Learning Matters

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Only Connect!

I am trying something different today and blogging from a meeting. One of our key district priorities is to add more web-based capabilities to our instructional environment. We have some high school language arts teachers using Sharepoint for online discussions on texts, our physics classes are using WebAssign for web-based homework. Our assessment on these pilots shows that all students have Internet access at home, which makes us somewhat exceptional as a district. We envision many teachers utilizing Sharepoint with our more advanced staff, the techno jedi, adopting course management systems (CMS) like Moodle. We'll use best of breed solutions when we feel they offer significant advantages for teachers and learners, like we do with WebAssign for the sciences.

Now as long as you don't opt for the Portal version, Sharepoint is bundled with Windows Server at no additional cost and is not a big jump to get into if you are already running Windows as your server OS. But full blown course management systems are a different matter altogether. Are we going to make this capability available to our staff? Absolutely! But are we going to host it directly? Not sure.

So today, I am at a meeting for a working group convened by our state educational Internet provider on whether our Internet cooperative should be looking to host a CMS for the membership. To me, this offers tremendous economies of scale and the opportunity to pool expertise and ideas for innovation. Do I want to host a CMS like Moodle on my own, or are we better served by a cooperative model? I'm thinking the latter, but we'll see where the discussion heads today.

7 Comments:

  • Hi! There is a third alternative between self hosting and a district wide coop: Moodle.com offers professional Moodle hosting services from the Moodle developers.

    That said, hosting isn't that hard, if you are a Windows shop, Moodle runs fine on Windows Server. If you will dozens to a few hundred users, one of the "Moodle for Windows" packages should be sufficient, if you plan to have thousands of users, you can also get an optimized installation set up either from one of the pros. on Moodle.com or any reasonably savvy sysadmin.

    Probably, hosting will turn out to be the easiest/least expensive part (if you factor in all costs). In any LMS adoption, to get the most from your investment it's ideal to put aside some funds for support and training. It's generally more efficient to pay a person or two for support/training rather than pay all your teachers to train and support themselves:-).

    Overall, Moodle is a good choice-- with a commercial LMS, you'll still have to pay the hosting and support costs, which are about the same. You can get great free tech support at Moodle.org, which is generally better than the support you get from commercial vendors--however in my opinion, you are still better off with a person or two who's job it is to seek and retrieve this support than trying to have all your faculty get it on their own.

    With Moodle, you won't have to pay that yearly license, so you have that $$ left over for support, training, development, etc.

    By Anonymous Michael Penney, at 7:04 AM  

  • Michael, thanks. Our working group may be able to reach a decision next month.

    Our organization is a statewide coop that includes K-12, technical colleges, independent colleges, and the state university system. While we expect that the initial member audience will probably be the K-12 membership, we are interested in leveraging our member assets more effectively in an open source model. Collectively, the possibility exists to bring extensive development expertise into the project, although the Moodle community is doing wonderfully already.

    Having a few key support people instead of every instructor doing their own support is also something we are factoring into our budget development process.

    If our CMS/LMS inititative gets started and develops as we think it can, we could be looking at a few hundred of member institutions and thousands of students.

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