Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Distance Learning Council Meeting

At the last DLC meeting Becky Williams, an instructional designer with CITT, gave a presentation on CMS software issues and spoke about open source (such as SAKAI) vs. Vendor (WebCT/Blackboard) products and a new software system for teacher grading, called SWoRD. Here is a synopsis of what she presented, and feel free to take a look at her ppt for more information: (

The first four slides are about CMS vendors vs. open source:

A growing disillusionment with vendor products has many Universities moving or considering moving to Sakai (the most popular open source system available). WebCT and Bb have left many unaddressed issues, and they require universities to pay for upgrades or extensions if something does not work. Moving a CMS to open source has its own issues, but that the vendor situation is so aggravating more universities are considering it as an option. I thought these issues sounded familiar to our LMS experiences - I'll be interested in seeing where the CMS discussion goes.

Slide 5 through 42 are about a new, free software called SWoRD. In large classes, professors assign fewer papers as writing assignments due to the difficulty of grading a large number of papers. Despite writing less, student grades are higher and students feel they are good writers; and, yet, teaching faculty don't agree. SWoRD is a system by which papers are automatically assigned to other student writers, for peer-review. Each student peer-reviews 5 papers. Ms. Williams had evidence supporting the value of multiple peer reviewing of a paper; it is much more useful for a student to have 3 peers review their paper than it is for one student or one professor to review the paper. Read the slides if you are interesting in learning more. Currently the software is free, although Ms. Williams thought that would most likely change.

This meeting was held in the Digital Worlds Building at Norman and included a digital tour of the Gator Nation Island in Second Life. Someone at the meeting mentioned that the Libraries were holding reference hours within SL, which Laura Jordan was able to speak to.

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