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Monoliths, APIs and Extensability - The past and future directions of CMS


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Invited talk for Simon Fraser University on future directions of CMS extensibility, presented June 2005

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Monoliths, APIs and Extensability - The past and future directions of CMS

  1. 1. Course Management Systems: Past, Present and Future Scott Leslie May 11, 2005
  2. 2. Goals for the Presentation <ul><li>Discuss the state of CMS from the perspective of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>maximizing flexibility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>while </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>preserving/increasing quality and services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(and at least maintaining costs) </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Outline <ul><li>History/Context </li></ul><ul><li>Enterprise and ‘Standalone’ CMS </li></ul><ul><li>Service Oriented Architectures & the E-Learning Framework </li></ul><ul><li>Sakai, Open Source </li></ul><ul><li>Other Alternatives </li></ul>
  4. 4. What do I mean when I use the term “Enterprise” BUT FIRST…
  5. 6. Enterprise Systems…. <ul><ul><li>too often has meant “large monolithic systems” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>should mean “systems that are core to your business” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>in CMS world, is under pressure to transform </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Enterprise Services…. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>system level services which provide a coherent level of functionality across all applications and tie in with core administrative systems </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Enterprise Service…. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The levels and kinds of real “services” you wish to provide to users </li></ul></ul>
  6. 7. Pre- & Early CMS Phase 1 st Wiki developed IU’s OnCourse 1993 1995 1994 1996 ToolBook (Common Object Request Broker Arch.) 2.0 early explosion of the WWW
  7. 8. ‘Standalone’ CMS Mature 2000 1998 1997 1999 “ Landonline” WSDL 1.0 Published 1 st Implementation of XML-RPC XML W3C Recommendation IMS Enterprise 1.0 WebCT 3 released BB 3 Released Rapid growth of interest and adoption of initial CMS
  8. 9. ‘Enterprise’ CMS Phase 2001 2005 2003 2002 2004 ‘ Blogs’ explode as a phenomenon Wikipaedia launched Carnegie Mellon ‘elearning services stack’ diagram The ‘E-Learning Framework’ released 2.0 1 st OKI OSIDS 1.0
  9. 10. Pre-CMS Model Course 1 Course 2 Course 3 <ul><li>Creates new instance each time </li></ul><ul><li>- People and Software don’t scale </li></ul><ul><li>- No control by instructor </li></ul>
  10. 11. Early Generation CMS CMS ‘Wrapper’ Interact with set of tools on course by course instance <ul><li>Scales better </li></ul><ul><li>Promotes silo’d model </li></ul><ul><li>Restricts tool choices </li></ul>
  11. 12. ‘ Enterprise’ CMS Dept 1 Dept 2 <ul><li>Provides: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>portal level services </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>content reuse across courses, depts, institution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>multi-unit branding, logic </li></ul></ul>Distributed Unit Administration Enterprise-wide Administration
  12. 13. Current Adoption Rates from Hawkins, Rudy and Madsen, “2003 Educause Core Data Survey,” roughly 90% overall
  13. 14. Current Situation in B.C. <ul><li>19 of 27 institutions currently using WebCT </li></ul><ul><li>5+ homegrown systems </li></ul><ul><li>6-8 smaller institutions experimenting with Moodle </li></ul><ul><li>SFU signed up as SEPP ‘partner’ on Sakai </li></ul>
  14. 15. How are Enterprise CMS different? <ul><li>Typically re-developed, re-designed and re-architected </li></ul><ul><li>Database-driven (and database-dependant) </li></ul><ul><li>Improved ‘out of the box’ integration with other major enterprise systems (SIS, Library) </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Portal’ Functionality; extending into new parts of organization; prospect of increased vertical integration </li></ul><ul><li>Multi-unit role, authorization and administration capabilities </li></ul><ul><li>Content sharing and reuse across course, department and institutional boundaries </li></ul><ul><li>Mature APIs to allow integration of 3 rd party products </li></ul>
  15. 16. BUT…
  16. 17. Choices and Cost <ul><li>CMS, even ‘enterprise CMS,’ are often criticized for lacking flexibility, requiring a ‘one-sized fits all’ approach </li></ul><ul><li>Even though they have APIs, these have not spawned an explosion of 3 rd party or discipline-specific tools </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Whose API do you build to? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>APIs only allow so much integration </li></ul></ul><ul><li>and oh yeah…they’ve gotten pretty expensive </li></ul>
  17. 18. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) definition <ul><li>“ A service-oriented architecture is essentially a collection of services. These services communicate with each other. The communication can involve either simple data passing or it could involve two or more services coordinating some activity. Some means of connecting services to each other is needed. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Service-oriented architectures are not a new thing. The first service-oriented architecture for many people in the past was with the use DCOM or Object Request Brokers (ORBs) based on the CORBA [Common Object Request Broker: Architecture] specification.” </li></ul><ul><li>from “Web Services and Service-Oriented Architectures,” </li></ul>
  18. 19. E-learning frameworks <ul><li>Emerging high level frameworks that outline ‘services’ needed to provide comprehensive e-learning architecture (larger than just CMS) </li></ul><ul><li>Early instances found in Carnegie Mellon’s ‘E-learning Stack” </li></ul><ul><li>Evolved into </li></ul><ul><ul><li>IMS Abstract Framework which inspired </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>JISC/Industry Canada E-learning Framework (ELF) </li></ul></ul>
  19. 20. Carnegie Mellon’s Original Elearning Services Stack Diagram
  20. 21. IMS “Abstract Framework”
  21. 22. JISC’s “E-Learning Framework” (cf. www.
  22. 23. OKI Open Service Interface Definitions (OSIDs) <ul><li>“ The OSIDs are an abstraction layer between the programmer and the enterprise infrastructure systems of his or her campus. </li></ul><ul><li>“ This approach offers a number of important benefits to applications designed to the OSIDs: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple integration with existing infrastructure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Local innovations can be shared across campuses or universities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adaptation to new technology without destabilizing the overall environment” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>from “OKI: About Specifications,” </li></ul>
  23. 24. OKI OSID diagram
  24. 25. So what are the typical “Common Services?”
  25. 26. Common Services across Frameworks and Systems Identifier Identifier Roles Types Search Search Workflow Workflow Scheduling and Calendar Scheduling Filing and Resources Filing Filing Messaging Messaging Messaging Logging Logging Logging Authorization Authorization Authorization Authentication Authentication Authentication CHEF (Sakai 1.0) Services OKI Common Services JISC Common Services
  26. 27. Put another way… <ul><li>When I access any e-learning tool, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>I should be automatically logged in with the appropriate permissions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If the tool is a part of a larger ‘workflow’ it should be able to contact me in my desired locations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I should be able to schedule activities with the tool and by the tool </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If it’s searchable I should be able to search it from wherever I want </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>it should report my usage back to a useful location in an actionable way </li></ul></ul>
  27. 28. Sakai <ul><li>Sakai 2.0 released June 2005 </li></ul><ul><li>Promise of Sakai: To deliver both an “application framework and associated CMS tools” </li></ul><ul><li>Current ‘Reality’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Starting with a number of homegrown products (Coursework, OnCourse, Stellar …) and are trying to bring these into a new framework </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Early releases (1 & 1.5) look mostly like just another CMS </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Upcoming 2.0 release, along with proof-of-concept demos with Navigo assessment tool, Sakai and Vista, will be a major milestone </li></ul></ul>
  28. 29. Tool Portability Profile <ul><li>“ The ultimate goals of the Sakai Tool Portability Profile and the Sakai Java Framework is to provide an environment where tools and the services to support those tools can be dropped in as &quot;units of expansion&quot; or &quot;building blocks&quot; as to allow an organization to assemble the componentized units of functionality together to solve their particular application problem.” </li></ul><ul><li>In theory, a profile of the OKI OSIDS would an OPEN standard for tool integration, not just with Sakai, but with other OSID implementers </li></ul><ul><li>In practice, early releases have relied on internal Sakai API for much of the integration </li></ul>
  29. 30. Other Open Source <ul><li> currently lists at least 46 known OS options </li></ul><ul><li>ATutor </li></ul><ul><ul><li>developed out of U of T </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SCORM and IMS CP support; integration with TILE repository </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PHP-based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>currently “watching” OKI but hesitant about adopting before benefits are clear </li></ul></ul>
  30. 31. Other Open Source II <ul><li>Moodle </li></ul><ul><ul><li>originated as PhD project by Australian aimed at a CMS to support more constructivist style education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>currently “many hundreds” of adoptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>SCORM and IMS CP support; repository in development; supports Shibboleth and CAS authentication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PHP-based </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>currently “watching” OKI and TPP/TIP but hesitant about adopting before benefits are clear </li></ul></ul><ul><li>.LRN </li></ul><ul><ul><li>developed at MIT on top of existing OpenACS Portal technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>recently acknowledged by ADL as SCORM capable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>supports Unix PAM and LDAP authentication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>written in TCL </li></ul></ul>
  31. 32. Loosely coupled or alternative approaches
  32. 33. Important Recent Announcements <ul><li>WebCT chairing IMS Tools Interop group ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>IMS to partner with OKI on next OSIDS ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>IBM partners on Sakai project ( ) </li></ul><ul><li>WebCT Campus Edition 6 Public Beta Commences ( ) </li></ul>
  33. 34. Important Upcoming Milestones <ul><li>Sakai 2.0 release </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mid-June 2005 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Alt-i Lab 2005 Tools Interop Demo between WebCT, Sakai, QuestionMark </li></ul><ul><ul><li>June 20-22 in Sheffield, UK </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sakai 3.0 release </li></ul><ul><ul><li>end of 2005 </li></ul></ul>
  34. 35. Recent ‘Relevant Read’ <ul><li>Rebecca Sausner, “Course Management: Ready for Prime Time,” in University Buisness , May, 2005. </li></ul><ul><li>Compares 4 large institutions with 4 different CMS implementations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Marshall U. – WebCT Vista </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>U of Cincinnati – Blackboard Enterprise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>U Michigan – Sakai </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Berry College - Jenzabar </li></ul></ul>
  35. 36. SOAs and Workflow <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ This does, however, raise one potential issue around workflow for web services: the need for service specifications to be written with workflow in mind... This means that anyone thinking of deploying a web service that may be used within an automated workflow really needs to consider, in advance, the needs of the workflow system when designing the service interface. Because workflow, like security, is heavily dependent on the deployment choices made in an implementation environment, generalization and standardization of “workflow-aware” services may prove problematic. “ </li></ul></ul><ul><li>cf. also OKI Workflow OSID, at maturity level 1 - </li></ul>
  36. 37. Food for Thought <ul><li>Is it possible to achieve “enterprise quality service” without imposing or assuming a well-defined, hierarchical structure? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the other pieces of the envisioned learning environment, in addition to a CMS, and how should these interact with the CMS? </li></ul><ul><li>What level is the appropriate level to standardize at? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Course? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Instructor? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Program? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Department or Faculty? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Institution? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>And WHAT , specifically, is it important to standardize on? </li></ul>
  37. 38. Discipline specific tools <ul><li>cf. Mark Notess, “Discipline-Specific Online Learning Tools for Humanities Students: Exploring the Tool Gap,” </li></ul><ul><li>cf. Oliver, K. (2001). “Recommendations for student tools in online course management systems.” Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 13 (1), 47-70 ( </li></ul>
  38. 39. JISC E-Learning Framework IMS Abstract Framework WebCT PowerLinks BlackBoard BuildingBlocks OKI OSIDs