Focus on Drupal in Education

I’ve decided to focus on a particular expertise of mine, the Drupal CMS.  Although this isn’t itself exclusively intended for educational use, there is a collection of modules which have been created to allow for a Drupal Educational website.

Out of the box, this installation profile allows for student, teacher, and administrative users with different levels of permissions.  Teachers can create groups to organize content around their classes, and students and teachers both can post content into these groups.  Podcasting, video, blogs, and a content management system to boot.  The obvious advantage to this over Moodle is that one can build a website using the same tools that one is building course content.

The faces of the cube:

Market focus

This installation profile for Drupal has been designed with a secondary school in mind, but it could easily be used for any level of education.  It would probably not be appropriate as is for a corporate environment.

Types of offerings

This installation profile doesn’t provide any services for the end user, or any content.  Instead it provides the necessary infrastructure to build content.  Unfortunately the lack of services means that if there is a problem with the site, or the end user wants some customization, they are left to figure it out themselves or hire a professional.

Who is the buyer?

This type of site requires some understanding of the technology being used and could not reasonably be expected to be set up by the average teacher.  This means that the IT personel at a school would have to set it up, however since the profile is free, this makes the set up just following some instructions, and having server space to support it.

It is conceivable that this could be something set up by a district, but they would want to create individual sites for each school in that case.

Global Markets

One of the nice features of the Drupal CMS is that it is possible to translate the interface to any language.  Many languages on already have had most of the interface already translated, and the additional text associated with this installation profile can be translated through the default administration profile of Drupal.

This means that this installation profile could be used in any market where someone is willing to take the time to translate the interface.  Since this requires a web interface, this could be an issue in countries where the internet connectivity is poor.

Development of the market

Other than providing a support group where questions can be asked and answered, there has been no effort made to create a market for this product.  Obviously there are a lot of schools out there they may want to use this product.   Unfortunately they will have to hear about this system through word or mouth of because of a deliberate search for this type of product.

Competition with other learning platforms

There is a lot of competition in the elearning market, so obviously this installation profile of Drupal would have an uphill battle in order to gain an noticable market share.  There are a lot of expensive elearning platforms on the market, and a smaller number of open source platforms, Moodle being one of the leaders in the Open Source field.  What most of these platforms lack however is a proper CMS.  Moodle can be used as more than an E-learning platform, but requires significant customization to create a useable website.  Drupal has this feature built in, although the E-learning portion is weaker than Moodle.

Many schools have worked toward integrating Moodle into Drupal with a shared user base and shared information.  They have been somewhat successful, and this combo might be a better bet than using the Drupal for Education installation profile.

September 20, 2008   10 Comments

Pitching Your Idea – Some Internet Resources

This site has a brief explanation on how to pitch (elevator pitches, knowing your investors), and also has a video with information on selling your business:

http://www.smsmallbiz.com/bestpractices/Learning_to_Pitch.html

This site is focussed on female entrapreneurs, and has links to various information (market fundamentals, creating a pitch, business plan guide – all of which also have accompanying videos:

http://www.springboardenterprises.org/learning

I hope these are helpful!

September 20, 2008   2 Comments

Using the cube to evaluate Google within the e-learning domain

I have focused my analysis on Google and their software application “Google docs” and it’s contribution to e-learning.  Previously I have used Google docs during one of my MET courses, and with the launch of their web browser “Chrome” and new cell phone platform, Google has been a company that gets a lot of discussion within my Business class.

Background on Google Docs

Google Docs is a software application that allows users to create and edit a variety of documents (word processing, spreadsheet, and presentations) entirely online.  There is no need to download the software, and this allows users to access the files anywhere and at anytime.  Furthermore, users can invite others to collaborate on the document and different versions can be saved and changes are shown in real time.  In addition to creating documents, Google docs also recognizes traditional file formats such as MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  Google docs is available free of charge.

Face 1: Market Focus

Google docs can be used by a variety of consumers.  Public Schools (k-12) could benefit from using Google docs as opposed to MS Office, and save money (how much? Not sure….but the district could be close to saving thousands of dollars a year on licensing fees).

In terms of higher education, Google docs can again be used to save the colleges and universities from paying software licensing fees.  At the same time, the applications allow students to collaborate on projects in real time and can be a useful tool in online learning, especially for group work, where the group members maybe geographically separated.

Individual families may also switch to using Google docs versus MS Office and save money in licensing fees.  The only downside of Google docs is that it requires the users to have an active Internet connection.

Face 2: Types of Offerings

Google docs operate on a software infrastructure that recognizes other application platforms, and allows those files to be uploaded and worked upon over the Internet.    It allows users to save their work directly over the Internet, and access it on any computer with Internet access.

Face 3: Who is the Buyer?

As Google docs is a free application, I believe every individual and organization is a potential user or customer.

Face 4: Global Markets

Google is in many countries over the world, and with the launch of their new web browser, new cell phone and open-source platform, Google is clearly trying to establish themselves as a leader in software innovation and applications.  Google docs will allow people working in Global markets to work with clients and employees from around the world on the same document.  I believe the document has to be in English; however Google is also working towards translations as well.

 

Face 5: Development of the Market

Google docs have great positioning and potential in the market for online applications.  Already, they have the reputation of being a leader in search engines and with their mapping software they will benefit from a market that is expanding.  More and more potential users are using their mobile phones to connect to the Internet to get directions or check their email or simply surf.  Google already offers the searching and the Gmail, but now they can also capitalize from people using their applications to edit and upload documents online.

Face 6: Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

The technology presented by Google docs can be used by traditional schools and replace MS Office applications.    Google docs are a tool that can be used by both traditional and e-learning systems of education.

 

– Jag

September 20, 2008   15 Comments

E-learning pilot venture cuboid

I will be analyzing an e-learning venture that was designed and launched as a pilot in 2003 for secondary school teachers in rural India.

 

Background: I work with teachers in rural areas of different parts of the world, with a development agency, helping/enabling them to integrate technology in the classroom through a series of workshops in which we create scenarios that model a teacher’s experience and walk them through issues, difficulties, obstacles in the process – it obviously is a totally hands-on workshop that relies on various experiences for a solution. There isn’t just one solution – with every teacher, every group, every workshop the solution changes – there are several.

 

The e-learning product: It was in 2002 that the development agency decided to replicate the workshop experience and reach out to a larger audience, in developing countries, in remote areas (where no man has been but technology has) faster at a lesser cost. A e-learning program was developed and launched, in 2003, as a pilot in some schools of Anglophone Africa and India (I will be analyzing the India experience). 18 teachers across 10 schools participated.

 

Face 1 – This was a training needs product – aimed at re-training teachers to work with technology in their classrooms.

 

Face 2 – It was a services product with elements of custom development absent from it – the customization was done from a desk far away and far removed from the real world scenario.

 

Face 3 – This was meant to be “Learning bought nationally” once the pilot was successful. The stakeholders – principals, teachers were not included in the decision making.

 

Face 4 – Asian country – with quality Internet but not so in far-flung remote areas. Also, limited access to the Internet lab (usually only a single computer was provided with connectivity at the time) within school premises.

 

Face 5 – Market does not support learning technologies – the pilot was happening on the basis of a grant – there was no plan in place to grow and sustain it. The good news about e-learning is that once the product is created there is no need to pay for creation for every round of training, unlike F2F where the facilitator must be paid a fee. But a plan must be in place to sustain connectivity and training at the school-end and some maintenance staff needs to be organised for this activity.

 

Face 6 – Learning technology works well with a well-developed learning system – in this case it was set alongside the instructor-led system and did not fare well.

 

Result: The pilot was unsuccessful. 2 teachers completed the e-learning course with much persuasion an dhand holding.

Analysis: The e-learning project failed because of the following reasons:

  1. Concept of training, re-training for teachers not well-established, much less the concept of e-learning.
  2. Market not ready for it – traditionally F2F training works best particularly in the education system in rural schools.
  3. Access to computers within the school premises difficult – computer labs are governed by lab assistants who may not be willing to let teachers have access as and when the teacher needs it – clash of free time available and access to computer labs.
  4. Design of content not in sync with local context – eg case study asks participants to envision a scene when their classroom would be equipped with 4 computers…for a teacher struggling to accommodate 40 kids in a lab of 15 computers with no redemption in sight, the former case appears to be too far fetched to devote time to.
  5. Overall, geographical fragmentation of course enrolments did not work – its integrative value for teaching and learning was not immediately visible to school administrators – having one or two teachers, from a school, attend the pilot was a lost cause. In hindsight, maybe the pilot should have been designed for a school – all 18-20 teachers should have been from the same school so that they could have been a support group in an uncharted territory.
  6. Even if the pilot has been a success there wasn’t a plan in place to install the system across 50 schools and implement lessons of the pilot.

 It is indeed ironical that a market that needs e-learning most does not take to it when given a chance. In my view, a bottom (as opposed to a top-down) approach in designing, installing and maintaining the system would go a long way in ensuring its success.

 

Finally, this was a high risk venture (hence the pilot) that had all three risk related novelties attached to it – novelty to the market, novelty in production, novelty in management (De Coster, R & Butler, C. 2005).

September 20, 2008   6 Comments