Monthly Archives: May 2014

Moodle – no I don’t mean doodle

This weekend (between parades, church, and general weekend chores) Julie and I worked on getting the course materials ready.  I say ‘we’ but mostly this is Julie’s work as she has been pouring through her existing lecture materials on physiology and revising them for deployment in Liberia.  She has had two objectives in her efforts, and they are critical to the overall success of implementing the Moodle LMS on the new system.

Her first efforts have been to make sure that everything in her course materials has been either authored by her, credited correctly, has permission for use, or is from an ‘open source.’  It is surprising what everyone assumes when they are creating ‘new’ content.  How many of us have copied a cute picture from a website for a posting or a quote from somewhere?  How many have ever put a citation in the posting?  Well, since we will be delivering learning content to a different country, we need to be sure that we have the rights to do so.  The last thing anyone wants is for the University to have to remove some content after we leave!

The second thing Julie has been doing is to review her materials and make sure they are relevant for Liberia.  I have been astonished by the change in scope of her lectures she has had to do.  She gave me a lay-person example.  Thyroid disease.  in developed countries this is caused (if I remember correct) from an adrenal problem but in a poor country this might be caused by something as simple as lack of iodine.  We all get enough of this either through seafood or because iodine is added to salt here.

Towards the end of this weekend we began to finally put the material into the Moodle software and of course there was a problem.  It seems that there is an upload limit for course builders to add materials.  The limit is a paltry 2MB.   Most of Julie’s pdf’s were bigger than that (let alone the video files!).  So after much Googling and trial and error I was able to apply the configuration changes and get past that issue.  The video is another issue so a little more research and viola, I have file sharing running which lets Julie copy files to a folder from her MAC.

So, that’s what I suspect this will be like the whole time.  A few steps forward, a little struggle then a few more steps.


This isn’t about bagpipes…and “where is Liberia?”

Hi to all my friends and family.   As many of you know, Julie and I will be headed to Liberia, Africa in a little while and some of you have been asking for me to run a blog.  Well, here it is.  I have had this site as my experimental website where I play with new tools and so I thought “hey, use this!’


So let’s start with some basic geography, Africa is a big continent, really very big and has many, many countries and they change frequently enough (South Sudan is the most recent new country) so it is no surprise if you don’t know where Liberia is.  The map insert here shows Liberia is on the western coastline of Africa. The red dot on the map is the capital, Monrovia.

Liberia, west africa

The red dot is Liberia








OK – now let’s get a little closer in….  The university is in the capital city of Monrovia. A little bit mroe of a zoom and you can see the eventual target for our work, the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine.

Where is the University

Where is the University







You can see it is right on the ocean. A few miles from the center of town and also a few miles from the main campus for the University of Liberia. One of the first challenges I was presented with was a desire to link three buildings together on the campus. The original UMass Medical School people suggested we run fiber optic cable but I had no idea how we could accomplish that. Were there existing telephone/electrical poles? How far apart were the buildings. I turned to Google Earth to find the school and see if I could determine anything helpful.

The annotated image below shows each of the three buildings but not a whole lot more except one very important thing, there are no other buildings in between them! That’s where I decided to use something different. I had experience on Guam installing the first Wifi on the island years (OK decades) ago. We used Wifi mounted in a weatherproof box we built to connect two buildings together. Fortunately wifi has come a long way. Now there are weatherproof, off the shelf external wifi systems. I picked a unit (actually there will be 4) that has a capability of sending signals (encrypted!) up to 1.5 miles and even handles trees pretty well. They are PoE (power over Ethernet) so I wont have to run power cables up to the roof mountings. The buildings are all less than 500 feet apart.

The Campus






Well, that’s all for this update. I hope you enjoyed it!

Shipping to Liberia

Thanks to the help of Saint-Gobain Abrasives we were able to secure a 20 foot ocean going container and fill it with almost 100 computers, 50 microscopes, hundreds of medical textbooks, even some lab equipment.   It all shipped and we received word that on May 18th the container arrived!


University of Liberia, A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine in Liberia, Africa


Julie and I are headed to Liberia as part of a project being run by the Global Health Initiative of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  The project is under the direction of Dr. Katherine Ruiz DE Luzuriaga, MD.


What we are going to try to do.

Julie, who is a professor at the Medical School will be teaching Physiology while at the school while I am working to bring up a computer network, connect three buildings to the network, install the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS, which Julie has pre-loaded with course material) and deploy about 80 workstations.  Our goal is to test a closed LMS and see if it can be used to improve the educational program at the medical school.

Internet connection at the school is very limited (think of one 3G connection for the whole campus) so our intention is to set up a self-contained network and LMS that can use that limited connection to add new course material from remote locations (like UMass Medical).

It’s a lot to accomplish in just three weeks, especially when you add the problem of intermittent power and no air conditioning for the servers but we will do our best because it is so important to the people of Liberia.