This is a brief guide to help educators use the Grav Course Hub as an open and collaborative multi-device partner for their LMS. In other words, to ‘flip’ it good!

Grav Course Hub Screenshot


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This is a guide on how to setup your Grav Course Hub for a single course using the Admin Panel (accessed by adding ‘/admin’ to the Browser URL of your Grav site) or directly working with files. This guide assumes you have the Grav Course Hub up and running and that you are familiar with the basics of Grav.


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I am putting together a very brief presentation about flipping an LMS with an open + collaborative platform. Here is what I’ve got so far:

Flip it Good! Flipping the LMS with an Open + Collaborative Platform
Do you have unmet pedagogical goals due to the constraints of your current LMS? Do you want to have a better experience for your students and yourself? In preparing his Fall 2015 CMPT-363 (User Interface Design) course at Simon Fraser University, instructor and interaction designer Paul Hibbitts faced these same challenges. His solution was to ‘flip the LMS’ by designing and developing an alternative front-end to the institutional LMS Canvas (http://paulhibbitts.net/cmpt-363-153/). In this approach, the LMS was used only for elements it was best suited for (i.e. student records, grades, etc.) with all other elements handled by an open extensible platform completely under his control.

Based on the positive feedback of his students and his own experience, he decided to create an open source course hub built with the CMS (Content Management System) Grav to help other instructors get started in flipping their LMS with an open + collaborative platform.

In this presentation Paul will share his flipped-LMS approach and introduce his ready-to-run open source Grav Course Hub for use by other educators.

In-progress Slides

This article is now outdated. Please refer to the Grav Course Companion Getting Started Guide.

I am pleased (well, actually quite stoked) to announce that my ready-to-run Course Companion, built with the open source CMS Grav, is now available for fellow educators to take for a test drive.


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Flipped-LMS approach using Grav, GitHub, and Deploy
Figure 1. Flipped-LMS approach using Grav CMS, GitHub, and Deploy.

Here is what I have in mind so far for a possible ebook or workshop about Grav CMS for instructors:

  • What is a Modern Flat-file CMS?
  • Getting Grav up and Running
    • Requirements
    • Installation
      • Server Only
      • Desktop + Server
  • The Basics of Grav
    • Admin Panel
      • Account Creation
    • Overview
      • Dashboard
      • Configuration
      • Managing Pages
      • Editing Pages
    • Working with Files
      • Overview
      • Pages
    • Folders
    • Page Content
    • Overview
    • Names
    • Headers
      • Markdown
      • Linking Pages
      • Embedding Media
  • Flipping your LMS with Grav
    • What is a Flipped-LMS?
    • Why Flip the LMS?
    • Flipped-LMS Approach
    • Experience Design Goals
    • Why Grav?
  • An Open and Collaborative Workflow
    • Overview
    • Recommended Toolset
      • MAMP
      • Git Service (e.g. GitHub, GitLab, Gogs, etc.)
      • GitHub Desktop
      • Deploy
    • Example Workflow
    • Setting it all Up
  • Course Companion Skeleton Package
    • Highlights
    • Site Structure
    • Pages Types
    • Configuration
  • Things to Explore Next…
    • Font awesome icons (included)
    • Built-in media manipulation functionality
    • Modular content using Page Inject plugin (included)
    • Additional theme customizations
    • The joys of the Twig templating language
  • Wrap-up

Here is a draft workshop description:
Do you have unmet pedagogical goals due to the constraints of your current LMS? Do you want to have a better experience for your students and yourself? In this workshop, Paul will introduce Grav, the modern flat-file (no database) CMS and his open source course companion to help other instructors flip their LMS to overcome these challenges. Participants should be comfortable with editing text files, connecting to a Web server, and be familiar with basic Web page elements.

And here is a peek at the in-progress slides:

Thoughts or comments? You can find me on Twitter at @hibbittsdesign.

What is a flipped LMS?
A flipped LMS approach is where an open platform, in the control of course participants, serves as an alternative front-end to the institutional LMS

Flipped-LMS approach
Figure 1. Flipped-LMS approach.

Why flip the LMS?
To support pedagogical goals unmet by current LMS/platform
To deliver a better student (and facilitator) experience
To increase capability of access, sharing and collaboration

What to “Flip” Your LMS With?
Ideally an open and collaborative platform, as shown below:

Open + collaborative Web platform
Figure 2. Open + collaborative Web platform.

Flipped-LMS approach using an open + collaborative Web platform
Figure 3. Flipped-LMS approach using an open + collaborative Web platform.

For example, the modern flat-file CMS Grav along with GitHub and an automatic deployment service such as Deploy can be used quite effectively by tech-savvy educators as an open and collaborative platform to support a flipped-LMS approach:

Flipped-LMS approach using Grav, GitHub, and Deploy

Figure 4. Flipped-LMS approach using Grav CMS, GitHub, and Deploy.

When flipping your LMS what are some key experience design goals?
Student experience design goals:
Engaging
Organized
Relevant
Convenient
Enjoyable

Facilitator experience design goals:
Controllable (i.e. manageable)
Pliable (i.e. flexible)
Efficient
Enjoyable (hey, instructors are people too…)

Want to get started with flipping your own LMS? Since this article was written I’ve built an open source project using the Grav CMS to help other tech-savvy instructors - explore the on-line demo and then head over to Grav Course Hub Getting Started Guide to get going.

While trying to visualize my flipped-LMS approach using an open and collaborative platform, it’s become apparent that I am looking at two distinct, though related, models.

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For my situation, I use the flat-file CMS Grav to provide an open and collaborative platform when using a flipped-LMS approach.

In a recent discussion the question of how a traditional LMS implementation compares to a flipped LMS was asked. Here are my initial thoughts so far, based on my experiences with several institutional LMSs and using the flat-file CMS Grav in a flipped-LMS approach:

Traditional LMS Implementation       Flipped-LMS Approach
Institutional Control Instructor & Student Control
Closed Open
Fixed Pliable
Solitary Collaborative
Stationary Portable

So, why would course facilitators want to utilize a flipped-LMS approach?

Here are three primary reasons that come to mind:

  • To support pedagogical goals unmet by current LMS/platform
  • To increase capability of access, sharing and collaboration
  • To deliver a better student (and facilitator) experience

I am excited to be presenting my approach of a Flipped-LMS at Simon Fraser University’s DEMOFest 2015 on November 24th.

Here is the description of my session:

Flipping the LMS: Benefits and Lessons Learned of Using an Alternative Front-end to Canvas

Let’s be honest, as course facilitators we want to deliver the best possible online learner experience but at the same time make our own experience as convenient as possible. LMSs, such as Canvas, provide some great pedagogical elements but often fall short when it comes to such things as streamlined course updates, content reuse, easy customization, and providing a truly open platform. The solution? Flip the LMS!

A flipped-LMS is an approach where an open platform, chosen by an instructor, provides an alternative (and preferably collaborative) front-end to their institutional LMS. In this presentation Paul will demonstrate how this approach can produce significant improvements to both the student and instructor experience. Elements from Paul’s personal toolkit to be highlighted will include Canvas (naturally), the open source flat-file CMS Grav, and GitHub Desktop.

Presentation Slides