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IT Infrastructure for Teaching and Learning: Are we there yet? James Dalziel Professor of Learning Technology & Director, Macquarie University E-learning Centre of Excellence (MELCOE) james@melcoe. mq. edu. au www. melcoe. mq. edu. au Presentation for CPD E-Learning Special Interest Research Group Macquarie University, September 14 th, 2005
Overview • MELCOE Background & Projects • What are the components of IT Infrastructure for Teaching and Learning? • The future of Learning Management Systems? • The Learning Object Dream – Myths and realities – My last attempt at a solution • Conclusion: Are we there yet? – No, but….
MELCOE Background • MELCOE = Macquarie E-learning Centre of Excellence – Research Centre dedicated to building the next generation of e -learning and information technologies – Unlike other research groups, if we identify key gaps in the IT infrastructure needed for education, we go build solutions – Mixture of educational and technical experts – “tech heavy” – Strong focus on open standards and open source software • Started in early 2003, grown to over 25 staff across the research centre and spin-offs (LAMS Foundation & LAMS International Pty Ltd) – Staff mainly at Macquarie, but also Brisbane, London & Turkey • Over $5 M in external funding to date
MELCOE Projects • COLIS = Collaborative Online Learning and Information Services – Standards based (IMS) systems integration for HE e-learning and information services – Included LMS, Learning Object Repository, Portal, Federated Search Gateway, Digital Rights – Follow-on project (IIS&R) included vendor “substititions” from • Microsoft, Oracle, Novell, Web. CT, Blackboard, Endeavour, Exlibris, myinternet, Harvest Road, Intrallect, etc – IIS&R also included education research projects from • Macquarie/OTEN, West. One/Curtin, Murdoch, Monash, Tasmanian Consortium, and CETIS (UK) • Project now completed, “COLIS book” published
MELCOE Projects • MAMS = Meta Access Management System – Solutions for single-sign-on, federated search and access, repositories & digital rights – Follow-on project to COLIS – targetted the hardest COLIS problems with a well funded, three year project – Halfway to date – demonstrated solutions for federated identity and access (using Shibboleth), DSpace and Fedora repository integration, authenticated federated search, XACML access • ASK-OSS = Australian Service for Knowledge of Open Source Software – New project – only just announced – Advisory service on open source software for research and education (similar to OSS-Watch at Oxford, UK)
MELCOE Projects • LAMS = Learning Activity Management System – Next generation e-learning software based on the concepts of Learning Design and some lessons learned from COLIS – In developed for four years, in trials for two years, public release in April 2005 as open source software – Now in use across the world – over 100 schools, 40 universities, 15 vocational colleges – across Aust, NZ, UK, etc – Just started “LAMS @ Macquarie” – first whole of university rollout of LAMS – About to launch the “LAMS Community” – a global website for discussing use of LAMS and sharing LAMS sequences
IT Infrastructure for T&L • What are the components of a “seamless” IT Infrastructure that supports Teaching and Learning? • Some Sample views – “Enterprise applications” view of a university • Logical Architecture (JD) • COLIS Abstract Model • Architecture across HE domains (JD) – Detailed IT architectures of learning and information systems • • • COLIS “chunks” IMS Digital Repositories Interoperability - scope MIT Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) Carnegie Mellow Learning Systems Architecture Lab diagrams JISC/DEST “E-Framework” – COLIS Global Use Case and Learning Object diagrams
University IT Logical Architecture Client Security / Authentication Directory Services Application Modules ERP Finance and HR; Library systems; Student Information System Learning Management System; Learning Content Management System Customer Relationship Management; Content Managgement System Computer Assisted Assessment, etc Messaging, Integration, Workflow
A Current (ideal) University IT environment Client Web Browser Security / Authentication Portal Login / Single Sign On Directory Services LDAP/X. 500 Directory Services Application Modules ERP Finance & HR Student Information System Library systems Learning Management System Messaging, Integration, Workflow Core Services - Integration APIs
COLIS - Abstract model of University IT Architecture
Convergence of Higher Education Domains IT Services E-RESEARCH SCHOLARLY INFORMATION E-LEARNING User Interfaces Applications Middleware Common services Infrastructure Enterprise Info DBs Datasets Repositories Knowledge Repositories Learning Object Repositories
COLIS “Chunks” Learning Object Management Content Management Library E-Services Integration E-Reserve E-Journals Directories Learning Management Digital Rights Management
IMS Digital Repositories Interoperability (DRI)
COLIS Global Use Case: ASCILITE 2003 Version (Final) Authority Creator Cataloguer Arranger Infoseeker Learner Facilitator Monitor Do Learning Facilitate Learning Monitor Learning Do Assessment Facilitate Assessment Monitor Assessment Prescribe Author Add Metadata & Submit to Learning Object Repository (LOR) Outcomes/ Competencies Design Learning Activity Search LORs via Gateway for LOs & Learning Designs Review Metadata & Resources (& Licenses if DRM) Quality Assurance Obtain Links or Download LOs & Learning Designs Package New/ Modified LO/LD Structure LOs & Activities Structure Assessment Certify Organise Student Roles/Groups Student Login Student Searches Record
So what is a Learning Object anyway? Run-time tool description XML Learning Object Meta-data XML Data interchange XML “Rendering” XML
IT Infrastructure for T&L • Some reflections: 1. Extremely complex problem space 2. The diagrams presented are only the simplest of high level sketches – the amount of detail below is great 3. There are many inter-connections and dependencies between different systems, with different cultural origins (E-learning, IT services, Libraries, E-Research) 4. IT Infrastructure exists at several “layers”: Hardware & networks, “middleware”, applications, user interface 5. There are very few people with expertise in pedagogy who are involved in discussions of this kind
IT Infrastructure for T&L • Some wider reflections: 1. Relevant open standards relatively immature 2. Closed vs open source for integration 3. Overlapping and competing vendor products/hype 4. The challenge of “Service Oriented Architectures”
IT Infrastructure for T&L • While there are many systems that impact on T&L, what is at the core? – – – Learning Management System/Learning Platform** Learning Content/Learning Objects Learning Design systems Virtual Classroom systems “Single focus” learning tools – Integration with Library systems (Reading Lists, Repositories, Search) – Integration with Portal/Single-Sign-On – Integration with Student Records – Integration with HR/Finance
The future of LMSs? • Traditional Learning Management Systems are coming under pressure from many angles – Financial – Functionality – Innovation – Alternative solutions (eg, Portals) – Open source systems (eg, Moodle) • Significant existing investment in current systems, yet concerns about “lock-in” and lack of flexibility for future • User experience “lock-in” vs Technical “lock-in” • A vision for a new approach to the LMS question….
Enterprise Management Knowledge Portal Student Area Repository Access Student Area Course Areas Learning Activities Student Area Course Areas
Portal • Student area – Personalised look and feel – Personalised portlets choice of views and services – e-Portfolio style functionality • Course area – Course details – Calendar, email, etc style service portlets – “Current VLE” type functions
Repository • Student area – Personal file area – Saved searches – Other personal resources • Course area – Access to course content and Learning Objects – Access to search services and databases, datasets and computational services – Reading lists
Learning Activities • Student area – Social software style tools (blogs, wikis, etc) – Informal learning tools (student created collaborative tasks and sequences - student controlled LAMS) • Course area – Teacher created/led sequences of activities (LAMS) – Links to resources in sequences
The Learning Object Dream • There is are some explicit or implicit dreams hidden behind the millions spent on LOs – “automatically find the perfect object to suit the exact learning needs of each student at the exact moment they need it” – “if each teacher built one small, excellent e-learning resource, and shared it with everyone else, then planning efficiency would go through the roof together with improved quality” • Is the dream a reality? – No – lots of money spent, but little success to date • Little use of Learning Objects at the chalkface • Almost no adaptation and re-use • Is the dream worth another try?
The Learning Object Dream • There is are some explicit or implicit dreams hidden behind the millions spent on LOs – “automatically find the perfect object to suit the exact learning needs of each student at the exact moment they need it” – “if each teacher built one small, excellent e-learning resource, and shared it with everyone else, then planning efficiency would go through the roof together with improved quality” • Is the dream a reality? – No – lots of money spent, but little success to date • Little use of Learning Objects at the chalkface • Almost no adaptation and re-use • Is the dream worth another try? One more….
The Learning Design Dream • The principles of the LAMS Community – Learning Designs/Learning Activities focus, rather than simply content – Community focus rather than repository focus – Search based on free-text searching, not metadata searching – Very simple licenses not complex licenses (and nothing on licenses) – Automated usage tracking/rating systems not complex peer review/approval systems (and nothing on usage) – Learning software and learning content is free; not requiring payment – Content can be shared and adapted by others; not just fixed/static (ie, adaptation not permitted) • This is my last attempt at the dream, otherwise I’ll give up
The LAMS Community • We are about to launch the “LAMS Community” – a global website for communities of LAMS users to: – Discuss the use of LAMS, new features, tech issues – **Share sequences, search for sequences, comment on and rate sequences, and get statistics on downloads – Find colleagues with similar interests, form sub-communities • We will be encouraging “open content” licensing of LAMS sequences • Is this the birth of “Open Source Teaching”?
Conclusion • Challenges of IT Architectures for T&L • The future of LMSs • The Dream of Learning Objects • What we’re working on at MELCOE