I've been participating in an e-learning discussion group at the University of Montana.
Various local survey's have turned up widespread resistance to e-learning among
faculty. This is not too surprising.
The two most common complaints:
the classroom is better Ok, but the classroom plus online resources combo is better yet, and many potential older and third world students don't have the classroom opportunity anyway. And we have to figure out how to serve them as well.
It takes too long to make these courses Ok, this is the one that interests me.
Assembling exercises, monitoring discussion forums and creating multiple choice tests is not all that hard, not once you do a few and get your keyboard legs. What does take time (if you even attempt it) is creating online background reading and resource material. Creating a course-complementary website is equivalent to writing a textbook. The writing is a big job and so is the web-devlopment.
I'm a programmer. In my world big projects are built by teams. Some teams are paid engineers working for industry. Some teams are open source volunteers, or even open source projects comprised of a combination of paid developers plus volunteer committers. Major works seldom get accomplished by individuals alone.
But scorm-compliant courseware cannot now be accomplished by teams of collaborators. Open source collaboration requires version control software. Version control software requires source material stored as text files. Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Lean and all the others store their sources in the obsurely-remote depths of a complex relational database schema. But I think I have a way to solve that problem.
My idea isn't fleshed out well enough to describe just yet. I will in good time.
So think of this as a concept at this point: if we could make open course creation a collabortative effort, in a way that includes version control, team leaders, commiters and consensus decision making when ever possible, but with ultimate decision authority held by project leaders (that's how open source works) .....would that be a good idea?
For me the answer is a knee jerk yes.
But today I asked a group of academic e-learning advocates what they thought
about the idea of open source collaboration in complex curricula (courses plus background material, packaged as a unit). They were horrified. Academics don't like to collaborate, it seems. And they (the same ones who complained about course creation being too much work) hated the idea of splitting the work up among collaborators.
Perhaps it's because they are all prima donna cowboys in tenure land.
But their reaction surprised me. For me, the concept of a software environment
that supports version control for course creation, so multiple, remotely-located
authors could collaborate, seems like a transparently hot-as-a-pistol idea.
What's your reaction? ....wiki environments might come close to what I'm proposing,
but wiki environments allow to flesh out the idea of a course, not to really make it.
I'm talking about an IDE collaboration tool that has a "save to scorm" button.
so the final output could be loaded into any current server. Or maybe a
"save as Moodle" option, save as "D2L" etc .....finally, Yes, Moodle has
a development IDE plus a save to scorm button. But it doesn't have the
ability to work with version control software.....not for the e-courses that are
its output (at least I don't see how, not in its present form)
I really agree with your vision. Collaborative creation of materials/activities by networks of teachers is the future. Also I practice blended learning, which does not require wholesale committment to elearning. Step-by-step, iterative development is possible and puts no pressure on teachers.
For a collaborative environment, we could not wait at our school. So we are making a Project Format, Sharing Cart and Respository for exchange of Moodle content. Teachers are starting to use it within our school. The next stage is to connect mulitple schools, multiple authors. It could evolve into a open content publishing house, even connecting into on-demand printers such as Lulu.com. I am wondering about rapid authoring too. Maybe your CMS plugin to Moodle is the missing piece in the puzzle.
We are in the second language learning field, but I think other academics will grab this idea eventually.
We both want to have freely-available courses and parts of
courses online, so others can make use if them. But I have a different pathway in mind.
I'm a programmer familiar with the use of version control software.
Your system can't use that tool along the way....for obscure technical reasons.
Perhaps all I'm hoping for is a sharper sawblade for my table saw.
In other words we both get to cut the board. But I want to cut it faster.
Version control software is to internet collaboration as nitromethane
is to gasoline.
And I program poorly and am familiar with CVS.
Aside from the technical issues, there is an political issue here that extends from individual teachers to institutions to school districts too entire states. If this thing were modular enough that I or my school or department could choose the blocks for my (say electronics) course and not end up the the equivalent of a 15 lb 4 color text in Moodle form this could work.
And I would be happy to contribute.
content with version control ). I already have the design.
I just need to time to implement it.
we have lots of discussions about this in Germany and I see several open ends.
If teachers have a tool, they are asking about content. If teachers get content they tell you that this is not exactly the content they need.
Its similar to discussions at schools about ordering printed school books for maths or english. There 5-15 teachers that are teaching the same subject. After their decisions to buy a book serious they often don't use the book or only very small parts from it or they are using this in very different ways.
Some points from our discussions
What happens to digital content?
There are the lazy bones. They are looking for complete courses. That they can use without any changes.
There are the engaged teachers that are looking for small blocks they can add, move and combine from different sources.
What about copyright problems?
Most teachers here are ancious about copyright protection. They don't have a problem to copy from schoolbooks daily, whats forbbidden. But sharing ressources online is a big hurdle.
What about the language problem?
German teachers don't like english resources. May be ok. But they say: There is a great ressource from Switzerland, but I can't use it because they are using CHF (Suisse local curency) instead of EURO.
What about the curricula?
Some people - not the most - are asking if this is related to the local curricula/syllabus.
What about ministeries?
Is the content quality checked by our teams?
We know about the problems. But we are starting now with a platform for digital learning objects here. Its open for teachers, schools, local authorities, archives, museums, schoolbook publishers and others. It can be used for single objects like pics, videos, files, scorms, Moodle courses,... It can be used for personal objects (hidden for others), free objects and commercial contents. A small authoring tool allows to edit objects to learning elements with drag-and-drop exercises, additional content information and so on.
Many good points and questions raised above, nearly all of which apply to my
situation as well. My work is funded by reasearch grants, which gives me a bit more freedom than the norm. Universities tend to view digital courses as income-generating intellectual property. Course sharing in that context is often discouraged, if not forbidden. Still, I'm a software develper. In my world open-source collaboration and sharing is rapidly becoming a sacred institution.
We know about the problems. But we are starting now with a platform for digital learning objects here.......(snipped content)......... A small authoring tool allows to edit objects to learning elements with drag-and-drop exercises, additional content information and so on.
Your project sounds interesting. I was involved (lead designer, actually) in a 5-year
project a few years ago, to build a drag-and-drop database system for laboratory
data. We used Java and its built-in drag-and-drop libaries--tricky stuff.
Our code ran as a java application, running on the desktop, with the ability
to update a remote database on a keystroke by keystroke basis. Trying to do
that sort of thing as a web application (where the client is a brower, rather than
a program that needs to be installed) would be trickier yet.
Moodle is written in PHP. Will your system be a Moodle plug-in, or will it be
completely separate software, with an ability (somehow) to push the output from
your program into Moodle, as needed?
....just curious. What you are talking about sounds much like the design ideas
I have in mind.
the tool is just used by more than 5.000 UK teachers active. It contains some 10.000 objects and its an Ruby based online tool.
Actually a direct Moodle integration is been in Beta as a block for searching and integrating content to your Moodle course.
Can I try it out?
- ``Bash'' command shell
- ``Make'' compilation manager
- ``Cat'' text utility
- ``Sed'' stream editor
- ``TeX'' text processing system
- ``Dvips'' DVI-to-PostScript converter
- ``Ps2pdf'' PostScript-to-PDF converter
Good tools and great material, the best I've seen for the subject.
This might not produce the MySql Database, but a clever coder could probably do that and get it into Moodle directly. The fellow that did all this even has an email and might be interested in Moodling his stuff if asked.
- teachers can't handle CVS and/or SVN I think this can be overcome. Eclipse and Netbeans have graphical interfaces to version control. There must be others. If multiple people are ever going to collaborate, from afar, on any substantial project of any kind, version control will be required....I think.
- Getting text-based material into the mdl_schema This can be overcome. One quick hack would be to write some XML processing code that maps the moodle.xml from a course backup.zip to HTML fragment files. Then, if you had an HTML editing enviroment that could read and instantly display those files, and save them as changes were made, then you'd have a complete system. This auxilliary files-based storage mechanism could be tracked and managed by version control. A relatively simple utility could be written that transforms the files back into an updated moodle.xml. .....so, in effect, you'd be editing a moodle backup. That moodle backup could then be loaded back into Moodle. At that point you could round-trip in both directions, from Moodle to XML to a files-based representation that could be managed and edited. And then from the files all the way back into Moodle. At that point nirvana: volunteers all over the internet could collaborate to make an open source curriculum (plus online textbooks) for everybody. If free hosting was available, internet volunteers could act as course tutors. Tutor profiles could be archived and rated, ala Ebay sellers, so third-world students could browse around and choose the teachers of their choice. Now you have a soup-to-nuts wiki university.
- XML translating utilities Translating moodle.xml (from a Moodle backup) into HTML fragment files plus the reverse: files back to moodle.xml, is almost trivial.
- Building an HMTL development IDE that works over HTML fragment files If this part existed (it does not) that would constitute a working proof of concept prototype. I'm actively working on this now. It's part of my job, funded for other reasons.
Guys like Martin Dougiama sometimes have an idea and get an inspired ball rolling in the right direction. But for projects like Moodle to prosper, you eventually need a team. And without version control, the team descends into hopeless chaos. Without version control, the team can't even exist. In other words--here's what I'm saying--sophisticated, coordinated and comprehensive internet-based curricula will never happen without version control and the collaborative group processes that have evolved around open source computer programming projects. Corrollary: what has already proven to work so well for collaborative software development could be modified slightly, so it would work equally well for collaborative curriculum development.
A few years on and what if anything is happening with building courses as a team. I think this is also the way to go and if you have the people who want to build together I have the Moodle (for individuals to use)
I am presenting on this topic at the MoodleMoot Japan on February 22-23. I believe open source content collaboration is the future and the key new aspect of Moodle 3.0. First, it hinges on the Community Hub, which is for sharing courses in Moodle 2.x. From this hub, we need to add course authoring, versioning, rating, and other features to make it a community site for mass collaboration. I think the collaboration needs to start in specific areas, like EFL materials, or high school physics lessons, not a general repository. If I were you, I would identify your content area and start up a Moodle Hub for that and begin advertising among teachers who teach that subject. Then let's collaborate on improving the Moodle Hub. How does that sound?
Thanks for the reply and Moodle Hub idea. You are right about subject driven connections. I have only really got involved with subject connections reciently and about to start a Blog on my website relating to this very topic. I take it that, the Hub would be international? I will look into to this.
Hi Don and John,
Are you familiar with Open Courseware? Started by the University of Tubingen, Germany, in 1999, it's really caught on:
I think introducing an international collaborative element to this could work well. As you've mentioned, getting the infrastructure to facilitate collaboration effectively is probably the biggest challenge but there are all kinds of project management systems (PHProjekt) and versioning systems around. The trouble is that non-techies will find it all a bit daunting and won't know where to start. Would the first collaborative open courseware project be to develop a curriculum for learning to collaborate in developing open courseware?
I think this guy's worth checking out for ideas too: http://www.ewenger.com/
Those open courseware packages look great. I took a look at the MIT stuff and it seems very deep, although you have to install Python to get it to work.
I suspect the problem with all of these open courseware is that they are their own format. Not moodle-ized. Actually, I consider Moodle 2.2 now the global standard, not SCORM, not CC, not IMS.
Using a Community Hub can help teachers share immediately-usable courses on their own site. The Open Courseware will be useful after someone spends 20-100 hours converting the course to a Moodle 2.x course and puts it on a Hub.
Another tool that I forgot to mention, that goes with the Hub, is the Sharing Cart. The new 2.2 version moves individual course items from course to course, almost like drag-and-drop. So you can make a repository of sharable courses on your site, and teachers can come and grab whatever pieces they like.
I agree that more effective curriculum development goes beyond SCORM, etc. A lot of the course ware I've seen is just pages of text and images anyway and would be easy to copy and paste into a variety of LMS' and backed up in their respective formats.
I think the UK's OU offers Open Courseware in Moodle format (backed up courses) but I can't find the link.
Does anyone have a link?
I agree with the comments around format. I think Moodle courses do have the capability of becoming a global standard, just because of the number of them (although these are quite different to the aims and capabilities of SCORM).
We started http://www.freemoodle.org last year, and it would allow any teacher to Moodle-ise (is that a word?) open couresware into a Moodle format, with no restrictions on who can access it - and the Teacher is able to Backup and move the course to other site whenever they wish - or publish/share the course as they wish.
If you read the reason behind the site being launched, and the aims, you will see that we are really hoping FreeMoodle.org can become a really useful facility to compliment the wider open courseware philosophy.
Thanks for the link. Is there any kind of index of open courseware on the OU site?
That sounds like a great idea. I bet there's a fair amount of converting going on on an ad-hoc basis, i.e. different people doing the same conversions over and over. It wouldn't be too difficult for a few people to convert existing courseware from other formats to Moodle and have them up and running on a collective Moodle, like freemoodle.org, so that teachers and organisations can review them in situ, with a backup file (snapshot) that can be downloaded. I reckon that this could increase the dissemination of open courseware and uptake of Moodle substantially.
Since Moodle doesn't have a versioning system, AFAIK, I guess we'd need other collaborative platforms so that content and curriculum developers could work together. Wikis sound like a good idea but perhaps someone with more experience of collaborative courseware development could steer us in the most productive direction, not forgetting that many courseware developers will be new to Moodle, wikis, versioning, etc.
What do people here think about indexing courseware according to learners' needs, i.e. age/level, topics, etc., so that, for example, a teacher with a class of 14 year-olds studying journalism and the theory of history could find what he/she needs easily?
IMO the new subthread http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=121877#p843622 has earned the state of a full thread, considering the break of over two and half years since the last post in the old thread.
Here's a list of All Units - Learning Space on the OU site.
An impressively huge list and though many courses still seem very much in the "transmission mode" there are more interactive exercises than when I last looked a few years ago. Maybe I missed the more exciting ones.
Yes, I've looked at some of them in the past and those from other universities. I have to agree that they're pretty much "page-turners" with occasional quizzes.
If these courses were online in an editable form, i.e. a live Moodle (freemoodle?), learning and teaching professionals could apply their knowledge and experience and collaboratively develop the courses into something more, well, collaborative. Anybody interested in applying Vygotski's ZPD to courseware development?
Well, the OU courses are published under a Creative Commons "Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0" so it's presumably OK to take the content and transform it into a more collaborative, interactive course if the source is acknowledged. I don't think it was CC a few yours ago when I was desperate for content to turn into exercises.
Don't tempt me, Matt, I have other things planned for this coming year...
I am pretty sure openlearn has always been CC.