Kitchen

This page will grow as a substantive resource for systems and hardware related to eLearning; LMS/CMS, computer specs, headsets, backup plans, video recording and editing systems…or maybe I’ll just post pictures of my kitchen.

See below for varying lists (jump to: Hardware, Backups)

LMS Products

(see our ‘Top 5‘ open-source recommendations)

Wikipedia: A definition of “Learning Management System” and several links. “LMSs range from systems for managing training and educational records to software for distributing online or blended/hybrid college courses over the Internet with features for online collaboration.”

eLearning Resources: A list of the latest books related to eLearning on Amazon’s bookstore.

LMS Demos: A list of vendor-supplied demos – “Demos created by learning management system vendors. No sales pitch! No sales angle…”

E-Learning 24/7: Craig Weiss’ resources and LMS consulting (the parent site of the above LMS Demos site)

CMS Critic: Provides a list of CMS and LMS products. The “CMS list was created in order to provide as much information as possible about the content management products we cover.” and the LMS section “only list(s) products under active development that have had releases within the past year.”

eLearning Atlas: A neat idea but a bit slow and not sure how updated this is kept… Sponsored by Rustici.

Capterra: A decent list of LMS products and reviews. The links are ‘sponsored’ (generally) but the reviews seem relatively valid – though the LMS vendor may be able to remove unfavorable reviews. Has a nice list of the Top 20 LMS products.

EduCause: This site geared toward all things higher-ed includes an academic perspective on selecting an LMS.

eLearning Industry: Has an “Ultimate List of Cloud-Based Learning Management Systems” from 2013, so it’s already a bit dated, but still a good list of a variety of LMS products.

Hardware

A couple discussions have come up on LinkedIn asking about hardware requirements regarding the latest Captivate and Storyline updates. Frankly I think Adobe’s CPU recommendation is a bit…optimistic and both products’ RAM (‘memory’) requirements are under-spec’d.

I used a dual-core 2.5ghz AMD computer max’d out at 4gb of RAM for years…like 6 years. It wasn’t even super-high-end at the time but I kept up with upgrades, kept it clean (including an OS image restore every 2 years), and it worked very well…

But eventually, not being to upgrade beyond 4gb of RAM was just too sloooow.

A recent upgrade to a quad-core I5 3.1ghz with 8gb RAM (not yet max’d-out) has made things amazingly snappy. A big part of that snap includes replacing the 1TB standard hard drive with a 256gb SSD for the Windows 8.1 install. The 1TB drive the system came with was made the seconday ‘data’ drive. I think SSDs are key as well, but until I’ve tested that out for a year+, I hesitate to recommend that for a system drive.

So at this time, I strongly recommend at least a dual-core system, if not a quad-core system, at minimum…64bit!…and 8gb of RAM (memory). Of course, the more RAM, the better, but 8gb at minimum.

Additionally, the amount of RAM available to the video card makes a world of difference. The new system has 1gb dedicated to the video card. I wouldn’t go below 512mb for the video system these days.

Other Hardware considerations:Audio narration

I listed a fair amount of equipment in this post when it comes to recording your own narration. A couple highlights:

  • Logitech Headsets – go for corded mini-stereo or USB. Bluetooth headsets, IMO, still don’t generally output the quality needed for warm narratives.
  • Snowball – A very popular, affordable USB mic. Most complaints are its too sensitive.

I do a lot of web conferencing and the corded USB headset that I used is great, and is Lync-compatible, and is fine for recording voiceover…but the cord often gets in the way for those longer conferences where I need to move around a bit. So I recently purchased a well-reviewed, cheap bluetooth headset which has worked out as a fine substitute.

Getting it to work with the included bluetooth was a challenge (no native A2DP support, so I also purchased a small bluetooth adapter, disabled the system’s built-in bluetooth, and use the new adapter to connect to the headset. Works great! Except:

  1. It’s not officially Lync-compatible (which inflates prices substantially), so I can’t mute from the headset.
  2. It’s too tinny for recording narration.

It’s easy to swap between the headsets as needed; I don’t record that much narration! And the inexpensive bluetooth headset sounds fine on the conference, lasts all day on an overnight charge, and is easy to pack for trips, and is decently comfortable to wear.

Backups

Never, ever underestimate the need for a solid backup system!

Mine is still flawed – I do not have automated off-site backup. But internally at the home office, I’ve got redundancy!

My main workstation backs-up nightly to a NAS with a 2TB RAID-5 setup. There are lots of NAS products out there…but I recommend anything from Thecus. They’re lesser known but produce quality products. My n5200 Pro has been running strong for years.

Then three times a week, the NAS backs-up to a 2TB RAID-0 set on my fileserver (which also performs other roles…i.e. internal web-dev sandbox).

So I’m pretty comfortable with my level of internal backups. Now just gotta find something affordable off-site. Disk space is the primary issue. Even with generous free accounts from places like Box, Dropbox, Amazon ‘Cloud Drive’, Office360, and so on…I’d have to split my online backups among multiple accounts on multiple services. Amazon Cloud Drive, for instance, is $500/year for 1TB.

The Plan: revive one of the old computers sitting around with a 2TB RAID-0 and hide it in my parent’s house with an unusual SFTP port setup :)

More to come! In the meantime, I’m open to your thoughts on LMS/CMS products, computer specs, headsets, backup plans, video recording and editing systems, and so on…

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