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Education Open Source

EdX Online Classroom Code Going Open Source, Uniting With Stanford 27

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the together-we-live dept.
The edX project today announced that they are joining forces with Stanford and releasing the source to edX on June 1st. As part of the platform going Free, Stanford will be integrating features from their Open Source Class2Go project. From Stanford: "Mitchell said that Stanford's Class2Go platform development team has been in contact with the edX team for a number of months, and that much code is already synchronized so that the collaboration between the two platforms will be a smooth one. The advantage will then be 'a larger team building one strong open source platform, rather than two competing open source platforms, which we think will be more desirable for universities around the world,' Mitchell added."
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EdX Online Classroom Code Going Open Source, Uniting With Stanford

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  • One thing I noticed about edX, coursera, and a few others with similar aims, is that technically their websites seem very exclusive to the latest and snappiest version of any tool that might be used to try and view them.

    I have frozen one browser, crashed another, trying to look at their contents without success yet.

    Ok 'open' refers to the liberated character of the software, but how open is this at user-level? Did their designers never hear of backwards compatibility? Or do they just want to exclude access

    • by chrism238 (657741)

      Or do they just want to exclude access by anybody without the latest gizmos?

      Modern browsers, all free to download on a wide variety of platforms, are hardly "the latest gizmos".

      • by waterbear (190559)

        Modern browsers, all free to download on a wide variety of platforms, are hardly "the latest gizmos".

        Well if not the latest, then pretty recent.

        The questions about them are not about their cost-freedom but about their functionality: memory leaks, aspects of their operation newly outside the control of the user, the fragmentation of the 'standards' with which they comply.

        But the point is that educational course materials don't intrinsically require any of this specialism or exclusivity. There are plenty of s

    • "What do you mean this doesn't work with Lynx! Also, I specifically requested GOPHER support over 6 months ago. What the hell?"

      Firstly, EdX is an open platform made collaboratively by MIT and Harvard. Coursera is a private company. They're vastly different.

      Secondly, the technical and design hurdles that they are overcoming with these products are not trivial, and they are often made significantly less difficult with cutting edge features available to developers on newer browsers. It might not be the differe

      • by waterbear (190559)

        . . . if your definition of "open" requires supporting curmudgeons that arbitrarily decided to stop updating their browser at some point, because it's what you did, . . .

        It's not so very long since backwards compatibility was considered a good feature of software. Now, just mentioning the desirability of it seems to be a sure-fire way to collect some personal insults.
         

        • It's not so very long since backwards compatibility was considered a good feature of software. Now, just mentioning the desirability of it seems to be a sure-fire way to collect some personal insults.

          Insulting? Possibly. Accurate? Undoubtedly.

          referencing:

          Did their designers never hear of backwards compatibility? Or do they just want to exclude access by anybody without the latest gizmos?

          Obviously, the tone of my response, especially in the passage you cited, was not directed at your want for backwards compatibility, which, stated more civilly, would have gathered a more friendly response; it was targeted at your trollish questioning of the developers and designers competence, and motives. Since I'm a software developer at Harvard (I did not work on this project,) I believe my response was quite appropriate.

          • by waterbear (190559)

            Since I'm a software developer at Harvard (I did not work on this project,) I believe my response was quite appropriate.

            You obviously feel strongly about this, with 'curmudgeon', 'trollish', an exaggerated caricature of the view you disagreed with, and false placement of the caricature within quotes.

            Educational websites such as those discussed here clearly mean to reach out to a wide audience. The intended users can be expected to come from a wide range of situations with a wide variety of resources from 'l

            • Their efforts do reach an incredibly broad audience. The number of people that *do* have access to computers, which *do* have internet access, but are *not* running at least Windows XP SP2 (the minimum requirement for recent versions of firefox), or Linux, which the most recent version of Damn Small Linux, by any known measure (OS Market Share stats), is incredibly small.

              Damn small linux, requires a 486DX with 16MB of RAM. It is small enough to download with a dial-up connection.
              The latest Firefox requires

              • by waterbear (190559)

                The more specific and narrow you make your requirements, the more people you exclude.

                anybody making a stink about it is either really not thinking the problem through and just grumbling because it bothers them (a curmudgeon), or just trying to start trouble (a troll.)

                That attitude to an educational/outreach site and your repetition of name-calling speak for themselves.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @12:09PM (#43348781)

    I've tried a couple of edX courses, and they are far better than expensive online offerings from other universities. Not only is the technology better, but so is the depth of instruction. (Too many universities seem to believe that an online course is a page for news, another page to submit assignments, and a forum.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm using the edX system at SJSU for an electrical engineering class. I am amazed that this system cost millions to build, because it's broken in many, many ways. For example:

    - Problems where you enter equations have no tips about which symbols are accepted and have no way to enter mathematical symbols (compare to MasteringPhysics which has this solved elegantly years ago) It takes a lot of blind guessing and checking to make the input formatted correctly because you have no idea what the system expects to

  • Needs more design (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @02:46PM (#43350553) Homepage Journal

    I've been into the online teaching thing since it went mainstream, almost 2 years ago now. I've taken courses from all of the big online players, and "tasted" several others.

    In terms of functionality, they're all pretty good. Where they fall down miserably is in presentation design and logistics.

    The edX presentation emphasizes soft colors, rounded corners, italic serif fonts, and such. At the same time, small areas of information are buried within blankets of surrounding style.

    For an example, check out the ongoing 802.x discussion forum [edx.org], and note how much blank screen space there is. In order to get this much blank space, the presentation reduces the list of topics to 10 and hides it behind a slider. The underlying slider data is 15 topics (more or less, depending on the subject length) with the option to "load more" at the bottom.

    The overall feel is that you're reading a newspaper through a greeting card with holes cut in the front. Most of the text is hidden, you have to move the card around the page to get all the information. Pretty, but time consuming.

    The logistics are a bit uneven, but to be fair most of the players are experimenting with this right now. For the 802.x course ("Electricity and Magnetism [edx.org]" by Walter Lewin) , hour[ish]-long lectures are broken into segments, with a quick quiz between each segment.

    It's impossible to get really "into" the lecture as one would get "into" an interesting movie. You'll watch a segment and it's fascinating, you want to see what happens next - Prof. Lewin is a great lecturer - and suddenly you have to stop, break out a calculator, do some calculations, check it twice, do some research on the net, enter the answer and hope you didn't typo a digit or something (the quizzes form part of your grade). Now back to the lecture, pick up where it left off.

    Switching gears back-and-forth like this makes it hard to keep track of what's going on in the lecture - sometimes you get less than 5 minutes of watching before you have to stop and calculate some result. The system won't let you go to the next lecture without answering the quiz, and you are scored on the first try. You can't preview the lectures to get an overview, and you can't download them for offline viewing (there are work-arounds though).

    Maybe in a couple of years these aspects will be more polished and useful. Throwing the code out as open source will only help, because other players can try different approaches and perhaps better methods of presentation.

    • by waterbear (190559)

      Pretty, but time consuming.

      . . . and maybe those 'pretty' things also had to be coded with software features that stop those pages being read with a bunch of nearly-new browsers.

      'KISS' is good.

    • by ABEND (15913)

      Those of us who are currently taking edX classes are beta testers and we are paying the beta price of $0.00 to learn from world class educators. I'm sure the STAFF there would appreciate any constructive criticism you can provide.

      Myself, I'm a poor beta tester. I spend too much time being in awe of what edX is providing for free to provide much constructive criticism.

      • Those of us who are currently taking edX classes are beta testers and we are paying the beta price of $0.00 to learn from world class educators. I'm sure the STAFF there would appreciate any constructive criticism you can provide.

        Myself, I'm a poor beta tester. I spend too much time being in awe of what edX is providing for free to provide much constructive criticism.

        I'm actually local to edX and have contacts within that group.

        They are swamped with work and generally do not have the time to listen to suggestions for improvement. Furthermore, they have a difficult time believing someone who has experience outside their own expertise - it's sort of like a hobbyist gourmet cook trying to tell an engineer that the food could be better. They concentrate on what they know, and don't consider presentation skills important.

        I've never really subscribed to the "you shouldn't com

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