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Changing CMSes 2

Ah-ha! Now I realize why I didn’t see eye-to-eye with that article. Their motivation for changing CMSes was to standardize on 1 CMS and thus save money, understandable for a large university system. Our motivation is first pedagogical and secondly financial. Our faculty’s teaching goals are not being met with Blackboard. I believe moodle will meet them now and in the future as they grow and change. We don’t need a course management system, we need a virtual learning environment. I should banish the CMS acronym from my blog….

Changing CMSes

The latest issue of the Educause Quarterly has an article called “Changing Course Management Systems: Lessons Learned.” It describes the NDSU switchover from Blackboard to desire2learn. We had evaluated d2l for our campus too. It’s a nice CMS and a company with the right direction (see my ramblings here and here). Though cheaper than Blackboard, it’s still too expensive for a school of our size.

But as I was reading the article a few things started to gel in my head. First, there is a problem inherent in talking about “conversion” from one CMS to another. If you convert a course from Blackboard to d2l, you will be retaining the constraints of the old CMS that you are running away, um, getting away from. To leverage the benefits of the new CMS, you need to consider a redesign of some depth:

  • shallow: retaining the same basic structure of the existing course
  • wading: identifying new CMS tools or activities that fit into the course and integrating them
  • dive: complete redesign of the course as though it was new, could help “stale” courses

Or some gradation of the above.

Their findings also caused me to react. Yes, there will be costs in time and money for the faculty in switching CMSes, depending how much they invested in the CMS. If you do something like AugNet Course Docs then your content is external to the CMS so migration is much less painful. The time of CMS transition can been framed as a time for change and re-evaluation of courses. As you can tell from above, I disagree with their concerned focus on conversion tools. But I do agree with their implication of CMS-neutral design (SCORM anyone?).

moodle.org running moodle 1.5

I’m making my way through the changes you can see on moodle.org now that it has been upgraded to moodle 1.5. Here are some highlights

  • Unread posts : on the course page each forum lists the number of unread posts, in each forum each discussion lists the number of unread posts in it, users can turn off the tracking of unread posts too
  • Journals replaced with online assignments : The assignment module is now plug-in based to allow for future growth. You can see screenshots here of the online assignment. It looks great and the grading got a whole lot easier.

Both look like winners. I hope 1.5 is ready for fall. It’s definitely the release suitable for the campus.

8 polytechs in New Zealand adopting moodle

This is probably the largest deployment of moodle globally to date. Read about it here. To quote

“The Open Polytechnic, Nelson-Marlborough Institute of Technology, and six other polytechs are already using the system. Twelve other tertiary institutes, including four universities, will likely migrate to Moodle by July, Mr Wyles says. It’s also being deployed at 10 secondary schools.”

The modular (the m in moodle) nature was a real plus for them.

Augsburg modifications to moodle

As we’ve been testing moodle out we’ve also been tweaking the code to meet our needs. If anyone is interested in copies of the code snippets just let me know.

  • Forum post emails don’t link back into moodle and neither do the RSS feeds – this breaks our single sign-on system.
  • Forum replies in threaded form were too spaced out. We tightened up the reply spacing.
  • HTML and Text resources automatically have a link in the upper-right of “Return to {shortname}” which takes you back to the course page.
  • User’s can’t change their email addresses or id numbers. These are set with their accounts are auto-created by database authentication. The id numbers are needed for enrollment so those shouldn’t be editable!
  • In the gallery module I added a top frame with appropriate navigation and made the gallery description more readable by placing it in a box. However the automatic advancing of images seems to have broken. I’m looking into that.

We have a few more minor changes in the pipeline but these were some of the main tweaks we wanted to do. The modular and open nature of the code makes these changes easier as you go along.

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