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					                                            DOS-based Learning Management System   1




Running head: Die-hard DOS-based Learning Management System




                  Die-hard DOS-based Learning Management System

                                     Kim A. Bahr

                                Boise State University
                                                   DOS-based Learning Management System            2


                                            Introduction

       To meet the demands of providing high quality education and training that is tailored to

individual needs, systems and standards have been developed. Learning management

systems (LMS) enable educators and trainers to manage content and assist with learning. As

learning systems progress with technology, the Internet has become a prominent tool to provide

access to information and training to those in remote areas as well as urban communities. This

paper compares two learning management systems, Phoenix Learning Systems (PLS) and

Blackboard (Bb) using SCORM standards and other pertinent criteria.

                                             SCORM

       It is important to understand what SCORM is and how it aids in the comparison criteria.

SCORM is the acronym for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. Its goal is to “foster

creation of reusable learning content as „instructional objects‟ within a common technical

framework for computer-based and Web-based learning” (Advanced Distributed Learning, 2004,

p. 1). SCORM is the framework developed by Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) that gives

a “harmonized set of guidelines, specifications, and standards based on the work of several

distinct e-learning specifications and standards bodies” (ADL, 2004, p. 1). The high-level

requirements of SCORM are:

    Accessibility: the ability to locate and access instructional components from one remote

       location and deliver them to many other locations.

    Adaptability: the ability to tailor instruction to individual and organizational needs.

    Affordability: the ability to increase efficiency and productivity by reducing the time and

       costs involved in delivering instruction.

    Durability: the ability to withstand technology evolution and changes without costly

       redesign, reconfiguration or recoding.
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    Interoperability: the ability to take instructional components developed in one location

       with one set of tools or platform and use them in another location with a different set of

       tools or platform.

    Reusability: the flexibility to incorporate instructional components in multiple applications

       and contexts. (ADL, 2004, p. 22)

SCORM uses the Web as its main medium for delivery. Its specifications are a collection from

various organizations. Currently SCORM consists of four books. In addition to the Overview,

the three main topics are: Content Aggregation Model (CAM), the Run-time Environment (RTE)

and Sequencing and Navigation (SN). The table below briefly describes the contents covered in

each book.

     SCORM Book                           Concepts Covered
     Overview                             High-level conceptual information
     Content Aggregation Model            Assembling, labeling and packaging of learning
     (CAM)                                content.
     Run-Time Environment (RTE)           LMS‟s management of the RTE, which includes
                                          launch, content to LMS communication, tracking,
                                          data transfer and error handling.
     Sequencing and Navigation            Sequencing content and navigation.
     (SN)
As standards and/or needs change, ADL will update or add to these books to improve SCORM.

       At this time SCORM offers:

       …an Application Programming Interface (API) for communicating information

       about a learner‟s interaction with content objects, a defined data model for

       representing this information, a content packaging specification that enables

       interoperability for learning content, a standard set of meta-data elements that

       can be used to describing learning content and a set of standard sequencing

       rules which can be applied to the organization of the learning content (ADL,

       2004, p. 14-15).

                                       Evaluation Criteria

Techtarget.com defines a learning management system (LMS) as:
                                                  DOS-based Learning Management System            4


       A software application or web-based technology used to plan, implement, and assess a

       specific learning process. Typically, a LMS provides an instructor with a way to create

       and deliver content, monitor student participation, and assess student performance. A

       LMS may also provide students with the ability to use interactive features such as

       threaded discussions, video conferencing, and discussion forums.

From this definition and general SCORM guidelines, the following criteria will be used for this

comparison:

    1. Accessibility - does the learner have access to learning content, curriculum, and

        personal and learning progress information?

    2. Navigation – is the interface easy to use and intuitive?

    3. Skill assessment/Adaptability - does the skill assessment revolve around the individual

        learner sufficiently to assess competency gaps and develop a plan to address learning

        needs? Is there learner collaboration?

    4. Evaluation and testing – does it store a bank of test questions and generate tests to

        meet the individual learner needs?

    5. Organization - Does the system meet the organizational needs?

    6. Enrollment and tracking – does it provide course listings, tracks enrollment, and

        individual learner progress in course? Does it maintain learner profile?

    7. Content access - how do learners access content and what media are available?

    8. ROI/Affordability – is the learning experience handled more efficiently including

        administrative and instruction delivery time? Is it durable and able to handle technology

        changes without costly redesign?

    9. Communications – can learners communicate with instructors and/or administrators as

        well as other students?

    10. Learning evaluation – how is the learning program evaluated and is there student

        survey options?
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    11. Administration – can the administrator override automatic tasks?

    12. Content development – does it have the ability to author, maintain, and store learning

        content?

    13. Reusability – does it have the flexibility to incorporate instructional components in

        multiple applications and contexts?

    14. Compatibility – are other products compatible with this LMS such as Word and Acrobat?

    15. Interoperable – can it operate on another platform or with other tools?

    16. Support and help – is there sufficient technical support?

    17. Compliance – is it SCORM, ADA, and AICC compliant?

                                           Comparison

      I chose to compare two learning management systems because my organization, which

focuses on vocational training, uses a Phoenix Learning System (PLS), as well as the popular

Blackboard.

Phoenix Learning System

       PLS is a DOS-based system that my branch office uses to track students‟ learning. It

was created in-house in 1987 and not expected to last 20 years. It is structured on

competency-based learning, which requires learners to achieve 80 percent or better on tests

and assignments to progress through the course.

       An actual screen shot is unavailable due to

networking issues and DOS related limitations.

The screen is dark blue with pink menus. The title

bar is magenta, menu bar is gray, navigational

guides are bright green, and text is white or black

depending on what screen is displayed. The image

to the right shows the text of the learner‟s opening
                                                 DOS-based Learning Management System             6


screen after logging in. Using the criteria previously noted, PLS is evaluated as follows:

   1. Accessibility – The user has access only to the curriculum in the classroom of the

       courses for which he/she is registered. Learners do not have access to their profiles. It

       is not Internet-based.

   2. Navigation – Because of the guides, it is fairly easy to navigate, but the learner has to

       remember not to use the mouse and to follow each step in the task.

   3. Skill assessment/Adaptability - Skill assessment revolves around the learner to some

       extent, yet minimally because the system tracks the competency level and adapts

       reviews and exam retakes accordingly. Initially all learner interaction is the same.

       There seems to be no learner collaboration within the system.

   4. Evaluation and testing – It has a test bank and generates questions randomly for

       exams. Each exam in given a unique identifier and created when a student needs an

       exam. After the exam is scored and the student moves onto the next lesson, it is

       irretrievable. If students do not pass, a new assignment sheet is generated with only

       the material they need to review. The retake exams cover only the information in which

       they did not pass with 80 percent or better.

   5. Organization – This system meets the basic needs of the organization. The only reason

       why the other offices have changed to Blackboard is because they have partnered with

       the community college.

   6. Enrollment and tracking – Learner menu lists only the courses in which they are

       enrolled. Administrators have to maintain learner profiles and enrollment. PLS tracks

       the students‟ progress through the courses by objectives. Typically one chapter covers

       an objective. When the student takes the chapter exam and passes, he/she achieves

       an objective. Each course consists of a specific number of objectives. Students can

       access a report listing the number of objectives completed out of the total number for

       that course.
                                              DOS-based Learning Management System            7


7. Content access – Through the system, there is only one medium available, which is

   text. The system provides assignment sheets and exams. The assignments are not

   evaluated through the system; it only makes references to textbooks and handouts.

   Learners input answers for exams into the system. If the response requires more than

   a string of 25 characters, instructors are required to score it manually.

8. ROI/Affordability – The learning experience is handled more efficiently than total

   instructor-led instruction. The training program is designed for self-paced instruction.

   PLS is durable as it is still being used after 20 years and therefore has been a good

   return on investment. It is not able to handle new technology changes.

9. Communications – PLS offers no type of communication services or options.

10. Learning evaluation – There are no learner surveys or learning program evaluation.

11. Administration – Administrators can manually adjust test scores and maintain learner

   profiles. They can also reset a course back to a particular lesson. Besides tests and

   course progress, there is minimal ability to override or customize tasks and system

   options. Typos or errors can not be correct without contacting the system administrator.

12. Content development – A part-time system administrator who is difficult to reach at

   times maintains the system. If an instructor wants to make a change, he/she needs to

   contact the system administrator. Although instructors have access to author and

   maintain curriculum, it is not encouraged because system updates override any

   individual customizing or authoring. Learning content is not stored in this system.

13. Reusability – PLS has the sufficient flexibility to incorporate instructional components in

   multiple contexts, but this attribute is used minimally. Some elements of one course are

   used in another similar course, but it is not designed to reuse learning objects.

14. Compatibility – PLS is not compatible with other products.

15. Interoperable – It does not operate on other platforms.
                                                     DOS-based Learning Management System              8


    16. Support and help – Although the original developer is available on a very limited basis

        and there is a part-time system administrator, support is minimal. If I have a question, I

        usually ask a fellow instructor before contacting the system administrator.

    17. Compliance – It is not SCORM, ADA, and AICC compliant.

       Cost is probably the most significant factor in the decision to upgrade to an Internet-

based system. The low priority to upgrade and government bureaucracy are two other

prominent factors that have deterred upgrading from a DOS LMS. Although PLS is not the most

efficient and compliant, it fulfills the basic needs of the organization, especially for the size of

this rural vocational training branch office.

Blackboard

        Bb is used by another branch office in the region. It can be considered a course

management product. Bb‟s goal is to “transform the Internet into a powerful environment for

teaching and learning” („Blackboard, 2000). It was founded in 1997 as primary contractor to

IMS standards project and created by educators at Cornell University.

        The other branch office chose to upgrade from PLS to Bb, because it partnered with the

community college on several of its courses. Coming from the PLS mindset, they do not use all

of Bb‟s options and tools. They use it very similar to PLS with the exception of Internet access.

The following evaluation is based on information I received in an interview and use

demonstration I had with the curriculum developer (CD):

    1. Accessibility - The learner has access to curriculum and personal information via the

        Internet. The image below illustrates learners‟ access to course information,

        assignments, and other tools.
                                              DOS-based Learning Management System          9




2. Navigation – The navigation isn‟t intuitive but functional. The CD appreciated the ability

   to modify the layout and content.

3. Skill assessment/Adaptability – Staff address learning needs more manually than

   through Bb. Although they track individual learner assessments through the system,

   the system didn‟t seem set-up to assess competency gaps and address individual

   learning needs without significant input from the instructor.

4. Evaluation and testing – Bb maintains test questions and allows students to access

   course materials. Exams are evaluated manually and scores are input manually except

   for a few courses.

5. Organization – The connection to the college makes Bb a necessity for the

   organization. The training program/organization would need to be redesigned to use all

   the Bb options.
                                             DOS-based Learning Management System 10


6. Enrollment and tracking – Bb provides course listings, tracks enrollment, and shows

   individual learner progress. Administrators and individuals maintain learner profiles.

7. Content access – Discussion boards, forums, links, and attachment provide learners

   access to content. Currently, this office just uses primarily Word attachments and links.

8. ROI/Affordability – Because of the college connection, the learning experience is

   handled more efficiently than if it were instructor-led. It appears durable and able to

   handle technology changes. If this office had to purchase it separately, it would be a

   good investment with how they currently use Bb.

9. Communications – Communication is a major feature in Bb with email, discussions,

   forums, calendar, and announcement options. The image below shows some of the

   communication options.




10. Learning evaluation – Surveys are available with each course to give students an

   opportunity on course feedback as well as a special link to other student surveys.

11. Administration – Instructors and administrators can override some task, but the course

   developer wasn‟t sure how much because there has been minimal need.

12. Content development – Bb has the ability to store, author, and maintain learning

   content. In addition to creating a course, Bb also provides Wizards as shown in the

   image below.
                                                     DOS-based Learning Management System 11




      13. Reusability – it is flexible, but this feature is not used to incorporate components in

          multiple contexts.

      14. Compatibility – It is compatible with other products such as Word. Some parts of the

          curriculum are attachments as well as in the system.

      15. Interoperable – It can operate on other platforms and with other tools.

      16. Support and help – there is technical support, not only through the Bb vendor, but also

          through a third-party support company contracted through the State.

      17. Compliance – It is SCORM, ADA, and AICC compliant

         Blackboard manages courses and learning content well. It offers several options that my

  demonstrator does not use. There is much potential for reusable learning objects using Bb

  within the organization if their learning strategy (program-wide) includes shareable content

  objects. There are several advantages that Bb has over PLS primarily accessibility over the

  Internet, capability with other products, and communications.

  Comparison in brief

LMS Criteria                                     PLS                           Bb
 1. Accessibility - does the learner have        Very limited, not web-        Yes, access is
    access to learning content, curriculum,      based                         available through the
    and personal and learning progress                                         Internet
    information?
 2. Navigation – is the navigation easy and      Moderately - depending        Sufficient, but not
    intuitive?                                   user‟s memory to steps        necessarily intuitive
                                                 that aren‟t guided. Menu
                                                 is provided
3. Skill assessment/Adaptability - does the      Initially no. No learner      To some degree, the
   skill assessment revolve around the           collaboration.                extent is unknown
   individual learner sufficiently to assess                                   because the
   competency gaps and develop a plan to                                       instructors address
   address learning needs? Is there                                            much of the individual
   learner collaboration?                                                      needs manually.
                                                      DOS-based Learning Management System 12


4. Evaluation and testing – does it maintain     Somewhat - random             Yes.
   test questions and generate tests to          questions on exams;
   meet the individual learner needs?            system adapts reviews
                                                 and exam retakes to
                                                 learner‟s performance
5. Organization - Does the system meet           Basically yes, but it needs   Yes.
   the organizational needs?                     to change with the times
                                                 and informational needs
6. Enrollment and tracking – does it             Administrator maintains       Yes.
   provide course listings, tracks               learner profiles and
   enrollment, and individual learner            enrolls learners in
   progress in course? Does it maintain          courses. Individual
   learner profile?                              progress is tracked.
7. Content access - how do learners              No. Learners access           As it is currently used,
   access content and what mediums are           assignment sheets and         learners access
   available?                                    exams only in text            assignment sheets
                                                                               and exams only
8. ROI/Affordability – is the learning           Yes, but not handled most     Yes
    experience handled more efficiently          efficiently. Not durable.
    including administrative and instruction
    delivery time? Is it durable and able to
    handle technology changes without
    costly redesign?
9. Communications – can learners                 No                            Yes
    communicate with instructors and/or
    administrators as well as other
    students?
10. Learning evaluation – how are learning       Not available                 Yes
    programs evaluated and is there student
    survey options?
11. Administration – can the administrator       Limited                       Yes, the extent is
    override automatic tasks?                                                  unknown
12. Content development – does it have the       Limited                       Yes
    ability to author, maintain, and store
    learning content?
13. Reusability – does it have the flexibility   Very limited as it used       Yes, but minimally as it
    to incorporate instructional components      currently                     is used currently
    in multiple applications and contexts?
14. Compatibility – are other products           No                            Yes
    compatible with this LMS such as Word
    and Acrobat?
15. Interoperable – can it operate on            No                            Yes
    another platform or with other tools?
16. Support and help – is there sufficient       Minimal                       Yes
    technical support?
17. Compliance – is it SCORM, ADA, and           No                            Yes
    AICC compliant?
                                                  DOS-based Learning Management System 13


                                           Conclusion

      The main developer of PLS mentioned that if he were to design another learning

management system, he would fashion it after Bb. The benefits of accessing information and

managing learning opportunities more efficiently through technology are tremendous. SCORM

provides standards to use technology effectively via the Internet enabling reusable learning

objects and yet, individualized education and training. Although PLS has had its day and needs

to make way for new learning systems such as Bb, learning systems will continue to enhance

the educational experience and deliver information effectively.
                                                   DOS-based Learning Management System 14


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