One of my main gigs is running a repository service to help faculty here in BC share online course content. As I have likely lamented far too many times, the bane of my existence is the uneven support for content interoperability across the various course management systems. At last count we had at least 6 flavours in the province in which ideally the content would work, and certainly would love it if it’d work with others too. So while I personally believe CMS are increasingly bankrupt as a model for online education and continue to work with others to demonstrate new ways of teaching and learning online, my reality is that the content I am asked to help share is almost exclusively CMS-based, and moreover built directly inside the CMS, thus somewhat reliant on the vendors to provide easy and open ways for getting it out. Yeah right.
We come at this issue from many different directions trying to improve it. We built a “best practice” wiki to encourage people in the province to share their tricks and tips on how to work with CMS and still get content out “cleanly.” We are looking at some content “convertors” as part of the repository framework to clean up some of the exports into better formats (a dicey proposition at best). We’re experimenting with a “harvestor” that will grab CMS content not through the API but by spidering course sites.
Along these lines, I have put together this wiki page to collect together whatever CMS content export/conversion tools I can find, mostly for the CMS flavours at play in the province, but not totally limited to.
And I’d like to invite you to play. There are multiple ways to contribute to this – if you have a wikispaces account, I will gladly add you to the site. If instead you are a del.icio.us user, simply tag any resource you think appropriate with “cms_migration” (or even just send it my way with the “for:nessman” tag). Am I duplicating effort here? Please tell me if you know of another good collection of CMS conversion tools. I have no need to re-invent the wheel here, just trying to give people as many options as possible. Please also tell me if I am barking up any wrong trees with my assessment of what CMS already work well (or not) with each other – I get sporadic access to any of these, and the situation often changes with versions etc. If you can think of a better way to do this, I’m all ears for that too. – SWL
Hopefully all the Moodlers out there will already know about this through their regular Moodle forums, but I thought I’d give a shout out to the upcoming Canadian Moodle Moot being hosted May 3 – 5, 2007 in Edmonton, Alberta by Athabasca University and my own organization, BCcampus, amongst others. There looks to be still time to submit both F2F and Online presentation proposals (the Moot will have both a f2f and online component) and early bird registration ends in April. While I’d love to attend I regret this may not be in the cards, though hopefully I can still sign up for the virtual component. – SWL
Via Jim Farmer comes a link to this Pilot Report from the Instructional Technology Resource Center at Idaho State University, a current WebCT 4 customer. On the basis of this small (20 instructor) pilot, they are going expand it to 50 users. What I thought was interesting (and maybe the Moodle folks will notice this too) is that the only functionality that both students and faculty seemed not totally thrilled about were the assessment and grading capabilities in Moodle. That seems about right. Especially if you’ve used WebCT 6/Vista, which I have to admit seems pretty decent in this capacity. And you can tut-tut all you like about how those are such ‘administrative’ tools, but time and again the surveys come back that grading/gradebook management is actually one of the most used aspects of the CMS, ignored at CMS developers’ own peril. – SWL
Jim Farmer points to a comparison of the Sakai and Moodle projects done by Ohloh, a very cool site that provides objective information about open source projects. Instead of looking at Jim’s PDF file, you can check out the Sakai and Moodle reports directly on the Ohloh site. Ohloh’s reports are produced by looking at the source code repository (either Subversion, CVS or Git are currently supported) and it’s value is in creating human readable (and very attractive) reports on empirical data that such repositories capture. The sparklines depicting developer activity make it really obvious how many regular contributors there are to a project, and the Project Cost estimator provides a cute way to scare your pointy headed boss out of thinking you could accomplish the same thing in-house in a few evenings and a couple of cases of Red Bull. – SWL
Tip of the blog-tam to Michael Penney for letting me know of the recent announcement that UCLA plans to adopt Moodle as its institution-wide learning and collaboration environment, while also pledging to “continue as a Sakai Foundation member and … to work with others in the Sakai, Moodle, and IMS communities … on data, tool, and language interoperability solutions.” Let us hope this latter comes true too – with the behemoth increasingly playing annoying content lock-in games, (more to come on this, don’t you worry!) it bodes well for us all to have an increasingly healthy set of open source alternatives that can model non-predatory, open, interoperable solutions.
This is one new year’s prediction I feel pretty safe making – that we’ll see more and more institutions getting behind these and other open source CMS solutions in 2007 as they will be able to take advantage of the critical mass of adoption that built up in 2006 and avoid the “enterprise un-ready” FUD that major adopters like the Open University and Athabasca (amongst many more) have helped assuage. – SWL
So I usually don’t “blog on demand” but when Michael Penney emails me stuff it’s almost always worth a post, and this time is no exception (and totally by chance it turns out I have the pleasure of sharing the stage with the developers in November). As it says on the site, “OCW MetaMod for Moodle provides instructors and designers with the ability to mark individual resources or activities in a Moodle course as ‘shared’ (allowing guest viewing) or ‘private’ (only visible for registered students). Additionally, the MetaMod tags resources and activities as ‘C’ (copyright) or ‘CC’ (Creative Commons/Copyright Cleared).” This is a great step forward in enabling easy sharing of resources, allowing instructors to do it right from where the resource has been used.
As Michael wrote “Despite Mr. Small, the beat goes on…:-)” speaking of whom, the next chapter is slowly unfolding. – SWL
Michael Penney wrote in to let me know that the map of Moodle deployments world-wide that I pined for earlier already exists. While I’m pretty sure this map is not an exact representation of the state of affairs (otherwise Alice Springs is surely the hotbed of all Moodle deployments, with New Orleans a close second) it does give you a sense of how truly spread across the globe the 13,000 or so adopters of Moodle are. (Michael also pointed me to the ‘stats’ pages, which display quite vividly Moodle’s meteroic adoption curve.) – SWL
As the original home of WebCT, it is not perhaps a big surprise that it is the most widely adopted CMS in the province of BC, where I live and work. And while that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon on a large scale, 6 institutions have done pioneering working to investigate the viability of Moodle as an alternative, and have made the resulting reports available for all to see. The project was funded by my employers, BCcampus, through an Online Porgram Development Fund grant.
There is lots here to read – in addition to the final report and project recommendations, the partners have produced extensive documentation on each of the 10 distinct objectives (including such useful materials as documentation to migrate WebCT 4.1 courses to Moodle). And all of it is appropriately delivered via a Moodle site!
I know at least one of these partners has since gone on to announce its official adoption of Moodle as its institution-wide CMS, and that one of them was already firmly a Moodle adopter. So whether you are looking for a way out of your current lock-in or looking to buttress your arguments as to why your Moodle pilot should grow, you’ll find some useful evidence here. (If I am sounding slightly partisan here, I have just spent the last few months of my life struggling with getting content out of WebCT servers to interoperate with the rest of the world, and let’s just say I am the worse for wear.) – SWL
Thanks to Alan and John Arle for pointing to this presentation by Dr. Kathy D. Munoz and Joan Van Duzer of Humboldt State University which provides some comparative data of a course delivered through both Moodle and Blackboard. Student satisfaction and performance are fairly similar between the two environments, with a slight preference for Moodle, and the real differences seem to come out when the instructor/developer satisfaction is taken into account too. While Blackboard is hailed for the strength of its gradebook, it’s built-in survey tool and for seeming easier off the mark to beginners, the presentation then lists a whole host of advantages and satisfactions that emerged over time with Moodle. – SWL
This paper looks at the ever expanding world of open source course management systems, but adds to the comparison the factors of “adaptability, personalization, extensibility and adaptivity” (this later meaning “automatic adaptation to the individual user�s needs”). The results; Moodle is judged to be the best in terms of its adaptation capabilities, though all of the projects are deemed to be light on end-user adaptivity. – SWL