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Top 10 lists: Twenty Top 10s in e-learning




A journalist friend of mine (40 years in the business) once said, “There’s only one thing in a newspaper or magazine that everybody will read – a Top 10 list. It can be the Top 10 of anything, they’ll read it.”

Indeed, we’ve often been asked to provide a list of the Top 10 LMSs or Top 10 books in e-learning. So we have decided to compile a few lists. All lists are idiosyncratic and these have not been built from surveys, although some, such as the Top 10 pieces of software, have been based on market share. I’m sure you’ll disagree with many of the entries so please email us if there are glaring omissions – that’s the whole point of lists.

Top 10 Benefits of e-learning

1. Cost savings
2. Anytime
3. Anywhere
4. Scalable
5. Tracks users
6. Self-paced
7. Participative
8. Consistency
9. Multimedia delivery
10. Self-assessment

The benefits to the organisation come first then learner benefits.

See Epic White Paper on Organisational benefits of e-learning

Top 10 Cost savings in e-learning

1. Trainer accommodation
2. Trainer travel
3. Trainer subsistence
4. Learner accommodation
5. Learner travel & subsistence
6. Classrooms
7. Equipment
8. Off-the-job time
9. Print costs
10. All of the above repeat costs

Quite apart from productivity gains, these are normally recognised as potential cost savings. The scalability and sustainability of electronic delivery amplifies these costs every time e-learning is used.

See Epic White Paper on Return on investment in e-learning

Top 10 Conferences for e-learning

1. Techlearn (US)
2. OnlineLearning (US)
3. ASTD (US)
4. Online Educa (Europe)
6. Learning Technologies (UK)
7. HRD (UK)
8. BETT (UK)
9. ALT (UK)
10. ITEC (UK)

After many years of speaking at, and attending, conferences, these are my Top 10. Of course the order will vary depending on interest. Some are general training conferences; ASTD (US) and HRD (UK). Some are e-learning conferences with a focus on training; Techlearn (US), OnlineLearning (US), WOLCE (UK) and Learning Technologies (UK). Others have education as their focus; Online Educa (Europe), BETT (UK) and ALT (UK). ITEC (UK) has a defence focus. As we attend most of these conferences every year we provide conference reports via our newsletter.

See Epic Conference reviews

Top 10 US e-learning gurus

1. Roger Schank
2. Jay Cross
3. Mark Prensky
4. John Seeley-Brown
5. Michael Allen
6. Clark Alrdridge
7. Elliot Masie
8. Brandon-Hall
9. Marc Rosenberg
10. Curtis Bonk

These are the people I’ve enjoyed listening to at conferences. Note that I haven’t put Masie or Brandon-Hall at the top, as they’re not, in my opinion, really original thinkers, but synthesisers (in itself a useful role).

Top 10 Interesting Laws for e-learning

1. Sarnoff’s Law
2. Metcalfe’s Law
3. Reed’s Law
4. Moore’s Law
5. Gilder’s Law
6. Pareto’s Law
7. Zipf’s Law
8. Law of diminishing returns
9. Law of increasing returns
10. Murphy’s Law

Sarnoff saw that the value of a broadcast model is proportional to the number of users. Metcalf saw that the value of a network grows with the square of the number of nodes. Reed then saw that the value of a network grows not to the square of the number of users, but exponentially i.e. two to the power of the number of nodes. Moore saw that processors would double in speed every 18 months. Gilder stated that bandwidth grows at least three times faster than computer power so that communications power doubles every six months. Pareto showed that 80% of almost anything comes from 20% of something. Simply put, a few account for most or the separation of the vital few from the trivial many, more commonly, this law has been called the 80/20 rule. Zipf says that the winner takes almost all e.g. Microsoft, Google. Kevin Kelly saw the law of increasing returns in the network’s ability to increase the advantage between those things that speed ahead and those that are left behind. The law of diminishing returns, first put forward by Malthus, states that the more you put in the less you get in return. Murphy negates all of the above laws by showing that if anything can go wrong it will!


Top 10 LMSs (Learning Management Systems)

1. Saba
2. TotalLMS
3. Meridian KSI
4. Pathlore
5. Plateau
6. PeopleComeFirst
7. Oracle iLearning
8. Peoplesoft
9. SAP
11. KnowledgePlanet

Where do we start? These are the ones that appear to have market share and a track record. If you want a really detailed analysis, all are included in the 50 system Brandon-Hall LMS review. I warn you now, it runs to 2000 pages! For a shorter analysis on LMSs and how to approach the issue try our White paper.

See Epic White Paper on Learning Management Systems

Top 10 LMS Purchasing Mistakes

1. Inadequate specification
2. Seeing the LMS as the sole solution
3. Failure to consider non-LMS options
4. Buying too much functionality
5. Over-complex for user
6. Not customisable
7. Not interoperable
8. Limits on scalability
9. Difficult to integrate
10. Failure to check company credentials

Many have made one or more of these mistakes resulting in ill-used or abandoned LMSs.

See Epic White Paper on Learning Management Systems

Top 10 VLEs (Educational Virtual Learning Environments)

1. Blackboard
2. WebCT
3. E-college
4. SunGard
5. Sakai Project (free)
6. Desire2Learn
7. uPortal
8. Jenzabar
9. LearnWise (UK)
10. Virtual Campus (UK)

No doubt there’ll be those who want to point out the difference between a VLE and MLE. With Blackboard’s successful IPO, they’re definitely at the top of the list, but watch out for free software from the well funded Sakai Project.

Top 10 Collaborative e-learning tools

1. Centra
2. Interwise
3. WebEx
4. PlaceWare
5. HorizonLive
6. LearnLinc
7. Arel
8. Astound
9. Raindance
10. NetMeeting

A difficult one this as there’s synchronous (realtime), asynchronous (non realtime) and collaborative working tools. There’s also collaborative learning functionality embedded with some LMSs. I’ve gone for the synchronous virtual classrooms. NetMeeting’s in there, not as a pure learning product, but because it is so commonly used.

Top 10 Assessment tools

1. Testcraft assessment software
2. ForceTen
3. Eedo Knowledgeware
4. The Examiner System
5. ExamBuilder
6. Knowledge Presenter
7. Rapid Exam
8. Exam Engine
9. Lumenix Handshaw
10. Automatic e-Learning

These were the shootout competitors at OnlineLearning in Los Angeles, with the results in the right order.


Top 10 Accessibility design rules for e-learning

1. Images: Use alt text to describe all static elements, such as graphics, icons, graphic text.
2. Multimedia: Provide captioning and transcripts of audio, and descriptions of video.
3. Hypertext links: Use text that makes sense out of context. For example, avoid ‘click here’.
4. Page organisation: Use headings, lists, and consistent structure. Use CSS for layout and style.
5. Graphs & charts: Summarise or use the longdesc attribute.
6. Frames: Use the noframes element and meaningful titles.
7. Tables: Make line-by-line reading sensible – summarise.
8. Questions: Avoid ‘difficult’ screen types, such as drag and drop.
9. Punctuation: Meet requirements of screen readers, e.g. full stops at the end of all bullet points.
10. Keyboard: Ensure clickable elements can be controlled via keyboard, e.g. Tab cycles and Enter.

The trick is to get the designers to really understand the problems they create when they don’t stick to these rules and to use their common sense when designing accessible e-learning. The WAI lists are useful as is quality control testing for accessibility. We have a full accessibility test lab with trained testers and use testers with the relevant impairments, when necessary.

See Epic White Paper on Accessibility in e-learning

Top 10 Design errors in e-learning

1. Overlong compulsory linear sequences of anything
2. Over-compulsory routing of learner
3. Overlong text
4. Text placed on busy or patterned background
5. Graphics that look clickable, but are not
6. Unnecessary animation
7. Multiple choice questions with obviously stupid options
8. Multiple choice questions with same the words at start of all options (words should be in question)
9. Icons evenly spaced (should be clustered)
10. Stupid audio effects or music on in background

These are the things I see all the time in e-learning. Too much control over the learner, unreadable text, unnecessary clutter on the screen, poorly written questions, unclear navigation and annoying sound effects. There’s loads more, but even writing this list brought back frightening memories.

See Epic White Paper on Design in e-learning

Top 10 Groups to convince in e-learning

1. Senior management
2. Middle management and sponsors
3. IT management
4. HR management
5. Internal trainers
6. External trainers
7. Learners
8. Union
9. Suppliers
10. Existing and other e-learning groups

It’s easy to forget how many people have to be convinced within an organisation for
e-learning to fly. This is a useful checklist of possible groups that have to be convinced when implementing e-learning.

Top 10 Problems in implementation of e-learning

1. Bandwidth
2. Cultural resistance
3. Lack of interaction
4. Lack of engaging content
5. Integration
6. Measuring ROI
7. Firewalls
8. No standards
9. Browser problems
10. Accessibility

This list is taken from a survey in a US e-learning magazine. It covers most of the problems one encounters on launching an e-learning programme.

Top 10 Books on E-learning

1. The ASTD e-Learning Handbook, Allison Rossett
2. e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, Clark & Mayer
3. Michael Allen's Guide to E-Learning, Michael Allen
4. Designing Web-Based Training, William Horton
5. The Media Equation, Nass & Reeves
6. ASTD series in online learning
7. E-Learning, Marc Rosenberg
8. Implementing e-learning, Cross & Dublin
9. Web-Based Training, Margaret Driscoll
10. ASTD series in online learning

Here’s some practical and well written texts on what it is what’s good, what’s bad and how to do it. I’d recommend anything in the ASTD series.

See more Epic book reviews


Top 10 Books on Education

1. Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich
2. Reclaiming Education, James Tooley
3. The Learning Game, Michael Barber
4. Learning Beyond the Classroom, Tom Bently
5. All Must Have Prizes, Melanie Philips
6. Class War, Chris Woodhead
7. How Children Think and Learn, David Wood
8. Lifelong Learning in the University, David Watson
9. Universities in the Marketplace, Derek Bok
10. Learning for Life, David hargreaves

Want to think out of the box in education? Try these. All of these books present new and innovative ideas, some would say extreme. I’ve been careful to include those with which I disagree, such as All Must Have Prizes and Universities in the Marketplace, as they have been very influential.

See Epic White Paper on Higher education and e-learning

Top 10 Books on Collaborative e-learning

1. Learning Networks: A Field Guide to Teaching and Learning On-Line, Linda Harasim
2. E-moderating, Gilly Salmon
3. E-activities, Gilly Salmon
4. Building learning Communities, Palloff & Pratt
5. The Virtual Student: A Profile and Guide to Working with Online Learners, Palloff & Pratt
6. Facilitating Online Learning, Collison, Elbaum, Haavind & Tinker
7. Handbook of Distance Education, Moore & Anderson
8. Discussion-Based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning, Bender & Bender
9. Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators, Collison et al
10. Teaching Online: A Practical Guide, Ko & Rossen

Two authors have been included twice, and deservedly so. There’s a real rush of books on this subject but many are vague and make too many assumptions about the virtues of collaborative learning. However, there are some excellent texts, old and new, going back to Harasim.

See Epic White Paper on Collaboration in e-learning

Top 10 Books on History and Future of technology

1. A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet, Briggs & Burke
2. The Victorian Internet, Tom Standage
3. A Brief History of the Future: From Radio Days to Internet Years in a Lifetime, John Naughton
4. Accidental Empires, Robert X Cringely
5. Weaving the Web, Tim Berners-Lee
6. New Rules for the New Economy, Kevin Kelly
7. Emergence: Stephen Johnson
8. Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks, Mark Buchanan
9. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, Duncan Watts
10. Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold

Five on the past, five on the future, none on the present. There’s general stuff on the history of media (remember that writing and books are forms of technology) as well as stirring stories of specific periods such as the Victorian telegraph, the early days of the PC and the explosion of the web. The there’s texts on principles and effects such as emergence, networks and social networks that are already shaping the future.

Top 10 Books on Games and Simulations

1. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture, Johann Huizinga
2. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, James Paul Gee
3. Digital Game-Based Learning, Marc Prensky
4. Trigger Happy: Videogames and the Entertainment Revolution, Steven Poole
5. Joystick Nation, J C Herz
6. Does Jane Compute?: Preserving Our Daughters' Place in the Cyber Revolution, Roberta Furger
7. From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games, Justine Cassell
8. Net Generation, Don Tapscott
9. Boomers, Xers, and Other Strangers, Hicks and Hicks
10. Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, Howe & Strauss

If you want to know about games, play them! These books, however, get beneath the skin of games and gaming. It starts with the classic general text on the role of play and games across time and cultures, has a couple of texts on the application of games to learning then specific texts on computer gaming, its history and the gender issues. Lastly there’s attempts to define the generations. The new term is ‘Millenials’.

See Epic White Paper on Games in e-learning

Top 10 Books on Knowledge management

1. The Knowledge-Creating Company, Nonaka and Takeuchi
2. The Individualised Corporation, Sumatra Ghoshal
3. Intellectual Capital, Leif Edvinsson
4. Corporate Longitude, Leif Edvinsson
5. Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management, Drucker et al.
6. The Social Life of Information, Seeley and Duguid
7. Working Knowledge, Davenport & Prusak
8. Enabling Knowledge Creation, by Krogh et al
9. Cultivating Communities of Practice, Wenger et al
10. Money for Nothing, Roger Bootle

I tried to cover the classic texts that gave rise to the concept of intellectual capital as well as work on the social aspect of information and knowledge. There’s also practical work on how to get the knowledge juices flowing.

See Epic White Paper on Knowledge management and e-learning


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Corporate brochure: E-Learning at Epic
Data sheets: Epic Consulting, Accessibility Lab, Arena, Blended Learning ROI Calculator (‘The Blender’), Epic P2P, Hosting, Thought Leadership Programme, Testing (x4)
White papers: Blended Learning, Blended Learning in Practice
Survey report: The Future of E-Learning (2003)

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