Chisom Jenniffer Okoye
The education MEC has enthused about his department's leap into a new era of online learning, though experts feel it still has some way to go.
While the Gauteng department of education plans to launch a new e-learning platform today, web developers are unimpressed by the poorly built website riddled with “significant mistakes”, including the lack of HTTPS security, which could pose a threat to all users.
The department yesterday sent out invitations for the unveiling of the content platform at Soshanguve East Secondary School.
It claimed the site was ready to be piloted and would change the learning experience of pupils, schools, and how parents can assist.
“Gone will be the days of pupils taking notes or cramming when a teacher delivers a lesson in class,” said MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
“Imagine parents setting their own tests and examinations for their children and the system marks the test immediately…
“Imagine a world where teachers’ lesson plans are freely available.
“Imagine no further,” he said.
But Lesufi appears to be basing his foray into the future on obsolete technology, with several web developers reacting negatively after analysing the new platform.
Award-winning web design developer and founder of The Bitworx Group Brian Reuban said the website was “shoddy at best”.
“It does not follow industry standards on web application development and looks very amateurish. It is sub-par for a small business website, let alone for a government-run website.”
Reuban said it lacked a secure security layer, commonly known as HTTPS, a basic component to ensure a website is secure.
“Installation of SSL certificates is not a special skill relegated to so-called experts. It is second nature for even a junior developer. They can also be acquired free, so there is absolutely no excuse,” Reuban said.
“No thought had been given to security. It is clear the site was developed by amateurs who had bitten off more than they could chew.
“The absolute basics, such as using the latest versions of software to prevent security vulnerabilities, have been ignored.”
He said using open source systems was not at all a bad idea if the developers had the skill and ability to be able to understand the inner workings of the systems and re-engineer them if need be.
Another web developer, Sam Olowabi, said the mistakes “are significant”.
“There are a lot of outdated scripts and codes on the site. According to the setup, it will be difficult to upgrade. They should have used a seamless open-source site, instead of moodle.”
Moodle is a learning platform designed to provide teachers, administrators and pupils with a single integrated system to create personalised learning environments.
But, Olowabi said, Moodle “is not fully developed to cope with big projects”.
The site also runs an outdated Moodle, discontinued in 2017.
It is unclear how much the department spent on developing the site.
“A system like that should cost no more than R40,000 … given that most of what they have used is outdated – and it wouldn’t take long to hack the system,” said Reuban.
Department spokesperson Steve Mabona responded: “We will not respond to any negativity about the website today!” – email@example.com
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.