[LON-CAPA-announce] Happy New Academic Year from LON-CAPA

Gerd Kortemeyer korte at lite.msu.edu
Sun Jan 15 16:46:58 EST 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Happy New Academic Year!

It's been a good year for LON-CAPA. Our project goes back to 1993, and LON-CAPA has been around since 1999 - that's over 12 years! In the meantime, lots of systems have come and gone, often to great fanfare in the beginning. We are still quietly and steadily developing, growing, and moving on, and we have no plans of ceasing to do so or selling out. If you entrusted your content to us in 1999, it still runs today.

Thanks again to VCU for hosting last year's conference! It was great to see so many of you there! This year's conference will be at UIUC, likely at the very end of May, reaching into early June. We'll send detailed information once the date has been approved and confirmed.

This coming year will see continued software development, with the following foci:

* Content recommender system: As our content pool grows (http://www.lon-capa.org/sharedpool.html), it becomes increasingly hard to locate appropriate content. Yet, based on content usage, we have enough information to offer meaningful content recommendations - a system similar to what you encounter for example in online bookstores. In addition, we can offer quality and reliability measures to assist you in content selection. It's an ambitious project, but our shared content pool is ready for it.

* Clicker integration: We are also collaborating with two clicker vendors on in-class usage of LON-CAPA; you will be able to bring up LON-CAPA questions in class, LON-CAPA controls the clicker base, and data goes directly into LON-CAPA. Preliminary results are promising.

* Systems integration: Finally, we are considering enabling closer integration with other campus and course management systems by providing (so-called "RESTful") server-to-server web services - security is our biggest concern, and of course it takes at least two systems to talk, but we'll be ready.

None of that would be possible without the contributions from you, our users. You provided content, code, and input through our user forums. For our project to operate in the free open-source realm, we depend on those community contributions. Besides content, this includes your contributions to the platform itself:

* We need good programmers: If you are a programmer or have access to funds to hire programmers, consider contributing to our system. Here are some more ideas of what we would like to achieve: http://www.lon-capa.org/ideas.html . Talk with Stuart and myself!

* We need quality control and testing: Sometimes we hear that it takes too long for new features to be released. Yes, if you look at our current "bleeding edge," it has many interface improvements and new features that are not in production. But at most any given point in time, we serve over 70,000 students, whose learning and grades depend on our software functioning reliably. Our approach to releasing software is very conservative, since we cannot allow immature software to potentially compromise or corrupt our production cluster. If you would like to see our development cycle running its course more quickly, consider bringing up a development server and contributing to the testing effort. The sooner the testing is done, the sooner new features can see the light of day. Besides, this gives you a sneak peak at what's on the horizon, and we can consider your input before things are set in stone. Again, talk with Stuart and myself.

* We need documentation: As our system develops, we need to update our manuals, http://www.lon-capa.org/documentation.html

Keep in touch! Through our mailing lists (http://mail.lon-capa.org/), "liking" us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/loncapa), or getting serious about our code development (http://bugs.lon-capa.org/).

Finally, let us know if you would like us to come out for colloquia or workshops to your campus - we would love to!

Enjoy your Academic Year,

- Gerd.

Gerd Kortemeyer, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
Currently on sabbatical: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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