Person conducted a webinar today providing a quick overview of OpenClass (and by quick I mean a 30 min webinar including time for questions). They have released a sneak peek here. The publishing giant specified OpenClass to be developed for institutions of higher education in the United States. I was delighted to see OpenClass’ interface and its Google’s look and feel. It promises a positive user experience for those who are familiar with Google apps. More importantly, there are some technicalities on its use in academia I believe is important to highlight. I look forward to hear your thoughts on OpenClass and comments.
1. “There are no limitations on the number or types of user”. It is a known and common practice from LMS vendors to price their systems per FTE, or volume of user accounts, including specified types of user profiles (administrators, instructors and students, among others). OpenClass may disrupt this adopted business model.
2. For institutions that wish to try OpenClass they are able to do so in few steps. Google Apps for Education, and OpenClass, is cost-free as well as hardware-free and therefore self-service. Once setup (see here for instructions), OpenClass lets users import content including from other LMS (it remains unclear what formats can be imported and how). Pearson made community forums and a knowledge base available to support self-service users with their technical questions on OpenClass.
3. According to Pearson, OpenClass provides a rich set of data generated within the LMS. Analyzing this data, however, remains under the responsibility of the user. Through third-party vendors, institutions can have access to data analytics which, however, implies additional costs.
1. Integration with Student Information Systems (SIS) is still a work in progress and a possible release date has not yet been announced.
2. OpenClass is said to be compliant with IMS standards such as SCORM, Learning Information System (LIS) 2.0, Question and Test Interoparability (QTI), Common Cartidge (CC), and Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI), in the future. Pearson’s VP Adrian Sannier on this piece answers to IMS compliance questions: “Watch for these solutions (and many more) with the release of the OpenClass API Program later this year.”
1. For institutions that rely on reporting for accreditation purposes, data analytics is possible and specific vendors who will be offering such services are yet unknown aside from Pearson who has offered such capability for a fee.
2. Up to this moment, Pearson has not yet advertised a pilot instance where individual users can sign up for sandbox accounts to play with OpenClass. They recommend, however, institutions can pilot OpenClass (and Google Apps for Education) at no additional cost.
3. Organizational structures such as schools, departments, programs, and courses within institutions are not define in OpenClass. That is, courses conducted in OpenClass are loosely-based and not tied to a department. From an administrative point of view this could cause some confusion in synchronizing course data with SIS when organizational units aren’t compatible. It will depend on how SIS are setup and the exchange protocols are configured to exchange enrollment data to and from OpenClass. I’ll leave this question open until OpenClass API is released by the end of the year.
4. Migrating from your current LMS to OpenClass may be a risky leap at the moment. It is recommended piloting the system for a full academic year for various reasons, where the most pressing are:
- migrating course content including exams, content, student data, what are the implications in case student data is lost;
- how are exams both QTI-compliant and non-compliant will be imported;
- what are the levels of permission of user access to content imported (can other instructors see your course content);
- where will the rubrics go, how can they be applied at school, department, program and course levels, if there’s any rubric capability (this remains unknown) – this could yield to a very interesting discussion if rubrics should be brought in to OpenClass, what roles do they play in terms of accreditation;
- how will enrollments and other student data will be integrated with adopted SIS
5. On a positive note, OpenClass brings up a discussion on how the role of social capability in OpenClass play on course dynamics. As you may notice in the screenshots here, the interface similar to Google+ and Facebook allows the sharing of posts and commenting, as well as a chat feature, and integration with Skype. Additionally, users setup their profile that will display your picture indicating if you’re online or offline.
6. Another great feature is integration with Google Docs and Calendar. By allowing instructors to create group assignments it automatically enables a Google Doc area where group members can share their documents and work collaboratively in one common area. This enables student that don’t have Microsoft Office installed in their computer to have access to Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Forms online from any computer connected to the internet. This is very helpful to keep track of edits made to a file.
On Interface and Functionalities:
Users have 4 main areas on their OpenClass homepage.
- On the Left: “Courses”, a widget containing the list of all courses user is enrolled and a “Create a Course” button;
- Top Navigation bar: “Dashboard”, “Courses”, “Share”, “Admin”;
- Upper Right hand Corner: shortcut icons to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Chat with notification indicators such as the red circles on iOS that let you know if you have new items. Once you click on those icons a small widget window will preview your new items.
- When inside a specific course, users will have a set of widget located on the right hand side containing: “Announcement”, “Upcoming” and “For Review”. These can deliver a familiar user experience to emails in the sense that announcement can be marked as read or unread, and upcoming function as a calendar by listing activities due within a week range.
- Poll functionality: I was very glad to see this feature integrated in a course. It’s a Google Form enable poll – which makes the design of a survey, poll very quick and easy.
- Homework assignments: instructors can collect assignments, comment and return it to the student in one single screen.
- Gradebook: instructors can click on each grade cell. When they do so in one single pop-up they can input either a numeric or letter grade, write a comment and check if they’d like to make the grade available to the student.