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IWMW 2000: Newcastle University Case Study

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IWMW 2000: Newcastle University Case Study

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Slides used in "Newcastle University Case Study" plenary talk at the IWMW 2000 event held at the University of Bath on 6-8 September 2000.

See http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2000/sessions#mcdonald

Slides used in "Newcastle University Case Study" plenary talk at the IWMW 2000 event held at the University of Bath on 6-8 September 2000.

See http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2000/sessions#mcdonald

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IWMW 2000: Newcastle University Case Study

  1. 1. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc The Joined up Web - Newcastle University, a case study Dr Tony McDonald Faculty of Medicine Computing Centre (FMCC) Medical School University of Newcastle upon Tyne
  2. 2. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Background • Networked Learning Environments (NLE) project (TLTP 3-86) • Four Consortium partners Newcastle University Medical Programme scalability issues led to development of curriculum database Nottingham University Medical Programme Durham University Biomedical Sciences Northumbria University Subjects Allied to Medicine ‘non-funded’ partner - Sheffield University Medical School • Scalable Systems - eg no individual web pages written - extract from Database and output to other formats (HTML, RTF, PDF, XML-RPC, SOAP, etc)
  3. 3. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Development Software/Hardware systems • Core System - Zope – Object orientated web delivery system • Rapid development of systems (Sheffield site created in < 1 week). • Excellent database connectivity / very rich permissions structure. Plug-in ‘products’, separation of code/content • Extensive use of ‘open-source’ / free software – Zope, Python, PHP, MySQL, Omnimark – UNIX servers / Solaris – Important for moving to other sites
  4. 4. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Choice of Content Management System • Project start - July 1998 • System requirements: – Low cost, scalable, easy to use • System chosen - Zope – Freedom from file ‘tyranny’ (.php3, .pl, .html etc.) – Excellent permissions system – Extensive database connectivity – Novel features - ‘undo’, ‘versions’
  5. 5. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Integration - MIS • Pivotal to a scalable system – Eg module codes, works for 10, works for 10,000 • Possible users/Simultaneous users distinction • Data Dumps - preferable to ‘live’ systems – Data warehousing – Student & staff info. • Leads to authentication systems • DON’T – Write single pages for a course, derive from database
  6. 6. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Integration - Other ‘MLEs’ • Data dumps from MIS • Need primary key – eg Module code, student UCAS number • Reuse existing management material – eg module -> exam info, student-> course taken – Don’t reenter student data – Don’t reenter module, course data
  7. 7. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Working with other sites • Scalability – Entering data a ‘no-no’ – Data source of staff/student/module information is essential – Zope allows editing site wherever a browser is available – Data Ownership (hosting our data at Newcastle? - no chance!) – Different Data structures not a problem
  8. 8. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc NLE in action • All sites hosted at Newcastle – Designed for portability in mind • Notts bought server to run their NLE • UNIX backend, MySQL, Zope, Python, PHP3 • Consortium sites have great autonomy • Can use ZEO to distribute load over other servers
  9. 9. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Successes • Newcastle using NLE technologies extensively – MOFS (6200 modules, authenticated editing, resource upload and PDF output) • Nottingham purchased server • Addition of non-funded partner - Sheffield University • Generally high regard from staff/students • Remote Admins taking to Zope quite well
  10. 10. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Problems • NIH? – Not generally a problem • Data Ownership – Reluctance to share data, eg staff ‘pet’ projects – Not always evident who owns the data • Resistance to change – Senior mgmt might agree, but at ground zero… • F2F communication - Invaluable
  11. 11. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc The ‘NLE’ way • Scalability • One source of data, ideally one data owner • Repurpose existing data • Create conduits (eg editing/uploading screens), not terminii (eg “I’ll upload that for you”)
  12. 12. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Summary • Obstacles (data ownership, data structures) can be formidable, but committed people at the sharp end make a real difference • Open source systems help greatly – Easy to move to other sites, open data structures, lower cost • Need bottom-up and top-down driving – Staff/student & Dean/PVC • Hosting many sites at one location – No big deal (disk, processor and OS permitting)
  13. 13. http://nle.ncl.ac.uk/nle/doc Information Sources • Zope - Object Orientated Web Delivery Platform – http://www.zope.org/ • MySQL - Open Source RDBMS – http://www.mysql.com/ • Python - Scripting Language – http://www.python.org/ • Omnimark - Text Processing Language – http://www.omnimark.com • Roxen - Graphically Rich Web Server – http://www.roxen.com

Editor's Notes

  • The FMCC was set up to provide C&amp;IT support for the Medical Faculty at Newcastle

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