Looking back, we were delighted with our participation numbers, the quantity of resources and of children’s work, the sheer scale, our confirmed hunches about the future, and of the way that our decisions about tight protection at all times of our users’ privacy, have proved to be absolutely correct.
But looking back there are some useful lessons from the project – which Microsoft confirmed as “a global showcase and an example of how technology can support change in educational practice” (Larry Nelson, Worldwide Managing Director). These aren’t a criticism of the past, just a useful set of key learnings from this vast project to inform everyone’s future practice:
- Building a platform for all the children in a nation is complex. If you do it really well, no one will know just how complex it was! For the Hwb+ system has used 821 GB which includes 42 GB of public facing Web site files (Read More). But technology helps complexity to be managed. That technology will change and it is important to have eyes on the horizon whilst the practical feet on the ground stuff is happening. As an example the work we did to plug in data analytics is important in 2018, but will be enormously more important by 2020.
- Secondly, it is easy for policymakers to forget about the children from time to time. Our Welsh users created an enormous amount of work – from blogs and poems to coursework and exam material. This isn’t just a vast repository of their good work, it is a valuable historical archive that will be increasingly valuable as time passes. Thought needs to be given to that resource before it gets to be too big to cherish.
- Of course, teachers are without a doubt the most hardworking group of professionals on the planet. They are smart, qualified, passionate about their children and often exhausted! Enabling their professional development needs to be about reducing their burden as teachers whilst making their teaching even more effective. That rarely happens from a top-down approach to CPD. We have very much wanted to support CPD using the wisdoms that were emerging from our most passionate users – by teachers for teachers. It is hard for top-down national policy to directly support bottom-up developments. That needs careful and enlightened planning.
- Analysing raw server data is difficult. The easy numbers are rarely actually simple. For example users might share computers, might amass work off-line connecting less regularly, might contribute multiple media as well as text, might be the indispensable “heart and soul of the community” but without contributing much formally, and so on. We really believe that good research can reveal far better insights than simple KPIs. That good research needs to be built in and funded, and part of the dialogue with users.
- But finally, as we had confirmed by so many tweets and blogs and conversations and enthusiastic children: this was worth doing. With almost 200 countries in the world, the baton is being passed on from Wales. What those countries do next will be even more interesting…
Our six year contract with the Welsh government has now reached its conclusion; following the three year extension after an independent review confirming its “value for money”. Time to look back, and forwards!
Our conversations with the government began in 2012 and rightly there was a complex and competitive procurement route to follow from there. Nevertheless, everyone wanted to get started as quickly as possible; a year would seem a very long wait for a five year old! Hwb+ began quickly, and grew even quicker. We launched the project with Leighton Andrews, the then Education Minister in 3 months, Andrews referred to the project as a “world-class system for those aged 3 to 19” (Source: BBC, 2012). At Learning Possibilities we are proud of the scale and impact of our work in Wales with 540,0000 active accounts and 87% of schools logging in in 2017 (Read More) and being referred to by Microsoft as “one of the largest deployments of its type” (Larry Nelson, Worldwide Managing Director).
The last decade has seen so many new technology developments: satnav on your phone, Snapchat, Instagram, üBer, 4G networking, properly smart watches, the Hadron Collider, Siri with Alexa and friends, and so much more. Our project began on a very fast moving conveyor belt of global innovation and we felt that all our design work had to be “future aware”. Even our six years with the Welsh government have proved to be a long time in technology-years. As the contract’s years passed, we added everything from Skype conferencing to big data analytics, but also pragmatic things like off-line working and many more terabytes of storage. Not everything needed to evolve; our initial certainty about the importance of user privacy might have seemed a bit obsessive at the outset, but has proved to be prescient as recent scandals about data privacy have shown. Welsh students’ data safely housed in the UK now looks very clearly the right call. What evolved in this case was others’ understanding of online danger.
Perhaps most interestingly, where Hwb+ had begun perhaps as a shared learning platform, it became the cement in a community of learners and one with a designed future-proofing, because we knew, and know, the emerging and changing needs of learners.
One key lesson from Finland’s much lauded education system is of the importance of collaboration and exchange between schools going forwards. As the OECD put it: “Children entering school in 2018… Will need to be responsible and empowered, placing collaboration above division, and sustainability above short-term gain” (Read more here). That OECD vision of collegiality and collaboration needs more than a tool to support blogs, chats, homework and content. It needs accessible and visual data that allows the individual to model and compare their efforts, and for teams to see who has done what, for whom.
The Welsh government were prescient back in 2012 to commission the very tool that would allow their users to build national collaboration. What started as a platform finished looking very much like a conduit for community.
And now, as we move forward it is perhaps no surprise to the see the level of interest from other nations as they too seek to make their learning better and to build the sense of togetherness that is looking more and more important as a slightly unstable world moves forward.
We were hugely proud of what we did in wales, but even more excited to see what we can do for other nations as they realise the power of collaborative spaces for learners and professionals alike, on-line and face to face. One important dimension in that collaboration is the role of language and of course our Welsh project was properly bi-lingual with Welsh and English to the fore. Technology is only just starting to hint at its ability to allow collaboration across cultures, but surely nothing is more important socially? Technology might eventually bring us something akin to Douglas Adam’s Babelfish, but without evolving the habit of equitable cross cultural collaboration, such wonderful technologies will be wasted.
Six years of progress? Well yes, but for us it was also 6 years of clarity in our understanding of what learners and teachers need, worldwide. Can’t wait to see what the next 6 years bring…
Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM): LP+ 365 & OSS LMS Moodle Introduction by Dr Kalai Anand Ratnam
Open source software (OSS) has gradually entered the field of education to meet the need of affordable and customizable tools. Many countries have paid great attention to the development of open source software for education. However, many problems occurred in its application, which hindered growth, particularly in developing countries. This was especially true for Learning Management Systems (LMS) in Malaysia.
Learning Management System (LMS) or online learning portal has become an electronic learning and communicating ways for many higher education institutions in Malaysia. The use of eLearning has increased in this few years and open source learning management systems have become a popular choice for these higher education institutions in Malaysia. Ensuring the LMS usability is an important factor that can affect the overall acceptance and success of the platforms. The brief report will evaluate the usability factor of LP+365 and the open source Moodle LMS. Learning Management Systems or LMS is a platform that is designed to assist the delivery of online courses. Other than the term LMS is used, other commonly used term for such platform are Course Management Systems (CMS) and Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The LMS used across higher education institutions in Malaysia accounts to Open Sources – 57.7%, Commercial – 34.6%, and In House Development – 15.4%.
Many LMS have been introduced as Open Source Software (OSS) License, this includes Moodle, Sakai, Claroline, Desire2Learn, Edvance360 & etc. The evaluation and selection of inappropriate LMS packages can have and adverse effect on the processes for a given education institute. Further to that, the task of identifying OSS LMS has become increasingly complex given the large number of OSS LMS packages available on the market, the lack of experience and technical knowledge to customize, increased cost of hosting OSS LMS and on-going development in the field of educational information technology.
Educational OSS LMS are not self-sufficient sometimes like commercial products. The most important disadvantage is risk of losing support. As the most users will be interested only to use the software, not to build it, so there is risk of losing support and resources. In that case, educational institutes will face trouble to improve and customize the software. Although the magnitude of development and maintenance related issues could be challenging, it is clear these problems are more severe there, as there is lack of stable and cost effective OSS infrastructure and ecosystem.
More often than not, OSS community does not follow a well defined/ well-documented software process, which raises development problem within the OSS community during product development. Due to the absence of an explicitly defined and documented software development process for OSS development, the drawbacks which arise due to the absence of a process are also not documented elaborately in the literature. However, few specific problems were identified and debated in detail within the OS e-learning development community. The major problems that were identified include software design issues, lack of complete and accessible documentation (technical as well as user documentation), not addressing all user requirements, etc. Since, the OS systems and its features are mainly developed to address the developer’s immediate requirement; it mainly results in less attention being paid to design issues. The poor design and requirement
analysis in-turn leads to factors like, misunderstood features, poor user interface, etc. Also, due to the absence of a defined process, the co-ordination between unknown developers might be difficult and the new comers to OSS development might find it complicated to understand the development process, etc. All these issues significantly affect the OS e-learning system development and thereby the product quality itself as there no guarantees that project will reach completion with desired results. The progress entirely depends on the interest and time of collaborative workforce, lack of resources or funding can derail a project. This in turn could make the institute of higher learning to prefer commercially developed proprietary software products which are much easier to work with. Proprietary LMS learning provider; Learning Possibilities commit resources to product documentation and customer support. The lack of commercial incentives in many open source projects undoubtedly reduces contributors’ enthusiasm. If the support disappears, educational institutions will have trouble improving and customizing open sources projects.
The Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) was used to evaluate and compare the Moodle OSS LMS package with LP+365. Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) is defined as the collective method adopted to compare, rank and identify the appropriate LMS platform for evaluation of LP+365 at Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (Malaysia). Each platform were presented with it’s multiple criteria against the decision matrix.
As is the case in the choice of Learning Management System, there are decisions required to give in the selection of LMS, one of the most important decisions is whether the LMS to be used should be a system that has a license fee and is centrally developed one or an open source system with volunteer developer audience and without any need for license fee. This decision is the one directly affecting the quality of training activities, their cost and success in the organization. The organization, while giving such decision, must evaluate the true capacity of using outsource, its budget, objected training activities and informational capabilities. Although IT managers around the world seem to split into two in the dilemma of open source code and commercial central development, this decision is related to capabilities, budgets and priorities of organizations rather than personal perspectives.
As in each investment to be conducted by organizations, there are important issues to be considered in the decision of LMS investment. These are elements regarding business or informatics such as usefulness of the system, suitability to the needs of institution, total cost of ownership, return on investment. However, the first decision to be given is whether the software to be used will be an open-source or closed-source coded software. If software is open source, this does not always mean it is free, and being free does not always mean the software is open-source.
Institute of Higher Learning should not only analyze the characteristics of LMSs in question but also evaluate e-learning project and organizational capabilities before making the decision of open-source vs commercial options of LMS. With a team, capable and adaptable to new technologies, it is possible to implement powerful but low-cost e-learning projects by using an open source LMS. On the other hand, using an open source LMS with a team lacking enough capability and motivation will lead to failure, total amount of wasted time and resources may be higher than that of selecting a commercial LMS with expert advisors for the project.
Table 1 presents the comparison of Open Source LMS (Moodle) and Commercial LMS (LP+365).
Open Source LMS (Moodle)
Commercial LMS (LP+ 365)
|Fee||Nearly all OSS MS products in the market are completely free of charge including Moodle.||There are affordable prices for license and license renewal.|
|Technical Support||Technical support takes place in the form of asking questions/receiving answers in user forms, published documents, forums & blog posts. In cases of inadequacy, professional consultant is required.||Learning Possibilities offers technical support within the service agreement.|
|Hardware & Software Scalability||LMS is hosted on organization’s own server. There is a need for specialized personnel for server maintenance.
Alternatively, the server can be leased and outsourced.
|Within the scope of agreement, LMS will be hosted on Azure Cloud.
This leverages the Office 365 cloud solution to aid classroom collaborations and assessments engaging users to ensure a deeper learning experience.
The solution fully utilizes the power of Office 365 and will give schools an education focused and effective learning platform delivering the LP+ ADOPT pedagogy, and features and functionality of the LP+4 platform.
|Development||With the programing language of the LMS, it is possible to make unlimited development as per needs. Community driven.
Developed by many independent developers that can complicate the
process of development and customization, management of security patches.
|Developments are in software company’s initiative. The company as social enterprise, with a view to keep customer satisfaction high, improves the product by
listening to institution, educators and student needs.
|Adoption||Moodle implementation varies and learning how to use different implementation is time consuming.||Its simplicity. The App is organized in an intuitive manner, which means that both teachers and learners will be able to access their content quickly and easily.|
Table 1: Open Source LMS (Moodle) and Commercial LMS (LP+365).
Challenges Faced by Moodle Implementation
- Although Moodle can be downloaded for free, someone must be available to install, configure, maintain and update the platform. Because Moodle isn’t a commercial product, you won’t turn the key on an intuitive feature set that’s ready to use. While the breadth of customization options can be attractive, it also generates a lot of extra design choices that must be made by your team. With Moodle, you lose the benefit of having a team of professional experts who have refined features over multiple iterations and tested user- friendly design choices for
- You don’t need technical support. Lack of support is a famous Moodle drawback. If you go with Moodle, your team will need to own everything from designing the platform at the highest level to managing all technical issues, breakages and bugs. All future updates and security patches for the platform must be handled by your team. And every time a new version of Moodle is released, all courses, modules and components must be individually updated to stay
- You manage sophisticated users and learners with great technical The platform isn’t easy to use. This technical difficulty makes Moodle a poor choice for businesses and associations charged with delivering courses to a range of learners of varying backgrounds and skill-levels. A serious risk of selecting an open source option like Moodle is that learners become distracted from completing their courses by the complexity of the LMS itself, jeopardizing results and completion rates.
A strategic early decision needs to be taken regarding the selection of the appropriate LMS system in any Institute of Higher Learning is deciding of going for open source or commercial LMS systems. Both types of LMS have their advantages and disadvantages. The Commercial LMS such as LP+365 systems have many advantages, including the development by one company with an approach and unified concept of development, LMS are thoroughly tested for bugs and errors, updates can be installed automatically, customization can be done only by the company.
Furthermore, LP+365 LMS systems include the latest tools and modules to support the faculty staff and students on one hand. With LP+365, educators can add announcements, load resources and set assignments at a click of a button, while students can see their daily calendar, assigned homework, previous submissions, their class/subject sites and curriculum material – all neatly organized and easily accessible. This includes instant access to native Office 365 Apps like Word, Class Notebook, PowerPoint etc.
The Welsh Government published its Learning in Digital Wales Report on October 2016, which took a critical look at its funding of digital infrastructure, devices, platforms and content into schools.
On the LP+ (HWB+) platform, the report commented;
“Hwb+ [LP+] meets the objectives for the VLE which were specified, including a single user log on for all teachers and learners, ability to be accessed anywhere at any time from any device, and tools and content, most notably access to Office365, purchased through a ‘buy once for Wales’ approach. “
“Usage data on Hwb and Hwb+ and evidence from surveys and qualitative feedback seems to indicate that LiDW products and activities (including infrastructure improvements) have had a positive effect on increasing the use of digital resources in schools. Training, support and awareness raising activities also appear to have contributed to increases in the use of digital resources and to improving the confidence and awareness of teachers and school managers.”
The Report also comments on the high adoption of the HWB+ platform, and makes recommendations for future improvements of the programme. You can read the complete report here.
Professor Don Passey from the University of Lancaster undertook independent research into the implementation and usage of the LP+365 learning platform in 72 schools in Wolverhampton.
The research gave a summary of the project, its key outcomes and also calculates the cost benefits and return on investment of the LP+ platform.
He concluded that the LP+ platform helped children from a nursery age, hard to reach writers and parental engagement. Critically it also builds key digital skills.
In 2010 Learning Possibilities published the award winning ADOPT Framework, authored by Professor Stephen Heppell, Sarah Armstrong, Director of Education at Learning Possibilities, and a team from Wolverhampton City Council.
ADOPT received immediate recognition, and was selected as the UK’s National Learning Platform Adoption Model, by the UK Department for Education. The Company also won the prestigious BETT award that year.
ADOPT is an acronym for a 5-stage model (Awareness, Development, Optimisation, Pioneering and Transformation) defining the adoption of LP+365 and its associated Microsoft technologies in the classroom. This helps teachers and school identify where they are in their journey and what their next steps should be. ADOPT and the LP+ Platform have been used by millions of learners since its publication.
ADOPT is the culmination of a 10 year journey to understand how technologies can be used to drive adoption and cater to the needs of educators and learners across many countries in the world. Independent research shows that using the LP+ Platform builds communication and collaboration skills, as well as engaging hard to reach learners.
In July 2014, Estyn (The Welsh Government’s School Inspectors of Education and Training) inspected Barry Island Primary School in South Wales.
For possibly the first time, the LP+ platform in Wales (called Hwb) was mentioned:
“ The school’s planning for digital learning is outstanding. All staff plan and use a wide range of digital resources and applications in their teaching to enhance the skillsbased curriculum. The school uses highly innovative and effective practices in developing Hwb and Hwb + learning. For example, pupils use Hwb to upload their home learning and research work. “
You can ready the full report here