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
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.
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
SCORM Book Concepts Covered
Overview High-level conceptual information
Content Aggregation Model Assembling, labeling and packaging of learning
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.
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).
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
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
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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
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?
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
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
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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
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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
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
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13. Reusability – it is flexible, but this feature is not used to incorporate components in
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
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
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.
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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
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
9. Communications – can learners No Yes
communicate with instructors and/or
administrators as well as other
10. Learning evaluation – how are learning Not available Yes
programs evaluated and is there student
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
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
15. Interoperable – can it operate on No Yes
another platform or with other tools?
16. Support and help – is there sufficient Minimal Yes
17. Compliance – is it SCORM, ADA, and No Yes
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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.
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Advanced Distributive Learning. (2006). About ADL. Retrieved February 5, 2006 from
Advanced Distributed Learning. (2004). SCORM 2nd edition overview (1.1). Retrieved February
6, 2006, from IPT525 Week 4 database and from
Alvarado, P. (2004). Seven steps to selecting a learning management system. Retrieved
February 23, 2006 from
Blackboard. (2000). Blackboard inc.’s Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky are named kKilby
Award Foundation International Laureates. Retrieved March 4, 2006 from
Techtarget.com. (n.d.). Learning management system. Retrieved March 3, 2006 from