Ubuntu Learning: Where Are We?

Posted in Education, Ubuntu on March 10th, 2010 by doctormo

The Ubuntu Learning project has been quietly working away for the past six months, most of what we’ve been working on has been the technology to invite new contributors into the mix and get materials published, the plan for what we’re going to write and how to focus in on just a handful of topics so we can really get down to writing.

So you’ve probably read about the technology, GroundControl is a learning project tech. It’s built to allow writers to contribute their knowledge with minimum of fuss. The GroundControl project is suffering a little bit of a delay from changes in launchpad, but a lot of this is because the technology was before it’s time and launchpad and the ubuntu desktop need to be made more talkative before GroundControl and many other launchpad apps will really work nicely with launchpad.

The creation of the build functionality is all there, you just write a bunch of text files and hit go and it compiles your course into a nice book, with side book for lesson plan. There is more work that could be done on the GUI for hitting go, but that’s a nice to have.

The moodle website is pretty much functionally done and we can add classes when ever we like. There is a major need for a theme to be developed, something cleaner than the standard moodle installed theme with our own branding etc. But that’s on our todo list.

I’ve set up a physical systems administration class again for April onwards, this means I’ve taken control of the systems administration course and will be developing it further as the class proceeds. Nigel is still progressing with the teaching track and Elizabeth is collecting information on the Desktop track, hopefully there is plenty of room for collaboration with the Ubuntu Manual project there.

We’ve got a team meeting coming up on Monday 15th 23:00 UTC and we’re a year into our project here so we’ve going to be looking at a way to organise ourselves better. This might include some leadership reorganisation and it’s probably going to involve discussion in how we can get more people involved.

If you feel like learning materials and teaching FOSS topics is very important to the progress to world domination as we do; then please do join us at our meeting and tell us how you think learning materials should be produced and published. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone there.

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Document Formats for Learning Materials

Posted in Art and Creation, Education, Ubuntu on September 21st, 2009 by doctormo

A few weeks ago we started really getting into which formats might be better for learning materials for the Ubuntu Learning project. Currently I’ve been writing each class in ODF (Open Document Format) but it became apparent that while it was very easy to edit documents like this, it was very hard to integrate them into translations, diff generation, style guidelines and so on.

So I asked a very good contributor to the Ubuntu Learning project, BiosElement to do some research into various formats and he’s reported back with some findings. I want to distribute these findings to the wider community because I know how useful they will be to other documentation groups. This is a very basic summery:


And now for the meat of the report:

Open Document Format

ADVANTAGES: Pre-Installed on Ubuntu, Open Format, Ease of Editing

DISADVANTAGES: Currently impossible to use with bzr or version control, Difficult to keep consistent styling, Any changes to styles will result in large amounts of labor to update previous courses.

SUMMERY: .odt would be very difficult to keep updated and consistent but is very easy for course creators.

Plain Text

ADVANTAGES: Universal format, Everything from a cell phone to an expensive toaster can read text files. bzr and VCS systems can highlight per-line changes Text-to-Speech works well with it and it is more accessible for those with disabilities.

DISADVANTAGES: Dull, sometimes hard to read, doesn’t support any kind of styling.

SUMMERY: Easier to maintain then .odt but the lack of styling makes it a poor choice.


ADVANTAGES: Same as those of Plain Text with the addition of styling using Restructured Text.

DISADVANTAGES: Limited translation support, Must be compiled into .html.

SUMMERY: Not a bad choice but it has limited use outside python projects. Lack of translation support is a major future problem if used.


ADVANTAGES: Universal format used by many book publishers. Very supported for conversion into other formats.

DISADVANTAGES: XML is very difficult to write, very complex, hard to read and simply not user-friendly.

SUMMERY: Good choice, but the difficult syntax and lack of WYSIWYG Editors creates a massive barrier to entry.


ADVANTAGES: Same advantages of DocBook with the addition of text editing and an easier to read format. Can be converted into DocBook.

DISADVANTAGES: Some may find editing .txt files hard, but I’m not sure there’s any way around this.

SUMMERY: IMO the best choice as it gives all the advantages of DocBook without the difficult syntax or learning curve.

There you have it, please get in touch with us on our mailing list or irc channel if you’ve got any additional ideas and formats to try out.

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