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Harvard Open Source Courseware 162

Posted by michael
from the first-educational-post dept.
mpawlo writes "Gnuheter reports that the Berkman Center for Internet and Society releases the H20 courseware software as open source. Two years and 1 million USD are invested in the software so far... The software has been tested at Harvard Law School, but should be suitable for other disciplines than law."
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Harvard Open Source Courseware

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  • by banka (464527)
    I checked the site out and it seems nothing more than a glorified message board.

    Someone, please enlighten my ignorant soul and tell me what makes this software so special?
    • by SHEENmaster (581283) <travis&utk,edu> on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:16PM (#5595466) Homepage Journal
      My school blew nearly $3 million on redesigning my graduating class's ring. My high school. For a graduating class of less than 600 students. My public high school.

      $1 million for a not-so-special piece of software for a major law school seems much less moronic now.

      "Momma always said, 'Stupid is as stupid does.'", Forest Gump.
      • Yeah I fucking hate my school district [southlakecarroll.edu]. They spent a 13 million on a new football stadium and 3 or 4 million on a swimming pool. So now the computer science and academic teams get $0 for competitions even though we have won state cs for the past 3 years. Teacher salaries suck here and like half of my books are falling apart but nooo. Thank god im graduating. Anyone want to help me choose between colorado school of mines and georgia tech? email me ^.^
        • Re:$2.7 million (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Go to GA Tech, it is much more prestigious (assuming you want to study computing).
        • 1. I often hear that sports pay for themselves. Why the hell can't "your" football team pay for its own damn stadium?
          2. I'm testing out of English 11 and 12 to graduate a full year early!
          3. I'm looking at U.C. Berkeley, though I could be swayed to another school for some serious scholarship money.
          4. My books are in fairly-decent condition, but we don't even have warm water in "Automotive Mechanics: Suspension and Steering", the most technical class my school offers.
          5. As a minor, I don't have to wait f
        • I went to GA Tech and left for another uni because it sucked horribly. Georgia Tech has prestige, research opportunities, is decently equipped/funded, has ok extra curriculars and is near a lot of other stuff since it is in the middle of Atlanta.
          That being said it also tons of problems. It has professors who only care about their pet projects. If you're not one of their research assistants they don't care about you. You have to research every professor before you sign up for their classes to make sure
      • I can't quite match your class ring story, but:

        My graduate university spent I think $13M on upgrading the graduate college - about $100K per room. Sure, afterwards, there was no asbestos, there were sprinklers, the heating system no longer did 'elves with sledghammers' imitations in the middle of the night, and the fire alarm system worked so well that on some nights it detected 5 separate non-existent fires. But $100K per ROOM?

        (And when we asked them to make a path by putting down some woodchips over the

      • Why is the US the only school system in the world that produces graduates so dumb that they have to have a reminder on their finger that they actually graduated...! ;-)

      • Spell my name right!
    • Not only that, it's a message board in which each participant is required to respond to a random post from one of the other members of the rotissirie.

      In short, it is not a place for having discussions, but rather a place for forcing people into disjointed discussions with whatever oddball gets stuck with your post.

      On the other hand, it would appear that their is currently a fairly high signal to noise ratio. The threads are all disjointed, but the posts are quite intelligent all the same.

    • It does look like a neat idea -- instead of having lots of lurkers, everyone has to post, and every post is assigned to another specific participant to read and respond. Picture sitting in a classroom, where the teacher asks a question, and everyone writes their thoughts on their paper. Then the papers are collected, shuffled, and passed out again... and everyone writes a response to what they read, the papers are collected, shuffled, etc..

      I can see a lot of value to this approach in an academic setting.
    • by Hal Roberts (5525) on Wednesday March 26, 2003 @10:29AM (#5597474) Homepage
      I'm the project leader for H2O. I'm not sure where Jonathan got the $1mil figure -- my estimate is well less than half of that, which is really not much money at all for professional software development. That money has paid for about about 30 man months of development time, basically 2-3 senior engineers working for about a year to go from conception to a well tested code release + publicly available site.

      More importantly, the Rotisserie is far, far from a glorified message board. It is, in fact, one of the very few true, recent innovations in online discussions. It implements a radically different approach to online discussion that solves many of the problems that people generally make about online discussions -- that the quality of the posts is often very poor, that boards are more often than not balkanized into narrow interest groups that merely agree with one another, and that many more people lurk than participate in discussions. The tool uses a combination of techniques to combat these issues, which are especially important for facilitating meaningful academic discouse but are also vital for conducting any thoughtful, productive discussion online.

      First, the system slows down the discussion into semi-synchronous rounds. Every discussion is broken up into a series of discrete rounds, and no rotisserie post is published until the end of the given round. This structure encourages people to take the time to put considerable thought into their posts rather than trying to post as quickly as possible to garner the most attention.

      Second, the system democratizes the discussion by automagically routing posts between users for further response. After the first round is over, each first round post is assigned to a specific other user for further response. The discussion can continue in this way for as many rounds as the discussion creator desires. This structure encourages everyone to participate equally in the discussion, allowing smaller voices equal weight to large ones. This structure also encourages more careful response, since every post has a very good chance of getting a response (posters are encouraged by the likelihood of a careful critique, in both the carrot and the stick senses).

      Last, the system allows for discussion between different projects (projects are loosely analogous to courses, though they can also be less formal, ongoing centers for discussions around a common topic). This combats the balkanization problem by bringing genuinely differing views into play for a given discussion. On a less idealistic scale, it allows for different courses within a given school or, even better, different courses at different schools to discuss with one another, giving students the opportunity to get exposed to potentially radically differing frameworks of thought than those taught by their own professors.

      We have been using some form of a rotisserie tool at the Berkman Center for several years now and have been using this particular incarnation of the tool for almost a year now. Both teachers and students report great success in using the tool. It really works. It's our hope to encourage its use beyond the academy for any group that wants to create the kind of productive, meaningful discourse that is difficult with traditional threaded messaging systems.

      The further plans for the project are also potentially groundbreaking. We plan to create a collaborative course development system that will allow teachers freely to share their syllabi with one another and easily connect with other courses exploring similar topics. Teachers are currently limited pretty strictly to their own local resources and those of the propietary text book companies when creating course content. H2O will make it possible for teachers to participate in the same kind of community based production demonstrated by the free software world and by the bevy of other such successful efforts (cddb, wikipedia, kuro5hin, etc)
      • H2O sounds like a good tool for building the kind of open-source, open-process course content I envision for the Open Slate [sourceforge.net] project. Our goal is a slate design high school students can build themselves, a student-run network, and courseware written by college students under the direction of professors. The courseware piece is called Chalk Dust.

        Gary Dunn
        Open Slate [sourceforge.net]

      • I apologize on behalf of my fellow slashdotters... it is obvious from most of the highly modded posts that very few posters and very few moderators actually took a few minutes to look over H20 and understand what it really is.

        In fact, the balkanization you refer to is widely prevalent in the majority of comments posted to this particular story.

        Actually, so is the phenomenon that you mentioned in which people rush to post quickly because otherwise their post will be lost in the noise.

        H20 appears to intell
      • FYI, people interested in this subject, courseware and online learning, should checkout the Yahoo group Coworking [yahoo.com] and the moderator's site [gervis.net]
      • ...one of the very few true, recent innovations... radically different approach ... combats the balkanization problem ... radically differing frameworks

        This all sounds like you lifted it from Androidson Conslutting or Toilet & Douche. Or indeed Dilbert. I thought about giving you bonus points for avoiding 'Paradigm shift', but then I decided it was only because you can't spell it.

        It's usenet with a bag on the side.

    • Hmmmmm... We really like Moodle. It's open source and it's TERRIFIC!

      See it at http://www.moodle.org/
  • College campuses are the birth place of many great pieces of software as well as development houses for other software.

    It's good to see open sourced college software.
  • mmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cultobill (72845) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:02PM (#5595409)
    I think that learning-via-the-internet is a "killer app" for rural areas. I go to a engineering school, and we use this piece of shite called "WebCT". It is bad enough that no one wants to use it. The few (cruel) teachers that use it have a good thing going though. Homework via a webpage, instant grading (for things like Physics), and the theoretical ability to take a class from somewhere off campus.

    I would kill for the ability to take some classes remotely over the summer. Though nothing replaces a real teacher, there are some subjects that could do it.

    Also, this would mean worlds of difference for people outside the big cities. The ability to start a degree while living in some-godawful-place, NM could mean the difference between living your life in said godawful-place, and being able to get out if you wanted.

    The real question is, will people use it? Or will distance-learning stay the toy of masters students?
    • I have just been asked to put an online course together, and yes, I have to use the WebCT system our Uni uses.

      If you had time, could you please list some of the major hangups you have so I know what to look out for.

      Cheers,

      Ashley Norris
      Australian National University
      • Sorry, I'm not the admin (yet). I've just heard stories that it's awful, hard to admin, worse to patch, etc.
        • It's basically an old version of apache with a bunch of CGI scripts in poorly organized directories. From an instructor's point of view, the WebCT LMS is fairly limiting in the things that can be done (much beyond plain text and some images is a pain), and dealing with learner tracking (the data that can be collected is fairly limited, and isn't easily accessed to do anything useful with).

          I'd reccomend either just creating a series of web pages manually, or try some other LMS. Most other LMSs suck in dif
          • I have been poking around with Mimerdesk [mimerdesk.org] and find it to be quite useful, except for some quirks involving the HTML editing. Written in Perl, hooks into Apache and MySQL. For those who know, I'd like opinions as to Mimerdesk qualifies as an LMS, and if not, why?

            Gary Dunn
            Open Slate Project [sourceforge.net]

            • Mimerdesk doesn't appear to count as an LMS because it doesn't have any features that are really geared towards learning ro the management of learners. It's more like a collaborative working environment. It appears to be something that'd be useful for, say, teachers. To qualify as an LMS, it'd have to have some kind of tracking of users and probably some kind of testing/quizzing-type functionality. The Mimerdesk framework could potentially be used to develop an LMS, though.
      • Some of my classes use WebCT (I'm at Texas A&M). I've never been an admin, so I don't know what difficulties you might have with implementation, but I'm aware of how much WebCT sucks.

        1. It only supports IE. You can use other browsers, but some functions (like adding an email address from webct's internal contact list) only work with IE
        2. Its slow. If you have students that will be connecting dial-up they're going to be frustrated. WebCT likes to use large gifs as links.
        3. It makes your stu
        • Hear hear. Trying to use Mozilla? Nope. Not everything will work. Konq? Probably can't even log in. Chimera? Safari? Nope. Not everything works.

          Even IE on Mac doesn't work for all features.

          The discussions are amazingly weak. Your ability to find information in past discussions sucks.

          Why not use best of breed apps, rather than lowest common denominator?

          Newsgroups + email + wiki = 10 times what WebCT is. If WebCT would just offer a POP3/SMTP and NNTP interface with its databases, pretty much al
          • Hm. We use WebCT here and I've always rather liked it. Safari works for all features, and lynx works with everything but the fanciest.
          • Newsgroups + email + wiki = 10 times what WebCT is.

            Unlike pretty much every system out there, newsgroups can be decentralized, useful if you have several campuses or geographic groups of users. Seems to me the way to go might be to fix up a web-based news client w/roaming profiles and use private newsgroups in combination with a mailing list gateway. That way users could use either their favorit Usenet client or their favorite mail client.

            An old standby is COW. COW [sfsu.edu] is an excellent quick-n-dirty sol

      • There is some info about security problems with WebCT here: http://www.alanmacek.com/webct/ [alanmacek.com]

        It is about UBC's WebCT system, but since WebCT was actually started at UBC I'm sure the problems there affect all WebCT versions at all unis.

        Personally I'd just make your own material and develop a comprehensive webpage. Don't use any ugly frames and fancy crap like on WebCT. For a forum, ask a keen student to set up a PhpBB, or use a mailing list.

      • Many of the objections listed on this discussion board, whether about WebCT or Angel or BlackBoard, have more to do with the way the designer used the tools... and not the course management packages themselves. For a truly objective comparison of features, see - http://www.edutools.info/course/compare/all.jsp If you also go to the Home page of this website, you will find that anyone can "customize" a comparison, based upon the unique features you value most... http://www.edutools.info/index.jsp [edutools.info]
    • by MrWa (144753)
      The University of Phoenix [phoenix.edu] has a large online program, offering numerous degrees and certificates. While not as well-known, or academically respected as Harvard, theh programs is apparently [usnews.com] pretty good and successful.

      I completely agree that these types of programs are what the Internet should enable for people: to do things that they are unable to do because of location. We are able to meet people, communicate, and maintain relationships (professionally and personally) on the Internet - using this resourc

      • I'm completing a *regionally accredited* BS in CS online through Franklin University (http://alliance.franklin.edu/ [franklin.edu]). There are a bunch of online schools, but only a few that have regional accreditation. Make sure that any school that charges money for courses is regionally accredited, or the degree means less than nothing - esp if you consider going to grad school.

        BTW, those people complaining about WebCT might feel better to know that the system sucks from a sysadmin's point of view, too. Then again,
    • Re:WebCT (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I know that they are two different things designed for different jobs, but I would think that Slash would be a more useful tool for online course content. It's open source, free software, well tested and works with a greater number of browsers than does WebCT.

      I use FreeBSD at home, and WebCT seldom works for me, and when it does, it is slow. WebCT is worse than Windows, but unfortunately almost as widespread among people doing this sort of thing.
      • I think that Slash would be a more useful tool for online course content

        Researcher David Wiley [ed.usu], who's built most of his reputation on Learning Objects [learnativity.com], seems to agree. He's promoting Slashdot and K5 as Online Self-Organizing Social Systems [usu.edu] that do a better job of gathering and organizing content than most course developers.

        Apparently, he's received a NSF grant to study this.

        • I'd have to say that Wiki is much more suited to a collaborative environment than slash or k5. It allows not just addition of new ideas, but modification of existing ones.
    • That godawful-place, NM, is Nutt, NM [ohiou.edu]. (It was the nearest point on a map to where I lived for 2 years, 7 miles away) Long distance phone charges out there add up fast enough that your internet college degree will end up costing as much as a real one.
    • I agree that WebCT is a piece of shite. I had to use it last year, and I think it had been around for about 4 years at least, since the last time I used it was in 1997. And in 4 years, it had barely improved at all. They were missing many features, such as: the ability to log out, secure login, and a lot of the http code was just plain buggy.

      One colleague of mine has done a great job of cataloging some of these problems with WebCT [alanmacek.com].

      • Re:mmm (Score:3, Informative)

        by Iros (661635)

        I just happen to have the glorious (mis)fortune of operating a webct server. WebCT has gone through 3 standard major versions with a 4th due soon and a fork to a horribly expensive entirely redesigned version called vista which requires a mix of sun hardware, oracle and a few other things which cost half the earth (note, I like Sun hardware, but I'm talking rather sizable Sun hardware). The upcoming standard version looks a lot nicer in screenshot, and I hope they fix the backend, because of those problem

      • Yup, it's definitely crap. I believe it does have the ability to log out, though, because I think I can remember "make sure you log out" messages after finishing my CLST301 quizzes before I graduated last year.

        Another interesting "feature" of it is that on the messageboard, teachers can delete messages (see issue 16.10 page 5 [seercom.com]) but students can't.

    • at MY engineering school, they make us take "a english class"... you're ruining it for the rest of us! :)
    • I am also studying in engineering, in a new Problem & Project-oriented program. Basically there's no teachers as such, only small groups of students working together to solve given problems. Most of it could be done remotely (learning new concepts from textbooks, etc.) and it would be alright, but you can't become engineer without getting "hands-on" with the subject, and that includes using expensive lab hardware. Also, team work, project management and such can't be learned by textbooks and wouldn't
  • It's great to learn the content, if you're curious. However, you need the degrees the colleges provide. As a student, I think I could handle learning on my own with these "Internet courses", but there are only a few classes that are offered strictly as Internet courses. Maybe this will give the field a boost.
    • I think what will really help it along is when broadband becomes the norm and everyone uses video conferencing. I think the visual, or at least audio aspect adds a lot.
    • You can get a wide range of undergrad and grad degrees online with the University of Maryland University College [umuc.edu].

      For example, you can get undergad degrees in programs like accounting, business administration, computer and information science, english, environmental management, fire science, history, human resource management, humanities, information systems management, legal studies, management studies, marketing, psychology, and social science.

  • A Social Leveller? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by otisaardvark (587437) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:09PM (#5595437)
    This is really interesting to see. With projects like this off the ground advanced material is made available for free to huge swathes of the globe who wouldn't previously have access.

    Could internet teaching methods promote a global meritocracy (at least academically) which is truly fair?

    I suppose the answer is not quite (e.g. all material is presumably English only, and only those relatively rich enough to be able to buy some internet time will benefit) but this idea could given time really develop those with potential but without opportunity at present.

    I would love to see an extension to the scientific disciplines.

  • "Are you all right? What's wrong?"

    "I felt a great disturbance in the Force... as if millions of university tech support people suddenly cried out in terror--and were suddenly silenced. I fear something dreadful has happened."

    Seriously, is there any demographic (outside of sales) more technophobic than university professors? Or was my experience atypical?
    • Seriously, is there any demographic (outside of sales) more technophobic than university professors? Or was my experience atypical?

      My experience with professors has been hit and miss. Sure, some are indeed technophobic, but more and more professors are becoming tech savy as they realise what computers can do for them. It begins with simple things like powerpoint presentations in class or e-mailing an interesting New York Times article to the students. Eventually professors really get excited about thi

    • I think professorial technophobia may be relaxing a little, anyway. I took a couple years off to work and I've noticed a difference even between my freshman year and now - NYU [nyu.edu] has, in that time, implemented Blackboard [blackboard.com], and many professors take advantage of it. It's not much more than simple templated course home pages and discussion boards, but it's somewhere to get handouts and assignments and discuss topics outside of class. It's easy for the faculty, and a lot of them use it.

      In the past year, nearly al

  • Not full courseware (Score:5, Informative)

    by jfrumkin (97854) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:12PM (#5595451) Homepage
    As far as I can tell, all that exists is an advanced discussion tool, with a content sharing tool coming soon. Universities need a much richer courseware system, one that handles a variety of tools (discussion, quizes, content management, tools that promote good pedigogical practices, etc.), and performs a variety of administrative functions (like authentication / authorization, grouping, reports & statistics, unified UI across tools, grading, etc.). MIT's Open Knowledge Initiative [mit.edu] is another project in the courseware space, and there are other institutions [arizona.edu] which have developed their own homegrown courseware [arizona.edu] system. What we need in this space are standards for courseware - metadata standards, tool interoperability standards, etc. The internet2 [internet2.org] middleware initiative addresses some of this in terms of authorization (see Shibboleth), but more collaboration around standards needs to take place.
    • What we need in this space are standards for courseware - metadata standards, tool interoperability standards, etc.

      While these links tend towards the corporate/military, there's been a lot of work on just that very thing:

      • I work in this field :-)

        If people are interested, look up the AICC (http://www.aicc.org/) or SCORM (http://www.adlnet.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=scorma bt&cfid=210297&cftoken=69342552 and take out the spaces that Slash puts in)

        Of course, the joy of standards is the multitude of available standards and interpretations of available standards but it's an improvement on LMSs having to hack courseware to talk to it at all...
    • by 56ker (566853)
      We have a new project similar to that - called SPIDER which lets students view their academic records.
    • by Sad Loser (625938)
      One you have not mentioned is Ilias [uni-koeln.de]. Not pretty (yet), but it works well.

      The rotisserie that they describe does not seem to be a collaborative tool, but rather an asynchronous discussion tool.

      The obvious comparison is not other [expensive] courseware type systems, but Slashdot. Slashdot's system of open, anonymous graded peer review is probably at least as good a way of refining knowledge in this way. A side by side comparison would be very interesting.

      Just think, if they had dropped a million on slas
    • by adamfranco (600246) <adam@adamfranco.cBOYSENom minus berry> on Wednesday March 26, 2003 @01:19AM (#5596213) Homepage
      I am currently working at Middlebury College developing a GPL course management system called Segue.

      segue.middlebury.edu [middlebury.edu] - our current version, in use by over 100 courses (double the total number of course websites from last year).

      The Segue Project Page [middlebury.edu]

      Segue approches Course Management from the "Course Website" paradigm as oposed to "course folders" paradigm of BlackBoard and WebCT. We feel that websites as they are, are a superior way of displaying information than the idea of posting documents for download. Our goals were to make a system that is platform independent and will allow even the most technically timmid professors to quickly and easily get their course information and discussions online. On both fronts we've had much success; professors find the system easy to use (even the foreign language departments) and all functionality is availible from any platform with the exception of WYSIWYG text formatting. We are looking for a browser-independent XML WYSIWYG editor to replace our ActiveX one for PCIE. Any recomendations on this front would be welcome.

      Segue is written in PHP and currently runs on a mySQL database. As of May however, we will be using ADODB to support virtually all databases. In April our development team will be heading to MIT to work out OKI interoperability.

      Our code is all GPL so check it out!
      • Oh yes, and I forgot to mention:

        Content is separated from form, so that all sites made with Segue can be easily themed and customized by the owner/professor, eliminating that bland cookie-cutter look of so many CMSs.

        Also, we have implemented a completely granular permissions structure that allows creators of sites (students can create sites too) to precisely define who (anyone, authenticated users, students in the class, or individual users) can view, add, edit, or delete content from their sites. This ha
    • We have developed a couple of years a learning environment for collaborative learning: MimerDesk [mimerdesk.org]
  • by Bluejay42 (234007) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:15PM (#5595461)
    MIT's OKI Project, Open Knowledge Initiative [mit.edu]

    Stanford's CourseWork [stanford.edu]

    University of Michigan's CHEF Project [chefproject.org]
  • by N8F8 (4562)
    One Word: "TomCat [apache.org]
  • by heli0 (659560) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:25PM (#5595513)
    Stanford teams up on distance learning project [stanford.edu]

    Friday, March 7, 2003:
    Through a teleconference linking Singapore and Stanford last month, Nanyang Technological University and Stanford finalized an agreement for a multifaceted research and distance learning project that will increase the University's presence in Southeast Asia and expose it to unique environmental engineering challenges.

    "The Stanford Singapore Partnership, which enables students and professors in environmental engineering to collaborate on research projects, will allow 15 to 20 Singaporean graduate students to spend a summer quarter at Stanford and three quarters in Singapore taking Stanford classes through distance learning arrangements."
  • by tcyun (80828) on Tuesday March 25, 2003 @10:42PM (#5595580) Journal
    CHEF [chefproject.org] is another project that is in the same area (much like MIT's OpenCourseware, which has been mentioned). CHEF is a product of the University of Michigan. Michigan currently has something they call Course Tools [umich.edu], but CHEF is a completely new codebase and is supposed to have additional/new/expanded features. I won't bore you with a list right now, if you are interested, the links are above.

  • by akula1 (463239)
    Penn State uses a colossal waste of time and money called Angel [psu.edu]. It is the biggest piece of shit I have ever had the misfortune to use.

    Issues I can remember:
    "One of the three servers was down all weekend before we noticed. In the future if you can't log in make sure you try a few times."
    "Something happened and we lost all your quiz scores for the semester. You'll have to redo them."
    Plus it's IIS with a SQL Server backend. It took down the entire IST [psu.edu] departments network for two and a half
  • I think the concept behind this is quiet good. Makes it a lot like a classroom, with a teacher. The teacher asks a question & then asks a student to answer. Other students get to rate people's answers too, so its like a round-robin slashdot.

    Don't know why it cost so much to develop, but hey! its open source. Someone might mod this & get some good use out of it.
  • This academic vanity is the worst form of wasted endowment dollars I've seen to date. Why do universities and others insist on spending MILLIONS of dollars each when there are perfectly good courseware products available from companies such as Blackboard and WebCT. Open source makes sense when each company can make a small investment, (e.g. linux kernel development), and enjoy a common benifit (free OS); or spend a larger sum and save licensing fees (e.g. IBM's investment in linux vs buying MS licenses).
    • Those "imperial academic computing departments" are beholden for whatever extortion money whatever commercial courseware vendor they're using chooses to charge every year for maintenance, forever, once they're locked into a proprietary solution.

      So the money developing a courseware product, particularly as part of consortium, isn't wasted in the long term. And, believe me, without that, they'd find something else to waste your hard earned tuition money on :).

    • My university uses Blackboard. What a peace of shit program! The entire platform is built around future "course packs" that the company has contracted with publishers to provide, and the software pretty much wants you to upload content in Micro$oft format (with which Bb has a lucrative contract.) While you can use HTML if you can write it, there is not an editor, so faculty without that knowledge are left with Office.

      ANY course software creatd on this model is going to eventually be purely about seling
    • I saw the same thing at GWU; while I was there they spent god knows how much money on this Prometheus crap, which they homebrewed; only to sell it off when the couldn't make any money on it; and then switch to Blackboard.

      Guess who they sold prometheus to...

      Blackboard (which I feel is also a piece of crap).

      I work for a university in california which pays approx. $70,000 a year for blackboard licensing and support fees. The blackboard support people understand less about the program than the sysadmi

    • You think it's the academic computing dept., but it's not. I work for one. We just got Blackboard running and, believe me, none of us thought it was a good idea. Writing our own might have actually been cheaper.
    • do you even know how the internet came to be what it is? ARPA was a major patron of university research. The researchers in the university system built the internet by using it, communicating with each other , fixing problems and creating new solutions. The ideals of open science and the quest for knowledege is what drove the development of the technologies that built the internet. If they listened to you're logic, they would have kept on using the telephone, carbon copies and snail mail. and the internet
  • H20 is awesome! (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by rnd() (118781)
    I'm never reading Slashdot again!
  • For a couple of successful approaches to web-based distance learning, look at Holmes Corporation [holmescorp.com] and WatsonWebWare [watsonwebware.com].
  • by Evolutionary Soldier (528966) on Wednesday March 26, 2003 @12:15AM (#5595971) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I am not connected in any way with MIT (I'm from Univ. of Texas at Austin). MIT (along with others) has an excellent project called dotlrn:

    MIT Intellectual Commons (collection of related e-learning initiatives including dotlrn): http://web.mit.edu/cet/strategy/commons.html [mit.edu]

    What is .LRN? (from www.dotlrn.org [dotlrn.org] ):

    -A fully open source eLearning platform.

    -A portal framework and integrated application suite to support course management and online communities.

    -A scalable, secure, and enterprise-ready eLearning platform that can be deployed readily by small and large organizations.

    -A modular architecture to permit flexibility and to drive innovation.

    -A set of best practices in online learning shared in the form of source code.

    The dotlrn project page [openacs.org] has documentation, news, forums... It is hosted on the www.openacs.org [openacs.org] site, which is the parent web framework upon which dotlrn is based. Besides the above, the framework has a rich architecture for managing permissions, users, groups, content management, course management, forums, email, and more.

  • Where's the content? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sakusha (441986) on Wednesday March 26, 2003 @12:46AM (#5596098)
    I poked around the site and didn't see much of anything I could read and study. Seems to be a bunch of placeholders for old classes that are closed and expired, and private content not yet released.
  • by mao che minh (611166) on Wednesday March 26, 2003 @01:09AM (#5596178) Journal
    Call me a pessimist, but I have serious reservations about using open source in the process of manufacturing more lawyers. I thought we were supposed to be noble?!

    That was a joke, by the way. Kind of.

    • Open source lawyers?

      Which distro you like?

      • RH8 - looks good in a suit, shows up on time, can't find a thing in the paperwork but still charges $325/hr, promises you will win in court
      • Slackware - Al Pacino - And Justice for All, 'nuf said
      • Mandrake - Al Pacino - The Devil's Advocate (it's french isn't it...)
      • Debian - John Houseman - Paper Chase -"You come in here with a skull full of mush, and you leave thinking like a SysAdmin."
      • Lindows - Shakespeare- Henry VI, Part II,"The first thing we do, let's ki
  • Lawyers - to an extent - have greater (or cheaper) access to a key branch of the government. Perhaps this is a step towards reducing legal/lawyer fees by making legal education cheaper. And maybe monkeys will fly out of my...
  • learning (Score:2, Insightful)

    by More Trouble (211162)
    Of course, none of the apps people have mentioned here are particularly pedagogical. The best listed are collaborative discussion systems. Big whoop. So's Slashdot, and we're not learning much here.

    There are, however, many applications built for learners. They just all happen to focus on teaching a small number of specific ideas. Good examples are World Watcher [northwestern.edu] for teaching climatology and SimCalc [umassd.edu] for teaching Calculus to middle schoolers.

    Writing small applications for teaching in a limited domain is
  • eLearning is one of the big, empty busswords. As an Austrian University student, I did not have to pay tuitions for a long time and when I finally had to, I realized one thing: If I pay for classes, I want *more* service.

    I know it depends on how the eClassroom thing works, but personally I prefer sitting in a class and listening to a lecture rather than watching a video of it. Though there are advantages, such as having material when the teacher makes mistakes and all, but still...

    As for the coursware sho
  • moodle (Score:2, Informative)

    by dwgranth (578126)

    the system looked nice... but the institution i work for probably wouldnt use it... they use blackboard [blackboard.com]. I did however find something similar and opensource...

    it was moodle [moodle.org]. it works nice and even has some extra cool features

    • Re:moodle (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Everybody should look at Moodle, it have lot's of features (assigments, quiz, peergraded assigments, forums...), authentication works with ldap, smb etc...
      More features to come with 2.0 release, then it will fix to large enviroments too.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The main benefit of eLearning has always struck me as providing a common platform for the admin side of teaching -- managing enrollment, tracking assignments, keeping marks online, etc.

    What strikes me, then, is how stuff like WebCT and others end up duplicating admin effort. Download your classlists from the central admin system, convert them to CSV, upload them to WebCT...and do this repeatedly to catch any modifications (or, more likely, the lecturers add names manually so that they can produce class l

  • Check out the Connexions Project at Rice University http://cnx.rice.edu/ It's a very nice piece of work.

    They're collaborating with Creative Commons
    http://www.creativecommons.org

  • VLE, MLE, etc. (Score:2, Informative)

    by iar (661651)

    Two rather more mature open-source projects not mentioned here (I think) are

    • Claroline [claroline.net], developed at the Catholic University of Louvain
    • Bodington [bodington.org], developed at the University of Leeds.

    The University of Oxford has just chosen the latter as its VLE. I've not used Bodington, but Claroline I've found to be very good already, albeit not as full-featured as WebCT.

    As someone starting to use a VLE to teach, they are useful (if nothing else) for integrating content and discussion, rather than hundreds of depa


  • My wife is 2.5 years into her (exclusively) online business degree and it seems that a missing component is the interaction with students.
    What ends up happening a lot of the times is the teacher gives an assignment, the student does it and turn it in (plus tests, yadda yadda).

    There isn't much of a "Teaching" or presentation component.
    Imagine learning Calc or Statistics exclusively through the book. It can be a real challenge for someone whose strength is not mathematics.

    There has to be a better way.
  • Disclaimer: I am the project manager of the software described below
    Open source is just beginning to seep into academia, primarily because many institutions are balking at the absurd pricing of commercial course management systems such as BlackBoard and WebCT. MIT's Stellar and dotlrn, Stanford's Courseworks, Michegan's CHEF are various approaches to course management using open source code.

    A very different approach to course management is being developed at Middlebury College based on weblogs called S
  • Moodle! (Score:2, Informative)

    by artlader (661696)
    Before anyone spends a penny, he/she should check out MOODLe - http://www.moddle.org/ . It is open source and it's fantastic. :-)

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