Friday, October 21, 2011

Pointed Questions for Pearson's OpenClass Moodle and ELIS

In a recent article, The Chronicle asked Pearson three tough questions about its OpenClass system. The importance of these questions have inspired me to answer them for Moodle and Remote-Learner's ELIS add-ons for Moodle.

Question 1: Will colleges be able to control how OpenClass Moodle/ELIS is upgraded and whether to accept new features?
Moodle provides an almost seamless upgrade process. Within a release family (e.g. 1.9, 2.1, etc.), feature changes are kept to an absolute minimum. Instead the focus is on performance improvements, bug fixes (if necessary) and security improvements. Jumping to another release family typically provides many new features and functions. As a Moodle owner, you choose when to upgrade, and Moodle typically supports earlier release families for many months after new release families come out.
Features within Moodle, outside of the standard offerings, are provided by many plug-in systems, making it quite simple for Moodle owners to add and remove new features they want at any time. Plug-ins are provided by a large, vibrant community increasing the usability of Moodle greatly. The control is in the hands of the Moodle owner.
At Remote-Learner, our subscription-based hosting and support services for Moodle and ELIS provide many additional plug-ins for Moodle that you can select to use when you want. Additionally, we support other requested add-ons that clear our review process (for security and performance) giving you ultimate flexibility and control.  
Question 2: What about ease of importing and exporting content? Will OpenClass Moodle/ELIS use industry standards for this? 
Moodle supports multiple content standards, to aid in content creation and management for your courses. SCORM, IMS and Common Cartridge are just a few. Additionally, with its repository management system, almost any repository source for content can be connected and imported into Moodle. Alfresco, Youtube, Google Docs, Flickr and Dropbox are just some of the examples that can be easily connected and used as content sources for your course construction. Moodle also now has Moodle Hubs, which allows courses to be shared and transported among multiple Moodle sites.
Remote-Learner's ELIS add-on to Moodle, further provides automated ways of creating courses in bulk from pre-defined templates, and from imports from already existing systems like Blackboard, WebCT and eCollege, as well as other HR and SIS systems. 
Question 3: Can OpenClass Moodle/ELIS be integrated into a college’s student information system simply, since those systems are key to instructors and usually governed by an institution’s security policies as well as federal privacy laws? 
Moodle provides multiple ways of integrating with school SIS and HR systems. These integrations include user authentication and single sign-on, user creation and modification and grade information exporting to name a few. Many standard systems are supported such as LDAP, CAS, Shibboleth and OpenID.
At Remote-Learner, we have extended these capabilities even further through our ELIS add-ons and specifically Integration Point (IP). IP allows for much more automated exchange of information between Moodle/ELIS and SIS/HR systems for user management, enrolment management, course management and completion/progress management. Data can be exchanged both ways through the use of IP.
 
While I'm sure Pearson's new LMS will do its best to meet these same flexibility requirements, Moodle has already done so. It is Open Source, very easy to set up and use and has many  experienced and skilled providers ready to offer you the services you need if you do not want to go it alone.
 
Moodle and ELIS are open source distributions, licensed under the GPL. Moodle can be found at http://www.moodle.org. ELIS can be found at http://github.com/remotelearner. For Moodle or ELIS service and support, please go to http://www.remote-learner.net.