VLE architecture and open source

    We had a meeting today to discuss the architecture of the OU VLE. I was the project director during phase 1, and we made the recommendation that we should adopt a service oriented architecture. This was partly a pragmatic decision because although we didn’t have a VLE as such, we had over the years developed, or bought in, a number of the components, including conferencing, assignment handling, authentication, etc. It was also partly a recognition that this was where the world was moving to. I made the analogy today that it is like the claim that many sociologists and economists make (I think Castells is amongst them), that many developing…

  • VLE

    The social values of software

    At the PROWE meeting yesterday I was once again struck by the social values that are associated with different pieces of software. The project is looking at wikis as a tool for tutor support and also personal repositories/e-portfolio. They have selected ELGG as it seems to straddle both of these camps. While that is true technically, there are process issues that reflect the different values of these two approaches. This was brought in to focus when we started discussing lurkers. Some members wanted to discourage lurking. I was coming from a wiki mindset and thought this strange – after all most of us are ‘lurkers’ on wikipedia. But viewed from…

  • VLE,  Web/Tech

    When I missed the wiki bus

    I am on the steering committee for the PROWE project, and attended a meeting today. The project seems to be going well, but all this recent obsession with wikifying everything gave me cause to reflect on how I had rather missed the opportunity to get in early with this technology. In 1997 I attended a conference and heard Mark Guzdial talking about them. I could see how useful they’d be in distance education and when I came back to the OU I evangelised about them briefly. Then other things got in the way and I let them drop, and it was only last year that I finally introduced one on…

  • VLE

    Web 2.0 vs Higher Ed mindsets

    I’m just writing the conclusions to my book and one of the subjects that has cropped up recently is the tension between what we might term the web 2.0 mindset (as so eloquently set out by Tim O’Reilly) and the traditions in Higher Ed. While web 2.0 development is about perpetual beta, quick, lightweight assembly, the traditions of higher education are founded in research and liberalism. This means their software methodology tends to be rigorous (from the research background) and highly consultative (from the liberal history). So if you look at any documentation on say, acquiring or developing a VLE, they are the outcome of very thorough processes that usually…

  • Web/Tech

    Software – more is not always better

    Spent a frustrating day creating the images for my book today. Now up front I have to own up to the artistic level of your average 9 year old. Struggling with Corel Draw reminded me of the old days of trying to get the bloody thing to do what you want. I have become accustomed to easy to use software, which does one or two things simply, that I tend not to encounter these very specialist packages any more. What I wanted to do was create some fairly simple diagrams, but for instance, drawing a normal distribution curve that wasn’t skewed, bumpy or in some way deformed proved to be…

  • Spurs

    The anti glory game

    As a Spurs fan, last night’s Arsenal-Barca cup final is a strange affair to watch. If Arsenal were playing a team I was familiar with, for example, Liverpool, I could easily switch allegiance and become a rabid red for the night. But football is so much a game of emotion, and I find this negative support (I’ll support you because I don’t like them – not dissimilar to the US foreign policy now I think of it), difficult to maintain. So no matter how hard I tried I wasn’t really willing Barca to score. But I know in the long term I definitely don’t want Arsenal to win (I’d never…

  • Web/Tech

    Technology works sometimes

    Spent a frustrating afternoon trying to set up a webcam link with the OU. As a homeworker I would really like to be able to come in to meetings easily via webcam. It still amazes how difficult this stuff can be for organisations sometimes. It was a firewall/port issue apparently when using Netmeeting. We can get through with lighter clients such as Flash meeting, but the feed is small. Equally, I’m always amazed when technology just works. I tried Skype about eighteen months ago as part of a European project and it struggled with three way conversations. I used it again last week for one of these and it was…

  • PLE,  VLE

    Institution vs individual environments

    Have just completed writing for a course on eportfolios. I remain a bit sceptical on these, at times they seem little more than a set of prepared fields for web publishing. In terms of academic practice they can be seen as part of a general shift from the institution to the individual. Along with blogs, social bookmarks, individual portals, etc the emphasis is less on providing students with all their ICT requirements and rather on incorporating their existing tool set into the institution. This viewpoint sees its apotheosis with the Personal Learning Environment (CETIS PLE Project). Now if I had doubts about eportfolios, they are nothing compared to the ones…

  • portal,  VLE


    I had a good Skype chat today with two academics in the Netherlands who are interested in the Open University’s Open Content project. During the discussion one of them pointed me at Netvibes. This is great, it’s an individual portal tool. What I really like about it is the way it blends tools and information feeds. This is what web 2.0 is all about! It also takes us one step closer to a really service oriented approach to VLEs. In this future the VLE ceases to exist, and one can view it as simply a portal to a set of tools, which may be provided by the institution or the…

  • VLE

    VLE workshop

    I gave a presentation today at the VLE workshop at the OU. It went quite well, I tried to cover a range of general issues, while others talked more specifically about our implementation of Moodle. I used it to put forward several ideas in my upcoming book, particularly the idea of succession and VLE 2.0 (ie what would a web 2.0 VLE be like?). Download VLE_presentation.ppt presentation