Revitalizing an eLearning Platform


Through the creative use of a new Web- Based e-learning authoring tool, a low cost learning management system (LMS), and full utilization of SCORM functionality, the BoatU.S. Foundation was able to overhaul and modernize their e-Learning program. All this on a budget they did not originally think possible.

The BoatU.S. Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose primary mission involves education and public outreach in the area of boating safety and the environment. Being a non-profit, this mission must be accomplished on a limited budget. Their original e-Learning system was becoming obsolete and unable to keep up with their evolving requirements and industry standards. For example, one problem that surfaced was related to their very popular Boating Safety course. In many states, this course is a requirement for all boaters. As e-Learning Courses have become more popular, many states started dictating their own sets of requirements for the content and testing within the Boating Safety Course. These state-to-state variations were driving the necessity of developing a different course for each state, which would quickly become a major effort to maintain. The ideal solution would be to develop a single course that dynamically adapts to the learner and the state they are boating in.

After careful consideration of their evolving requirements, the BoatU.S. Foundation became increasingly concerned that the required complexity was going to necessitate a custom solution that would be expensive and time consuming to develop. However, after researching their options and meeting with several e-Learning development companies, an alternative approach began to emerge. According to Amanda Suttles, BoatU.S. Foundation Program Manager, “We were pleasantly surprised to find out that ICS Learning Group’s Inquisiq R3 Learning Management System, used in conjunction with Inquisiq Studio, their web-based e-Learning authoring system, was able to satisfy almost all of our requirements. The few that were not met were accomplished with a few key modifications and some ingenuity.”

The Inquisiq Solution allows users to browse their course catalog and enroll in courses. Registration and payment are handled by the system’s built-in configurable registration forms, shopping cart, and e-commerce engine. Once registered, a user can access all their courses from their My Courses screen. The My Courses screen also lets users view and print their certificates as well as view their history and course status. Ingenuity comes in when a user launches their Boating Safety Course. The LMS then use SCORM launch data to pass the user data to the course so that it can dynamically configure itself for that user. This solution was ideal in that a single course is able to satisfy the needs of users in all states.

Another area of concern for the Foundation is their desire to develop and maintain their own courses without the help of outside developers. This requires an easy to use, off-the-shelf authoring tool. However, the capabilities of a simple authoring tool are at odds with the more sophisticated needs of the Boating Safety Course which must adapt based on the learner’s profile. Amanda Suttles, Foundation Program Manager, commented that “All the authoring tools we looked at did have some nice features but they did not allow us to do the more advanced things that we required. Initially it seemed to us that ease of use was going to be mutually exclusive with our more sophisticated needs. However, as we came to learn, Inquisiq Studio did allow us to enjoy the benefits of an easy to use, feature-rich authoring tool but also had a special editing mode that exposed the underlying code. This unique capability of Inquisiq Studio allowed us to have ICS developers go in and add custom JavaScript to specific pages that needed the more advanced functionality. The result is that we got the best of both worlds; the ease of use of an off-the-shelf authoring tool and the freedom to alter any given page and do pretty much anything you can program should it be necessary.”