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Learning Management System and shared hosting

May 25th, 2008 No comments

You probably know about CMS (Content Management System). There’s a specialized form of CMS which focuses on learning and is known as (wait for it) : Learning Management System (LMS).

Well, since I teach in engineer schools, the thought of being able to provide such a service to my students appealed to me. After a short review of avalaible applications (I happen to have a life and cannot develop all nights), the choices narrowed to :

Moodle is elimintated from the start. Sorry folks, but the GUI is just plain. I can’t imagine having to study on that. Next.

Dokeos seems clearly the best of breed. A nice GUI, the option to transform a PowerPoint into a web course, the choice was made. The came the daunting task to install the product on my remote server. In fact, it went rather well. I made mistakes (who doesn’t), but with the help of my friend Google and the documentation, I finally made it.

Naturally, I then wanted to upload all my lovely courses to the server. Aye, there’s the rub. Remember when I told about my remote server ? In fact, this is not really my remote server but a shared hosting. Should be the same, right ? Not at all. The creation of the course happened, but when I tried to access it, I stumbled upon a nasty 403 Forbidden error : the creation process uses the filesystem instead of the database. And guess who is owner of the thread ? Apache of course. And the R/W files permissions are not given to anyone outside the user and the group. So I’m unable to access the course I created.

Of course, a hack is avalaible. You’ve to manually edit a bunch of php files… After much thoughts, I finally decided against Dokeos.

One choice left and I hoped Claroline to be the one. In fact it is. I installed it (and my good natured hoster deactivated the safe PHP mode – thanks to them) in a few minutes. The system runs correctly. From my point of view, it seems a bit less powerful than Dokeos (Dokeos is a branch of Claroline) but it gets the work done. I can’t wait to create my first course !

FYI, Caroline lets the Apache process acquires rights over the folders and files it creates. But, the difference with Dokeos is that you (as a Claroline regular user) can access these items.

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