Context-Aware Cloud Computing for Personal Learning Environment

Context-Aware Cloud Computing for Personal Learning Environment

Feng Chen, Ali H. Al-Bayatti, Francois Siewe
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9924-3.ch009
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Virtual learning means to learn from social interactions in a virtual platform that enables people to study anywhere and at any time. Current Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are normally institution centric and are designed to support formal learning, which do not support lifelong learning. These limitations led to the research of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), which are learner-centric and provide lifelong access as well as the ability of a user to produce (share) and consume information resources easily. In this research, a context-aware cloud based PLE architecture is proposed, which is driven by a Context-Aware Engine to acquire, filter and interpret context information based on the preferences defined in user profile, where cloud computing is taken as service infrastructure. An illustrative personal learning scenario is investigated to demonstrate the proof of concept implementation. The results show the benefits of the proposed architecture on resource utilisation and user experience.
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1. Introduction

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) (Chavan, 2004) in the last decade have brought about the greatest changes in the delivery of education allowing learners to access multimedia course materials. However, VLEs are still institution-centric; they are designed to support formal learning; teachers control the materials and services that are made available to learners. These limitations that affect VLEs have led to the development of a new generation of VLE - the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) (Attwell, 2007).

PLEs require a flexible learning environment which enables people to study anywhere at any time. In this sense, PLEs are a type of pervasive systems (ubiquitous computing). A context-aware PLE will be able to sense continuously the context of the user and use this context information to adapt its services to changing situations in a calm and non-obtrusive manner. Since cloud computing can provide wide access to broad storage of learning materials, facilities, and other services, cloud computing is becoming the preferred environment for PLEs with large scalability, dynamic collaboration and flexible resource requirements. With the significant advances in information and communications technology, mobile cloud computing has emerged as one of the fast growing segments of the IT industries. Mobile cloud computing is a kind of cloud-based context-aware system. A key challenge of the cloud based context-aware system is the increase of information in a given context.

In this research, a cloud based context-aware PLE is introduced and implemented. The concept of the research arises from activities in cloud computing, context-aware computing and PLE research. This research will link these three research themes and make significant new contributions. It is novel and timely for software to be adapted to take advantage of the advanced cloud based context-aware technology to support the development of the PLE system.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Policy: A policy is a predetermined action pattern that is repeated by an entity whenever certain system conditions appear.

Context-Aware System: Context-aware System is a system that uses context to provide relevant information and/or services to the user, where relevancy depends on the user's task.

Personal Learning Environment (PLE): PLE provides the learner with a wide variety of services and hands over control to the learner to select, use, and mash up the services the way one deems fit. In this research, PLE is defined as a system that has the ability to filter e-resources and predict user preferences based on user context.

Web 2.0: Web 2.0 describes World Wide Web sites that use technology beyond the static pages of earlier Web sites. Examples of Web 2.0 include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, folksonomies, video sharing sites, hosted services, Web applications, and mashups.

Service Oriented Computing (SOC): SOC is the computing paradigm that utilises services as fundamental resources for developing applications. Services are self-describing and computational resources that support rapid, automatic, low-cost of distributed systems.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE): VLE: is a software system used to deliver online education, taking advantage of web-based methods and tools such as discussion forums, chats and automated tests.

Cloud Computing: Cloud computing is a model for enabling on-demand network access to a shared pool of computing resources that can be managed with minimal efforts.

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