The University of Plymouth Student Portal
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The University of Plymouth Student Portal

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Institutional profile. Large new university2,500 staff25,000 students1,700 student workstations1,000 rooms in hall total (all networked)Non-residential60% of students own PCsRising each year. Teaching profile. 2,800 programmes11,500 modulesFocus onUndergraduateLargely conventional delive
The University of Plymouth Student Portal

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1. The University of Plymouth Student Portal Dr Phil Richards ? Head of Information and Communication Systems Michael Webb ? Application Services Manager

2. Institutional profile Large new university 2,500 staff 25,000 students 1,700 student workstations 1,000 rooms in hall total (all networked) Non-residential 60% of students own PCs Rising each year

3. Teaching profile 2,800 programmes 11,500 modules Focus on Undergraduate Largely conventional delivery Emphasis on Student Centred Learning Little distance learning

4. Implications for VLE Used to compliment traditionally delivered courses No elaborate tracking required Must integrate with other systems Student email Student record system Delivery to students own PCs key, via Web browser UK ISPs Must scale easily to 25,000 students and 11,500 modules High uptake predicted

5. JANET and LINX Summer 2000 - 1 x 100Mbps Ethernet Bottleneck for services to students Currently ? 1 x GE Plus private peerings to BTnet, UUnet, etc. Not bottleneck at present Upgrades to US, GEANT, etc. impressive Large benefit to research activities Need to balance with ability to provide student services via UK ISPs

6. What we are going to cover What we wanted to achieve Technology overview What it looks like Why use Microsoft Exchange? Hardware overview High availability ? load balancing and clustering How the front end works

7. What we wanted to provide ? the Student Portal For academic use: Access course documents, submit work, on-line discussions, work collaboratively, on-line assessment, links to other systems For administrative use: Change details such as address, access marks For personal use: Email, Calendars, Tasks

8. What we wanted to achieve technically Scalable to all of University?s students and modules Distributable across University?s main sites High availability Easy for students and staff it use Easy to manage Automatic links between systems (eg student records for module information)

9. Geographic Locations and Links

10. Overview of technology Front End ? Microsoft IIS, Exchange 2000 and Active Server Pages Including load balancing across three servers on main site Messaging and Documents Store ? Exchange 2000 Including two-way active-active cluster on main site

11. Overview of technology (2) Microsoft Active Directory Linked to other systems by Active Directory Scripting Interface (ADSI) Compaq StorageWorks Storage Area Network (SAN) for data storage 1.5 TB of storage initially Links to other systems HEMIS student records, Perception on-line assessment, Library system, and others as system grows

12. Where we are at the moment Hardware deployment nearly complete >1000 staff users 1000 student users 100 student modules

13. What it looks like to the student: The Home Page

14. What it looks like to the student: A Sample Module Folder

15. What it looks like to the student: Email (by Outlook Web Access)

16. What it looks like to the student: Student Administration ? address change and marks

17. Why Exchange 2000? Exchange meets needs of staff for email, calendaring etc. Therefore maximising return on investment in Exchange Exchange Webstore means that is easy to build custom applications like the student portal Webstore is basically an unstructured database Every item has a URL so can be accessed directly Items from Outlook Web Access can be reused in your own application Integration with Active Directory Easy to manage, distributed database across University sites

18. Why Exchange 2000 (2) ? Support for clustering and load balancing Provides high availability Easy to expand by adding additional servers/clusters Replicated Public Folders means the system can be distributed across the University?s main sites, and to additional servers if necessary Staff can use Outlook as their VLE authoring tool So very small learning curve for the technology ? they can focus on content

19. Exchange public folders

20. Core W2K/Exchange Hardware

21. Exchange/Storage Area Network

22. Clustering and Load Balancing Clustering and Load Balancing are ?high availability? services ? not ?100% availability? Microsoft Load Balancing Users automatically split between the front end servers If one goes down, new users will not be directed to that server, but if they are midway through a session this will fail. Any server could service any user at any time Straight forward to add extra servers

23. Clustering and Load Balancing (2) Microsoft Clustering Services Windows 2000 Advanced Server supports 2-way clusters Two virtual Exchange servers, each of which can sit on either of the two physical servers, including both on the same server

24. Clustering and Load Balancing (3) Microsoft Clustering Services (continued) If one physical server fails the virtual servers on that server will move across to the other server It is possible to move virtual servers between physical servers to perform maintenance There is a small interruption to users when a virtual server moves to a different physical server

25. Clustering and Load Balancing (4)

26. The front end ? an overview Each module is held as a group in Active Directory Membership populated from student record system, updated daily, by simple custom VB application Each module has a public folder in Exchange control of this is delegated to relevant academics

27. The front end (2) When the student logs in, they are presented with links to their modules by querying Active Directory This is done using Active Directory Scripting Interface (ADSI) and VBScript via an Active Server Page Module link is an Outlook Web Access link direct to that module?s public folder

28. The front end ? staff view via outlook

29. The front end ? student view

30. Summary of our system VLE based on Exchange 2000 Active Directory IIS Custom front end using Active Server Pages Scalability/Reliability by utilising Load Balancing Clustering SAN Distributed database (Exchange/ADS)

31. Contact Details Dr Phil Richards - phil.richards@plymouth.ac.uk Michael Webb - michael.webb@plymouth.ac.uk


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