Tuesday, February 27, 2007

D2L Elements

Following the lead from Adobe and others (Photoshop Elements, Premiere Elements, etc.), D2L has announced the release of Desire2Learn Elements, apparently a less full-featured learning environment than the standard D2L package. Essentials is intended for institutions with fewer than 5,000 users.

John Baker, Desire2Learn President & CEO said: "As a company that shares the ideals held by its educational clients, we wanted to find a way to provide clients with the best educational tools possible regardless of their size. This package will allow all our potential clients to have access to enterprise-class tools and functionality; removing another barrier in the delivery of effective education."

D2L press release

Story from Campus Technology

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reflections on the Moodle Moot

The Moodle Moot is over, at least for me it is. There's still a couple of sessions going on but I'm shot from talking LMS all day long. For some reason, a vision of a wet moodle keeps popping into my mind ... please stop that.

Just a few thoughts in closing:
1) The best part for me today was to be with a whole bunch of anti-Blackboard people. There was only one person (that I saw) who was trying to say that Blackboard is not evil. The vast majority of the attendees were either former Blackboard users, or current BlackCT users who are planning to switch away from Darth Vader. (flickr photo courtesy of emerald isle druid)

2) The user/developer community of Moodle is growing and passionate. Those seem to be two key components of a successful FOSS project.

3) California is becoming increasingly Moodlefied. The California schools are all over the map as far as LMS implementation is concerned, but if they ever have one system that is clearly dominant, it will likely be Moodle based on the momentum I'm sensing. Maybe they should send a contingent to the D2L User Conference this summer to see how the other half lives.

4) More and more large installations of Moodle are being used around the world. It will be interesting to see how the scaleability holds up. Moodle aficionados say it is no problem, but of course they wouldn't say otherwise. I'll wait to see the data.

5) This Moodle Moot (can't say that without laughing, at least on the inside) has drawn a very diverse group from different types of institutions, different roles in those institutions, and with different motivations for coming to the Moot.

6) IMO, Desire2Learn Version 8 has more functionality, more features, and just more things to recommend it when compared to Moodle. However, Moodle would currently be my second choice for an LMS although I would like to get a better look at the newest version of Angel before deciding that (opinion) for sure. If I was going to recommend an open source LMS for someone, I would definitely choose Moodle over Sakai ... and it's not even very close.

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Moodle Moot PM - Part 1

Jason Cole – Director, Cognition and Instruction Associates, session titled “Open Source + Open Content = Open Education”

Abstract: “As the world of open content and open source software expand, the natural next step is the combination of the two. Truly open education will require a combination of open content and software available to a global audience. Currently, open content and open software are developed completely separately, and there is no easy way to join the two. These silos are slowing the adoption of open content and increasing the cost of education.”

“This talk will discuss some future possibilities for integrating these two worlds. The next generation of content repositories and Moodle tools will provide the opportunity to begin to truly integrate open content and open source. What might this integration look like and what are the barriers still in our way?”

Author of Using Moodle available under Creative Commons

Why are textbooks so expensive?

Textbook Costs: $900 per year, which is 17.5% of the tuition at 4/yr school, 43% of tuition at 2/yr school, and therefore, 43% of students didn’t purchase a required textbook.
Source: Ripoff 101

General inflation rate = 14% since 1994
General Publisher’s increase = 19% since 1994
Academic textbooks wholesale increase = 62% since 1994
Supplements can add 15-45% additional cost to the textbook

30% of faculty use publisher’s online homework
19% use online quizzes from publishers (reduces workload for instructor)
74% of faculty required or recommended supplementary materials
79% believe under-prepared students would do better if they use supplementary materials
90% believe under-prepared students would do better pending more time with textbook
Source: Jim Farmer - Faculty Selection and Use of Publisher-Provided Textbooks and Supplementary Materials in the United States

Only 2% of faculty use BlackBoard cartridges

Pass rates increased dramatically when students used supplementary materials.
By having students pay this cost to the publishers, colleges are shifting the costs of content development on to the student. Students are paying for the materials and service rather than the college as part of instructional technology.

What will it take to write an open content textbook?
Two areas for investigation

  • Production of materials
  • Use and integration
Wikipedia or Open Courseware is not the answer.
They are not similar to an open source software model.

Open CourseWare Advantages:
  • Most comprehensive
  • Structure collections
  • High reputation
  • Common licensing
Open CourseWare Disadvantages:
  • Incomplete (textbook but reading lists, but no exercise or learning challenges)
  • Static
  • No feedback
  • No atomic improvement (can’t improve just one piece, like bug fixes in FOSS)
Open Repositories Advantages: (MERLOT, NLN)
  • Small pieces
  • Tend to be more interactive material
  • Tend to have good searchability/findability
Open Repositories Disadvantages:
  • Small pieces not joined
  • Variable quality
  • No integration
  • Not comprehensive
  • No common licensing
Open Wikis Advantages:
  • Many hands
  • Comprehensive scope
  • Task decomposition
  • Common licensing
Open Wikis Disadvantages:
  • Regression to the mean(est)
  • Not stable / vetted
  • Variable quality
  • No integration
  • Not comprehensive
Open Content Usability (If people can’t do this with your stuff, then it’s not useful.)
  • Open Content Searchability
  • Open Content Findability
  • Open Content Obtainability
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Moodle Moot AM - Part 2

What is Moodle? The word Moodle is actually an acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment

The first breakout session (11 AM - noon) that I attended was with Michael Penney – LMS Project Manager, California State University – Humboldt. The title was “The Case for Moodle as an Enterprise Level Learning Management System (LMS): Why Open Source makes sense for public institutions looking to build an online learning environment.” (prize for the longest title)

Humboldt LMS committee decided to completely drop BlackBoard. Many California schools are making the same decision. They will be Moodle-only within the next year.

Moodle has better standards/accessibility compliance:
Moodle version 1.8 = full sec. 508, WCAG 1, 2, 3
Italy is pushing Moodle because they have even stricter accessibility requirements than the US.

Scalability questions about Moodle because it is php-based: however, php is also used for Yahoo, Wikipedia, and FaceBook which are all very scaleable.

Community growth: good sign for long-term sustainability for an open source program.

Why Moodle?

  • Full course-level backup/restore
  • All content, grades, activities
    • More Web 2.0 than Ajax?
    • More Eduweb 2.0 than SecondLife?
    • Absolutely core feature for teaching institutions (IMO)
With Moodle, costs are more predictable:
  • License costs perpetually fixed at free
    • GPL means it can’t be bought, merged, or discontinued
  • Cost of new features can be shared
  • Commercial support optional, range of different service levels
Moodle Community Hub

Humboldt State: “Blackboard vs. Moodle: A Comparison of Satisfaction with Online Teaching and Learning Tools”

He had lots of other stuff, but first I got distracted, then I got tired of taking notes.

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Moodle Moot AM

I'll take a shot at live blogging the Moodle Moot this morning. No guarantees.

8:30 - Jim Farmer is making welcoming remarks and preparing to introduce the keynote speaker, Kevin Kelly from San Fracisco State University. Topic: "Moodle at the Center: Communities of Practice, Integration, and Partnerships."

8:43 - Low connectivity here - Kevin says that wireless users in the audience might reduce the bandwidth enough to make the presenter's access unworkable - but I'll let the others stop using the wireless - not me.

8:45 - Three interconnected areas of Moodle

  1. Teaching and Learning
  2. Technology Management
  3. Organizational Administration
8:47 - Metaphors to describe the LMS world:
  • Metaphors from Literature: Image from Gulliver's Travels (Blackboard): Moodle-iputians holding down the Gulliver Blackboard with ropes and stakes trying to hold him down.
  • Metaphors from complexity science (autopoiesis, or self-organization, interconnectedness, fractility, or self-similarity)
  • Long Tail metaphor (Open source more flexible to provide features that only a few people might want - big-box vendors won't do that, is one example of a long tail)
8:52 - Sustaining Community
  • Teaching and Learning - Communities of practice
  • Technology Management - Communities of integration
  • Organizational Administration - Communities of partnership
They use "Lucky 8" workshops at SFSU - local experts host workshops for up to 8 people who have a similar need (mainly facilitated by early Moodle adopters)

Accessibility studies: They have developed materials for three difference audiences
  • 1) What can faculty do to increase accessibility?
  • 2) How do students use accessibility technology?
  • 3) For developers using Moodle to make things more accessible.
Chancellor's office at Cal State System has mandated all content will meet accessibility guidelines by 2008.

Quoted Sir Ken Robinson's presentation from TED Talks - previously blogged about - this is a must see

Recommended process-based templates: "Community College Faculty and Web-based Classes" (Thought and Action, Fall 2006)

SFSU has integrated Moodle with their student information system (SIMS/R which is Oracle based), working on integration with ePortfolio, video streaming system (courseStream), digital information virtual archive (diva), and several other campus technology tools.

Faculty Wish List for Moodle integration:
1) LaTex (some faculty don't/won't use MS Word and need this functionality)
2) Who's on Skype
3) RSS

Other things that would be cool (at least they think so):
1) Integrating games for learning (See New Media Consortium Horizon Reports 2006 & 2007)
2) Integrating Second Life inside Moodle (opposite of SLoodle which is Moodle inside SL)
3) Mobile Moodle (text-to-voice to their phones for discussion threads)
4) IMS Common Cartridge project

SFSU Brainstormer project

Douglas Engelbart - concept of bootstrapping:
A) Organization's principal work (Moodle development and use)
B) Process improvement
C) Improving the improvement process (bootstrapping)

Inter-institutional partnership: SFSU and Humboldt State are collaborating on a common code base - finish by summer 2007 when SFSU goes to Moodle only (one IMS). Also working on a Blackboard to Moodle conversion tool. Many other California schools are participating in collaboration on some things if not all things related to Moodle use and development. The California Virtual Campus is considering this collaboration also.

9:40 - Kevin gives MnSCU a plug for the state-wide efolio program asking why this model (free ePortfolios for all state residents) is not being replicated elsewhere, especially in the Bay Area where there are so many educational users.

Gnarls Barkley effect - how many different ways can Moodle be used, and by how many different kinds of users? I missed part of this one (including the point) - sorry!

Holistic approach to Moodle: (I may have messed up O,U, and Y - I wasn't fast enough)
A: Aesthetic design
E: Engineering/Economic/Experience/Environment/Evolution design
I: Instructional design
O: Organization design
U: Universal design
Y: You (we need to redesign ourselves to work in a new world)

Closing Quotes:
"DIWP is the new DIY" (Kevin Kelly, I guess) Do it with partners is the new do-it-yourself.
"Give what you can, take what you need." (Stackman, Henderson, & Bloch, 2006, p.80)

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Moodle Moot Albuquerque

I'm in Albuquerque for the Moodle Moot on Friday. From their website:

  • "This year's moot will be focused on intra and inter institutional communication, and features a keynote presentation by San Francisco State University's Kevin Kelly - Moodle at the Center: Communities of Practice, Integration, and Partnerships."
  • "Dr. Jason Cole is the author of Using Moodle and the Director of Cognition and Instruction Associates. ... He has also worked at San Francisco State University where he and Kevin worked to introduce Moodle as an improvement over some other LMS which will remain nameless."
  • "Tim Hunt is part of The Open University's Moodle development team. ... The Open University, founded in the 1960s and based in Milton Keynes, UK, is the world's first successful distance teaching university. It is in the middle of a two and a half year programme to build a state of the art VLE based on Moodle. It employs the largest group of Moodle developers in the world and its Moodle system has over 170,000 user accounts and 2,000 courses."
No, my school and system are not seriously looking at adopting Moodle any time soon, but I do think that this Moot will be very informative. The development progress for Moodle has been nothing short of astounding during the past couple of years, and I'm interested in staying up-to-date with what is happening here. Besides, there will be a bunch of very smart people here and I'm hoping that some of that my rub off onto me. You never know.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Desire2Learn Serves Blackboard

Recently, Desire2Learn served on Blackboard its Preliminary Invalidity Contentions, which is an analysis of D2L's view about why the Blackboard patent was invalidly issued by the USPTO.

This is a 70 page PDF that contains a detailed and lengthy analysis of prior art at the time of the Blackboard patent filing. They specifically refer to 60 pieces of evidence of prior art (pages 3-7) that "anticipate and/or render obvious the asserted claims of the ’138 patent." Some of the included prior art include:

  • 1. Educom/NLII Instructional Management Systems Specifications Document, Ver. 0.5 (April 29, 1998)
  • 2. IMS Prototype, first public use and/or sale occurred on or before April 29, 1998
  • 3. Janison Solutions, Web Training Toolbox Management Guide (May 1999)
  • 13. Ceilidh Version 2.7, first public use and/or sale occurred on or before January 1997; http://www.cs.nott.ac.uk/~ceilidh/papers.html
  • 14. Fred T. Hofstetter, Serf User Guide Version 1.0, University Of Delaware (Jan. 1998)
  • 21. TopClass Version 2.0.0 Administrator’s Guide, (March 1998)
  • 24. D. F. Ferraiolo and D. R. Kuhn, “Role Based Access Control” (1992)
  • 39. ClassNet, first public use and/or sale occurred on or before September 1, 1996; http://www.iastate.edu/Inside/1996/0906/classnet.html
  • 41. Daedalus® Integrated Writing Environment for Windows Computers Version 5.3x, Administrator’s Guide with Installation Guide (November 30, 1997)
  • 46. FirstClass Intranet Server, first public use and/or sale occurred on or before 1997
  • 56. WebCT, first public use and/or sale occurred on or before September 15, 1997; Alan Levine, WebCT @ PC, The Labyrinth, (Fall 1997, Vol. 6 Issue 1)
Of course Blackboard will argue that none of those things are "the same" as what they are claiming to have invented. It reminds me of when I was traveling in China and trying to determine whether goods for sale were knock-offs or the real McCoy. Salespeople would often say: "Same, same ... but different!"

This document and many more related to the Blackboard lawsuit and other fun things related to the U.S. Patent & Trademark office can be found here at the D2L website.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Now We Love Blackboard - NOT

Being ever so magnanimous, Blackboard has taken a shot at erasing some of the incredible badwill that they have generated over their B.S. patent and subsequent lawsuit for infringement against D2L.

snakesonablackboardI've used this graphic before, but it feels like the time to bring it back again. This feels very snakey and snarky to me. The BLACKBOARD PATENT PLEDGE was released by the company on 2/1/07.

"In summary, the Blackboard Patent Pledge is a promise by the company to never assert its issued or pending course management system software patents against open source software or home-grown course management systems. The Blackboard Pledge is legally binding, irrevocable and worldwide in scope." Yeah, right. Of course I believe them.

"Blackboard is also extending its pledge to many specifically identified open source initiatives within the course management system space whether or not they may include proprietary elements within their applications, such as Sakai, Moodle, ATutor, Elgg and Bodington." Clearly this is in direct reference to the SFLC filing. Basically they are saying: "Don't take away our bogus patent, we'll only use it as a weapon against hose who have deep enough pockets to pay us something significant."

Is this better than nothng? Sure, a little. Should this pacify the education community? Absolutely not.