Comparisons and advocacy

Moodle vs Lumen's platform for OER

 
Picture of Dan McGuire
Moodle vs Lumen's platform for OER
 

I've recently been involved in an exchange with David Wiley of Lumen about the use of LMSs as a way to provide access to OER. The discussion began with Lumen's announcement that they had made a deal with SUNY to provide OER via a platform that "supports Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), allowing for easy integration with any Learning Management System (LMS), and easy access for students through the LMS."

I'm contending that creating another platform to house the OER and then connect to an LMS via LTI is not the best way to provide access to the OER. There's a series of posts on my blog with comments by Dr. Wiley about this ending with a comment exchange yesterday with me saying "I would welcome an intellectually honest feature by feature comparison of the Lumen platform / LTI presentation of OER and the presentation of OER within an LMS." 

I've not seen any documentation about Lumen's platform but I'm guessing that it includes some type of analytics. I'm contending that putting the OER into a fully featured Moodle course would be a better learning experience. It seems to me that the Lumen platform is a tool to distribute the OER to any LMS while also allowing Lumen to do some analytics about the student activity that is done on their platform.

I think using Moodle as the method that students and faculty interact with the OER is preferable for lots of reasons. I'm looking for some help in articulating those reasons. Martin D. started the list via a Twitter exchange by saying "One huge problem with LTI is it doesn't work offline. eg for students in low bandwidth or mobile environments."

I've written previously on my blog about OER being a catalyst for greater use of a LMS and vice versa. It appears that the time is now. OER is becoming much more widely used. It's time for Moodle advocacy.

 
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Martin Dougiamas
Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Core developersDocumentation writersMoodle HQPlugin developersTesters

I'm really sure it's useful or nice to name platforms specific here when you are really talking the strengths/weaknesses of LTI vs other methods for distributing content.

Moodle can handle all use cases here and so it has ultimate flexibility in this regard:

  • It can have native content uploaded into it in a number of formats (including standards like IMS CP and SCORM).
  • It can publish it's own content (both as individual activities or whole courses) using LTI standards.
  • It can consume content published using LTI standards.
  • It can consume content using any proprietary method (via plugins).

Obviously a course designer needs to choose among these when building a course.

Before we can talk about strengths/weaknesses of these, though, we need to define better what the OER content is:  Is it just single documents?  Is it a whole course (multiple resources/activities)?  Is it interactive?   Is it collaborative?  Does it allow grading?   I think there could be a nice matrix made of all this.

In general though, some of the disadvantages of LTI-based resources are that:

  • They don't work well in offline cases, unless some way to copy/cache them is provided.
  • They are generally not customisable/localisable/translatable by the teacher who is using them.
  • They increase the possible points of network/server failure that can affect final course experience.
  • They can be a little more difficult to set up and understand.
  • They have some privacy issues with student data being sent to different servers.

Some of the advantages are:

  • LTI resources can be maintained centrally but used equally on multiple LMSes 
  • LTI resources lend themselves to business models based on subscription.
  • LTI resources encourage standardisation (in the content itself as well as the format).

 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

I definitely think that the idea of OERs as either single documents (or resources) and/or whole courses is one for people to explore - it could be either in different contexts. But having had institutional issues trying to get time/funding/buy-in for producing whole courses as OERs, yet speaking to staff who are very keen to release individual resources as OER, then I think there is often a 'market' (obviously used loosely) for both.

Those same staff often express that they would be very happy to take similar one-off OER resources to use within their own teaching courses, but would be far more reluctant to use/re-use/adapt entire courses, even where those are released as OERs.

I think that is perhaps a difference in outlook between users (students) looking for a complete 'open access' course, and staff looking for (or wanting to publish) individual resources to use within their own course and using/repurposing/adapting a variety of such OER resources from different sources as building blocks for a course.

Also brings up (again), the commonalities and differences between 'open access' (could be freely accessible for users but not re-usable/adaptable by other teachers) and 'open resources' such as those with a full Creative Commons open licence. Either is appropriate in different circumstances and use cases, but are often confused or used interchangeably. In this instance and given Martin's comment ("They are generally not customisable/localisable/translatable by the teacher who is using them.") are LTI linked resources truly OER, or are they Open Access? mixed

Richard

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

Martin's comment ("They are generally not customisable/localisable/translatable by the teacher who is using them.")

Agreed, and I would take that one step further to suggest that unless they are made to be "localisable" they are no more than a waste of resources by the people who create them or are, even worse, signposts on "Look at me, see how good I am!" Nelson Mandela hit it on the head by suggesting we can achieve a lot more if we don't worry about who gets the credit. With OEMs copyright is a restriction we can do without. 

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

Copyright law is not necessarily a restriction, it is after all what underlies the GPL and thus part of the success of Moodle. I like producing stuff that I get credit for but that I want people to use and modify and if they can, to make money from.

This has been discussed since the beginning of Moodletime(™)

https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=612#p5545


 
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Picture of Richard Oelmann
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters
As Marcus suggests, I don't have a problem with copyright and credit per se, provided materials are licensed in a way that allows people to alter and repurpose them etc, I have no problem crediting where they came from.

I'm sure we've all experienced the situation I had a few years ago when i went on a County LEA Maths course and was presented with a folder of worksheets as 'look what we've developed, aren't these great, you should use them in your class' (and you all know what's coming next I'm sure) - Lo and behold, open up the file and there were a collection of my own worksheets, rebranded with the county logo across the top (along with worksheets from several other teachers I talked to). NOT an issue with them being reused, but would have been nice to be acknowledged smile
 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

I understand what you mean, Richard, I had a conversation with one of the IT leaders in an organization and kicked him over an outline and implementation plan of an idea that I had while being frustrated by the organization's lack of forward planning. I received back a long and involved explanation of why what I was proposing was not going to work. Two years later, the guy I was corresponding with was charged with the job of implementing his plan for doing what I had outlined. I don't care if he took my ideas and used them, the fact that it was being implemented was proof enough for me I was on the right track, but I agree, it would have been nice to be acknowledged. That is my ego talking, btw...smile  

@ Marcus, you are probably right, but it doesn't stop copyright law from being used as a weapon against anyone who would be imaginative enough to generate something new. Look at George Harrison and My Sweet Lord, Led Zepplin and Stairway to Heaven, as opposed to Shelley's Frankenstein and Crichton's Jurassic Park. What is the difference between Jack Reacher and Sam Spade? Harry Potter and the Exiles? The Brontes, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele? Bob Giaccone remarked that there is very, very little that is truly original these days, mostly it is an accumulation of existing ideas synthesized through different filters and presented in different ways. So the broader question has to be, has copyright reached its EOL? I suggest in the electronic frontiers, copyright is actually holding us back.    

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
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"Bob Giaccone remarked that there is very, very little that is truly original these days"

If that is actually Bob Guccione of Penthouse magazine fame then I would agree there is only so much originality to be added to his oevre. However I am always suspicious of a statement that ends "these days". I don't believe that people have become less talented or less original. 

Lawyers and the unscrupulous will use any law for any purpose that advances their aims, that is not a reason to not have laws. Abandoning copyright would give the most benefit to major corporations not to the creative individual.



 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

Okay.... erm how about modifying it more towards Stallman's ideas of open source and perhaps copyleft? There has to be a compromise somewhere that allows intelligent use of existing materials without denying the interest of the original developer. Under strict interpretations, Microsoft should still be paying royalties to Bricklin and Frankston, after all it was their originality that led to VisiCalc. Having said that, wasn't it Doug Englebart that described the essential nature of grids on a computer, that provided Bricklin and Frankston with the essential concept of non-repeating addressing that makes spreadsheets work?

This could go on for a whole discussion, but I hope my point is not invalidated by reality and human nature.    

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
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For Bricklin and Frankston*  to get Royalties they would have needed to have a patent on a software concept which in my opinion a very bad idea. "Intelligent use of existing materials without denying the interests of the original developer" sums up what I consider an important issue. Before the GPL and the Creative commons licenses this was much harder to address. I think it is a fine idea for this to go on for a whole discussion because it impacts greatly on the use of ideas in education smile


*awesome people 

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

My understanding was that Bricklin and Frankston were advised that copyright law would not be applicable to software programmes, and that to apply for copyright would become an incredibly expensive option, for which they didn't have the funds. So, while VisiCalc was really the first killer App, it never went as far as it could have. The history of computing is littered with the real innovators who don't seem to gain as much as those who came after them, mostly using the ideas of the innovators. VisiCalc and DR-DOS are likely the most outstanding examples, but enough of the past. 

As I understand copyleft, it is a variant of CC and GNU's GPL, bearing that in mind the localization that Martin refers to is incredibly important. The problem is that I see right across the board that some US states teach some topics at one grade level, where we may teach them a year earlier or later, the South African "Everything Maths" and "Everything Science" books reveal another approach to the same topics.  (BTW, these books are a terrific example of what we are discussing here.) Individual topics may be similar, but content may be more or less advanced between different nations, even between different states it seems. (I have some difficulty confirming that as I just cannot get sufficient online resources from the US that directly connect to state learning outcomes and most of the formal documentation I have found, which is really very little, is so turgid as to be serious alternative to Valium. I am sure someone with more time and interest could do a more credible job, here, but there is only a limited time I can do this.) If this same approach could be made to downloadable/electronic resources, I am sure the collegiate and highly collaborative nature of education would make serious headway in producing some first class materials for anyone to localize.

I don't suggest the world's education authorities produce a common curriculum, but if authors could at least indicate clearly what their target audience is, it would be very helpful here.  

It's tired and I'm very late... and I am not sure what is above makes much sense at all. sleepy

 
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Picture of Marcus Green
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Core developersParticularly helpful MoodlersPlugin developersTesters

"My understanding was that Bricklin and Frankston were advised that copyright law would not be applicable to software programmes, and that to apply for copyright would become an incredibly expensive option, for which they didn't have the funds"

I suspect they were advised that Patent law would not be applicable. Depending on the jurisdiction getting Copyright on what you have created costs somewhere between nothing and a very modest amount. Lawyering up to defend either Copyright or Patent can be a financially demanding exercise.

I find it interesting that there is a constant complaint from the US that students are required to purchase the latest versions of textbooks at significant costs and that the books generate profit from the tutor/university. The only time something like this happened to me was at Charles Sturt University in Australia (Wagga Wagga). The book was by the tutor, it was very reasonably priced and I kept it for a very long time afterwards as it was rather good.  Go Aussie as I believe they say in sporting circles.

At the moment academic organisations seem to view using Copyleft as a lost financial opportunity rather than an opportunity to enhance their reputation.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

In this age of "budget  constraint " that is an understatement, I  suspect.  

Would it be possible to  generate  something  like a Google  doc and modify  thatfor single site use and still  acknowledge the original  author? 

 
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Picture of David Wiley
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
 

Martin has started a good list of pros and cons for working with LTI-enabled content generally. I've provide another list of pros in a blog post called Some Lessons Learned Supporting OER Adoption, in which I describe some of the painful experiences we've had supporting OER adoption at around 80 campuses in the US and the role LTI plays in the open source solution we've developed over time. These OER are large collections of pages, images, videos and simulations (often embedded from elsewhere), and (in some courses) gradable assignments that need to write scores back to the LMS gradebook. They're designed to be complete textbook replacements (and then some).

While Martin's first two cons (offline issues and customization/localization issues) are generally true of LTI-based solutions, we've addressed them as follows (Github links in the blog post above). Because our approach is based on Wordpress, teachers have full editorial / customization / localization capabilities with regard to the content. Also, because our approach uses the Pressbooks plugin, there are multiple offline options (including PDF, ePub, Mobi, XHTML, Wordpress XML, and even ODT) available for faculty and students. Combining these two capabilities with LTI leads to some terrific benefits - for example, if multiple faculty are teaching off a single collection, which is very common with our community college partners, corrections or improvements made by one are instantly available across all the course sections using LTI to embed that content in their LMS course shells.

Of course no solution is perfect, but this one is working well for us and our 80-ish partners. And of course we continue to refine it over time. If everyone in the world used a single LMS life would be significantly less complicated. But when your partners are using six or more LMSs, and are strongly set on using their specific LMSs, interoperability standards like LTI are a real Godsend.

 
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moi!!! it is what is is...
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
Documentation writersParticularly helpful Moodlers

Thank you David, that is such a useful perspective and brings things back on track. As Marcus points out, the requirement for economic gain has become increasingly important, perhaps even paramount, and that too, for me, is likely to be buried under an overweening ego though.  

I don't see so much the idea of competition between Moodle and Lumen, as the original title of this thread suggests, rather different approaches to the same problems. 

 
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Picture of David Wiley
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
 

Agreed - what Lumen creates is explicitly NOT an LMS. It's meant to be complimentary to, and highly interoperable with, all standards-conforming LMSs. Perhaps the biggest lesson we've learned the last several years is that people don't want to leave their LMS for another system - especially not another LMS!

 
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Picture of Dan McGuire
Re: Strengths/Weaknesses of LTI for OER content
 

When "partners are using six or more LMSs, and are strongly set on using their specific LMSs," is the issue, it seems. One possible solution to this would be to create six separate instances of each course for the six different LMSs. How many instructional designer hours is actually require to duplicate a course from one LMS to another, on average. Even if their are more than six LMSs involved, I think savings would accrue to the institutions compared to connecting via LTI. That would require each institution or group of institutions using the same LMS, then, to support the use of the course in that LMS. The advantage of connecting to the course via an LTI link is that the faculty and staff of each institution aren't required to do much. If they want analytics about student work in the course, it's available for a fee from the course provider via LTI ( about $25US per student per course.)

What gets lost using the LTI linking method, though, is the ability of the instructor to use all of the increasingly useful and nuanced features of the LMS to teach in the way that is best for their particular circumstances. If the argument is that providing the instructor that much flexibility isn't desirable and maybe in some cases, explicitly prohibited then linking to more static content via LTI may, in fact, be what's best.

What I was hoping for in starting this thread was more articulation of those specific teaching abilities that having the content localized in the LMS provide, and comparing those to the specific advantages that exist for connecting to the content that is in some other platform that is never to be referred to as an LMS. So far, I don't see any specific advantages from a andragogical or pedagogical point of view in using the other platform via LTI. There are certainly some efficiencies in the distribution of the content to the instructors and students, but efficiency of distribution does not generally provide lasting benefit to teachers and students.

 I'm curious about what types of graded assignments are available in the 'other' platform. The LMS with which I'm most familiar has a very long list of ways to collect student work and many elegant ways assign a grade to that work.

 
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