Patrick Masson on Lessons Learned Implementing a SOA at SUNY

This remarkably frank and insightful interview with Patrick Masson, the former Director of Technology for the SUNY Learning Network, is well worth the read, though by the end you would be forgiven for despairing about the future of SOA on any campus. I know I do and did. Monoliths ahoy! – SWL

Moodle Pilot Report from Idaho State University

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

Ohloh comparison of Sakai and Moodle

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

Blackboard’s Social Bookmarking Service

This looks to be a new social bookmarking service launched by Blackboard. The difference from existing services like Well, not much, as far as I can tell, except that it is aimed solely at Blackboard and WebCT customers (non-customers can search the site and find links, but not contribute). So why would you use this? Presumably Blackboard had enough existing customers ask them for a social bookmarking facility that was integrated with their Blackboard accounts which they could “safely” use with their students.

I am sure they will get demonized for this. Me, sure I’d love to see systems that instead of creating additional silos and enclaves allowed users to move in an authenticated form from the institution’s systems to ones out on the general web, you know, have my cake and eat it too. But the customers (that’s you, right) have got to demand this, not expect vendors whose whole business model is ‘lock in’ to simply just provide it. And the sad fact of the matter is that none of the internet-wide identity plays seem really up to this. Yet. This is one place where Open Source could make a huge difference, as introducing new features there does not have to be limited solely by the focus on profits. You’d think. Yet for some reason I still can’t get a simple OpenID plugin for WordPress. The pundits are right, identity will be big in 2007. But without the move of some major market shaker towards one of the ‘open’ approaches, don’t be surprised if it’s a continuation of the silo arms race between the bigs (read Google, Yahoo and MSN, not Blackboard) instead of a signle sign on paradise that results. – SWL

UPDATE: Blackboard have updated their blog with more details on this initiative, some of which is reminiscent of the EduGlu conversation. Does this mean we can sue them now 😉

Comparison of CMS, Course Materials Life Cycle, and Related Costs

My colleagues Bruce Landon and Russ Poulin were commissioned last year by MIT to produce a report which compared the CMS practices and costs, as well as the life cycle of course materials, at ‘peer’ institutions in an effort to provide a benchmark for future decision making. I was just informed that MIT has generously made the report more widely available online at the above location. In addition to MIT itself, the peer institutions surveyed included Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Columbia, Berkeley, Harvard (College of Arts and Sciences), University of Chicago, Middlebury, University of Texas at Austin, Princeton and Yale.

So while you might not consider your institution a “peer” (but hey, why not, in this global,online economy) I expect there will be something of interest to anyone involved with the management of institution-wide CMSes. It’s a lengthy report (90 pages) but in it you’ll find such things as costing and support information from a wide variety of scenarios, though one of the findings was that

most of the institutions did not have a better handle on cost data and that (for many of the respondents) costs were not a principle driver in decision-making.

It should also not be surprising to anyone having to deal with higher ed content management practices that the survey shows them to be all over the place and largely still a matter left up to the whims of the individual instructor. Which might seem fine to many except consider that “the annual costs of course materials can exceed the cost of the C/LMS by millions” and we all know at some point, something is going to give. – SWL

UCLA to adopt Moodle

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

dLCMS – Open Source LCMS built on Silva/Zope

Ahhhh, love those Google searches. Whilst searching (and still seeking) information about the standards compliance of WebCT CE 6 content exports, I stumbled across this find, the dynamic Learning Content Management System. Built as an extension of the open source CMS called Silva, dLCMS bills itself as a “content management system for web based learning materials” built on top of Zope and released under a BSD license. It stores resources in XML format and has created packages which have been successfully imported into OLAT, ILIAS, Moodle and WebCT. It looks to have been produced by ETH Zurich (and possibly on soft money that’s now run out) but possibly worth a look. – SWL

Slightly Tongue in Cheek Presentation on “The Future of CMS”

Scott Leslie caressing magic 8 ball

So last Friday I gave a talk at the WCET conference titled “The Future CMS.” A flash version (13Mb) with both audio and slides is available, but if you’d prefer you can just grab the slides on their own (7Mb) (if you view them in ‘Notes’ mode you can pretty well see the full text of the talk.) Be warned, I have a hard time taking myself seriously as a prognosticator (as likely will you by the end of the presentation.)

A little context; the crowd at this conference is mostly policy and admin folks – very few techies and faculty in the crowd. While there were certainly more people who had heard of the social software/Web 2.0 explosion than in previous years, it’s still a crowd that I hope finds value out of this kind of presentation. This year was notable for the marked increase in both Web 2.0/e-learninig 2.0 topics and blog-savvy presenters. I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Jaren Stein and John Krutsch, the two lads responsible for the recently announced Moodle OCW module. In addition, I got to hang out and see present both Terry Anderson and Chris Lott, and finally meet the indomitable patent battlers Al Essa and Barry Dahl. Rather than being one of the self-congratulatory post-conference blog posts Terry mentioned that he hates, I actually mention all of these folks, as well as the number of blog and wiki-savy attendees in the audience, as proof of the every growing awareness and practice; at this conference I I have seen through the last 3 years the topics and practices of Web 2.0/elearning 2.0 slowly moving into what I’d consider the ‘early adopters’ and even the start of the ‘early majority.’SWL

Great Social Software Presentation from WCET 2006 Presentation

I am sitting in a session at the WCET 2006 conference in Portland listening to a really fabulous presentation by Chris Lott and Terry Anderson, amongst others. Chris is presenting with the above wiki, and offered up this tagcloud of affordences for education by social software as a new rubric to organize examples of social software use. Have a good example, add it in, we’re live right now (1:42 PM Friday November 3). – SWL

Educause Evolving Technology Committe Report on Open Source LMS

There’s nothing really wrong with this report but also nothing very exciting either – basically a short synopsis of Sakai and Moodle and the state of affairs in LMS adoption in the US. If I were one of the 50 or so other open source learning management system projects out there I might be a bit choked by the continued lack of recognition (and it certainly gives pause to claims I’ve seen made within the open source CMS community that there’s no inherent competition between open source projects) but if you need a short synopsis document on the topic to stick in front of a still skeptical CIO, this is one place to start. – SWL