Not made by elves

Something I’ve observed in the years I’ve been working on Elgg is the dynamic between the people who produce tools and the academics who talk about using them. Which is this: while there are mechanisms in place for an academic project to get funding to talk about using Elgg and trial it on a handful of students, it’s next to impossible for us to get similar funding to produce the tool to begin with.

Here’s a question posed by this blog post:

If an elf appeared and offer to give you a program that met your spec, how happy would you be?

Obviously everyone knows that programs aren’t made by magical elves; we know that they take thousands of person-hours and blood, sweat and tears to get right.

What the question assumes, though, is that having a program made is just a case of writing out a spec, passing it to an engineer and having it built. This simply isn’t the case if you want to produce a quality software application, particularly if you are not a programmer or software engineer yourself. Since beginning this work I’ve heard time and time again, from people I’ve met in institutions all over the world, that e-learning software is not a place for programmers and computer scientists. This is plain wrong: of course it is. Who else has the expertise to know what’s possible and what works in a software context? Every project needs a balanced mix of expertise and skills.

Of course, this is a learning experience for us, and in some ways we’re feeling our way around the academic scene. If you’ve got any advice or thoughts on obtaining funding and/or joining academic projects, we’d love to hear it.






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