Well, it has been nearly a month and a half since I started as IT Director at Horizon. For us, it is crunch time in choosing what systems to use at our school. The Ministry of Training and Education started classes nearly a month early this year. To add a bit of stress, a hacker took down our website and school information system. This gave us an opportunity to start from scratch.
Website/Content Management System
Our major need right now was to get our website back up. The original site was run on Joomla. Since I never really used Joomla, I want to replace it either with the propriety finalsite CMS or with the open source Drupal or WordPress. Finalsite, which is used by many well known international schools around the world, was my favorite but since three of us in school are web developers, it did not make sense to pay a license for this software. We thought about Drupal but the professional themes were not that desirable. I am a WordPress guy but after spending a day migrating the school website over to it, I gave up. WordPress did not make a good platform for a school website, it is just for blogs and I finally admitted that this week.
Hence, we decided to stick with Joomla. We are using a professional theme and the site should go live this week. It took me a day to get used to the admin interface and now I really like Joomla. Joomla has many amazing modules and plugins and I am quite surprised to learn that many websites are actually developed with Joomla.
We plan to integrate Joomla with our SIS and LMS in the future. A big benefit is that since Joomla is popular in Vietnam, it already has Vietnamese language support.
School Information System
Horizon used an in-house SIS for the last 3 years developed from a sister school in Cambodia. This SIS was a bit crude but it did it’s job. Right now I must find a good replacement for our SIS within a week. My favorite, is SchoolOne. Veracross and PowerSchool are the leading propriety SISs out there but neither really fit the need of Horizon since we are using both the Cambridge (CIE) and Vietnamese curriculum. Both are no goes most likely for this academic year. I am even looking at the SIS developed for the American International School which I really liked.
Right now I am testing openSIS on our server which is used by The American School of Vietnam and APU International School. Hence, we will either choose SchoolOne (my favorite) or openSIS. If we go with either, I will have to bring in a developer to localize the entire database and integrate it with Joomla (single login).
Learning Management System
The last major project for me at my school is to find a learning management system we can use. Our favorite is StudyWiz out of Australia. StudyWiz integrates with SchoolOne. It has one of the nicest interfaces I have seen with LMSs. Both SchoolOne and StudyWiz are fully supported by the companies which can make my job easier but since the school year already started, I may have to postpone the two until January.
In the meantime I installed Moodle, a popular open source LMS. I am not a fan of Moodle being a long time Sakai user but it does meet the needs of my school. It is already localized in Vietnamese which makes it a nice choice. Moodle can also be integrated with Joomla via Joomdle or JFusion.
It looks as if in the meantime, we can use Joomla/openSIS/Moodle for our interim needs. I am looking at a couple developers to help with the integration including a Viet Kieu Drupal guy. I will post about our final choices in the future. We still have a lot of work to do…