Needs vs. resources

Some people (NGOs and so) come here asking what we’ve got… “what can you give us for free?”

Sorry, wrong question: “what do you need?”

I think there are two different approaches when setting up a project (a virtual learning project or one of another kind, doesn’t mind)

  • I set up my goals, see my resources and
    – try and find more resources
    – try and redefine my project to fit the available resources
  • I see the resources available and define a project according to them

In my point of view, the last one is not a good approach. Ok, it is a realistic one, but planning is not about being realistic but about goals and needs. There’ll be all the time in the world to prune the initial design, during the implementation phase. But there’ll be no time to dream once in reality.

uPortal and UW Calendar

I think Csar has read all the web };)

After reading this morning post about MIT, he points me to two nice resources I did not know.


uPortal is a free, sharable portal under development by institutions of higher-education. This group sees an institutional portal as an abridged and customized version of the institutional Web presence… a “pocket-sized” version of the campus Web. Portal technology adds “customization” and “community” to the campus Web presence. Customization allows each user to define a unique and personal view of the campus Web. Community tools, such as chat, forums, survey, and so on, build relationships among campus constituencies.

uPortal is an open-standard effort using Java, XML, JSP and J2EE. It is a collaborative development project with the effort shared among several of the JA-SIG member institutions. You may download uPortal and use it on your site at no cost.

IMHO, it is not strictly related to e-learning more than the fact that it is boosted by higher-education institutions, but I guess it was worth putting it here after having posted about MIT and Caddie.NET :)

UW Calendar

The UW Calendar project is building an open-source calendaring system for higher education. UW Calendar will support personal, public and group events, use existing open standards, and support web-based and other forms of access, including uPortal integration.

Enhancing uPortal? Not really, but this is what you get going open source :)))

MIT’s sharing knowledge

See if I can make a list of things that MIT is carrying out in the field of “sharing his knowledge” and “applicable to e-learning for development”. Some copy-paste from institutional sites, some comments by myself, some by Octeto:


Intellectual Commons
MIT makes materials freely available to strengthen overall university commons.

  • Commiting to integrating educational-technology deeply into on-campus education
  • Creating major, shared campus-wide educational resources
    It includes OKI, OCW, DSpace and .LRN

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Open Knowledge Iniciative (OKI)

It is a collaboration among leading universities and specification and standards organizations to support innovative learning technology in higher education.
The result is an open and extensible architecture that specifies how the components of an educational software environment communicate with each other and with other enterprise systems. OKI provides a modular development platform for building both traditional and innovative applications while leveraging existing and future infrastructure technologies.

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OpenCourseWare (OCW)

Is a large-scale, Web-based initiative to provide free, worldwide access to educational materials for virtually all MIT courses.

OCW is not a course or distance learning, but it is courseware.

Rather than substitute for the experience of being a student at the Institute, OCW will provide students, faculty, and other interested parties throughout the world free and valuable educational materials.

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A durable electronic archive for 10,000 MIT research papers and other publications per year. DSpace is a groundbreaking digital library system to capture, store, index, preserve, and redistribute the intellectual output of a university’s research faculty in digital formats.
Developed jointly by MIT Libraries and Hewlett-Packard (HP), DSpace is now freely available to research institutions world-wide as an open source system that can be customized and extended.

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Is open source software and a development kit for supporting innovation in collaborative education and learning and research communities. Originally developed at MIT as part of the Intellectual Commons, .LRN is now backed by a worldwide consortium of educational institutions, non-profit organizations, industry partners, and open source developers. .LRN capabilities include course management, online communities, learning management, and content management applications.
In other words:

  • A fully open source eLearning platform
  • A portal framework and integrated application suite to support course management and online communities
  • A set of best practices in online learning shared in the form of source code

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It serves as the hub application for information exchange. It provides online news, event and course information, along with interactive discussion forums and students contact information. In a nutshell, everything needed to maintain and run the fast-growing course site.

As I understand it: .LRN manages the course learning environment (contents, interaction, etc.) and Caddie.NET manages the course site or information environment (information, news, etc.)

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Open Source Courseware — Evaluation and Rating at XPLANA

Very nice work at XPLANA by Rob Reynolds.

19 open source course management systems analyzed and rated according to 6 parameters.

My two cents: I’ve written down all the information and put it in a table, so you can catch it at a glance.

S: Scalability
O: Openness
A: Administration
I: Implementation
F: Functionality
E: Effectiveness
TT: Total

  Technology S O A I F E TT
Colloquia Java 3 3 4 3 3 3 19
CourseWork Java 4 3 5 3 3 3 21
eConf Java 3 4 4 3 2 3 19
eLedge Java 3 4 4 4 3 3 21
OpenCourseWare Java 4 3 5 3 3 4 22
CHEF (*) Java 4 5 5 3 3 4 24
ATutor PHP 3 5 4 4 4 3 22
Claroline PHP 3 5 5 3 3 3 22
ClassWeb PHP/Perl 3 4 4 3 2 3 19
eLecture PHP 2 4 3 3 2 3 17
Moodle (**) PHP 4 5 4 4 3 3 23
Segue PHP 4 4 4 4 3 3 22
Fle3 Phyton/Zope 3 5 4 4 2 4 22
KEWL ASP 3 4 4 3 3 3 20
Bazaar Perl 3 4 4 3 3 3 20
LON-CAPA Perl 5 5 4 3 4 3 24
MimerDesk Perl 3 4 4 3 2 3 19
WeBWork Perl 3 4 3 3 3 3 19
.LRN Pcl 4 5 5 3 2 3 22


(*) CHEF: Top system in terms of Scalability and Development Flexibility
(**) Moodle: Top system in terms of Pedagogical Flexibility

Role of the tutor in e-learning

In a working session last Friday, my colleague Albert Sangr said something I found really interesting: we should not mix up tutorization with fidelization.

Though it is absolutely true that the tutor, in his activity, has an important role in fidelization, it is not his main role to lock in the student but to help him in his way through learning.

Say it again: the (main) role of the tutor in (e-)learning is help the student reach his educational goals in the most satisfactory way. This means pedagogical advice, technological advice (in the case of e-learning), professional advice (when heading employment offers), etc.

Fidelization (i.e. “enrol again with us”) is a different thing. It will depend on whether you reached your educational goals or not, but it is a different thing.

When talking about e-learning for development, the subject becomes more and more important because fidelization deals with educational goals but with plenty other things rather than education itself: development goals, sustainability, multiplier effects, etc.

Learning as sharing

“Learning is best understood as an interaction among practitioners, rather than a process in which a producer provides knowledge to a consumer”

in an interview to Etienne Wenger by Seth Kahan, found in ECCOP.

Couldn’t agree more with this quote.
What is understood doesn’t need to be discussed.