Blackboard is a great tool for building course web sites. The Content Management System (CMS) used by the web office and various departments on campus is a reasonable content management system that Colleges, Schools and Departments can use (with training) to build decent Departmental teaching and Research Group showcase sites. But what if you’re a member of staff, or a postgraduate student and you want to make a shop window for yourself or your latest project? Blackboard’s not designed for that, the CMS is too unwieldy and the WordPress multi-user blogging platform isn’t specific enough.
OpenScholar – a new tool that has been developed at Harvard University – may be the missing link. Built on Drupal, OpenScholar is an open-source content management system, aimed at academics, which attempts to make it easy to create a personal or a project web site with the minimum of fuss. It provides particularly strong support for bibliography creation and leverages Drupal’s first-class content creation, content aggregation and community building tools.
The home page of the Scholars at Harvard site (itself powered by OpenScholar) provides a compelling demonstration of OpenScholar’s features as well as a shop window of the kinds of sites that can be created. The software itself can be downloaded and installed in a few minutes by anyone with access to an Apache web server and MySQL database (that’s all Mac users and any Windows machine with WampServer or similar installed). Perhaps we can ask one of the Learning Support team to give us access to a trial version!
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