It's by no means essential to run a social learning platform for yourself when you can easily adopt existing services, like Facebook, Ning or Twitter. There are also great free guides to using these tools, like as those provided by Jane Hart. That said, there are valid concerns about data protection, privacy & IP ownership that lead many organisations to consider running social learning platforms for themselves. In this article, I want to consider a couple of leading open source contenders - Elgg & Mahara.
Moodle is a great Open Source LMS. It's well supported and actively maintained by a committed, expert community. But it's very focussed on what it does best - e-learning. It may be used in more or less every sector that requires on-line learning, but it feels most at home in the tertiary sector rather than supporting younger learners. Sure, you can change the look and feel, but its reputation with many developers suggests that advanced theming can be difficult. And crucially, its workflow is not as flexible as that of many modern tools when teams are contributing content.
A lot of people have contacted us lately to ask for help in bringing back together their web tools. Over the years, they have chosen what feels like the best web app for the job. But as time has gone by, they realise that they are left with a Frankenstein's monster. The intranet is incompatible with their e-learning platform, their content management separate from their reporting tools.
We've been approached in the past about looking at environmentally-friendly hosting. We've been long-term partners at Rackspace, and have been pleased with their own carbon offset schemes and environmental policies. Their Green IT award in 2010 was a testament to that.
Last time, I asked how you can use a combination of fit-for-purpose technologies, while avoiding building an unwieldy intranet solution for your organisation.
If you already have 'too much knitting' and you're burdened with a hard to maintain mix of branding and code, then complex technical solutions such as deploying skin-swapping technologies like XDV may be an option. But this requires design effort to retrofit existing sites. Budgets get stretched and can leave you with even more of a maintenance headache.
There are some great sites for e-learning professionals (I'll be blogging about them over the next few months) but Jane Hart's Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies has always been a particular favourite.
Jane always seems to pick up on so many conversations and I have her Tweet to thank for alerting me to Anne Marie Cunningham's recent blog posting about her social learning experience in the medical profession.