Integration makes Lightwork

About a week ago, I had a lengthy Skype chat with Dr Eva Heinrich, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering & Advanced Technology at Massey University, NZ.

We met to discuss  Moodle-compatible software for Assignment assessment, called Lightwork. I first came across Eva and this product at the M25 Learning Technologies Group meeting at the LSE (where I was presenting) late last year and was keen to find out more.

See, developing an efficient mechanism for the downloading of work from Moodle, prior to assessment by lecturers (and subseqent re-upload to Moodle) has been a major area of interest for colleagues at the University of Bath, where I’m based. Indeed, my colleague Vic Jenkins, has already worked on factors to consider for setting up such an activity in our VLE, later evaluating functionality that might be required in an ideal world.

When I heard that colleagues at a university at the other side of the world had encountered similar issues, I was keen to hear more about both their work and findings.  According to the Lightwork website, the application “runs on the user’s PC. It connects to the institutions; Moodle installation and works together with the Assignment module and Gradebook in Moodle. Students still submit their assignment work to Moodle and receive their marks and feedback via Moodle.”

Some notes and reflections from the meeting follow:

  • Lightwork has been ten years in the making, and seeks to answer a particular research question about efficient marking practices. A plan was formulated in 2006/7, and the first user version (with Moodle in mind) was released in May 2010. Five participating Australian institutions are currently piloting the software, and will report back in due course.
  • With a large investment for development by Massey University, the software is ready for download and deployment for those institutions who want to use it. These institutions would be encouraged to feed back their experiences via the lightworkmarking.org website.
  • A 0.5 FTE developer is currently assigned to the project, and is available to fix bugs and the like. Longer term though, it is likely that more development resource (provided either financial or physical resource) will need to be provided by participating institutions to really drive this product forward.
  • The wishlist or roadmap currently includes Moodle 2.0 integration (this is likely to be achieved by Spring/Summer 2012 at the very latest), an iPad optimised interface (or iTunes Store app) and the ability to include audio feedback.
  • Whilst this development sits outside the Moodle Foundation, one of the key aims of the project is to have it led by a community of users. This is likely to be made up by representatives of universities who are currently piloting the software, or who have gone for a full deployment.

Whilst I am encouraged by the progress that Eva and her colleagues have made to date, I am concerned that there isn’t yet enough evidence to justify either a pilot or a full blown deployment at my own institution.

Becoming one of the early adopters is possible I guess, but we would still have to tread incredibly carefully. Making non-core database related changes to our production service is only ever done in exceptional circumstances, and if such an integration was deployed, we would need to consider the risks associated and the exit strategy.

After all, there would be nothing worse that to trial this software as a proof of concept with staff, who in turn like it, only to find that that software isn’t viable, scalable or resilient enough in the longer term. That’s the point of a pilot, I guess! That said, I feel that not enough institutions have thrown their weight behind this project (yet!) to make sure that this software doesn’t become a niche, which is not sustainable in the longer term.

Much like my experiences with BigBlueButton last week, I’d be keen to keep in touch with the Lightwork community and see how their work develops, checking back in 6-12 months to see how things have moved on. I’d really like to implement Lightwork longer term, but I think that I (and everyone else I work with) might need a few more assurances first.

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About Nitin Parmar
I am a Learning Technologist within the e-Learning team in the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Office, University of Bath, UK.

One Response to Integration makes Lightwork

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Integration makes Lightwork « Colligo: Reflections of a Learning Technologist -- Topsy.com

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