Become A Real LMS Wizard With Fantasy World Insight (Best Of New Zealand Totara User Conference 2019)

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totara new zealand user conference 2019 highlights

When it comes to the LMS, it takes a village.

WIRIS

The more whimsical it is, and the richer backstory it has, the better!

As virtual experiences flourish, they become bolder and more fertile grounds of creativity and personalization. In the learning space, personalization takes the shape of whatever skills and knowledge the user has cultivated for himself. Under the increasingly dominant paradigm of social learning (or “socially validated” learning), the future of online experiences will soon stop resembling algorithm-based artifacts of personalization, but sprawling hubs built by people, open to people. The one true standard of learning will be your ability to provide meaningful experiences to others.

And what better location to celebrate the future of open learning technologies than the mythical, mighty and simply sublime land of Wellington. In early August, the city played host to Totara User Conference – New Zealand. Here are some of the insights drawn from the gathering.

Find all the presentations at Totaras’ official conference page. (Free signup required.)

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It takes a diverse, interconnected, federated village

The road to a unique LMS business solution,” Rob Howarth, Australian Bureau of Statistics

The current time and landscape is, according to Howarth, a “green field” for an educational technologist. Within this field, however, there are some mindsets that could ensure prosperity and sustainability better than others. For starters, a collective mindfulness about our role and impact on limited resources. It is a nod to be increasingly aware of environmental issues throughout our EdTech procurement and implementation processes.

Further down the line, a better way to promote the free exchange of knowledge and experiences is through open channels and respect for autonomy. LMS that can allow for monolithic or federated setups, and everything in between, provide more hopeful avenues for welcoming, collaborative and just plain fun learning experiences.

Applied growth mindset for a sense of progress and purpose

Building learner engagement: Developing the Course Activity Plugin,” Kiwibank

A lot has been said on the purported effectiveness of growth mindset. Nothing like putting it to the test. This case, which translates growth mindset principles into user experience, bold visuals and gamification cues, is off to a great start with 100% reported positive response from pilot users. Definitely worth to check back after real-life implementation.

Train, test and provide certificates, all while on the job

Improving Orientation Compliance by Using On the Job Training Plugin,” Josleen Itayi, Braemar Hospital

What started as an initiative to reduce paper and keep a more dynamic, yet “permanent record as evidence of orientation completion and compliance” soon became an opportunity for exploration in engagement, “staff confidence,” and EdTech as a supporting tool for external auditing. The On the Job Training Plugin, by Totara and Moodle partner Catalyst IT, proved essential to integrate curricula into day-to-day operations. It tracks successful completion of activities to generate custom Certificates of Achievement instantly. Participating Braemar staff reported strong sense of team integration, ability to identify resources, and clear understanding at the time of provide required documentation.

Design for how people see your brand—individually

Audience Based Visibility” (VTNZ Case Study) Kelvin Hylton, Dekra Learning

Dekra develops its own Moodle and Totara themes, upon which it often builds independent experiences for its customers. But VTNZ, testing and auditing company owned by Dekra, brought a special challenge: While remaining an iconic brand, regional offices wanted unique visual customizations. In other words: A theme on top of a theme.

And what do you know: There’s a plugin for that! The Profile field based theme delivery plugin, by Moodlers extraordinaire Kathryn Osswald and Alexander Bias, quite eponymously allows admins to present the User Interface in specific fashions to specific audiences within the same LMS, no multitenancy required. The plugin could not offer a simpler, “if-this-then-that” matching settings page. From a theme dashboard, Dekra can define segments and corresponding themes, as well as default visuals. Testing of the individual themes is possible through Custom Access Rules. A simple, valuable lesson on delivering cost-effective, still unique learning experiences.

Cost management is not Open Source’s main or only benefit, just a damn good one

Extending and tailoring your LMS: How we use smart low budget customised solutions to meet our needs,” Ange Robinson, New Zealand Family Planning

Reaching out to a premium service partner would seem counter-intuitive. Yet getting the help of Catalyst IT was exactly what led the sexual and reproductive health charity to increase productivity, save costs and serve more people with better quality of service. In this case, the LMS purpose was to make a 20-people staff better service hundreds of beneficiaries in the country, as well as neighbors Kiribati, Niue and Vanuatu. Efficiencies gained in payment methods, automatic waiting lists, invoicing saved the day, minimized manual processing, and “future proofed” the LMS. Most of Catalyst work was custom development, but don’t be surprised is this prolific Open Source contributors turns it into plugins available to everyone.

To enhance the travel experience, add a learning challenge

Real world experience of using Totara for global travel agent certification,” 100% Pure New Zealand

If LMS have a promising future as innovative learning destination, New Zealand itself is a thriving touristic destination, with an expected growth on the order of 30% in arrivals within the next five years, easily turning the sector into the main source of foreign-origin income for the country.

Of course, under the growing threats of overtourism, natural sanctuaries need significant levels of coordination to make sure journeys are rewarding in every sense, for everyone involved.

How did 100% Pure New Zealand balanced profit and sustainability prerogatives? Well through online learning of course!


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As the country’s brand manager, 100% Pure New Zealand developed a digital B2B marketing program targeting travel agencies with international presence. While spreading the country’s global tourism brand, it put the logistics on the hands of tour operators, who must get certified through an online program. The LMS provides three levels of specialization (bronze, silver and gold) in an experience that is continuously updated and fidelized. Through the LMS operators get briefed on promotions, special programs and inititatives. Operators can brandish badges to reflect their level, submit learning evidence, generate certificates and specialize. (Wine tours along the Marlborough coast, anyone?) A cherry-ish API on top helps the main hub, newzealand.com, to keep a directory of operators and professionals, automatically up-to-date with level and contact info.


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