Trainer5 creates, Lotus delivers
By Lori Mitchell
When it comes to training large numbers of employees, developing online courses in-house and posting them on the company intranet can be much more cost-effective than sending people to school. Web-based training not only expands the reach of corporate training programs while eliminating travel costs and scheduling constraints, but it also gives companies greater control over course content. Recent upgrades of two established training tools - MicroMedium Trainer5 Version 5.11 (formerly Digital Trainer Professional Version 5.1) and Lotus LearningSpace Anytime 3.0 - take aim at two different aspects of online courseware. While Trainer5 excels at creating self-paced courses, LearningSpace offers more training options, including asynchronous discussion groups, application sharing, and live, instructor-led training in virtual classrooms.
Enterprises with an investment in Lotus Notes should consider Lotus LearningSpace Anytime 3.0. LearningSpace offers three training methods in one solution: self-paced individual training, asynchronous collaborative training, and synchronous instructor-led training. However, LearningSpace users would benefit from additional content-creation tools and Notes-administration skills.
MicroMedium's Trainer5, Version 5.11, is an easy-to-use interactive training development and distribution tool designed for use by course instructors. Trainer5 lacks LearningSpace's collaborative and live training tools, but corporations that want to create self-paced, individual-study courses quickly and inexpensively without additional overhead should look at Trainer5.
Create live, virtual classrooms. Composed of two Lotus products - LearningSpace Forum and LearningSpace Live - LearningSpace is the only training package that delivers workgroup and collaboration features. However, LearningSpace lacks strong course administration and content-creation tools. With Lotus' recent acquisition of Macromedia Pathware, LearningSpace should benefit from that product's course management tools.
LearningSpace Forum, which is based on Lotus Domino, handles self-paced courses, conducting threaded discussions and storing course-related material. LearningSpace Live, which is based on Lotus' conferencing product, Sametime, allows you to create a virtual classroom in which an instructor can interact with multiple students in real time.
Compared to solutions looked at in our comparison of Web-based training tools, LearningSpace is similarly priced. However, in order to fully administer courses, you will need to add the cost of a product such as Macromedia Pathware. (An integrated package of Pathware and LearningSpace is due from Lotus in the first quarter of 2000, but the price has not yet been determined.) You should also factor in the cost of additional content-creation tools or consultant fees. Although course content can be created in LearningSpace, I could not create such snappy content as I could with Trainer5. To give your courses pizzazz, I would advise creating some content with another design tool, such as Macromedia Dreamweaver. For example, I easily added in a prefab course, which sped up my course creation. CoursePaks (already created courses) can be purchased from Lotus Business Partners and then customised for your corporation. Once completed, courses can then be accessed via a Notes client or Web browser.
Installation of LearningSpace requires two separate Domino servers: one for Forum and one for Live; the two cannot coexist on the same server. Installation is complex and requires a seasoned Notes administrator. A Notes administrator is also needed for setting up user access.
To test Lotus LearningSpace, I created courses for self-paced access and conducted a live interactive class. Although this was not difficult, it does take time to master this solution.
Creating a course using LearningSpace takes more steps than it does with Trainer5. For instance, in LearningSpace, after developing a course schedule similar to a course syllabus or outline, adding content to the media centre, and creating test questions, objects need to be linked together to guide students through a course. These tasks were not as intuitive and easy to master as they were with Trainer5.
The advantages of LearningSpace are the exclusive workgroup and collaboration capabilities for which Lotus is famous. For example, I allowed students to participate in class forums through threaded discussions in the course room, and provided access to shared documents and course content in the media centre. In addition, I was able to hold a live virtual class with LearningSpace Live, which provides real-time conferencing features. For example, during my live session, I was able to use a whiteboard and share applications. I could also conduct videoconferencing. These are great features for distance training.
Templates and wizards light the way. Similar to LearningSpace, Trainer5 is aimed at corporations and universities that conduct remote learning. However, Trainer5 does not offer the collaboration and real-time conferencing features of LearningSpace. Rather, with its template- and wizard-based approach to creating individual-study courses, Trainer5 competes more closely with such solutions as Asymetrix ToolBook Assistant and Dreamweaver Attain. This inexpensive solution is easy to install and doesn't require programming, expensive hardware, or administrative assistance. Trainer5 offers additional features such as improved imaging, extra templates, and some course-management features.
Getting started with Trainer5 takes only a few minutes, thanks to four sample courses, an online tutorial, and customisable templates. In addition, Trainer5 ships with an image library for sprucing up course content. I easily created a course using some of the templates. I inserted images and video for my course and created multiple-choice, true/false, and matching questions. Trainer5 offers more question types than LearningSpace and other training tools.
Although MicroMedium has added some course management features to Trainer5, it is still not a full-featured management tool. For example, I could add users to courses and set passwords, but I could not set course restrictions and prerequisites.
Once my course was completed, I could easily distribute it via a LAN, CD, or the Internet via a wizard. As in previous versions of Trainer5, course performance can be tracked by importing scores into the Performance Tracker, a set of reports built on Microsoft Access.
Corporations wanting to create training courses in-house without spending an arm and a leg on content creation and administration should investigate Trainer5. Although Trainer5 lacks the collaboration capabilities found in Lotus LearningSpace, it is much easier to install and requires minimal training of course designers.
Lotus LearningSpace Anytime has the great advantage of offering live, interactive training, but it's a complex product lacking some essential elements to make it a fully comprehensive solution. In the wake of Lotus' acquisition of Pathware from Macromedia, LearningSpace should become a complete, well-rounded training solution.
In the meantime, with both LearningSpace and Trainer5, an additional course management solution will be required to fully administer courses.the bottom lineTrainer5, Version 5.11Summary: Thanks to customisable templates and wizards, course designers will have no problems creating and distributing interactive courses with Trainer5.
Business Case: Trainer5 allows corporations to create and distribute self-paced training courses quickly, easily, and at minimal cost.
Pros: ¥ Quick, template-based development ¥ Improved image support ¥ Easy distribution to Web, CD, or LAN ¥ Easy installationCons: ¥ Minimal management features ¥ Lacks collaboration capabilitiesPlatforms: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows NT.
Price: Available by ordering online for $US1395.99 for Professional Edition.
the bottom line
LearningSpace Anytime, Version 3.0
Summary: LearningSpace brings Lotus Notes collaboration to distance training, providing self-paced, collaborative, and live training in one solution. Future integration with Macromedia Pathware should complete the package with strong course management and content-creation tools.
Business Case: An ideal solution for Notes shops. For others, the Notes overhead may be prohibitive.
Pros: ¥ Supports self-paced, asynchronous, and synchronous training ¥ Supports application sharing, videoconferencing and whiteboard featuresCons: ¥ Requires two Lotus Domino servers ¥ Requires Notes experiencePrice: $US10,500 per server; $US300 per enrolled student.
Platforms: Requires separate Domino servers for LearningSpace Forum and LearningSpace Live; clients require Notes or Web browser.