eComma is a free software module that plugs into Drupal, a popular open source content management system. eComma allows a group of users to annotate the same text together and to share their annotations with each other. Collaborative online annotation offers a new kind of reading experience: instead of making notes in the margin of a book, readers can now share their reactions instantaneously and build a body of commentary about a text together. eComma may be used synchronously or asynchronously, depending on the task and circumstances.
History and Development
Originally designed by Professor Sam Baker and a team of graduate students from the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin, eComma was the result of a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as IT Grants from the University’s Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services. Building on the original concept and design, the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (U.S. Department of Education Title VI Program) accepted the responsibility for development and usability testing in 2010. In keeping with our mission to promote open educational approaches to language learning, COERLL developers turned eComma into a Drupal module. This means that the current version of eComma is not only free to use, but also open to adapt.
An Open Source Community of Practice
Why Open Source? The mission of the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) is to disseminate openly-licensed educational materials that encourage consumers to become producers. By sharing eComma‘s source code, COERLL hopes to lower development costs and to increase collaboration with other interested parties. The ultimate goal is to create an open source community of practice around eComma that brings together teachers, learners, researchers and developers. We are convinced that there are many innovative uses for eComma that we have yet to envision. And so, we entrust eComma‘s future to the community of users whose independent peer reviews will guarantee increased reliability and efficacy of the module over time. That’s the power of the crowd.
So why Drupal? As one of the fastest growing open source content management platforms, Drupal has given rise to a large and active community of developers, many of whom work at universities and colleges. The Drupal community supports code development through their peer reviews, collaboration tools, project presentation pages, user accounts, and so forth. Drupal developers can either take advantage of existing high-quality modules for add-on capability or create their own custom modules to accomplish practically any task. For these reasons, COERLL is confident that the Drupal community will continue to improve eComma.