Slashing LearnDash Consulting Costs

browser-demo2LearnDash is a great low-budget LMS, but getting it (and WordPress) set up just the right way can be surprisingly time-consuming and complex. More often than not, customizations and complementary tools are needed to deliver the right user experience. For someone jumping into WordPress, an LMS and PHP for the first time, it can all be a bit overwhelming. That’s why so many companies turn to Uncanny Owl, and it’s why LearnDash now represents about 40% of our work.

Many people choose LearnDash because of the low price and simplicity compared to other Learning Management Systems. Going from a LearnDash license to a live website requires a lot of work, however, and the $5,000 to $10,000 price for a typical LearnDash implementation with Uncanny Owl was a barrier to many companies. Of course, that’s a small price to pay for the companies that spent months trying to build their own sites before turning to us! With so many LearnDash projects behind us, however, we’ve come to realize that most of our clients want the same things. They want lots of placeholders with lots of content types that they can reuse; they want everything to look pretty and be user-friendly; they want it easy for learners to find and complete lessons; and they want hand-held training so they can be independent without wasting months learning everything themselves.

To make a custom LearnDash solution more accessible, Uncanny Owl created a base platform that’s reusable rather than starting from scratch for every client. That means we save days of effort on our side and we can pass those savings on to clients. To make it as easy as possible for anyone to get started with LearnDash, we’re now offering a basic implementation that uses our base platform for just $2,500. It’s designed for businesses that want to get online quickly, don’t have a lot of obscure requirements, are short on time to devote to learning new technology and have to work with a low budget. For these clients, our new offer is probably a great starting point. Keep in mind that we can’t just drop it onto your site; a lot of customization is still required to get things ready for you, and we target a turnaround time of 2 weeks.

The new LearnDash demo site is now online at http://lms.uncannycloud.com/. If you’re just looking for a LearnDash demo to check out, keep in mind that we’ve added a lot of features and customizations to create a platform that delivers what most of our clients need. This isn’t what you should expect out of the box with LearnDash.

More details about the offer are on new LearnDash LMS page. It’s brand new, so we’d love to get your feedback about the offer in the comments section below!

Top Study Skills Program Goes Free

Grade HacksWe recently made the decision to adopt an open education model for Grade Hacks, our study skills platform. The program combines elearning courses, videos, downloadable resources, calculators and more to help high school, college and university students improve academic performance. The 30-day program has already helped hundreds of students achieve better grades in school.

The shift to a free model was made for 2 reasons. First, we want it to help as many students as possible. Making it a paid program proved a significant barrier for many students (more so than expected) and we didn’t want financial means to stand in the way of students reaching their potential. The program covers many important strategies that aren’t taught in schools and we knew we could help more students than we were reaching.

Second, the program ended up being a driver of consulting business for us. As a showcase platform on the LearnDash website, we’ve received quite a bit of traffic from organizations interested in building out their own LMS solutions. What they could see without registering, however, was very limited. By opening the site up we hope to further expand interest in Uncanny Owl consulting services.

Even though we’ll take a financial hit from opening the site up, we know it was the right move for a program geared to students. This email from a teacher (right after we issued the press release) certainly confirmed it:

I just came across this your website and it looks absolutely fantastic. I am so glad that it is free and I will be using it to help my students (at-risk students including ADHD etc.) with their study skills and learning styles.

We hope you enjoy Grade Hacks too.

Uncanny Owl Turns One

candle-blogLast June, Ryan and Ken founded Uncanny Owl to help companies improve training using technology—and we’re still doing it. Better yet, we’re still enjoying it!

Over the last year we’ve had a chance to support some great local and international businesses. The Brick, the TSSA, the OCSTA, Transcription Express, ManchesterCF, Luminance, DisclosureNet, Envirogate and many more companies all use solutions developed by Uncanny Owl. From courseware to learning platforms to websites and everything in between, we’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of interesting projects with a lot of interesting people.

We’ve launched new products, published widely-read industry articles, and helped people solve learning problems. Over the next year, we look forward to even more collaborations and creating new programs that help more audiences improve their capabilities and expand their knowledge.

If you were part of our first year, thank you for your support. For everyone else reading this, we look forward to future collaborations.

Directory Experiments and Social Content Creation

Toronto Track DaysWe covered the launch of www.torontoelearning.com in a previous post and just completed some updates for April. Since stabilizing the platform, we decided to test it with a completely different market—regional track events. The new website, www.torontotrackdays.com, has already seen huge interest from the local racing community (250+ organic likes on Facebook within 6 weeks of launch!) and has become the most complete source of track event information for the Toronto area. So far, we’re very pleased with the results and its positioning for the upcoming track season.

Toronto Track Days also gave us an interesting opportunity to test some new technical ideas that we can apply back to future elearning projects. (We’ve had a number of complex platform requests recently, so it helps to know how far we can push our sites with available tools.) The event calendar we used for torontoelearning.com wasn’t robust enough for the large number of events we required, nor the complexity filtering and sorting that users would need, so we developed a Gravity Forms solution. Now users and businesses can enter events, see them immediately and make changes as needed; all without our intervention. With so many early users it’s been a great experiment in user-generated content and organizing contributions so they add value to visitors.  We can apply many of the lessons to elearning and social sharing, like how to better engage users and encourage active participation.

If you have any questions about technical considerations or other lessons learned from our Toronto Track Days experiment, post in the comments and we’ll be happy to provide feedback!

Toronto eLearning Hub Updates

torontoelearning.com

Looking for the latest Toronto elearning events and job postings? Toronto’s elearning hub has had its first monthly refresh, so all of the new listings are now available online! If you notice anything missing, please submit them and we’ll make sure they’re included on the site.

Torontoelearning.com has now been up for a month and we’d love to get your feedback. Is it helping? How can we make it better?

Looking for Compliance Training?

compliance-trainingUncanny Owl can help! Compliance training is one of the highest-growth areas of workplace training and it increasingly needs to be about more than just checking off boxes. With a recent survey finding that the frequency of compliance communications increased by 51%, and PwC reporting more scrutiny by regulators and auditors of program effectiveness, compliance training is on every company’s radar.

Our new overview of compliance training outlines some of the reasons that elearning solutions by Uncanny Owl are a great way to deliver elearning programs that reduce risk, costs and instances of non-compliance. More than just an easier way to track compliance training completion, our elearning programs let companies track performance trends and behaviours changes. They’re also fun and interactive!

To find out more about how we can help with your compliance training, tell us about your project.

Introducing torontoelearning.com

torontoelearning.comWe’ve decided to try our hand at connecting Toronto’s elearning community and local businesses. We’re not the first, but we are the first that isn’t either national, behind a paywall or out of date.

Torontoelearning.com is a community site where anyone interested in elearning can  share and connect. On the business side, there’s a vendor directory and boards for elearning jobs and projects. On the social side, there’s a calendar with Toronto’s latest elearning events and a news feed that captures everything Toronto’s elearning pros are saying in one location. Everything is completely free and there are no ads. We created the site as a networking experiment, not a source of income.

If you’re an elearning provider, we hope you’ll drop by and submit (or claim) your business profile. While you’re there, check out the postings and submit your social news URLs to info@torontoelearning.com. We’ll make sure they’re included in our consolidated Toronto elearning feed!

If you’re a business, check out Toronto’s rich selection of elearning providers. Post your jobs and projects to connect with the region’s experts!

If you’re a student, check out the discussion to learn more about the industry and what’s happening in Toronto. And if you want a professional-looking email address that shows your industry affiliation, claim your free @torontoelearning.com email address!

We really hope the Toronto elearning community finds the site useful. It’s still new, so there may be some issues, and we would love to get your feedback on what we’re doing. Let us know how we can improve and help you better connect with Toronto’s elearning community!

Click here to visit torontoelearning.com

Introducing Grade Hacks

Grade Hacks logo

Uncanny Owl’s first product, Grade Hacks, went live this morning. Our experience suggested that schools focused too much on teaching information rather than teaching students how to learn and succeed, so we created Grade Hacks to address this learning gap. Using interactive e-learning lessons, videos, downloadable tools, calculators, progress tracking and much more, we’ve created an engaging learning platform to help high school, college and university students reach their academic potential.

We’re offering Grade Hacks at a special introductory price of only $25 until December 31, 2013. Check out the free trial to see what Uncanny Owl can do with e-learning. Everything – from platform integration to content development and tool programming – were performed in-house by Uncanny Owl.