Our review of Coursestage LMS from Web Courseworks: precision, focus, and features for business success.
The LMS market never fails to surprise me. Despite having reviewed many LMS over several years, the market can still produce wonderfully interesting examples, and the CourseStage Learning Management System (LMS) developed by Web Courseworks is a testament to the concept of an exceptionally well thought through solution providing precision of delivery and accuracy of reporting in everything it does.
This is an LMS that has focused on meeting clearly defined client needs in a limited number of different channels, which all share a specific requirement for multi-tenancy, very high fidelity testing and assessment, on-board course creation, credit claiming/badges, and content management to make up a powerful and engaging learning delivery system.
The CourseStage LMS really is about making learning and skills a competitive advantage for an organisation in an exceptionally competitive market. To be blunt, it is not about training employees in house, but about training channel partners, trade association members or professional association members. This is their market focus and the product shows it.
This solution from Web Courseworks takes the concept of Extended Enterprise to a new level in its usage by a number of large US equipment manufacturers who use the LMS to train and certify their distributors in selling the product(s), installing the products or maintaining the products they produce.
Indeed, such is the sophistication of CourseStage LMS that it is used to deliver high stakes learning and assessment into the medical professions.
So what is so different about this LMS that allows it to offer an organisation the keys to competitive advantage through learning and training? Let’s start from the learner’s perspective – always a good place to start.
Smooth UI and UX
The UI and UX are very smooth, slightly understated, but it works well with the platform supporting and delivering content that is easy to find (through very good search and catalogue features) in an environment that can be personalised very effectively.
This is a sophisticated platform for organisations that are serious about learning and a good deal of detailed configuration and set up is required to deliver this highly personalised learning experience. This ranges from the workflows available, utilising the interface design and the high level of customisation of terms and titles (course, program, class… call it what you will because you can!) through to a very powerful adaptive learning approach that alleviates the sheep dip learning experience and focuses on supporting a learner, not patronising a learner.
The engagement theme is flowed through with a good use of gamification and badges, as well as the ability to create communities of practice. Perhaps the secret sauce is the online business consulting skills of Web Courseworks who’s consulting lead has 19 years of accumulated experience in this market.
Flashcards for Gamification Example:
Video is recognised as being hugely important to the modern learner, and this is a platform where considerable thought has been given to making the video-based learning experience exceptional. A private Vimeo channel is integrated, videos can be added to assessments easily, video can be used to give feedback from assessors to learners and the file content repository (think LCMS) with a single point of update and use of alias to pull from makes for a neat solution for managing large libraries of video materials – a growing challenge to many platforms as the amount of content available accelerates almost exponentially.
For the organisation who seeks to skill up its channel partners or community members, Web Courseworks has developed a great set of features that really will make the difference to an organisation seeking to use learning and training to gain competitive advantage in the market place.
Multi-tenancy is a key feature of this LMS. A manufacturer or trade association for example can provide multiple partner/distributors/members with their own tenancy, fully branded with some serious capabilities. Branding and set up is relatively straight forward and it allows for the re-use (with tweaks if required) of the workflows, content and assessments already developed. The master tenant has high level visibility across the tenancies and is therefore able to analyse and assist partners or members.
What else really makes a difference, what do we mean by precision?
Quick content creation
From a content perspective CourseStage LMS has integrated H5P, which offers a slick way to create content speedily. The platform handles SCORM in all its many iterations, and there is a very tight integration with Vimeo that allows for video content (interactive video content is also supported). Video can be embedded in the questions as part of the testing and assessment suite (one of the most comprehensive I have come across). When it comes to content, speed to market is paramount. The Web Courseworks motto is online content should be developed in weeks not months and this system enables that achievement.
Easy Administration Using Templates:
Efficient content management
Content management is particularly good, with a powerful native content management environment and a “widget like” approach to dragging and dropping content into place, making course building (even sophisticated courses) easy and intuitive – just look for the add activities feature and you are away. The Podcast feature is my favourite…. compelling audio is just so cool.
The Web Courseworks consultant team is committed to helping clients move their online business from static to proactive to ultimately innovative stage. The catalogue is a powerful tool to enhance the learning business, again a significant point of difference for this LMS, particularly with its use of tagging (the commitment to tagging is one of the key strengths of this platform… more in a moment) and the ability for catalogues and tags to be copied quickly. There is a solid LCMS feature set that allows single point of content update for learning deployed across the platform.
SCORM uploading is simplicity itself, just drag and drop the zip file in, as simple as that.
Learner management and profiling
The LMS is highly configurable with roles and permissions and can be configured to align to organisational structures in the specific tenancies which is very useful indeed. Learners can be profiled or self profiling is supported. Enrolment is allowed for both online activities and for face to face learning as well. CSV files can be used for uploading bulk groups of learners.
The “transcript feature” on this LMS offers sophisticated and granular reporting on an individual learner showing in detail the learning journey and its progress to date.
Highly mobile enabled
Naturally the LMS is fully mobile enabled as is the administration and all the assessments (I wish this could be said for every LMS!). There is an app for Android and iOS.
OK let’s talk tagging, as this is very impressive and is the basis for the accuracy this LMS provides for its client users and their learners.
Tagging is used in considerable depth on this LMS and in particular in the testing and assessment suite, and this is so important in ensuring that the learning provided works for the financial benefit of the organisation, not just passed for the benefit of an audit.
The tagging model from content in catalogues, to questions (and question banks) as well as courses attended (face to face included), and learning activities is developed around a taxonomy and workflows to deliver a virtuous circle of adaptive learning and learning re-enforcement (delivered by personalised learning and assessment) aligned to organisational performance, all mediated by learning analytics and learner feedback.
Competencies are fully supported, allowing organisations to clearly define the expertise required in their organisation and then build out tests and assessments accordingly.
This is a much talked about concept, aligning learning to performance, but few LMS are able to deliver this in such detail as CourseStage. Data visualisation is powered by an integration with Acumen (enabling Microsoft Power BI). In case you are wondering, yes there is an integration with Watersheds LRS as this platform can handle xAPI nicely and usefully.
There is an optional feature (tightly integrated naturally) in CourseStage that allows a user to pull data from the LMS, CRM, e-commerce systems and other systems such as membership registration systems into a data warehouse to allow for detailed analysis and reporting to take place.
Assessment and proctoring
The question bank is powerful and indexes questions very effectively and along with the commitment to tagging and a powerful suite of assessment and testing tools as well as proctoring tools for “medium-stakes” exams.
The onboard Psychometric Tools, among many things, enable Item Analysis and are used to assess the performance of individual questions (back to tagging here!) to understand in depth how a question is performing. Web Courseworks offers consultancy expertise in testing and assessment.
The standard reporting is pretty solid with a good use of filters and very useful dashboards that can be placed where an administrator or manager would find useful.
The CourseStage LMS offers SSO and an open API as well as web services – SOAP and REST.
Language packs are available and a robust e-commerce solution called “Box Office” is provided. Why Box Office I am unsure, but it gives a nice note to a product that will deliver silver screen star quality to learning.
CourseStage is a richly featured LMS from Web Courseworks, and the features all have focus. This is an LMS built out and developed against some clearly defined use cases (focus) and not an LMS that tries to be all things to everybody. Instead this is an LMS designed to deliver learning that is aligned to a community of practice, a product, a service or a skillset.
So if you are a manufacturer who wishes to train channel partners to distribute your product this is an LMS designed and configured to do that.
If you are a trade association or professional membership organisation seeking to accredit your members by imparting and robustly assessing their skills and abilities this is an LMS to give serious consideration to.
Why? well this an LMS so focused and developed to deliver with the total precision and accuracy that would make any world class manufacturer, medical society, or trade group proud.
Visit the website at webcourseworks.com to learn more about CourseStage LMS and request a demo.
Lead eLearning Consultant
Our lead elearning consultant David Patterson is an expert in training technologies such as learning management systems, and in elearning best practices.
He has helped many public and private sector organisations across the UK, Europe and worldwide to create and deliver engaging, effective elearning.
David is joint author of several research papers including the highly acclaimed Learning Light reports on the UK elearning market.