“Early Childhood Australia (ECA) has been a voice for young children since 1938 and are the peak early childhood advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field. ECA advocates to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children aged birth to eight years.” (Source)
In their commitment to quality outcomes in early childhood education and care, some of the Early Childhood Australia’s (ECA) strategic priorities, as outlined in their 2021-2024 Strategic Plan, include: collaborating for impact, championing ‘beyond quality’ in early education, leading and inspiring professional learning, and being sustainable and effective in what they do. (Source)
In working towards their goals, ECA have outlined a series of actions and that includes continuous investment in technology to ensure ongoing improvements to their member and customer experiences and their operational efficiency.
Our team at Catalyst IT Australia were honoured to have been asked to help ECA progress towards their goals, by providing improvements to the organisation’s learning management system. More specifically its effectiveness, usability, as well as time and cost efficiencies.
Key Needs and Challenges
With 3500 members nationally, ECA offers a great variety of online courses through their ECA Learning Hub which was made possible by the implementation of Moodle in late 2021 (Source).
As their consumer base and course catalogue continue to grow, and various updates are required for each course on ongoing basis, ECA were looking for a more efficient and effective way to manage their learning materials and their users.
ECA produce their course materials as SCORM packages which are in their own LMS and also available to upload into their members’ Moodle sites. Having many members and users, ECA found this process not to be very efficient and were looking for a more centralised solution where any new additions or updates to individual courses (SCORM packages) could be pushed out to all sites with ‘one click of a button’. Having a more centralised control was also important to maintain the quality and organisation of the entire LMS, which can be challenging when too many users have too much access.
In addition, while their Moodle was initially hosted with one of Catalyst IT’s competitors, ECA’s SCORM package updates had to happen in SCORM Cloud Service which not only was a separate system to manage but also incurred a separate subscription fee.
ECA believed that a more centralised solution to host and manage their learning materials was possible and turned to Catalyst IT for advice.
Findings and Solutions
After conducting a thorough investigation to understand the ECA’s current set up and their specific needs, Catalyst IT saw there was an opportunity for an innovative ‘out-the-box’ solution here i.e. to develop a custom plugin that will completely replace the need for using the SCORM Cloud Service.
It’s important to note that using LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) was also investigated as a solution, but the key challenge here was that ECA members used their own different Learning Management Systems. In that case, about 10 different LMS platforms would need to be supported but only a tiny fraction of those supported LTI. All of them, however, supported SCORM. The suggested custom plugin (instead of the LTI) would accommodate the members exiting platforms with the minimal or no change.
More so, the plugin solution would benefit both ECA and the wider community of organisations with similar technological needs.
Instead of relying on SCORM Cloud Service for managing updates, before they can be pushed out to various sites, a custom Moodle plugin would sit within the client’s existing Moodle site, offering a much more direct control to the ECA team when it comes to things like:
- Adding new and updating existing courses (SCORM packages)
- Reporting on and managing user actions
- Monitoring courses completion
- Managing subscriptions and
- Managing the various levels of user access
In addition to being able to manage all the above more effectively, this change would bring about time and cost savings. The SCORM Cloud subscription would no longer be needed.
The SCORM Wrapper roll-out has been fantastic, and we are so pleased with the level of support provided to the team throughout. Our board were impressed and dubbed it ‘cutting edge’ and ‘innovative.’ Our clients are thrilled with the transition also.”
Being open source, this Moodle plugin will be available to all open source community to enjoy free of charge and over time, it will benefit from continuous improvements as more organisations will use it in different ways. It’s a win, win!
Why Open Source and business resilience go hand in hand.
To ensure Catalyst IT can continue to collaborate effectively with the ECA team and their ongoing LMS improvements, and to maintain the site on a secure platform that will support ECA’s growth and development, we suggested we migrate the client’s existing Moodle site to our cloud hosting infrastructure with which we offer 24/7 support to all our clients.
Catalyst IT Australia have successfully developed a custom Moodle plugin which:
- Has addressed ECA’s specific needs in their course and user management as well as
- Benefited and will continue to benefit the wider open source community and organisations with similar technological requirements
The plugin was built from scratch without losing any functionality that was already used by the ECA in their usual course and user management processes.
In addition, we have successfully implemented the “lift and shift” of the client’s existing Moodle site into our Cloud Infrastructure with Amazon Web Services.
As a result, Early Childhood Australia will enjoy the following:
- A centralised approach to their course and user management
- Better reporting
- Time and cost savings
- 24/7 support with Catalyst IT’s Follow the Sun service and
- Be better positioned to achieve their strategic goals including: collaborating for impact, championing ‘beyond quality’ in early education, leading and inspiring professional learning and being sustainable and effective in what they do
By investing in an open source project – the Moodle mod_scormremote plugin – ECA will enjoy ongoing improvements to the functionality that this plugin offers, as more organisations will begin to use it in various ways.
While already making a tremendous positive impact across the country, we look forward to witnessing ECA’s further successes – increasing their reach in more communities across Australia, championing for quality in early childhood education and care.
Catalyst IT Australia thank ECA for trusting us with this project.
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