Open, Easy and Amazing – OPEN CLASS: Is it ‘Just Right’?

Those of you familiar with Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn etc. – a learning management platform (LMS) of some sort, will most likely agree that for whatever reason, it is not ‘quite right’ – too cumbersome – too expensive – too complicated – take your pick.  Voila, we now have (or soon will have) OPEN CLASS, Pearson’s new LMS, whose mantra is OPEN, EASY and AMAZING. During a recent Webinar hosted by Campus Technology, the design and marketing team of OPEN CLASS revealed the key features and uniqueness of this LMS platform that appears pretty darn … amazing. In fact, my first reaction was that OPEN CLASS is too good-to-be true – read on to see why.

The platform appears to have been thoughtfully and carefully developed resulting in a system that is user-friendly and interactive. Interactivity is accomplished by blending the best of social media tools with learning applications making the entire learning experience not just relevant but meaningful. Below is a screen shot of OPEN CLASS from the instructor’s perspective, displaying the courses she is teaching on the left, and the ‘people’ or students and colleagues on the right.

Open Class Screen Shot
Open Class Screen Shot: Instructor's view

It’s not merely Facebook or Google + with a bit of learning thrown in, though OPEN CLASS incorporates elements from each that will work beautifully for creating a robust and rich educational online environment. The platform inherently encourages students to collaborate, study, email, chat and share with professor or classmates with a single sign-on. Not to mention students can access their course content, syllabus, assignments and grade book all within OPEN CLASS’ attractive, user-friendly interface.

The mantra of OPEN CLASS is this: OPEN, EASY and AMAZING. Which is a genius marketing strategy, considering existing LMS platforms are anything but, and the simplicity of the message is ohh so attractive. I’ve summarize the three concepts below.

OPEN:  The system is currently in the Beta (test) phase, but anyone with access to Google Apps for Education can begin using it right now.  In mid 2012, Open Class will be OPEN to anyone, yes anyone.  The platform is Open because it seamlessly incorporates e-books  (which is why Pearson is behind this), though any publisher’s text books can be included.

EASY: Now here is what to get excited about …OPEN CLASS seems  intuitive, (a.k.a. easy), meaning instructors/designers can begin using the platform with minimal learning curve.  Instructors have access to user-friendly tools for grading, creating exams, and communicating either with individual students or the entire class. Accessing content and learning objects is apparently seamless, the system is designed to be able to access open source resources, online content, and allows instructors to communicate across institutions. On a personal note, if the grade book tool in OPEN CLASS actually is as easy and effective to use as it looks, I will do a jig on the spot – having pulled my hair out trying to decipher the complexities of the Moodle grade book for almost two years now. Below is an image of the Grade Book from the Instructor’s perspective.

Screen Shot Grade Book Instructor View: Open Class
Open Class Screen Shot Gradebook: Instructor's view

AMAZING: Best of all it is FREE. Yes you heard right – FREE.  This is why it seems too good-to-be true.  And there are no licensing costs, no software to download or maintain, or hosting costs. Yes amazing. You might wonder if there is a catch –  there is none according to Pearson. However you can see the brilliance behind Pearson’s strategy –  Pearson is a text-book publishing company, there is an increasing interest in e-books, interactive content, learning is going mobile and online, etc., etc.  Pearson is just putting themselves ahead of the game. Failure to adapt will make text-book companies obsolete in the near future, think of the recent demise of the book store in the United States, Borders.

I encourage you to go to the website if you want to learn more.  Many schools are in the test phase including Rice University, Arizona State, Columbia to name just a few. Of course you can also sign-up for OPEN CLASS with a Google Apps account, or in just a few short months OPEN CLASS will be open to all, easy as that! And yes, don’t forget Amazing. To find out more:

Keep Learning 🙂