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A reading guide to some of the key ELF papers

Sarah Holyfield
11 Apr, 2005
There are a number of key documents in this folder that provide the thinking behind, and rationale for, the Frameworks and Tools strand. Whilst they tend to have a technical focus, they contain many valuable discussions, insights and explanations. The following provides a summary of these and suggests where readers might like to dip in if they want to know more.

The following are papers that appear in the Key Framework Resources section -

Trends and Issues in E-Learning Infrastructure Development

This paper provides a valuable snapshot of what is happening in the domain of e-learning, and a summary of current trends in the development of e-learning infrastructure. It aims to provide a state of play overview rather than a state of the art commentary with a view to raising questions about the future... the hope is that it will stimulate more concentrated debate so as to assist all stakeholders in making considered judgements in a field that continues to be full of uncertainties.

Section 2.1 provides an interesting and accessible snapshot of the trends that are taking place in e-learning at the moment, both in the users themselves and the technology they use, which is wide ranging and well worth a read, concluding with the important point that Adopting evolving infrastructure does not necessarily lead to transformation in learning, education and training.

The next section looks at interoperability and standards, and whilst this area is in some ways deeply technical, it is also fundamental to the process of developing more flexible systems.

Service oriented approaches are explored in the following section. These have enabled a shift from monolithic application silos, and are being driven by - organisations' need to enable business process management and support organisational flexibility.

This is followed by a discussion of the issues concerning networks and connectivity. The last two sections look at General Application Trends and Open Source Inititiatives. The technologies likely to affect application development include portals, collaborative environments, blogging, streaming, ubiquitous computing environments, mobile devices, simulation and virtual reality, gaming and role-playing environments, and the perennial possibility that a totally new paradigm will emerge in user interaction with computing.

All of these are described, and the increasing acceptance of open source software solutions is explored.

There is a very extensive and valuable set of resources provided in an Appendix, including a large number of international links.

The e-Learning Framework: A summary

This paper provides a quick overview of the services identified so far within the e-Learning Framework activity. To see the current state of the e-Learning Framework, and look at the details of the service definitions, go to the “ELF website”:

This paper accompanies the paper, Service-Oriented Frameworks: Modelling the infrastructure for the next generation of e-Learning Systems, it should be accessible to the interested, yet less technically oriented reader.

The first section of this paper provides a bit of background to the e-Learning Framework (ELF) – In May 2004, JISC, DEST and Industry Canada agreed to collaborate on testing the potential of an expanded JISC framework with a view to becoming an international e-Learning Framework

The core of the paper then provides an accessible overview of services with a diagram showing the set of services which are defined within the ELF, followed by a list of these with brief descriptions.

Finally, the question of ‘gap analysis’ is addressed – The framework will be a living document, requiring ongoing updates and validation to identify issues and gaps in service factoring and incorporate progress in standardisation, and the role of the ELF as a strategic tool is discussed.

Service-Oriented Frameworks: Modelling the infrastructure for the next generation of e-Learning Systems

This paper explains the potential benefits to the e-learning community of adopting a service-oriented frameworks approach to infrastructure development, and the additional activities required to realise these benefits.

This paper is likely to be appropriate for the more technically oriented reader and provides a description of the vision offered by Service Oriented Frameworks, and an explanation of some of the concepts and issues. It accompanies the paper The e-Learning Framework: A summary

The aim of this paper is to

• Provide a common set of concepts and terms that can be used in conversations about e-learning infrastructure

• Present a case for developing and maintaining service-oriented e-learning technical frameworks

• Enable the audience to understand the nature of framework and its components

• Describe the supporting activities that are required to realise the benefits of a framework

• Examine some possible next steps in developing an international e-learning technical framework as a collaborative activity

Firstly it explains the benefits of this approach to a range of stakeholders including policy makers, organisations that deliver and manage training/learning, communities of practice and suppliers and developers of e-learning services and content.

The next sections explore and explain the key concepts relating to service oriented approaches and looks at the relationships between frameworks, reference models, designs and artefacts.

The question of constructing frameworks and defining services are then discussed along with the role of standards.

In the final sections of the paper, the ELF is discussed, In February 2004 the JISC released a technical framework to support e-learning (ELF), which was developed as a way of making sense of its funded development activities within the learning and teaching space, and to focus future efforts. along with the view to becoming an international e-Learning Framework

A Technical Framework to support e-Learning (Feb 2004)

This paper provides the background and case for e-Learning Framework (ELF). The paper first discusses the rationale for developing a service oriented framework for managed learning environments (MLE) and e-learning, and then proposes a framework with a brief description of each service.

It is intended as a starting point. The service definitions will need refinement and expansion and many of the details have to be worked out. Additional services will almost certainly be identified and some of the existing ones may be merged or dropped. It is also likely that the standards and specifications listed will not be completely correct, with new ones emerging from time to time. This document is therefore offered to help open discussion. ELF has already moved on from the version presented in this paper.

Section 1 explores the case for a technical framework to support MLEs and e-Learning. It explains the benefits for teachers and learners, and institutions. It explains how this approach can help address some of the problems caused by the presence of ‘giant components’ (eg VLEs, Student record systems, library management systems etc), such as overlap of functions and data.

An accessible explanation of service oriented architecture is then provided - A service-oriented architecture is an approach to joining up systems within enterprises. It is a relatively new approach, but is rapidly gaining popularity because of the lower costs of integration coupled with flexibility and simplification of configuration. A clear explanation of the different ways in which systems can be integrated is provided along with how frameworks can help.

The second section looks at some of the key concepts that lie behind the Frameworks and Tools Strand, including Open systems, the role of standards, and the need to build on prior work.

Section 3 unpacks the framework itself and the three layers – User agents, Application Services and Common services.

Section 4 considers implementation, and a range of possibilities are addressed including integrating legacy applications, using standard integration components, using Java 2 Enterprise Edition, JINI, Web Services or .net. This section is for the more technically minded reader!

Detailed descriptions of services are provided in Section 5, 6 and 7, and some further reading is provided at the end of the paper.

The case for a technical framework to support elearning

This paper is a subset, the first half, of the fuller paper above. It looks at - why do we need a technical framework? what does the framework do? What is service oriented architecture? How does the framework help and provide value for money? And how sustainable is it?


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