Being involved in EdTech (Educational Technology) at TRU (my employer), I would like to briefly add some pros and cons to the discussion around using the Forum.
I would also like to recommend some open source software (Free as in beer) that can compliment the forum in ways that will address the “cons”.
-Forums are excellent mediums for discussion. Threads keep a discussion together.
-Easily maintains visibility of current issues/discussions
-Time based interactions get lost over time (loss of visibility).
-Most “modern” web based forums only have ONE level of threads. The old usergroups (NNTP) supported endless nested threads.
-Truly TERRIBLE for archiving documents
-Ineffective for sharing documents (lost within the thread, lost within time)
-Not effective for shared document creation
The primary “cons” that need to be addressed are:
-Visibility (to overcome deep discussions and length of time)
-Community/Shared document creation
There are two open source (free) systems that I would like to recommend:
In brief, NextCloud is a file sharing and sync server that is also a web app platform. New apps are always being added to the “store” for free and can be installed with a few clicks. Collabora, the web version of LibreOffice, can be installed into NexCloud. NextCloud is a well funded and very actively developed open source project.
in brief, SandStorm is a web app platform that has at least 58 web apps in its “store”, all for free. Any app can be installed with just a few clicks. Any document that has been created can be securely shared with anyone, even if they do not have an account on the system. In such a case that person would ONLY have access to that ONE document. SandStorm was designed with the intent of being a Google Doc replacement. It is extremely flexible and really has to be seen to be believed. The primary two developers work for CloudFlare and the core technology of SandStorm is used by CloudFlare. This corporate backing ensures SandStorm’s long-term development.
I have personally setup SandStorm on my own server (Toshiba laptop from 2007, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) for my own personal “stuff” and I use it everyday. I did a fresh install of Ubuntu (not really a Unix guy), installed sandstorm, screwed up my settings, manually removed sandstorm, reinstalled it and was up and running in Less than One Hour
I have also recommended it to the university and through that, TRU has implemented SandStorm. The Director of Innovation has said that SandStorm “…is the most exciting EdTech he has seen in over 10 years”! This is because of it’s instantly deployable services for educators and it’s long list of available web apps that can be instantly “installed”.
I would be happy to do a demo of SandStorm. Just let me know when would be a good time.
One last item of note:
I feel, the LAST thing we should be doing is paying for software or services when there are multiple excellent open source options available to us. There is a long list of things that real Money should go to rather than software.