African developers release open source virtual classroom


The University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources (AVOIR) project have released version 1.0.1 of the Chisimba/KEWL3 Realtime Virtual Classroom. Avoir is a collaboration of 13 African universities specialising in creating free software relevant to African users.

The virtual classroom application allows presentations to be uploaded in PowerPoint or OpenOffice format and made available online as well as embedded in websites or blogged.

The Realtime Tools allow the presentation to be picked up and given live on the site, in a realtime virtual classroom setting. The developer on this project is David Wafula, a masters student at UWC and a staff member of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and a member of the AVOIR unit there.

“Most notable in this release,” says Wafula, “is the improved easy-to-use interface, which runs in its own window as opposed to using embedded applet used in version 1.0.0.”

The latest release allows presenters to share desktop applications in real time with other participants. Importing presentations into the the application is a one-click operation. The virtual classroom software also allows users to import graphics as well as transfer multiple documents.

Downloadable versions of the software will be available in Debian, RPM, Java and Windows executable formats. The Debian version is currently available. Users can test drive the software online on the demo site.

AVOIR project leader, Derek Keats of UWC, says that this is the first application of its kind in the world that is free software. “It demonstrates the remarkable, world class talent that we have in Africa and what can be achieved when we collaborate to accomplish something.”