Sixth Sakai Notes – Workforce Training in China, by Chris Coppola

This is one of a series of posts about the sessions I attended at the Sixth Sakai Conference. See Conference Schedule, which has links to the individual presentations. Many of the sessions were recorded, and most of the presentations can be found online.

Here are my notes/impressions for the talk Workforce Training in China by Chris Coppola of rSmart, presented Thursday, 3:50PM.

The presentation can be found in PowerPoint format here.

Abstract: Presentation will focus on the collaborative effort between rSmart and Mesa Community College (MCC) to provide open-source e-learning technologies to the China Medicine Education Association (CMEA). The program will feature content provided by MCC and open source e-learning technologies provided by rSmart. MCC and CMEA estimate that over 100,000 students will go through the program during the first twelve months.


Chris is President of rSmart. I first met Chris at the Licensing Summit in Indianapolis in mid-October. I think we were the only two folks there from commercial organizations. rSmart has about 30 employees and has based its whole business on open-source and education. Chris serves on the boards of the Sakai and Kuali Foundations, and he has been leading the efforts to help revise the ECL license. I met several other folks from rSmart at the reception later that day.

The talk was about joint work by rSmart, which is based on Phoenix, and a nearby community college, MCC. MCC has engaged with a Chinese company to provide medical education in China.

As an aside, I found this part quite striking. As I have noted before on this blog, my mother was born in China because her parents were medical missionaries in China from about 1905-1925. So to find myself sitting in a room, almost a century after my maternal grandparents were working in China, only to find out the talk was about using open-source to provide medical education in China, was as you can imagine, rewarding in a special sort of way.

rSmart was engaged to provide a software solution for this project based on Sakai.

Chris said he had been to China once early on in the project, and had learned while there about some unique aspects of doing business in China; for example, the notion of “vouchers” that will be discussed later. He also said that parts of the relationship between MCC and its Chinese partner were either unknown to him, or he was unable to disclose them, so he would just talk about the software issues.

rSmart based its solution of what they call CLE, for Collaborative Learning Environment, a product that is based on Sakai V2.1.1, customized as follows: multiple “brands”; translation and localization; vouchers; course management; and a virtual classroom tool; and integration.

MCC was using a web-conferencing system. rSmart built a tool for this sort of virtual classroom.

All instruction is to take place in China, and all the instructors will be Chinese.

“vouchers” are used for delivery through local partners in China. Each student gets a voucher, and can then redeem it to obtain access to a class.

The classes may have 100’s and perhaps even 1000’s of sections in one course. This is a *large* system.

Instruction is provided in virtual classrooms via a Sakai tool built by rSmart, called IlluminateLive. The pilot is going live in January 2007.

rSmart has had to make changes to Sakai to support the use of Chinese; for example i18n enhancements to OSP portal,and Chinese “message bundles.” They have provided feedback to the Content Management (CM) group for the developing API.

The presentation document includes some screenshots.

NET

This and the Sakai overview by Chuck Severance were the two most striking presentations I attended.

What was special about this talk was that it suggests to me that Sakai has already matured well beyond the stage of a seasoned enterprise-level application and is approaching the status of a platform. That a small software house can work with a community college, working with a partner in another continent, to provide educational materials in another language, and all of this is based on open-source, means that Sakai is close to, if not already, becoming a platform for innovation. The details are less important than that this kind of collaboration and customization is possible using Sakai in its current state. In fact, the work is being done using not the most current version, but a slightly older version that has been tested in the field.

Remarkable.

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  1. […] Sixth Sakai Notes – Workforce Training in China, by Chris CoppolaThis is one of a series of posts about the sessions I attended at the Sixth Sakai Conference. See Conference Schedule, which has links to the… […]

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