By Tabitha Richards, Director of K-20 Account Management Team
“If Moodle is free, what am I paying for? This question is asked by organizations new to Moodle and the open source concept, as well as by organizations already using and supporting Moodle internally. This question arises when people don’t understand the true value-added dimension of working with an official Moodle partner, such as Remote-Learner. When working with Remote-Learner, client’s fees cover things like the hardware, support, and other services we provide for the product itself. These are all costs that you, as an organization, would incur internally should you elect to self-host Moodle. We honor anyone brave enough to self-host, of course. We also believe it’s important to emphasize why having a partner like us is a better idea.
Additional benefits of working with Remote-Learner as your official Moodle Partner:
- Dedicated Infrastructure-- designed and tested to specifically support the Moodle application with a guaranteed uptime of 99.9%.
- Dedicated support staff-- available for unlimited, Moodle technical support through our portal system. (Really! We have staff who do nothing but work on Moodle and Moodle- related issues all day…, and every day.) Most organizations don’t have the funding to do this kind of support with their own staff. (If hosting Moodle internally, you will have to find all the answers on your own... both to general technical questions, and to Moodle functionality questions.)
- Although Remote-Learner has partnerships with a few other products, we primarily do Moodle. This intense focus provides a level of expertise which most organizations cannot afford to duplicate in-house.
- Remote-Learner employs a number of developers and technical staff who have been working with Moodle from as far back as Moodle 1.2. This longevity with the product means they have a tremendous knowledge of the product and its nuances. (Even if your organization elects to self-host Moodle, your staff’s knowledge of Moodle and its nuances will most likely be limited.)
- We have a number of developers who write plug-ins and contribute regularly to the core Moodle code. As a Moodle partner with contributions, we are often one of the first entities to know about bug fixes and security patches. We have an inside track, so to speak. (Self-hosting organizations do not have such connections.)
- What about hardware? Well, in a day and age when technology changes at such a rapid pace, working with an official Moodle partner means you do not have to worry about keeping an annual “refresh technology” line item in your budget. Remote-Learner keeps such technologies in place, though. We know and regularly upgrade hardware required for Moodle’s optimum performance. (We aren’t sure whether our self-hosting friends even consider this as important, of course. But if you’re still wondering about your own needs, do you want to have to deal with this every year, or more frequently?)
- Cost? Yes, there is an up-front cost to working with a dedicated partner, and we believe these costs are more than offset by the choice to bring hosting costs internally within your organization. How many people will need to be involved in your hardware and staffing maintenance needs, and assuming you can cover that, can you match the level of expertise we can bring to the table?
The bottom line is simple:
As Moodle becomes a more and more important part of academic and corporate training efforts, it is equally important to have a complete system that works well and works consistently. While there will always be issues to troubleshoot from time to time, there’s only one way that you can rest assured that you’re in a safe zone.
That is, only IF you have a highly-knowledgeable team of Moodle experts working on your site, a team that’s both available and committed to resolve issues as quickly as possible. This is what allows you the freedom to focus on the more important academic and training issues you really want to focus on.
This is the value-added dimension of an official Moodle partner, like Remote-Learner.
By Audra Wisner, Corporate & Government Account Manager
Many of our clients have been using the same LMS for years and years. Sometimes, they come to understand that what they have been using is no longer delivering what they need. But for them, the thought of change is just too much to bear. (“The work, the glitches, the headache. Agh! It’s just too much!”) I’d like to propose another perspective on change: Even though the thought of change hurts, try not to be scared or stressed out. With the right implementation strategy, all will be just fine.
I recently attended the Midwest Moot at Northern Illinois University and sat through a session on this very topic, with a very prestigious university speaking about their experience when switching from one LMS to another. The switch for this university was a major undertaking. They had to decide whether to migrate or rebuild; they needed training for over 300 faculty members, and the training and changes had to occur with no downtime for the students. (Oh, and did I mention they had only 6 months to complete this major transition?) Some might say they endured short term pain for long-term gain by facing this massive change head-on.
They built their strategy around three words, and ultimately ended up with a successful implementation:
Once you have decided to take the leap and switch your LMS, create the plan. Here’s a very brief suggestion checklist that may help get you started.
1. Put together your project team. Who will be responsible for training, communicating, moving content, and holding the hands of those creating or recreating course content?
2. Determine the best way for training to be delivered. Do you need multiple formats? Or will you make it all self-paced? Who will deliver it--someone from your institution, or
someone from the new LMS platform?
3. Communicate with all of the stakeholders. Let them know all the critical timelines, and make sure they understand when training is being offered. Especially, do tell them the date that they will no longer have access to the old LMS.
4. Consider how to handle existing content. Here, it seems, is where the most concerns arise. Will it be best to migrate all or some of the content? Or will it be best to start from cratch, leaving everything that’s gone before to posterity?
Additional items to consider:
- Content Shelf Life How old is the content? How “fresh will the instructors and trainers be to create brand new content? (In academic settings, at semesters’ ending and beginning are definitely out of the question.) Decide as a team when the content changes should occur. During the coming months while the transition is in motion, you don’t want your SMEs to burn out.
- Copyright Issues Since the course materials were first created, have any of the items had changes in permissions? And most importantly, will the same [old] content work in the new system in its present form Depending on the original place and method of publication, and the updated copyright’s fine print, it may be necessary to do something radical, like starting over. (The advice from the university at the Moot? (“REBUILD.”)
5. Be patient. Be prepared to have to hold some faculty and staff members’ hands. Be encouraging, keeping everyone focused on the better LMS that everyone will benefit from. (Of course, many people will persist in believing that, if they just avoid “signing up” and getting involved in creating something new, nothing will change…, or it least, it doesn’t have to.) Be resolved, but gently so. With a little hand holding, more people will end up much happier.
Change is never easy, especially in the beginning. In fact, sometimes it’s just downright painful all the way through, and through and through. But with proper planning, communication, and patience, change be achieved in a smooth and successful way.
In times like these, Remote-Learner is here to help you. Why not let one of our expert Account Manager’s sit and chat with you about your needs, then we can help you put together a solid implementation strategy? Visit our webpage and give us a call so we can help get your change game on.
Waynesboro, Virginia - November, 18 2013- Remote-Learner is pleased to announce Martin Dougiamas, the founder and lead developer of the Moodle project, has accepted our invitation to join our Board of Directors. Martin will serve as an independent, outside director.
"I'm very honoured to be invited to have a voice on the board of Remote-Learner, one of the largest Moodle Partners in the world and one that has been critical to the success of Moodle." said Dougiamas.
“As a leading independent Moodle partner, our relationship with Martin and the Moodle community is critical to our success. I’m pleased he accepted our invitation to join the board as an outside director, and I welcome his perspective as a leading open source advocate and developer. Martin’s voice on the board will help us stay aligned with the Moodle community.” said Jason Cole, Remote-Learner CEO.
Chairman Bryan Williams stated, “The Board is very pleased that Martin has accepted this role as one of the people guiding Remote-Learner’s strategic direction. ”
Martin Dougiamas is best known as the founder of Moodle, the popular free course management system used by millions of teachers around the world.
As the executive director of Moodle Pty Ltd in Perth, Western Australia, he leads the team of software developers at the heart of the Moodle project and the global network of more than 50 Moodle Partner service companies that help provide funding for this independent open source software project.
Martin has a mixed academic background with post-graduate degrees in Computer Science and Education, and continues to focus on researching how educators approach internet-based education. His major goal for the future is to improve the quality of education by encouraging social constructionist and collaborative practices within online learning communities.
By Paul Taylor
The venue for this year’s Kaltura Connect 2013 was the Chelsea Pier, more specifically Pier 60, on the banks of the Hudson in mid Manhattan. It was an excellent venue and you could feel the history of the place and imagine the tall ships and cargo vessels docking there in days gone by with their various produce from around the world. The clippers are long since replaced with luxury liners, but standing outside the venue and looking across the Hudson and hearing the gentle lap of the waves on the underside of the pier still conjured up some magic. For my part, I was staying nearby in a hotel called the Jane Hotel. The room I had was cozy even for my hobbit like stature, but was built around a nautical theme, keeping with the location, and was (I was reliably informed by my taxi driver) one of the key venues to house survivors of the Titanic disaster in 1912, as well as other returning sailors. Being a keen home brewer it was also nice to see the Chelsea Brewing Company next door at Pier 59.
The conference itself was a two day affair and followed a basic pattern of a morning of inspirational keynotes, followed by afternoon sessions from various practitioners and Kaltura staff. The sessions were divided up into three tracks: Products and Technology; Achieving Your Goals with Video; and Unique Content and Use Cases that Drive Video Experiences. As you would expect, the central theme was the increasing importance of video to the learning and training experience, and this was, for me at least, amply illustrated by the keynote from Scott Chambers, the SVP of Worldwide Media Distribution for the Sesame Street Workshop. Scott presented some facts about the success of Sesame Street over the past 44 years and in particular that they had data to support the power of their shows with Sesame Street children achieving 16% higher scores on standard tests, and 40% better results on social skills. He also showed that they still have a long way to go with 3/10 children still not being properly equipped with the skills they need when they arrive at school. The keynote from Kaltura’s CEO Ron Yekutiel was also very powerful. Ron showed some statistics that 32% of education was now conducted on-line and that by 2017, over 90% of information will be “consumed” as video and 66% will be on mobile platforms. This obviously has a huge impact on education and for us as Moodle Partners.
I attended as many sessions as I could and my main interest was how the development of Kaltura would affect the use and deployment of Moodle, since Remote-Learner are the developers and maintainers of the integration, and how the integration was being used by some of our clients and other organizations. The key development moving forward was the implementation of the Kaltura Application Framework (KAF). The purpose of the KAF was to allow more consistent integrations across all the platforms that Kaltura integrates with and, as I understood it, to make it easier to add improvements from the Kaltura side regardless of the front end (in my case Moodle). The interesting part of the KAF, was the use of the LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) functionality. The use of this plugin means that regardless of the updates and changes on the Moodle side, the latest and greatest developments from the Kaltura side would always be available. Some of these developments were highlighted in a technical presentation. The KAF integration will allow the embedding of a MediaSpace type interface, complete with bootstrap responsive elements, into a Moodle instance. The framework means that users can use the tools of Kaltura, such as video embed and tagging, screen records, galleries etc with a really easy to use interface. This also means that any developments on their roadmap, such as the ability to collaborate on video content, shared repositories, channel based analytics and searches, a PowerPoint sync widget and chaptering of content will be instantly available to Moodle users without any further changes to the plugin. The LTI integration also means a better interface to the gradebook as there are plans to build in a in-video quiz element and survey tools.
In addition to the technical presentations, there were some really inspiring use cases presented from various organizations. There was a good presentation from Columbia University where they had extensive data about the use of video content and the “magic four and a half minutes”. It seems that that is the average watch length of any video content so should be a target for all video creation. They talked about how effective video had become for the entire life cycle of their process, from giving students videos about their staff and the experience they will have, through the actual education and on to alumni giving feedback for marketing purposes. There was a good presentation from New York University which showed that the video analytics features were now giving them deep data about students and this was improving overall performance by as much as 20%. Students were also voting with their eyes and attending courses which were much more media rich which shows the power of presentation and the importance of good practice in the media age. This is an important take away for good course creation on any LMS. In light of this, there was a good presentation from Houston Community Colleges showing their system using Moodle, Kaltura, Plone and other open Source systems was driving their 70,000 student’s experience forward in a positive way and staff were becoming increasingly competent and confident with the use of video for teaching and learning. They were keen advocates of the assignment functionality of the Moodle-Kaltura plugin.
All in all this was a great conference with some really inspiring presentations and speeches showing that the open source community is alive and well and it was good to see Moodle deep in the heart of this movement. I had some great talks with Moodle users and the Kaltura team about the next phases and developments and am looking forward to seeing the new KAF based Moodle plugin for Kaltura we are developing and seeing how this has been used effectively at next year’s Kaltura Connect.
If you would like to know about the Kaltura Video solutions for Moodle contact us today for a free consultation.
Building professional credentials in the 21st Century is both different and fun!
Badges--as they're called--are the newest open-source trend to help professionals better define themselves and their composite skill sets. Adding greater internet presence to the bearer and issuer alike, badges bring heightened visibility and credibility to professionals everywhere, no matter the industry.
You might say badges are becoming the new social panacea intended to offset every small and great skill or accomplishment that can get lost or go unnoticed if you're still using the traditional resume all by itself.
Figure 1: How Open Source Badges Work
Fast Facts And Questions About Badges
Q: Who can earn a badge?
Q: Who can design and promote a badge?
Q: Why should professionals be interested in badges if just anyone can create and earn them?
A: Because not all badges are created, issued, or worn equally.
One Badge Size Does NOT Fit All
True, badges can be designed and offered by any individual, company, or entity, but not all badges are the same. Certain "designer" badges carry more weight (and more clout for the bearer) than others do. Not every badge is validated, but when they're pre-vetted and pass the litmus test of Mozilla's standards, you can count on their weight and worth. Here's a growing list of issuers, just to give you an idea.
A word to the skeptics (who also still doubt the legitimacy of Wikipedia): Credentialling mechanisms of each badge are "baked in" and link back to the issuer. The footprint and breadcrumb trail behind each badge's design tell a richer story than a resume alone. So before you miss something important about that student or that potential new-hire who's talking about all those badges in his backpack, look closer. You just might have a genius on your hands. It's just good business to check out people and their badges.
What's Moodle Doing With Badges?
If you didn't already know, some of the new features of Moodle 2.5 can help you start earning badges too. Whether your'e a teacher/trainer or a student, or even an administrator, you could earn a Moodle badge too.
Not a Moodle user yet? Not a problem.
Click here to register and attend our free webinar designed to introduce you to the basics of Moodle. After viewing the webinar, contact us directly. We can have you earning badges and using Moodle in no time at all!
BACKGROUND A self-taught programmer and systems architect with formal studies in Sociology and Mass Media, Martin Langhoff began his work on open-source (OS) projects in the days of multimedia CD-ROMs and the early Internet.
OPEN-SOURCE DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCE Martin’s work with private sector, education, and government customers matured into a career of architecting complex systems for e-government projects such as national election backends. The tools of choice were OS languages and engines running on Linux, even at a time when skepticism and uncertainty about OS were still prevalent.
MOODLE DEVELOPMENT & CONTRIBUTIONS While residing in New Zealand, Langhoff took on a project to find the best open source LMS in existence to develop and deploy for a consortium of local universities. Moodle was the clear winner, and Martin put together a small team that reworked Moodle internally for greater scalability and high performance. This effort spanned Moodle versions 1.4 to 1.9, with each version reaching major milestones, such as the roles-system rewrite that enabled Moodle to work on an unprecedented scale. In that process, Martin Langhoff and his team members found themselves being early users of the GIT version control software, and quite naturally, working with Linus Torvalds on important enhancements and extensions. Using GIT for Moodle programming allowed the New Zealand team to develop and deploy faster and more efficiently; their work predated the Moodle.org switch to Moodle by several years.
OPERATING SYSTEMS, HARDWARE AND FOCUS ON LEARNING As School Server Architect and later CTO at One Laptop per Child (OLPC), Martin continued his focus on technology for learning and education. His responsibilities spanned architecting, managing, and executing on hardware, operating systems, and production. With Langhoff’s leadership in place, his direct involvement in all aspects of operating system customization and central work on hardware planning and design, the OLPC project delivered several product cycles, including the acclaimed XO-4 Touch laptop.
REMOTE-LEARNER’s VP OF PRODUCTS AND PLATFORMS Today, Martin Langhoff returns to the Moodle world, bringing his renowned expertise in debugging, programming, and architecture. His continued contributions to the field have secured his place among Remote-Learner’s impressive leadership team. As Remote-Learner’s VP of Products and Platforms, Langhoff will harness his understanding of the hardware and software stack to consolidate and fine-tune the Remote-Learner platform to integrate and deliver complex products that better address customer needs. Langhoff will also accompany Remote-Learner on the road by making appearances at eLearning and training conferences, delivering keynotes and training as needed or requested by the Moodle community at large. Remote-Learner will also tap into Langhoff’s thought-leadership and diverse experience to provide consulting for projects, products, and strategic initiatives.
We trust that our readers will be pleased that Martin Langhoff is now a part of the Remote-Learner family and leadership team.
Waynesboro, Virginia - August, 13 2012 - When economic complexities continue to drive higher education officials’ backs to the wall, it’s gratifying to know that a company like Remote-Learner will go the distance with you, all the way.
After almost a year in process, the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) has completed one of its most arduous but gratifying tasks. Selecting from among many contenders, the NCCCS has opted to partner with Remote-Learner, U.S. Moodle partner headquartered in Waynesboro, VA, to provide a comprehensive set of Moodle hosting and related services to its 58 member colleges.
The NCCCS is one of the largest community college systems in the nation. Its educational resource needs are similar to many higher ed institutions’ needs: the LMS must be affordable, reliable, and comprehensive. When the NCCCS committee went to work in search of ways to meet its colleges needs, commitee members deliberated among many options. After nine exhausting months, the committee found a solution to its ongoing Distance Learning and educational resource management needs, and late May, Remote-Learner was declared the winner of the RFP process.
Wanda Braker, Executive Director of eLearning and Learning Technology Systems for the North Carolina Comumunity College System (NCCCS) stated, "Four years ago, the Moodle Open Source Collaborative Pilot with Remote-Learner introduced many of our community colleges to the Moodle platform for the first time. Our new cloud solution with Remote-Learner expands that pilot to a fully managed service with room for expansion. We are committed to providing the best open source alternative for learning management systems for our colleges, and our renewed partnership with Remote-Learner provides a solution for our community colleges that is affordable, yet dynamic and scalable".
Today, the NCCCS is moving forward with Remote-Learner as its Moodle partner, and plans are already in place to execute the roll-out in several structured steps. To learn more about the Moodle movement in North Carolina’s community college system view the OSC (Open Source Collaborative) supporting documents found online at http://oscmoodlereport.wordpress.com/ .
As one of the nation’s largest community college systems leads the way in providing high quality 21st Century resources to its 58 member colleges through Moodle, Remote-Learner will be there every step of the way. For information about how you too can partner with Remote-Learner, visit the company’s website at www.remote-learner.net .
Moodle 2.3 is Here
Remote-Learner’s Suggestions for Customers
With the recent release of Moodle 2.3 on June 25th, Remote-Learner has already completed a range of quality assurance testing and debugging activities that customers will directly benefit from. Additional subset quality assurance tests are in process to ensure that any significant regressions will not interfere with eager customers’ desire to test-drive it first.
Martin Dougiamas is optimistic about the new release’s implications and applications:
"I'm really keen to see Moodle 2.3 in the hands of teachers. Our development teams have added a long list of new interface features that address our feedback from the community about the things that annoy them most and the result is a smoother and more modern course management experience. Perhaps the most exciting for many people will be the changes to file handling: not only are the display and handling of files improved a lot from Moodle 2.2, but you can now drag and drop files, text and links straight in to the course page from your desktop or browser, and they will automatically be added to the course as the appropriate resources. We've also vastly improved the repository interface, making it even better than ever to pair Moodle with a document management system or an internet service like Dropbox, so that you can truly keep your files in the repository where they belong.”
Remote-Learner advises its more eager customers to be aware that full support for Moodle 2.3 will not be offered right off the bat. Being aware of this information in advance, Moodle 2.3 enthusiasts are still encouraged to download and experiment with 2.3 with full awarenss that full support will be forthcoming shortly—perhaps by the end of September, maybe sooner. We promise you’ll be the first to know.
With proprietary e-learning vendors growing larger and becoming more revenue-driven at the cost of innovation, it is becoming more apparent that finding an LMS that will fit your specific needs is no easy task. Many organizations are struggling to avoid these corporate giants and the long-term contracts associated with them. However there are alternatives such as open source that could offer an enormous return on investment in any enterprise level organization.
In this white paper you'll learn:
-The benefits of open source software in the learning enterprise
-What to consider when choosing a vendor to support your open source project
Head over to our resources page and download the whitepaper
Waynesboro, Virginia - March, 27 2012 - Blackboard’s recent acquisition of Moodlerooms and Netspot, two of the fifty companies that make up the Moodle Partners Network, has surprised many in the open source LMS community. Blackboard’s traditional proprietary product strategy contrasts sharply with their recent investments in Moodle partners.
"The impact of Blackboard’s acquisition of Moodlerooms and Netspot on their open source commitment remains to be seen" Remote-Learner CEO Jason Cole commented, “They have a lot to prove.”
Remote-Learner remains dedicated to Moodle’s open source model. We have released a number of major components to the Moodle community on a freemium basis including our flagship Enterprise Learning Intelligence System (ELIS). As a company built by educators, creating and delivering open source components to further educational and learning goals continues to be a primary focus. Our commitment to Moodle and open source applications will always be the core of our business model.
"Remote Learner, one of our biggest partners, have been supporting Moodle since the very earliest days of the Moodle Partner program. I'm proud to have them as part of the team that is contributing towards core Moodle development" Martin Dougiamas, founder of Moodle and Managing Director of Moodle Pty Ltd stated.
Blackboard is currently funded by Providence Equity, a private equity firm with several online learning companies in their portfolio. Over the past few years, Providence Equity and Blackboard have acquired numerous companies including Edline, ANGEL, WebCT, Schoolworld, Schoolfusion, and Teacherweb, with a long-term goal of offering an extensive mix of commercial online learning solutions to meet the diverse needs of the market.
"Such a vast product line can compromise customers’ best interests. Schoolworld and Schoolfusion are both no longer available but once offered unique solutions designed with a specific segment in mind” states Bryan Poss, Director of Marketing for Remote-Learner.
With 58 million users, it's easy to see why Moodle has been the LMS of choice for numerous educational and corporate entities over the years and will continue to be. Moodle's open source licensing reduces the risk of vendor lock-in, lowers costs, improves organizational flexibility, and allows end users control over the source code.
A large portion of Moodle’s success comes directly from the strength of The Moodle Partners Network. "We started the network back in 2004 with only four partners and it has expanded to over fifty with more partners added every year. Moodle’s growth and success is, in part, due to all the Moodle partners contributing a portion of their proceeds back to the Moodle program for ongoing development." said Bryan Williams, Chairman and Founder of Remote-Learner.