Forms application, done hosted-app style, part 1

Continuing on with my geek volunteer efforts, after some conversations with the ‘client’, we discovered that not only do we want to collect some information via forms, but the folks who fill out these forms will want to register for classes and be paired with a mentor.   Aha!  That starts to sound like a customer relationship management (CRM) system or one of the learning management systems that lots of colleges are using lately.  I knew of a few open-source solutions, and figured this was a good reason to do some exploring.  Idea on my part is that a custom app ought to be the last resort, unless the custom app provides a real advantage to the group.  Otherwise, someone’s gotta be willing to take on maintenance and hosting of that app if I’m hit by a bus / win the lottery.  This application isn’t, at least at this point, something that this organization wants/needs to invest in.

Open-source CRM – after surveying a bit, narrowed in on SugarCRM, specifically its community edition.  Its AGPL license is a challenge in terms of integrating other capabilities were I need to extend Sugar, but since I’m trying to go with vanilla and just use its customizations, believe it’s readily workable.

Open-source LMS – the clear community leader at the moment is Moodle.  As its GPL, rather than AGPL, the license headaches are mitigated a bit, as long as the group doesn’t attempt to share out its source.  (Note: not a open-source license expert: statement is my understanding – confirm before assuming it’s right..)

But licensing will only matter if the solutions are the right fit…

Shortening the story a bit…  I went ahead and stood up a Moodle instance on an EC2 instance.  I found a plugin to collect survey information related to student classes.  Since Moodle had that idea of surveys + people, adding SugarCRM to the mix definitely seemed the wrong way to go.  Moodle installed nicely, as did the plugin, but in the end, it just felt like the wrong use case fit – too much complexity, and then not enough control over the user experience.  Note: were I to customize the Moodle code or write a new theme, I assume I’d have had full control.  But it was a higher hurdle than I wanted to leave for those who came behind.

The same underlying technology stack that Moodle uses is also used by a composable system called Drupal.  Headed that way for part 2 of this app…

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