5.4 Slidoc: A Pythonic Learning Management System Using Markdown and Google Sheets

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 9:15 AM
Room 8 ABC (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
R. Saravanan, Texas A&M Univ., College Station, TX

A learning management system (LMS) is a software package used in college campuses to assist in teaching. An LMS is typically a complex collections of programs with many different components, including a web server, database engine etc. Entering course-related information in an LMS often means navigating multiple sets of browser-based menus. Once entered, saving or exporting the course information requires the use of file formats that are not usually human-readable. In this talk, we describe Slidoc, a simple LMS which uses an extended flavor of Markdown as the sole file format for importing and exporting all course-related content. The Markdown extensions support math notation (through MathJax), and allow embedded multiple-choice and other types of questions within lectures for interactivity. Slidoc, short for “slide-oriented document”, also supports conversions to and from Powerpoint or Jupyter notebook formats. The back-end server of Slidoc is written in pure python using the Tornado framework. Persistent course data, such as student responses, and test scores, are saved as simple tables using Google Sheets. Most commonly-used LMS installations are geared towards general-purpose courses, and typically do not address the special needs of teaching computer programming. Slidoc, being Markdown-based, is inherently code friendly and supports simple embedded interactive programming tasks that are automatically checked for correctness and graded.
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