Technological framework

A new Moodle Learning Management System (Moodle 2.0, 2010) now comes with the finalized Community Hub Framework (Moodle.org, Development:Community hub, 2010). Through such hubs,  users from all participating institutions (each can have one or more independent Moodle sites and more/all can use the same Moodle installation) can easily find courses or communities of practice from  partners in their network.   Educators from different institutions can collaborate on course development or share course templates.

Technology of choiceMoodle – a free open source Learning Management System with more than 50 percent of world market share is used as a LMS of choice for this project proposal. Moodle is already endorsed as LMS of choice for Veterinary Internet Content Exchange. Commercial solutions with almost the same features (Blackboard) are available Community hub framework supports a range of scenarios such as courses that are public or private, free or paid. Therefore the community hub supports the following scenario:

Community hub framework supports a range of scenarios such as courses that are public or private, free or paid. Therefore the community hub supports the following scenario:

Veterinary school consortium

A group of seven veterinary schools and one non-profit professional veterinary association can share courses among themselves. Some courses are free for students and for others, students must pay.  The consortium has 25 fee courses for continual education of veterinarians. In partnership with animal science professionals, the consortium is developing interactive educational programs for pre-vet students, pet care providers and veterinary paraprofessionals. In addition, the consortium has numerous communities of practice through which students, faculty and veterinarians can discuss, research and learn about specific topics.

If a teacher is creating a course “Parasitology 1,” he will be able to:

  • Easy Start. Read reviews and ratings of courses and download the most appropriate template or specific activity in the course.
  • Team work. Look for the parasitology community inside the consortium and participate in its  forum discussions, wikis, chats, Web-conferences, development of educational materials . . .   He will also be able to invite colleagues to check  his course and, with permission,  import specific content or activity from colleagues’  courses.
  • Collaboration. If he  wants to share his course with  colleagues in the consortium, he  can just click on the “Community button” and the course or part of that course will be “pushed” to a central repository, so that other teachers all over the consortium can browse and use the information  (for fee or free of charge).
  • Revenue. When his course is done, he can:
    • Sell a license or teach students from other schools (for a fee).
    • Rent a course: let teachers from other schools use the course on your server.
    • Publish the course as an Open Educational Resource to promote himself,  his program or his school, or as part of a grant-supported OpenLearn initiative.
    • Let his colleagues use and improve the course, creating a newer, better and more versatile course while he is still the main author.

The diagram below shows the basic structure:

Figure 3. Community hub architecture.

  • Colleges A, B, C, D and nonprofit association have independent Moodle installations
  • Colleges E, F and G share the same Moodle installation
  • Faculty and members /staff from NonProfit Association are collaborating on development of learning activities for veterinary practitioners
  • Faculty, students and veterinary practitioners are collaborating in development and delivery of public education programs like myhorseuniversity.com (University of Michigan) and healtypet.com (AAHA) and pre-vet programs intended to prepare and recruit a diverse population of the best students.
  • College B has an independent Mahara ePortfolio system and
  • Colleges E, F, G, D and Nonprofit Association share a same Mahara ePortfolio system.

According to my experience, the only disadvantage of Moodle compared to  the expensive rival  Blackboard is that it is free.  It is human psychology:

  • After paying a price in the 6 or 7 digits (Bradford et all, 2007) for a commercial license, decision-makers will do everything they can to make good return of that strategic investment (RoI). They will not  hesitate to pay for high-quality support services, instructional designers, staff education and everything else that  will make their LMS work better.
  • However, if the license  costs nothing, decision-makers may hesitate to spend money on support services and hosting.  Furthermore, because  there is not big strategic investment, quality control mechanism may not be established.

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