A Learning System: At What Cost?

I recently read Chris Betcher’s blog about his moodle course Becoming a Moodle Dude that he is taking to become familiar with his extensive Moodle installation in his new school. I have been a big fan of the use of this system even before having lunch with and a good chat to Martin Dougiamas, moodle’s creator at a conference around 3-4 years ago. I have also looked, though not as extensively, at drupal.

I have to say that what amazes me is the effort that schools are going to with the creation of “unique” systems when there are a lot on the market that do what is necessary and offer support and customisation at a fraction of the price schools are spending on support and staffing, not to mention teachers time.

I recently listened to a podcast Shifting Our Schools episode 6: How to expand the learning community to the parents? discussing the work that  Justin Hardman has done in setting up a unique LMS for a Hong Kong school. There seem to be so many schools here working flat out to set up their own systems at great resource cost. They about with names that try to be unique to the school name or logo to try to give them identity. In essance I have not heard or seen one that does anything vastly different to any of the others. Also in this day of the ubiquitous Web2.0 tools and their integration onto school portals as referred to here by another member of the podcast team, How to Expand the Learning Community to the Parents?, I really can’t see why schools should not save their money and collaborate with a local team to get 90% of the commonality and then customise the rest.

I heard the ultimate story on the grapevine about one HK International School who invested heavily in a customisation of a moodle installation by an expat who was found to not have a HK visa allowing for this work to be done. He is apparently banned from HK for 2 years and the school is back to square one with their system.

Strange days indeed!

Picture  LMS brainstorm

2 thoughts on “A Learning System: At What Cost?

  1. I agree there are some great open-source systems that schools can us and what I think we’re all trying to do is create a system that does it all and at the same time allows our users to have a single-sign on solution. Different schools go about this in different ways. Here at SAS we plan on using Drupal as our framework. Within that we will run Moodle and WordPress MU. But before we can do that we will implement Power School as an administrative system so that we can use the database to create a single-sign on solution.

    Now that being said, we still won’t have what HKIS has built. With an in house YouTube and Flickr type site as well as embedded curriculum mapping. At some point schools end up getting deep into the customization process. Some schools like SAS start with Drupal and Moodle as a framework. Other schools start from scratch and build their own. Is there a right or wrong way? I don’t think so. Each school wants their system to do different things in different ways and I think we’ll continue to see schools go about creating these systems to fit their needs.

    What worries me…is not the schools that are trying to create these systems. It’s the schools that haven’t even started the conversations yet….oy

    Thanks for the conversation!

  2. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for continuing the discussion. I didn’t know that any other schools were building their own in-house VLEs. Would you mind posting to my blog the names of the schools as I would like to bring them into the discussion and hear about their experiences. I bet Justin would like to share ideas with them as well.

    I know that schools are using the open source alternatives to Blackboard but have you run across a curriculum mapping alternative to Rubicon? As for schools purchasing the off the shelf Blackboard and Rubicon choices, I think it is worth looking into how well they customize and work to meet the client’s needs.

    I know you all are having a tech conference there soon in HK so it will be a good time to talk about this topic. Look for David Navis and Gwynne Jones from HKIS as well to share their thoughts. Cheers.

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