Enterprise e-Learning: Effective Use of Educational Technology

                                       Jim Farmer*, Justin...
amortized cost of content development is about one-fifth          perhaps say faculty were not communicating. Closer
of th...
students. This requires a second-generation CMS                                                                           ...
Microsoft’s .NET—and Web Services. 10 The service               Perhaps the best example of collaborative enterprise
be used without modification in all major learning            university. 16 But information technology executives can
[5] J. Farmer. “Open Source: Risks, Rewards and
    Realities,” Computing Services Management
    Symposium, San Diego, Ca...
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Enterprise e-Learning: Effective Use of Educational Technology

  1. 1. Enterprise e-Learning: Effective Use of Educational Technology Jim Farmer*, Justin E. Tilton** *Georgetown University, USA jxf@immagic.com ** Nuerasoft s.r.o., Czech Republic justin@tilton.info Abstract understanding about the transformative potential of open source education.” He comments further: “Thus, a e-learning and e-research are universities’ core crucial task before us is to build intellectual and competencies. In the United States information and technical capacity for transforming “tacit knowledge” education technologies have not yet demonstrated any into “commonly usable knowledge”; Building this increase in productivity in these critical activities. This capacity is urgent, as the process of creating and sharing paper suggests enterprise architecture, integration of quality educational knowledge needs to catch up with the numerous “tools” specialized by discipline, level, and burgeoning availability of open educational goods.” method, digital repositories, and common open standards Yet there those specializing in distance learning—the could achieve significant improvements in teaching and Open University UK, Open Universiteit Nederland, learning productivity. Athabasca University in Canada, Lübeck University of The paper identifies actions information technology Applied Science (Fach Hochchule Lübeck), Open executives can take to increase institutional performance, Polytechnic of New Zealand and Coastline, Rio Salado, improve services to students and faculty, and reduce and Dallas County Colleges and the University of costs. Maryland University College in the U.S.—have demonstrated that education technology, primary Keywords: e-learning, productivity, enterprise systems. implemented using the Internet can increase student retention, student mastery, and academic program completions by 5 to 20% with costs less than residential 1. The Issue: More for Less universities for the same disciplines and levels of instruction. 1 These colleges and universities have learned With few exceptions, the productivity of colleges and how to effectively use the technology. Similarly the for- universities in the U.S. has declined as education profit U.S. universities University of Phoenix and Devry technology was introduced. Now most colleges and Technical Institute have achieved productivity in their universities in North America and much of Europe have on-line courses. installed commercial learning systems that are little used by faculty, tolerated by students, and appear relatively In information technology, estimates of 50 to 80% of ineffective. software licensing and maintenance costs are for maintaining interoperability of enterprise systems.2 Industry has implemented service-oriented architectures, open standards, and open source software to reduce costs of software licensing and maintenance, perhaps as much as half. Similarly colleges and universities were duplicating the development of course materials. However MIT and Utah State Universities initiatives to distribute “open courseware” free of any licensing restrictions on its use. This offers a way, through cooperation, the high unit cost of instructional materials can be sharply reduced. The Figure 1. Change in Productivity U.S. Colleges and Universities 1 The Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Carol Twigg summarized the benefits in a policy context. See Teaching’s Toru Iiyoshi [10] expressed his concern Ref. [18]. Individual institutions have reported similar success, differently: “Yet one of open education's most critical often in conjunction with a software or content vendor. Colleges using Plato have an exceptional record of success questions—how can open education's tools and resources with remedial and college algebra. demonstrably improve education quality?—was rarely 2 mentioned [in national and international meetings]. From “CIO Challenge: Maintenance Costs,” by Jim Unfortunately, this omission from the conversation Middlemiss, Wall Street Technology, June 2004 as quoted by mirrors the education community's serious lack of Oracle Corporation. See Ref. [5] for the Oracle Corporation summary..
  2. 2. amortized cost of content development is about one-fifth perhaps say faculty were not communicating. Closer of the cost of instruction. 3 observation reveals rationale behaviour. There are hundreds combinations of discipline, level, and pedagogy Until now information technology managers seem to required to effectively teach the many knowledge have been unable or prevented from adopting practices domains of modern universities. These specialized that would benefit faculty, students, and the universities learning systems differ because they tend to focus on through improved service and reduced cost implementing unique combinations. For example, some of the learning of education technology. systems teach algebra focusing on equations, engineering on problem sets, language instruction on translation of written text and dialog of native speakers, English 2. Presentation or collaboration composition on short essays, chemistry in laboratory simulations, and so on. Each combination is an effective Reflecting the method of instruction for advanced pedagogy appropriate for the type of student, discipline, graduate students, universities tend to develop learning and level. And they place different requirements on the systems focusing on communication between and among learning system. students and faculty. The Sakai Enterprise Bundle and Bodington open source learning systems focus on e-mail, For effective instruction, the faculty member must be discussion forums, chat, and now voice and video able to have available and choose the right combination communications. Distance learning, most pervasive in for the students in the class.5 the first two years of college, tends to focus on At some institution likely there is a learning system or sequenced delivery of lesson content, activities, and tool designed for a specific combination. These systems quizzes. Open source elearning systems LAMS and and tools are often developed by faculty or dedicated Moodle implement sequenced pedagogy. programmer under faculty direction and reflect the “best Sakai Chief Architect Dr. Charles Severance [16] practices” of the faculty member. As these systems are describes the university’s position: used with additional students, there is a new requirement the software add a directory, security, authentication and “My biggest concern is that LAMS organizes things authorization of the user, activity logging, access to into flows with some sense of order, whereas the repositories, and so forth. Software development on this more traditional LMS systems simply provide specialized system then duplicates work common to all capabilities/tools that are always there and can be learning systems and often to administrative and library used in any order and with no need for the instructor systems as well and, because of different designs, even to ‘make a script’.” becomes a barrier to interoperability. Open University UK’s Jason Cole [1] suggested why the Consolidating these learning systems would reduce two different perspectives are common. In his book information technology costs. Enterprise architecture “Using Moodle,” he identifies four types of courses: created a way to achieve this commonality. Typically Introductory survey course, skills development course, called “platform and tools” or “framework and tools” the theory and discussion course, and capstone course. communication functions, including context, is provided Achieving learning objectives for introductory survey to the “tool” as a service. 6 The Eclipse project for and skills development courses is best done with software developers is an example with more than 400 sequenced learning; discussion and theory and the :tools” available to business analysts, systems analysts capstone courses more through collaboration and and programmers. With a standard framework, the tool independent study. The design of a learning system often developer has to develop only the functionality unique to mirrors the type of institution rather than the pedagogy the tool and use the framework services for common approach for a specific discipline, level of instruction, functions. and type of student. Blackboard was the first learning system supplier to Moodle and LAMS are adding collaboration “tools.” document this need. Chris Etesse [2] observed: Sakai is adding learning sequences. The same is true for commercial systems such as Blackboard and WebCT. In “The first generation of Course Management a few years perhaps the systems will begin to have the Systems (CMS) focused on ease of use and same broad functionality. If so, faculty utilization of all generic features such as grade books, quizzing learning systems will increase as their needs for the tools and course calendars. Now that this first support of diverse pedagogies required for teaching and round of wide adoption has been achieved, learning would be available. And students will benefit faculty and instructors are finding that they from the availability of the technology. require a second generation of tools and capabilities. They want discipline and pedagogy-specific tools and content which provides distinctive instructional experiences for 3. Framework and Tools 4 There are between 80 and 100 open source projects This remark was made at a Sakai meeting. The author asked developing online learning systems. One representative not to be identified since his remarks require context. said MIT has “28 learning systems.” 4 The casual 5 The Sloan Consortium has been reporting research observer would say this duplicative development and results on the part of the participating colleges and 3 universities. For example, see Ref. [11]. The cost of courseware development and the total cost of instruction for Arizona community colleges is given in Ref [3]. 6 See Michael Feldstein’s discussion in Ref. [7].
  3. 3. students. This requires a second-generation CMS comprehensive and detailed specification may emerge platform that supports the integration of external from IMS consistent with user needs. tools and content while still providing a stable, Although any open standard for tools interoperability robust, easy-to-use environment. In many ways, would limit some tools development, its acceptance a CMS is becoming an operating system for would sharply accelerate the adoption of standard “tools” education delivery.” and decrease the cost of maintaining interoperability of Blackboard now has several hundred “Building Blocks” learning systems. available and sponsors an annual “Building Blocks Conference” held several years at Georgetown University. Many of the Building Blocks have been 4. Learning Management Operating System developed by other firms; some are available as open source software. 7 Michael Feldstein [7], State University of New York Moodle implemented “platform and tools” in version 1.5 (SUNY) Learning Network, described the “Learning called “Blocks.” This has encouraged a number of Management Operating System” explaining how it would developers to design, develop, and make available contribute to the increased effectiveness of e-Learning at specialised “tools.” LAMS has a similar capability called SUNY. the “tools interface.” The learning operating system is a services-based design. The Sakai Project labeled the specification for the tool as An important function is providing “context”—as Sakai “Tool Portability Profile. The Sakai Framework is Chief Architect Charles Severance calls it—to tools. described in Figure 1 from a recent presentation on Context includes a list of persons and their roles for a architecture. An outline for writing a Sakai Tool is tool and relates the tool to course, course offering—the shown in Figure 2. specific instance, and sections and groups within the course offering. CHEF, Sakai’s predecessor learning system, simplified context by defining it based on the Sakai Framework location of the “site” within the layout as compared to other “courses.” Later Sakai added “section awareness” to tools implying the structure must be “course offerings” • Registration of tools and services within a term and subordinate “section.” CHEF has • Provides portability inheritance of authorizations and people. Feldstein The Sakai Framework between environments Sakai Sakai prefers Groups and Permissions from uPortal since it TPP Tool TPP Tool where possible implements a directed net instead of a tree structure. This – HTML / Web Services Sakai Sakai provides the flexibility necessary to support cross-listed • Framework includes Service Service courses, team teaching, multiple levels of groups within a presentation elements course offering, independent studies, and non-term as well to support tools instruction such as Executive MBA programs.8 SUNY is implementing uPortal with aggregated layout. This brings up a second consideration; what functions Figure 1 – Sakai Framework should be in a portal and what functions are in the learning operating system or framework. For example, at External Aggregator the portal level, an e-mail portlet would use the student’s Writing a Tool personal e-mail address and personal contact list—it Internal Aggregator could even be GMail and aggregate mail from multiple • Each tool describes its presentation Presentation addresses. The same portlet as an e-mail tool needs in a generic fashion - the framework provides mechanisms to Support implemented in the learning operating system would, by “context”, send mail only to students within the student- The Sakai Framework The Sakai Tool Environment render the tool’s presentation Sakai Tool • The tool is unaware of any aggregation or final presentation Presentation defined study group or only to students registered in the • Tools may produce “application” Sakai course or section and faculty identified others. SUNY’s services related to the tools (chat Tool Code current design efforts should provide guidance for the tool / chat service) • A service built for a particular tool Application division of functions between the portal and the learning Services should still operate through an API operating system. and be available to other tools Framework Services Sakai, uPortal, LAMS, and Moodle have efforts underway to bring commonality in the way the learning System operating systems interoperate with enterprise portals. 9 Figure 2 – Writing a Sakai Tool Likely this will focus on WSRP—also supported by So far the learning system developers have been unable to agree on a “tool portability profile.” IMS Global 8 See also Refs. [7] and [9] for more of Feldstein’s vision. Learning Systems Inc.’s Tool Interoperability 2005 early 9 Note that Moodle was represented in the IMS Tools draft specification was inadequate to develop a Interoperability demonstrate at Alt-I-Lab 2005 by the Dirk comprehensive and interoperable tool. With IMS now Herr-Hoymann, University of Wisconsin, a Sakai Partner that focusing on specifications that benefit users, a has implemented Desire2Learn as the enterprise learning system. However, the University, like many others, has 7 Blackboard Chairman Matthew Pittinsky described his vision Moodle being used by a school (or department) within the for Building Blocks in a 2003 White Paper. See Ref. [15]. university.
  4. 4. Microsoft’s .NET—and Web Services. 10 The service Perhaps the best example of collaborative enterprise definitions will be the most difficult. One of the Moodle architecture is the ESUP Portail Project in France. The developers has suggested implementing services as they 13 universities have a plan to provide enterprise are being defined by JISC (UK), DEST (AU), and SURF integration using open source software January of 2007. (NL) in the e-Framework for learning and research The project uses existing staff and is on schedule and initiative. under budget. The project provides both formal training and a help desk. They are using Web Services and JSR Recently Open University UK has reported funding 168 and WSRP portlets for data exchanges. The Moodle to implement roles (version 1.6) and all levels of enterprise system includes CAS, uPortal and Moodle and IMS’ Learning Design. By agreement, Open University existing administrative systems modified for single UK will also bring their assessment experience and signon and as sources for administrative portlets. 37 assessment expertise from JISC-funded research into other universities, schools, and agencies are planning a Moodle. 11 This development will improve Moodle’s similar implementation. 14 interoperability similar to Blackboard and WebCT’s early adoption of the IMS specifications, and may, by the number of Moodle users, encourage the rapid and broad adoption of all IMS standards. If so, the quality of on- 6. Open Courseware line instruction should improve significantly because of the capabilities that will be available to faculty. The only Open courseware offers an economic way to share issue, as Toru Iiyoshi, is building the capacity to use instructional content and even templates or sequences of these new capabilities. learning reducing unit costs. Open courseware can also include assessments necessary both to adapt learning to a student’s mastery and learning system and to demonstrate mastery. Moodle’s community templates 5. Enterprise Integration and courses and MIT and Utah State’s open courseware are examples of available content. Publishers also The need for enterprise integration soon follows the provide content available as IMS course cartridges that implementation of a widely-used learning system. The can be immediately used in IMS compliant learning volume of transactions and the need for accuracy systems. suggests automated business processes. There are two challenges to widely use these materials. Suppliers of administrative software are now adopting First is internationalization and localization. This is often open standard Web services for enterprise integration as achieved by someone locally translating and localizing suggested by JISC several years ago.. At one level— these materials. Because the materials themselves change major software suppliers like Oracle, SAP, and IBM— with new knowledge, there needs to be a way of use industry standard definitions for the SOAP managing the continuous update of the material for each transactions and XML data exchanges—HR-XML for locale. This coordination and management has been human resources, IFX and XBRL for financial accomplished in the translation industry; their assistance transactions, DSML for directory, and so on. Those was offered to uPortal, but was not implemented. Those specializing in student systems tend to use national developing or aggregating courseware should consider standards for data exchanges. Specifications from building a community of translators for the material and BETCA in the UK and PESC in the US and Canada are a system for organizing continuing maintenance. examples. But other sources of data exchange specifications are emerging: In the European Union and Second, the material needs to be reorganized to meet those that are implement EU practices, it is the yet-to-be national or local learning objectives. The European fully-defined Diploma Supplement. 12 In the U.S. it is a Union’s efforts to develop “transferable courses” and the set of standards from the U.S. Department of Homeland U.S. common course number initiatives from the several Security that may be imposed on U.S. colleges and states suggest that a method be developed to assemble a universities and non-U.S. students. These standards specific “transferable” course from standard courseware include directory and human resources and education. and local content. The Department claims to be coordinating the Universities in the U.S. generally expect faculty to specifications with the European Community, but there develop courseware as, in the past, they authored are no publications suggesting how or when this will be textbooks. Courseware now requires—as the distance done.13 learning programs understand—a team of multimedia, 10 About half of all colleges and universities use a Microsoft learning design, and assessment specialists to assist operating system. Microsoft does not support the JSR 168 faculty express their domain expertise in course content. portlet specification in its Sharepoint portal. This is a major development effort that publishers could 11 have profitably undertaken if tertiary education had From conversations with Open University’s Niall Sclater and Jason Cole that have not yet been documented. developed specifications to permit published materials to 12 An example was provided at EUNIS 2005 by a presenter (UK), SURF (NL), and DEST (AU) are partnering in the from the University of Warsaw. eFramework for Learning and Research to ensure 13 commonality. The specification processes will have to be A report on some of these differences is expected from sharply accelerated to avoiding delaying software developers. Georgetown University’s Interoperability Center. Discussions 14 are underway to vet U.K. standards with U.S. software The effort is led by Alain Mayeur, Université de suppliers and to bring the JISC service specifications to the Valenciennes. A summary is given in [x]. The project Website U.S. Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC). JISC is www.esup-portail.org.
  5. 5. be used without modification in all major learning university. 16 But information technology executives can systems.15 The IMS initiative for a “common course take actions that will improve performance by supporting cartridge” could resolve this issue. The record so far in the early-adopters of education technology and perhaps achieving agreement does not suggest early success. This “cross the chasm” to main stream faculty. then leaves the larger distance learning programs to bear this capital expense or cooperative organizations among These steps may provide some improved service, universities and colleges to reduce unit costs. The efforts increased productivity, and lower costs with effective of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to make the implementation of education technology. The suggested specialized learning materials from Open University UK steps for those developing the technology: available as open courseware as well as their investment in the materials from MIT and Utah State University may 1. Agree on a common set of APIs for tool have a major impact on the availability of effective portability specific enough that developers can course content. achieve interoperability solely by complying with the specifications. 2. Modify current learning systems to support the 7. The “community” IMS tool interoperability guidelines. 3. Develop new “tools” using the IMS As researchers probe sustainability of open source specifications and guidelines and reprogram or software, they have identified two sharply different types refactor existing tools to become compliant. of communities in higher education. The Sakai Costs will decline as rapidly as new or re- Foundation focuses on the development of software manufactured tools are consolidated into a “code” with the mantra “code rules.” Exchanges of single enterprise learning operating system. information about the Foundation’s work are most often posted on the developer’s list. Much of Sakai’s 4. Develop open standard Web services version of conference programs is especially relevant to Java platform services to support integration with developers. (This may change as the Sakai partners begin administrative and library systems. Follow to influence governance and priorities. The Sakai industry standards if available and global Foundation followed the University of Michigan’s Sakai standards if possible. Project in January 2006). Almost all of the 65,00 registered members of the If those could be accomplished, best estimates from Moodle community are users—teachers, principals, current data suggest student retention could increase by 5 faculty members, and education technologists and to 20%, productivity could increase 5% per year for six researchers. MoodleMoots are local and inexpensive. years, and information technology operating costs could They focus on how to use Moodle for teaching and be reduced by 25% to 40%. learning. A large number of those attending MoodleMoots have financed both their own travel and The cost of courseware could be also reduced by 50 to the low conference fee themselves. The sixteen 90%. MoodleMoots in 2005 had an estimated total attendance of 2,400 people. Within a year every five new Perhaps it is worthwhile to work together rather work participants yields a new institutional implementation separately toward the same objectives. and five additional Moodle forum participants from the implementing institution. References Without articulating his strategy, MoodleMoot founder Sean Koegh may have developed a strategy to build this [1] J. Cole. Using Moodle, Sebastopol, California, capacity for transforming “tacit knowledge” into O’Reilly Media, Inc. (2005). “commonly usable knowledge.” And it helped that O’Reilly Media selected Moodle for its first publication [2] C. Etesse. Leading the Way on Standards–Based e- documenting an enterprise application. The published Learning. Washington, DC, Blackboard Inc. (2004). book conveys a sense of recognized success that no [3] J. Farmer. “Financing Instructional Technology and electronic file alone evidences. Distance Education,” Public Funding of Higher Education: Changing Contexts and New Rationales, pp. 186-214, E. P. St. John, M. D. Parsons eds, 8. A Plan of Action Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins University Press (2004). The urgently need focus on teaching and learning is an [4] J. Farmer. “Open Source in Higher Education,” institutional-level issue; the priority and investment Open Source Software: Days of Dialogue,” Seaside, should come from the highest levels of the college or California, California State University-Monterey Bay (2006). 15 16 In the U.S. the costs for developing a three-unit course Geoffrey Moore [12] describes “core” as the processes that (equivalent to 45 hours in class) has been estimated from distinguish one business from another; all else is “context.” He US$30,000 to US$1,000,000. In the 1990s the cost of would recommend focusing on teaching and learning and developing the three-year baccalaureate programs at Open research. However, in the U.S., five times as much is spent on University UK was confirmed as $US 1 billion. administrative information systems and learning systems.
  6. 6. [5] J. Farmer. “Open Source: Risks, Rewards and Realities,” Computing Services Management Symposium, San Diego, California, ACM SIGUCCS University and College Computing Services, (2006). [6] J. Farmer. “The Commercialization of Open Source,” Open Source and Sustainability Conference, Oxford, England, OSS Watch, University of Oxford (2006). [7] M. Feldstein “LMOS Integration and Specialization,” e-Literate, Albany, New York, (2005). [8] M. Feldstein “The Long Tail of Learning Applications,” e-Literate, Albany, New York, (2005). [9] M. Feldstein “The Portal is the Platform,” e- Literate, Albany, New York, (2005). [10] T. Iiyoshi. “Opportunity is Knocking: Will Education Open the Door?,” Perspectives, April 2006, Palo Alto, California, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2006). [11] M. Keeton. “Best Online Instructional practices: Report of Phase I of an Ongoing study,” Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, vol. 8, nr. 2 (2004). [12] G. Moore. “Dealing with Darwin: The Role of Open Source in Computing,” Open Source Business Conference 2005, San Francisco, California, IDG World Expo (2005). [13] G. Moore. Inside the Tornado, New York, NY, Harper Collins (1995). [14] National Center for Education Statistics. Projections of Education Statistics to 2014. NCES 2005-074, Washington, DC, U.S. Department of Education (2005). [15] M. Pittinsky. Blackboard Building Blocks: 2003 Overview White Paper, Washington, DC, Blackboard Inc. (2003). [16] C. Severance. Response to SUNY’s Request for Comment on SLN2.0. Ann Arbor, Michigan, University of Michigan (2005). [17] C. Severance. “Sakai Technical Overview,” Sakai Conference with OSP, Austin, Texas, University of Michigan (2005). [18] C. Twigg. Course Redesign Improves Learning and Reduces Costs, San Jose, California, National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (2005).