Filed Under (Business, Technology) by Sean on February 18th, 2008 at 11:42 pm

I thought this post was very interesting, especially given the fact I told my dad he should think about using a blog for his university classes that he teaches. The thought was he could put his syllabi, curriculum, assignments, learning material, tips and much more in a well-suited environment. And he wouldn’t even need to learn HTML (to date he has created online content in MS Word and uploaded the file after saved as HTML; we know what that markup looks like)! It makes perfect sense to me.

I co-founded an online backup company a couple of years ago which targets schools throughout the country to back up their data. As I traveled around to all the big trade shows to see the latest technology tools available to teachers and the education marketplace, I left feeling much of it was the same old, rehashed stuff. In fact I was actually involved several years ago in funding and launching an e-learning company that had a different twist to address this void. Unfortunately our timing was really bad (though there were certainly other issues as well) and it closed its doors. I really think OpenCourseWare built around the WordPress core makes tons of sense. It’s extensible, scalable, and easy to use. I will be keeping an eye on their progress . . .

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Comments
Christina Warren on February 20th, 2008 at 10:47 pm #

I agree that this sort of thing has potential, I just wonder infrastructurally if stuff like this would have the goods to compete with the larger scale (and experienced) solutions like WebCT, now Blackboard, and others that are already widely implemented on major campuses. Not that Blackboard is perfect (it’s not, and tons of professors have no idea how to use it and get very overwhelmed by the whole thing — I know, I’ve wound up setting up countless WebCT/Blackboard systems for various professors who were like pulling their hair out trying to do something basic, shh, don’t tell anyone but I think doing that got me an A instead of a C in a couple of classes, because the profs were so grateful). Certainly the competition can only be positive, regardless of how successful this approach ends up being.

In my opinion, support is the biggest hurdle that any web venture targeting the education marketplace will face, and it should be one of the primary focal points, even if it means delaying product features. Being based on an existing platform that is as popular and as easy to use as WordPress is impressive. I would worry, at the end of the day, about how scalable the whole thing would be. Ultimately, I think a better solution, at least for education and for potentially hundreds and hundreds of users and various access levels, would be Drupal or Joomla. That way, it stays Open Source, but the underlying CMS can do a better job filling the needs and being truly scalable. Not to say WPMU wouldn’t be a possibility, but other than WordPress.com (and large scale sites hosted on WordPress.com, which includes some universities and lots of media groups too), I’ve yet to see a really successul site or network running off of WordPress that has tons and tons of users/contributors and varrying access levels. WP.com is awesome, but it’s commericial nature makes it difficult to develop an add-on package for someone like OpenCourseware. Now if Automattic introduced a service specically targeted at the education marketplace, THAT would be spectacular.

I love WordPress, but if this were my company, I’d do it with Drupal and then customize the hell out of the interface to make it easy to use and manage.

Sean on February 21st, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

Very good points all. I am increasingly fascinated by the architecture and capabilities of WP and am diving into the source code to find out more. Of course, it was never meant to be a CMS or CW application and thus some architecture decisions were made based on that. Nevertheless it is very extensible and the core can be rewritten/refactored/optimized with this in mind. Any PHP based application (as with any) can scale dramatically by refactoring and implementing Model/View/Controller architecture practices as well as implementing caching with memcache, etc. Clustering technologies such as Linux HA and other projects can create a virtually infinitely scalable platform as well. In fact, of all my concerns about using WP as CW, scalability is far down the list. I certainly agree that Drupal is an excellent application as well and will look into its code and install and see what it looks like. I’ll keep readers informed with my findings!

Jonathon Byrd on July 7th, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

I’m looking to build a wp lms plugin, but first I’m defining exactly what is needed and wanted. See if you have any information you can contribute.

http://wordpress.org/support/topic/420863?replies=0#post-1588265

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