Best format for webshop / downloadshop

Sep 07, 2017

Dear user community,

I have a pretty straightforward, perhaps somewhat obvious question. In recent months I have been diligently designing several e-learning modules through storyline 360, and I would like to start offering these in an online learning catalogue, where users can purchase/download (my employer has'nt made up his mind yet about pricing) them. My simple question is: what would be the best format to publish these modules in, given the following criteria:

  • I would like the catalogue to be accessible on a website
  • I would like the possibility to enable transactions
  • I would like buyers/users to fill out a short registration form before downloading/starting the course (containing personal and professional information, interest and agreement to receiving a newsletter)
  • I would like participants to receive a certificate upon completing one of the modules (perhaps this is best arranged within the module itself?)

Looking forward to your answers.

6 Replies
Christy Tucker

It sounds like you need an LMS with ecommerce capability. There are literally hundreds to choose from, so you'll have to think more about your needs to narrow it down.

This is the first in a series of 5 articles explaining how to select an LMS, including thinking about your needs.

If you're a small organization with a limited budget, I recommend putting some of the Wordpress LMS plugins on your list to review, specifically LearnDash and LifterLMS. You can get one of those plugins up and running with WooCommerce for around $500-$1000 (potentially less, but you probably want to purchase a theme and some other add ons). These systems aren't perfect, but at a minimum they'll get you up and running for the first year or two. Even if you outgrow those systems (and you may not, based on what you described), that's not a bad investment to get started. 

Here are some reviews of Wordpress plugins and factors to consider. 

Clingendael Academy -  Communication

Thanks for the suggestion, Christy.

Would it be possible to publish an LMS as an publicly accessible website, then? I would only want users to enter information once they decide to purchase/download any of the modules. Viewing the catalogue should be possible for any anonymous visitor.

And if I would opt for an LMS structure, I suppose the best format to publish the modules in would be SCORM? I took a look at the LMS'es you mentioned, but they seem to also enforce their own type of e-learning authoring structures. I just want to publish and possibly sell the products I made with Storyline, but ask users to register certain information as a condition. Certification is perhaps best arranged within the modules themselves?

Christy Tucker

Yes, plenty of LMSs can do public-facing content. You will need to evaluate to determine which LMS will do that best for you. Some LMSs are geared more to internal training or higher education rather than selling to customers.

Here's a set of LearnDash examples, most of which have a public course catalog like you want. Other LMSs can do this too, but this set of examples was quick for me to find.

This is a real estate course catalog from the LearnDash example page. Without logging in, you can see the available courses and the cost, but you can't see the content (other than maybe free sample courses).

The format you publish in depends on what LMS you pick and what tracking you need to do. I have a client using LearnDash where the Storyline content is just hosted on a website and shared in iframes within LearnDash. None of the Wordpress LMS plugins handle SCORM, but LearnDash and LifterLMS can both do xAPI if you need to track responses.

On the other hand, if you use a full blown LMS like Docebo, Absorb, Totara, or Moodle, you can publish to SCORM.

All of these LMSs have some structure and ability to build content within them. You can choose to use that or work around it. You might have a course with just one page or topic in the LMS, but all the structure is in the Storyline. Alternatively, you can break your Storyline file up into sections and load each one of those into the LMS separately.

Certification can either be handled within Storyline or within the LMS. Which one is better depends on your specific needs and which LMS you choose.

If no one in your organization has worked with an LMS before, I strongly suggest you hire a consultant to help you through this process. At a bare minimum, get someone to look at your list of requirements and help you figure out what other questions you should be asking. (Hint: if your requirements list has 10 or fewer items, you're missing some major questions.) I have seen too many organizations that tried to go it on their own and ended up investing thousands of dollars for a system that didn't actually meet their needs. Even if you just hire someone for 5-10 hours to help at key points in the process, you'll likely make your money back in what you save by not making the wrong decision and having to repeat the whole process down the road.

Dave Goodman

Paul - there are specific LMS that do exactly what you need. The differentiation is how they charge - by course, by active user, unique user, etc and the related services, e.g., ecommerce, security encryption, etc. Some services also offer you live/upload handholding services to design the total environment. Please ping me offline and i can provide you a listing of which LMSs we have tested and reviewed. We are not an LMS vendor and we have no financial partnership with any on our list - we just do this as part of our internal client services for our our clients.

Clingendael Academy -  Communication

Thanks for all the info, Christy. Before I look into LearnDash and LifterLMS, I'd like to ask you one last piece of advice: we are already making use of Moodle as an online learning platform for the students and professional we receive at our institute. Could Moodle also possibly function in a similar fashion to your suggestions? Meaning, as a publicly accessible downloadshop for e-learning material?

Christy Tucker

That you already had a Moodle system in place was a fairly significant detail to leave out of your original question. Yes, Moodle can do so. A quick search for "Moodle ecommerce" will give you several options (this is just the first few things I found in 3 minutes of research, not recommendations).

However, with past clients, I have found it very challenging to use Moodle for both internal training and external or public-facing training. The big problem is that there's no good way to create two separate lists of courses for different audiences (internal and external) and to allow self-enrollment for both groups.

If enrollment for your internal training (or whatever you're currently using Moodle for with students and professionals) is all handled by an administrator and you don't allow self-enrollment, you might be able to make it work. In that case, you can put all your existing courses into a category or categories for internal training and hide them all from anyone who isn't enrolled. Then you can just put your internal people in the courses they need as you have been. Put all your public-facing content in a different category and make it available for purchase with your ecommerce platform. Your internal users will be able to see all those public courses, but they probably wouldn't purchase them (although you need to plan how you're going to deal with that potential confusion). 

If your current Moodle users self-enroll in courses, I think you should look at Totara. Totara is a version of Moodle designed for corporate use. One of the big differences between Moodle and Totara is audiences. Audiences let you set up internal and external groups that can see only the categories of courses meant for them. You could potentially migrate all your existing Moodle courses to Totara and be able to handle both sets of training. 

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