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Open web surging ahead

October 16, 2011 10:37 pm | Updated 10:37 pm IST

On-line open/free content originates from a variety of sources. This edition of NetSpeak explores yet another avenue for tapping free content.

A wide range of educational tools and materials are freely available on the Net.

Apart from such open pedagogic resources, several free open source tools (generally called learning management systems) that serve as teaching aids are also in place.

As mentioned in an earlier column ( >http://hindu.com/thehindu/biz/2003/07/14/stories/2003071400120200. htm ), a learning management system (LMS) helps the instructor host course materials on the Net and generally featured with numerous communication/collaboration tools for the teacher to engage with students. Many of these free e-learning or course management systems are based on PHP/MySQL software and anyone with access to a web server can easily implement it. A free LMS that has gained immense popularity amongst the academics is Moodle ( >http://moodle.org/ ).

Like other LMS applications, Moodle also helps a teacher host her course in a systematic order and post teaching materials on-line. Moodle offers numerous tools that facilitate teacher/students interaction/collaboration. Facilities to make general announcements, to send group mails and create discussion forums are also available. The instructor can host assignments and other activities that can be completed on-line. It has built-in facilities to create Wikis and web pages too. Assessment tools such as grade-book, quiz building module etc are also supported.

Moodle ecosystem

Yet another significant feature of this product is the presence of a vibrant community of Moodle enthusiasts. Like other open source communities, Moodle community also has a strong contingent of developers contributing new modules regularly. By skilfully selecting these modules and adding them to Moodle site, one can enhance its functionality without incurring any cost.

Moodle offers packages that let even a layperson build a personal Moodle infrastructure without much hassle. For instance, a Windows user can download the Moodle software and install/configure it on his machine within a few minutes. Being a simple tool to implement, it is adopted by many instructors. An offshoot of this development is the availability of several freely downloadable Moodle courses. A new trend gaining momentum on the Net is that many teachers are hosting their courses in Moodle format for free.

Besides allowing free access to the course, several instructors keep a downloadable version of it too. The advantage here is that anyone interested can download the course and integrate it with her Moodle infrastructure. As most of these courses are hosted with creative common open licence, anyone can re-use it without any restrictions.

There are numerous Moodle sites to locate freely downloadable courses on a variety of subjects. MoodleShare >(http://courses. moodleshare.com/ ) is one such service worth a look.

The site shares several courses on different subjects that include science, technology, health, languages and so on.

For instance, if you are a student of chemistry, you may like the chemistry-101 course ( >http://courses.moodleshare. com/course/view. php?id= 160 ). You can either take the course directly from the site or download a copy of the course and integrate it with your Moodle site. The copy of the Moodle course, kept on Moodle application as a compressed archive in zip format, can be integrated with your Moodle installation using the ‘restore' command.

The web page ‘Get/download courses' at MoodleMayhem ( >https://sites.google. com/site/moodlemayhem/moodle-courses ) and the site, ‘Free student courses' ( >http://www.freestudentcou rses.co.uk/ ) are some other resources for finding several free downloadable Moodle courses.

Remote desktop

Ability to access a remote machine from a distant geographical location offers us several benefits.

For instance, if your friend, staying at a remote place, faces some computer related issue, you can capture her desktop, examine the issue and solve it for her.

This column has introduced several tools that help us manage a remote computer via the Net in the past >(http://www.hindu.com/biz/ 2008/10/27/ stories/2008 102750041600. htm ). The latest entrant in this segment is the innovative product from Google, ‘Chrome Remote Desktop' >(https://chrome. google.com/webstore/detail/gbchcmhmh ahfdphkhkmpfmihenigjmpp ). This software, a Chrome browser extension, allows us to access a remote computer via the Chrome browser.

Once the extension is integrated with Chrome, you can access any remote computer with similar set-up.

If someone wishes to share her desktop with you, first she needs to launch the ‘remote desktop' from her browser. Once the extension is launched, it generates an access code, which needs to be shared with you for accessing her desktop.

The writer can be contacted at >jmurali@gmail.com

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