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Referenceware vs Courseware

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A learning executive posted a question to a LinkedIn group requesting recommendations for a good vendor for off-the-shelf courseware to train his staff in Microsoft Office. First came a deluge of predictable responses from vendors touting their wares. Later came many counter-arguments recommending free training resources available from Microsoft, YouTube and other sources. Most comments focused primarily on the cost benefits of suggested resources.

Lost in the crowd was a narrow band of the comments focused on a more important issue: accessibility.

SCORM courseware only works in an LMS. Most SCORM courseware isn’t searchable either. This means:

  • A company buys a library of courseware for the LMS
  • An employee has an on-the-job challenge - let’s say Excel pivot tables.
  • The employee searches on the company intranet. This is usually fruitless because of inherent technical difficulties.
  • The employee searches LMS system. Even if they a get a hit from general metadata tags, there is no way to access the specific page or screen of the course covering the specific topic.
  • The employee thinks “Hmm… this is really a two minute question- let’s check YouTube”.

Traditional courseware is optimized for formal LMS utilization, not for ad hoc just in time access. This traps the content in a de facto “LMS use only” silo and makes it ineffective for on-the-job performance support. Thus, most courseware has just one use – to complete a course.

Referenceware supports on the job performance. However, referenceware utilization is difficult to track. Even basic access would require a reporting utility like Google analytics to be layered onto it. Integrating and reporting the utilization within an LMS can require special handling and customization.

Most of the industry views courseware and referenceware as an either/or decision point. Either courseware is purchased and tracked via LMS (with limited workplace usage), or referenceware can be developed and deployed (as effective performance support resources). However the referenceware will have no data on its usage to guide the business in understanding how these assets help employees perform more effectively.


Leveraging Referenceware by using Extended Learning Events

Accord LMS includes Extended Learning Events (XLE), which allow you to track the utilization of non-SCORM resources. This feature presents tremendous opportunities to leverage both internal and external referenceware for training. Whether internal company-built performance support resources or external resources such as YouTube your source events can include: URL; File; any Application running on your portal, Text/HTML for embedding notices, images or video, PDF templates with token support, and (coming soon) advanced video handling to support any kind or size of PC or mobile device. Utilization tracking options include:

  • Incomplete on Open
  • Complete on Open
  • Complete on Close
  • Complete on Specified Duration

All of this is available using the referenceware in its native format. No need to over engineer it with SCORM or AICC. No need to take a derivative copy to customize and upload to your LMS for tracking.

You company network has a tremendous library of learning you can use and track RIGHT NOW. Think about all the assets you may have on SharePoint project sites, your company intranet, a company wiki, etc. These assets can be searched and utilized from your company’s network to support on-the-job tasks. In addition they can also be sourced in Accord LMS as an XLE to track usage when part of a learning program. No need to duplicate the asset, or wrap it in SCORM. Since the LMS is only “referencing” the referenceware, when the asset is updated in its native workspace, it is updated in the LMS learning program as well. Concerning SharePoint, the Accord provides integrated access to lists, calendars,  folders and documents (including download) stored in your SharePoint document repository.

The benefits of XLE extend beyond your network; you can utilize Learning Event source events to essentially anything on the Internet. If you find a spectacular series of YouTube videos that cover your specific requirements, include them in the learning program. With smart configuration, you can set prerequisites and use the completion triggers to coincide the same program flow that would normally require SCORM objects.

For example, a traditional design for video based training is to have the SCORM wrap trigger completion when the play head hits the end of the video. Using the “Complete on Duration” parameter, you can set the time of duration equivalent to the playtime of a YouTube video (for example, set Completion on Duration to 5 minutes to coincide with a 5 minute YouTube video).

PDF templates can be used as Certificates of Completion once other Learning Events are completed or passed. LMS Managers can also create Attempt Records for any of the XLE to support and track blended learning.


Power Tip: Creating Customized Courseware is MUCH easier than most people think.

Off-the-shelf courseware is NOT customized for your business. It may be adequate but it is certainly not optimally designed for your business. Additionally, when you consider the price and license restrictions of traditional courseware, there may be a better option.

Want customized training without the cost or strings attached? Today’s screen casting tools have virtually no learning curve, and there are several free options that are adequate for many purposes. Your only costs are “time to learn and record”- which are quite low.

  • Record a customized screen cast that illustrates the use of your tools in the context of your business. Use your business’ standards, templates, and norms.
  • Find the best home for the recording (a wiki, intranet, SharePoint site, or even a private YouTube channel). I do recommend ONE source recording with all other access points using a link to reference the content. Duplication of source materials can create a versioning nightmare.
  • If the asset is used in training, pick the best event source type to attach to the asset and the appropriate tracking option.
  • When the asset needs to be updated, then rerecord and update the asset at its source location. If you maintain the same file name or URL, the references in the Accord LMS continue to link to the updated resource and tracking sustains.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

XLE allow you to re-purpose referenceware in its natural workspaces, where it can be utilized on-the-job performance support, yet still reuse and track it as part of a training program. Just leave the asset where it is most helpful to support on-the-job performance, and use the XLE settings that best align with the tracking strategy for your training program.

| Categories: eLearning, Feature Focus

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