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                      “EDUConLINUX”


    Free and Open Source Server Based on Linux for Multi-
        Media-Classrooms in Schools and Universities




                    NEEDS ANALYSIS
                         January 2007
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                                                               Author: Antoniou Konstantinos




This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission
cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained
herein.
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The present needs analysis refers to the working team of EduconLinux project.
EduconLinux is going to investigate the possibilities offered by distance learning in different
learning groups, such as secondary education pupils, university students, adult learners and
workers in enterprises.
To achieve this aim, the project will be developed in parallel in two actions. Technically, with
the development of a Free and Open Source Server based on Linux, which is going to offer a
lot of advantages (user friendly environment, flexibility, free and open source, possibility of
extension or modification) and pedagogically with the creation of the necessary didactical
approaches for the implementation, taking into account the special needs of these learning
groups.
The partnership which includes a wide range of institutions such as, secondary, higher and
adult education, training and consultant centres for SMEs, training association will facilitate
the application of the activities in the above mentioned learning groups.
The main activities of this project are:
    i)    Design of strategies. Improve of institutions infrastructure in order to face the needs
          of the work. Training of the participating staff.
    ii)   Development of tools, by the leading global provider of free Linux software
          (Canonical) and the pedagogical approaches by the higher education institutions.
    iii)  Implementation for different learning groups and based on many didactical
          methods. A) Synchronous B) Asynchronous C) Project work
    iv)   Evaluation of all aspects (design-technical-pedagogical-implementation) internally
          by the partners and externally by experts in the mentioned areas and by
          participants in dissemination actions (beta testers)
    v)    Dissemination and sustainability via the Website – Articles – Publications – Papers
          in conferences – Workshops during the project meetings
    vi)   Review of the whole scheme.
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Partners:
Platon Schools – Ellas , coordinator
Canonical Ltd - U.K. ,
IMCS Intercollege - Cyprus ,
Camera Work - Italy,
Społeczna WyŜsza Szkoła Prezdsiębiorczości I Zarządzania w Łodzi και Danmar Computers -
Poland,
The Citizenship Forum for Social Action and Civic Education – Romania,
The Educational Centre of Västerbergslagen - Sweden.
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Needs assessment


In the first phase of the project , there were collided needs from the partners. All needs
considered equally important for the institutions. However a problem occurred Flash as it is
not an Open source application. Problems concerning formats of closed source can be faced
with the program Sophie. But during first meeting in Poland it was not possible an in depth
exploration of its abilities.


Every partner of Educonlinux run a needs analysis to realize the needs of its institution in
software and material necessary to face the challenges or the project. Educonlinux set up
new facts in e-learning of partners as traditional tools cannot cover the advanced needs of
the program. Consequently the working teams set out their needs in software so that the
development of tools team start their design and test.
As assumed from the preliminary discussion with the educators involved in the project
responsible to design courses the already existed software wasn’t enough for the needs of
the project.


More specific the teacher in charge of Mathematics sector in Platon Schools requested for
the development of geometrical shapes. The lack of such features embedded in Moodle,
caused a lot of difficulties in the design of the lesson of Geometry. In Algebra the lack of
features for the creation complicated mathematical equations leaded the search of
applications for simplifying the process. Up to now mathematical executions created with
Tex, but this process is complicated and demands specific knowledge from the educators.
The solution Mathematica was rejected as this program doesn’t belong o the Open Source
community and is insufficient the purchase of the licenses for all the members.


Physics team requested the integration of Java Applets in the special edition of Moodle for
the project Educonlinux. From a previous ICT project “ePhys” the staff was familiarized with
it and produced a lot of applications. The integration of Java applets considered important as
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the lessons could be more visualized and thus more user friendly.


Platon Schools detected the lack of support for Ancient Greek during the designing period.
Inserting accents , necessary for ancient Greek texts, was not possible. It is considered
necessary the existence of these symbols in the next Moodle edition.


Also Moodle don’t have features for transcript of conversations in Chat. The project team
requested a tool for this reason. Transcript can assist in the creation of texts for frequently
asked questions and auxiliary texts for other users (pupils, teachers).
The lack of efficient authoring tools is another problem detained the working teams of
educators. The solution of Adobe Authorware rejected as it was impossible the purchase of
this application for all the educators. Its complexity also caused many problems as it is
considered that the time for the training of the partners was insufficiently big.


The creation of material for the integration in courses needs completed and simple authoring
tools. Common sense was that these tools should be web based , meaning that must be
accessible from any computer connected in internet inside and outside of the school or
university. Educators have different operating (Windows , Linux) and the choice of an
authoring tool wasn’t possible , as there is no one running in all platforms. The solution of a
web based authoring program should be the best as the educators wouldn’t face the common
incompatibilities among operating systems.


In order to be covered the needs of synchronous e-learning the teachers asked
teleconference programs. Moodle incorporates a module titled “Audioconference Module” but
the installation demands the existence of the program Asterisk. In addition this module
doesn’t offer the facility of videoconference which is necessary for synchronous e-learning.


Another problem occurred was that of the identification of pupils when the lessons were
given by distance learning. In pilot implementation pupils will work in the labs of the schools.
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But in asynchronous e-learning are necessary mechanisms to identify the pupil except from
user name and password.


The usage of tools for creating educational material proved complicated and discussed the
perspective Moodle to embed more user friendly tools. Finally prevailed the view educational
material to be inserted with the method of drag and drop. This possibility of Moodle will
facilitate the educator in creating material and ensure the uniformity. Also teachers from
Intercollege asked the material to be able to saved in SCORM.


Multimedia reproduction was discussed among the working team. Partners asked for direct
support for Flash and Shockwave. Educational institutions have ready for use educational
material in this format and reuse is very important. However the above formats are of closed
source.


The embedded in Moodle tool of HTML editor offers a few facilities in comparison to
respectively other editors in Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS). Taking into
account the expandability of Moodle requested from the partners of Intercollege the
extension of its abilities or its replacement from another tool. Academy detected problems in
the creation of tables. The already existing ones cannot resized.


The working team of Intercollege suggested the integration of a Mind Mapping application.
This feature should run in the server and the results must depicted in every browser. This
ensure the independence of the application from any platform.


The module of “Survey” must be connected with the database so that can be derived
statistics or data that can be inserted in processing tools of statistical elements.


Moodle offers the ability to upload files in the central server. But Academy asked for potential
of uploading many files simultaneously instead of one by one.
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Also placed the query if Moodle has the potential of cooperation with Brail screens. The
increasing needs for the education of visually impaired demand the existence of such facilities


The features that offers Forum in Moodle has limited capabilities. Academy located
weaknesses in organization and management of Forums from a previous work on Moodle
and asked for the replacement of the change of this module.


In photo, images material Academy asked the integration of metadata , such as name of
creator and copyrights.
Platon Schools asked for an increase on the files that could be uploaded in the central server.
The limitation of 2MB causes problems especially if the educators send big multimedia files
in the server.