||Shaman : introduction|
This documents describes the motivations which shape the Shaman product.Of Shamanism...
"Shaman" name has been found because the first incarnation of the platform takes form at l'Université René Descartes, Paris 5, teaching medicine. "Shaman" name recalls (1) the goal which is to learn how to heal people, and (2) the uncertainty intrisically bound to all kinds of numerical processings ;-)
And it's typically Shamanic that how the work is done remains mysterious for the non-initiated ones (those who don't read documentation).Embracing change
"Change is the only constant" (programmer's proverb)Content-agnosticism
Shamanism exists all around the world, across different cultures. It seems to be the same with pedagogical content standards.
For all teachers asked to translate their MS Word-based courses to HTML pages, then transform HTML into something printable, then extract pictures for a Powerpoint slideshow, the purpose is obvious : a standard is a guide for decoupling content from presentation, and avoid doing the same job three times or more.
The problem became the standard to adopt. We discovered soon that LCMS standards like SCORM, EML, IMS, LOM, rather focus on metatata, instead of the course content itself. DocBook could appear too complex.
And even if a particular standard was fitting all our needs, there
was some problems left to deal with :
Since standards supports was a major point for Shaman's credibility
on the market, we took the following decisions :
Distant Learning implies several workflow aspects :
The Workflow detail may change with pedagogical decisions. Questionnaires are an obvious example (overall note calculation, should solution be shown ? ...).
We observed that, unlike other CMS systems, there is a necessary coupling between content and workflow. For example, Questionnaires and Forums are scoped inside a particular Course (though statistics will be probably transverse).Defining limits
The paragraphs before pointed out from where the Change should come from. In parallel, we established what the system should not do, for making things simpler from both technical and functional point of views.Publications
Once validated for being accessed by Students, a Publication cannot be modified anymore. If you want to modify it, create a new version.Content access
Content is made to be accessed. Once validated, no access restrictions. Knowledge, like software, is to be shared amongst people.Collaborative content creation
No complicated process. Authors just share a WebDAV folder.
A simple lock system prevents of concurrent modifications.
Shaman does not provide any content editor. Just put your files in the WebDAV repository by some appropriate mean.
Don't expect any Distant Learning platform to be a reliable exam
platform. On-line evaluation makes cheating too easy.
"We're mature. They're mature. So, we can legally do it."
Content is the beef. Content is the essence. Shaman must seduce Students by making wished content available. Shaman must also seduce Teachers, who produce content.
After proving that any type of content is supported, we hope to make Teachers converge towards an XML-based content format which will help them to produce their courses on different forms (static HTML, printable, slideshows...). There is a strong demand for this. This format will probably define the structure of a course. This will allow uniform content display, making courses more readable for Students.
Some efforts have already been deployed (with results) for showing Teachers the interest of basic RTF which can be easily converted to other formats. The intend is to make a smooth transition from format melting content and presentation, towards XML-based content format.