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Virtual Learning Platforms Thread, VLE and MIS woes in Kent in Technical; Hello all, Firstly my apologies for posting this. I;m not really an IT expert nor a 'professional' but I have ...
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    VLE and MIS woes in Kent

    Hello all,

    Firstly my apologies for posting this. I;m not really an IT expert nor a 'professional' but I have been tasked with setting up a VLE at our secondary school in Kent.

    Basically I am very confused where we are going. Kent has something called the Kent Learning Zone which will eventually provide email/eportfolio space and some collaboration tools. We haven't signed up to it yet. I am not sure if other Kent schools have and would be interested to know what others are doing.

    Regarding a VLE, we have had RM (rather pricey) and ITs Learning/Viglen in to do demos - both seem ok to me but differ in price a lot. Does anyone have any experience with either, or would someone be able to suggest another? I have tried getting hold of Studywiz but they have been lacking in communication and that puts me off.

    I'm aware of Moodle but am worried that will end up costing us a lot in IT technician time (something we're lacking).

    So in summary, anyone got any thoughts on:

    RM
    Its Learning
    KLZ?

    And also what about SIMS, do any VLEs actually integrate with SIMS realtime and allow you to take registers ect within the VLE? We have SIMS Lesson Monitor already and have heard about SIMS web-parts but I'm not sure what that really is or how it differs from a VLE.

    Any guidance greatfully received

    Andy Wight

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    Domino's Avatar
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    There's a lot of crossover with lots of online tools nowadays.

    Sims webparts, VLE and intranet service tend to cross over.

    The situation in my school, was we had
    - an internal sharepoint system
    - a county run VLE (uniservity - yuck)
    -and a SIMS learning gateway (web parts stuff in a sharepoint enviroment, hosted by county)

    All of which encroach upon each other.

    Your best bet is to decide whats best for you.

    If you're that short of tech time - a manged system is best, as it will be looked after technically, and all you have to do is get content into it.

    We demo'd the Studywiz enviroment, and had county not provided uniservity at little cost, we would have gone with it (see if you can speak to Mike Damiano, he'll demo it for you).

    As far as I could see, it was head and shoulders above the others - and we'd spent good 9 months with various demos, etc.

    The price is high - but would it be higher than hirering someone to look after a moodle enviroment for you?

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    I'm aware of Moodle but am worried that will end up costing us a lot in IT technician time (something we're lacking).
    Once moodle is setup it just works (tm). It is really very stable because it has such a large userbase compared to the other learning platforms.There are only 5-6 updates per year, each takes about 20min to install so you only looking at an hour per year maintenence.
    Provided you choose a hassle free platform (a linux one) just get it to autoupdate and it is really very simple to manage. It also integrates well with AD and SIMS (ok, this takes some more time to setup)
    Your technicians time will be spent more on sorting out courses/material than they will on moodle maintenance,but you get this on any learning platform.

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    KLZ is just a bundled up SharePoint with Exchange etc. stuck on it - and heavily overpriced at that.

    We're going down our own route - SharePoint to wrap everything up, with Moodle as our VLE and CMIS as our MIS. SharePoint is still in the planning stage however.

    You can do far more in house with SharePoint etc. for cheaper, than KCC will charge you for the KLZ.

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    I like Sharepoint but the quote we received for purchasing it was way too expensive even with the educational discounts. We may well be getting a Sharepoint solution via the South West Grid but it's a while away yet.

    Went for Fronter instead - it's a nice tool and it should work well with our staff/students, the primary schools in our cluster and the schools we want to work with abroad. I also prefer a hosted solution rather than internally hosted as we want the various students (and parents) to use the tool out of hours but we can't provide any support if there's an outage.

    SIMS integration working (needed a SIMs update) - this creates Fronter user Ids for all staff and students in SIMs
    LDAP enabled (eventually) and tested with manually edited staff ids

    but can the team at Fronter UK load my students user ids and get the tool ready to launch? NO. At the rate they are messing me about at, I'd be quicker to manually change 1280 students user ids from the Fronter generated id to ones that match our active directory. An externally hosted Moodle solution is now looking good (and I'm not a Moodle fan)...

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    I found fronter a little too inaproachable to be honest.

    The thing I like about studywiz is the direct line to development, if you want something they'll take it on board - and if there's milage in it they'll build it.

    The other thing is, its hosted internally on a server, but maintained and managed by them.

    So its not a disaster if the net connection goes down, as you just connect locallaly.

    However - its horses for courses with these things - what works for one won't for another.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wight1979 View Post
    I'm aware of Moodle but am worried that will end up costing us a lot in IT technician time (something we're lacking).
    We use Moodle here, and I set it up 6 months ago with the new version, took about a day to get active directory integrated but I haven't touched it since on a technical level. I just gave a teacher the admin rights and he went away and set it all up through the web interface, he seems really happy with what he can do.

    We also use sharepoint but thats just for our school intranet and sharing files around the school and to people at home.

    The combo works pretty well and is much better than the council supplied VLE that was called "netmedia", we ditched that a long time ago and went our own way.

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    Talking Moodle is easy

    Quote Originally Posted by wight1979 View Post
    Hello all,

    Firstly my apologies for posting this. I;m not really an IT expert nor a 'professional' but I have been tasked with setting up a VLE at our secondary school in Kent.

    Basically I am very confused where we are going. Kent has something called the Kent Learning Zone which will eventually provide email/eportfolio space and some collaboration tools. We haven't signed up to it yet. I am not sure if other Kent schools have and would be interested to know what others are doing.

    Regarding a VLE, we have had RM (rather pricey) and ITs Learning/Viglen in to do demos - both seem ok to me but differ in price a lot. Does anyone have any experience with either, or would someone be able to suggest another? I have tried getting hold of Studywiz but they have been lacking in communication and that puts me off.

    I'm aware of Moodle but am worried that will end up costing us a lot in IT technician time (something we're lacking).

    So in summary, anyone got any thoughts on:

    RM
    Its Learning
    KLZ?

    And also what about SIMS, do any VLEs actually integrate with SIMS realtime and allow you to take registers ect within the VLE? We have SIMS Lesson Monitor already and have heard about SIMS web-parts but I'm not sure what that really is or how it differs from a VLE.

    Any guidance greatfully received

    Andy Wight

    Hi,

    I am not an ICT geek. Computers weren't really in existence when I was at school.

    If you are in Kent are you part of BSF, because if you are, then I wouldn't buy anythng other than the platform you are going to get. If you are part of BSF, a short-term and reliable VLE would be Moodle. It only costs for space and I pay for someone to keep the Moodle installation in a "stable state". I would run a version behind the most up to date.

    Moodle is wasy for non ICT specialists to use. It is free apart from the webspace. Intially ours cost 39 per year including installation - I could send you details. It will allow your staff to get a feel for what is possible. I would be happy to help, for a fee!

    Part of the problem in using a VLE is getting stuff on there in the first place. This is mainly in the form of resources. Once you get to the stage of adding more interactive things, you need to think more long term for what you want.

    In all the time that we have been using Moodle I have looked after it myslef - effectively I am the admin. Our ICT techs do not go anywhere near it - they have too much else to do. If you do need fixes, there are lots of companies who will provide Moodle support for 35 per hour - but I doubt you will need much in the first year.

    Alternatively, if you don't want to get involved in the admin at all, then you can pay about 500 per year and have a managed Moodle environment.

    Feel free to "email" back if you want futher info.

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    We've gone for Studywiz also, very customisable and pretty well suppported (Although tends to be overnight as they are in Australia)

    The KLZ Kent were supposed to be giving free KLZ accounts for all teachers, as the RM Easymail suppliment is being withdrawn....

    If you would like to see Studywiz in action drop me a line....


    Steve

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    Quote Originally Posted by MGSTech View Post
    The KLZ Kent were supposed to be giving free KLZ accounts for all teachers, as the RM Easymail suppliment is being withdrawn....
    Free for staff. 2.50 per student.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Corke63 View Post
    If you are in Kent are you part of BSF, because if you are, then I wouldn't buy anythng other than the platform you are going to get. If you are part of BSF, a short-term and reliable VLE would be Moodle.
    I don't think the 'short-term' advice is good unless the BSF providers will guarantee the migration of courses from Moodle to the provided platform.
    We've been running moodle for a few years now, and have gigabytes of data and many self-trained staff. Our (non-BSF) LA wants us to migrate to their platform, unfortunately they chose one which sucks, and doesn't provide anything close to the functionality, usability or integration that moodle does.
    Go ahead with moodle but don't be suprised when if get a backlash from staff when the 'approved' platform isn't quite as good as the salesman said it would be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd View Post
    Our (non-BSF) LA wants us to migrate to their platform, unfortunately they chose one which sucks, and doesn't provide anything close to the functionality, usability or integration that moodle does.
    YAY!..

    I agree

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    I look at this way,
    single point of failure is ISP so if tinternet goes down you have lost your VTLE but if you host it yourself i.e. Moodle then at least your teaching and learning environment will work in school.
    I just don't understand the logic of BSF approach of thin clients and centrally hosted sharepoint VLE which when 44,000 staff and Students login every morning and on every hour goes down because of the load, as every school will have 2 x 100Mb fibre feeds one for redundancy, but when doing the maths just doesn't make sense.
    Also VOIP and Video Conferencing will be in use which just adds to the bandwidth bottleneck me thinks but who am i to complain it is all about privatisation and profit which does little for the students.

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    We have gone for Sharepoint with the Sharepoint Learning Kit and full integration with SIMS.

    With the MS Schools agreement it is not an expensive option. You can see screenshots of some of the site, particularly the SIMS integration, on the kraal :: sharepoint design, web parts, ICT in education

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    Quote Originally Posted by wight1979 View Post
    Hello all,

    Firstly my apologies for posting this. I;m not really an IT expert nor a 'professional' but I have been tasked with setting up a VLE at our secondary school in Kent.

    Basically I am very confused where we are going. Kent has something called the Kent Learning Zone which will eventually provide email/eportfolio space and some collaboration tools. We haven't signed up to it yet. I am not sure if other Kent schools have and would be interested to know what others are doing.

    Regarding a VLE, we have had RM (rather pricey) and ITs Learning/Viglen in to do demos - both seem ok to me but differ in price a lot. Does anyone have any experience with either, or would someone be able to suggest another? I have tried getting hold of Studywiz but they have been lacking in communication and that puts me off.

    I'm aware of Moodle but am worried that will end up costing us a lot in IT technician time (something we're lacking).

    So in summary, anyone got any thoughts on:

    RM
    Its Learning
    KLZ?

    And also what about SIMS, do any VLEs actually integrate with SIMS realtime and allow you to take registers ect within the VLE? We have SIMS Lesson Monitor already and have heard about SIMS web-parts but I'm not sure what that really is or how it differs from a VLE.

    Any guidance greatfully received

    Andy Wight
    Hi,

    We are just finalising our move to Studywiz. I have found their technical support second to none, and we are in constant contact with both their sales department and other representatives of the company. I'm sorry you seem to have had such a hard time getting hold of someone- perhaps I can help? I have a couple of contacts I could put you in touch with that I am sure would help?

    If you would like to talk to Studywiz just PM me your email address etc and I will try and get you that all important first date!

    Integration with SIMS "real time" is something only Capita will be able to really answer. It's "nearly" there, but has been nearly there for some time. For Studywiz we use the export a CSV kind of deal and can add users in a more granular manner if/when needed.

    Our previous VLE exploits have included TALMOS and LP+. Both are reasonable VLE solutions but were never going to be a "best fit" for our needs and our school. Studywiz got the thumbs up across the board and because we can host it on our own servers (which we do) makes integration with our wider network so much easier.

    Like I said- if you want that all important first date let me know and I will put you in touch with Studywiz.

    Paul

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