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What do we really need?
Needs Assessment

Introduction
One of the joys of open source is the freedom to speak about it honestly, and in plain english.  To call something, say, a phone, and not a "telecommunications infrastructure solution".  To say what something is -- and what it isn't.

Along those lines, we've built a checklist of common needs that educators have for online learning spaces and tools.  Then we use it to describe where Caucus fits -- and doesn't fit, as shown by the checked and unchecked boxes in each section.  We welcome feedback and suggestions about this list, especially suggestions for specific needs that belong in the list.

Make your own checklist
What do you need for your online classes?  Try this experiment: print this page, and next to each checkbox, write 1, 2, or 3 for "don't need", "helpful", and "required".  Circle the checked 3's, and highlight the unchecked 3's.  What does this tell you?  Is anything missing from this list?

 Category Current Capabilities    Future Plans
Assignments  Each class has an instructor-controlled list of assignments Make assignment creation optionally create a gradebook entry, and vice versa. 

Integrate with SCORM player, provide minimal LMS capability.

Start (visible), stop, and due dates
May contain richtext, attached files, links
Students may submit completed assignments on-line
Launch integrated LMS or SCORM packages
Tied one-to-one with entries in gradebook
Automatic grade entry into gradebook
 
Browser Compatibility Compatible with IE7, IE6 and IE5.5
Compatible with Firefox, Netscape
Compatible with Safari 3
 
Conversation & Participation    Each class has an instructor-controlled membership list, with specific privileges We think uncontrolled, overused branching is a bad idea.  So we've designed "break-outs" (controlled branching) into the recently released version 5.1. 

Researching adding spell-checking via the Google API.

Multiple discussion "threads" per class
Richtext editor for discussions
Files and links may be attached to individual discussion responses
Tracks which discussions are new vs. seen
Important discussions saveable in personal notebook
Important discussions link to "to-do" list
Automatic email notification of new discussion
Selected discussions may be anonymous
Real-time "chat" & whiteboard available, with saved history for later use (add-on)
"Who's on now?"
Users may participate via email (can act like a listserv)
"Branching" within threads
Built-in spell checker
Instructor preview/moderation before posts are visible
Voting or surveys
 
Customization  Change graphics and colors via web interface Replace all English text in pages with calls to a "dictionary" function, to ease translation to other languages.
Construct "center" or "portal" page via web interface
Supports multiple, distinct user interfaces to same data
HTML-like source code for all pages provided and modifiable
Optional customizable fixed-left-menu-bar
Drag-and-drop design wizards for each page
 
Document Storage  Upload documents into discussion
Upload documents into separate folders (storage area)
Limit access to documents by class or roles or groups
Multiple version management (shared editing)
Administrator management of attached documents
Automatic handling of attached streaming video/audio
 
E-commerce  Require online payment to enter class(es) (add-on)
 
Grading Each class has a built-in gradebook, with automatic summation of numeric grades
Grades may be weighted or unweighted
Students may see their own grades
Gradebooks may be exported to spreadsheets
Grades available to protected MySQL queries
Gradebooks may be imported from spreadsheets
Gradebooks may be exported to student records system
 
Integration with other applications  Can use LDAP for user authentication
Single-signon
Data available via SQL
Easy integration with student data systems
 
Knowledge Management  Search text (simple boolean) Automatically convert attached files to HTML, then search them.
"Bookmark" important discussions in personal notebook
Shareable "to-do" lists, optionally tied to specific discussions
Produce static HTML snapshots of entire classes (archive online or on a CD or DVD)
Search text of attached files
"Permalinks" -- bookmark any page in a browser
 
Lesson & Content Creation Richtext editor easy to write formatted text, with links and attached files Integrate with SCORM player, provide minimal LMS capability.
Imports MS Word text and formatting
Simple quiz creation tools
Multi-page lesson creation tools
Content Management tools
LMS capability
SCORM packages
 
Security & Administration  Multiple administrator roles with many levels of privilege
Instructors have complete administrative control of their classes
Access control for all objects (classes, discussion, assignments, file storage, etc.)
Works with SSL ("https")
Works well with all firewalls and proxy servers
Works with or without browser cookies
Automatic off-site data backup plan available
Data encrypted inside database
 
Tests & Quizzes Built-in quizzes, automatic scoring
Quiz results entered automatically into gradebook
 
Tracking & Statistics Detailed user statistics available via wizard
"Roll your own" SQL queries against statistics database
Publish results as web page or spreadsheet