Connexions and Rhaptos Overview
Connexions’ mission is to provide a global, interconnected, reusable repository of textbooks, teaching materials and learning materials. The impact of open educational resources (OER) becomes exponentially more valuable when the repository of content reaches critical mass, providing an interconnected, reusable, graph of knowledge. In order to do that, we seek to become the platform and repository of choice for open education resources.
Connexions open-source software (Rhaptos) enables the creation, sharing, modification, and vetting of open educational material accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime via the World Wide Web. Connexions unique features of permanent versions of all materials, a simple, semantic document language (CNXML and CollXML), and a powerful lensing system for post-publication quality control (including customized tagging, and community-based search and discovery) are the engine behind a truly reusable repository of learning.
Today Connexions is one of the most-used open education resources on the web, employed in traditional college and K-12 settings, in distance learning, and by lifelong learners around the globe. The Connexions servers handle over 1,500,000 visitors per month from nearly all the world's countries. With its flexibility (Connexions’ ability to produce low-cost textbooks was applauded in a May 1, 2007 New York Times editorial) and grassroots orientation (volunteer communities have, for example, translated material into Spanish and Chinese), Connexions aims to become the platform and repository of choice for open education resources.
An overview of Connexions vision and strategy was provide by foundation Richard Baraniuk at TED 2006
The Connexions code consists logically of three major functions
- Content repository of modules, collections and lenses: Modules treat a single educational topic and are stored using a semantic XML format. Once published, modules have unique and permanent URLs so that the material is available reliably, indefinitely. Authors may create new versions easily to update materials and all versions are permanently available. Non-authors can derive copies to create specialized versions and proper attribution is maintained to the original source. Collections are ordered sets of modules to create textbooks, courses, reports, journals etc. Lenses are the mechanism for quality control in Connexions where organizations and individuals select content from the repository and tag and comment on it for their community of practice.
- Viewing, printing and content feeds: The Connexions software renders all the content at http://cnx.org, including browse and search features, and various ancillary services such as displaying related materials and maintaining publicly available viewing statistics for modules and collections. Automated PDF generation is available for both modules and collections and as new versions are created, the PDF's are automatically regenerated. For collections, the PDF generation includes automatic generation of a table of contents, index, glossaries, and link resolution (page numbers internally, and footnoted URLs for links outside the collection). Print on demand service is available for collections with QOOP's print-on-demand service. RSS feeds are available for new and revised content and new and revised lenses. Standards based discovery and search feeds are also available for OAI-PMH (Dublin Core and IMS) and OpenSearch.
- Authoring tools: Connexions provides authors with shareable workspaces for editing their educational content, web editing capability for modules, collections, and lenses, and import tools for translating works written in Word, OpenOffice or LaTeX into the XML format (CNXML) used by modules.
Connexions (http://cnx.org) and Rhaptos: Connexions is a global, open repository of educational materials and a set of tools for contributing to the repository and reviewing content in the repository. The software running cnx.org is a branded version of Rhaptos, the base software that creates a permanent repository, the authoring tools, and the lensing (review) tools.
Connexions sustainability strategy over the next several years depends on creation of an active code and content development consortium, including academic and commercial partners engaged in either participating in cnx.org, the global world-wide open education repository, or in running individual instances of the Rhaptos software serving internal education needs.