5 e-Learning Development Ecosystems You May Not Know About

by Jim Hicks

If you are in the e-Learning field, then, no doubt, you are a part of one or more development ecosystems. The popular ecosystems are probably familiar to you: Adobe e-Learning Suite or Articulate or Lectora. It could be your company’s learning management system (LMS), be it off the shelf or custom built. Even if you just use PowerPoint to create light, electronic learning, there is an entire industry of vendors and developers ready and willing to assist.

What is an ecosystem as it applies to e-Learning development? It’s a network of development and delivery options that support your e-Learning efforts. You are probably familiar with one of the biggest purveyors of a technology-based ecosystem, Apple.  Apple’s software and hardware products fit “hand-in-glove” with development and delivery options for supporting software development that compliments its Mac, iPhone and iPad hardware. The App Store and iTunes products, as well as its iCloud initiatives, create a cohesive vision.

e-Learning development ecosystems have always had some of these organizing principles and they are only getting more mature.  Not every option available to e-Learning professionals is either well known or specific to the industry. Here are five options with which you may be less familiar and should keep watching.

1.    YouTube Channels

YouTube was once the wild west of video. No longer. You may be familiar with the fact that YouTube has been a Google property for quite awhile. You may be less familiar with the fact that Google began a huge initiative last year to make YouTube more profitable. They added interface improvements, original programming and premium content. They added better social tools for sharing videos and better categorization and organization. The results of all these efforts are great tools and a wonderful distribution platform for video-based content. YouTube calls these improvements channels.

A few years ago when you used YouTube, there was no telling on which devices those videos would play. That issue seems resolved. Now when you upload your video content, it plays everywhere. While you obviously would not want to put the company secrets on YouTube, it’s great for general content. Also, your channel can pull in great learning content from other individuals and companies. For example, if you belong to a particular ecosystem that was mentioned above, search for that ecosystem’s channel on YouTube. You will find a wealth of good video content. Through YouTube’s social sharing tools, you can then share those videos with your designers and developers on your own channel. The elegance of a medium like YouTube is in completing the upfront legwork to make your content vetted, filtered and easily digestible for your user base.

2.    SoundCloud

SoundCloud is a newer audio sharing service. Those of you who may have encountered the problems of delivering audio across all devices will love their audio players and streaming audio service. As of this writing, they offer two hours of audio storage for free. They have very reasonable pay-for-play plans when you need more storage and bandwidth.

Recently, someone asked me how I would develop and distribute Podcasts. While Apple has a marvelous distribution system, I actually prefer to distribute audio through SoundCloud. Their players have nice social sharing capabilities and your audio does not need to go through an approval process, like Apple’s. If you want to see the SoundCloud player being used, check out the Learning Experience presentation on this website.

Both audio and video content are very good candidates for mobile devices, which eLearning courses generally are not. So YouTube and SoundCloud should be used as important eLearning ecosystems.

3.    ZebraZapps

Michael Allen’s Allen Interactions company has projected a new eLearning ecosystem called ZebraZapps. While I have not had an opportunity to try it out, it is definitely something to be watched. You may remember Michael Allen as the person who brought us Authorware, which was one of the first visual electronic learning development tools. So while I don’t personally know Michael, I’m guessing he has probably forgotten as much about eLearning as I apply on a daily basis. If he is going to apply his considerable background to creating an online-based development and delivery system, you should add it to your list of eLearning ecosystems to watch.

At the ZebraZapps website, they call their product a cloud-based authoring system for creating interactive media learning. The learning created can then be shared, published and even sold within the ZebraZapps ecosystem.

4.    Envato

Envato is an online marketplace and network of educational blogs for technologies and resources important to e-Learning. I found Envato websites by searching for code snippets and tutorials for Javascript/jQuery projects. Their websites cover much more territory than that. They have audio, video and Flash stock resources, as well as website design themes. Their websites include the AppStorm family that assist you in knowing what apps are out there for all types of device.

If you are an e-Learning professional that needs premade resources or takes pride in staying on top of the latest technologies, then the Envato family of websites should be on your monthly review list.

5.    professionCube

What kind of blogger would I be if I did not plug my own site! The professionCube has a robust and easy-to-use content management system (Mura CMS) available as a sharing platform. The Mura CMS has been supplemented with custom question-style interactions. The professionCube is capable delivering any of your favorite flash-based or HTML5-based e-Learning courses. Anything you develop with another tool on your desktop can be distributed to your learners via the professionCube. All of this functionality is free. The Catch? You just need to register and share your content.



Jim provides a very good blend of the technical and practical to his work.  An instructional designer who also talks geek-speak is invaluable. I would recommend Jim's services without hesitation to anyone looking for help in the e-Learning field.

- Steve Eadie
Partner, Robertson, Eadie & Associates


Jim Hicks

Bloomington, IN
Chicago, IL
Milwaukee, WI