Changing the Learning Lab

Since the formation of SALT the question has arisen as to what sort of web presence it should have. A static information site? A community driven site? Part of the main university site? How does this debate impact on the Learning Lab? Should all learning and teaching support be in one place? How do we make sure that we preserve our “treasure trove of goodies?”

Here in Learning Lab Towers we’ve been exploring whether we can export the Learning Lab into Joomla and WordPress in order to preserve the content but also allow the community to be maintained and to flourish. Having played around with both, using a nifty little tool called WAMP Server (thanks to Alex Roberts in LIS for this) it seems that we can for most of the site and the numerous Joomla plug-ins mean that we can expand the community driven nature of the site. We can also improve the navigation and give the site a more cohesive look and feel. The only downside is that we can’t find a decent wiki for Joomla. We could stick with PBWorks or maybe Mediawiki using university accounts? Or perhaps something else?

So the plan is to create a SALT site with all the learning and teaching resources in Joomla, WordPress and a wiki whilst preserving the content and philosophy of the Learning Lab. What do you think?

Adding a Wiki to Blackboard and Jing!

In today’s excellent lunch-and-lean session, Matthew Allen told us how to take the fear out of e-learning by thinking about how traditional teaching methods may be enhanced by technology. In other words, we should regard e-learning is a means to an end, and not the end itself. These insights are worthy of wider dissemination, but I have something else to share here.

In the conversation over lunch, someone wondered if there couldn’t be a demo of how to add a wiki to a Blackboard site. Someone else mentioned that Jing might be a quick way to get demo into video form that could be distributed to students. As a member of the learning lab community, I thought “I can Do That!” So here I am killing one bird with two stones by using Jing to create the wiki demo. In another blog article over in @the.coalface I explain how I to use Jing to create a screen cast of an e-learning activity and embed the resulting flash movie video into Blackboard.
The resulting screencast is a bit big to embed on this page, but you can reach it by following this link.

Old Tools for the New Web #1: Sun Wiki Publisher

Just spotted on is this announcement of an extension from Sun Microsystems that allows you to edit a MediaWiki page from within OpenOffice. MediaWiki is one of the most powerful wiki tools available (it powers Wikipedia) but it also has the most complex syntax. Because it works like a word processor, the Sun Wiki Publisher extension may be just what you need to exploit a Mediawiki installation with minimum pain.

: I just intalled OpenOffice and the Sun Wiki Publisher (itself a challenge on Vista!) and gave the wiki publisher a whirl. A serious issue is that though it will write a document created in OpenOffice Writer as a new page in a MediaWiki wiki, you can’t open a MediaWiki page for editing. This means that the tool has a write once feature and thereafter you presumably maintain the page in MediaWiki markup through a browser. Even so, it may still prove to be useful in getting a lot of content into a wiki (perhaps even from content that is imported from MS Word) and for this reason alone it is probably worth a longer evaluation. Perhaps the developers are working on round-tripping for the next version.

OpenOffice, MediaWiki and the Sun Wiki Publisher extension are all free (as in beer and as in speech) and open source.