My thoughts from the Open Source eLearning Network Event

Being my first eln event I was quite skeptical about what to expect.  Over the past couple years I’ve attended eLearning exhibitions such as Learning Technologies and pub meetups with the weelearning clan so it was good to spend some more time with fellow professionals who also understand the complexities and challenges we face in the learning technology world. There were around 40 of us in a church style builidng with a meeting/training room. A very different kind of venue but the studios out the back seemed to be buzzing with activity with a nice court yard and music playing outside.

After a well needed wake up cuppa we were introduced to the topic of the day, Open Source software.  I’m not new to Open Source developments and a keen advocate of wordpress and Moodle but was interested in hearing more about peoples thoughts and experiences of using the various software.  For those who don’t know, open source is software that is built and maintained by a community, rather that one supplier.  Companies are able to download releases of this and host it themselves, or with a dedicated supplier (which they can chose from many).  One of the many advantages of it are that because you have access to the code, you are able to effectively do what with it as you please, so if you don’t like something, change it. No waiting for your software supplier to provide an update or paying lots of money to have it implemented when their time schedule allows it. All this sounds well and good, but what about the support? With all of the big players, i.e. WordPress, Joomla and Moodle to name a few, there are communities of dedicated individuals oline who will happily help develop features, plugins and release it back into the community. For more features of open source, see this great video from Doug Belshaw.

So back to the day in hand, Mark Aberdour from Epic introduced us to some popular Open Source software ranging from CamStudio for capturing your screen to Moodle, a full blown LMS mainly used in the educational sector.  His slides are shared on SlideShare.  One I want to check out is using Sigil & Calibre to author eBooks – could be a great option for our iPad based learning. BigBlueButton also looks promising as a virtual classroom tool. Adobe Photoshop alternative GIMP was also featured – although i’m dubious of what the mask tool looks like in that…

Next was Barry from Onlignment giving us a great run down of using Open Source LMS’s.  Barry provided a lot of personal experience of consulting on projects and emphasising on gathering requirements and ensuring these match with the clients needs. This was closely followed with a Q&A session with the panel.

After lunch we had a brief demo from Julian Tenney, from the University of Nottingham, of their elearning authoring tool called Xerte. Although mainly used in the educational sector I feel it certainly has legs in the corporate sector. Especially being able to use css to change the look and feel, corporate clients are a lot more wary of this.  There are certainly a lot of components that can be used to allow the educator to get their message across in an engaging manner. A new template based on the bootstrap theme also allow output to be responsive – will be interesting to see how Kineos new project matches this! The rest of the day was left to play with the tools, chat to fellow professionals and ask questions to the panel.

All in all a good day and looking forward to making some Mozilla Popcorn!

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