LON-CAPA Information

The following description of the history and features of the LON-CAPA system was compiled by Justin Gray of SFU.

LON-CAPA is a full-featured course management, learning content management, and assessment system. It is open-source (GNU General Public License) freeware, with no licensing costs associated. Both aspects are important for the success of this project: the open-source nature of the system allows researchers to modify and adapt the system in order to address research needs, and the freeware character allows easier dissemination of results, in particular, adaptation and implementation at other universities.

The system started in 1992 as a tool to deliver personalized homework to students, personalized meaning that each student sees a different version of the same computer-generated problem: different numbers, choices, graphs, images, simulation parameters, etc. Over the years, LON-CAPA has been expanded with content management and standard course management features, such as communications, gradebook, etc., similar to those in commercial course management systems, such as BlackBoardTM , WebCTTM , or ANGELTM.

In addition to standard features, the LON-CAPA delivery and course management layer is designed around STEM education, for example:

  •   support for mathematical typesetting throughout (LATEX inside of XML) (formulas are rendered on-the-fly, and can be algorithmically modified through the use of variables inside formulas)
  •   integrated GNUplot support (graphs can be rendered on-the-fly, and allowing additional layered labeling of graphs and images)
  •   support for multi-dimensional symbolic math answers, using sampling or the integrated Maxima symbolic algebra system
  •   full support of physical units.

LON-CAPA has developed into a content sharing network of almost 60 institutions of higher education including community colleges and four-year institutions, as well as about the same number of middle and high schools, and serves approximately 80,000 students every semester. In addition, LON-CAPA houses commercial textbook content from seven major publishing companies, and a commercial service company was established around the product at the end of 2004.

The shared content pool currently contains approximately 350,000 learning resources, including more than 140,000 randomizing homework problems in computer science, family and child ecology, geology, human food and nutrition, human medicine, mathematics, medical technology, physics, and psychology.

Schools that do not maintain their own LON-CAPA servers can join arrange for hosting through EduCog.

LON-CAPA home page:
http://loncapa.org/index.html

LON-CAPA hosting page (click on EduCog):
http://loncapa.org/hosting.html