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What is ATutor?
ATutor is an open-source web-based learning management system (LMS) used to create and manage online courses. It is known for its commitment to accessibility.
ATutor Overview & History
In the early 2000s there was no mainstream LMS that conformed even minimally to accessibility guidelines. At the time, online learning was simply off-limits to users who required assistive technologies. ATutor was created as a direct response to this need, and was the first fully-accessible learning management system — a fact later confirmed by a study published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.
What Is ATutor Used For?
Any type of online course can be created with ATutor, and the application is commonly used to power everything from professional development courses to fully-accredited online college courses.
There are a number of features integral to the application:
- Accessibility: If you're looking for an LMS that will support assistive technologies you could do a lot worse.
- Messaging: All users have an inbox through they can communiate with instructors and other students.
- Student Profiles: Each student can create a customized profile that includes a photo and personal details. The photor is used to identify students when they post to course forums.
- Groups: The ability to form work groups and to work collaboratively is built-in to the application.
- Communication: In addition to email messaging, users can also communicate with each other using forums and chat rooms.
- Search: Course content and the course catalog can be searched with an integrated search prompt.
- Content Authoring & Management Tools: Course instructors have a access to variety of tools to create all types of content, schedule the release of content to students, and verify that content is accessible to assistive technology users.
- Test Manager: Create tests, assign them to users, provide grades, and control test access.
- User Management: Instructors can manage students by enrolling them in courses, removing them from courses, and assigning user privileges.
- Payment Manager Module: Accept payment of course dues by integrating with PayPal and several other payment processors.
What Does ATutor Cost?
ATutor is free to download and install on a web server. Using the application should not add any additional cost to your hosting plan. A hosted version of the application is also offered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and the monthly cost of the hosted service goes directly to the ATutor development team to help fund future development of the application.
How Do I Get ATutor?
There are two different ways to create an online learning environment using ATutor:
- Self-Hosted ATutor installation: The most cost-effective way to get set up with ATutor is to sign up for a hosting account and to install ATutor on a web server.
- Hosted ATutor environment: The easiest way to get started with ATutor is to sign up for an ATutor account from ATutorSpaces, a hosted ATutor service offered by the creators and developers of ATutor LMS.
If you just want to get a class up as quickly as possible with minimum technical know-how and effort, go with a hosted account from ATutorSpaces. However, if you want optimum control over the LMS, and you are comfortable working with hosting accounts, you'll save some money by hosting the service yourself on a shared hosting account.
Setting up Self-Hosted ATutor
There are two different ways to set up ATutor on a hosting account. The easiest way is to use a commercial script library auto-installer such as Softaculous. ATutor is included in many leading libraries. As you consider hosting providers, take a look at the scripts available for "one-click" or "automatic" installation. If you don't see ATutor on the list get in touch with the host's sales team to confirm whether or not ATutor is available for easy installation.
If you select a host that does not offer ATutor as an automatically-installed script, you can still install it manually.
- First, download the application by following the link from the ATutor website to Sourceforge.
- Next, upload the application files to the directory on the server where you want the application to be found.
- If you prefer, you can also clone the ATutor GitHub repository. However, if you do that you will need to follow a few additional steps.
- Once you have the application files on the server simply open a web browser and navigate to the file where the application is hosted. At that point, an installation script will run and walk you through the rest of the installation process.
Like many popular web applications, ATutor should run just fine on any shared hosting plan. In order to run the application, your hosting account will need to include PHP 5.0.2 or higher, MySQL 4.1.10 or higher, and an HTTP web server (Apache highly recommended).
What Are Some Alternatives to ATutor?
Picking an LMS is a big step and not one that should be taken without thorough research. Every LMS offers different features and has a different layout and feel. Check out several before settling on the piece of software that will be instrumental in defining your students' learning experience.
ATutor is a great piece of software, but just to make sure you've picked the best solution you should also consider these alternatives:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is development of the application ongoing?
The official ATutor repository is hosted at GitHub. If you visit that page you will see that it is under active ongoing development. Unlike some other specialized web applications, this LMS does not appear to be at risk of being abandoned by the development team anytime soon.
How can I get technical support?
There are three places to get support. First, the development team is available to provide support on a paid basis. Second, extensive documentation is avialable at the ATutor website. Third, a community forum is available where contributors and other users can help troubleshoot technical challenges.