Teaching, Technology and Tablet PCs…

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Teaching, Technology and Tablet PCs…
Teaching, Technology and Tablet PCs…

BETT: OPENHIVE – A new contender in the VLE Market?

Posted on January 17, 2010 by Andy Kemp

Some of you will remember that last year I spent a lot of time investigating VLE options for my school before finally deciding on using Moodle as temporary measure as we couldn’t find anything that did exactly what we were after.  For those who haven’t read my original post on my personal opinion of the various VLE offerings that I wrote last year you can find it here

So this year at BETT I wasn’t really looking for anything that might fall into the VLE category (although I did have my eye out for things that could integrate into moodle!) so I was very surprised to be so completely amazed by a new product to the market (launched on the first morning of BETT) called OPENHIVE.

Much like Frog, OPENHIVE isn’t selling itself as a VLE but rather as a Learning Platform – and in both cases this is a much better description as what they aim to achieve is much more holistic platform within which most of the school’s ICT sits.  Both aim to offer tools for various areas of school life – portals, email, parental engagement, etc…

There are however a few key differences:

OPENHIVE is a modular system where you can pick and choose parts of the product without adopting everything, where as Frog is pretty much an all or nothing product (with the exception of Secure Gateway & Parental Engagement bits which I believe are chargeable extras).

The second major difference is that OPENHIVE is cloud based (meaning all the data is hosted remotely) whereas Frog is a physical box within your school.  This has ups and downs in both directions. Cloud based means remote management and service agreements for up time etc, but also means that it is difficult to fix problem yourself as you don’t have full access to the server…  Also there are the concerns about hosting all this data on someone else’s server (especially data about students – i.e. parental engagement)

There has been a lot of talk recently about the traditional VLE being dead and that people should be looking to form their own Learning Platforms by using a combination of Web 2.0 in conjunction.  What commercial Platform al ‘Learning’ products aim to achieve is a level of integration between tools which is difficult if not impossible to achieve using a collection of disparate tools.

OPENHIVE is built on top of Microsoft SharePoint, a very powerful but complicated environment.  What OPENHIVE have achieved that (in my opinion) no one else has managed to, is to build a tool for use in schools which is simple and visually appealing but retains the power of the SharePoint environment.  This has been done by using Silverlight (broadly Microsoft’s equivalent to Flash) as a front end for much of the UI.


For me the really appealing things about OPENHIVE was the integration of MIS data throughout the system.  Timetables in Outlook, links to Groups, clear data for Parents, with the addition of Instant Messaging, Shared Whiteboarding etc.  Plus all the native stuff that you get from SharePoint all in one coherent package.

The personal appeal of OPENHIVE is that it offers the very real potential to integrate the diverse range of tools that we use in school (Citrix, ClickView, Office 2007, Outlook, SIMS, etc) into a complete coherent system which is accessible from anywhere (and anything!).  This could really change the way in which our students work online and have a profound effect on their experience of school.

Also from a business perspective, the fact that they have recently been purchased by Capita gives confidence that they are not going anywhere soon.  Coupled with the fact they have built it all on open standards to BECTA’s regs give a lot of confidence.

I’m really excited to see where this goes as it has the potential to really change the way in which the online part of a school and its associated data work…

The one thing that worries me is the cost – I have heard some VERY large numbers floating about for cost per head which could easily price it outside of the reach of the majority of schools…  I’m hoping that they find a sensible price range which enables schools to get on board with this potentially school changing technology!

Take a look at their website for a few more details: OPENHIVE or follow them on Twitter @openhive_net

Hopefully in due course OPENHIVE will add some screencasts to better show off their Platform, but for now the intrepid @daibarnes managed to record some video of the platform whilst at BETT which gives a useful overview of the product.

  • http://moodle.houghtonkepier.org.uk Tim Bateson

    Andy,

    Could I persuade you to taker another look at Moodle?
    See our case study at:-
    http://opensourceschools.org.uk/houghton-kepier-learning-platform.html
    and
    http://moodle.houghtonkepier.org.uk/

    Granted is not as slick as OpenHive(I share your concerns regarding costs, as commercial Sharepoint VLE implementations were expensive when I was looking), but there are several schools working to make the MIS integration slicker :)

    I read your article on VLEs and we do not see Moodle as a temporary solution :)

    Tim

  • http://www.andykemp.org.uk Andy Kemp

    Thanks Tim,
    I’m not really new to Moodle (this is my third Moodle install), and it has a lot going for it… It is very flexible and extensible and enables you to do a lot that still can’t be done in most VLE (including most if not all the comercial offerings) where Moodle falls down is the ease of use. In the 4-5 years I have been using moodle in 2 different schools I have always found it difficult to explain properly to other teachers how to use it…

    There are just too many options and settings which end up confusing people, most teachers are sadly not as techy as I would like them to be and if something isn’t plain simple and obvious then it probably won’t get used… Moodle fundamentally ‘feels’ the same now as it did when I first started using it (I freely admit a lot has changed under the hood!) This is where products like OPENHIVE and Frog can really make a difference they have the time and money to spend developing a better UI which is more appropriate for the average teacher…

    Also with Moodle, all the integration has to be bolted on – often in my case it involves changing bits of code… Which is fine and something I enjoy but I worry about what will happen when I move on and someone else has to look after it…

    Likewise to get the most out of moodle you need to use 3rd party modules, but these cause problems as some of the modules I used when I first started using moodle are no longer supported and activities have to be rewritten…

    And someone has to be responsible to testing all the code changes and replicating any hacks at every upgrade etc…

    I think there are cases for both – I love Moodle and have and do really enjoy using it… But I am not sure it is the best solution for everyone and I doubt you will see the level of integration of systems that is demonstrated here with OPENHIVE in moodle for quite a while to come as it is not within it’s core agenda.

    At the end of the day all these solutions cost something – some cost schools money others cost schools time (I have spent at least 150+ hours building and themeing and writing modules for this current moodle install) Those costs always need balancing…

    Cheers
    Andy

  • http://moodle.houghtonkepier.org.uk Tim Bateson

    Thanks for you reply Andy.

    I agree there is a place for both. I wish more schools would work together on projects such as moodle to offset the risk of too much development being in the hands of one person. We are working under a soft federation with several schools sharing code and idea accross moodle modules.

    It has also been my experience that some staff are just not willing to look at VLE/Learning Platform regardless of ease of use. Teachers that have an interest in using technology to enhance lesson delivery are more likely to use a learning platform, than those that need to be told to do so by the Management team.

    As a none teacher it is more relevant to my job to work on projects like Moodle as part of my day to day to duties. Most of the other schools we work with also have technical non teaching staff working on moodle as part of their job role.

    Have to admitt that I agree with most of your comments. For our school the balance of costs and freedom to innovate came down on the side of moodle.

    There should be more of open debate around the relative costs of implementing IT solutions in the public sector, but that is probably getting off topic :)

  • http://www.ubervu.com/conversations/www.andykemp.org.uk/2010/01/openhive/ uberVU – social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by OPENHIVE_Net: Thanks @andykemp for the great blog post about #OPENHIVE at #BETT2010 http://www.andykemp.org.uk/2010/01/openhive/...

  • http://www.umgumbo.com chris briscoe

    Dear Andy,

    I would be interested in your comments on umgumbo which is a very lite vle or project building space which we are developing.

    Regards

    Chris

  • http://www.edugeek.net/forums/virtual-learning-platforms/69157-anybody-using-openhive.html#post617018 Anybody using OpenHive?

    [...] @AndyKemp blogged about it this time last year after a demo he had at BETT: BETT: OPENHIVE – A new contender in the VLE Market? | andykemp.org.uk Any particular information your looking for? Reply With Quote [...]

  • Elaine Barraud

    I have found this blog really helpful. Having recently moved into Education, (last September) from a business IT environment, I am on a steep learning curve. I am looking at website, vle etc and Openhive aapears to be the sort of solution I envisage working for us, particularly the portal interface. I am already looking at Sharepoint hosted in house for this sort of interface and am going to arrange an Openhive demo, although of course cost will be an issue. Currently we are using Uniservity. They are about to launch their “life” vle which is more graphical than the current interface but still fails to excite me. Having experience of a portal interface and user dashboard in a previous life, I definitely feel this is the way to go.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Elaine,
    Irronically I went to school where you now teach!

    I would recommend having a good look at OpenHive as it seems like a decent
    product (although I am personally a little more hesitant since they were
    purchased by Capita).

    If I can do anything to help, let me know!

    Cheer
    Andy

  • http://www.umbeehosting.co.uk/vps-hosting Virtual Server Hosting

    Where are the other OPENHIVE screenshots? The graphic user interface is great and very user friendly. I should refer this article to my cousin who is a college teacher now.

  • http://www.webhostings.in Website hosting india

    These are great screen shots you have shared here and this is such a useful and informative post for me.

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