Course Management System Content Conversion Tools wikipage

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 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

CLOE Partners with Desire2Learn

An announcement from the CLOE project that they have adopted Desire2Learn as their repository technology. CLOE is significant as a Canadian project for early on investigating different models of ‘exchange’ to motivate faculty and institutions to participate in sharing networks. Will be interesting to see this once it has been deployed. – SWL

Educause Quarterly Article: Changing Course Management Systems

This is one of those articles that ranks in the “could have been important but ends up being too anecdotal” category. The authors are right in pointing to course conversion as both a potential cost issue and huge concern in switching CMS. All one has to do is ask a collection of system administrators or educational technologists who support almost any of the major CMS and they will nod knowingly, or start frothing at the mouth (depending on whether they’ve actually had to do it en masse or not).

But this is one area where higher ed suffers greatly from diverging from the corporate training world – we have no equivalent to an ADL to provide certification of these products on IMS Content Packaging (the larger scoped SCORM never having taken off within higher ed, for good reason.) So we are left to rely on the self-reporting of the CMS companies about their compliance with the Content Packaging and QTI schemes.

For a while the story that the churn of these specifications was what caused the lack of consistent implementations seemed plausible, but increasingly, less and less so. And fair or not, it’s no small part of the reason why on the LOR front, people are increasingly resistant to the notion of trusting their content to the big CMS vendors, as they have yet to exhibit content exports from their systems that will work well in their competitors’ systems.

The irony of this article is that D2L, one of the 2 companies mentioned here, has in fact done a lot of work to be able to convert content from their competitors’ systems as part of their business growth strategy. So if this is the case in trying to convert to them, one can only wonder what it might look like going betwen some of the others. IMS CP got started as a spec shortly after the formation of IMS in 1997, and was an early goal for good reason. From the customers’ perspective, it represented a major risk mitigation strategy to adopting one of these large systems (at a time when arguably the entire domain space was still in a very nascent state). 8 years later, one has got to ask, has it worked? Has the risk been mitigated? Ask your CMS admins and content developers, I’m sure they will tell you what they think. – SWL

Florida Distance Learning Consortium Selects Desire2Learn

Earlier this year I posted on MiCTA and their extensive RFP process that led to Desire2Learn winning ‘Endorsed‘ status for their members, and WebCT earning an ‘Approved‘ status. There was a third vendor that MiCTA was trying to negotiate a licensing arrangement with, Blackboard, but as MiCTA states on their site they were “not able to arrive at a contract that was beneficial to the MiCTA membership.”

Today came the announcement that the first of MiCTA’s members has taken advantage of the licencing terms that were brokered as part of that RFP process. Florida Distance Learning Consortium has chosen to go with D2L after their own extensive evaluation. – SWL