Grav Theme Embed.ly Card Template and BluePrint GitHub Repository

This little project is the result of both a new need for my Fall 2017 CMPT-363 Course Hub (notice the Paul’s Web Pick of the Week in the sidebar) and wanting to create an example illustrating how Grav natively supports custom content page types and modular content.

Grav Theme Embed.ly Card Template and BluePrint GitHub Repository

While I’ve been in ‘heads-down’ mode with my SFU CMPT 363 User Interface Design course for the start of the Fall term, I thought I would share here news of my most recent Grav open education project!

Grav Open Publishing Space Space with Git Sync is designed to publish, share and collaboratively edit Markdown-based content using the modern flat-file Grav CMS.

Open Publishing Space Figure 1. Open Publishing Space


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I’ve been once again feverishly working in the open on the Fall 2017 Course Hub (built with my Grav Open Course Hub and using a flipped-LMS approach, naturally!) for SFU CMPT 363 so that potential students can better self-assess course fit before our first class meets in-person on Sept 6th.

The year brings some changes, with the addition of an individual component (reflective learning log) to the two group assignments and an expansion of the individual usability assessment assignment. Students will research and design potential user experience improvements for an open source project of their choice.

Here is the list of apps I am using to reach my pedagogical and student/facilitator experience goals this term (with lots of open source goodness):

Grav CMS
GitLab (hosted at sfu.ca)
GitHub Desktop
Swipe
RocketChat
Sandstorm
Canvas LMS

You can check out the nearly complete Open Course Hub at paulhibbitts.net/cmpt-363-173/.

CMPT-363 Fall 2017 Course Hub Figure 1. CMPT-363 Fall 2017 Course Hub

I recently tweeted the key highlights of the new Grav Open Publishing Space, and I thought I would share them here:

  1. Leverages a modern flat-file (no database) CMS for the creation, presentation, and maintenance of open content
  2. Supports collaboration and version control of open content (e.g. GitHub, GitLab, etc.), critical for sustainable #OER
  3. Makes open content more future-ready through CMS-independent access (GitHub, GitLab, etc.)
  4. Provides direct access to open content files for site visitors (i.e. Markdown, images, etc.)
  5. Display collaborative Markdown-based open content within other systems (via ‘Chromeless’ mode that presents content-only pages)
  6. Ability to quickly and easily update open content locally, using the text editing tools of your choice
  7. Provides a mobile and multi-device friendly visual presentation of your open content
  8. Optional Creative Commons license display, plus various additional features like custom menus and a Markdown-based sidebar widget

Sound of interest? Learn more about the Open Publishing Space project, and explore a live demo, at learn.hibbittsdesign.org/openpublishingspace

It’s a launch: here is the (mostly open) learning ecosystem I’ve assembled for this Fall’s Simon Fraser University CMPT-363 User Interface Design course.

Learning Ecosystem for CMPT-363 @ SFU 2017
Figure 1. Learning Ecosystem for CMPT-363 @ SFU 2017.

It was created to support the pedagogical goals for the course while also delivering a better experience for both my students and myself (oh my!). Open source software plays an essential role in the ecosystem, with the modern and database free Grav CMS as the central environment for the course (and a single URL), with linkages to Rocket.Chat, Swipe, Sandstorm and SFU’s Canvas LMS.

Using an institutionally-hosted GitLab instance gives students the direct ability to shape (and contribute to) the Open Course Hub while giving me, the instructor, a highly efficient Markdown-based Git workflow - with updates to Course Hub content in as little as 30 seconds.🚀

Interested in seeing this learning ecosystem in action? Visit the early-preview of the CMPT 363 Course Hub at paulhibbitts.net/cmpt-363-173/

I recently tweeted the key problems Grav Open Course Hub was created to solve for tech-savvy educators, and I thought I would share them here:

  1. Pedagogical goals are unmet by the current Learning Platform (e.g. LMS or CMS) alone
  2. Student and facilitator experiences, especially multi-device, are below expectations
  3. Ability to access, share and collaboratively edit course materials is lacking
  4. The creation and (often frequently needed) updating of online course materials is too time consuming
  5. Once created, online course materials are difficult to repurpose on different platforms for different contexts
  6. Unable to leverage existing Web authoring skills or standards on the current Learning Platform

Let’s take a quick look at how the Grav Open Course Hub addresses each of these problems:

Pedagogical goals are unmet by the current Learning Platform (e.g. LMS or CMS) alone
Since the Course Hub is built with the open source and extensible Grav CMS and an individual instance of Grav is used for each course, tech-savvy educators have virtually no limits to what additional elements they can embed into their own Course Hubs.

Student and facilitator experiences, especially multi-device, are below expectations
The two available Course Hub themes (the default theme is built with Bootstrap and the alternative theme is built with Zurb Foundation) are completely responsive, and Grav’s speedy performance further enhances multi-device delivery of content.

Ability to access, share and collaboratively edit course materials is lacking
Using the Git Sync Plugin, Grav pages be automatically stored and edited with modern collaborative ecosystem tools such as GitHub, GitLab, and GitBook.

The creation and (often frequently needed) updating of online course materials is too time consuming
Once again thanks to the Git Sync Plugin, course hub contributors can synchronize Course Hub content (even including theme files) to their own desktop and use the text editor of their choice to update content. Edits, and pushing updates to a live Course Hub site, can be done in as little as 30 seconds.

Once created, online course materials are difficult to repurpose on different platforms for different contexts
Since Grav CMS uses Markdown, which is rapidly becoming the modern standard for platform-independent markup of content, the opportunities for repurposing content is steadily increasing.

Unable to leverage existing Web authoring skills or standards on the current Learning Platform
With Grav CMS built using many of today’s best standards (i.e. Markdown, Twig, YAML, etc.) and extensible architecture both educators and students can further shape the Course Hub using their Web authoring skills.

In addition, the Grav Open Course Hub was intentionally designed to work with your existing Learning Platform (by ‘flipping’ it, where an open platform such as the Grav CMS is in the control of course participants and serves as an alternative front-end to the institutional LMS). This means that instructors can immediately start to address the above problems while still using their existing Learning Platform to store sensitive student data and other course requirements. View this approach in action on my 2016 CMPT-363 User Interface Design course site.

Git Sync Wizard
Figure 1. Flipped LMS approach using Grav Open Course Hub with Git Sync

So, do these challenges resonate with you? How are you currently solving them? I’d love to hear from you!

Here is a brief video demonstrating how Grav with Git Sync can be configured to use GitBook for collaboratively editing Markdown content.

Look of interest? For step-by-step instructions visit learn.hibbittsdesign.org/grav-with-gitsync-and-gitbook.

A collection of videos demonstrating how Grav with Git Sync can bring an efficient and flexible Markdown content workflow into Canvas LMS (or any other system supporting embeddable Web pages).