While a collective reflection on what a language lab should look like can be delayed for some contemplation to complete, I would like to share an experimental learning management system (LMS) I just created using WordPress. You can log on to this system below:
password: matters (this is not going to work anyway, just read on the article)
What I have simply done is that I have installed WordPress somewhere on the web. It literally takes a couple of minutes and a few clicks. I changed the theme and installed a newer LMS plugin called LearnPress. A year ago I was experimenting with WordPress to create an LMS for myself from where I could manage my lessons. So I am kind of familiar with various types of LMS plugins. Honestly speaking, I find this learnPress plugin quite awesome. It is quite new and open source. It also has a premium version with added features. You can read about it here.
Anyhow, what I got as a result is a really nice looking sample course written by the developer of the plugin. This sample course can also be viewed online now. It looks nice!
What it does is that it teaches a user how to use this plugin, which I think is also nice. The plugin can be integrated with other plugins in WordPress, such as Buddy-press and bbPress to create somewhat of a social network in which people can signup (using a social login tool) and take courses. Creating courses in it is also very simple.
A few words about Moodle are also in order here as it is a much celebrated CMS for creating LMSs. One thing that can be scary about Moodle is that it can be difficult to use. But that is the headache of the manager of the LMS. He also offered to give a presentation about this to us, which could be quite handy. Using it by instructors is a totally different thing and I have a feeling that the already developed web-interface is quite user friendly.
Having said this, there exist a handful of plugins for WordPress that can be used to import courses (into WordPress) from a Moodle based LMS. So this could be quite handy. WordPress is definitely child’s play. It does not assume any technical exposure on the part of the user, whatsoever. All a user has to do is to deploy a website and install all the relevant plugins and get going with what he wants to do with the website. It can be quite fun and even addictive at times.
A few word about today’s presentation are in order. As a matter of fact, I was not really impressed by the software that was displayed today in the lab. My apologies for that! But I have a feeling that the rest of the people who attended the presentation also have the same feeling. Or at least the people I talked to have the same feeling. But a rational commentary on this should be provided. A few thoughts are as follows.
The thing is that what the software offers to be able to do can be accomplished with a minimum installation of the WordPress easily for free. I would suggest logging in to the experimental WordPress setup discussed above and see. Login details are reiterated as follows.
username: Don’t Worry
password: About this
The other feature that was talked much about was the remote desktop feature of the software. This can be accomplished easily by something like team viewer. I wonder, however, that what is the real benefit of controlling the desktop of the student.
There was apparently nothing about the kind of content they would upload on the students. All of that is left to the user (teacher perhaps). And this is where we can say that we don’t need that either. We can always leverage from the services of more seasoned professionals in the field of education to help us create content that would be useful. As a matter of fact, the need for developing content ourselves presents to us a window of opportunity as well. We can give it away as research problems to students to figure out and see what sort of content is more suitable for people to learn. The idea is that as the researchers in question develop the content and content management strategies for this LMS, they will benefit the system, on one hand, and, on the other hand, they can complete their studies as well. I personally think that a few PhD problems in the field of education that have significant inter-marriage with other domains such as statistics (to develop and evaluate surveys etc.) and psychology (or neuroscience) can be coined. This can lead to significant achievements. Having said that, I hope that I have conveyed my ideas in this paragraph pretty well. Otherwise, what I can do is that I can write specific articles (if not proposals) about my thoughts on this separately, should there be a need.
Another thing that I want to mention is the hardware paraphernalia that our guest was holding with her in a box. That was actually meant to boost up the processing of the system, while controlling all the desktops simultaneously, in a way that our own Ethernet cables would not be overwhelmed with network traffic. This sounds like a brilliant thing. However, and as I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, that it would be really nice of all of us if we installed Ubuntu cloud in our labs. Ubuntu cloud is an open source cloud OS. Being open source means that it is free and also that it is maintained by a huge community of open source developers world wide. Having a cloud based IT infrastructure would simply boost our computing abilities manifold. This will also be extremely beneficial to us while undertaking complicated research problems, as some problems are simply difficult to crack because they require huge computational resources. A cloud will definitely benefit us in many ways. Moreover, it is absolutely free and totally world-class. Many well known universities around the world like Oxford and UC Berkeley have now based their IT infrastructure on Ubuntu cloud.
One last thing is that the software that was shown to us today might begin to look quite old fashioned a few years latter. It is needless to say that it already gave similar looks. This will be more apparent in the wake of open source platforms such as WordPress and Moodle taking fast strides solely due to the fact that they are backed up by huge communities of open source developers and a commitment to open source philosophy. The software also had a very limited functionality that can be achieved in fifteen minutes using WordPress. WordPress offers a lot more than that for free though.
So this is pretty much all what I had to say about this. There is of course a great deal of confirmation bias from which I suffer about this venture. But I don’t think that I suffer from this confirmation bias irrationally. I suppose I have reason to believe in what I have suggested. Someone else may totally want to differ from me. That would be quite surprising though.
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