On blocking Gutenberg

March 4, 2023 Off By JR

Pat Lockley reading my mind this week. I use a few content management systems, and learning management systems. I’ve actively had to use, and train others on, the big four LMSs in higher ed in North American in the past three years (BBL, Canvas, Moodle, and Brightspace). Everytime I engage with these systems I have to pause and think, how is the content architected here?

The joys of content management systems is that, basically, you’re choosing someone else’s view of content and someone else’s view of management…We wonder why OER didn’t really go anywhere, when content is so often distributed in discrete blocks, with no history or versions or even a semblance of the tree or journey in which all content sits

Ooof that, OER comment really rings true. Some OER feels more portable than others, but siloing and fragmenting are ever present. Anyway, that’s not that part that made me think Pat was reading my mind from across the planet, it was this:

Yesterday I was busy using articulate. I had 9 slides in 4 scenes. Each slide had a button with the same text on it. So I had to (does maths) 36 times replace text on a button. If I could have set the button text as a variable somewhere, then I could have replaced it 4 times. Given the time we spend on algorithms and optimisation. That feels better. Articulate does support variables, but not cleanly, and not really for this purpose.

Next week I am building a new course in Moodle. The courses follow a template, but Moodle has no template, so I’m importing content from another course to make the template. It’s neat, but, it’d be nice to have a duplicate option, or a “this content is the same across multiple courses” and allow content to live outside of a course structure.

Back when I worked at USask there was potential to deploy the online version of a course to multiple emergency remote sections. This was proposed as a way to shortcut some of the development and to provide support for instructors and students alike. After some of this deployment there were various versions of the same course floating around in the LMS and no real way to see which components were shared between course sites. If you are familiar with deployment of online courses in many higher ed settings you might recognize this has been an issue even before emergency remote teaching.

Now I’m working with programming that localizes and contextualizes aspects of the curriculum. For example, lets take case studies. (Side note: I ran into this problem with case-based curriculum in higher ed as well). So you have multiple course offerings and much of the content is the same, but lets swap out just one element, the case studies. Like Pat indicates, you can follow a template and swap out the pieces you want but as soon as it is built into a course you have a separated instance of the content.

Lets say I have five sections of a course. The first concept is an HTML page that is the same across sections, followed by an independent case study. If any of the case studies need updating, that’s simple, I go and edit one place. However, if a change to the first concept page is required after courses have been deployed, I now have to update SIX different pages (five that are deployed and one template). In some cases, this can be smoothed over. For example, in Brightspace I learned that if you Indiana Jones a SCORM package you can just overwrite the previous one and it automatically updates across the org unit (at least that’s what it looked like).

Considering the building of courses in an LMS I had some thoughts about breaking apart all of the content into tiny pieces and when it comes time to build a course site for deployment I could maybe just command the system to grab specific content from the “digital shelf”, but the way the system is set up, that seems even more cumbersome than just having course templates and doing a course copy from those.

Years ago I remember seeing a presentation, from BC Campus I think, where they talked about using Grav as their course site. IIRC there was mention that elements on everypage were actually modules which were brought in through an include tag or similar function. Similar to headers, footers, side bars in WP I guess. If you change it in one place it appears on every instance its used. This kind of approach for slide decks, course sites, and other resources would be so useful when managing similar but distinct sets of course materials.

Ed Tech

via The Daily Dive

March 2, 2023 at 07:53AM