Build A Successful Course Web Site...

Why You Might Want Course Management Software!

That’s right, you don’t need it, but you might want it. Here’s why...

By Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes, Co-Founders, The University of the Future, LLC (aka FutureU™). Excerpted from FutureU’s Bargain Hunter’s Guide to Building Your Course Web Site, Bonus Chapter 1, Version 2009.

Copyright © 2009. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License ( Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Published by FutureU Press. 601 Van Ness Avenue, Suite E433 San Francisco, California 94102
A note to the reader: In the interest of courtesy and protocol the authors wish to warn you before you begin that the following article breaks two long standing taboos in polite society: 1) We are criticizing the dominant paradigm (that course management software is the best way to go for putting courses on the Web) and 2) We are blatantly promoting our own products and services. If either of these things offends you, you may want to stop now. But if you keep going, you'll get tons of free and low cost ways to help you create your own course web site, whether you buy anything more from us or not. And every ton weighs 2,000 pounds!

Build A Successful Course Web Site...Automatically! For years now, instructors have been creating Web pages to supplement and enhance their existing face-to-face training. Sometimes, all this means is that the syllabus is available on the Web. Key articles might be shared through a Web page. Or, links are provided to other people's Web pages that contain information pertinent to the subject. Some instructors have constructed elaborate Web sites making large portions of a course available online, including both synchronous (chat) and asynchronous (conferencing) discussions. And, more and more institutions are deciding to deliver entire courses or training programs online. Unless you skipped straight to this chapter without reading part one of A Fresh Look at Course Management Software, you can probably see by now that you don't need full-blown course management software, or its learning curve, or its cost, to get the job done. Still, maybe you’d like to sample course management software just to see what the fuss is about. Or, to influence future buying decisions at your institution. Whatever your reason, you'd like to see what's out there. Can it be fun? Well, heck, yes. After all, it will involve the creative process and the satisfaction of learning something new and seeing your work shining back at you in a browser window. So how do you get started? That depends. Does your company or school already have something? If your organization has chosen a “standard” course management system, you should get some training in that before you try using it. Most of the leading commercial vendors, like Blackboard or WebCT, offer basic online skills training or will send a trainer to your location to deliver workshops. Independent companies have also begun to offer training in some of the open source products such as Moodle or Angel.

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Copyright © 2009 By Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes.

Visit one of these links for information about training: Blackboard – WebCT – Moodle – Angel –

Advertisement: FutureU offers high-quality training programs too, using either a vendor-neutral approach or whatever course management software your organization has chosen. We always emphasize research-based, pedagogically-sound instructional design and learning models along with everything you need to know to be a first-rate online course builder and facilitator. Our instructors have experience teaching in most of the popular course management platforms including Angel, Blackboard, Centrinity (aka FirstClass), eCollege, eTudes, IntraLearn, Moodle, VirtualU, Web Course In A Box, and WebCT, as well as the real-time virtual classrooms such as Centra, Elluminate, Horizon Wimba, Citrix GoToMeeting, Microsoft LiveMeeting, and WebEx. Check out our Booster Bundle or Faculty Development services.

Or, would you rather go it alone? What if you're not working somewhere that already has course management software? Or what if you'd rather do something independent of the organizational juggernaut? Or what if you just want to teach what you know online, to your own select group of learners?

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Copyright © 2009 By Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes.

Course management software is usually pretty expensive. Even if you opt for the so-called "free" open source software, it still requires technical knowledge for installation and maintenance. Fortunately, there are some free or low-cost solutions that are just right for Bargain Hunters. FutureU recommends these three options, all inexpensive, all pretty easy to learn and manage, and each designed to create an environment conducive to learning:
1. 2. 3. Discovery School Nice.Net Moodle - The Discovery channel offers a free Custom Classroom ( you can build right on the Discovery School Web site, along with a lot of teaching tools and curriculum resources. Although intended for K-12, the Custom Classroom will work perfectly well for any online course. And it works with any computer operating system. All you need is a browser. Nicenet -

Nicenet offers the Internet Classroom Assistant, a course management software tool that provides tools for discussion forums, links, assignments, document sharing, course schedule, class roster, and personal messaging. Nicenet is free for public, non-commercial use. While this tool doesn't have quizzes or a grade book, it otherwise has most of the basic functionality of the leading commercial course management products. This is truly a "bargain" and a valuable tool for getting started with your first online course.
Moodle –

Moodle is perhaps the most popular course management system in the world. As of this writing, there are more than 13,000 registered licenses hosting 417,273 courses taught by 789,702 teachers to 4,454,255 students. There are 132 registered Moodle sites that each have more than 5,000 users and the site with the most courses is the Online Campus of the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand with 8,282 courses and 54,955 users.

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Copyright © 2009 By Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes.

Many people are puzzled by how a supposedly "free" software product, like those that offer an "open source" license, can be trusted in the same way as a commercial product. The assumption is that something that is free can't generate enough money to pay for the staff needed to support and develop the product. What needs to be understood is that open source products, such as the Linux operating system, while costing nothing for the license to use the code, still require installation, customizing, and support. Companies, such as Red Hat, make their money by packaging Linux in a box and then providing the technical support required by organizations that choose to use the Red Hat Linux product. Anyone familiar with Red Hat knows that the company is making a lot of money. Another thing to understand about open source products is that large numbers of people become very enthusiastic about having access to the source code and being able to play around with it to make it do new, different, fun, and, yes, even productive things. It should be no surprise then that many open source products are surrounded by communities of enthusiasts who keep the product evolving. The most impressive thing about Moodle is that it has somehow managed to both attract a very large community of enthusiasts and a cadre of commercial enterprises that are willing to install, customize and maintain the Moodle program. There are more than 3,000 users actively supporting the ongoing development of Moodle ( and Martin Dougiamas, the Moodle founding author, has created Moodle.Com, a for-profit organization that acts as gateway for all the modifications coming from the user community, diligently making sure that each new release of Moodle is as sound, if not more, than any competing commercial product. In addition, there are 17 commercial partners in 15 countries who are also available to offer installation, customization, maintenance, and in some cases hosting of Moodle. In the U.S., Moodle partner Remote-Learner ( ) offers a shared Moodle course site that has room for 2 or 3 courses and 50 to 100 students for $600 a year with a $50 setup fee. If you figure 3 cycles or terms a year, that would allow up to 9 courses and 300 students which would

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work out to about $70.00 a course or $2.00 a student. If you feel confident about making maximum use of an offering like this, it would probably be the cheapest way to go for your own Moodle course space from an authorized Moodle partner. At FutureU, however, we've found a deal that better suits our needs and allows us to have as many courses as we want for only $9.00 a month with a $20.00 installation fee. This offering comes from SiteGround.Com and if you're willing to buy 2 years at a time, the installation fee is waived and the monthly fee is only $5.00. Full Disclosure: FutureU has an affiliate relationship with SiteGround, so if you decide to go with them for your Moodle hosting, we'll get a tiny piece of the action. ( Caveat emptor: Please be aware that SiteGround is not an authorized Moodle partner. Nevertheless, they are eager to support anyone who wants a Moodle site. They'll throw in free domain registration, they'll install Moodle for free and they even provide online tutorials in using Moodle. And their support is great! They offer 24/7 support by email with a 15 minute average response time. Plus, you get a huge web site (24,000 MB), unlimited email accounts and web-based email; email forwarding, aliases, and auto-replies; a PayPal shopping cart (should you want to sell course materials), an easy to use administration panel (CPanel), the Fantastico script library, which includes many other open source packages such as Mambo/Joomla, phpBB, WordPress blog, Web Calendar; and a complete set of web site statistics packages including Webalizer and Analog. All that and your site is also fully compatible with Shockwave and Flash as well as Quicktime, MPEG, MP3, PDF and FLV. Make sure you don’t order a Windows server, but the Linux one. That’s the one all the open source software runs on. The platform is Red Hat Linux and the Apache Web Server, using MySQL databases and PHP. Naturally, your site is protected by redundant backbone connections, UPS, 24/7 network monitoring, and weekly backups. Quite the deal for the price!

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Copyright © 2009 By Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes.

The document you are currently reading is excerpted from The Bargain Hunter’s Guide to Building Your Course Web Site, published by FutureU. This chapter is a Creative Commons version (see Copyright and License below), that you are encouraged to share with your colleagues, within the terms of the license. The table of contents is listed next to give you an idea of what the Bargain Hunter’s Guide is all about. Visit www.BuildYourCourseOnline.Com for details and purchase options. Contents
You Can Build A Terrific Course Web Site at Almost No Cost… …Just Focus on These Few Things:
• • A Fresh Look At Course Management Software Four Easy Steps to Putting Your Course Online A Simple Syllabus And Course Calendar No-Frills (but Highly Effective) Course Materials A Quick Way to Post Quizzes And Exams The Fastest, Cheapest Ways to Move Your Site to the Web Easy Online Communication With Your Students A Proven Way to Prepare Students for E-Learning--for just $10! Ten Mistakes You Don't Want to Make Free Bonus #1: Build A Successful Course Web Site; Automatically Free Bonus #2: Tenderfoot's Guide to HTML

• •
• • • • • • •

Also, please visit or send your friends to any of our web sites:

• • • • •

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Copyright © 2009 By Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes.

Copyright and License
This work by Gail Terry Grimes and Claude Whitmyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License ( Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

What this means: Attribution: We encourage you to copy, distribute, display, and perform this work, but only if you give this attribution: Copyright by Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes at FutureU.Com. Share Alike: You may distribute this work only under a license identical to the license that governs this work and you must share a copy of your derivative works with others AND with us. You can meet the "us" part of this equation by sending a copy of your derivative works to or mailing it to FutureU™, 601 Van Ness Avenue, Suite E433, San Francisco, CA 94102. Noncommercial: While we encourage you to copy, distribute, display, and perform this work, this sharing can be for noncommercial purposes only. If you have a commercial venture you would like propose, please contact us. No Derivative Works: You may copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of this work, not derivative works based upon it. This may sound contradictory at first. But what this means is, that you can include exact copies of our original work with a new work of your own, but you cannot modify our original work in any way, without our explicit, written permission. This license requires you to keep our original work intact, give proper attribution, and use it only for non-commercial purposes. But we also encourage you to share it with others and come up with your own ways of adding value to it. But don't let these constraints stop you from proposing something commercial to us, such as inclusion in an anthology or co-creation of an online course where this is all or part of the readings, and so forth.

Published by The University of the Future, LLC (aka FutureU™) 601 Van Ness Avenue, Suite E433 San Francisco, CA 94102

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Copyright © 2009 By Claude Whitmyer and Gail Terry Grimes.