E-Learning in the Cloud

I’ve written several blog posts lately about doing your e-learning work in the cloud. Diane and I have had a “robust” conversation about whether that’s really a good idea or not. While there’s been some virtual finger pointing, we’ve not come to blows…yet! We thought we’d let you in on the conversation.

Rod: Access to the Internet is so ubiquitous now that you can get your work done anywhere. I’ve worked on e-learning courses at restaurants, hotels, sporting events, medical offices–even a bowling alley! Why on earth would I want to be tethered to my office computer and its applications to get my work done? 

Diane: I don’t like being tethered either.  But I really hate counting on production time and then not getting it.  While the Internet is often available, it isn’t ALWAYS available.  I might be at a client site with some time between meetings but am not allowed on their network.  I might be on a long flight trying to catch up on some work after being at a conference.  Clients don’t pay me to sit there and do Sudoku—I need to get work done.

Rod: It’s a good thing our clients aren’t paying you to do Soduko – I’ve seen how long it takes you to finish one. The great thing about universal Internet access is that so much of it is high speed too. Wireless speeds in particular have made great strides in the last year or two. I find I can be just as productive in a public Wi-Fi spot as I can in my office on a wired connection. 

Diane: You must be staying in nicer hotels than I am!  If the network is slow, so is your productivity.  I could be pulling my hair out trying to work through edits quickly.  And don’t even get me started on trying to work with video on a slow connection.

Rod: Wait until you see my next company credit card statement – you’ll see what kind of hotels I like! Cloud-based authoring tools usually have a “pay as you go” or subscription model, which means you don’t have to pay big dollars up front for software that might not meet your needs in a year or two. In addition, upgrades and updates are automatically included and added seamlessly to your authoring tool without your intervention. Cloud based tools can reduce your total cost of ownership and level out your costs. 

Diane: And if money grew on trees, you know you’d have an annual harvest to renew your subscription every year.  But it doesn’t grow on trees, and many organizations can’t guarantee that funding will continue to be available.  What if money gets tight?  What if you have one-time grant funding?  What if your project sponsor leaves the company?  When you stop paying the monthly or annual subscription, then you don’t have access to your tool anymore.  Whereas if you buy Lectora or Storyline, for example, you can buy it once and use it indefinitely.  Five years later, you can theoretically still be using the same tool and be cranking out new courses.

Diane: One other thing that really concerns me is that if the vendor goes out of business, you have nothing.  If Articulate were to go out of business (not that I expect them to), I could still use my license of Storyline indefinitely to maintain existing courses and create new ones.  With a cloud-based tool, if the company goes out of business or stops supporting the tool, I have nothing but my published courses.  I can’t build new courses.  I don’t have any of the files needed to maintain my existing courses.  I lose anything that was in progress.  And now I have to go out and select/learn a new tool.

Rod: Diane, please take off the tin foil hat and return to reality! If an e-learning authoring tool vendor goes out of business then you’re ultimately hosed whether it’s a cloud based system or not. Who is going to keep using software from a defunct company for any length of time? If Articulate goes out of business then that means no more wonderful Articulate support to answer questions and fix problems. You’ll still have to find a new authoring tool.

Care to join the debate? How do you feel about e-learning development in the cloud?

Rod Jackson

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