EduFeedr – experience from first two weeks

It is now two weeks since we launced EduFeedr public beta site at www.edufeedr.net. During that time my colleagues have started four courses in EduFeedr. First two are master level courses, the third one is for first year BA students and the last one is an inservice teacher training:

The basic functionality of setting up a course and enrolling to the course is working fine. The facilitator must copy the blogroll code manually to the text widget in the course blog. In my courses I have updated the blogroll once a day if there are some new participants.

Since the participants do not have user accounts in EduFeedr they cannot change their details after enrolling to the course. Our reason behind this decision was to keep the system simple by having less users with accounts. We assumed that the minimal data that is asked during the enrollment (name, e-mail, blog address) does not change during the course. However, we have noticed that in few cases people have enrolled to the course twice to change their blog address. In that case the facilitator should remove one of the entries.

First weeks of testing have pointed out one important limitation. Currently it is not possible to aggregate blog posts only from a certain category (WordPress) or label (Blogger). Our first blog-based courses were inservice teacher trainings. For most of the participants in these courses created a new blog. However, with master students it is common that they will use one blog as their learning diary and have a separate category for each course. We hope to remove this limitation in version 0.6. So far the facilitator can hide posts from other courses manually.

Course feed page is quite useful for following all the blogs and discussions. However, for large courses it is not enough to display only 10 recent blog posts and comments. The facilitator should have an option to specify the number of blog posts and comments that are displayed. In the current version all pingbacks are also displayed in the comments column. In some of the courses there are actually more pingbacks than real comments, because we ask our participants to link to the weekly assignment in the course blog when they are posting their response. The facilitator can hide these pingbacks manually.

It is still to early to demonstrate good examples of progress chart and social network diagram, but the testing has indicated a few defects and limitations with these two visualizations.

This coming week we will be presenting EduFeedr in the MUPPLE workshop at the EC-TEL 2010 conference. After that we are planning to release version 0.5.1 with some fixes to small defects and user interface design issues. The next major release 0.6 requires more work and we are not sure when it will be ready. If everything goes fine we might release it before the Open Education Conference.

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