Forum .LRN Q&A: A view questions about .LRN

Posted by Sascha Jakob on
Hello folks,

i am a student of a german academy.
At the moment I have to evaluate the .LRN system and the community. So, I have a few questions to you.

On the .LRN download site i could not find some information about features of the different versions. E. g. whats new or something. Is there anywhere a history list where I can get these information.

Since when does this community exist?
How many people are involved on the develop of .LRN?
How old is the .LRN System?

I am really glad if someone can help me.
Thank you

Yours sincerely

Posted by Bruce Spear on
Dear Sascha:
Thanks very much for your inquiry! I'll offer a first response, and I'm sure others will add/correct things I've left out or not explained very well.
Dotlrn is commonly understood as a "thin skin" on top of the openacs developer toolkit, a collection of powerful, integrated web tools developed over the past ten years. A brief history is available on the Openacs site, and there is a brief list of Openacs companies and hosting services representing the larger community. Some people have estimated that there are a few thousand developers who have used this kit in recent years, a few hundred are using it now, about 150 are active in the forums over a few months, and about 30 developers have the rights to add code to "head", the most current collection of code from which releases are made from time to time.
By "thin skin" we mean the specific adaptation of a selected number of tools in an attractive interface first by the Sloan School at MIT about three years ago, and since then, including leading contributions by the University of Heidelberg, the E-Lane Project and Galileo University; please consult the current Partners and Users list on the official Dotlrn site (please forgive me for not representing everyone's contributions in any kind of accurate proportion).
I don't know any more where the feature list for 1.0 is. There is a current feature list, and the .LRN Releasesforum entry opened yesterday by Rocael and the link at the bottom to other relevant forums will give you an idea of where the project might be going and how application development depends on a variety of suggestions and initiatives, including university-specific modifications that are often enough generalized and added to the current "tarball" or package release. I'll leave it to someone else to talk about why so many developers love to work with this toolkit and participate in the forums and application development.
I would add that among this application's distinguishing features is internationalization, whereby you can easily switch the interface from one to another of dozens of langauges, and the way this was built: a collaboration involving MIT/SLOAN, Heidelberg, Greenpeace, and such developers as Collaboraid. This makes the system extremely attractive to users in non-English speaking countries. Another feature I think most powerful is the automatic notifications in the Forums, whereby the system can be set to send an email to everyone in a group every time a comment is added to a forum: a message is "pushed" into the user's inbox with the effect that group members are informed immediately of new contributions AND one can find each contribution listed in the forum in chronological order. You can test this powerful feature by turning it on in the .LRN Q & A where you posted your inquiry. If I were to choose two features reflecting this application's uniqueness and power, it would be the strong group and group communications orientation these features support.
I hope others in the community will add/amend this brief account, but this should get you started.
All the best,
Posted by Peter Monien on
Well, I guess Bruce answered all your questions. Nothing left for me. But if you have any new questions don't hesitate to post them!

Just for your information: A new German company will be founded mid November 2004. This new company will provide services to the German market and help Universities to adopt .LRN and/or also the underlying OpenACS. We already delivered services to the TU Darmstadt and the University of Heidelberg and are in contact with the other German Universities using .LRN already.

Posted by Bruce Spear on
To help round out the picture, here are some photos of the Dotlrn community. Enjoy! Bruce
Posted by Alfred Essa on
Peter, Welcome aboard. Will you or representatives from your company be around for Online Educa Berlin 2004? I and Michael Hebgen will be speaking. Perhaps we can get together briefly and see if there are ways we can help you with marketing .LRN.
Posted by Peter Monien on
I will have to ask Malte (my partner and CEO of the new business) about the trade show. I just know that we are not yet registered at the Online EDUCA yet. As this is still one month away (1st - 3rd December) we might be still able to change that.

It would be great to meet you in person and talk about your experience with dotLRN and marketing opportunities of our great solution!

We just have been at the LinuxWorld Expo a week ago and try to get a reduced price booth for LEARNTEC in February.

Posted by Peter Monien on
Doesn't look like we will be around Online EDUCA. 😟

It's just too expensive to participate. We concentrate our resources on direct telephone calls and mails.
We had our first appointment with a university in October and will have 4 more this month.

Posted by Patricia Köll on
Dear Peter

I accept your offer answering some more questions. I am evaluating 5 open source LMS for buisness use, for my final thesis for M.A. degree.
Can you tell me, which features are included in the current version, and what is offerd as add on? (Authenification, Lorse, Scorm, IMS Metadata, LOM Metadata, Chat...??)

To create content for different features, Anouncement, Forum etc... users can choice between WYSIWIG Editor, html or plain text, preformated text? It is possible to upload all known doc., such as audio, video, flash, Java etc.. How about creating content? Can Instructors create this online and implement ressources dirct to a content, not only as a whole resource?

Why there is no DEMO course? All the others have?
ON the DOTLEARN site I read about the difficult installation - is this up to date information?

When you write there will be soon german consulting, I guess we can expect gereman manuals, german support forum etc...?
Are there templates for diffrent kind of questions: Multiple choice, Yes/No questions etc.....
Greetings from Innsbruck

Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
Al, thanks a lot for your offer to help. Most likely I will take the train and come over to Berlin, so we could meet up in the evenings. Maybe we could coordinate a general get together at a good restaurant after your talk ?
Posted by Malte Sussdorff on
Hello Patricia, let me answer on behalf of Peter. currently it has not been decided which packages will make up the CORE of .LRN, but all the package mentioned are available using installation functionality over the web (aka: Install from repository). For creation of content in the various packages you sometimes have the option to make use of the WYSIWYMG editor, depending on the version of the package you use (e.g. there is a version of forums out used by a couple of institutions that supports this editor, while the stock version does not). You can upload any type of document you like using the file-storage system, either through the web or using WebDAV. Most of the time the mime type is correctly identified.

Instructors can edit content directly. They can do this in a couple of ways. First of all they have the possibility to create their own portlet page within .LRN, allowing them to describe what the course is all about. Furthermore, using e.g. LORSM, they could add and edit a IMS CP / SCORM based course.

There are demo courses, even in German. As they run of my private server at the moment, the login information is not publicly available, but I will send you (and anyone else interested) login information seperately.

The installation at the moment is not for total amateurs, but we do have a windows installer available (sadly only for .LRN 2.0.3). Last but not least there are a couple of Knoppix CDs available, which you can also use to test out the system (

The first step once the company is created besides raising the hype is to build up a German .LRN community and collaboratively work on the manuals. Obviously one of the first things to happen would be a German support forum.

At the moment .LRN has a simple survey system. Furthermore a new effort has been started to create a very flexible assessment system, that would support templates for various types of questions. Last but not least the is a third variant, based on an enhanced version of survey, that is being used in the USA by some installations.

As you might be aware, the Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien is using .LRN as well, so you might be able to contact some people there as well, if you need references from austrian institutions for your evaluation.

Posted by Bruce Spear on
I'll help find that restaurant!  Bruce
Posted by Alfred Essa on
Lovely....Look forward to it...Al