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!

The Grav Course Hub project was created for individual tech-savvy instructors who want an open and collaborative course space in their full control.

Flipped LMS Approach Using Grav Course Hub with Git Sync
Figure 1. Flipped LMS approach using Grav Course Hub with Git Sync.

Diagram of Grav Course Hub with Git Sync supported collaboration and workflows
Figure 1. Grav Course Hub with Git Sync supported collaboration and workflows.

Grav Course Hub with Git Sync Visualization
Figure 1. Grav Course Hub with Git Sync workflow visualization.