Forum OpenACS Q&A: Re: Will Dr. OpenACS survive? Or why I stopped worrying and learned to love the .LRN consortium?

I would like to thank the OpenACS/dotLRN community for some great software. I would like to reiterate something from a year or two back as a suggestion for the way forward.

We are a research-led University and one of the early appeals of dotLRN was the 'built on OpenACS' as we wanted to support communities as well as courses. We had expected the community would understand and share that goal. For one reason or another, I don't believe it has been realised (I could be wrong, because I am not following as closely as I used to). The impression that dotLRN is another layer on top of OpenACS with different developers having different agendas does not help.

We have not imposed anything on our campus and adoption is based on interest and word of mouth. So far our adoption of communities (backed by a rebadged dotLRN) is about 3 times our adoption of course sites (backed by CourseWork from Stanford). Evidence on 'real use' of VLEs (e.g. only 30% of courses making heavy use of VLE 5 years after introduction) from campuses that have imposed campus-wide platforms leads us to believe we are not unique.

We continue to refer to OpenACS and dotLRN as a benchmark on good design of useful and usable feature sets and I have posted to Sakai forums referring to some of your practices as examples for them to follow.

We are now looking hard at Sakai because it does support both communities and courses out of the box. And it seems likely that many will soon be working to create value-added research tools for the research communities. (see for some recently funded 'Virtual Research Environments' in the UK)

I would urge the community to look again at the concept that a class/course is just a special case of a community and that setting up a class is just a configuration option. Then apply the portal to the resulting collection of classes and communities. I think this will make the software more attractive in many ways and allow you to compete with Sakai, which I think is in a more realistic niche (at least for research-led Universities) than competing with Moodle, Blackboard, etc. in the VLE mainstream. A common product should help with alignment of goals and supporting other specialised 'configurations' of a community - e.g. project group would add even more value.

I hope this is of some value and thanks again for some great work!