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Hosted Educational Software
Educational software refers to software applications used to aid, assist, or accelerate learning. Almost since the beginning of the software industry, there has been a consistent push to develop software tools for educational use.
Modern education and software developed side-by-side, and both disciplines have come a long way since the advent of computers after World War II. Today, computer software — for learning, classroom management, record keeping, and communication — is a key component of every educational institution.
The History of Educational Software
Like most early developments in computing, the earliest educational use of computer software developed in the military. Flight simulators in World War II fed simulated, computerized data to onboard instruments.
The controller instructions for these flight simulators were, in some ways, more similar to the music reels in old circus organs and player pianos, and to the weaving pattern-cards in automated looms, than to what we would now call computer software. They were primarily analog, and early on they were not directly responsive to any actions taken by the training pilot.
Crude as these early attempts were, they were a start, and they hinted at the possibilities of fully interactive learning software.
As computers and software became an increasingly important part of military, industrial, and academic life, it also became clear that people would need to learn how to write code, develop software, and build computers. This led to the development, in the mid 1960s, of the BASIC programming language, which crossed the line between the educational field and the software development field — it was a computer programming language designed to teach people how to use a computer programming language. LOGO, a language similarly intended for educational use followed a few years later.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the development of the personal computer brought computing to the desktop, away from the mainframe. Before long, computers became a regular fixture in schools, with a dedicated “computer labs.” By the early 1990s, computers were a ubiquitous feature at all levels of education. In colleges, they became centers of research, especially in engineering and math departments. In high schools they became a place to learn computer literacy and basic skills. In elementary schools, computers were used mainly for educational learning games — continuing in the spirit of the original flight simulators.
While most of the educational software field up to that point had been focused on student-oriented computer use, the expansion of computer use in offices and industries of all kinds led to the inevitable questions about teacher-focused software. Software to help students learn is one thing, but software to help teachers teach is another.
In the late 1990s, most public school teachers were still recording their grades with pen and paper in an official gradebook. By the mid 2000s, this had completely changed. Teachers were now expected to record grades, as well as other student data, in educational management systems.
The internet changed education quite drastically, beginning around this time at the turn of the millennium.
The first great wave of change — the one experts were more or less expecting — was a changed approach to research. The internet made it possible to get information from almost anywhere, without having to sort through card catalogs or consult with librarians. That was the idea, anyway. It has certainly changed things, but the revolution is far from complete.
Plenty of resources remain available only in printed books, and copyright and licensing restrictions cut off much of the most valuable material that is online. The experts who predicted this change were right, but they were perhaps too optimistic.
The change that very few people saw coming was the rise of the social internet. First AOL and then MySpace, and now Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — and new networks rising and dying off every day. The social internet has changed the way we communicate, and students — especially high school and college students — are at the forefront.
Because of the changed communication habits caused by the social internet, the educational expectations of students have changed. Educational software is now used to connect students to each other, and to deliver lectures and other course content at the convenience of the students. Asynchronous instruction and “flipped classrooms” are becoming the new normal, made possible by web-based educational software.
The Present and Future of Educational Software
It’s hard to predict the future, but here are a few trends to look for:
Colleges and Universities are looking to cut costs, and young people are beginning to realize that college isn’t the only path for learning. Online classes — from both within and without the high education establishment — will grow in popularity.
Continuing research into the science of learning, together with advances in artificial intelligence and adaptive computing, will come together to create learning platforms the change and respond to the individual learning needs of students.
The falling price of highly stimulating and interactive media — virtual reality, extreme high definition, haptics, 3d printing — will contribute to an increased sense that “being there” isn’t the most important aspect of an educational experience.
Popular Educational Software
How Does Moodle Compare To Chamilo?
While Moodle certainly has the lion’s share of the hosted Learning Management System (LMS) marketplace, it is not without competitors. Chamilo is one of those competitors that is widely used (particularly in Europe and other parts of the Spanish-speaking world) and readily available as an alternative solution.
The two softwares are not that different in terms of four major ways educators evaluate LMS applications - administration features, collaboration, course development and instruction methods. Both solutions operate on a “Freemium” model - with some features available at no charge, and some features available for a monthly subscription. Both softwares have “software as a service” (SaaS) models as well as software versions that can be self-hosted.
Moodle is a much stronger service option in the following areas: accessibility and compliance, industries served, platform options, and languages supported. Mobile-friendliness and availability in over four times as many languages and countries makes Moodle a much better solution for companies and educational institutions that offer online courses across the world. Major corporations also use Moodle for new employee training and continuing education services.
Chamilo is a much stronger service option in the following areas: collaboration features, assessment and instruction methods, and pre-installed course libraries. The added feature of online whiteboards gives Chamilo a valuable one-up on Moodle, and its analytics platform includes goal setting and training metrics - another important set of features Moodle lacks.
Blended learning and self-paced instruction methods also allow Chamilo to be relevant in situations where collaboration isn’t necessary. The amount of time required to deploy Chamilo can also be much lower for institutions in the IT, legal, and PC markets because the platform comes with built-in course libraries to aid these educators with compliance and skills training.
Open edX and JoomlaLMS
While Chamilo is a common alternative software to Moodle that has a self-hosted option, it is normally deployed through its SaaS version. The education and learning management software market is not only limited to two options, however. Below are two other common alternatives to Moodle - Open edX and JoomlaLMS - along with a description of each platform.
Open edX - Open edX is the open source alternative to edX Platform - a commercial software for education.
Open edX is a Python-based platform that use a combination of Ruby on Rails and NodeJS programming languages for its development. In addition to the LMS, Open edX also includes an authoring tool - Studio - and a number of other repositories that can be used off the platform to integrate machine learning and analytics.
JoomlaLMS - While it is well-documented on our site that Joomla is not the preferred solution for developing a website and content management, Joomla’s LMS is a great add-on for Joomla sites looking to integrate an eLearning solution into their user experience.
With multilanguage support, a wide list of features to customize courses, SCORM support and advanced reporting capabilities, JoomlaLMS is a quality option for any web development teams already comfortable with the challenges of operating Joomla.