This blog post relates to my study of Open Educational Resources as part of my Emerging Technologies for Learning Program of study at the University of Manitoba. Questions for this week in my course are:
How familiar are you with these [Audacity, GIMP, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, Blogger, Open Office, Google Docs, Blender, and so on] tools? How can you use them to create and develop content for use in your own institution? What personal or general perceptions characterize your use of “free” open source applications in your institution for teaching, learning or working purposes (whichever applies)?
Not surprisingly, given my IT background, I have been using open-source software for all sorts of applications for many years. At one stage, I designed, built and managed an 86-node supercomputing facility using nothing but open source software, thus maximising investment in providing the highest capacity computer hardware. A similar approach to maximising the efficient use of funds, as described by Stu. I have used many of the software products described in the OER Handbook.
Most of the software that I use today for content creation is provided online as a service. Software for creation and publishing has converged to the extent that they are often one and the same. Googledocs, is a classic example of this and is something that I frequently use. It’s desktop publishing functionality is quite poor (try nicely formatting a Googledoc – blah), however its collaborative writing capabilities are very innovative. Watching a co-author’s cursor skirt about the same document you are writing, and watching them type was such a buzz the first time I saw it. Your document can be published at any stage of its development, and can continue to evolve after it’s been published. Skills required to use googledocs stray little from those to use a typical word processor such as MS-Word. I tend to only use MS-Word when I need to professionally format my final document, usually for hardcopy production. This is becoming less and less common.
I also mention Googledocs specifically because my institution has adopted Google Apps for Education – a suite of hosted services from Google including Gmail, Googledocs, Google Sites and so on, specifically for educational institutions. One of the marketing points for this service is that it is free for the institution, and the accounts provided to students are free for life, even after they graduate. They keep their email address too. I see such promise in the use of these creation/publication products. But alas, I think they have been underutilised since their introduction at my institution. Reasons vary, but one is that there is little integration of the google apps into our existing online systems, and in particular Moodle. Simple things like the ability to automatically create and share an empty googledoc based on groups of students within a Moodle course – the simple no fuss beginnings of a group-essay. When marking, you can also see the contributions of each group-member to the document through the revision history.
Yes, like many Universities in Australia and New Zealand, our institution is using Moodle as our Learning Management System. Moodle is an open-source product and we have customised our installation enhancing its capabilities, integrating it with other aspects of our organisation, and adapting its functionality to our own operational needs. Not always easy to do with a proprietary system. The use of this open-source software however does very little for the OER movement, because all our course content is locked behind a username and password.
Moodle at our institution is generally understood to be the central learning technology for our students. There are a handful of academics who venture outside the walls of Moodle and use alternate technologies, but they do so at their own risk, and without the institutional support of the IT department. Even the use of youtube is discouraged in favour of an internally written video uploader in Moodle, on the grounds of tracking metadata of the content. This video uploader is only a recent addition to Moodle.
So exposure to software well suited to the creation of OERs is limited in my context.