This platform makes it easier to build online courses - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Mar. 4, 2016 11:10 am

This platform makes it easier to build online courses

After developing e-learning materials for clients, Katie Egan and Bethany Meyer built a tool they felt was missing. “If it was out there, we would've been using it.”

Katie Egan (left) and Bethany Meyer.

(Courtesy photo)

In their 10 years of work with various companies and schools with Kathleen Egan and Associates, Katie Egan and Bethany Meyer got used to creating e-learning materials on their own.

When it came to coding each individual function, “It always followed the same general pattern,” said Meyer, who was the lead developer.

They were interested in using other products to make the process more efficient, but “we were never able to find something that worked,” said Egan, a Howard County resident who is also a founder of How Girls Code.

So, they created their own.

Egan and Meyer developed CourseArc. Meyer describes it as “a CMS that’s customized to the needs of people creating courses.” It’s designed to give the course leader a way to build the courses themselves.

With their experience developing the courses, they incorporated elements they wanted to see in such a platform. So they made it easy to embed photos or video, as well as quizzes to review material. They also took pains to make the web-based platform work on mobile.

The tool also aims to ease collaboration so groups of people working on a course can contribute. In her previous work building courses, Egan said she was spread between task management tools. With CourseArc, the workflow tools are built in throughout, including a dashboard.

There has been early interest from corporations who need to conduct training and higher education institutions such as UMBC Training Centers and UMBC, but Egan said, “Any organization that’s investing in online training or online content, we see as a potential client.”

One early user is the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF). One course, which was created by Johns Hopkins professor George Everly, provides mental training for relief workers who respond to disasters in 29 countries.

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Since the course required in-person training, Everly said the organization saw the benefits of online training, but hadn’t found a tool that could convey the material properly.

“Our hesitation for years was, ‘Could we develop a quality product that conveyed a complex subject?'” he said.

But, Everly said, Egan “made a believer out of me.”

“In some ways it may even be more effective than in-person training because we don’t do those interactive exercises at the same level of cognitive stimulation that the online course does,” he said. “I think it will enlarge our footprint internationally. This is huge for us,” he said.

Egan and Meyer are still continuing the instructional design and development work that led to CourseArc, which is helping to fund the startup. But they hope CourseArc becomes the prime business. They see potential competition from other course-creation tools like SoftChalk or Articulate Storyline, but Egan reiterated that this fits what they wanted as online course developers.

“We’ve been looking for something to use ourselves,” she said. “If it was out there, we would’ve been using it.”

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Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. A graduate of Northeastern University, he moved to Baltimore following a stint in New Orleans, where he served as managing editor of online news and culture publication NOLA Defender. While there, he also wrote for NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune. He was previously a reporter for the Rio Grande Sun of Northern New Mexico.

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