcing the eventual desired outcome of the course.

5. Engage Students Directly Through Discussion Boards and Feedbacks

discussion board for online course

The level of activity in discussion boards is a good metric for how much students are engaged in the course. A vibrant discussion board ensures that your students find the course interesting and are willing to share ideas and knowledge on related subjects. Student collaboration can be further encouraged by designing group projects. Group projects encourage teamwork, and need to be actively supervised to ensure its success in increasing student engagement.

Creating an online video course requires a great one-time effort in terms of creation of online course content and website. However there is the possibility that this content may become dated over time. You can create a blog to post additional new information on course topics. Blogs complement the online video course by providing relevant current information, and are more authoritative than discussion boards. Blogs can also be used as a forum for discussion, and for engaging students using an expert-learner method.

6. Use Characters for Online Video Course

From the perspective of instruction design, characters may be used to guide the learners through the course. With the objective of guiding learners, the three personas that a character can take are:

  1. Course Guide – Such a character would offer guidance and support for the learner throughout their progress in their course. The character can introduce them to the next activity, as well as remind them of their course progress.
  2. Peer – This is an E-Learning character that would be on the same level as the learner in the course, and is perceived by the learner as training alongside them. The peer is designed to be similar to the learner persona created by the E-Learning team, and would be used to create a sense of competition and socialization.
  3. Expert – This character would embody an expert in the field, serving as an authority figure. This character would offer tips throughout the course, and assist in the learner finding additional knowledge when they would like to go into the topic in more depth.

 7. Storytelling approach for engaging learners

Storytelling for online course

Characters can also be used in storytelling as the primary drivers of the narrative. You can make learner engagement in your course more effective by incorporating a character who would storify the content to be learnt. Well developed E-Learning characters help give your learners a way to emotionally engage with your content. This emotional engagement ensures that your learners remain absorbed in the course, and t
heir engagement is more meaningful, ensuring knowledge retention and better achievement of the objectives.

8. Encourage your learners to pick an Avatar

This would help in creating a more game-like E-Learning experience. Having the users represented by an avatar helps build a direct connection with the course environment, and helps build a personal connection for the learners with the environment.

9. Measuring Course Objectives through Commensurate Evaluation

In the use of E-Learning for workplace training, the objectives of the course are closely-tied to performance in the workplace. For this reason, designing corporate training solutions requires an understanding of the workplace, so that learners from your online video course are able to transfer their learning to the workplace scenario. Interview sessions with the target audience is again highly recommended.

In a corporate training environment an E-Learning course is used to augment a goal defined by the management. For the E-Learning course to be able to achieve the desired objective, it is important to define the desired results from the course in relation to the management’s objective. For example, if the objective of the course is to enhance workplace collaboration between colleagues, the parameter to gauge success should not just be performance in the course itself – a more accurate parameter would be a measurement of scale of collaboration between colleagues. Directly mapping the results of the course to the course objective is essential to maintain a result-oriented training paradigm.

Top 10 WordPress Plugins For E-Learning

Starting out with creating your WordPress online course, but confused about which plugins for E-Learning to choose from?

Not sure which functionalities are necessary and which functionalities are optional?

In this blogpost I walk you through the most important WordPress plugins for E-Learning course developers to choose from.

First I proceed with how you should evaluate your requirements in designing the course.

Learning Management System (LMS) plugins for E-Learning

The most significant features that an LMS must have is for you to be able to:

  • Give learner flexibility to pace their course as per their wish – self-paced course
  • What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get Interface, to put minimum effort into using the interface
  • Making complete course catalog, so that all the course information is collected at one location
  • Automated User Enrolment and Status of course progress – completion status
  • Course Reports for course creator to review how a course is progressing
  • Learner feedback – Course Surveys and System Announcements – These are essential for the instructor to continually improve the learning experience
  • Learner’s access to course transcript and course progress – Learners should have knowledge about their course progress as well
  • Learner access to changing profile

Apart from these there are a number of other features that you may wish for, which would include

  • Creating multiple course levels – so that there may be content-lite and content-heavy memberships
  • Creating certificates of completion for learners that complete their course – certificates are a strong motivation for learners, as they provide tangible proof of the skills learnt
  • Automating user access control – Restricting access to content and granting access to content depending on user level
  • Generating course and user reports for course administrator
  • Creating dripped content for controlling user progress in course – To control rate at which learner accesses the course, create dripped content tool

WooCommerce Sensei

Sensei Plugin for eLearning

Sensei comes from the stable of WooCommerce, who are experts in developing eCommerce WordPress Plugins. Sensei is priced at $129 for a single-site license. This WordPress plugin for E-Learning is a simple and effective interface for making courses, as the course, module, lesson and quiz sections can all be created with a lot of ease. The interface is essentially What-You-See-is-What-You-Get. Because of its compatibility with all WooCommerce plugins, and because of an interface that gets most things done easily and quickly, Sensei is our top-rated Learning Management Solution plugin.

LearnDash

Learndash plugin for eLearning

Learndash specializes in E-Learning solutions, meaning that they have developed their LMS WordPress plugin for E-Learning keeping in mind any features that an education LMS must require.

SCORM is a collection of standards for E-Learning, which state how the LMS must package user learning content. SCORM standards ensure portability of learner information across different LMS. Tin Can API has now replaced SCORM as the new standard for educational content designed in a portable way. Learndash supports Tin Can API plugin.

Learndash have tried to make a complete marketing and product solution- they have their own membership solution, and have an integrated payment processing setup. The flip side of being an all-in-one solution is that this do not allow much scope for customization. On the other hand they have an active community support forum.

Essentially Learndash is optimal for developing detailed and academic-level E-Learning solutions, where little customization is required.

WP CourseWare

WP Courseware plugin for eLearning

WP Courseware is a lightweight WordPress plugin for E-Learning, whose strong point is that it integrates fairly easily with other WP Plugins. Likewise with this WordPress plugin you get a large varieties of customization options. An important plugin that WP CourseWare can integrate with is Membership Pro, which is the most popular membership WordPress plugin.

LearnPress

LearnPress plugin for eLearning

LearnPress is offered as a free plugin, and includes both free features and premium add-ons.

Premium add-ons apply for:

  • Gamifying the course – adding points for learner activity
  • Generating certificate
  • For Integration with WooCommerce, PayPal and Stripe
  • Integrating with Membership 2 Pro

LifterLMS

LifterLMS plugin for eLearning

LifterLMS is another lightweight E-Learning solution, that is very easy to use. Key features include:

  • Integration with WooCommerce and BuddyPress support
  • Support for certificates
  • Supports both Stripe and PayPal
  • Supports course scheduling and prerequisites

For a detailed review of Free LMS plugins for WordPress check out this blog on Free LMS Plugins

Membership WordPress Plugins

Membership 2

Membership 2 WordPress Plugin

Membership 2 is the most widely used membership WordPress plugin. This is a free software, but has a paid pro version that offers added features.

Membership 2 is designed for ease-of-use for the beginner. It has a how-to guide to get you started with creating the course. Also Content access control and protection is made very easy with this plugin – for each lesson/ course you create you can select which membership levels to grant access to. Also Dripped content management is made very easy, and can be done on the same interface as the content protection. This makes managing your course much less complicated.

The pro version of Membership 2 integrates with both PayPal and Stripe payment solutions

WP eMember

WP eMember WordPress Plugin

Where Membership Pro relies on an easy-to-use interface and a free introductory membership plugin, WP eMember offers a robust membership WordPress plugin that offers both content protection and a large number of additional features, making this a great option for anyone looking for a complete WordPress membership plugin.

Using this wordpress plugin, it is easy to create multiple membership levels, and to grant differential access for different membership levels. Also in-page partial protection is available via easy to use shortcodes. Additional options include options to limit user access to minimize password sharing – effectively minimizing content piracy. Also there is support for Drip Content, which limits access to users based on their drip learning schedule.

eCommerce WordPress Plugins

eCommerce plugins can come quite handy for you in managing your course inventory, if you are selling multiple courses. An eCommerce plugin is not necessary for the new E-Learning developer, but if you wish to manage multiple courses, an integrated eCommerce plugin can come in quite handy for managing inventory.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce WordPress Plugin

WooCommerce wordpress plugin offers hundreds of extensions and themes, that make it quite easy to  available for WooCommerce, which makes it easy to add new features to your eLearning site. If you have worked on WordPress previously and are comfortable with the technical details of using WordPress, this WordPress Plugin is the best eCommerce solution for you.

Shopify

Shopify wordpress plugin

Shopify has a very easy interface, and is great for beginners who do not wish to go into technical details of using WP. It has a monthly subscription fees, but is worthwhile to use because of its hassle-free interface which allows you to get on with developing your course content without worrying about the technicalities. This WordPress plugin works with social networks such as Facebook Store, Buyable Pins and Twitter Buy buttons

WordPress Plugins for Videos

VdoCipher

Content security and smooth streaming are two integral features that any WordPress plugin for eLearning must offer. VdoCipher offers an easy to use shortcode, and is a complete video hosting solution. In VdoCipher one-time access is only granted to a fully encrypted stream after backend authentication from the host website, meaning that video security is maximized. VdoCipher has a 10 min install ready to go live plugin for all elearning video wordpress sites.

Custom Video Player

Package Video Streaming Solution

WP eMember as WordPress Membership Plugin: User Management Tutorial

In this post we will describe in detail one of the most popular WordPress membership plugins – WP eMember. Membership plugins are necessary to manage users. Each membership corresponds to a user role, which determines access to content and other features on your website. 

Using this WordPress membership plugin would help you in deciding what content to provide to which category of learner. Control of access to content eventually determines that you are able to monetize your content. We discuss how to implement Per user restriction on login time and preventing unauthorized access so that one paid member has maximum restrictions from sharing their access credentials.  We have given the links to plugins at the end.

The biggest utility of membership plugins is to protect content in a Learning Management system. For suggestions on free LMS plugins to use in WordPress check this blog on Free WordPress LMS.

Specific case of protection for video membership site is also written in brief at end. Overall aim of the article is to ensure that maximum revenues from your content reaches you while you are able to continuously grow your subscriber base. 

WP eMember, WordPress membership plugin

WordPress user access management

Membership 2 WordPress Plugin

WordPress Membership plugin is one of the most popular free membership plugins. This is the wizard page in the plugin, and guides you about how to set up your eLearning site.

WP eMember

WordPress eMember is a plugin that helps you manage memberships to your content. eMember offers various customizations – including integration with WordPress so that any account created for eMember would automatically make a corresponding WordPress account. You may make multiple membership levels depending on the level of access decided for the user. For example for a basic trial access to the site you may give users free access to a certain amount of content, or for a limited period of time. For this a free membership may be created. 

WP eMember plugin - a WordPress Membership Plugin

Selective content protection and access

To protect content you can use two methods

  • Enabling custom protection and access through dashboard
  • Using shortcodes
Custom Protection
  • To enable general protection, go to the “WP eMember” button on the WordPress sidebar, and in the drop down menu go to “Membership Level” button.
  • From here go to the “Manage Content Protection” tab. Click on “Custom Posts” to see all the posts that make up your content. To protect some or all of these posts, select them and click on the “General Protection” option in the drop down menu at the top of the page. General Protection restricts access to all the posts that you select (you can select all posts or pick specific posts for protection). 
  • After access restriction, the next step is to grant access according to the membership levels. For this go to the same drop down menu as the General Protection option, and select each membership levels. The resulting files will be files that are restricted from access.
  • You can select the files for which you want to grant access , and after selecting, click the “Grant Access” button. You can make various membership levels, each differentiated by the number of pages that access is granted to.
Using shortcodes

Alternatively, partial content protection may be implemented using this wordpress membership plugin. For this you can make use of shortcodes to grant partial access to pages. Suppose you have two membership levels, Membership Regular and Membership Lite. You might wish to grant access to only the Membership Regular users, having level id 4. For this you can use the shortcode:

“[emember_protected for=4]”

“[/emember_protected]”

Suppose that level id 3 corresponds to Membership Lite. You can grant access to a section to both Membership Regular and Lite users. To do that you can enclose it in this shortcode:

“[emember_protected for=3-4]”

Note that membership levels to which access is to be granted are added using the dashes. Without specifying the membership ids, ie “[emember_protected]” – content is limited to logged in users only, including free registered users.

General eMember settings

WP eMember offers multiple options using which you can customize membership experience of users. These include the option to:

  • Decide if you wish to grant free memberships
  • Offer attractive login page – so that a popup appears rather than redirecting to a login page
Limited muliple logins To Your WordPress Membership Plugin
  • Limiting number of IPs used from a membership per day, so as to discourage password sharing
  • Disabling simultaneous login, again to discourage password sharing
Encouraging Membership Renewals

eMember also has features that encourage memberships renewals upon expiry. These include

  • Triggering auto expiry email notifications shortly before account expiry date
  • Allowing expired memberships to move to free membership status, to protect continuity
  • Generating special renewal membership links.

Besides this, eMember offers options for integration into wordpress, so that logging in to eMember would automatically log you into wordpress. The very large number of customization options that WP eMember offers makes it one of the most useful WordPress membership plugin.

Drip Content

You can structure access to your learners so that the release of course material is done periodically. This method of releasing course material, called drip content management, limits the amount of information accessible at once to the user. This prevents your learners from being overwhelmed by the magnitude of the course. The auto-upgrade feature in this WordPress membership plugin allows for dripped content management, although this entails making multiple courses.

Auto-upgrade feature

According to this feature, using WP eMember you may upgrade a member taking Module 1 of your course to Module 2 automatically after a thirty day period (or a 7-day period, according to how you wish to structure your course). So, if there are say 5 modules to one course, each module to be accessed 30 days from the previous module, you may time the auto upgrade feature so that

Module 1 -> 2: 30 days from start of course
Module 2 -> 3: 60 days from start of course
Module 3 -> 4: 90 days from start of course
Module 4 -> 5: 120 days from start of course

Pros and Cons of Drip Content Management

There is a debate regarding the merits of drip content management policy – a negative of this approach is that it dictates that learners follow the particular pace with which you have structured the course. The other side of the coin is that you are ensuring that you do not overwhelm your learners with too much information.

Prevent Concurrent Login plugin with WordPress Membership Plugin

A major concern for eLearning site managers is the possibility that their content may be shared by multiple users using a single login. Password sharing is a problem that eMember does address, through the previously mentioned settings of limiting number of IPs and the option to disable concurrent login.

In case the WordPress membership plugin that you use does not have the option to prevent simultaneous logins, a plugin that that specifically prevents concurrent login is the “Prevent Concurrent Login” plugin. This is a plugin that you only need to activate, and store in the Must Use category of plugins, for it to run silently in the background. It then by default prevent access to your membership system from multiple systems at the same time. You may use this plugin with any wordpress membership plugin, including the widely used WordPress Membership 2 plugin, and Wishlist Member, both of which rival WP eMember in popularity.

Video Membership site with eMember

For many premium video businesses like elearning & media , the necessity to protect video content from piracy by so many free downloaders, plugins , hacks is a must. Most of video streaming providers like youtube, vimeo, or self hosting doesnot allow for any protection. To restrict the access of your video content to only only your subscribers on wordpress, VdoCipher has come up with a secure video streaming solution based on encryption and watermarking.

The plugin enables you to use a custom short code. You can use the plugin and the shortcode with any wordpress membership plugin. Also as explained in the eMember section protection code, you can design your course to allow free registered access to trial learners and paid membership for the video. For this you only need to place the VdoCipher shortcode inside the sectional protection shortcode.

Links:

WordPress page for the e-member plugin

Prevent concurrent Login plugin

VdoCipher secure video streaming account signup, 5 GB Free Trial

WordPress course plugin to make course website – Sensei tutorial

Building a course website in WordPress is a great way to monetize your education content. It is being done quite effectively by individuals and companies across the globe. In this blog post we shall walk you through the steps necessary to install the very useful Sensei wordpress course plugin. Using Sensei, you can set up WordPress to sell online courses. By using the plugins features and integrating them with secure Vdocipher player for videos, you can sell online courses to your target audience more effectively.

The quality and security of videos is the USP for most companies that wish to sell online courses. VdoCipher provides the required necessary offerings so that you may not lose customers to piracy and your students have a great experience.

Installing Sensei as a wordpress course plugin

It is assumed that you have WordPress already installed on your system. Sensei is a paid plugin. To buy the course plugin you would have to buy the course directly from their parent site WooCommerce here. Prices as of October 2016 for the Sensei plugin are $129 for the single site version.

makes Sensei to sell online courses, along with VdoCipher for secure video hosting

Use Sensei to sell online courses

On buying the Sensei WordPress course plugin you could download the plugin file in zip format. To activate the plugin you would need to copy the license key that you will find in your Woothemes account to the wordpress interface for activation. After activation you will get this:

wordpress course plugin for secure video hosting

List of wordpress plugins

Using Sensei – Courses, Modules and Lessons

Sensei allows for a layered structuring for courses – each course can be divided into multiple modules, which can contain the relevant lessons. A module can itself be divided into sub-modules, and therefore this LMS allows for considerable flexibility in how you might wish to structure and present your course.

The first step is to therefore create a course. After creating your course, you can create a module, and select the relevant course in which the module is to be integrated. Lessons can then be created within the modules, and you can easily integrate videos within lessons using the steps given below.

Lessons are easily designed to help sell online courses

Setting up a lesson

As shown above, the interface to create a lesson is quite straightforward in Sensei. The ease with which a multi-layered course can be built using Sensei is why we recommend that you use this LMS to sell online courses.

For managing learners, Sensei has tabs for Analysis, Grading and Learner Management. Using Sensei you can track the updates to the course through the Data Updates tab. The simplicity of these options mean that teachers and site administrators can easily manage learners taking their courses. Because of this as a site administrator you can improve your site more effectively using learner feedback.

Quiz implementation in Sensei

Quizzes for grading learners can be added onto the end of the respective lessons. Using Sensei’s interface you can make multiple questions, decide whether passing the quiz is necessary to complete the course and the passing criteria. You may add questions directly to the lesson or add questions from a question bank. Questions may also be presented in a random manner.

Customization offered by Sensei to sell online courses

Sensei offers an additional WordPress course plugin – the Sensei Course Progress plugin – free of cost for monitoring course progress by lessons within a course (or within a module)

Sensei offers you control over who to allow to access the course. Access can be limited to registered users through their wordpress accounts, otherwise if you are using another plugin such as eMember or eShop to control access the feature to restrict access directly on Sensei may be left unused. We recommend using eMember to control membership access because of it allows you to create multiple membership levels depending on level of access.

Further customization allows for private messages between learners and teachers – enabling this functionality may depend upon the targeted size of learners and the ability of teachers to participate.

Sensei offers Javascript functionality in terms of a dynamic bar providing information about percentage of course completed, while My Courses tab also uses Javascript. These functionalities may also be disabled.

Have a look at the following screenshots to learn about additional customization offered by Sensei.

sensei wordpress course plugin

Sensei Shortcodes

Sensei offers a number of shortcodes by which you can remind learners of all available courses, accessible by categories such as teachers. You may also add shortcodes for courses being taken by the learner, additional courses that the learner may take, and user messages.

All available courses [sensei_courses]

Courses per user [sensei_user_courses] (the previous shortcode [usercourses] is no longer supported)

Course page [sensei_course_page id = “123”]

Unpurchased courses [sensei_unpurchased_courses]

Secure Video Streaming in Sensei

To prevent illegal video download , sharing and provide best streaming experience to your viewers, we at VdoCipher provide ready to use video wordpress course plugin. The plugin runs at backend and allows encrypted streaming + viewer watermark player embed on your site. It is compatible with any other plugins you use in your wordpress. VdoCipher has education customers all across 6 continents using us. To install VdoCipher plugin on your wordpress account, you first need to create an account at VdoCipher.com. A trial account at VdoCipher can be made for free. You can upload & stream upto 5GB worth of content for secure video streaming. With each video that you would have uploaded you would have a corresponding video id.

The video can then be embedded onto the lesson by applying the following code: [vdo id="id_of_video"] For example: [vdo id="123abc4d56e7fg89shi12"]

User Registration, Analytics, Themes, Grading with Sensei

Sensei is a complete e-learning suite and involves easy to use management features to do the above implementation.

A note on Woocommerce

WooCommerce is an ecommerce wordpress plugin and necessarily works at backend of Sensei. So, first installation of Woocommerce is needed and then sensei. It is free and is compatible with all major plugins including ours.

Important Elearning blogs from VdoCipher

Why not to self host videos for your course web site?

How to make money from education videos: Some models & key considerations ?

Encrypted Video Streaming: How VdoCipher is far ahead of Others in Security ?

Watermark user/time specific dynamic variables on WordPress videos

For a free full version 5 GB  free trial at VdoCipher , Register.