How the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health
Online Learning Platform Works

Is it possible to create the best learning platform one can imagine? Yes, it is - only in some imaginary world with unlimited resources.

But what is possible with limitations being in place? I would like to share my experience in doing this. I hope this glance into the process of working on a real task may be helpful for someone who was or is facing a similar challenge.

The article may came off as a bit too long; if you would like to learn about the process details, you're welcome to read it, if you would like to get the summary at once, please, go directly to the Result section.

The Goal

As I mentioned here, I had joined the Centre to finalize the implementation of the SickKids Global Child Health Course. At that time the Centre already had another course on nutrition live on the web. This course had already been published on an existing online learning platform and about 17 hundred learners were registered for the course.

 

The challenge we had was that the existing platform was set up specifically for this one particular course and there was no place to publish a new one. We then decided we needed to redesign the platform to make it more flexible for our current and future needs.

Rectification of the Goal

Once I started working on this, it became clear that to reach the goal significant changes would have to be made to the platform. So we redefined objectives for establishing the platform to the following two:

1. Ability to host
two
or more courses

2. Improve learning experience for the users

The following conditions had to be taken into account:

Existing users' progress should be saved.

1.

Keep all the changes within our platform and existing technical opportunities.

2.

Implement the changes in consultation with the team, which at that time consisted of a full-time Instructional Designer (me), an LMS support team (available on call), a Subject Matter Expert & Team Lead, and a Web and Communication Specialist.

3.

The Solution 

01/

The first thing that was done was an analysis of the actions which the majority of the users were supposed to take.

As only two self-paced courses were to be hosted now, we needed very few functions on the platform. Users should be able to view the available courses, see which courses they enrolled in and their progress, and have a simple and clear way to navigate within a course.

02/

The second step was to find unclear or frustrating experiences in the existing platform and improve them.

Within the desired functionality we identified the following major factors things which would be most frustrating for the users:

  • no progress indicator for course in total, only for each session in the Dashboard;

  • no visualization of the progress associated with the course syllabus which meant the user had to remember it or go back to the Dashboard, check what was completed, then go back to the course syllabus and complete the rest;

  • it required 8 (!) clicks to close one session and move to the next one;

  • there were some links (included in Moodle by default) which led to empty pages, thus confusing the users.

 

There were other minor things, however, we decided to focus on these ones as they were related to the basic platform functionality.

03/

The third thing was to match the wish list with the existing opportunities.

When the information was collected I built a prototype of the future platform followed by a lengthy negotiation process between our team and the LMS support team to figure out how the prototype could be implemented.

04/

And the last step was to implement the changes on the platform.

The changes were dramatic. Here are just a few things as an example: 

  • the architecture of the course was changed from platform to course level, which provided visual progress within the course syllabus and reduced the number of clicks required to move from one session to another;

  • a plugin was added which allows organizing course syllabus within one page with an opportunity to expand and collapse topics;

  • two plugins were added which allowed to get rid of two additional clicks when moving from one session to another;

  • around 10-20 other minor plugins and setting changes.

Results

 

The conditions we had were, on the one hand, often a limitation, but on the other hand, also helped us to prioritize and focus on key things. My dear colleagues @Amira Khan and @Jessica Cheng were very supportive in making the right decisions and focusing on the most important stuff.

 

All the changes were done within the platform with no additional development and, importantly, with the progress of all the previous nutrition course users saved! 

 

I did the changes by myself, however with the huge support, training, and assistance from LMS Support team, especially @Valerie Sivachenko and @Sam McCullough.

The Goal #1 is easy to estimate. Now we host two courses which you can see on the platform. It's done!

The Goal #2 is a bit trickier to estimate. We checked the final solution with the same users and they noticed positive changes. However, the number of users was not as high as with the old course.

There are also a few more numbers which demonstrate positive changes in Goal #2:

  1. The number of clicks users have to do to move from one session to the next one was reduced from seven to just one.
    It was seven and it is only one now.

  2. There was no way to see personal progress within the course. Now, there are three ways to do it: 

    • Completion percentage on the Dashboard

    • Checkmarks for each of the required sessions

    • List of steps that are still required to be completed to get a Certificate  

  3. Previously, the Moodle interface displaced all the technical options available - even the ones which were not necessary. To simplify navigation and improve users' experience we only left necessary links in the platform menu.

Personally, for me, this task was challenging and interesting at the same time. Although I had experience with building platform architecture and design within my previous projects, I had never done it with these limitations and had never worked with Moodle in as much depth. I had to bring up my skills and learned a lot, making it a valuable and fulfilling experience for me.

Should you have any questions regarding this particular course or in general, please contact me on nikolayevatania@gmail.com.

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