Open System Lab - uLearn Overview
The uLearn™ system, based on popular open source software Moodle, the most powerful and popular learning management system. uLearn™ allows students to have access to information from the instructor outside of class. With uLearn™, the instructors can upload all assignments for the students, and has the ability to update or add to any information that was presented during the day. It also allows for students to upload their work directly to the site and avoid having to print out or losing their assignment on their way to class. Direct feedback is also available to any assignment and discussion groups can also be created within the system to facilitate learning.
uLearn's overall design:
- Promotes a social constructionist pedagogy (collaboration, activities, critical reflection, etc)
- Suitable for 100% online classes as well as supplementing face-to-face learning
- Simple, lightweight, efficient, compatible, low-tech browser interface
- Easy to install on almost any platform that supports PHP. Requires only one database (and can share it).
- Full database abstraction supports all major brands of database (except for initial table definition)
- Course listing shows descriptions for every course on the server, including accessibility to guests.
- Courses can be categorized and searched - one uLearn site can support thousands of courses
- Emphasis on strong security throughout. Forms are all checked, data validated, cookies encrypted etc
- Most text entry areas (resources, forum postings etc) can be edited using an embedded WYSIWYG HTML editor
- Site is managed by an administrator user
- Site is defined during setup. Defaults can be edited during setup or globally accepted
- Site can be modified by a robust Site administration block.
- Plug-in "themes" allow the administrator to customize the site colors, fonts, layout etc to suit local needs
- Plug-in activity modules can be added to existing ULearn installations
- Plug-in language packs allow full localization to any language. These can be edited using a built-in web-based editor. Currently there are language packs for over 70 languages.
- The code is clearly-written PHP under a GPL license - easy to modify to suit your needs
- Goals are to reduce admin involvement to a minimum, while retaining high security
- Supports a range of authentication mechanisms through plug-in authentication modules, allowing easy integration with existing systems.
- Standard email method: students can create their own login accounts. Email addresses are verified by confirmation.
- LDAP method: account logins can be checked against an LDAP server. Admin can specify which fields to use.
- IMAP, POP3, NNTP: account logins are checked against a mail or news server. SSL, certificates and TLS are supported.
- Students are encouraged to build an online profile including photos, description. Email addresses can be protected from display if required.
- Every user can specify their own timezone, and every date in uLearn is translated to that timezone (e.g. posting dates, assignment due dates etc)
- Every user can choose the language used for the uLearn interface (English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese etc)
- Teachers can add an "enrolment key" to their courses to keep out non-students. They can give out this key face-to-face or via personal email etc
- Teachers can enrol students manually if desired
- Teachers can unenrol students manually if desired, otherwise they are automatically unenrolled after a certain period of inactivity (set by the admin)
- External database: any database containing at least two fields can be used as an external authentication source.
- Each person requires only one account for the whole server - each account can have different access
- Meta courses can group together related courses so participants can interact with each other
- Roles for specific participants can be defined for each course
- An admin account controls the creation of courses and creates teachers by assigning users to courses
- Course creators can create courses, teach in them, and assign others to teacher roles.
- Teachers are a role in a specific course.
- Non-editing teacher roles are available for adjuncts, and part-time tutors.
- A full teacher has full control over all settings for a course, including restricting other teachers
- Choice of course formats such as by week, by topic or a discussion-focused social format
- Course Themes. A course can have its own theme of colors and layout.
- Flexible array of course activities - Forums, Quizzes, Glossaries, Resources, Choices, Surveys, Assignments, Chats, Workshops
- Groups - teacher(s) and students can be placed in one or more groups
- Recent changes to the course since the last login can be displayed on the course home page - helps give sense of community
- Most text entry areas (resources, forum postings etc) can be edited using an embedded WYSIWYG HTML editor
- All grades for Forums, Quizzes and Assignments can be viewed on one page (and downloaded as a spreadsheet file)
- Full user logging and tracking - activity reports for each student are available with graphs and details about each module (last access, number of times read) as well as a detailed "story" of each students involvement including postings etc on one page.
- Mail integration - copies of forum posts, teacher feedback etc can be mailed in HTML or plain text.
- Custom scales - teachers can define their own scales to be used for grading forums and assignments
- Courses can be packaged as a single zip file using the Backup function. These can be restored on any ULearn server.
- Assignments can be specified with a due date and a maximum grade.
- Students can upload their assignments (any file format) to the server - they are date-stamped.
- Late assignments are allowed, but the amount of lateness is shown clearly to the teacher
- For each particular assignment, the whole class can be assessed (grade and comment) on one page in one form.
- Teacher feedback is appended to the assignment page for each student, and notification is mailed out.
- The teacher can choose to allow resubmission of assignments after grading (for re-grading)
- Allowing resubmissions can allow the teacher to progress monitor student projects/assignments as they evolve.
- Advanced assignments can allow multiple files to be uploaded. This could keep together preplanning maps, outlines, research papers and presentations. (Not for beginners)
- Allows smooth, synchronous text interaction
- Includes profile pictures in the chat window
- Supports URLs, smilies, embedded HTML, images etc
- All sessions are logged for later viewing, and these can also be made available to students
- Like a poll. Can either be used to vote on something, or to get feedback from every student (eg research consent)
- Teacher sees intuitive table view of who chose what
- Students can optionally be allowed to see an up-to-date graph of results
- Different types of forums are available, such as teacher-only, course news, open-to-all, and one-thread-per-user.
- All postings have the authors photo attached.
- Discussions can be viewed nested, flat or threaded, oldest or newest first.
- Individual forums can be subscribed to by each person so that copies are forwarded via email, or the teacher can force subscription for all
- The teacher can choose not to allow replies (eg for an announcements-only forum)
- Discussion threads can be easily moved between forums by the teacher
- Attached images are shown inline
- If forum ratings are being used, these can be restricted to a range of dates
- This is one of the modules that best illustrates the way that uLearn can fundamentally improve upon the experience of a traditional classroom
- When students contribute to a course in a public place like the glossary, their ideas are given weight and attention and often result in a greater pride or ownership of the assignment
- Allows participants to create and maintain a list of definitions, like a dictionary
- Student entries can be previewed by instructors before publishing
- Entries can be searched or browsed using alphabet, category, date, and author
- A glossary of terms can be easily referenced by students
- Almost any module of uLearn can be set to hyperlink - automatically - to any word or phrase that is stored in or added to the glossary
- Glossary items can be grouped in categories
- Participants can comment on glossary entries
- Entries can be rated using teacher-defined scales
- Glossaries can be easily exported and imported via xml
- Glossaries can be fully searched
- Glossaries can be viewed with different display formats
- A lesson is a series of pages which can be presented in a linear fashion, like a slide show, or in a non-linear, branching manner, or in a combination of the two.
- Navigation through the lesson can be straight forward or complex, logical or random
- Pages can allow students choices through answers to teacher directed questions or descriptions
- Each choice can be associated with jumps that link to other tables
- Offers different scoring and grading potentials
- Interfaces with Grade and Glossary modules
- Lessons can build upon each other through conditional dependencies upon one another
- Question pages include Multiple choice, Multi-answer, T/F, numeric, short answer and essay.
- Pages can be imported either as questions in a variety of formats or from PowerPoints
- Student attempts, time limits, minimum score and retakes can be set.
- Page content is HTML compatible, with a full set of edit tools for the teacher
- Students may see progress bars, running score, reinforcement to student questions
- Password, start and end times, and other restrictions can be placed on students.
- Teachers can define a database of questions for re-use in different quizzes
- Questions can be stored in categories for easy access, and these categories can be "published" to make them accessible from any course on the site.
- Quizzes are automatically graded, and can be re-graded if questions are modified
- Quizzes can have a limited time window outside of which they are not available
- At the teacher's option, quizzes can be attempted multiple times, and can show feedback and/or correct answers
- Quiz questions and quiz answers can be shuffled (randomized) to reduce cheating
- Questions allow HTML and images
- Questions can be imported from external text files
- Quizzes can be attempted multiple times, if desired
- Attempts can be cumulative, if desired, and finished over several sessions
- Multiple-choice questions supporting single or multiple answers
- Short Answer questions (words or phrases)
- True-False questions
- Matching questions
- Random questions
- Numerical questions (with allowable ranges)
- Embedded-answer questions (cloze style) with answers within passages of text
- Embedded descriptive text and graphics
- Supports display of any electronic content, Word, PowerPoint, Flash, Video, Sounds etc. that are stored locally, or remotely
- Files can be uploaded and managed (zipped, unzipped, renamed, moved, etc..) on the server
- Folders can be created and managed on the server and linked to
- Internal web pages (html formatted) can be created with WYSIWYG editor and linked to
- Internal text pages (no formatting) can be created and linked to
- External content on the web can be linked to or seamlessly included within the course interface.
- External web applications can be linked to with data passed to them
- Linked MP3 audio files will display with elegant flash player
- Built-in surveys (COLLES, ATTLS) have been proven as instruments for analyzing online classes
- Online survey reports always available, including many graphs. Data is downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet or CSV text file.
- Survey interface prevents partly-finished surveys.
- Feedback is provided to the student of their results compared to the class averages
- Wiki is a web page that anyone can add to or edit
- It enables documents to be authored collectively and supports collaborative learning
- Old versions are not deleted and may be restored if required
- Allows peer assessment of documents, and the teacher can manage and grade the assessment.
- Supports a wide range of possible grading scales
- Teacher can provide sample documents for students to practice grading
- Very flexible with many options.