LON-CAPA uses several helpers for content rendering, as well as user input. The majority of these tools are currently open-source, and several are currently implemented as Java-Applets.
LON-CAPA natively supports LaTeX for mathematical rendering, as well as Maxima CAS and R.
Support of input and output poses challenges. For screen output, the LON-CAPA-NG will likely completely switch to MathJAX (dropping some of the current renderers), while for printing, we will stay with the current LaTeX/dvi2pdf/Ghostscript chain.
For mathematical input, we are looking for an open-source replacement for the currently used Java-based editor.
For graph-input/output, we are continuing to evaluate the HTML5 version of GeoGebra, as the currently used Java-based GeoGebra is causing compatibility problems.
LON-CAPA supports chemical input and output. Also here we are looking for open-source replacements of the currently Java-based tools.
Sustainability is one of the greatest challenges we are prepared to face. Nobody is served if the system goes away, so we need to strike a balance between an open-source free software on the one hand and associated services and support options on the other.
We understand that high schools operate differently than colleges, and those in turn operate differently than large universities – and, yes, we are completely aware that the World is a lot bigger than just the United States. Thus, we rely on a flexible pricing scheme, which gives our partners options on how to participate.
LON-CAPA-NG will be developed as an open-source software under GNU-GPL v3, so it can be expanded and adapted.
What we don’t believe
We do not believe that the contributions from programmers around the world alone will ensure the development and sustainability of our platform. While we are prepared to be pleasantly surprised, experience from other open-source course management systems has shown that it would be naïve to completely base our software development strategy on this premise.
What we believe
We do believe in having a strong, longterm core development team and careful release management, which ensures that the system is enterprise-ready and guarantees the integrity of the flow of content and data.
Only systems that are running an official release can be part of the content cluster. Within that cluster, the open-source system can only be enhanced and adapted within carefully defined limits. Outside the cluster, people are free to use and modify the software in any way they like.
This mixed approach may seem unusual, but we believe that striking the right balance between protecting sensitive components that need to be tightly controlled and remain closed, while at the same time not limiting innovative code developers from building on this foundation, may in the end be the proverbial “best of both worlds.”
However, to keep things in perspective: at the end of the day, the value of the system is in the content and support.
Platform versus content license
While the code of the platform will be open-source, the content may or may not be governed by the same license. And while collaboration may not be a large component of the platform development, collaboration will continue to play in major role in content development.