The following are a number of ideas being put forth as projects for the 2008 Google Summer of Code. If you are a student interested in pursuing one of these projects, or designing a project of your own, let the ATutor team know. Google will contribute up to $5000 US per student to work on open source projects over the summer.
Google Summer of Code http://code.google.com/soc/2008/
Sites like FaceBook, and Flickr, and MySpace have become hugely popular Social Networking Sites. Applications of such sites in a learning environment have some obvious benefits for those participating in online learning activities, bring students together much like they might come together in the hallways, at the cafeteria, or through extra curricular activities. Schools are generally a social environment, though with the physical contact missing in online environments, it has been a challenge to create online courses where social interaction, both within and outside courses, mimics the interaction one might find in the physical environment of a school or a classroom. In this project additional tools will be created to allow students, and instructors, to interact with one another both within and outside courses. Have a look over the specification linked below as an example of how social networking might be extended in ATutor.
SecondLife and Croquet are 3D virtual worlds with many potential applications for learning. Can you imagine a 3D operating room, where medical students participate on mock operations, or perhaps a battle field where soldiers train in a 3D mock battle. The possibilities are endless. 3D worlds as learning environments is an idea on the verge of becoming mainstream. As computer processors become more powerful, and networks become increasingly faster, interaction via 3D worlds is becoming an increasingly more viable means of learning online. Partnering between the developers of ATutor and Croquet, this project will have two students, one with each developer, creating a Croquet authoring environment that instructional designers can use to build custom 3d worlds, and building the authoring tool into a module for ATutor, so custom worlds can be built as course content.
ATutor needs a calendar tool that integrates with other features in the system that display dates, such as dates for tests and exams, dates for course and institution activities, assignment due dates, and dated for meetings or course gatherings, and more. Development of the Calendar Module will also involve extending the ATutor module API to include hooks for dates, so when new modules are introduced, any dates they may display can be pulled into the Calendar. Calendars will have four layers: A system layer to which administrators can post dates that apply to everyone on the system, a course layer to which instructors can post course dates, a groups layer to allow groups within courses to maintain a calendar, and a personal layer to which individuals can add their own personal calendar items. System and course dates will cascade over the personal calendar, so all dates relevant to an individual can be viewed from a single location. A smaller sub project might include integrating the Google calendar into the ATutor Calendar, so dates stored there could be pulled into ATutor, or extending the module to generate iCal compatible data so the ATutor calendar can by synchronized with other iCal compatible calendars.
ATutor is built in such a way that it can be reconfigured to serve a variety of purposes. In addition to the default LMS functionality, modifying the tools available, modifying language packs to match the purpose of an installation, and modifying the look and layout, ATutor can be configured as a Content Management System (CMS), or a collaborative work space, or file sharing portal, or a an interactive community Web site. The possibilities are many. This project will involve developing system preference profiles that can be installed into the ATutor system with a click of a button to configure it to a specific purpose, and along with this profile, modified language packs that changes concepts like student, instructor, course, to member, moderator, workspace, for instance, to give the system a different function, and modified themes that change ATutor's look-and-feel. Once the system profile utility is in place, a "Portal Layer" will be added so when a user visits an ATutor installation, they are presented with a "Dashboard" type display that provides access to each of the potential sub sites like those described above, An administrator could then create a main CMS site, include a secondary LMS site for instructional materials, and a third internal workspace for staff to work in, all using the same ATutor installation.
ATutor leads open source LMS/CMS projects in the implementation of interoperability standards. It was the first to implement content interoperability standards that allowed systems to share content, packaging it in a standardized format so it could be imported or exported, to and from a variety of content authoring and presentation tools. ATutor remains the only open source LMS that allows authors of content to export content so it can be imported into other compliant systems. We at ATutor believe that users of the ATutor should not be locked into the system, but should have the option to move their content out of ATutor and into another system should they choose. This project will extend support for current IMS Content Packaging, upgrading the import/export tools to the latest specification, finishing the IMS QTI import utility (export is already in place), and integrating the two so content and tests can be imported and exported together in a single package.
The next phase of development would then be to extend interoperability a little further to support the IMS Common Cartridge specification, essentially a combination of content packaging, test interoperability, and tool interoperability specifications into one package that would allow instructional designers to share content, tests, and associated scripted functionality. Perhaps a project for next year.
There have been many groups who have created their own proprietary directory services scripts to integrate ATutor with external registration databases. This project will involve creating a general directory services tool that allows ATutor to authenticate users from a variety of source, such as an LDAP directory, or a Microsoft's Active Directory service. A custom SOAP based service could also be added to allow administrators to create custom scripts for accessing other directory databases using a proprietary SOAP interface specific to their needs.
The default registration form that comes with ATutor, while serving the needs of many users, could be extended by including a way for administrators to choose what information is collected at registration time, and potentially add their own custom fields to collect additional information that many not be collected using the default fields found in the current registration form. This project will involve integrating the AForm utility into ATutor, used to generate custom forms, and making many of the current registration fields in ATutor optional. Have a look at the developing [Custom Registration Form] specification coming together on the ATutor wiki.
A statistics module will be developed to further extend the ATutor testing tools. Basic descriptive statistics are currently available in ATutor to review student and test performance, as well as individual and course based tracking statistics to help instructor better understand how course content is being used by student. A lot more could be done to generate other inferential statistics, generate graphs and bell curves, and present data in ways that instructors and course designers could use to make improvements to their courses. If you are a statistics whiz, this could be a great project for you.
ATutor already generates interoperable content, and content can be stored and retrieved from a central external repository. But, there needs to be an ATutor based central shared location where content designers can store and share content across courses without the need to do so through external repository siftware. ATutor already integrates with the TILE and TLE learning objects repositories. Content exists in a raw form in TILE, which generated interoperable packages on the fly as they are needed. In the TLE repository, content exists as preassembled IMS content packages. This project will create a backend for ATutor that can be used to store prepackaged content, as well as a place to store content in a raw form so it can be retrieved and displayed as needed directly from the repository (see ATutor ACCMD/ACCLIP)
ATutor is the leader in both proprietary and open sources learning management systems for supporting users with disabilities, who may be accessing the system using assistive technologies such as a screen reader, used by many blind users. This project will involve adding support for two IMS specifications, the first the AccessForAll MetaData specification, and the second the Accessibility Learning Information Package specification. Together these specifications allow students to customize the presentation of content to their specific needs. An ACCLIP profile defines properties of content that suit the needs of the learner. For example a blind user may require extended text descriptions of visual materials, a low vision user may need content in high contrast or in large fonts, or a deaf user may need transcripts or captioning for audio content. With ACCMD implemented in ATutor, learners can then access the content repository, and gathering versions of the content to match their needs. The TILE repository mentioned above, already understands ACCLIP profiles, so with the implementation of ACCMD in ATutor, and a utility for defining and storing ACCLIP profiles, ATutor learners will be able to retrieve information from the repository on the fly, and display it in ATutor in a form that accommodates their disability. One of the nice things about implementing such as system, is that it applies to more than just people with disabilities. Some "curb cut" advantages include the ability to retrieve content for small screens (e.g. PDA or Cell Phone Screens), or to retrieve low bandwidth content where learners may be accessing to the Internet through a slow connection, perhaps replacing movies with static images, even replacing images with text descriptions.
Other ATRC projects will also be accepting students from the Google Summer of Code program. See the SCYP wiki for details of GSoC projects available there.
Do you have something else in mind, that's not described above. Login to use this space to describe an ATutor related project you would like to design yourself.