OLAT stands for “Online Learning And Training” and has been developed by the University of Zurich. It is a free software/open source LCMS, which means it combines learning- as well as content-management options. OLAT focuses more on the content than some other LMS do.
OLAT supports various E-learning standards such as IMS Content Packaging, IMS QTI and SCORM. It is a LMS that is said to support any kind of online learning, teaching, and tutoring without any didactical restrictions.
OLAT is 100% Java, only tomcat and a relational database management system is required with a pure HTML based GUI. It has extension mechanism for developers to extend it for custom needs with unlimited number of user accounts, courses and groups. The Right based security gives it more flexible than role based security and the Virtual file system allows access to all accessible file resources over a single mount point
- MS Content Packaging
- SCORM content
- Local content(via file upload or WebDAV, integrated WYSIWYG content editor
- External content (image database, web application)
- IMS QTI test, self-test and questionnaire
- Task selection of multiple tasks, drop-in-box, manual scoring
- Manual scoring
- Enrollment in groups
- Discussion forum, exportable to RTF
- File dialog (discussion forum per uploaded file)
- File share folder
- Contact form
- Course export and import
- Course archiving system to download test results and the like
- Course audit infrastructure to track different file record changes, user behavior and access statistics.
- Course preview and simulation
- Bulk changes for courses with huge amount of users
- Ability a customize the style of courses
- Digital repository to share learning resources with other authors
- Publish resources to users
- Organization of resources via catalog
OLAT’s USP is its internationalization with multilingual support and its full integration of the Shibboleth authentication and authorization protocol.
Impact of E-Learning
The education industry worldwide has been a witness to an ever-increasing phenomenon of distance education enrollments over the past decade. Almost all institutions of higher education have created high-profile programs for distant learners and a new E-learning industry has emerged . There is substantial increase in the number of students availing E-learning courses . A major consequence of such a change has been the spread of higher education to a huge base of people from various age groups, income classes and different geographical regions.
An important point under consideration for the institutions, and indeed for all benefactors is has E-learning been a source of positive impact and valuable addition to the distance education modules or is it a whimsical phenomenon in its nascent stage. Many Institutions of Higher Education are resorting to e-Learning as a means of solving authentic learning and performance problems, while other institutions are hopping onto the bandwagon simply because they do not want to be left behind.
The positives of E-learning courses for distance learning students are far too many to be easily neglected. E-Learning acts as an incentive for distance learning students as it provides them with a comfortable environment wherein learning takes place through group discussions, online activities and therefore, they spend more time preparing questions and responses. Moreover, E-learning courses for distance learners improve their performance in assessments and also prepare them for working in an IT-based era. The virtual environment that is created through an e-learning facility acts as an interface between the user and the course material thereby bridging the gap of a lecturer.Also, E-learning adds up the disabled learners under its reach enabling them to further their education from home.
But time and again, lecturers and academicians have been skeptical about the success rate of distance education when compared with that of traditional educational setup. Although eLearning environments overcome the traditional time and space constraints, universities must be cautious when deciding if modern distance learning environments should replace the traditional methods, as students recognize the benefits of the eLearning environments but only when combined with traditional formats. Students who have access to networked computers may have the opportunity to experience a more flexible learning process but students and indeed higher educational institutions could fail to benefit from this opportunity, due to students not being able to afford or gain access to a computer . Also, the cost of implementing and executing various E-learning courses is substantial and is passed on to the distance learners who already are unable to spend time, money and energy on such educational pursuits.
Clearly, there is a trade-off between the positives and the negatives of E-learning for distance learners. For students who want to study at Harvard Business School or Stanford University or any such institution of his dreams but given the cost of study at these institutes or other personal circumstances that deters him from attending the classroom courses, E-Learning comes to the rescue of such students. The broadening geographic distribution, flexible learning environments, and variety of educational models that are offered by distance learning facilitate improved education, and he points out that if universities do not embrace this technology (E-Learning), they will be left behind in the pursuit of globalization and technological development and excellence.