Open Source in Education

Open Source in EducationVarious, via KairosNews)

KairosNews has a few good links to articles about the open source movement. “Open Source and Education: A Sea Change?” is a roundup of links to recent “rumblings” on open-source content. Most exciting is the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s report on a multi-million-dollar effort to create an open-source course-management tool.

Charlie’s post links to a page that is in the Chronicle’s “temp” directory, so I won’t repeat it here… you can find it on the KairosNews entry. Charlie notes with amusement the reaction of the chairman of Blackboard (a commercial provider of course-management tools), who uses the standard FUD defense in order to scare potential users away from open-source (and thus protect his revenue stream).

I don’t like using commercial course-management tools because I don’t like the idea of putting so much work into a database that is only accessible as long as we have subscribed to the service. I understand that Seton Hill has recently churned through two or three of these course management tools, requiring faculty to re-learn a new system each time. We’re currently using J-web, but I only use it to post a link to my online syllabus, to post final grades, and to take attendance. But even then I find it limiting… there’s no way to differentiate between an excused absence and an unexcused absence. If I cancel class for a day, or want to take attendance at an extra-curricular event, there’s no way for me to add or remove columns. If a student comes in late or leaves early, there is no way for me to record a partial absence.

Now, if there were a way that I could use XML to label the various components of my online syllabus, and then run a utility that would slurp up all that data into the standard course management interface that the students are familiar with from their other classes, that would be useful.

4 thoughts on “Open Source in Education

  1. Pingback: Choose Your Own Adventure Assignment -- Jerz's Literacy Weblog (est. 1999)

  2. I want a button that says, “I am not a coder.” Although I can read and use raw HTML, I prefer using programs like Dreamweaver because it allows me to focus on the design of a web site and not get bogged down by typing lines of code.

  3. Hmm… fill-in-the-blank weblog software permits non-coders to be web authors, and I think the Internet is a better place for it. So far, I don’t think the commercial products come close to letting people really understand the potential of the Internet as a teaching tool, but I don’t think it’s necessary to require people to code in HTML in order to claim that they use the Internet effectively. But Bobby’s right — plenty of old-school teachers think of a webpage as a free photocopier, and they use it to distribute paper handouts. (I do that from time to time, too, of course.) Certainly, Bobby, your knowledge of HTML will set you apart; the trick will be finding the right environment, where peope will truly appreciate what having that technical skill will let you do.

  4. Two years ago, when I first met Dennis, I told him I built web pages and wanted to teach from them. Whenever I say that to anyone other than Dennis, he or she instantly thinks of programs like Blackboard or Desire2Learn, or another similar program. I am strongly opposed to using those programs and offended by instructors saying “Yes, I teach using web pages (or the Internet) too,” citing such software. I view that as abusing the use of both web pages and the Internet because it does not tap into its full potential as Dennis’s site does.

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