Blended learning nowadays is not only implemented by educational institution but also various trainings such as employee trainings, miter trainings, etc. The development of blended learning implementation in some countries is also followed by the development of its platform. By today, we can find many kinds of platforms that can be used in blended learning program. Some platforms can be accessed free, some of them are paid, and even some have their own domain.
Blended learning which combines face to face learning and e-learning extremely needs an appropriate platform. We need to consider some aspects in choosing the platform of blended learning. It is because the mistake in choosing blended learning platform will affect to implementation of the program. It will not support the blended learning but it will precisely troublesome the user and interfere the program implementation. Therefore, it’s necessary to have insight about tips in choosing blended learning platforms as the following explanation.
Understand 3 Kinds of the Platform
In “Guide for Designing and Developing E-learning Courses” is found that the definition of e-learning platform is a set of interactive online services which provide learners with access of information, tools and resources to support educational delivery and management through internet connection. Usually there are three kinds of e-learning platforms which are used in blended learning, they are:
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
Basically, VLE has much complexity in its program development. However this kind of platform is also user friendly as it can be accessed whenever and wherever by the learners. It can be also used for learning personalization activity. Besides, there are some excellences of VLE such as the features of searching, sharing, and communicating with very good quality. It is also known as a kind of platform which has a very strong collaborative component. Hence, VLE is very appropriate to stimulate face to face learning as a part of the blended learning program. The example of e-learning platform with VLE are “Moodle” and “Blackboard”.
Learning Management System (LMS)
LMS is known as the most simple one and it is largely used by the e-learning products in the world. It is used as software device to manage menu of learnings or trainings. The basic function of LMS are doing the file sending, searching, and supervising online learning process. LMS can optimize the learning process, deliver content of learning or training, managing and keeping the track of learners’ progress and performance in all learning or training process. Therefore, it can reduce administrative overhead. The function and feature of LMS can be developed by using attractive plugin. Well, one of the most important characteristic of this kind of platform is the quality of its safety and privacy which is very good.
Learning Content Management System (LCMS)
LCMS focuses more to creating, publishing, and analyzing digital content so it is used more by developer or admin to create contents for e-learning and blended learning. The content or material can be in from of article, test, games, video, and another digital contents. The function of creating content in LMS is multi-user so it can be done collaboratively in a centralized system. It is because the technology of centralized content management of this platform. LCMS can be also developed by integrating plugin or third-party tools.
Make Sure the Platform Has Function to Develop Learners’ Skill
In choosing blended learning, we need to emphasize at least these two following things:
Skill development in context of formal and informal learning
Formal learning is face to face learning in school which is managed and led by teacher of tutor. While informal learning is after-school learning activity using online learning platform which is proper to the learners’ need. The platform should be able to create meaningful and seamless learning environment so the learners will involve optimally in all aspects of learning process. Therefore, the platform can be supporting media for learners’ skill development through both formal and informal learning.
Skill development through individual and collaborative learning approach
Both individually and collaboratively, blended learning platform should be able to facilitate every learner to plan goals, accomplish assignments, monitor progress and evaluate the outcome of learning process they involve in. besides, it should enable teachers and learners to give simple but sufficient feedback to identify learners’ need direction of being better in the future.
The Platform Should Fulfil Criteria Within Technical, Aesthetic, and Pedagogical Issues
To answer learners’ need toward blended learning platform, the following lists are tips in choosing the platform. The lists are made according to the summary of speech which was delivered in a conference of “Quality in Blended Learning” held in Wiener Neustadt, Austria in 2014.
On technical issues, a learning platform should :
- have a user friendly design
- be working well although in a low internet connection
- have many collaborative tools such as wiki, google docs, etc.
- have many communication tools
- have the possibility of splitting the trainees or learners into some virtual classes
- be customized according to learners’ need
- have continuous updating and compatibility with previous versions.
- be stabilized, not presenting any technical problems
- provide continuous technical problem solving forum
On aesthetic issues, a learning platform should:
- have welcoming atmosphere with attractive pictures and friendly greeting text to motivate and guide the learners or trainees
- have an introducing pace which shows prominent milestones or task
- provide learners or trainees with high demand of transparency of information regarding the course schedule and organization
- have a neat and well design structure so that be easier to be accessed and understood
On pedagogical issues, a learning platform should:
- have interactive educational material
- have many activities with weekly basis to check learner’s progress
- have clear material and enhance learners’ active involvement
- facilitate learners with team work activities and another learning method such as question and answer, discussion, brain storming, role play and case study
- facilitate students with access to their learning development
- provide justified feedback
- provide learners with materials that meet their needs
- have structure that provokes learners to involve totally in the virtual learning
That’s all the three tips in choosing blended learning platforms which consist of understand three kinds of platforms, make sure the platform has function to develop learners’ skill, and the platform should fulfil criteria within technical, aesthetic, and pedagogical issues. After understanding the aspects that must be considered in choosing blended learning platforms, we need to find recommendation of the platform which is appropriate with the needs. As already mentioned above, nowadays we can find so many kinds of e-learning platforms in internet, both free and paid one. However, to show professionality and credibility educational institutions, companies, or training institutions usually choose the paid platforms.
One of recommended paid e-learning platforms is Katalis App which is very appropriate to be used by education institutions, companies, or training institutions. It has some excellences such as feature of quiz, mobile friendly so enable learners to access it whenever and wherever, supporting mastery learning concept, self-domain, course management system, providing certificate, be able to monitor development and improvement, reducing maintenance cost because no server no software, facility of learning programming editor easily, discussion forum, enterprise ready, and full support from developers team for technical issues. Teachers or tutors can create module including videos and another digital contents. Sharing content both by teachers and learners can be done here as well, in Katalis App. Considering those excellences, Katalis App is indeed recommended to be used as platform of blended learning.