Learning Support Systems

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Since the advent of the Internet and associated opportunities for on-line learning and, more recently, "connected" or "networked" learning through social software, the range of systems and supporting tools available is growing rapidly. In this section we highlight a few prominent examples of learning management systems (LMSs), virtual learning environments (VLEs), content management systems (CMSs), blogging and wiki engines, and other tools offering combinations of resources for OER development.


LMSs and VLEs

A learning management system (LMS) is software designed to manage classes, including attendee lists, quizzes, calendars, assignments and learning modules. Virtual Learning Environments are similar in concept emphasizing the learning environment over management. For the purposes of this document, LMSs and VLEs are listed in the same category. The most widely-known proprietary example is Blackboard/WebCT. Elgg is meant for institutional deployment, but not necessarily for individual classrooms. Moodle, by contrast, can be used in an individual classroom, or by an entire school. Many educators have used Moodle in their classroom, so there is a wealth of information available on how to use it. Sakai is used by higher education institutions and research groups and is not well-suited for individual classrooms.

Program Name Uses of Program Compatible formats Operating Systems
Amadeus[1] The Amadeus LMS project aims at the development of a second generation learning management system, based on the blended learning concept and integrated to Mobile Devices and Interactive TV. Ajax web interface, video collaborative chats, forums, mobile access, interactive TV integration, multiuser game server GNU/Linux usually/IIS
ATutor[2] LMS with group blogs, quizzes, and assignment drop boxes. HTML, common audio/image/video formats; IMS and SCORM support GNU/Linux usually
Claroline[3] LMS with group chat, quizzes, wiki and online chat HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually, but also available for Windows⪚ and Mac OS X®
Elgg[4] Social networking software that allows students to have their own webpage HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually
KEWL.NextGen[5] LMS with e-mail, instant messaging and course modules. HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually
LeMill[6] Software for finding, authoring and sharing OER. Introductory Guide[7]. HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually
Moodle[8] Learning management system, similar to Blackboard/WebCT. Tutorials[9] HTML, common audio/image/video formats, eventual IMS support GNU/Linux usually, compatible with others
Rhaptos[10] "Software to enable authors, instructors, and students to create, select, and assemble modular educational content into collections customized to meet their teaching and learning needs."[11] Documentation[12] HTML, common audio/image/video formats, IMS support GNU/Linux usually
Sakai[13] Enterprise-wide learning Management system, similar to Blackboard/WebCT. Tutorials[14] HTML, RSS, common audio/image/video formats, IMS support GNU/Linux usually, compatible with others

Content Management Systems

Drupal, Joomla! and Plone are some of the most popular open source content management systems (CMS) available. CMSs, by default, do not have quiz and grading features. These features can be added, or the CMS can simply be used to store class documents, images and video. CMSs can be difficult to deploy without the help of IT staff.

Program Name Uses of Program Compatible formats Operating Systems
Drupal[15] Content management system written in PHP. Handbooks[16] HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually
eduCommons[17] eduCommons is an OpenCourseWare management system designed specifically to support OpenCourseWare projects such as MIT OCW or USU OCW. eduCommons can help develop and manage an open access collection of course materials. eduCommons is built around a workflow process that guides users through the process of publishing materials in an openly accessible format. This includes uploading materials into a repository, dealing with copyright, reassembling materials into courses, providing quality assurance, and publication of materials. Documentation[18] HTML, commons audio/image/video formats, IMS packages GNU/Linux usually, Windows® installer in development
Joomla![19] Content management system written in PHP. Getting Started Guide[20] HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux
Plone[21] Content management system written in Python. Documentation[22] HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually

Wikis

Wikis started out as a very simple way of creating easily editable web pages. The concept caught on in a big way with Wikipedia. The education community has attempted to inspire this degree of cooperation by establishing sites such as WikiEducator, Wikiversity, Appropedia, etc. One of the most popular wiki engines is MediaWiki after its notable success with Wikipedia.

Program Name Uses of Program Compatible formats Operating Systems
Dokuwiki[23] Designed especially for creating documentation. User Forum. HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually
MediaWiki[24] Written in PHP, used by Wikipedia, WikiEducator and Wikiversity and others. Documentation[25] HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually
Twiki[26] Written in the Perl programming language, used by Motorola and other businesses. Documentation[27] HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually

Blogs

A "blog" (short for "web log") makes it easy to publish individual entries or stories and time stamps the entries to form a log of activities, postings, etc. The power of blogs has been used in education successfully in a variety of ways to communicate course activities, report on progress and to generate discussion among learners. A good example which may interest readers of this manual is "Terra Incognita: exploring new ground in online education"[28] (see "Additional Reading" in the Conclusion).

Program Name Uses of Program Compatible formats Operating Systems
Movable Type Common blogging software, written in Perl. Not as popular as Wordpress, but still well-regarded. HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux, Mac OS X®, Windows®
Wordpress[29] Popular blogging software written in PHP. Tutorials[30]. HTML, common audio/image/video formats GNU/Linux usually

It should be noted that most prominent CMSs, LMSs and VLEs either include or may be extended to include wikis and blogs.

Notes

  1. http://amadeus.cin.ufpe.br/
  2. http://www.atutor.ca/
  3. http://www.claroline.net/
  4. http://elgg.org/
  5. http://kngforge.uwc.ac.za/index.php?module=splashscreen#
  6. http://lemill.org/trac/
  7. http://lemill.net/content/overview-of-lemill
  8. http://moodle.org/
  9. http://docs.moodle.org/en/Teaching_with_Moodle
  10. http://rhaptos.org/
  11. from the Rhaptos home page
  12. http://rhaptos.org/docs/
  13. http://sakaiproject.org/
  14. http://smartsite.ucdavis.edu:8000/smartsite/ucd-gateway/Smartsite%20Tech%20Tips/index.htm
  15. http://drupal.org/
  16. http://drupal.org/handbooks
  17. http://cosl.usu.edu/projects/educommons
  18. http://cosl.usu.edu/projects/educommons/documentation
  19. http://www.joomla.org/
  20. http://docs.joomla.org/Beginners
  21. http://plone.org/
  22. http://plone.org/documentation
  23. http://wiki.splitbrain.org/wiki:dokuwiki
  24. http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki
  25. http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Documentation
  26. http://twiki.org/
  27. http://twiki.org/cgi-bin/view/TWiki/TWikiDocumentation
  28. http://blog.worldcampus.psu.edu/
  29. http://wordpress.org/download/
  30. http://codex.wordpress.org/Getting_Started_with_WordPress
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