A Robust and Scalable RESTful Web Service for Collecting Student Responses: Student Response System (SRS)

A Robust and Scalable RESTful Web Service for Collecting Student Responses: Student Response System (SRS)

Raoul Pascal Pein (Sør-Trøndelag University College, Norway), John B. Stav (Sør-Trøndelag University College, Norway), Trond M. Thorseth (Sør-Trøndelag University College, Norway) and Joan Lu (University of Hudderseld, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0936-5.ch014
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This paper discusses a model for a RESTful (Representational State Transfer) web service used in education. The “Student Response System” (SRS) has been developed and tested in classrooms for two years within the EduMecca project. The SRS provides a response system, accessible through mobile devices allowing students to submit virtually anonymous responses, i.e., other students are not able to see individual submissions. The system makes strong use of open and flexible standards to allow for external software to control the service with use-case specific interfaces. It is aimed to support as many students using the service in parallel as possible. In this paper, the main performance bottleneck of the system is examined in detail. In order to provide an easy-to-use interface, the mobile devices of the students need to be notified by the service about real-time changes of the data. The benchmark results indicate a high user capacity of the service. It is also a robust approach able to recover quickly after an unusual high request peak.
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1. Background

The focus of this research lies in the development of a fast, robust and easy-to-use web service. During an early development stage of this system, it became clear that the user interface must be intuitive to be non-distracting during lectures. Further, the intended massive use of mobile devices requires a robust concept. Thus, hiding complex concepts and generally simplifying the use of this service, as described by Weiser (1993) are seen to be necessary.

Data sharing and integration in mobile and ubiquitous environments is vital. Ancona, Dodero, Gianuzzi, Locati, and Romagnoli (2001) proposed an architectural model, called Integrated Environment for Scientific Data Entry and Management (IESDEM), that made use of an intermediate data representation layer, where data sharing was made easier with the use of XML. Bellavista, Corradi, Montanari, and Stefanelli (2006) proposed a flexible architecture for the development and implementation of location and context-aware services for heterogeneous data access. The proposed middleware, called “Services with Context awareness and Location awareness for Data Environments” (SCaLaDE), was designed to support Internet data applications for mobile computing.

Chen, Yang, and Zhang (2006) presented their context-aware web services, which were designed to enhance web-based e-business, as their first step toward tackling the challenges posed by ubiquitous web services. Unlike e-business solutions, the SRS does not need to provide support for complex session management. In this case, a lightweight solution such as the “Representational State Transfer” (REST) by Fielding (2000) appears to be more appropriate.

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