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About WLT Research

The PI's View of "the Open Source Game" 2010

The PI, myself Jennifer Woodward, finds the "open source game" as of 2010 has become partially corrupted by opportunists.  Some currently popular kinds or functional categories of web-sites are e-Commerce sites (i.e. online stores), "blog" or "forum" web sites (a.k.a. vanity web sites), the increasingly popular but socially problematic major social networking web sites like Facebook, YouTube, etc., for which it is now possible for "ordinary computer literate people" without the budget and ambitions of a "Facebook" organization to build and run a similarly-featured site very cheaply.  And of course there are the more rare but growing numbers of distance learning web sites, which perhaps obviously I anticipate will be much more useful to "the general public" and to "life-long learners of all ages".

Free Open Source web site systems are sets of "web code" (e.g. PHP code, Microsoft's ASP code, Javascript, Java code) that create a particular kind of web site.  I named some of those categories or "functional sets" of code above.  The problem is that more and more of the developers of "free open source code" offer just a bare-bone "base system" of their "web-site-building code" just as "bait".

Very likely the developers want to make a living off of their time-consuming coding and testing work, and they believe they cannot do so if every bit of the open source code they offer the would-be web-site owner/creator is FREE!

The would-be web-site owner/creator usually discovers this fact "the hard way", i.e. after they have downloaded, installed and started using -- and letting their friends, colleagues and/or students use -- an otherwise "free open source" web site.

The web-site owner/creator who wants to setup a web site of the type created by a particular open source code-set can in fact setup a functioning web site in a few hours or in a few days.  But sooner or later the web-site owner/creator will discover that the web site's free services are insufficient for his or her needs or for the needs of the site's visitors and logged-in site users.  Once the owner/creator has realized in more detail what better features and functions s/he truly needs to fulfill their vision of the services their site will provide their site's end-users, they discover that the "better features" (called add-on modules or extensions), and the "better services" that result from adding that code to their web site, will cost them some money and more time downloading, installing, and configuring these new add-on modules, plug-ins and extensions.

Then they discover that their money either will pay for the current version of the "better code", but will not pay for future improvements to that code, i.e. the payment does not cover any subsequent "even better" versions of the code that implements those services.  Or the money they must pay only pays for a "support contract" for a few months or for 1+ years.  And the web site owner/creator discovers that a "support contract" is absolutely necessary to have at least for the first year of use because the "extra services" and the code configuration to make them "work properly" is NOT INTUITIVE; it is not easily understandable; one NEEDS to have a "setup and operation guide" and maybe even an "end user manual" as well!  The web-site owner/creator and/or their end-users have "dug a software hole" and they cannot get themselves out of it.

Those seemingly free open source code package developers have created a "gotcha" product, i.e. they've got you so much time-invested in building your web-site, have you so dependent on their not-so-well-working-code, and perhaps by now your end-users so dependent on using "that particular web site and system", that you feel compelled (or impelled, or forced) to buy the "better" add-on modules, plugins and extensions and/or the "extended support service" with which to make your web-site better, your web-site developers and end-users happier and more productive!

So in this way Open Source has become increasingly a "drug seller, drug user business model".  And that model is: (1) get the site owner/creator and their end-users "addicted" or highly dependent on using their code.  (2) Make the "getting off the code" hard to do; make switching to a similar category of code difficult.  And then (3) sell them "the better code" improvement bits that only install and work well on that particular free base system of open source code...  And ideally for the developers force the site owners to pay again for expensive upgrades to those code bits each year or two or three!  ...Just as the commercial operating system and end-user productivity software makers have done for two decades and more.

If this web site's information accomplishes nothing else, it is dedicated to exposing and warning people to not install and use those "gotcha" systems.  Also this web site will be identifying the cheapest, most easily installed, most easily configured, and most educational advantageous web sites for educators.  And this web site will be adding more and more "online tutorials" to help the "computer naive" or phobic educator or educational institution to select, download, install, configure, and maintain their own "distance learning" web site.

Goals and Objectives of WebLearningTools Research

The Primary Goals and Objectives of this web site and of this organization are to:

Provide an Orientation to and Overview of Concepts and Issues Educators and Distance Learning Technical People Need To Know Now

  1. Facilitate the creation and deployment of free open educational materials and educational experiences to as many uneducated (illiterate) or under-educated poor and under privileged people in the world as well as to the not-as-poor but still under privileged people in the world.  If nothing better happens here on this site, show how that can be done.
  2. Offer a viable valuable educational alternative choice for students and educators world-wide to the emerging commercial online education and eBook publishing industry. 
    By their actions to-date (documented on this site) this emerging industry has demonstrated that it wishes to dominate and profit greatly from online education and from providing the digital materials and online experiences that facilitate that education.
    The losers in this commercial plan, this currently highly attractive commercial investment opportunity, as they have been for decades and even centuries, are very likely to be the poorest of the poor and the not-as-poor but still under privileged students.  Those students are numerous and under-served not only in this county, the USA, but also in all other developed and developing countries in the world.  May this site make a difference that favors them and their educational needs
  3. Provide some of the "example" and "live" student education available here as "just-in-time" learning as well as "personalized" learning that is "tailored" for the target students' education experience, preferred learning styles and immediate and longer term learning needs.
  4. Discuss collaboratively on this site how "we" the interested users of this site can define or how our "colleagues" elsewhere have already defined "just-in-time" learning and "tailored instruction." Build up on this web site one or more lists of the "online use cases" which make "the most educational and practical-use sense" and which might be implemented as test case instruction or as an instructional pilot project, both to be the object of systematic study with test-students and "live" students from the target audience.
  5. Educate Educators with the content on this web site in at least three languages: English, Spanish, and French.  English has to come first if only because that is my (JGW's) first language. The latter two languages are most used in developing and yet-to-develop countries world-wide as a people's second language, if they have not already learned some English.

Provide the Technical Orientation and Education Educators and Technicians are Going To Need in The Next 10-20 Years.  Add the Pedagogical (and Androgogical) Issues as They Emerge in This Field

  1. Educate Educators about "distance learning" (DL) in general and about the uses of content management systems" (CMSes) for DL and "learning management systems" (LMSes) in particular.  Any "tips, tutorials and classes" created for that purpose and web-published here shall be presented in three levels of difficulty: (1) presented in "lay person's language" which a college student or graduate student can easily understand, (2) in light technical language which students and faculty with a little experience with computers are likely to be able to understand, and (3) in more technical language suitable for instructional technology managers and for the technicians who plan, purchase, setup and manage the CMSes and/or LMSes used or to-be-used by an organization engaging in distance learning as well as the computer server equipment (or Cloud computer services) these CMS or LMSes run on.
  2. Read more: Goals and Objectives of WebLearningTools Research