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May 25, 2004

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First Baby Step for openMLX

Colen is hard at work on re-coding the Maricopa Learning eXchange (MLX) for the proposed open-source version we hope to make available as an alpha soon. There is a good deal of restructuring of the code libraries, yanking some code logic from individual PHP files and putting them in the libraries, outlining some functionality needed for some basic admin tools.

But we have the database and a crude version sort of running on a test box (don't ask for a URL... yet). One of the interesting things to be changed is how we organize the packages in the Maricopa MLX- the main organizing unit is by colleges, so searches and RSS feeds can be filtered within a specific college's contributions. In a sense, every person who creates an account in the MLX has an affiliation with one of our colleges, so that any packages that create are automatically associated with that college too...

This may be the case for some uses (organizing by say schools in a district, departments in a university, etc), but we have some other uses where an organization might want to create a "filing" system by say descriptive categories, e.g. "learning objects", "teaching strategies", "tutorials".

At one time we had considered a package categorzing scheme (like MERLOT does for "simulations", "collection", etc), but abandoned that as it felt a bit like artificial pigeon-holing.

So our current strategy for the openMLX will be that when accounts are created, an affiliation can be entered as a free text input or from a fixed set by a drop down menu one would need to comment one of the options out of the source code), but it is stored in the database as a text string, rather than an id or key as we do now. Then each site would have an option of being able to create their own custom set of categories by setting some values as an array in the configuration- this would allow them to create categories by either organizational unit OR some other arbitrary means, and to set the order that the categories are listed in search menus (as well as setting all auto generated RSS queries as well)

So that means the current drop down menu on all MLX searches would be site defined by whatever categorizing scheme they design:

mlx_search

which would appear where we have "colleges", and a new option in the middle menu, which allows the user to restrict keyword query to the title, description, discipline, etc, would also be able to do a keyword query on the organizational affiliations of those who have put items into the site, e.g. a keyword search on "Bedford" to find all MLX packages contributed by someone from Bedford Elementary School (my alma mater ;-)

These category decisions would need to be made out first- as it would be very hairy to change from a subject categorizing scheme to an organizational one... your mileage will vary.

What do you think?

It is a fine line of providing some flexibility without making the system too complex to use or set up. We could create a rather complex categorizing and sub categorizing scheme.... but we won't. Simple is the word muttered all day long.

blogged May 25, 2004 09:10 AM :: category [ mlx ]
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