E-Learning Function Integration with Corona 2

E-Learning Function Integration with Corona 2

Marco Pedroni (CARID Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 4
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-845-1.ch030
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Abstract

The aim of the Corona project, which was launched in 2003 in the context of methodological-technological research on the subject of e-learning carried out in collaboration with CARID (“Centro di Ateneo per la Ricerca, l’Innovazione Didattica e l’Istruzione a Distanza”, the research center of the University of Ferrara which studies e-learning methods and techonologies and applies them in real learning contexts) and the Omniacom Consortium, is to facilitate the integration of functional modules (synchronous, such as chat rooms and virtual classrooms, and asynchronous such as the production and provision of Learning Objects, forums, assessment and tracking tools), originating from different development environments, in a single online interactive environment.
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Introduction

The aim of the Corona project, which was launched in 2003 in the context of methodological-technological research on the subject of e-learning carried out in collaboration with CARID (“Centro di Ateneo per la Ricerca, l’Innovazione Didattica e l’Istruzione a Distanza”, the research center of the University of Ferrara which studies e-learning methods and techonologies and applies them in real learning contexts) and the Omniacom Consortium, is to facilitate the integration of functional modules (synchronous, such as chat rooms and virtual classrooms, and asynchronous such as the production and provision of Learning Objects, forums, assessment and tracking tools), originating from different development environments, in a single online interactive environment.

Possible Choices for an E-Learning Platform

The project commences with an analysis of a situation common to training organizations aiming to provide e-learning courses: such organizations inevitably come up against the problem of what software tools to choose in order to support online interaction between content experts, tutors, and students.

There are three possible choices: acquisition of a commercial platform, implementation of an open-source platform, or proprietary development.

The first choice enables the purchaser to select from a wide range of products that are important as regards both quantity and quality: the market of this sector, far from being monopolized by the leading software houses, actually offers dozens of well-consolidated solutions.

Identifying the best product for the purchaser’s goals and requirements is not a simple task, inasmuch as the enterprises that produce and provide training often have organizational peculiarities which are not easy to match up with the internal structure of platforms designed with general application criteria: the same type of learning proposal, if characterized by complex forms of modularity can come up against obstacles in the platform’s standardized management.

The second choice differs from the first mainly as regards cost, not linked to the purchase of the licence but deriving from the need to have qualified computer science engineers for the installation, configuration and, even more important, adaptation of the product to specific requirements, and this entails a considerable investment in terms of time and resources.

The third choice obviously allows for maximum freedom and flexibility of development as well as extensive adaptation to already existing organisational structures, but requires the availability of a technical staff with the capacities to satisfy, by means of programming tools, the function, and interaction requirements desired by the methodological research and development department.

Concept of Interoperability

A further aspect to be carefully considered in the context of the suggested hypotheses is the degree of platform interoperability, that is, the capacity of the platform to implement content modules developed in different environments: this capacity does not, obviously, refer to the banal possibility to download such modules or to use them in stream by means of standard plug-ins, but rather the possibility to implement software procedures that support the tracking of user activities.

In conclusion, the limitations of these three possibilities are such as to render problematic a definitive judgment regarding the best choice to make in order to ensure the efficiency, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of the results, even in relation to individual situations: from this panorama, the objective difficulty in embarking on such initiatives experienced by institutions involved in online learning methodological and technological research clearly emerges.

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Corona Project

In an attempt to tackle the entire issue and identify possible solutions aiming at overcoming the operational and economic limitations posed by the various hypotheses, it is important to consider two fundamental aspects: the need to interact with preexisting databases and software environments and the need to select, customize or construct ex novo interaction functions able to support the teaching methods adopted.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web Services: Method of data exchange and functional interfacing between software modules located on the Web, based on the sharing of protocols for the signalling of the functional features of each module, for their research and remote use, and for the management of incoming and outgoing data flows from the modules.

AJAX: Acronym for asynchronous javascript and XML, a Web-based client-server interface which enables the document on the client’s browser to request and load data from the server—through a special function in Javascript language—without reloading the entire document in dynamic mode: this option enables the efficacious management of high quality networked interfaces, thereby optimizing information flows.

Interoperability: The possibility of platforms to share functions, particularly those linked to the use of content modules which, in order to be used by the interoperable platforms, must adapt to the use of specific protocols (LOM, AICC, SCORM). The aim of the Corona project is to extend the interoperability of the platforms from the simple use of learning objects to all of the interaction functions.

Platform: Environment for the management of learning interaction which involves, with different roles and access levels, the various figures implicated in the learning process, supports the various synchronous and asynchronous functions of the same, and enables the use of content modules (learning objects).

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