Monthly Archives: March 2007

The Moodle monolith?

At the recent Moodle conference in Duisburg, Germany, there was once again much talk about additional features and functionalities. E-portfolios and social networking were mentioned among many other things, but is this sensible? There are already excellent specialist applications out there to grab and use.

It looks like Moodle is developing into a swiss army knife that does everything, but does it badly, and that’s not really useful to the cause. Many tools in Moodle require an urgent usability upgrade to be at all attractive to tutors and learners. Among them the very basic wiki and the highly confusing test and workshop modules. In their present state they seem to appeal only to the most determined of users.

Despite the representative from the education ministery in his opening address saying that the dream of a unified platform will not happen, ordinary users still want everything packaged into one platform.

We do not want another VLE monolith, especially as all signs currently point the opposite direction, where web savvyness is not defined by how well you can use a single application, but how transferable your skills are within a multi-application environment.


Global Governance Open Meeting

Global Governance Open Forum

A top-level meeting of the E-Learning Standards Lobby was recently held at the Institute of Education, London. UNESCO Assistant Director-General Abdul Waheed Khan gave the opening address, followed by an experts’ panel (pictured above) stageing Microsoft, ARIADNE, IMS, and JTC1 SC36. Keynotes also included Mark Cummings from the DfES, Diana Laurillard and Robert Wisher, Director of ADL/SCORM.

Here are my humble impressions:
The meeting had the worse conference website ever. It’s plastered with logos and wears the user out pretty quickly. It would be advisable for the standard gurus to read Jacob Nielsen’s guidelines on good web design.

ADL have hitherto carried the cost of developing and maintaining the SCORM reference model, but now the US DoD (Department of Defense) wants to pass on the model and the costs to other hands.

Yet another governing body was proposed to govern the lobbys: It’s called LETSI which stands for “Learning, Education & Training Systems Interoperability” although very little about it came to be known at the meeting. We shall wait with interest what emerges here, but I suspect very strongly this is not going to make things easier for the user communities, but instead creates the mother of all umbrella organisations – whoever said e-learning standards are a growth industry, they were absolutely right!

Trust your institution!

In an earlier posting I have related how I gradually invested more and more trust in Web 2.0 data services outside my own PC, for file and photo storage or even personal information. Now it strikes me that this may pose a challenge to institutional services.

It would be interesting to investigate whether it is the same people who challenge the university’s data security, crying out loud for the data protection act, who are happy to upload their own and friends details in networking sites the likes of or myspace, and sign up to the most bizzare indemnity clauses (without reading them). Is it easier to trust a stranger than your education provider? That would be worrying.

Elgg Keynote at the Moodle07 Conference

Abstract: Elgg as an institutional platform to support e-portfolios

The presentation will be streamed live on 29 March 2007 at around 10:40 at: (requires Real player).

The introduction of IT into education has led to greater learner centeredness and an increased focus on collaborative learning activities. To accommodate this, a revolutionary cultural change is needed in institutions which breaks with the old industrial model of moulding all learners into the same shape, and replaces it with scalable personalised learning. E-portfolios are a vital tool to drive and support this cultural change and to hand responsibility for learning to the learners.

Universities are challenged with providing seamless services and infrastructure that tie together institutionally managed courses with personal learning environments and personal development planning. The paper will present the Klagenfurt approach of building a service-oriented e-learning architecture that combines the two spaces in a complimentary way using the Open Source platforms Moodle and Elgg.

Our aim is to establish a bridge from institutional ownership within the VLE (Moodle) to personal e-portfolio services that the individual learners control during and beyond their course of study.

To approach this goal of a complimentary architecture, we developed a service model that uses Moodle as the platform where course delivery is administered and supported, i.e. where institutional learning takes place, and Elgg as our e-portfolio tool of choice for learners to individually manage their competences and learning achievements as collections of artefacts and narratives (learner stories), but also adding social currency to it through communities of practice and personal networks.

Our use of Elgg in an educational context lies in supporting and scaffolding the management of learning by the learners themselves. Elgg enables users not only to evidence learning through creating learning-related narratives or collections of artefacts, it also ties in usefully with other social networking tools and is able to support career development and self presentation based on the Europass CV and the Eurolang portfolio. Elgg enables secure file storage and sophisticated management of access rights to assets, while at the same time being open to social connections and the formation of communities of practice.

Elgg integrates with Moodle through a block developed in New Zealand and provides further open integration with other Web 2.0 platforms using OpenID. This makes Elgg the ideal scaffolding tool and pedagogic middleware to build confidence of learners migrating from a secure and protected online environment to the full opportunities of cyber citizenship.