I have presented EduFeedr in two conferences recently. The first presentation took place at the MUPPLE10 workshop that was part of the EC-TEL 2010 conference. This presentation and article was focused more on the technical implementation of EduFeedr. The paper “Aggregating Student Blogs with EduFeedr. Lessons Learned from First Tryouts” (PDF) was published in CEUR-WS.
The second presentation was at the Open Ed 2010 conference. This was a more general presentation of EduFeedr and its use on open online courses. I will embed here the slides from this presentation. The paper will be hopefully also online soon.
Both presentations received feedback from the audience, especially the presentation at the Open Ed conference. I will summarize here answers to some of the questions.
To what extent are we going to extend EduFeedr? We have agreed on two limitations that won’t allow EduFeedr to grow into a bloatware LMS. At first only the facilitators have user accounts in EduFeedr. This means that we cannot authenticate the participants after they have enrolled to the course. Still, there will be some activities that they are able to do anonymously. The second limitation is that EduFeedr works without any plugins on the course blog or participant blogs. Most of the learners use hosted blogs that do not allow plugins. This eliminates more advanced assignment workflows. My colleagues are also working on a little bit similar project where they have developed a WordPress plugin LePress for giving and submitting assignments.
Why do we follow main comments feed instead of separate comment feeds for each blog post that belongs to the course? This is a good question. By following separate feeds we would not aggregate comments that are not related with the course. The downside of this approach is the increasing number of feeds that we have to follow. In a typical course every participant will make 10…15 blog posts. A possible solution is to aggregate comments for older blog posts less often.
How well does EduFeedr scale for large courses? Our current courses have a moderate number of participants (max: 32, total: 152). We have also tested with data from a course with 70 blogs. I would say that current user interface solutions (for example progress diagram) would become a limiting factor sooner than the performance of the system. However, not all people who sign up for massive open online courses are using a blog. For example on PLENK 2010 there are about 1200 participants and 200+ blogs.
Is it possible to install your own instance of EduFeedr? Yes, of course. You can download the source code from the development site. However, the installation procedure is not really straightforward. In addition to EduFeedr you have to set up EduSuckr web service that is actually aggregating the blogs. We would be very happy, if you would use EduFeedr on edufeedr.net. Then we have a better overview of ongoing courses and can identify problems more easily.
EduFeedr could aggregate information about open courses from other EduFeedr instances. This is a great idea! Thanks! However, I’m afraid that it will take time until we get that far.
Why we don’t host EduFeedr development site on some open community such as GitHub? This is a good suggestion. Currently we are using our own Trac and SVN that are connected with user accounts in our department. Therefore it is not easy to involve other interested people to the project. I will discuss this with our developers.
Why are we planning to evaluate the usability with think aloud testing? I do not have a comprehensive experience in think aloud testing but in few cases this method has worked well for us. We give a rather open task for the test users and use Silverback to record the sessions.
We should try to differentiate between the usability and usefulness when doing the evaluation. This is a good comment. I will take it into account.
On the development side it has been quiet in recent weeks. We released a bug fix release two weeks ago and now the developers are busy with another project. I hope to release EduFeedr 0.6 before the Christmas. This release should have a new method for connecting blog posts with the assignments and comments with the authors. Also we are planning to have participant profiles that contain all the blog posts and comments written by the person.