Just documenting here some notes from various meetings at Rice University
with the Connexions
Cnx is trying to position itself as a wiki alternative. Not an LMS but certainly a CMS for academic materials. They still haven't publicly released their source code, rapthos, and are looking for some technical answers on version control and other management issues. I think they need to talk to the Launchpad and Bzr folks, I told em so. It's a Zope/Plone back end.
License for materials is CC-SA but not NC.
Once something is published it can never be removed, only deprecated or modified - ack, scary.
Performance issues need to be worked out; servers not optimized.
Gov't of Taiwan is using it internally.
Need to think about ways to integrate/link multiple sites instead of one big repository currently hosted by Rice.
Just hired a Community Services person to assist in content conversion.
Uses it own xml - cnxml for authoring material.
Not that user-friendly but getting better.
Print on demand - they say it works but it doesn't really yet but it does export some nice PDFs.
Sakai at Rice. Can I just say there are some really Smart folks over there at Rice. (Disclosure: they did finally give me a degree in the mid 90s and I did work there for a bit too.) But really, every time I go back there and get to talk with some of the folks there it gets me all itchy to be back in a think tank like environment. Imagine being paid to think about creative ways to do things and having the budget to try them. And having really smart folks around to ask your most basic questions to and they don't treat you like an idiot. Well anyways, they switched from WebCT to Sakai a few years ago after WebCT tried to blackmail, er, charge them a half million dollars in licensing fees; jumping from about $100k to $500k in one year. This when you discover you're being screwed by a proprietary model and you start seeking alternatives. Not that the school can't afford that amount but still, there were better solutions and they settled on Sakai.
Rice is a small school who will never offer distance learning classes in the traditional sense but rather it was looking for course support. Sakai was chosen over Moodle b/c of its bent toward higher education as well as the consortium involved in development and support. Rice is a growing part of that process. Overall they are pleased with the product even though:
- there is no set release cycle
- there is no real "Search" (indexing issue) functionality
They currently only have part-time staff devoted to keep their Sakai servers happy and provide user support. They are usually one release behind; try to keep server upgrades in the summer.
Carlos also outlined an interesting problem they had in rolling out Sakai. The fact that it was open source was overstated (in his opinion) b/c it gave end users an unrealistic expectation that they could change/fix any and everything their hearts desired. They need to do a better job of managing end users expectations b/c just b/c you can change things doesn't mean it should be. There is now a whole process of deciding what needs to be fixed/changed for Rice and what might be rolled upstream to the Sakai project.