More of the Competition in the CMS Market

Our friend Keith Williams, who is an instructional designer at Fairleigh Dickinson University, sent some links for some tools that he finds interesting. another (as with Sakai & Moodle) open source course management system that includes Web 2.0 technologies natively. According to their website, ".LRN is the world's most widely adopted enterprise-class open source software for supporting e-learning and digital communities. Originally developed at MIT, .LRN is used worldwide by over half a million users in higher education, government, non-profit, and K-12." - an add-on to dotlrn to have an e-portfolio– multipurpose content & community management system - check out the modules/extensions that can be added to it to increase functionality.– a web 2.0 attempt at all-in-one solution - an NJIT staffer is running a test bed of this and I'll report back later in more detail. - the company of Caroline Meeks (project manager for dotLRN) - a new tool for designing, managing and delivering online collaborative learning activities - it's a very visual authoring environment for creating individual tasks, small group work and whole class activities

Trying out Moodle and Sakai

NJIT's Instructional Technology and Media Services (ITMS) department is holding an information session this week for faculty who are interested in teaching a course this summer or fall using Sakai or Moodle as their course management system.

NJIT currently uses WebCT Campus Edition 4 as the primary course management system that supports face-to-face, hybrid and online courses. WebCT has released 2 newer products that are based on an entirely different code base (WebCT Campus Edition 6 and WebCT Vista). While these new versions promise many improvements over our current product, there are very significant hardware and software costs associated with this upgrade.

Like other universities, NJIT feels that it is in our best interest to explore some of the available open source course management systems that are alternatives to commercial products such as WebCT.

Instructors in this pilot program may use the software for an online course, or to supplement a face-to-face or hybrid course, and will then be asked to provide us with feedback to help determine the viability of using either of these products in the same capacity as we now use WebCT.

Currently more than half of NJIT's students use WebCT for coursework. That makes it an enterprise level software product.

Sakai was first introduced in January 2004 as a higher education collaborative learning environment. Initially used as a tool to help
manage content for research projects, The University of Michigan, Indiana University, MIT and Stanford are among the universities that have helped contribute to the Sakai project.

In NJ, Rutgers University has an ongoing Sakai Pilot Program and you can find some information at

The group of institutions that play the largest part in this are part of The Sakai Project

Moodle is an interesting project. Where Sakai was originally developed as a platform for organizing research (not for teaching classes), Moodle was designed taking into consideration pedagogical principles and is intended to help foster online learning communities. (If you are interested in that aspect, take a look at

Moodle and Sakai have developed active development and support groups - that's very important for open-source projects because the number one fear that schools have in making the move to open source software (OSS) is SUPPORT.

Moodle has users in over 150 countries and recently the Open University in the UK has decided to use it. The OSS mantra is that the "community" will support you. Find a bug in the software? Need an API for software to work with your portal? Ask the community and a network of developers will respond. Kind of the same idea as forming user groups and sharing knowledge. It's a good mantra. I want to believe in it. Now we need to see it in action.

Conference on Interoperability June 19

June 19, 2006
NYNJA STARS is the New York/New Jersey Association Supporting Teaching and Research (that's way too many letters!) and it's a consortium of colleges that use Blackboard products (they were formerly the NY/NJ Blackboard Users Group).

Their Second Annual conference focuses on "Interoperability" and will be held June 19, 2006 at Princeton University. Their website is at

NJIT is a WebCT campus, but since the two companies have merged, at some point in the next few years we will be using a "Blackboard" product. Perhaps user groups will also merge - currently we are active in the Northeast WebCT User Group (NEWUG) and though these groups were started around support for a product, our real concerns with pedagogy etc. are product neutral and it would make sense for there to be some user mergers.

Podcasting on Campus and iTunes U

Podcasting on Campus, May 23, 2006, from 08:30 AM - 12:30 PM at Rutgers University, College Center, New Brunswick, NJ
This is a free half-day seminar that explores how podcasting is being used and could be used on campuses. Apple Computer, Inc. is offering a number of these sessions at colleges. I'll be speaking at the Rutgers session.

The topics scheduled are: "Podcasting Means Content to Go", "iPod in the Curriculum", and "iTunes U."

iTunes U is a free, hosted service from Apple for colleges and universities that provides easy 24/7 access to their educational content. NJIT started down the podcasting road with some experimenting in summer 2005. We piloted podcasting with selected faculty during the fall 05 and spring 06 semesters. Rather than trying to get a lot of content online, we opted to experiment with formats.

NJIT has recently been selected to be an Apple iTunes U school, so we'll be moving our materials over to that platform this summer.

In my session, "Paths to Bring Faculty to Podcasting", I will focus on the approach of our pre-iTunes pilot program in podcasting primarily course materials.

  1. the formats we used and why
  2. recruiting faculty
  3. creating podcasts
  4. software and hardware
  5. goals for our iTunes U site


  • Those faculty who would regularly record lectures or large portions of their face-to-face course.
  • Faculty who would record segments of a class session.
  • Audio recorded outside of class to supplement the course.
  • Reformatting existing media from online courses.

Simply recording an entire 90 minute lecture and offering it to students is probably not very effective. We recommended that faculty consider selecting portions of a lecture or supplementary audio recorded outside the classroom and that files be “chunked” into segments that can easily utilized by students.

Faculty members needed to decide if their podcast would be:
  1. Audio only - the most widely used format, an mp3 file
  2. Audio with video - we used m4v files, keep in mind that this may not be as useful for students using mobile devices (iPods etc.) because the video size is limited (not suitable for some text) or if they have an audio-only device (though it can still be viewed on a computer) or if their device doesn't accept the m4v format
  3. Enhanced podcasts - Audio with still images (documents, PowerPoint slides etc.)

RECRUITING: Why should you consider podcasting course content?

  • To supplement class materials
  • To replace materials or lecturing face to face
  • As an alternative way to experience a lecture or to allow students to review lectures again

Issues That Faculty Should Consider About Podcasting

  • What devices are available to your students?
  • Are your students interested in receiving materials in this way?
  • Will audio files be sufficient/useful?
  • How will you record? (in class, in the studio, at your desktop computer)
  • What equipment is available for recording?
  • Do I want my materials available online? Do I need to restrict access?
  • What is the best length & format for my podcasts?
  • How will it affect student performance?
  • Will it affect student attendance?


In the Instructional Technology & Media Services department, we would provide equipment & assistance in learning how to record podcasts. We also uploaded the podcasts, created the RSS feeds and maintained the public web site at were a few instructors who were interested in hosting their podcasts within their WebCT course so that the material could be passsword protected and available only to students who were enrolled.)


Faculty who recorded their own audio (rather than use our studio) used a portable recorder supplied by ITMS. We have experimented with the iRiver N10 and Creative Muvo Txfm. We found the quality to be rather poor, though some of that may have been the recording conditions of the classroom & the ways that faculty used the recorder.) One instructor used his own iPod with an external microphone we supplied.

Existing media was also reformatted for podcasting. We have a large archive of course materials used primarily for online courses that currently are posted in WebCt or sent to students on CDs or DVDs. We used SoundForge, Final Cut, and QuickTime Pro for audio cleanup and file conversion on all files. To convert PowerPoint slides to video, we used Camtasia Studio.


  • Standardized format for delivery.
  • Ability to have a public and private face for podcasts.
  • Added visibility for the university
  • As part of a current university web site redesign project we see a need to offer admissions, athletics, alumni and other public relations materials via podcasts.

Podcasting Legalities

If you are involved in podcasting, I suggest you look at the Podcasting Legal Guide at the Creative Commons.

This Guide has been prepared to provide general information about some of the more common legal questions that get asked in relation to podcasting.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation produced a Legal Guide for Bloggers and there is some crossover in the relevancy of some issues.

If you are overwhelmed by the content, I suggest you start with the section on Fair Use Under Copyright Law And Its Application To Podcasts. Fair Use is such an overused and abused term with educators and institutions who often use the term with little understanding of what it means. It has a folk mythology of covering almost anything one does in a classroom. It has also, unfortunately, moved right over to online applications for many educators. "It's OK to use that video in my online course. I always show the whole movie to my students in the face to face section. Fair use."