Meredith Farkas recently posted about DrupalEd, and from what I have gleaned from her post and from the DrupalEd website, I have learned enough to become very curious.

One of the main issues with my library school is that, though it serves a twelve-state area, providing (very affordable and weekend-intensive) classes, the software that serves as the school’s connective tissue, Blackboard, does little to foster a sense of online community…something that a school that revolves around distance education should, in my opinion, have as one of its primary focuses.

If I had not been lucky enough to take some face-to-face classes with several people who I made friends with and have maintained contact with (largely through other online applications, such as Gmail), I believe that I would have gone through the program feeling alienated, isolated, and alone.

I’m hesitant to expand on the issue much further, as I don’t have the technological wherewithal or the student affairs background to pull out each individual issue and explain how I believe DrupalEd would succeed where Blackboard (or WebCT, or other less flexible software packages) have failed. Additionally, I was just about the opposite of a whistle-blower on this issue during my time in library school, and I believe that, in order for my complaint to be fully legitimate, I would have had to attempt to affect change. I can fall back on the “I didn’t have time to” excuse (I worked full time throughout most of my grad school career).

However, looking back, I wish I’d spoken up and tried to offer a solution…a solution that I believe DrupalEd could someday be. The features just about speak for themselves:

  • a personal workspace;
  • a group workspace;
  • the ability for site members to create informal working groups;
  • the ability to create formal class spaces;
  • a podcasting platform;
  • a WYSIWYG text editor;
  • wiki functionality;
  • personal and class blogs;
  • rss feeds for the entire site, individual courses, individual terms, and individual users;
  • personal image galleries;
  • personal file repositories;
  • the ability to create private, invitation-only groups;
  • social bookmarking, with searching within bookmark descriptions;
  • spam protection;
  • assignment calendars by course;
  • event calendars for site-wide events;
  • configurable user profiles with searchable text descriptions;
  • the ability to create lists of “friends” among site members;
  • the ability to find the missing sock in the dryer.

Everything I’m seeing here (especially the part about finding your missing socks…how awesome is that?) could translate into an incredibly personalized-to-your-institution, welcoming, vibrant online community.

I hope that someday I’ll be able to either gain sufficient knowledge to be able to come back and assist my (hopefully very welcoming) library school in implementing DrupalEd or something close to it, or be able to watch as others take on the implementation.

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