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OpenACS Home : Forums : .LRN Q&A : interesting chat about moodle / .LRN

Forum .LRN Q&A: interesting chat about moodle / .LRN

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Just finished a casual chat with Jun, short conclusion from my side:
- oacs has just better technology (I heard that before many times), like going back to 1998, maybe that's an strength, since is quite easy?!
- community of users (teachers, etc.) makes the first and best difference with .LRN where virtually there's no community of users, no even public forums at dotlrn.org
- better name...
- .LRN needs backup/move/copy stuff from class to class to .lrn instances...
- jkyamog: i think an upgrade path from moodle 1.7 to .lrn may pull some people

chat here: (I don't see chat logs working)

Posted by Dave Bauer on
Chat logs are fine


You have to scroll to the bottom because ETP tries to use the tree sortkey for ordering and it just doesn't work right. I tried to edit the query to order by date, but it didn't work and I haven't had time to fix it.

User forums and public access to them is someting I have been advocating for .LRN for a long long time. We build community software, it makes sense to show these features off.

I am NOT talking about a dotlrn community within dotlrn.org that requires asking for permission. 1) The forum should be readable by the public. 2) just registering with dotlrn.org should let you post.

Posted by Dario Roig on

The package datamanager serves to backup/move/copy stuff from class to class.

In the U.V. we are development for oacs_5_1 and
.LRN 2.1


Posted by Matthew Coupe on
I agree with Dave completely.

I recently carried out a comparitive study on a few CLMSs such as dotLRN, Atutor, Moodle, Blackboard and found dotLRN to be behind in some key areas such as community, direction and support.

Once you arrive and register at Moodle it is so obvious what is going on. They use the features of Moodle to build a an active community. There are forums on a whole range of topics and for a whole range of roles and responsibilities. From new feature forums to teaching forums everyone is catered for. There is access to detailed documentation and a high level of organization. There is also a clear roadmap for the future of the product, something which dotLRN seems to lack.

The lack of obvious activity from the outset of arriving at the dotLRN community site is quite dissapointing as the openACS side of things always seems to be ticking over nicely. It is almost as if the dotLRN community is hidden away. I'm not saying that dotLRN should be a seperate entity from OpenACS, more that OpenACS development should feed into a more public facing dotLRN community of developers and users, or something along those lines. A more public facing community is definitely key...

As an educational platform there is also a lack of support on the teacher front. We have faculty using the platform who do not have the support which would be found in other products. Shared experiences are a highly valuable resource and bringing the users of the platform together could provide excellent feedback on usability and such.

Who is in charge of mainting the dotLRN site and what would need to be done to turn it into a proper dotLRN site where we could show off what it's all about?

Some of my other findings are as follows for those who are interested...

.... With the features so similarly matched other components of the whole package became more important. For the open source solutions there were stark differences between the size of the support and development community and leadership therein. Moodle was stated as having an almost 50% market share for LMSs, similar to that of WebCT/blackboard. Obviously this leaves the dotLRN and ATutor as small fish in a big sea. The importance of the community size cannot be overstated when it comes to open source platforms. The nature of open source platforms is such that the development has usually been spread amongst a large group of people and the quality of the products cannot be guaranteed as much as the commercial products. At these times you need support from the community from people with the relevant expertise to help out. Millions of hours of development time have been spent on the open source solutions and the expertise lies with these people. The more people actively working on the product then theoretically the better support you should receive. For many of the platforms user groups meet regularly to discuss their experiences.

The manner in which we can authenticate users of the platform is key to the successful integration of the learning environment to a potential student information system. The LMS should cater for a range of authentication and provide a very easy interface for doing so.

From a students perspective, on logging in to the LMSs Moodle provided the clearest outlook of what was expected of a student. All of the tools at their disposal were clearly visable as was an excellent schedule of activities highlighting what was expected of them throughout the duration of their course. The other LMSs did not provide that level of organization and structure.

Posted by Matthew Coupe on
And I agree with Rocael too...
Posted by Rocael Hernández Rizzardini on
All very good posts!

I got to know/talk with the founder of moodle, and got my own conclusions about what we can do to strength .LRN, which are just the same we already posted:

- Strength the community (actually, create it!)
- Quality Assurance for the toolkit
- Make public what's going on in clear / open / easy to find channels
- Improvements for making simply wonderful to use .LRN

But the big question still remains, who's gonna do this? Not the .LRN consortium.
The last resources is the ones that are interested on .LRN, those institutions or companies that care for .LRN?

IMHO, here's is the main functional difference between .LRN & Moodle:
Moodle has one single guy who makes the decisions, for good or bad, this single aspect has brought excellent coordination for stimulating the grow of the community. He's actually the owner of moodle.com, brand, copyright, etc. The project started with one single guy who build an LMS (since he was stuck with webct) and wanted to make it successful for users and for his own good.
But, .LRN, has no father, has no owner, has no one who full-time dedicates to make the things happen. Is about doing the things.

The question still remains, how we can accomplish to have a healthy community? and not just be a developer-feature community.

Posted by Caroline Meeks on
This is not a winner take all situation, there will not be one winner for all of LMS applications at least not any time soon. We need to be thinking about market share not "Winning".

We have advantages in a number of markets.

Not everyone likes how Moodle looks. We have a more professional and mature look, and its easier to change our look.

We have advantages in large organizations and in corporate learning settings with complicated and customized permissions issues. .LRN is much easier to customize and we already have the excellent permission model they are now needing to put in.

We have advantages if you want to combine your LMS with your outward facing site. This is due to both our permissions models and our CMS and community features.

We have advantages in combined KM, Intranet/Extranet and learning sites.

We have dotFOLIO and Curriculum Central and bug tracker and project manager that can work with .LRN.

We need to communicate these advantages and increase market awareness in the markets that care about these advantages.

I personally think we should not even try to compete with Moodle in their core market of a single teacher downloading and running a few classes. They win there. Let's concentrate on places we can win.

On Moodle's "One Guy is God" governance model: Yes, that’s a good model, but it's not ours. If we play it right we could turn our governance into an advantage in some markets.

There will be big players who will be far more comfortable with a nonprofit consortium governed by clear rules with a clearly defined path for new organizations to become involved and crystal clear decision making structures.

As most of you know clear governance in .LRN is something I've been pushing for it for a while. We need clear, transparent, inclusive and documented governance for .LRN. If we had it it could be a clear advantage for .LRN in important markets.

Posted by Alfred Essa on
I have dropped out from the .LRN project for both personal and professional reasons. I plan to get more involved again soon as my new institution begins to use .LRN on a small scale.

A couple of frustrations (only a sample) that I have had with OpenACS and .LRN.

a) Installation. Moodle is easy to install compared to OpenACS/.LRN. This is a typical conversation I have overheard at conferences among educators: "Yeah. Moodle is great. Go to the web site. You can download it and install it so easily." A moron like me can install Moodle in 5 minutes (yes, that's what it takes). By contrast, you have to be a rocket scientist and prepare magical incantations to install OpenACS/.LRN. We talk about building a community among teachers. As a first step, make it easy for an educator to download and install OpenACS/.LRN. The technical community has never regarded this as a priority and I am not sanguine that this will change in the near future. We take manly pride in keeping things as obscure as possible.

b) $$$ Support. This is an area where I admit that the .LRN leadership, principally me, failed miserably. We have large sites using .LRN but are unwilling to contribute even a small amount (e.g. $1,000) of funding towards the project. If they were using Blackboard their licensing alone would be in the six figures ($100,000). I was never able to figure out how to turn that around. We have always had to rely on the voluntarism of the OpenACS community and one or two institutions bankrolling most of the development. That was and is still not sustainable.

Posted by Pablo Moreno-Ger on
Facilitating installation is something that I'm trying to figure out working with Carl Blesius.

The amount of required backend software will not make it easier to install the software by traditional methods. An interesting outcome of the work on the e-lane project (http://www.e-lane.org/) was a Live CD that already included all the software.

A different approach was followed by John Sequeira with the creation of an openACS virtual machine (http://www.jsequeira.com/projects/oasisvm/) that would launch an OS with all the system tools.

We are trying to build on top of what John created a series of user-oriented virtual installations of openACS/.LRN, that should facilitate the installation part. We already have a virtual image that we are using internally, focused on learning how to use the platform. We are planning on improving that and in developing production-oriented images.

We'll keep you posted on this...

Posted by Rocael Hernández Rizzardini on

I agree, its not about trying to get the market other already has, is about minimal things the interested and active parties should do to make the things happen, like:
- governance
- publicity

But I have to say that all the investment seems to go in code, and even worse, in different code that is not a final product, nor easy to try / test, etc.

As Al mention, what we need is organize efforts toward a common goal, a put effort / time / resources to actually do things, but none manage this with enough time to drive the whole project areas.

BTW, we have a windows installer, easy to update for further releases ...

Posted by Miguel on
Hello all.
I'm actually new to .LRN and some people at my work asked me
to make an evaluation of this platform. I'm not making any
comparisons with other aplications, but I wanted to share my
point of view, since after reading this posts I'm not feeling that alone :)

I agree with the last comments, mainly about the lack of a
mature community and support. If I learned something about
the open source software is that any project of this nature
that do not have a community behind it, is destined to
fail...or to be used by only a very limited number of

About de installation issues, I'm no rocket scientist, but
I'm a computer science engineer, so I have some experience
in different computer systems (open source and commercial)
both using and developing them. Even with my previous
experience I have to say that installing this system was no
"picnic" at all. Let me explain; one thing is installing and
accessing it (with can be done relatively fast with the
instalation notes)...but other thing is get the different
modules and packages to be available and working fine...
this is what had take me most of the time, because I had to find
out by myself most of the answers to my questions.

When searching the forums about questions concerning the
instalation of certain modules, or bugs, etc. I realized
that most of the posts are like from one year ago...And that
aren't answered. This lead me to think "maybe I'm looking in
the wrong place"...but even with a google search the results
were the same. I don't know if you have this feeling, maybe
it's just me, but looking back all the things that I've done
the past month (when I started with this project) always
hits me the feeling of "is it me? (because nobody else seems
to have the problems I have) or no one is really using this

Anyway if you ask me now, I'm not so sure that this system
is something I would recommend to anybody outside the
computer developer's community (if)...hope that this change
in the next few months that I have to work with this

Hope I'm not offending anybody, and if someone think that I'm wrong about all these, please point
me in the right direction.


Posted by Caroline Meeks on
We have a consistent issue with installation problems and other challenges for potential users trying to evaluate .LRN.

The person above felt there was no support, which is odd considering that there are commercial vendors.

I know the communtity is constantly working on better installation, I suggest that in addition to that work the .LRN consortium considers allowing vendors such as Solution Grove, Zill, Viaro etc. to advertize on the download page on dotlrn.org.

we should consider that looking more comercial, especially in the download area can help adoption of .LEN. The larger organizations with resources will hopefully choose to get some help with evaluation. Smaller users who want to do it themselves, will feel good about "saving money".

Posted by Alfred Essa on
Miguel is absolutely correct. OpenACS is great technology but it remains an obscurest of platforms accessible only to the cognoscenti.

OpenACS and .LRN will not get traction unless the community pays attention to some basics:

* easy installer
* accurate documention for newbies

Caroline writes, "The person above felt there was no support, which is odd considering that there are commercial vendors."

Bizarre comment.

I can install Apache, MySQL, Moodle, Php. etc etc. in 5 minutes. The basic documentation is accurate and up-to-date. I don't have to rely on commercial vendors to get started with the system.

Hello Alfred!

I am totally agreed with you.

Other great problem is the dependency with aolserver

Any plan to separate OpenACS of aolserver and work it
from Apache?


Posted by Eduardo Santos on
Hy guys. I know this topic is a little bit old, but it's a very interesting discussion. Our framework (.LRN) is very difficult to install. It took me one week just to learn how to do it.

However we, from Tekne Digital in Brasil, developed some kind of installer, were you can select everything you want to install. You can choose some of the libs and even the aolserver. Well, it's quite simple, and if you guys want, I can put it here for you to see. It's a shell-based code made mostly for Debian, but I'm sure it works on most Linux versions.

If you want, post here and I can put it for Download.

Posted by Dave Bauer on

That sounds wonderful, please share your installer. Debian is one of the target platforms for OpenACS/.LRN.

Posted by Eduardo Santos on
Hey Dave,

I'm working in the translation right now, because it's in portuguese. in a few days I'll have the ultimate english version and I can post it. Just wait a little bit.

Posted by Alfred Essa on
Eduardo, Thank you. We look forward to seeing the installer.
Posted by Eduardo Santos on
Finally!!! Here comes the installer. I`m sorry if it`s not a very good one, but it`s still a beta version. We hope you guys help us to improve it.


It`s a little bit large because all the necessary libs are inside it. Don`t forget: it`s a .LRN installer.

Posted by Al Guyer on

First off, after looking around at a number of CMS / CLMSs (Moodle, drupal, openACS/DotLRN, Centre, webgui), I believe that openACS/DotLRN is worth the hassle to install. So, I will plow through the problems necessary to do so. Just from the aspect of security alone it is worth the cost.

But, I am here to tell you, it should not be as difficult as it is. Each and every flavor of linux has some sort of package manager. My favorite distro is gentoo, and if I ever figure out what works with what, I will generate the ebuilds required to install openACS, and then dotLRN. Then, my install is as complicated as this:

emerge -uvDN www-servers/aolserver
emerge -uvDN www-misc/nscache
emerge -uvDN www-misc/nsopenssl
emerge -uvDN www-misc/nssha1
emerge -uvDN www-misc/nsxml
emerge -uvDN www-servers/aolserver
emerge -uvDN dev-db/postgresql
emerge -uvDN www-apps/openACS
emerge -uvDN www-apps/dotLRN

I have built aolserver and all it's modules, openACS, and dotLRN from source, it's not too terribly complicated, it is just time consuming. The problem I ran into over and over again had to do with compatiblity, and the lack of clear, concise, and accurate documentation. What works with what?
I have found the compatibilty matrix for openACS, but not dotlrn...

As it stands now, it appears that the latest release of dotLRN only runs on OpenACS Core 5.1.5, which will not run
on postgresql 8.x, only 7.4.X.

I believe that part of the problem comes from the programming style used in openACS. If the database calls were abstracted, it wouldn't matter which db, or version of db I have installed. db calls would be generic, and the db handler would handle specific calls to specific databases.
That would also speed development. Instead of coding, testing, debugging to both postgres & oracle, most code would make calls to the db handler.

...and as long as I am rambling, the same concept could be (should be?) used for all ns_ and nsv_ function calls. Every single one of those calls ties OpenACS specifically to the aolserver. I guess the real question there is would it kill performance to abstract those function calls and then build server specific modules to translate?


Posted by Jun Yamog on
Hi Al,

I think (b) is important. Sometimes with (b) you can solve (a). Its the community aspect that is hard to do, a big community may also lead into better (b) support funding.

There are also other stuff that moodle will have and is not trivial for .lrn/openacs to do. Such as the moodle community hub.


This feature when done will greatly leverage the number of moodle sites. As of now .lrn is still technically better than moodle, which means most features in moodle can be done in .lrn. In about a year or 2, moodle will be able to close the technical gap (mainly CR and permissions) and create new feature gaps (community hub, better enrollment integration) that .lrn will need to catchup.

.lrn needs to figure out how to bring its community closer to one another. I am pretty sure there are lots of .lrn users since there are big installation of .lrn. Having users talking to one another may give some common direction/feature that hopefully may turnout some funding.

Community hubs is a great idea, and goes beyond the technology itself. Anyway, we (.LRN) should focus on increase the community (size and kind). Well, actually, openacs as well needs to increase the community.
Posted by Eduardo Santos on
Hey people, what about the installer. Has anybody download it? Does it work for you? We had no problem with this installer here. If you saw any bugs, please let me know.
Posted by john zhang on
Very good comments.
As a learner of dotLRN (I'm a moodle user already), let me add some things:

1) dotLRN should target 'research' oriented market, with more research utils developped.

2) dotLRN should learn from Moodle in terms of ease use (not the market share). In this postmodern world, no matter how powerful your tool is, if people cannot learn to use it easily, you are dooomed to fail.

Take one simple example, I just installed dotLRN. As an administor, I had hard time figuring out how to let forums in My Space work, cannot add "classes", etc. Without enough patience, even professionals would walk away from wonderful product. Don't think that dotLRN is not well adopted because not enough people dont know it---many people know it. It is just so hard to use it.....