Fwd: [lug] Remote Healthcare Training for the Developing World pilot - advice needed!

Chris McDermott csmcdermott at gmail.com
Wed Sep 24 14:22:50 MDT 2008

I think Ubuntu would probably be a fine choice - it's definitely one
of the easiest distro's I've tried recently.  As for backing up the
hard drive in the test machine, I don't see any reason to partition
the hard drive or dual boot.  Just use Ghost (or actually, I prefer
Acronis - the home version is around $50 and they have trials and
discounts, etc:
http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/) to make an
image of the drive and store that on an external drive somewhere safe.
 Then you can do whatever you like to the system, and when you're done
just restore the image you created.

As for the interactive learning part, I ran across an interesting
program a while back called Mnemeosyne.  It's not at all what you're
looking for - it's purely for flashcards, but it does keep track of
which questions you answer correctly and which you get wrong.  Then it
adjusts the frequency that those questions appear based on that
information.  So questions that you get right several times in a row
get shuffled to the back, so to speak, and will only show up very
rarely, to make sure you still remember the answer.  Questions you get
wrong will be repeated frequently until you start getting them right.
Anyway, it's open source and all that, so maybe the underlying engine
will be useful, or at least you could look at their algorithms.


On Tue, Sep 23, 2008 at 4:30 PM, Neal McBurnett <neal at bcn.boulder.co.us> wrote:
> Gail asked a question, and I got some more details and am forwarding
> them on.  And I'm cross-posting to the Colorado Ubuntu Linux Team and
> changing it to excerpted-bottom-posting for sequential clarity....
>>     > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>     > From: Gail Austin <gail_austin_co at yahoo.com>
>>     >
>>     > Hello: I work for a Virginia healthcare nonprofit and live on the Hill in
>>     > Boulder. I need advice & counsel on which version of Linux & open
>>     source stack
>>     > to use in a training system pilot for the developing world.
>>     >
>>     > I am developing a self-contained learning system to train community health
>>     > workers in  developing countries, to help address a dire shortage of
>>     healthcare
>>     > workers in these countries (numbering close to a million worker shortage
>>     > according to the World Health Org), particularly in rural/village
>>     locations. We
>>     > plan to pilot this system in rural community health centers in India, to
>>     > train workers who are functioning as de facto nurse practitioners with
>>     little
>>     > to no medical training. This is a purely charitable initiative to help
>>     > incredibly hard-working yet impoverished communities become more
>>     > self-sufficient by sharing knowledge that is literally life-saving.
>>     >
>>     > We plan to use all open source content and software on ultra-lowcost PCs
>>     so
>>     > that this system will make sense to deploy in the developing world. I have
>>     > training development experience on Windows ($$$$ hissss.....) and stacks
>>     > of COTS software (even more $$$$$$$$), but none on Linux. HELP! I need
>>     advice
>>     > and counsel on which version of Linux to use, as well as the most
>>     promising
>>     > open source software stack for this application.
>>     >
>>     > I'd be delighted to buy really any number of the caffeinated beverage
>>     of your
>>     > choice in exchange for some informed advice and counsel!
>>     >
>>     > Thanks in advance for any help you can give this Linux newbie!
>>     >
>>     > Your neighbor from the wild & wonderful Hill,
>>     > Gail Austin
>> --- On Tue, 9/23/08, Neal McBurnett <neal at bcn.boulder.co.us> wrote:
>>     Gail, sounds great - thanks.
>>     I'm partial to Ubuntu linux.
>>     The software stack depends a lot on what you have in mind.  Static
>>     content (like web pages on the hard disk?)  Video?  Interactive
>>     applications?  Patient record systems?  What?
>>     Will there be internet connectivity?
>>     What do you know how to make and use now - e.g. what tools did you use
>>     before?  And what exactly are you wanting to do - what would come
>>     first in your mind?
>>     Who is going to translate this stuff?
>>     Moodle is the first thing that comes to mind:  http://moodle.org/
> On Tue, Sep 23, 2008 at 02:57:41PM -0700, Gail Austin wrote:
>> Neal: THANKS! You asked great questions - I tried to keep answers short but
>> enough so you can give me an idea if Ubuntu is likely to be a fit:
>> Connectivity: The assumption is no Internet or other connectivity, so the
>> system has to be self- contained - the whole software stack as well as all the
>> content for 3 months of training has to fit on an ultralowcost PC.
>> Content: The content will be structured as a hierarchical set of learning
>> objects each of which teaches a task & its supporting facts, rules &
>> vocabulary. The learning objects will include text, graphics, short videos,
>> interactive exercises and full audio recorded by local speakers (to compensate
>> for low literacy). Flash executables might be used to present the content with
>> sychronized audio (I use Adobe Captivate now to develop
>> SCORM-compliant interactive content objects in Flash for web delivery, but they
>> can also be stored on users' PCs as executables, so at least this part I know I
>> can do...).
>> User Interface - I need a good opensource learning mgmt system (you suggested
>> Moodle- others have as well- I need to figure out if it's practical to run
>> freestanding rather than web-based). We used many wildly expensive COTS LMS's
>> at Sun, and I admin a hosted EZLCMS site (much less expensive but also COTS)
>> now for the nonprofit I work for.
>> Features: A key feature of the pilot system is prescriptive interactivity.
>> The goal is to give learners a tool to make sure they've learned the content,
>> moving at their own pace, so they pass the certification exam. So the idea is
>> to develop a (large) pool of questions, tagged to learning objects, which the
>> system assembles into periodic exercises, drills and quizzes. At any point, the
>> content or activity that is served next to the learner is determined by an
>> algorithm based on the learner's performance up to that point. At Sun, once
>> again we solved this with expensive COTS. So I need an open-source assessment
>> tool and database that can store, assemble based on an algorithm, deliver and
>> score interactive quizzes, storing the results in a database. Depending on
>> what's out there, I may need to hire someone to write some add-on code to
>> make this happen, since unfortunately I am no coder....
>> Translation: Ultimately we'll need a good open source content management
>> system for efficient language versioning of the base content. For the pilot,
>> fortunately English will work. Assuming the pilot results are promising, we'll
>> get funding to hire native speakers to translate the content to Hindi & go on
>> from there.
>> So do you think Ubuntu would be a good fit? I have an extra PC to use as a
>> sandbox on the condition that I restore it when I return it. I'm thinking of
>> using Ghost to back up the PC on an external hard drive (removing all software
>> and data except Windows itself), and then partitioning the PC hard drive
>> into Windows and Ubuntu partitions (Windows so I can run Ghost to restore the
>> PC when needed), then installing the recommended stack for Moodle and Moodle
>> itself (assuming all this even *fits* on a PC...), then try installing an open
>> source assessment tool (trying each application out after installing it, esp
>> Moodle and the assessment tool, to see how much of what I need done they can do
>> out of the box).
>> Having said all this, I've never partitioned a hard drive in my life, but
>> there's always a first time...
>> Does this sound reasonable to you?
>> Thanks *very much* for your advice!
> Who knows some good tools to correspond to what Gail is looking for?
> Cheers,
> Neal McBurnett                 http://mcburnett.org/neal/
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