Monday, September 17

Edu2.0 - Free Hosted LMS (or VLE)

Home: http://www.edu20.org/
Tour: http://www.edu20.org/company/tour
Features: http://www.edu20.org/company/features

WHAT?
edu 2.0, meaning 'Next Generation Education'. This is a Free web-based education site with a comprehensive set of features for teachers, students and parents. Now, anyone can teach and/or learn using the system, whether it's at school (College or University), at home, or on the move.

Will edu 2.0 remain FREE? Yes. In addition, they will not add advertising.

DIFFERENCE?
There are several important differences (from tools such as Moodle and Blackboard). First of all, their system is web-hosted and free; you don't have to download any software or manage your own servers. Second, their Resources section allows you to graphically browse thousands of community-contributed resources by topic; you can even upload your own resources and they will host them for you. Third, their unique personalized learning system allows students to study at their own pace and track their progress against a chosen curriculum. Finally, their Community section allows teachers and students to network and collaborate with other members that share the same educational interests.

MISSION?
Make teaching and learning more efficient and enjoyable.

FEATURES?
A selection of the juiciest ones (Features List):
  • Comprehensive, easy to use learning management system.
  • Teach traditional classes or public classes on the Internet.
  • Integrated calendar shows class times and assignments.
  • Close or open enrollment at any time.
  • Attendance tracking.
  • Several assignment types - online quiz, online freeform and offline.
  • Quiz each topic in the curriculum and track your progress.
  • Advance to the next level in each topic as you master it.
  • Use secure forums and chat rooms to network and collaborate with members with similar educational interests.
  • Subscribe for notification when new resources are added for a particular subject.
  • Easy-to-use grade book with graphical reports.

RESOURCES?

edu 2.0's library has currently 10,000+ educational resources contributed by its existing community. Interestingly, it targets to add at least 50,000 more resources by 2007 year end.

If it targets more intensively Higher education and links up/communicates with all the existing open educational resources (or painfully adds manually to its resource repository), I am sure this target could perhaps even reach 500,000 by year end (a few OCW/OER repositories can be accessed from this blog. Explore again!). Yes, if it embeds the future open education search initiated by Hewlett Foundation with the assistance of Google, it would simply be dizzyingly juicy.

ROADMAP?
Juicy ones (Full List):
  • Surveys for quick online polls
  • Webconferencing
  • Integration with mobile phones
  • SCORM 2004 3rd edition support
  • Ability to brand your home page according to your organization/preferences
  • Supercool features they don't want to reveal yet

MASTERMIND?
Founded in 2006 by Graham Glass. Graham is a serial entrepreneur and winner of the 1996 Entrepreneur of the Year award.

REFLECTION TIME?
Even if you do not want to sign-up (and explore), you can still enjoy the resource collection (available to public). Currently, there are close to 1800 members in the community (surely to grow), so you won't feel lonely here. I suppose it does not have the growth pattern of FaceBook, but then again it is not always about big numbers (Quality counts, too!). Interestingly, you get points for every resource you share, so that might also boost or trigger members to share more (Yeah, I have already got 5 points for linking the community to this blog!). Though, edu 2.0 seems a bit confusing to manage and learn (with all those juicy tools), especially for users that are not so IT-savvy (They might prefer a tool like LectureShare, which would be easier to learn). Also, I felt that you are perhaps required to click more than necessary sometimes to get what you want (Simple navigation rule: Less clicks, more joy!).

I would have thought that Google, Yahoo or MSN would get the ball rolling first, with a free hosted LMS. Yes, I did predict in my mumblings (December 2005) that Google would perhaps buy Moodle (or host it for free) and enable anyone in the world to conduct online courses for free. But then again, sometimes you need an Entrepreneur like Graham Glass to facilitate or lead the Free Hosted LMS (VLE, LCMS, or whatever!) revolution (Please do not forget LectureShare, too!).

In the final (surface) analysis, I believe that this is simply the beginning of a new era (much thanks to initiatives like edu 2.0), where in the future Google, Yahoo and MSN will join the bandwagon, battling out to show to the world that they care about providing everyone with online teaching and learning tools to educate the world (it would certainly boost their image and branding, too!). Of course, these three giants are already providing users with whole list of dynamic learning tools (such as this blogging tool!), but a comprehensive, integrated, and easy-to-use Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or LMS would not hurt either!

As for those Schools, Colleges or Universities (or Educators) that can't afford an LMS, hardware infrastructure, hosting services, and IT expertise, it will simply be liberating (Hmm, on the condition that their students (or staff) have easy access to a computer device and the Internet).

Finally, let's for one moment celebrate, promote and engage in great initiatives like edu 2.0, which can make a major contribution to the world of free online education.

If we look into the future (say 5 years!), what do you think the online learning environment for 'Higher Education' would look like? Anyone got any ideas or thoughts to share? (e.g. Will Virtual worlds take over?) :)

2 comments:

Graham said...

Hi Zaid,

Thanks for your review of edu 2.0!

You made some insightful remarks re: the future of learning that I agree with.

And you're right about the number of great resources out there; we're aiming at indexing much higher numbers of resources now, perhaps even reaching your figure of 500,000.

One of the most important long-term differentiators for edu 2.0 is our work on personalized self-paced learning. We describe the current state of this work in the "learn" section of our guided tour.

http://www.edu20.org/company/tour

Also, we've announced on our community forum that we're working on a virtual world that will integrate into our site and allow students to learn in a fun and self-directed way.

Last but not least, we're always looking for ways to make our site simpler to use. Please let us know which features you felt took too many clicks and we'll try and streamline things more!

Cheers,
Graham Glass

Zaid Ali Alsagoff said...

Dear Graham Glass,

Thanks for your quick reply. Highly appreciated!

As for the too many clicks issue, is something I felt without actually referring to a particular feature. However, as I have been using Moodle for over 2 years, I have come to realize one of the reasons why it is often loved more than Blackboard and other LMS. The key is that the features ( e.g. messages, lessons, blogs, wikis, resources, quizzes, etc) in a course are not compartmentalized (although you can view it like that if you need. blocks.), meaning that all are jumbled together according to the lecturer's course structure (or course outline) on one webpage (getting a feel of the course, and less clicks to easily access key resources). In short, it looks like a simple webpage or a course plan (in HTML format with dynamic links decorated with some customized cool text, images or Flash animations, if any). Amazingly, such simple all-in-one-webpage courses, often appeals to less IT-Savvy users (The Magic of simplicity or some might argue old school thinking!), as they can see all the stuff they really needed. In addition, the Dashboard helps you see at a Macro-level all your courses updates. One might argue from a ID point-of-view to chunk stuff according to category (or type of resources), but strangly from my experience, people often prefer a bit of information overload if it cuts down on unecessary clicks, and provides quick-overview (a bit like a mindmap) and quick access.

However, I like what edu2.0 has done until now, but it could solve this issue by providing customizable templates, enabling users to view courses the way they would prefer to (personalized learning preferences in terms of interface design, too). If this is already there, I apologize for my ignorance. Tabs are great, but a column or two of blocks would also be great (optional feature).

Ok, I will stop here, but I hope my reflections might provide some new insights :)

Again, congratulations!

Warm Regards & Cheers!

Zaid