Monday, September 27, 2010

Help wanted - virtualize me!

Due to an unfortunate confluence of events it looks like I won't be able to make it to WOLCE this year. Fact is, I wasn't intending to go. I was a little disappointed by it last year, and now that Learning Technologies has Learning & Skills to run alongside, I really couldn't see the point in going. Not to say that it is bad, only for my needs right now, WOLCE isn't really right.

However, at my company we've been experiencing a spot of trouble with our software systems and it's quite likely that WOLCE is the sort of place that someone with a solution might show up. Unfortunately, at short notice I'm not really able to make it either day that the show is running, so if you are going, take a look at our needs and if you spot someone selling anything like this, ask them to get in touch with me via or @danroddy on Twitter.

Our need
My employer runs residential training courses at our training centre, and on-site training if clients have enough of a need. We need to be able to plan and schedule face-to-face courses, sell them, share data with partner organisations and reconcile everything with our finance team. We also need to be able to store learner data so that we can answer their queries in the months and years after they attend - some of our courses ensure that they are able to get on registers for certified personnel so our training is important to them - they just sometimes misplace the certificates...

It would be cool too, but not vital, if there was the option to tie up to an LMS (we run Moodle) and if the student record system was capable of tracking other training types, like vocational courses. If it were capable of managing resources like rooms and hardware, then we would be scrabbling for a chequebook. And we'll offer the hand in marriage of any unmarried member of the team if it also can run a conference venue.

In short, we are looking for a student management information system for short course providers, with all the trimmings. The emphasis has to be on supporting face-to-face training.

But we can compromise.

There are only two products that seem to match our need*. CourseBooker, which pretty much does what it says on the tin, but which we abandoned a few years ago, and a newish product called onCourse, which looks very exciting, but which doesn't have a UK supplier just yet. Any attempt to search online for this kind of thing unfortunately seems to hit every keyword for an LMS, no matter how you try to cut it, and frankly I'm skeptical of LMSs' ability to do what we are after - they are nearly always elearning first, anything else as an add on (since the developers can't make much from it).

So, if you are at WOLCE, or frankly just reading about this and think you know of a suitable product, PLEASE let me or them know and try to get in touch. I'll buy you a beer at the Learning Techologies after party** in 2011...

* There is also the product that we have, but just because we have it, it doesn't follow that it matches our needs. Seriously, we used to be public sector and the procurement mess on the current system shows how far we've come in some ways***
** First I need to get invited. Or arrange it. Let's say the pub across the road from Olympia, about 5pm on the Tuesday? Brilliant, see you there.
*** Not very.


Mark Berthelemy said...

Hi Dan,

I've been looking for exactly the same sort of system for ages. And I know of other people in similar sitations.

There's a real gap in the market for a corporate training focussed student information/ecommerce system.

OnCourse looks interesting, but it uses a client-server model (ie. something to install at both ends), rather than using a browser. Not ideal in my view.

You could do a lot of what you want using SugarCRM, but you'll need a connector to Moodle built, and some custom code to manage scheduling etc.

Dan said...

Funny you should mention Sugar because that was my first thoughts too, but I asked a fairly big Moodle/Sugar offering UK firm and they seemingly hadn't gotten round to developing anything quite like this, and since they have a foot in both camps already I'd have thought that if they haven't done it, there must be some reason why.

I agree about OnCourse too - I appreciate that the Java structure means that you don't need to worry about the server technology, but frankly it would be preferable if it were browser based. The other problem with OnCourse is the fact that its Australian-ness is built in as far as I can tell - it would require a bit of tweaking to get it right for the UK.

Let's see if my eyes and ears on the ground at WOLCE see anything useful!

Mark Berthelemy said...

Let me know what you find out...

Dan said...

While trying to find out how to register courses with C&G I came across a list of software solutions that deal with ULNs (unique learner numbers) and one product that looked interesting was Resource EMS from Corero, but this is in a class with an offering by Crapita, so may not be all that...