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

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

Moodle OCW Module


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

educate/innovate = use patents?


OK, so at least they did post something back on August 7 about the patent (a staff member posting a letter on behalf of Michael Chasen, the CEO), but otherwise, the Blackboard “blog” has been thunderously silent given the amount of hoopla in the blogosphere over the last month directly concerning them.

Not really surprising, but also not what I’d call an “authentic” engagement with the concerns of their readers/customers. (And my reaction to the notes from their conference call with ALT in the UK is the same as Stephen’s – apparently I’ve found another use for our stockpiled baby wipes now that our kids are out of diapers).

I did say that I was reserving judgement on the BB ‘blog’ until there was more to judge. Looks like the evidence is in, though, and on the charge of “falsely impersonating a blog” the evidence is based on the omissions as much as what is there. – SWL

And the winner is….’Course Management Systems’?


From the “that’s not a zeitgeist, just a bump in the road” department comes this news, that the inaugural winner of the new Educause ‘Catalyst’ award is “Course Management Systems” (yes, the entire field of them, not just a signle one, competing claims to the contrary notwithstanding). What’s so interesting, though, in light of those recent claims, is to read the text of the award which talks about CMS being “developed among faculty in pockets of innovation throughout the world” and that the “developers of these systems pulled together many strands of technology.” [empasis mine] Indeed! – SWL

Blackboard Patent and Prior Art


I am officially still on holidays until next Tuesday but made the mistake of checking my email (I have managed to abstain from my bloglines account though!) and through a mailing list I subscribe to saw a post on the nastiness that is Blackboard’s patent application. If you can beat them, sue them, eh?

The ensuing effort to create a history of LMS/VLEs through Wikipedia is great and to be applauded. When I saw the posts about Blackboard’s patent I immediately thought of our Edutools site, actually its predecessor, Landonline, developed by my colleague Dr. Bruce Landon and hosted by my former employers, the now defunct Centre for Curriculum, Transfer and Technology (C2T2).

Bruce originally created that site in 1996 (pre-Blackboard, in fact the early version was pre-WebCT as well.) I checked the Internet Archives, and while they don’t have a copy from 1996, they do have ones from 1997, 1998 and 1999. If you have a look at the copies on the Wayback machine. The copies on the Wayback machine aren’t pretty (lots of broken images) but you can see, for instance in this comparison from 1998, that Blackboard (here called Courseinfo) and WebCT show up in this apples to apples comparison with 4 other systems at the time.

It’s not like Landonline/Edutools is the only example you can point to that was comparing Blackboard and WebCT to competing offerings – Marshall University’s Center for Instructional Technology’s comparison of LMS/CMS tools from 1999 is still available online, as is Virginia Tech’s from 1998. What I do think is significant, however, is that at Edutools we can actually show a continuous development of the feature set that we use to compare these products from 1996 until our current one – certainly with changes and modifications over time, but it has been a relatively consistent point of comparison for almost 10 years now.

I am not a lwayer and don’t play one on TV, and I am sure there is enough weasily language included in the patent that Blackboard will have some success using it to bludgeon competitors and customers alike. But if the creation of this behemoth didn’t light a fire under your ass to do something different, maybe consider this a second opportunity to change course. – SWL

Article – “A Graduate’s View of the Course Management System”


This article is a follow up to one written 2 years ago by Frank Tansey’s son, now a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound. It is of course purely anecdotal so its unfair to draw broad conclusions from it, but for me it provides a refreshing perspective on the issue.

The situation described seems to be very much a ‘blended learning’ or ‘classroom augmented’ use of a CMS (in this case Blackboard). The advantages seem to be along the lines that regular use of the CMS by instructors makes for more efficient, effective and engaged classroom work, and the biggest danger seems to be uneven use by faculty.

The recommendations reflect, unsurprisingly, an ‘outsiders’ view of how post-secondary institutions should work, giving far too much credit to the power of central authority and far too little responsibility on the shoulders of individual faculty (but then the decision making and management itself of the CMSes often naively perpetuates this mis-casting, as the LMS governance report I pointed to last week made clear.) Still well worth the quick read. – SWL