Interview of the week: Dokeos

22 avril 2010

Last week, we started our series of interviews with Cornerstone OnDemand, illustrating by the way our review of the hosting options of an LMS.

This week, let’s change the category… and let’s have a look at the open source with Dokeos, an LMS supported by a company: Dokeos e-Learning. Initially, Dokeos was a fork of another open source LMS: Claroline. Within a few years, the fame of Dokeos reached such a high level that it got positioned as a challenger of the open source LMS leader: Moodle.

Consequently, we have the great honour to receive today Mr Thomas DE PRAETERE, CEO of Dokeos e-Learning.

Sébastien FRAYSSE (SF) – Could you give us a few trends about the demand evolution by the beginning of 2010? How is the LMSs market moving on?

Thomas DE PRAETERE (TDP) – The LMSs market has evolved towards a market of e-learning suites. The customers are more and more interested in a one-in-all solution to develop their courses – interact with trainees – get an accurate pedagogical reporting.

The market has also moved towards professionalism, which results in a strong demand for solutions rather than software: the customer wishes to be supported all along his process, to get guarantees about the result and to be assisted in his project validation.

Moreover, we can see today new fields of activity showing up, among which the medical sector in the broad sense of the term: hospitals, specialists associations, pharmaceutical companies.

SF – Dokeos comes from the Open Source world and has been supported by a private company. What benefits can be expected from your customers in comparison to purely Open Source LMSs (e.g. Moodle…)?

TDP – Our customers’ demand is to get the best from both worlds: on the one hand, an open source product, guaranteeing a rapid evolution and a shared intelligence to make the solution move to the right direction. On the other hand, a guarantee upon the result. A qualified service-provider who commercially commits himself upon the operation of the solution, its evolvability with time and its integration with the existing systems.

This is obvious today. LMSs like Moodle, Ilias or Atutor keep on being disadvantaged by their lowly professional interface, the ergonomy of which has never been reviewed: too many buttons, too much text, too many options. Whereas Dokeos has already moved through three successive phases of improvement for its ergonomy and its usability. And this is what really makes it a software usable by both the trainers and the trainees within companies, as well as both the teachers and the students within the educational world.

SF – You offer a free version of the LMS (FREE) and a paying one (PRO), including more functionalities and services. How would you compare the PRO version with the market commercial LMSs?

TDP – The market proprietary LMSs highly evolved during the last few years. They are no longer LMSs but e-learning suites offering an author tool, interactive functions and pedagogical reporting screens + in some cases, video-conferencing and a rapid learning solution (conversion of PowerPoint presentations during a course). Dokeos is, as far as I know, the only open source actor which has not only grown up with this evolution but has also moved beyond the level of the proprietary software on, at least, two points:

1. Dokeos proposes to perform everything on-line: within the navigator, which makes the user’s interface easier, decreases the costs and favours the collaboration between the pedagogical resources developers.

2. Dokeos, as an open source software, is flexible, evolutive and can be integrated to the customer’s software park, his graphic standards, his security rules, etc.

3. Thanks to its advanced server technology (Php-MySQL, little Flash), Dokeos manages great volumes: 100,000 or 200,000 simultaneous users correspond to an absolutely sensible figure for a Dokeos customer, whereas lots of proprietary solutions cut off, slow down or simply deny the connection.

We have entered, with the evolution of the great computer science actors (Google, Amazon, Apple etc.), the era of all-online and web 2.0. Dokeos is by no way a solution of CD Rom supported by the web but a real Web 2.0 tool, developed for the web, designed for the web, compliant with mobile phones, etc.

SF – How is the free version planned to evolve? Is it to benefit, in the end, from the functionalities of the current PRO version?

TDP – No, it isn’t. Dokeos PRO adds up two essential components to the world of the great companies and great organizations:

1. Advanced pedagogical reporting screens which enable to track the progress of each employee, customer or student on a real-time basis so as to make their training programme evolve accordingly.

2. An advanced rapid learning functionality, managing the pages templates, the activities models (exercises) and enabling the companies to gain in productivity and to rapidly profit from their e-learning investments.

Nevertheless, Dokeos FREE and Dokeos PRO are based on the same software architecture and mutually benefit from debugging operations, as well as ergonomics improvements of the existing tools.

Hence, in the FREE version of Dokeos 1.9, which is to be launched in June 2010, the time-reporting system has been corrected thanks to a tight collaboration with Dokeos PRO customers, the WIKI operates in a more intuitive way than before by means of a collaboration with a series of public administration units which are Dokeos PRO customers and which have financed this development.

This is also true for Dokeos MEDICAL. Our collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières on Dokeos MEDICAL has helped to improve and stabilize numerous Dokeos FREE tools. Notably: the automatic glossary by word mouse-over, the improvement of the Authoring tool graphical design, and the Survey tool which has been completely updated.

The collaboration with Université Paris V over Dokeos MEDICAL has resulted in the development of a unique authentication tool based on CAS which will be, from now on, part of Dokeos FREE and which will be set at the disposal of more than 200 schools in Corsica and in Auvergne by the start of 2010 school year.

This drives us to think beyond a dualist scheme which would oppose the world of the wicked vendors to the one of the good community. Actually, the community is a whole set of users, some of whom freely benefit from a FREE version while others need more advanced functions. Within this community, some members freely provide their contributions like Jack Yi for example, who has just forwarded us an updated Chinese translation, others order developments from us, entire parts of which are re-integrated into Dokeos FREE for the benefit of most users while other parts shall be reserved to PRO or MEDICAL.

SF – Your product offer includes a version dedicated to the medical sector. What is the reason for this sector-based offer? Does the medical sector expect particular functionalities?

TDP – Yes, it does. The medical world is completely re-organizing its training approach. E-learning gets systemized and progressively integrated to the hospital management tools and medical imaging. Dokeos MEDICAL supplies these professionals with tools adapted to the clinical reflection (use case training and operation via tests and mistakes) as well as imaging tools (radiography tests, etc.) and the capability to convert within 24 hours a PowerPoint-based presentation into a Webcasts library.

SF – Dokeos has impressively evolved since its creation. Could you give us some information about your next development axes? A few words about Dokeos 2.0?

TDP – Yes, Dokeos has rapidly evolved thanks to an efficient synergy between the free community and the customers’ community, which led us to enter the virtuous circle of innovation. Our luck has rested and still rests on the intelligence of our customers who do not only finance the development but also supply the analysis. As an example, the French Ministry of the Interior ordered a Survey tool from us but also precisely explained to us how it was expected to operate.

Dokeos 2.0 is a real revolution because it can indifferently operate in a connected or disconnected mode. Dokeos 2.0 is also a revolution for the user’s experience with a new interface which is more intuitive, nice-looking and compliant with the new computing devices: mobile phones and tablets. The QUIZ tool will also surprise you: instead of submitting six types of questions, it will propose a gallery of 40 “pre-designed” activities to make the e-learning course author’s life easier.

SF – Thanks a lot Mister De Praetere for answering all my questions. For anyone wishing to go into further detail, please go and visit Dokeos website.

See you next week for a new interview. In the mean time, do not hesitate to leave any comments or questions just below…

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