So, some interesting news that may send a few ripples through the old edublogosphere is that Curverider (the excellently named commercial arm of Elgg) have ‘got into bed with’ Aperto Elearning Solutions founded by Sasan Salari (one founder of WebCT).
My initial thoughts on this thing go back to June last year when I got wind of the ‘powerlinks’ approach WebCT were taking to allow for open source extensions which I wasn’t too happy about :) Even suggesting that this was how it was all going to go wrong. However I did chill out a bit down the track (as has been known to happen ;) and as it happens found myself suggesting that Elgg would be a good ‘integration’ partner – amazing what you remember when you look in the archives.
-it was also the same WebCT person, Sasan, who commented on the original post specifically stating that “We are not integrating open source applications into WebCT”, which is also mildly amusing, but enough of that-
Anyway, my final thoughts there were that:
I, however, don’t believe that education should be so much for sale (that there should be so much money able to be made out of it) or that it is in education’s interest to have such dominating market leaders. Also, I am absolutely committed to the vision of online education becoming a sustainable and multi-faceted environment, as affordable and accessible so that any teacher can use it and as varied and subvertable as any classroom or progressive curriculum.
And to me the appropriation of the tools that will help us achieve this by the WebCTs of this world through stuff like the ‘WebCT Wiki Integration Toolkit 0.1? is bad news. It’s the same approach that gets people to shop at K-Mart for everything even though they can get a much greater range, quality and price just down the road… and they are not doing it out of a philanthropic to help us teach and learn online better. They’re doing it to lock in the $s.
Which I stand by, but, knowing how much value and vivre an Elgg environment could bring to one of those lifeless WebCT courses find myself quibbling a bit. This isn’t helped either by the tremendous amount of respect that I have for Dave and Ben and how I think that Elgg integration into existing systems could be the tipping point for them in terms of feedback, design and use.., something which has ‘good’ stamped all over it.
What I find myself saying more and more nowadays in my professional role is that yes WebCT / BB are necessary as ‘backbones’ but as learning environments we need to be using and developing far more effective tools and experiences. And for that line of thinking, this is an absolute boon. However, I feel like to a degree that’s shrugging off the responsibility to the administrative side of things (“As long as they leave the learning alone I don’t care”) which isn’t a very holistic approach for anyone to take.
From talking to Dave though I guess what I’d really like to see is a set of genuine workable open standards which can be implemented across the OS development sphere and which allow for user dbase (and more through customisation) integration. I wanna be able to plug in Elgg, WPMU (it’ll be interesting when Aperto try *that* integration!), Mediawiki etc. into an administration system that doesn’t set back my organisation 6 or 7 figures a year … or at the very least I want to be able to choose another system for this rather than finding all my OS applications propriatised by a behemoth Blackboard. Yeh the merger might have been approved (they obviously couldn’t give a rats about the Aus market!) but I think that it’s a big company that is probably as keen as anything to do an IE on the educational world… what it’d be really nice to see would be Aperto building integration with Sakai, Moodle, Desire2Learn etc. etc. etc.
But that ‘aint gonna happen though cos it’s $s we’re talking about, isn’t it. Sigh.
Still, congratulations to Dave and Ben and I hope this supports and encourages them and helps Elgg take the next step up to becoming a major player in educational technology… it well deserves it.