By Leslie Wilder
In this digital era when every little information is now available on the Internet, the role that websites play is far beyond measurable terms. There is not a single industry that has been left untouched by the wave of the digital revolution. Educational institutions and their students are no exceptions.
For most educational institutions, the primary and most crucial mode of communication and marketing today is via their websites. Since students and aspiring candidates of higher educational establishments primarily search for details online, the complexities also keep growing for these websites. It, therefore, becomes extremely vital to support such online establishments with a robust system for managing data.
Digital data, both structured and unstructured, is being generated at exponential levels today. But with the help of an advanced content management technology that supports dynamic website content, it becomes easier for educational organizations and students to keep this data organized.
The purpose of this article is to review some content management platforms suitable activities and online publications, and to suggest what is the best approach to host and use them on the cloud.
Best practices in hosting educational CMS
In theory, each company that offers Linux or Windows based web hosting service should be able to provide a decent hosted environment for educational and learning management systems reviewed below. However, there are few important things to consider.
- Does the company you are about to host your educational website, CMS and IT infrastructure with has its own Cloud infrastructure? It is recommended to avoid hosting educational platform with any of the major clouds. Large commercial cloud infrastructure is expensive and charge a lot for data transfer. The best practice for hosting an educational website on the cloud is to approach any small or medium size service providers and to send them a list of technical requirements.
- Always Compare Cloud services based on the resources they offer and most importantly on the technical support level included in the services. The so-called “Major Clouds” (AWS, Microsoft Azure and others) charge their customers for technical support, which is quite unfair considering the high prices of their Cloud infrastructure service fees. On the contrary, the smaller and medium sized Clouds usually provide technical support to their customers for free and charge only for any client-side Management services.
- Consider using a Managed Cloud Hosting service. If someone offers “Server less Computing”, simply disregard the offering. Serverless Computing is phony term used by marketers to describe a “Managed Hosting” or “Managed Cloud computing service”. Using Managed Cloud Hosting service worth’s as the infrastructure provide which take responsibility on securing and managing the educational infrastructure, which lowers the management effort for the organization.
Moodle has been around for almost two decades. The first release came in 2002. This comes to say that Moodle is very mature software, suitable for creating a whole educational ecosystem. It is an Open source CMS used by more than one hundred thousand educational and learning websites, 10 thousand of them in the U.S. Moodle is very well documented, which makes the system setup and management easy. Most web hosting providers offer the CMS as standard installation.
Chamilo E-learning system
The community behind Chamilo is related to the educational or the human resources sectors. It is an Open Source CMS launched in 2009. The mail features of this educational CMS are: Courses, users and training cycles; social network for learning; SCORM 1.2 compatibility and authoring tool; LTI 1.1 support; multi-institutions mode; time-controlled exams; international characters (UTF-8); automated generation of certificates; tracking of users progress; competence based training (CBT) integrated with Mozilla Open Badges; multiple time zones and more.
It offers third party implementations and links well with Joomla, Drupal, OpenID secure authentication framework and Oracle. Like Moodle it can be self-hosted on own Private or Public Cloud Server, which means that there is no vendor lock-in.
This is another content management system that can be used for online collaboration and learning platform. Like those above it is also released under the GPL open-source license. Claroline allows educational organizations to create and administer courses and collaboration spaces over the web. Claroline is a software with a European origin and its main website is in French. It can be installed on Windows, macOS or Linux kind bare-metal server. If anyone wants to use it in virtualized environment it should be installed on Windows or Linux server as Apply macOS officially does not support installation on Virtualized environments. A suitable Europe Cloud Server solution for Claroline is HCE, a service that features High Availability (HA) by default. In short High Availability is an IT functionality which reboots automatically the server in case of OS failure or a failure of the underlying physical host. i is an excellent feature that minimizes any interruption of the educational and learning services.
Claroline has the following functionality: write a course description; publish documents in any format (text, PDF, HTML, video and more); administer public or private forums; create learning paths (compatible with SCORM); create groups of users; compose exercises (compatible with IMS / QTI standard 2); structure an agenda with tasks and deadlines; post notifications (also by email); propose home work to make online; view statistics of attendance and completion exercises; use the wiki to write collaborative documents.
The main interface of Clarolinein in French, but this should not discourage the English-speaking institutions as the CMS is good.
I like the Dokeo’s website and how they present their educational online software platform. However, the effort that Dokeos team made results in a $250/month license for “Training Centers” and $385/month price of the “Corporate” license, as listed on their website. Those licenses apply for groups from 1 to 50 users. Any educational or learning institution which has one thousand uses of the system should be prepared to pay $2300/month for the “Training” license and $1700/month for the “Corporate” one.
Dokeos is obviously a commercial project. For commerce purposes it is integrated with Shopify, a hosted commercial e-commerce software, which starts selling licenses at $29/month for a license with limited functionality.
Considering the high cost of Dokeos licenses compared to other Open Source CMS, the Dokeos is obviously not a preferred web-based system for educational activities. Still, its worth’s to be examined by any well-funded organizations.
eFront has been established as Moodle alternative. It has been launched in 2001, which means it has been around for almost two decades. eFront runs Linux and Microsoft Windows. In order for the software work properly the hosted environment needs to support PHP 5.1+ and MySQL 5+.
eFront has a community edition distributed as Open Source software and three commercial editions which offer more advanced features for educational institutions and enterprises. Paid versions come with full source code but only the community edition uses an OSI accepted license.
From web development point of view, a very good feature of eFront its native HTML5 editor. The community editions features the following functionality: user management; lessons, courses, curriculum and categories management; files management; exam builders; assignments builders; communication tools (forum, chat, calendar, glossary); progress tracking; authentication methods; enrollment methods; certifications; reports generators; extensibility via modules; payments integration through PayPal; social tools such as lesson & system history, user wall, user status and Facebook interconnection; customizable notification system through email; availability of different design patterns.
The eFront license commercial license for up to 1000 user’s costs $750/month, which makes it more affordable than Dokeos.
It worths taking the time to compare all those the content management systems created for learning and educational purposes. Planning the process of growing your organization’s online based educational activities is very important as it will help you to take control over the short term and long-term IT infrastructure costs.
Leslie Wilder a creative writer & blogger, who is residing in Nashville the capital of U.S. state of Tennessee, I’m also a self-proclaimed happiness junkie, and someone you would generally consider confident and well balanced.