May 20, 2012: What's Wrong With All This?

Titus Brown doesn't like this web site. He's OK with the content (I think), but he finds it awkward to use, and while I don't feel as strongly as he does, I accept that we have outgrown WordPress. The question is, what should we use instead? We need a lot more than just a blog and some static web pages, but learning management systems like Moodle weren't built with our ad hoc model in mind (they're really teaching administration systems), and newer tools like P2PU feel like a step backward. I started thinking about requirements for a replacement back in April, but got distracted. Here's a longer look.

Who are we?

An individual might assume any of these roles at different times or in different contexts. For example, workshop hosts are often tutors, a tutor for one topic may be a learner for another, authors are often admins and vice versa, etc.

What do we do?

What do we use to interact?

One thing we don't have yet is badges. We'd like to issue these to people who have taken part in workshops and the follow-up tutorials (i.e., our "graduates"), and also to instructors and content creators. The Open Badges team is working on a WordPress plugin to do this, which we hope to deploy in June.

How do we interact?

What's wrong with all this?

What do I want?

I've written before about the idea of a GitHub for education, but that wouldn't address all of the issues laid out above. (Event registration, for example, doesn't feel like a GitHub kind of thing; nor does scheduling tutorials.) If we had a truly programmable web, I could hire a summer student to assemble what I want, but that's not a yak, it's a herd of angry mammoths: managing identities and permissions for MailMan, EventBrite, Subversion, and the blog in a single place would require a lot of hacking (or a time machine—if I could go back to 1999 and persuade the startup I was part of to open source SelectAccess, we'd be done by now).

So that leaves me looking for an off-the-shelf solution which I don't think exists. If I'm wrong, I'd welcome a pointer—and if there's something we should be doing that isn't in the discussion above, I'd welcome a pointer to that too.

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This post originally appeared in the Software Carpentry blog.