The Development of Open Source E-Learning Environments: the Chamilo Experience


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F. Questier, The development of Open Source e-learning environments: the Chamilo experience, guest lecture at Beijing Normal University, School of Educational Technology, Beijing, China, 21/10/2010

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    The development of Open Source
    e-learning environments:
    the Chamilo experience
    Prof. dr. Frederik Questier, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
    Guest lecture at Beijing Normal University, 21/10/2010
    This presentation can be found at



    The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the elder 1568

    Carnaval de Binche

    Student folklore

    My background

    Teaching courses:
    Educational Technologies
    Learning Technologies
    Virtual Learning Environments
    E-learning design

    Interdisciplinary Teacher Training
    Educational Sciences

    Former head of center for
    Education innovation
    Teacher staff training
    Virtual learning Environment

    My research interests
    Projects with Cuba
    Projects with Kenia
    (Nairobi and Moi universities)
    Research and Innovation Director

    1 Understand the Free & Open Source basics

    2 Start a project or contribute to a project

    3 Build a community or contribute to a community

    4 Build expertise

    5 Support your users and/or sell services

    'The most fundamental way of helping other people,
    is to teach people
    how to do things better
    or how to better their lives.

    For people
    who use computers,
    this means sharing
    the recipes
    you use on your computer,
    in other words
    the programs you run.'
    Free Software

    The freedom to

    the program

    The software Freedoms
    require access to the source code

    → “Open Source Software”
    Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS)
    FLOSS characteristics
    User friendly ← written by users for users
    Cross-platform ← recompile source code
    High development pace ← reuse of best modules
    High quality ← peer review, reuse = survival of the fittest
    High security ← peer review, Unix origin, modular, encryption
    Yes, there is a
    huge world of FLOSS communities
    Creating wealth by sharing

    'Seven open source business strategies for competitive advantage”
    John Koenig, IT Manager's Journal, 2004

    “Companies continue to waste their development dollars on software functionality that is otherwise free and available through Open Source. They persist in buying third-party proprietary platforms or creating their own proprietary development platforms that deliver marginal product differentiation and limited value to customers”

    Picture reproduced with permission

    Success in FLOSS requires you to serve
    those who spend time to save money
    those who spend money to save time
    -- Mårten Mickos, CEO MySQL

    Chamilo version 2
    (beta version now)
    Completly refactored
    Well designed
    (versus organic growth of version 1)
    Abstraction layers
    Repository based
    Easily extensible
    Rights management (to make sharing easier)

    History of forks
    1998: how it started

    In a Belgian University
    many people were frustrated
    by the inflexible, non-free elearning systems
    they had to use

    Prof. dr. Thomas Depraetere
    starts the Claroline e-learning platform
    publishes it as Free Software
    got grants for it
    2004: fork 1
    original author wants to break free
    Growing number of users
    outside the university
    requesting professional services

    Prof. dr. Thomas Depraetere
    starts a company, Dokeos
    can't call it Claroline, cause university has trademark
    can reuse software code, as it is Free !!!
    2010: fork 2
    the community wants to break free
    From forks to collaboration?

    First talks between Chamilo and Claroline about common kernel in next versions

    Consortium of FLOSS e-learning platforms?
    standards for exchanging modules
    (besides content and users)

    Linus Torvalds' style

    release early and often

    delegate everything you can

    be open to the point of promiscuity

    Linus' Law
    'given enough eyeballs,
    all bugs are shallow.'

    Book published under
    Open Publication License

    19 lessons for open source development

    Commercial development
    = Cathedral style

    Open Source development
    = Bazaar style
    The Cathedral and the Bazaar
    about developers
    1. Every good work of software
    starts by scratching a developer's personal itch.

    2. Good programmers know what to write.
    Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
    The Cathedral and the Bazaar
    about users
    6. Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route
    to rapid code improvement and effective debugging.

    7. Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.

    8. Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base,
    almost every problem will be characterized quickly
    and the fix obvious to someone.

    11. The next best thing to having good ideas is
    recognizing good ideas from your users.
    Sometimes the latter is better.
    The Cathedral and the Bazaar
    about development
    17. A security system is only as secure as its secret.
    Beware of pseudo-secrets.

    18. To solve an interesting problem,
    start by finding a problem that is interesting to you.

    19. Provided the development coordinator
    has a medium at least as good as the Internet,
    and knows how to lead without coercion,
    many heads are inevitably better than one.
    in 8 months time
    376 installations
    in 26 countries
    14964 courses
    119601 users
    Be multi-lingual !
    open and directly

    mailing lists
    board members

    user days

    developers meetings
    Give the users a forum
    Make it easy to contribute !

    centralized source code management
    modular design
    plugin possibilities
    translation tools
    collaborations tools for development
    Build trust
    Give a growth path

    Analyse and monitor
    your performance
    Automated Chamilo analysis

    6.5 years of Chamilo code activity in 2 minutes
    code_swarm : organic information visualization
    made by Yannick Warnier
    Create a democratic structure
    Chamilo is a non-profit association

    General assembly
    Members (admitted – effective | 25€ – 6000€)
    Working groups
    Board of Directors
    Foster an ecosystem
    Official service providers
    Advantages for university
    proprietary → FLOSS VLE
    co-decide the direction of development
    create extensions
    user requested
    research driven innovation
    more contacts with other educational institutions
    contributions from others
    programming projects for students
    better knowledge of the system
    better trouble solving
    possibilities for funding or for selling services
    more for the same amount of investment
    Advantages for university
    open sourcing own developments
    Get contributions from others
    Start new collaborations
    Broaden the expertise
    It's fun!
    Copyright acknowledgements

    Belgium in EU Map CC-by-sa by NuclearVacuum
    Belgium map, Public Domain
    The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel the elder 1568
    Atomium building © - SABAM 2010; photo CC-by-nc-sa by fatboyke Luc B
    Atomium building © - SABAM 2010; photo CC-by-sa by Emilio Garcia
    Gilles de Binche CC-by-nc-nd by Fabrice Huin
    Saxophone CC-by-nc-nd by Bruno Bollaert
    Graspop Metal Meeting Festival 2008 CC-by-sa by Jtesla16
    Pralines, screenshot Neuhaus website
    Moules frites: CC-by-nc-sa by poluz – Nicola
    Belgian Beers: CC-by-nc-sa by Adam Lang
    Brussels Waffle CC-by-sa by David Monniaux
    Time Money CC-by by Nina Matthews
    Birds CC-by-nc-nd by Denis Collette
    Swiss Army Knife CC-by-sa-nc by herzogbr
    Share matches CC-by-nc-nd by Josh Harper
    Social Network CC-by by Frederik Questier
    Questions? Comments?
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