EducationLearning and DevelopmentReviewsUsing OpenSesame for Off-the-Shelf elearning Content

July 26, 2015by Reva McPollom0

One of the most important aspects of a learning management system is its elearning content. An LMS without useful content can quickly become a graveyard of forgotten resources. It is unfortunately too common for organizations to spend huge sums of money on enterprise LMS without giving enough time and consideration to the contents it will hold, often settling to simply migrate existing resources into the LMS without any particular learning strategy.

When I first started building the platform for Razorfish University in 2013, I did not want to create another content graveyard. I wanted fresh elearning content. But the needs of the business and the requirements of the platform made the task particularly complex.

I knew that I wanted to roll out Razorfish University with quality elearning content. To not do so would have made the platform subject to instant scrutiny. Having no supporting instructional designers meant that getting from concept to final course delivery would not happen over night. In the course of three months I designed three custom elearning modules; a fairly rapid pace, but not sufficient to deliver against all our elearning needs. The business would also need to invest in off-the-shelf content.

The good news was that this was already a part of the budget. Developing the LMS internally meant cost savings that could be applied to purchasing off-the-shelf elearning content. But as I began my research into off-the-shelf elearning content I discovered there were two major hurdles. One was that Razorfish University required elearning content that was discipline-specific. The other hurdle was the fact that we were using the latest elearning standard, xAPI (Tin Can), and in 2013 you would be hard pressed to find any elearning content vendor whose library wasn’t based on SCORM.

Razorfish is a leading digital marketing agency and technology company. Its expertise in user experience, social media, search, creative and technology among other areas, are what set it apart. I was unlikely to find a vendor that could offer discipline-specific elearning content at the right level for Razorfish employees. Often when I found discipline-specific content it felt too “101” for the level of expertise of Razorfish employees. Finding content to address our professional skills training needs was pretty easy. I learned, however, that the vast majority of off-the-shelf elearning content focused on compliance and safety; categories where the content is pretty standard across the board and so it can be safely applied in a majority of business contexts.

After researching some time I came upon OpenSesame. OpenSesame is a marketplace for elearning content, meaning customers can purchase elearning content from a variety of vendors a la carte and vendors can offer their content at a price they choose. At the time OpenSesame was rolling out a new service called OpenSesame+ that was a bit of a departure from their original business model. The OpenSesame+ plan provided access to content from all the OpenSesame vendors who had opted into the plan for a monthly or annual subscription fee. In 2013 that meant access to more than 2,500 elearning modules for one low annual fee based on the number of employees.

The only issue was that, like all other vendors at the time, OpenSesame modules were only available in SCORM format. But unlike other vendors, OpenSesame was agile enough to do something about it. Knowing that I had built an xAPI compatible LMS, the folks at OpenSesame worked with me and our friends at Saltbox to make an integration work, ultimately making their entire library available in both SCORM and LTI formats, enabling Razorfish University to display OpenSesame modules in the lesson content type via API. And this did more than solve the compatibility issue. By removing the downloading and uploading of files that’s involved with a typical SCORM module, the solution was lighter and easier to administer.

Since 2013 even more OpenSesame courses have made their way into the OS+ plan. Currently OS+ subscription provides access to more than 3,000 courses, as opposed to 2,500 just a year ago. In addition to compliance and safety courses OS+ offers business skills, technology and software, and industry-specific elearning courses. Courses are also available in multiple languages, including Spanish, German, French, Chinese, Russian and Arabic.

In many ways the Razorfish University program has felt like a startup, so for me working with other startups like OpenSesame, which was founded in 2011, and Saltbox, was always intentional. But all startups are not created equal, and of the areas that many struggle in I believe customer service is at the top of that list. OpenSesame has not disappointed here either. From their helpful account and product managers to their monthly newsletter, to a recently launched competency report, they offer enterprise clients the support they need to be successful.

By choosing OpenSesame, Razorfish University has been able to deliver to Razorfish employees elearning content that is high in quality and variety. The relationship with OpenSesame has been extremely valuable for Razorfish and in many ways sets a standard for others in the elearning space.



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