I have taught many eLearning classes in the last 32 years at conferences, online (live and as eLearning), and at client sites, primarily in the use of eLearning development tools. The one aspect of teaching that has always frustrated me a bit is the fact that my students often don’t retain a lot of what they learn in class once they get back to their work desks. Worse, the more time passes between the time they learn a tool that I’ve taught them and when they actually start to use it to create learning applications, the less they remember. My guess is that you share that frustration.
For every problem, there’s a solution (if only we can find it)
We all know that when we take a class or go through an eLearning course, we are not instant experts at the end of the class or course; we have simply graduated. At best, the class acts as a springboard so that we reach expertise faster than we may have otherwise. Once we’ve graduated, the time it takes to become experts will vary tremendously and is dependent on the complexity of the material, the number of opportunities we have to practice while on the job, and the availability of resources that can help.
After having recognized the problem years ago, I started looking for ways to shorten the time it takes between graduation and expertise. I wanted to be able to deliver to my learners some ways to keep fresh in their minds what they learned and perhaps even follow up with more information about the topic they learned. I’ve researched several products to find ones that might help.
LearningStone: a small social networks, online resource, and collaborative platform
A few months ago, I discovered a product called LearningStone and thought it might prove useful in helping me help my learners. I started to experiment by using it in a few of my larger classes, telling my students about the LearningStone platform and how it would work.
In short, LearningStone combines the ideas behind LinkedIn, Facebook, Dropbox and other online resources and social networks but focused on smaller groups, usually 100 or fewer. What LearningStone lets me do is to set up each group separately and provide the group members with several resources: new examples and other files, the ability to ask and answer questions, and more. See Figure 1.
Figure 1: LearningStone options
In essence, learners can start to collaborate and help each other more easily and I, of course, can help them as well. The system is easy to use so you don’t have to be a tech expert, or rely on one. You can use it from any device ranging from mobile phone to desktop.
Features and benefits
I really enjoy having one central location (see Figure 2) where I can monitor and share with my learners with everything in one place. This saves me a lot of time and allows me to stay on one page to do it all.
- If I have files I want to send them I don’t have to post them on my own server and provide log-in credentials to my learners, I don’t have to put them in Dropbox or other online storage, I put them in the LearningStone group and can then send an automatic email to group members to alert them to the new content. I can upload any kind of file and my learners can subsequently download it: authoring tool source files, videos or images that they can watch within LearningStone or download, or any other file I may wish to share. Huge storage is included, (20 to 100 GB per workspace) so you really have to have a ton of material to start feeling the limits. Even the free version gives you lots of storage space.
- If I want to schedule some follow-up sessions online I can use the Calendar to set up my session and alert members to it. Members can have my sessions link to their own calendars too.
- If I need to add or remove folks It’s easy to do in the People area.
- If I would like to add photos there is no need for Flickr or other site. I just post them in the Gallery area to share only with group members.
- If I have a need to send out automatic reminders, LearningStone automatically sends out daily digest email to all members about what has changed, posted, or uploaded in their group. They can change reminder settings if they wish.
Figure 2: The LearningStone timeline
Over time, I and my group members build a course timeline with a history that members can peruse, filter, and so on. I can permit members to upload their own videos, screencasts, files, photos, etc. It’s not just one-to-many, the whole group can get involved. See Figure 3.
Here are some other facts I like about LearningStone.
- I can set up a separate public site that anyone can access, besides setting up private groups for individual classes.
- I can post resources across classes and courses when I know that they should go to more than one. In the Documents area, I can upload material for one group or I can upload general material for all the groups I serve. That way I can build up a library with background info for my learners.
- I can copy a course timeline to a new group and change any details about it, saving me a lot of time.
- I can stay in touch with all my learners using the built-in mail system, which seems to work flawlessly and quickly.
Figure 3: Learners can collaborate and upload their own materials
Pricing is reasonable for all the services provided. It’s different because it’s not based on the number of learners but only per active group, which means you don’t have to worry about the price changing just because you add or remove members in a group (see Figure 4). In most cases, you’ll find that translates to under $2.00 per month for each learner, but with many learners the price can drop to around $0.55 each. There’s even a free version. See: https://www.learningstone.com/en/plans.
Figure 4: Adding and removing members
LearningStone improves results for learners
Is LearningStone absolutely essential? We’ve survived without it until now, but like many tools, until we start using them, we may not realize what we’ve been missing. I now count LearningStone as another tool in my toolbox to ensure that my learners, whether they are sitting in a classroom of mine or they are taking one of my eLearning courses, have a greater chance of success.