Best Online Learning Platform, People's Choice Awards

Throughout September and October, Education-Portal.com conducted its first-ever Education Resources People's Choice Awards, which aimed to find the educational tools our readers considered the most helpful in a number of categories. Today we're taking a look at online learning platforms. What software makes it easiest for you to learn outside a traditional classroom? There are lots of great options, but only one winner.

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Winner: Moodle

Since 2003, Moodle (short for 'modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment') has been a leader in facilitating online education. It's an open-source platform founded on the social constructionist theory of learning (in other words, that true education is born out of communities in which everyone shares their experiences). The key to Moodle's success is its adaptability - educators can use the software in a number of ways, such as a content delivery system (if you're interested in setting up fully online courses), a supplement to traditional in-school classes or a community-building tool (through features like discussion forums, wikis and more). A large support network (including many volunteers) exists to help new Moodle users get their bearings and figure out how to best make the software fit their own needs - all you need is a server (either local or hosted on the Web) on which to install its framework and you're good to go!

Moodle's user statistics are astounding, driving home the importance of its adaptability. The Moodle website reports that more than 45,000 learning communities take advantage of the software in over 205 countries that speak 80 languages. That translates to a user base of 32 million people! Further, traditional schools aren't Moodle's only clients - businesses and other educational enterprises can benefit from the software too. Basically, if you've got something you want any size group of people to learn, Moodle can help facilitate that learning in compelling ways.

Finalist: Blackboard

The Blackboard brand serves as an umbrella for many different types of educational technology. Its six divisions (Learn, Connect, Analytics, Collaborate, Transact and Mobile) each take a unique approach to fostering e-learning within and beyond traditional classrooms. Students are probably most familiar with Blackboard through its Internet tools like discussion forums and online tests, but the Blackboard system allows for so much more than that. For instance, Blackboard also works to facilitate communication within an educational community via social networking, to give teachers easier access to education analytics and even to make campuses safer and more convenient.

Finalist: Aplia

Aplia's a resource designed for teachers that also holds major benefit to students. It's an automatic grading platform that swiftly returns assignments with detailed feedback, thereby keeping pupils engaged with course material. Teachers can customize Aplia to their individual standards, and the platform supports numerous college textbooks and curricula. Though it might seem that automatic grading wouldn't work too well in a college setting, Aplia's user statistics say differently: their site reports that over one million students in more than 1,300 institutions have used the platform in their classes.

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