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Exploring and Building Open [Source] Software for Learning Ecosystems and OER

EXPERIENCE DESIGN / EDUCATION / OER/ MULTI-DEVICE / GRAV CMS

SFU’s fourth annual DEMOfest is scheduled for Wed, November 21st and I hope to share with my fellow educators how the Grav CMS can be used to expand and enhance Canvas - here’s my submitted proposal:

Expanding and Enhancing Canvas with the Open Source Grav CMS
Tech-savvy educators! Want to incorporate more open and collaborative materials within Canvas? How about improving the online experience? Faced with this challenge, Paul Hibbitts developed components for the file-based Grav CMS (getgrav.org) to effectively work inside of his CMPT-363 Canvas course (https://canvas.sfu.ca/courses/38847). Grav uses the platform-independent Markdown format and enables collaborative editing by students and instructors with Git-based services such as GitHub and GitLab. These also naturally support the 5 Rs (Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute) of Open Educational Resources. Integrating Grav pages within Canvas is seamless too - without any content restrictions.

I am excited to be part of SFU’s DEMOfest this year, where I will be presenting and discussing with my fellow educators the advantages of using the Canvas LMS with Grav:

Canvas Assessment Strengths

  • Assignment submissions and rubrics
  • Surveys, quizzes, and graded discussion forums
  • Multi-course calendar and gradebook
    A safe place for student assignments and data, and where most of our students are!

Grav Content Management System Strengths

  • Free open source software (FOSS) project
  • A modern flat-file (no database) CMS, which supports custom page types and modular content
  • The platform-independent format Markdown is supported, and pages remain as individual files
  • Fully extensible, with support for HTML, CSS, Twig, JavaScript, Google Fonts, YAML, etc.
    For tech-savvy educators a modern and flexible platform under their full control!

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Here are a few recent thoughts about the usage of LMSs and CMSs outside of school/courses, for both students and instructors.

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

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:

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) e...

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 approach is where an open platform, in the control of instructors and students, serves as an alternative front-end to the institutional LMS.

With this approach, instructors can create better outcomes and experiences for students and themselves today. Deep-links to any needed LMS elements (i.e. assignment submissions, discussion forums, grades, etc.) with flow-through for user authentication is the only back-end requirement.

Desired qualities of a flipped-LMS approach:

  • Open (Platform + Data)
  • Collaborative
  • Choice (Instructor/Student)
  • Pliable
  • Networked

Definition:
A flipped-LMS is an approach where an open platform, chosen by an instructor, provides an alternative front-end to their institutional LMS. Deep links (i.e. direct links) are provided to any required LMS elements such as discussions, assignments, grades, etc.