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Open source has been taking the world by storm for some time now. With OpenLearning, collaboration and wiki-based education is making its way to educational institutions and like-minded professionals. The platform is based on this idea that both students and teachers turn to the web, primarily social media, for entertainment and information building. So, why wouldn’t educators and students go to a socially powered open source web-learning platform? This is the question that OpenLearning seeks to answer.

The platform favors both students and teachers in that both can easily create educational content. This includes everything from wikis to blog posts to quizzes. The platform doesn’t stop at text-based tools; the OpenLearning platform also includes audio, video and other types of multimedia tools that can be used to create the most compelling and dynamic content possible. On top of that, the platform is highly social.

How it All Started

· Humble Beginnings – Richard Buckland founded the Australia-based educational startup, as senior lecturer in the Engineering and Computer Science Department at University of South Wales located in Sydney. Buckland began by experimenting with various wikis and online forums as a way to build a learning portal that would promote social and collaborative learning on the Web.

· Practicing Teacher-Student Engagement with Video – The startup’s founder focused on specific ways to engage students and keep them motivated. It didn’t take long to figure out how big of a role multimedia played into student engagement. For instance, in 2009, Richard Buckland posted his science lectures on YouTube and received upwards of 2 million hits in very short order.

· Deploying the Online Learning Portal – As with any socially charged information platform, there needs to be a solid infrastructure in place for delivering high quality services. So, when it came time to deploy the platform, OpenLearning turned to the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) giant, Rackspace for help. They found that configuring the Rackspace system was both easy to setup and powerful enough to support their growing needs as a startup company. Lastly, there was the fanatical customer support offered by Rackspace staff that made deploying such a complex, open source platform so painless and efficient.

How OpenLearning Works

The site is fairly simple and straightforward. Signing up is free, unless, of course, you’re a large-scale university or other educational institution. From there you simply click on the “Create a Course” link, while you are walked through the content development process step-by-step. Users can also browse OpenLearning’s large and growing library of available courses that are easily accessible. This is largely because content can be downloaded and streamed from their cloud-based platform.

OpenLearning is effective because educators created it. While Buckland and company are all engineers, they have spent countless hours in classrooms teaching complex courses to a wide range of students. When you peruse the site, you can feel the love for teaching that emanates from the site’s developers. Through the powerful course development and collaboration capabilities featured on the site, it’s clear that OpenLearning will play a large role in how concepts are explored in an educational setting.