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Setting up a learning environment in the DotLRN shell

In the following description of how to set up a learning environment in DotLRN, we'll be using the example on energy and energy consumption that was created as an example of a shared practice iTEC environment. This example can be found in the iTEC demonstration area: http://itec.eun.org/web/liferay-shell/energy-and-energy-consumption.

Login

In order to access the DotLRN shell, you need a user account. DotLRN provides several possibilities, including OpenID (thus allowing you to use your existing EUN OpenID). You may, of course, also get a username and password that is valid for the DotLRN system only.

Please contact WP6 in the iTEC teachers' community for more information if you wish to have access to or use the iTEC DotLRN system for piloting purposes.

Creating a course

First step in setting up an environment for an iTEC learning story is to create a course. All who are registered as teachers can create courses. In DotLRN courses are created in the context of a school. In order to create a course, you need to access the administration of your 'school'. This is done by opening the My DotLRN menu and selecting My LMS. This opens a membership list where you can see the school you are registered to as well as classes and course:

 

Click the Admin button next to the name of your school. In the example above the name of the school is iTEC School. This opens an administrations menu for that particular community:

In the context of iTEC piloting the iTEC DotLRN support will provide you with the information necessary, and may help you set up your courses.

Tailoring the course entry page

After having created the course, you are ready to start tailoring it to suit the needs of the particular learning story you want to implement. Once again you need to go the Administration part that you used to create the course. First, however, you need to select the course from the memberships list of your My LMS page:

 

This will take you into the course area so that whatever you add or remove here affects only the course page, not the entry pages ('portals') of other communities.

In this case I select the science course, which is the one created for this particular learning story implementation.

The first thing I want to do is to add an overview of the learning story and the lesson plan it involves. In order to do this, I need to create a special portlet for my course page. To do this I select Administration from the Applications menu:

 

In the course administration menu that I get access to, I select: Create New User-Defined Portlet, which is in the section User-Defined Portlets. This opens a standard web-editor application where I can enter the text that I want to have displayed on the opening page:

 

In this way I can easily tailor my opening page to display exactly those items of information and tools that I consider relevant for the learning story and the activities involved:

It is also possible to create additional pages for the course on which I can add more information or add specific applications. In order to create a new page in the course, I enter the course administration menu again and select the option: Customize Portal Layout. This opens a new set of options:

To add a page I just give it a name and click the Add pages button. I add two pages, one for my data collection overview and one for the TeamUp widget. After adding a page I get the option of changing the overall layout of that particular page:

For the TeamUp page I select a simple 1-column layout, because that widget takes up a lot of space, and click the button Change page layout.

In the Applications menu I now have a couple of new options: namely the two pages I have just created:

In order to add content to my new pages, I first create the content, then I move it to the page where I want it to be displayed. Let's illustrate the process by adding the TeamUp widget to the TeamUp page that we just created.

Step one in the process is to select Manage Applications from the Applications menu. This opens the widgets and applications list. Find the TeamUp widget and click Add Widget Instance:

This will add the widget to the main course page. Second step is to select the Administration option in the Applications menu and select the option Customize Portal Layout. We now have TeamUp as a resource on the main page, and a Move to button and a drop-down list of pages to where we can move the resource:

Here we simply select the TeamUp page and click Move to. That is all there is to it. If we select the TeamUp page from the Applications menu, we find the TeamUp widget here:

We have created an example of highly tailored learning environment that includes both the information and the tools that the students need to work with the activities of the project.

Creating subgroups

As a further feature we may want to create subgroups to enhance team work within the project. This feature allows us to create groups of students within a course and assign different tasks to them.

In the Administration portal, you can create a subgroup or access existing ones:

Adding applications

As we have seen, the DotLRN shell offers you a range of applications, which enable you to tailor the learning environment according to your needs. You can choose between a number of different DotLRN-specific applications, the most important of which in relation to iTEC learning stories and activities are:

  • Chat
  • Discussions
  • File Storage
  • Photos
  • Library (Learning Resources)
  • Wiki
  • Wookie

Most of these applications are described in more detail in the section on key DotLRN applications for iTEC stories.

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