Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Open Sourcing the ECDL/ICDL

One of the key elements in the Linux Proliferation Agreement is the availabilty of high quality e-learning materials. The European Computer Drivers License or International Computer Drivers License is a complete skill set that describe a good set of computer skills for end users. There is one big problem. Though the descriptions of the skill sets are vendor neutral, training materials and test centers are almost predominantly Microsoft oriented. Open sourcing the ECDL should not be complicated, but it does require some serious work. So I decided that this will be my next major project.

ECDL modules and how to open source them

The ECDL/ICDL consists of seven modules which encompass major end user skill sets:

Module 1 – Concepts of Information Technology (IT)

Module 2 – Using the Computer and Managing Files

Module 3 – Word Processing

Module 4 – Spreadsheets

Module 5 – Database

Module 6 – Presentation

Module 7 – Information and Communication

One of the first decisions to make is the selection of software that will be used to learn the skill sets. Modules 3, 4, 5 and 6 can be covered by selecting OpenOffice.org. I believe it is necessary to use software that is multiplatform and OpenOffice.org fits the bill. Module 7 deals with internet and e-mail and can be explained with Firefox and Thunderbird as foundation.

Module 1 is hardware and attitude oriented, so that shouldn’t be a big problem. Module 2 will be the biggest problem. The general description is as follows:

This module requires the Candidate to demonstrate knowledge and competence in using the common functions of a personal computer and its operating system. The Candidate shall be able to adjust main settings, use the built-in help features and deal with a non-responding application.
He or she shall be able to operate effectively within the desktop environment and work with desktop icons and windows. The Candidate shall be able to manage and organise files and directories/folders, and know how to duplicate, move and delete files and directories/folders, and compress and extract files.
The Candidate shall also understand what a computer virus is and be able to use virus-scanning software. The Candidate shall demonstrate the ability to use simple editing tools and print management facilities available within the operating system.

It is not really a problem to translate the skill set as it applies to Linux, but the differences between Windows and Linux might make the transfer of knowledge somewhat more complicated. Nonetheless, module 2 can be open sourced as well.

A general roadmap

What is needed is to write and develop e-learning materials for these seven modules. That is quite an undertaking and a roadmap is needed to guide the whole project.

The first step is to translate each of the skill sets of the seven modules as they apply to Linux, OpenOffice.org, Firefox and Thunderbird. Nothing spectacular, but basic documents that describe the skill sets into end user interactions.

Then comes the work of writing e-learning materials based on these basic documents. These materials need to be based on solid didactical principles. The first set of books will be self-study materials that are made available as e-books and/or webpages. The second set of books need to be teacher’s manuals for use in an educational context.

The third major phase will focus on developing rich content, multimedia e-learning materials. Instructional videos and interactive exercises. These materials will be made available on a live Linux CD/DVD thus furnacing the operating system, the software and the e-learning materials in one go.

Developing the materials is not sufficient. It should be a goal to get certified as a test center for the open source version of the ECDL/ICDL. The fourth major part is to develop an online test center with tests that objective test the skill sets and can verify the competencies of the candidates. Once the test center is complete and up to a level that can stand up to public scrutiny we will work towards the goal of becoming a certified center.

Projects and courseware site

Ambitious? Maybe. But as I pointed out in the article about the Linux Proliferation Agreement promoting the use of Linux and open source is not a short term endeavor. I am not a coder, I am a writer. I have been working in education as project manager and am adding to the Linux and open source community what I do best.

I have set up a projects and courseware site based on Moodle. This provides a fairly complete infrastructure to develop new materials in smaller teams with forums, chat rooms and wikis. Moodle is an e-learning CMS which means that it is perfectly suited for online courses and testing. This is the platform that I will use as a foundation for this project.

The development will take place in the open source way. The documents will be released quick and early awaiting the feedback from the community. They will be available for public scrutiny and public use. I will post updates regularly.

Should this remain a one man project? I hope not. Feel free to enroll in the projects and courseware site and send me a message on how you wish to participate. It is time to open source the ECDL/ICL.

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Tags: Open Source, ECDL

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2 thoughts on “Open Sourcing the ECDL/ICDL

  1. George Stephenson on said:

    I went for Ubuntu Linux and Open Office suite after I left university last October with an MA. I wrote the 20,000 dissertation for my final assessment using open Office on Windows Vista. When that crashed irretrievably, I re-booted in Ubuntu. As I am unemployed, and unemployable at a desk job without an ECDL, how long must I starve before someone removes the chip on their shoulder about Microsoft? I have demo’d just about every on-line ECDL course and they will not run in Ubuntu/Firefox. I cannot afford to buy a new computer, or Windows software. Can Canonical be approached to provide the Linux material? Please hurry, before my food runs out.

  2. Open Source automated exams for ICDL/ECDL are available, the exams run on any platform and present either LINUX or MS logic, depending on requirements.
    Depending on the ECDL/ICDL territory, contact your nearest ECDL/ICDL agent office.

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