Monday, January 28, 2008

Just some new Open Source VLE names

And for all those out there looking at the broadest possible approach to a learning environment, and are into open source: I just heard about Zarafa (a linux based collaboration environment which will work together with Outlook and MS Exchange).
Taking it from the other side some clever people have built some extra features into the really popular Content Management System Joomla to turn it into a Learning environment. Although there are many out there that simply state: why bother if you have Moodle which does it all anyway.
PS: This company also offers a Sharepoint 2007 LMS, why do I feel that all sorts of lines are coming together ;-)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More experiences using the Asus Eee

double screen use of VGA output

I have now gained some more experience on the use of my Asus Eee. It really does work a treat. I especially appreciate the VGA out, with its accompanying software. This allows you to go up to 1600 by 1280 pixels and will clearly show you which of the screens you are sending the signal to. (Beats banging on the Fn F5 combination and waiting for the beamer to pick up the signal).

I have also got the Utrecht University VPN working. I have not used the Cisco VPN client but installed VPNC. It took some puzzling and if I can find the time I might write it all down. If anybody is having troubles, do contact me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Various solutions for recording lectures

As I have noticed there are a lot of people out there wanting to start recording lectures, but not quite sure where to start a few suggestions for tools for creating rich media presentations, Please note: these are presentations combining streaming video with html so the student can navigate through the presentation by choosing slides in the presentation.
Please note: this is a very personal view of a number of products. I cannot claim to be complete or completely informed. If anybody has any suggestions or corrections please do send a comment. This is based on the Dutch market for ICT in higher ed, in other countries there might well be other optoins.
A good place to start is Microsoft Producer: the software is free, most institutions will have a laptop and a digital video camera lying about. It is a very time consuming process but a great to get teachers and students to warm to the idea. You can even use the Surfnet Videotheek to stream the .wmv video produced.
If you intend to take the recording and broadcasting more seriously there are plenty of companies out on the market offering solutions. Expensive but very comprehensive is the Mediasite solution. Other solutions on offer are Apreso/Echo360, Accordent (no experience with it yet, should see a trial on Wednesday) Tegrity (no experience with that either) and Presentations2Go. Presentations2go is a Dutch product developed by Wageningen University, but now for sale. An interesting aspect of the presentations2go solution is the pricing model, the server software is expensive whereas the software for the recording sets is cheap. This encourages the use of more recording sets.
Googling about I ran into an Open Source solution for recording lectures. I have no idea how it works, but the pricing certainly is very competitive. It is called ePresence. If anybody has any experience using it I am certainly intrigued.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Recording lectures in 2008

Front of Mediasite recorder

In the year 2008 we intend to continue recording lectures at Utrecht University. The central IT policy department has offered funding to keep us going together with two faculties. This will keep the Weblectures project available. We have evaluated the experiences of students and teachers who used this facility. They were all very positive, most comments were about the reliability of the service: students get used to it and expect it work every time. If we wish to ensure a decent service which will work throughout the university a larger scale approach is required. Our main effort will be focussed on writing a plan to set up a structural service in 2009. We will be offering a final report on the Weblectures website.
On the technical side of things we will be not be using Apreso Classroom in 2008. We have decided to try out the mediasite mobile recorders in combination with the Mediasite EX server software through the Dutch reseller Mediamission. Apreso has proven to be a great solution to get us started and gain some experiences with the required hardware for recording lectures. The limitations which proved decisive for us where the lack of monitoring of the incoming signals, the fact that the hardware was not portable and the fact that editing is not possible at all. For a lot more money Mediasite does also offer some other facilities, e.g. live broadcasting. I will keep you posted on our experiences. We have already made our first recordings with the recording sets and are hard at work on getting the server up and running.

Cold dip to start off the new year

Just clearing up some old news: I started off the new year on a fresh start: we took a dip in the North Sea... With a great big thank you to the life savers at 's Gravenzande which make this possible every year. Follow this link to get to the photo's.