Over the last six months we have reviewed many low cost and open source tools available on the Internet. We’ve also shared our ideas on how they could be used effectively for learning. Here's our latest thinking on what's hot now - and what might be very soon.
So what have we stuck with and why? And what is coming up that has caught our eye? Here’s a review of the top tools in our daily activity.
Oodles of Moodle
We really are great fans of Moodle. Not only does it provide easy low cost access to learning management and tracked SCORM compliant e-learning, but it’s also really easy to use from both learner and administrator perspectives.
For just in time learning updates or reinforcement, plug-in the RSS module. For online brainstorming, check out the chat room. For action learning, try the discussions. Moodle does really offer oodles. It’s available at moodle.org.
Mambo has been our backbone – for a quick-to-set-up, managed community site, it offers an easy leg-up into the world of web publishing. With a highly active developer community, it means the functionality you need is never far away or expensive to obtain. We’ve recently been using a clever group management module which allows you to ensure different groups of users see different areas of content – great for developing and sustaining communities of practice where confidentiality is key.
One of the big themes in learning coming up is how you capture knowledge in organisations – Mambo gets you started with a simple pragmatic tool.
Check out http://mamboserver.com
Google Desktop is top
If like us, your e-mail is the repository of all the elements of your professional life, finding your way through the 1000s of e-mails a month is chore. Forget subfolders and categories – just use the Google Desktop search engine. On shared network drives, if you want to tap into the informal knowledge you and colleagues have amassed, there’s no better free tool than Google Desktop. It gets to relevant information much quicker than Outlook and includes your web searches and hard drives.
Get it at www.google.com
For a cheap and easy way to get online collaboration, nothing beats Skype conferencing. The mix of audio, file exchange and chat is a potent mix for real-time problem solving. We still love it and use it daily. If you can pay, we also recommend Macromedia Breeze Meeting. It’s very easy to use, has powerful sharing tools (applications, white boards etc) and makes light work of online group work.
If you've not got Skype yet...www.skype.com
We’ve been having a look at Blinkx. It’s not new, but it is developing at a pace. Blinkx is a multimedia search engine which allows you to search on media types locally and across the internet. We think the real potential is if you have a site or network with a large bank of learning content. Blinkx, if directed exclusively at this content, could be a quick way of getting to the most useful learning just in time. See www.blinkx.com for more.
www.youtube.com may have caught your eye. It's a really popular web video sharing site. At the moment, it’s largely the novelty factor and laugh-out-loud video clips that draw people. But it’s another instance of the ease of uploading of multimedia content for sharing with audiences.
Now with video phones and digital cameras offering low cost and relatively high quality video / audio capture, we see great potential for the youtube model for learning. How?
Imagine subject experts or top performers demonstrating or explaining their success for others to learn from, quickly uploaded and searchable on a secure website. This could be a cost effective way of capturing and sharing organisational knowledge to generate real performance improvement.