We at the Center of Excellence in Finance have been aware of online learning for a long time. We knew it right from the start that it could potentially have a very bright future.
The CEF is a learning institution and therefore it is important for us to explore new innovative ways of delivering our learning initiatives. It was around 2010 when we first set foot on an online learning journey and started to think of providing learning initiatives in an online learning space. We wanted to offer our learning program also online and for that we needed a platform.
We started looking for a good online learning platform, a system that would allow us to post workshops online. As many others, we quickly came across Moodle, which remains one of the most popular and widespread online learning platforms. It is a free and completely open source.
So, for years we provided workshops transformed into online courses on this platform, but we always had a feeling that it was not customizable enough to our needs. We could not really tailor it exactly the way we wanted. There were many problems with making it look and feel the way that the CEF visual guide was set, and its features were too extensive for our needs, not to mention the really old-fashioned design of the user interface. It was hard to get around with, especially for people not so keen on web technologies and computers. Although it was rich in features, I quickly learned that sometimes less is more.
That is when my journey into the creation of an online learning space really began. It all started one day at the beginning of 2016 when I was trying to reprogram the features of Moodle, dealing with a very stubborn PHP code that was written in a way that I did not exactly understand and like. It was then that I asked myself: why am I doing this? Rather than rebuilding the whole system to our needs, I got the idea to create my own platform that would be built specifically for our needs, tailor-made from scratch, and with the exact features and design that we wanted and needed.
I presented the idea to the team and I was given free hands for this project. Colleagues from various teams at the CEF also joined in and helped me wherever they could, so the progress was fast. I was excited. I was stepping into something unknown, doing something new – something that would help us move forward faster on our online learning journey. I learned from the things I did not like about Moodle and other similar systems.
My idea was to make it as minimalistic as possible in terms of design and provide users only with the features they needed. I also wanted a system that would be flexible enough, and that would allow me to embed and reuse other systems and features, including popular webinar systems, like WebEx, and commenting systems, such as Disqus, without feeling restrained.
For the basis of our online learning platform I decided to use a content management system (CMS). I was thinking that with a good CMS system, such as MODX, I would feel like a real pioneer, as I did not know of any other example that has used MODX with the same approach. I could really take the advantage of the technologies it provided free of charge, being an open source software.
The progress was really fast and in about three months of hard work the first version of the CEF Online Learning Campus (OLC) was published in the production system, ready for testing. Since the first usable prototype that I landed early in March 2016, the platform was constantly growing. With the help of comments from the team, new features were developed and added. Finally, the first real online learning course was published on OLC in May 2016. It was a huge success. It went through without any major problems and participants gave very good feedback. This course also served as a pilot course from which we learned a lot.
This is how our CEF OLC looks like:
Until now, we have successfully finished eight online courses and webinars on the platform, all of them implemented without any major problems. But one can always do better, right? Therefore, we constantly learn and adapt to provide an even better online learning space. Currently, we have new important innovative features in mind that we would like to implement in the near future.
Want to see the platform in action? Hop in the www.cef-see.org/olc and join us!