Open Learning Environment

Alexander Hanff core.ldf at
Sat Feb 9 18:48:48 GMT 2008

Hello all,

I am in the final year of my degree and for my final year project I have
elected to set up and Open Learning environment for a local Internet Cafe.
The company used to run Learn Direct courses (for those of you not in the UK
these were government sponsored basic IT courses which were free for low
income and unemployed people) so they already have a training room which is
networked on GigE and has space for 12 machines.

Members of the public will be able to "Drop In" and do courses at no charge
irrespective of their social background and the range of courses will
include word processing, graphics manipulation, spreadsheets, presentations,
general IT training and anything else I can think of during the project.
There will be a staff member in the room to provide "support" but not to
actually teach so ideally it would be useful to find existing courses using
FOSS software such as OOo.  I don't actually have to provide the courses as
the project is primarily a feasibility study but the company is interested
in deploying if the study gives positive results.  I will also be looking at
a range of funding via grants and sponsorship from private trusts, local,
central and European government sources.

I am thinking of going the thin client route to minimise hardware and
operational costs and was hoping some of the people on this list may have
already set up such projects in schools and other environments who would be
able to share the experience and suggestions with me.  I need to do a full
budget for hardware and give some indication as to other costs (such as
energy use and maintenance).

So I need ideas on hardware specs for 12 thin clients which will keep costs
low but allow efficient delivery to the end user.  I am not adverse to using
a flash drive to pull the users /home/ folder over on boot to cut the
network traffic and increase responsiveness.  I would also like the user to
be able to store their own files on a USB pen drive should they wish to take
their work away with them.

Server-wise I am not too concerned, from the reading I have done so far I
would be very surprised if the company doesn't have suitable server hardware
already in house but even if they don't I don't anticipate I will have any
problems creating a decent server specification.

So if you have any advice, experiences or suggestions you wish to share,
please drop a reply to this email.  I am a long term Linux user (over 10
years) and reasonably well known in the Ubuntu community so feel free to get
a little technical and also any warnings about possible obstacles or
problems people have encountered on similar projects would be a bonus.
Finally any links to existing free CBT resources based around FOSS
applications would be great as I could then include them as a bonus to the

My final year dissertation is on the negative impact and consequences of a
Microsoft centric public sector (including education) so obviously using
Open technologies for this project will compliment my dissertation well and
will be able to be used as supporting evidence.

I look forward to reading the responses.


Alexander Hanff
aka Paladine
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