First public beta of EduFeedr

I am happy to announce that EduFeedr is finally launched at www.edufeedr.net. EduFeedr is a feed reader that is designed specifically for following and supporting learners in open blog-based courses. Some well-known examples of this kind of courses (also called MOOC’s) include Introduction to Open Education course by David Wiley, and Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course by George Siemens and Stephen Downes.

My own first experience with open courses was in spring 2008 when I helped Teemu Leinonen to organize a course about composing free and open online educational resources. Each week the participants had to write a blog post based on the weekly readings or tasks. Following all these posts became quite a big task, because about 70 people signed up for the course. We tried various online aggregators (Jaiku, Bloglines) to create a shared and combined news feed, but none of these solutions worked really well for this kind of course. Later I have organized several open courses in Estonian Wikiversity, where we used Pageflakes and Netvibes to aggregate blog posts.

First ideas of EduFeedr were developed in spring 2009 when I participated the Mozilla EduCourse. We wrote six scenarios that described how people use EduFeedr. These scenarios received quite positive feedback and we decided to continue with the design process. Later we presented a short paper about the conceptual design of EduFeedr (PDF) at the MUPPLE09 workshop.

To get a quick idea about the possibilities of EduFeedr you can have a look at one of the courses where we tested EduFeedr this spring (unfortunately the blog posts are in Estonian) or have a look at the following video.

We started with the development in February 2010 and after four internal releases we have reached version 0.5. This release has several limitations but we want to try it out with real courses. I have to point out two limitations:

  • Currently we support only blogs that are hosted in Blogger and WordPress.com (also any standard WordPress installation should work). We have this limitation because we have to be able to detect the location of the comments feed.
  • Social network diagram displays only connections when a blog post by one participant contains a link to another participant’s blog. In the current implementation connections are not created when one participant comments in another one’s blog.

It is also important to note that only teachers/facilitators have to join EduFeedr to create a course. Students can enroll to the courses without having a user account in EduFeedr. You can read more details from EduFeedr FAQ.

Technically EduFeedr is built as Elgg plugin. We have also developed a separate web service called EduSuckr. This is used to aggregate blog posts and comments. You can find more information about the software development at our development website at www.edufeedr.org.

We are going to present EduFeedr in two conferences this fall. The first presentation at the MUPPLE10 workshop will focus on the technical implementation. The second presentation at The Open Education Conference will be a more general presentation about EduFeedr and its role in the open education ecosystem.

In this fall EduFeedr will be tested in several courses in Tallinn University. The next release is planned to the end of October. In the next release we are planning to improve the way how blog posts and comments can be browsed and read inside EduFeedr. One of the planned improvements is a participant profile, that will display all blog posts and comments made by that person.

I would like to thank all my colleagues in Tallinn University who have contributed for the EduFeedr project. The coding was done by our developers Pjotr Savitski and Meelis Mets. Graphical design was done by Priit Tammets. Our master student Heili Saia helped us with the scenarios and requirements analysis. My research group leaders Teemu Leinonen (in Aalto University) and Mart Laanpere (in Tallinn University) have shared their good ideas and helped me to promote EduFeedr.

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