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Tricks to debug Captivate SCORM 1.2 content

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

If you have to make Captivate-generated SCORM 1.2 content in your (web) platform and you want *more* information about what’s going on, this guide might help.

One of the trickiest things about Captivate and SCORM is that Captivate doesn’t handle the credit/no-credit (cmi.core.credit) very well. This parameter, in combination with cmi.core.lesson_mode should let you retake exercises that you have already completed and passed.

In Chamilo, if you want to debug the SCORM interactions on the Chamilo side, use Firefox, login as admin, go to the learning paths list and click the ladybug icon in the action icons next to the learning path you want to debug. This will only affect you, so no worries about doing that in production.

ladybug debug iconThen enter the learning path itselt (simply click its name). Once you’re seeing the content, launch the Firefox debugger with SHIFT+F2 and go to the “Console” tab. Click on any item in the table of contents, and you should see the SCORM and LMS interactions pooring in. Something like the screenshot below.

Chamilo SCORM general debug screen

Chamilo SCORM general debug screen

This is already very nice to understand the interaction going on, and when Chamilo will save the information in its database, but it still lacks the possibility to understand what’s going on, on the Captivate side of things.

Captivate itself has debug features though, but they’re not prepared for just any tool. Luckily, we can tap into them with a moderate level of complexity.

First, you need to know where the Captivate content is on disk in your LMS. In Chamilo, this is typically in the {root-folder}/courses/{course-code}/scorm/{scorm-name}/{scorm-name}. For Captivate content, Chamilo usually generates its own folder, then Captivate, which means you have it duplicated.

You’ll have to get into that folder and, for each SCO (item in the table of content in the screen above), locate the scormdriver.js file.

Around line 1032 of scormdriver.js, you’ll find something like this:

function WriteToDebug(strInfo){if(blnDebug){var dtm=new Date();var strLine;strLine=aryDebug.length+”:”+dtm.toString()+” – “+strInfo;aryDebug[aryDebug.length]=strLine;if(winDebug&&!winDebug.closed){winDebug.document.write(strLine+”<br>\n”);}}
return;}

We’ll hack into that and just replace it straight away (keep a backup copy if you’re afraid) by the following line:

function WriteToDebug(strInfo){var dtm=new Date();var strLine;strLine=aryDebug.length+”:”+dtm.toString()+” – “+strInfo;aryDebug[aryDebug.length]=strLine; console.log(strLine); return;}

This will simply:

  • force the debug to be active (we don’t check blnDebug anymore, we assume it’s on!)
  • redirect the debug messages from this weird winDebug.document to the officially-supported-in-all-reasonnable-browsers “console.log”, which prints the log in the browser console, as illustrated above

Now, to get this to work, you need to clean the cache in your browser. My favorite way of doing this in Chamilo is to press CTRL+F5, then go *back* to the learning paths list, enter *another* learning path, then enter the hacked learning path again. Captivate debug information should start showing in your browser’s console:

Captivate logs in browser console

Captivate logs in browser console

Now you can analyze all the information flow.

That’s all, folks!

On the Criticality of Learning Management System

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

I’m often surprised at the little importance large education institutions put on their Learning Management Systems (LMS). Many times, after years of starting a modest pilot and slowly convincing all the people involved, institutions find themselves in a situation in which students (and sometimes teachers, but rarely the institution itself) drive the development of the LMS by demanding for changes.

Students, of course, see it as a way to get better, more ubiquitous access to their course material, to practice more without the need of the teacher, to get feedback faster, etc. Sometimes students feel more confident facing a computer than they would do in class.
Anyway, expectations increase and the institution has to follow or, sometimes, lead this evolution.

However, where the “mild” integration might have been slow in classical educational institutions, there is one crucial step where institutions *have* to make sure everything goes right: the move to a critical LMS integration as fast as their end-users require it.

A critical LMS is a service (not only the software, but also the team around it) on which you can rely to launch and follow training/teaching activities that are critical to your organization.

Obviously, teaching is critical for an educational institution, but it is not critical in the LMS sense if the LMS acts as an *extension* of the classroom courses.

It becomes critical when:

  • students can access to the course *only* through the LMS
  • the LMS serves to generate the students’ grades
  • the LMS is used to generate reports on the activity of teachers or students
  • it is expected to be online permanently, without interruptions of more than half an hour every week or so

If you compare it to other systems deemed “critical” by the IT department in an education institution, you should get this kind of table:

System Must be up all time? Critical information? Must sustain high load?
ERP Not really Yes No
Website Yes No Not really
Library system Not really Not really Not really
LMS Yes Yes Yes

I’m sure some of these criteria can be discussed in specific situations, but when the LMS is used for the cases above (which is usually the case for any serious implementation), it *does* match all these criteria at the same time.

In each and everyone of these cases, it is necessary to be able to rely on a skilled team of specialists, that will be able to assess, intervene and report on any case that might cause some level of inconvenience to the students.

What this means is that a multi-dsiciplinary team of specialists will have to get involved in your project, and give you the power to do what you want and need. Building the team takes time, building and maintaining a high level of skills takes time, getting involved in a project takes time, and providing you with the best possible solution takes time, dedication and vision.

Many times, as the company behind the development of Chamilo LMS as a free software (we have high goals in terms of social responsability), we face this misunderstanding in the first step of our interaction with new customers.

The LMS is not *valued* by the IT department as it really should, and even less when it is based on free software. But software is just software, and although Chamilo LMS is in the top 3 best open source e-learning paltforms around, you can’t hope for a lot if your team doesn’t know how to manage it. And it’s not just a technical issue: dealing with online courses involve a combination of skills that you will need to have if you don’t have the right team to help you out:

  • planning the tools you will use for interaction (videoconference, chat, forum, etc)
  • knowing the limits of your students’ available technology (screen resolution, plugins, apps, etc)
  • being able to design lightweight courses (bandwidth)
  • knowing your students’ behaviour
  • being able to plan (and take action) for a load increase on a server, ahead of a high-attendance online event
  • being able to pinpoint reporting data to improve education methods
  • and much more…

Understanding all this, if the budget for your institutions’ online education project is a 10th of its ERP’s system, it’s probably not going in the right direction, for its first step.

Only once the institution has understood the criticality of their LMS and how it will affect their institution’s image and efficiency, the project can start in the right environment.

Learning Management Systems are critical, not only for educational institutions. They represent a very unique tool that is both desired and required to improve the efficiency of teaching, learning and managing skills. Don’t let it fail. Make sure everybody understands what a LMS is and how useful it will be, and your organization will thrive into the 21st century!

Chamilo LMS

Chamilo LMS is a web-based learning management system focused on usability. It is developed and published under the GNU/GPLv3 license, which allows anyone to use, analyse, modify and distribute copies and modified copies of the software. In its first 4 years of existence, Chamilo LMS has been granted several software prizes and has grown from a community of 10 developers to a community of 9 million users worldwide.

Chamilo allows you to create courses, manage administrators, teachers, students and other typical roles for organizations or departments focused on training. It is suitable for academical, corporate, associative and personal environments.

The BeezNest group

BeezNest is the company behind most of the developments in Chamilo LMS. It specializes in analysis, development and support of e-learning projects in about 40 countries, with offices and collaborators in Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, the UK, Peru and Mexico. Projects managed by BeezNest deal with portals from 100 to 680,000 students, worldwide. It deals with every aspect of e-learning projects, from analysis, to hosting, platform developments, training, online courses building, to data analysis. All you need but marketing (which it prefers leaving to its customers).

Contact BeezNest at info@beeznest.com

Evento: Chamilo en Argentina

August 7, 2014 Leave a comment
Categories: cursos, e-learning, eventos, Spanish

Curso Oficial de Certificación Internacional – Chamilo LMS

August 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Howto connect OpenMeetings 2 or 3 with Chamilo LMS 1.9.8

Chamilo LMS 1.9.8 comes with an OpenMeetings plugin. This means that you can organize OpenMeetings videoconference rooms directly from your Chamilo courses.

Now this setup requires a few essential things. The 2 most important are: a working installation of Chamilo (referenced as [C] below) and a working installation of OpenMeetings (referenced as [OM] below), then you need to have:

  • [CH] php5-curl extension installed and running
  • [OM] a user with web services privileges
  • [CH] to configure host, user and password (or salt) inside the “plugins” section, button “Configure” of the OpenMeetings plugin

This is pretty much it, but if you are missing one of these, that won’t work!

Does the world’s growth go along with a Moodle sites reduction?

June 20, 2014 5 comments

In a growing world with growing education needs, one would think that systems like Chamilo or Moodle would have a continuous growth ensured, year after year.

Well, this is certainly true for Chamilo LMS (for now), as it is apparently gaining about 100,000 new users per month (average over the last 12 months), but I am a little in shock at how Moodle is (since a year or so) loosing a considerable amount of sites and users over the last 12 months. It’s a bit difficult to track, because Moodle stats site doesn’t show any evolution of amounts over time (anymore), but thanks to our beautiful internet, you can use the Wayback Machine to get the data as it was years ago.

A warning to the reader: I am an active Chamilo evangelist and this is in no way an objective, scientific analysis of the situation. This isn’t to say that I am inventing the existing data. It comes from reliable sources and should be consider as such for all intended purposes.

So, just for the sake of the data, here is how both projects are evolving in number of sites and users over the last 4 years (almost the full life of the Chamilo LMS project). This article is written in June 2014, so the last two lines are pure speculation. The rest, however, comes from real data from Moodle’s site (and the Wayback Machine) and Chamilo’s database.

Year Moodle sites Chamilo sites Moodle users Chamilo users
mid 2011  54K  1K  43M  0.5M
mid 2012  66K  2.3K  58M  1M
mid 2013  84K  6K  71.7M  6.2M
mid 2014  64K  14K  71.1M  7.6M
mid 2015? (linear projection based on last 12m) 44K 22K 70M 9M
mid 2016? (projection based on last 12m) 24K 30K 69M 10.4M
Stats: Moodle usage vs Chamilo usage from 2011 to 2014

Stats: Moodle usage vs Chamilo usage from 2011 to 2014 + projection

The last two lines are an obvious flame. There is no way this could be like this, but if it were (and it’s a linear projection based on the last 12 months from now June 2014, it could be curved projection), then these would converge in number of sites by June 2016 :-)

As always with statistics, there are important things to know about both projects, and while Moodle is a great tool, it is still somehow a friendly rival to Chamilo, but in an ever-growing world with easier installers and cloud computing, I would expect Moodle to continue to grow… pretty much endlessly. Not sot.

A few years back (in June 2012), the Moodle stats page still offered a graphical representation of the number of Moodle installations around the world, over time. You could (at that point) clearly see a Gauss curve reaching the top and starting to go down. However, the numbers here show that even then it managed to grow an additional 13M users (and 18K sites), but then between June 2013 and June 2014, it just stalled in number of users, and literally dropped 22K sites, to lower-than 2012 level in terms of sites. A little bit later than June 2012, the chart was removed (I guess they didn’t like showing the dropping Gauss curve, huh?)

Sure, that also means that most of these sites had a very low number of users (or something like that), as this only went with a loss of 600K users overall (so 30 users per site, on average).

Or maybe Moodle stats just changed their algorithm at some point, dropping thousands of sites that were not really active?

Chamilo and Moodle statistics are bound to be somewhat imprecise, anyway, as they rely on a series of relatively subjective parameters that are interpreted to try to guess if the sites are still active or not.

Plus Chamilo is still clearly not getting to the number of users Moodle has (we’re only at 10%), but the tendency is that we are growing fast enough and that, if it continues as in the last 12 months, we should be crossing

Still, this leaves you thinking… Free software (no barrier to adoption), free or very cheap hardware, growing world population… why did it drop? Will it continue to do so?

Well, that just leaves me with an excellent marketing opportunity, to tell you that, if you want to try Chamilo out, you can test our recently released version 1.9.8 on https://campus.chamilo.org. Now.

Certifícate como administrador de E-learning con Chamilo LMS

March 13, 2014 Leave a comment
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