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Thomas Sechak

Thomas Sechak

December 24 2011

Pre Purchase Question

Pre Purchase Question

I would like to run past you what I am intending to achieve, to find out if Anahita is a good way to go. If you think Anahita is a good fit then I will purchase a Premium account.

First of all I would not call myself a coder but I am a quick learner. I have worked with many sites for many years with a fair bit of database experience as well. That being said I want to build out the project I am envisioning in a way that is very stable, integrated, fast, and secure.

What I want to create is a website with different functionality in areas of the site that I will explain briefly below. This would include community features all through the site to feel like a unified user experience across all the offerings on the site.

Aside from sections of the site dedicated to information which is to say text and pictures.

I also want an area of the site to be an online school. The school area would have perhaps 10 or so courses in it. Each would be a paid course that people would have to buy to gain access to. The courses would have video, audio, text, forms, etc…  It is important that some courses have to be taken in a specific order. For example you could not take the advanced course until you complete the beginner or intermediate courses.

Another part of the site would be a video area. There would be a free area and a paid area. The paid area would be accessed by subscriptions of 1 month or 6 months.     Also part of the video area would be the need to offer for small extra fee special videos for special occasions, or also old videos in archives that people might want to gain access to an old special video to add to their account or monthly subscription.

There are other areas of the site as well, but are just basic things like blogs, discussions, etc...

It would be good if this could be under one roof so there is a unified user name, password, and profiles for the users, rather than multiple websites. Though perhaps that may not be optimal, it might be best to keep things separate with bridges or something.

I also have an online product catalogue with about 100 or 200 products that I would like to connect as well. I am thinking of using a hosted e-commerce platform for this and link via templates, menus and user account bridging, or perhaps something different entirely.

Thanks for your time. I am impressed with your website so far. It is very easy to use and well organized. Exactly what I am trying to achieve also. #anahita #social #networking #engine

  • 11 Comments
  • Last Comment by Thomas Sechak
Hi Thomas,
I find your project very interesting, and it sounds like there are many similar elements to what I would like to do. I will not be competent enough to give any technical answers for now, but as a premium member for 6 months – I feel entitled to say that there is no reason to hesitate at all, but just as well join the premium account as soon as possible – the value for money is incredible – you would be close to the epicentre of creation – and maybe we even could form a group of people interested to use Anahita in this way you mention.

At least it looks like the clear tendency in e-learning goes towards social, and the mantra at Anahitapolis (and as a general mantra today - look at facebook) is that you build things on top of social, and not the other way round. I have also been looking for alternative ways to do this, and have been thinking on how to bridge things into each other, but because I do believe that social will be the circulatory system of the future of e-learning paradigm, my first choise - if it turns out that I'am able to do so - is to try to make as much as possible on top of the social platform, as this should give the seamless solution I think we are both looking for.

Discussions are already integrated and is working very well, and an integrated blog will be made as soon as Anahita 1.7 is ready - in not a very distant future, so I am in no doubt you will find Anahita useful for your project. The flexibility and the potential in the system – is also the reason not everything is ready out of the box, but the learning environment in the community is very helpful to anyone who is willing to learn. I have followed Anahitapolis for some time, but I will first start on my own project now, and I would be thrilled to have more people in our community with interest in the same field of using Anahita to build an online school. 

I am planning to make one social installation for students, and a second separate installation for professionals in the same field - and one third as an open community for people with general interest in the field, and then later I would hopefully be able to make them work together with the same log in – maybe even being able to make use of the same content. I am unfortunately not able to do this myself now, but the trust in the social engine as well as the architects behind Anahita, and the pleasure of being a part of the Anahitapolis community as a premium member, makes me at least convinced that I am in the best hands to be enabled to achieve what I would like to achieve.
Rastin Mehr
Rastin Mehr
December 26 2011 Permalink
Thank you so much @Bent

@Thomas Happy Holidays! Your plan seems very interesting and quite doable. You seem to be planning a premium online learning service. You did a wonderful job explaining your vision and yes it is possible to make it happen using Anahita. It won't be out of box, you do need to do some custom development, however Anahita enables you to build it in shorter time and provides you a propper infrastructure that you can maintain in the long run.

In the mean time I think you forgot to include your questions in your post. I was looking for some sentences that ended with question marks so I could answer them for you. If you post them, I'll make sure to answer them by the end of today.
Thomas Sechak
Thomas Sechak
December 26 2011 Permalink
Thank you both, for your feedback...

Given what I mentioned in my first post.  You actually answered my biggest question. Did Anahita seem like a good fit? Between both of your feedback and the feeling of having a supportive community behind it, I actually fee much more confident. So thanks. This is a big desision to make for me, becouse many people are relying on me and trusting me to make the right desicions for our company. Its not only about money, its about time more so. I worked with Joomla already but it seems to buggy so I don't feel confident abou it.

That being said, below are a few important specific questions.

In a perfect world each section of the site would have the same basic template layout with a different color scheme. For example school section would have a light blue color, the TV area might have a lavender coloring theme, the discussion and profile area might be whiter, etc…  Is this possible with Anahita?

Like in Joomla does the menu system work the similarly. For example I can assign different menus to different areas of the site. So I could have a different main menu in the video section, and a different one in the school. Can this be done in Anahita?

I would like the possibility to allow people very easily at the moment of registration to keep their accounts private from other members as far as the community visibility functions go. Our offering is about meditation and balanced living, etc... Some of our clients may be other artists, authors, or other meditation teachers that may want to be private and still have access to our content. Is this possible?

For the school section I would like to assign teachers or staff members to manage the courses and students without giving access to the backend to a non-technical person that can break things. At this point the only functionality that I think the school needs is the course subscription, expiration, and sequence abilities. I am going to make the courses out of video, audio, text, and forms. There for as far as I can tell now the question is this…. Can there be supervisors, moderators, or teachers, call it what you want that can manage users accounts, assign permissions, modify subscriptions, moderate posts for inappropriate content, etc… from the front end?

Would it be best to separate the functionalities into separate websites?  I have a few considerations about this that make it hard for me to decide. One is that I want users to only have to manage one account for all our offerings. But on the other hand it would be nice to have a domain name for our school and a separate one for the TV site and informational areas, etc… For search engine optimizing and or advertising reasons. There is a document on the Joomla website called ”Multiple Domains and Web Sites in a single Joomla! Installation”
With those considerations in mind, do you have any feedback?

Another question on the membership or subscription system. Given that I have two needs for this, school courses and TV subscriptions. Each with there own different plans, and giving access to different parts of the website. Is this possible with the member ship system you have comming? Its like it would be best if there would be two different places on the site in the two respective sections that show their own offering via the member system. So in the school area you would see the school courses you can subscribe to. In the TV area you can see the different subscription plans. Will this work? and or any other thoughts about this?

Thanks


Thanks
Thomas
Rastin Mehr
Rastin Mehr
December 28 2011 Permalink
I'm glad that you feel more confident. My advice is that you take your time learning about Anahita before signing up, because this should not be an impulse purchase. This is a commitment and a relationship. You seem pretty determined about this project and that is awesome.

The topic of building elearning environment has come up numerous times in Anahitapolis. @Bent is one of our Premium members who is very interested in the topic. Did you know that Ash and Myself used to develop online learning environments before the Anahita project. In fact that was one of the original motives that lead us to think about social learning and a decentralized model in opposed to the traditional education model. We discussed it in one of our podcasts http://blog.anahitapolis.com/2011/12/anahita-hangout-episode-2-part-1/

Btw what version of Joomla did you use? and what was buggy about it?

In a perfect world each section of the site would have the same basic template layout with a different color scheme. For example school section would have a light blue color, the TV area might have a lavender coloring theme, the discussion and profile area might be whiter, etc… Is this possible with Anahita?

Yes it is possible. The Shiraz template can detect what option,view,layout the viewer is in and construct a css tag for it in the body tag.

Like in Joomla does the menu system work the similarly. For example I can assign different menus to different areas of the site. So I could have a different main menu in the video section, and a different one in the school. Can this be done in Anahita?

We are using a stripped down and modified version of Joomla for Anahita and one of the things that we kept is the menu manager. The way it works that you should still have a global main menu that is accessible everywhere and then you can have additional menu modules assigned to some of the menu items in the global navigation bar. We will be improving the menu manager in the future releases of Anahita, but for the time being, Anahita's menu manager is almost identical to what comes with Joomla! 1.5

I would like the possibility to allow people very easily at the moment of registration to keep their accounts private from other members as far as the community visibility functions go. Our offering is about meditation and balanced living, etc...

Anahita doesn't provide that by default, but it is possible to make all accounts visible to the site admins and the account holders only using a custom plugin.

… Can there be supervisors, moderators, or teachers, call it what you want that can manage users accounts, assign permissions, modify subscriptions, moderate posts for inappropriate content, etc… from the front end?

The way it works in Anahita: we have:

Super Admins who have complete access to everything in the back-end and front
Admins who have access to everything except the Global Configuration and System/Server Information

and then in front a node's owner or author has control over it. For every course you can create a group. You will need to build a custom app for the lessons and you can use topics, blogs, photos, etc. as learning objects for every lesson. In this context, the group admins can be considered Teachers and the Group followers can be considered Students. (There are no moderators; not at least in this release). The lessons app creates the workflow to make sure that students have to go through the lesson 1, 2, 3 in the order assigned or access the lesson's randomly. You can define your workflow logic there.

You can also build a custom extension that defines a prerequisite relationship amongst the course groups. For example when you create a group you can give it a list of group ids that are the prerequisite for taking that course. If the viewer hasn't gone through the prerequisite courses, they shouldn't be able to follow the group.

The above description is how I would build it. You can be creative all you want and do it differently. There is always more than one way to love!

Would it be best to separate the functionalities into separate websites? I have a few considerations about this that make it hard for me to decide.

I'm afraid I can't tell without more detailed information about your implementation. One suggestion though, for the promotional material that require graphically rich content, layouts, SEO, and no registered accounts to access to, use a CMS of choice and take them out of the Anahita installation. Use Anahita for communication and getting things done for your premium members. Use the CMS site to inform and impress your prospective premium members.

Combining the two is often not a good idea. We are doing it, but our marketing material are very minimalist.

Another question on the membership or subscription system. Given that I have two needs for this, school courses and TV subscriptions. Each with there own different plans, and giving access to different parts of the website. Is this possible with the member ship system you have coming?

It is very likely possible. You can create a group for all your premium TV content and grant access to those who purchased the TV package.

As you might have noticed. Actor profiles define different context in Anahita. Actors are People, Groups, Events, Organizations, etc.
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Thomas Sechak
Thomas Sechak
December 28 2011 Permalink
Thanks for the reply. I have listened to your podcasts over the last couple days and thought they were great. As a result I did learn about the online learning environments that you both used to develop.

When I was first given the job to create an online school, I looked at Moodle, Blackboard, Google's new upcoming LMS for apps, and a bunch of others. Basically they are all the same in so far as they all seem to do it in a way that I would not want to use as a student. I did not finish school because it was too boring.

I want something more social and interactive, but had not seen anything like what I have in mind. Then listening to you and Ash in the podcast was eye opening. You both expressed in your podcast what I was thinking and looking for. When I heard it, it just clicked for me and I thought; finally I found what I needed, people who understand this and a platform to build it with.

I am happy to learn coding, I have a friend who does so already in different languages and he will teach and help me develop.

As far as Joomla goes, I use Joomla 1.7. I do not mean that Joomla is buggy necessarily. I will continue to use it for my other smaller site projects. As well as you mention perhaps any small things needed to support the larger project that this post is all about.

The story behind by what I mean buggy. I built a small site with it a few months back and thought it was easy to use once I wrapped my mind around using and navigating the backend. Then I thought it would be as simple to build out my larger project using Joomla with all the extensions. I should be able to make what I want with the school, TV, and community site/sites and have those all integrated. But this turned out not to be so good at least at my level of experience.

I tried Jomsocial and found it to be buggy. Something’s just did not work, or sometimes they did and sometimes did not. It was also not that integrated into the rest of the site except the menu item to go to it. In the end because of user complaints and confusion I had to disable it on the first site that I made and just have users using Kuauna now, which is quite stable...

I tried community builder but it seemed convoluted to me, the way it is designed does not seem very social to me and there would be to much effort for me to try and make it so.

Then as far as school course subscriptions or TV subscriptions the only plug in that I found that can handle it, is RSJoomla Memberships. By the way I think RSJoomla is good, but it does not do what I need exactly.

Then the user sync or bridges issue between separate sites with different plugins Jfusion, JMS multisites, although both may be good. I tried them both but had the feeling based on reading on the message boards and using them and seeing for myself that they may not work right all the time or have problems, etc..

Until I had the idea perhaps to have all the features under one website, instead of many. But still different extension do not communicate with each other fully or with Joomla fully. You need to login to different extensions separately on the same site, or people could use a different account creation form that may not be the one that has the correct fields you want... etc... Of course this could be fixed by me, but it points out to me that they are not really designed to work this way.

So the problem is not Joomla per sa when I said buggy but the whole thing including the extensions, just seemed like for what I am trying to achieve anyway that I would do my best and cross my fingers that Joomla with all the extension would work the way I want.

Clean and seamless is important to me.

I watched Johan Janssen’s presentation about the Nooku Server yesterday that I found on your blog and found it to be very impressive. His illustration of what people go through is exactly what I went through over the last 3 months.

So in the end I think I am better off with a solid, fast, scalable framework like Anahita, then learn how to build the apps that I need rather than try to piece together a website of what is out there already to end up with something that is not how I want it to work.

Based on all your feedback in the above posts it looks like it will all be possible. I am going to run this all past my friend who has done a lot of work in these kinds of things and see what his thoughts are about it and see if there is anymore that I need to work out before making a decision. I am now convinced that social comes first at the base and extend from there.

Thank you for all your time.
Thomas
Chaim
Chaim
December 29 2011 Permalink
@thomas @rastin great thread.

@thomas have you checked out Spark from McGraw-Hill, it seems to have a lot of the features that you are looking for. Have you also checked out edmodo?
Thomas Sechak
Thomas Sechak
December 29 2011 Permalink
Thanks Chaim

These are better than any that I have seen before.

I have a phone call with the developer of Spark this afternoon to ask questions and see how it works, and to see if it would meet my needs. Based on the website it is quite revolutionary.

Regarding Edmodo, I created an account and looked at it all. I could see myself using it for the course material delivery system, and communications between people in a course that they are taking. So it has some potential.
As far as I can tell it is kind of closed in what it does do, so I would still need to develope a site with all the other features, and link to Edmondo for taking the courses once someone signs up for it on our main site, or over the phone, if we would offer that.

Much appreciated.
Thanks
Adrian Thompson
December 31 2011 Permalink
I need to know if there is a contest module in the works that would allow site owners to create contests that members can submit entries?
Sheldon Kreger
Sheldon Kreger
December 31 2011 Permalink
Thomas,

I would also consider Drupal for your project. You could get a site like you are describing up and running with preexisting modules - most likely with no coding on your part. This includes the shopping cart system, as well.

Unfortunately I don't know enough about Anahita (yet) to make a recommendation one way or another. But, I know that Drupal would be able to handle a site like you are describing.

-sheldon
Rastin Mehr
Rastin Mehr
December 31 2011 Permalink
@Adrian I'm afraid no. Our focus is to only provide the essential social networking infrastructure and provide help and consulting to our Premium members who are developing their own custom solutions.

Since this thread is for @Thomas, we would appreciate it if you could start a new topic for your questions please and we will be happy to answer them for you.
Thomas Sechak
Thomas Sechak
January 03 2012 Permalink
Thank you every one for your assistance. I am now in the process of looking over all the possabilities, which will take a bit more time.

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