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Approaches To E-Learning: Key Standards And Technologies. Brian Kelly UKOLN University of Bath Bath, BA2 7AY. Email [email protected] URL UKOLN is supported by:. Contents. Standards The Context The Need For Standards Key Web Standards E-Learning Standards

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Approaches to e learning key standards and technologies

Approaches To E-Learning:Key Standards And Technologies

Brian Kelly


University of Bath

Bath, BA2 7AY


[email protected]


UKOLN is supported by:


  • Standards

    • The Context

    • The Need For Standards

    • Key Web Standards

    • E-Learning Standards

    • Other Relevant Standards

  • Key Application Areas

    • The Web

    • Collaborative Systems

    • Learning Systems

The context
The Context

  • Standards have a partial (but important role) in development work.

Standards: concerned with protocols and file formats

Architectures: models for implementing systems

Open standards vs. Proprietary HTML / XML vs. PDF



Which standards are applicable

NT / UnixFile system / database application

HTML tools / content management

Applications: software products used to implement systems

Resources: financial and staff costs needed to implement systems

Apache / IIS

FrontPage / Dreamweaver

Oracle / SQLServer

ColdFusion vs ASP

Development vs. Migration costs

Use of in-house expertise

In-house vs. out-sourced

Licensed vs. open source

Note the talks will illustrate applications, but we are application-neutral

The bigger context






The Bigger Context


In learning / e-learning users cover bother learners and teachers.

User issues are not just usability, functionality, etc. but also learning styles, student needs, pedagogy, etc.

Why do we need standards
Why Do We Need Standards?


  • Any suggestions on why we need standards?

What standards provide
What Standards Provide


  • Standards are needed:

    • To provide application-independence – remember when documents were trapped into particular word processing software

    • To provide platform-independence – allowing us to move between PCs’ Macs, Unix systems, etc.

    • To provide long term access to data – avoiding the digital dark ages.

    • To provide a coherent architectural model – which allows for evolution and integration.

    • To provide an open marketplace – allowing users to choice their preferred solution.

Key web standards
Key Web Standards

  • HTML:

    • Universal native language for the Web

    • Should be used for the structure of Web resources (and not their appearance)

    • Simple to use (but not necessarily for everyone)

    • You should create compliant HTML, and not just HTML that seems to work

  • CSS:

    • Used to define how HTML tags appear

    • An elegant solution, allowing the appearance to be managed and changed

    • Greater use should be made of CSS

Web Standards

Html s limitations
HTML’s Limitations

  • Although HTML is deployed world-wide it has its limitations:

    • It cannot easily be extended (e.g. to add scientific tags)

    • If can only describe basic document structures

    • It was designed as an output format

    • It cannot easily be reused for other purposes

Web Standards

Xml to the rescue
XML To The Rescue

  • XML:

    • Extensible Markup Language

    • A meta-language, used for designing other languages

    • Designed to be extensible

    • Used to create languages such as MathML, CML, SMIL, SVG, etc.

    • Has been a tremendous success in a short period

    • Should form the basis for your networked applications

Web Standards

“Flash? No thanks, I’ll stick with XML” - or do you not trust my salesmanship?


  • XHTML:

    • HTML expressed as an XML application

    • XHTML are:

      • In lowercase: <p> and not <P>

      • Must be closed: most have <p>xxx</p>

      • Empty elements thus: <hr /> and not <hr>

      • Attributes quoted: <img src=“foo” .. />

    • XHTML must be compliant

    • Better suited for repurposing – but more important to get it right

    • Current applications should probably aim to create XHTML

Web Standards

Other key web standards
Other Key Web Standards

  • SVG:

    • Scalable Vector Graphics

    • Vector graphics formats designed for Web

    • Can resize graphics without losing resolution

    • Particularly applicable in scientific applications

    • See <>

  • SMIL:

    • Synchronised Multimedia Integration Language

    • Potential for use in many scientific applications (simulations, etc.)

    • See <>

Web Standards

SVG and SMIL are both XML applications

Other key web standards1
Other Key Web Standards

  • MathML:

    • Mathematical Markup Language

    • Rendered natively in Mozilla browser

    • See <>

  • CML:

    • Chemical Markup Language

    • Java and JavaScripted browser support available

    • See <>

Web Standards

MathML and CML are both XML applications

Pulling these together
Pulling These Together

  • Because W3C standards are designed to be interoperable you can:

    • Integrate SVG, MathML, CML and XHTML fragments into a single document

    • Use SMIL to manipulate these fragments for use in simulations, animated displays, etc.

    • Process them by other applications (algebraic systems, molecular modelling applications, …)

Web Standards


A CML Page


A MathML Page

E learning standards
E-Learning Standards

  • Why do you think we need e-learning standards?

  • What areas will be addressed by e-learning standards?

E-Learning Standards

E learning standards1
E-Learning Standards

  • E-learning standards:

    • The content of the learning is more important than the technologies used to deliver the learning

    • There is very rapid changes in technologies: printed resources, open learning materials, videos, CBL tools, BBC micros (in the UK), Gopher, Web, VRML, VLEs, …

    • We need to be able to easily move content to new or different applications and delivery systems

    • Teachers need to take 'chunks' or content and integrate them into their own learning environment

E-Learning Standards

E learning standards2
E-Learning Standards

  • Areas which e-learning standards may cover:

    • Resource discovery – finding e-learning resources

    • Assessment – defining assessment in an open way

    • User profiles – describing user characteristics

    • Management – management of e-learning environments (VLEs, MLEs, …)

E-Learning Standards

See <>

Other relevant standards
Other Relevant Standards

  • What other areas related to e-learning will have standards which we will need to consider when developing e-learning systems?

Other Standards

  • My Thoughts

    • Communications tools

    • Interactive systems

    • Publishing tools

Communications standards
Communications Standards

  • Email:

    • SMTP and POP /IMAP

    • HTML support

    • What will your VLE support?

  • IM:

    • Currently driven by vendors (MSN, AOL Messenger, Yahoo Messenger)

    • Interoperability difficulties

    • XMPP

    • Jabber open source work

  • Video-conferencing:

    • Studio based / Web cams

    • Covered elsewhere?

Other Standards

Key application areas
Key Application Areas

  • What are the key applications areas which you may wish to use when developing an e-learning environment?

Key Application Areas


  • Email:

    • Direct, lists, list archives

    • Email output, alerts, …

  • Phone Technologies

    • SMS alerts, 3G, …

  • IM Technologies

    • MSN Chat, …

  • Shared Desktops

    • Groupware tools

Key Application Areas


  • Web resources:

    • Conventional Web pages and HTML tools

    • Use of CMSs

  • Blogging technologies

    • Structured resources

    • Calendar metaphor

    • Web-based authoring tool

  • Collaborative Publishing:

    • Wikis

Key Application Areas


  • Various types of interaction:

    • Quizzes

    • Testing

    • Simulation

Key Application Areas


  • Applications for managing e-learning environments:

    • Managing resources

    • Managing students

    • Managing assessment

Key Application Areas

Rather than discuss these key application areas you will have the opportunity to try out various applications in the next session

It may not be easy
It May Not Be Easy

  • However using standards is not always easy:

    • Many proprietary solutions can be very good

    • Many users will have expertise in use of proprietary solutions

    • Moving to open solutions may be expensive, especially in the short term.

    • Some open solutions may be immature, difficult to implement or fail to take off (OSI X.400 email, anyone?)

Selection OfStandards

A matrix for selection
A Matrix For Selection

  • In order to provide objective criteria for selection of open solutions the following matrix is proposed:

    • Maturity of standard: acceptance, stability, availability of tools, etc.

    • Appropriateness of standard: fitness for purpose, timescales & budget, …

    • Ease of deployment: costs, training, expertise, …

    • Organisation culture: readiness to experiment, views on standards, OSS, etc.

  • There will not be a single universal solution. The solution you chose should be based on your needs & circumstances. (Beware of salesmen of all types!)

Selection Of STandards

See “Matrix For Selection Of Standards” at <>


  • To conclude:

    • Use of open standards is important in development of richly functional and interoperable e-learning services

    • Proprietary solutions ("let's buy everything from Microsoft") can be tempting – but this can have dangers!

    • Use of open standards also has challenges:

      • Standards complex to understand

      • Standards wars

      • Standards may be immature

    • It is for you and your organisation to resolve these conflicts (but workshop lecturers are here to help)