Rapid E-Learning Content Management System (RE-COMS)

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International Journal of Computing & Information Sciences Vol. 4, No. 1, April 2006, On-Line 1
Rapid E-Learning Content Management System (RE-COMS)
Badariah Solemon and Rosnafisah Sulaiman
Pages 1 - 8
Copyright © 2006, IJCIS Editors.
Rapid E-Learning Content Management
System (RE-COMS)

Badariah Solemon and Rosnafisah Sulaiman

University Tenaga Nasional, Malaysia
[badariah, rosnafisah]@uniten.edu.my

Abstract: The rapid development in information-communication technology including the web technology has
brought a big impact in education world. Today, people are talking about e-learning, cyber-learning, long-life
learning, virtual learning and a few more terms have been used to describe a new way of learning. These terms
are used to serve a same goal that is to provide the possibility of open and lifelong education without temporal or
spatial constraint. In this paper the author will use the e-learning term. The e-learning will not become a success
without a proper learning management system. Hence the universities and institutions have to invest into an
expensive learning management packages that mostly enforce the institutions to adapt to their standard and
formatting of content. The delivery of course material is one of core area in e-learning. Furthermore, the
interactivity, recursive and iterative nature of teaching and learning have made the courseware authoring,
publishing and management particularly more complicated. Due to that a study has been done on Content
Management System. A few existing e-Learning content management systems have been reviewed and compared.
Throughout the result, we proposed a new system components, and system architecture of content management
system. The system scope, benefits, and additional consideration, are also briefly discussed. The inspiration of the
proposed system is to act as a better option to the available tools in the market.

Keywords: E-learning, content management system, learning content management system (LCMS).

Received: September 1, 2005 | Revised: February 30, 2006 | Accepted: April 15, 2006

1. Introduction

The borderless world of information technology and
the need to acquire knowledge have affected learning
styles and trends adopted by academic institutions of
higher learning. More institutions have embraced the
digital world to be part of their learning and teaching
tools. One aspect of these technological requirements
is a system for composing, editing, managing, and
distributing e-learning content. Different terms have
been used to describe this system such as interactive
management, content management system, virtual
learning environment, learning management system
(LMS), and learning content management system
(LCMS). LCMS has become a demand as e-learning
have been implemented widely.
This paper focuses on an LCMS rather than on an
LMS. An LMS and an LCMS are complementary but
very different systems that serve different masters and
address unique business challenges [6]. LCMS
provides authors, instructional designers (IDs), and
subject matter experts the means to create e-learning
content just in time to meet the needs of individual
learners or group of learners. Rather than developing
entire courses and adapting them to multiple
audiences, IDs create reusable content chunks and
make them available to course developers throughout
the organization. Thus eliminates duplicate efforts and
allows the rapid assembly of customized content.
Reviews did by Robbins [8] reveal the emergence of
LCMSs as a platform choice for many companies
seeking fast deployment of e-learning. The 4-stage
revolution is depicted in figure 1 below whilst table 1
summarizes the brief descriptions of each stage.









Figure 1: E-learning revolution
Generic
Content
Libraries

Learning
Management
Systems (LMS)


Outsourced
e-Learning
Platforms


Learning
Content
Management
Systems
(LCMS)
Stage
2

Stage
1

Stage
3

Stage
4


2 International Journal of Computing & Information Sciences Vol. 4, No. 1, April 2006, On-Line
Table 1: Descriptions of 4-stage e-learning revolutions
Stage
Descriptions
1
Tool used to create e-learning delivered via CD-
ROM or mainframe computers. Companies
pioneer the development of web-based e-learning
content libraries.
2
LMS used to enroll learners in classroom-based
events, manage face-to-face training and report on
progress. The LMS typically launch a library of
custom or generic e-learning courses.
3
Companies provide outsourcing services to
Webify course content on their software
platforms. Organizations using these platforms
lack the capability to quickly change content and
deploy proprietary content using internal
resources.
4
The corporate version of content management
systems designed to enable subject matter experts,
with little technology expertise, to design, cerate,
deliver, and measure the results of e-learning
courses rapidly. LCMS also can provide
certification and tracking for individual learners,
who need specific knowledge to certify for
regulatory needs, professional licensure, or quality
control.


2. Existing Systems

Three content management systems and/or LCMS in
the market have been reviewed which are Blackboard
Learning System, TopClass Learner Support and
WebCT Campus Edition. The selection was based on
the popularity of the software and commonly used in
the higher learning institutions. The study is important
to help understand the common features offered by
such systems. The features then later could be
integrated in the proposed rapid LCMS which is aims
at providing a better, practical solution to higher
learning institution particularly in Malaysia.

Blackboard Learning System was developed by
Blackboard Inc. based in Washington DC. The
primary target for this company is a solution for e-
Education. It is an industry leading course
management system based on a third-generation
enterprise technology platform. It consists of
curriculum-driven content management and content
sharing, re-architected assessment management
system, client based designed on feedback and
usability, discussion boards and Virtual Classroom
tool and data management system [1].

TopClass LCMS is a robust and scalable platform that
offers e-Learning content management and assembly,
personalized content delivery, learner collaboration,
learner tracking and assessment, web-based training
administration, and database administration. [9]
TopClass is distinguished from other e-Learning
products through its usability with ease of installation,
ease of administration, and ease of use. What further
distinguishes TopClass from other e-Learning products
is its support for rapid conversion of existing learning
content to the web, and its unique Learning Object
architecture. TopClass facilities for student include
coursework, read/send messages, discussion list, and
class announcements [10].

WebCT Campus Edition is a global market-leading
course management system that enables the efficient
delivery of high quality online education [12]. WebCT
have a large number of instruction and communication
tools. The system provided instructor control over the
look and the feel of the course, assessment tools and
control of the student access to the course for example
student must passing grade for quiz before advance to
next chapter. It also provide student with web
authoring environments, useful for individual or group
work and it allows students access their own progress
report information. WebCT gives better student
tracking and group management, more flexibility for
students to follow their own progress and better
administrative tracking of course use. The features in
WebCT are conferencing system, on-line chat, student
progress tracking, student self-evaluation, grade
maintenance and distribution, auto marked quizzes,
electronic mail, course calendar and student
homepages [11,12].


2.1. The Comparisons

The elements included for comparing capabilities of
existing content management system and/or LCMS
were based on the characteristics proposed by
Marshall University's Center for Instructional
Technology [2] and EduTools [3]. These
characteristics are divided into six categories;
Developmental Features, Instructor Tools,
Instructional Features, Student Tools, Administrator
Tools, and Administrative Features. The comparisons
were shown in the tables 2 to 7 below. Table 2 shows
that the three systems support most of the development
features except that TopClass does not support online
chatting.


Rapid E-Learning Content Management System (RE-COMS) 3

Table 2: Comparisons on Development Features


Development Features
1
2
3
Content format will allow for simple transfer
to/from another vendor’s platform
/ / /
Platform uses open data standard so that it can
communicate with existing university database
applications
/ / /
Platform utilizes standard HTML for content
creation
/ / /
Platform is structured so students can view all of
their current courses when they log on
/ / /
Questions can be created with platform’s
authoring software
/ / /
Platform has built-in threaded discussion list
capabilities
/ / /
Platform has built-in chat capabilities / X /
Platform allows author to view course as student
without logging out
/ / /
Platform supports question database for
management of test questions
/ / /
Platforms supports reporting features for test
questions
/ / /
Vendor provides development services / / /
Management component will create reports for
tracking student progress
/ / /

Table 3 shows that the three systems provide support
course management features such as monitoring,
planning, revising, instructional design and presenting
the content in a proper format. TopClass and WebCT
do not allow the developer to preview the courses as a
student. All functions for the instructor tools supported
in TopClass and WebCT are quite similar however,
Blackboard lacks in curriculum customization and
does not provide customize feedback to tutorial
question. For redirect path of tutorial towards the
question answer both Blackboard and WEBCT do not
support this feature. Furthermore, these systems do
support student tracking through self-test tutorial
question. The systems support multiple choices and fill
in the blank with automatic marking. This is to
encourage the student to test their understanding on
certain topic.

Table 3: Comparisons on Instructor Tools


Instructor Tools
1
2
3
Course planning, managing, fast course revising
and monitoring
/ / /
Instructional designing / / /
Presenting information in format / / /
Online testing and grading / / /
Instructor can assign specific course material to
individual or group of students
/ / /
Generate random set of questions / / /
Allows developer to preview course as a student / X X
Managing records / / /
Customization of student curriculum X / /
Student tracking / / /
Multiple choice self test tutorial questions –
provide automatic marking
/ / /
Fill in the blank" self test tutorial questions –
provide automatic marking
/ / /
Customized feedback to tutorial questions X / /
Redirect path of tutorial depending on question
answers
X / X

The comparison on instructional features in table 4
shows that the three systems support asynchronous and
synchronous communication between faculty and
students. Faculty is allowed to make update or changes
to the content but the courses will still have consistent
interface. In addition, the online help services that
help the students in using library resources is inclusive
to Blackboard solely. Meanwhile for email
management capabilities only Blackboard and WebCT
provide the services. Lastly for supporting multiple
instructors for single courses only Blackboard and
TopClass provide the service.

Table 4: Comparisons on Instructional Features


Instructional Features
1
2
3
Faculty to student asynchronous
communication is possible
/ / /
Faculty to student synchronous
communication is possible
/ / /
Faculty can make their own changes to content / / /
Courses can have consistent interface / / /
Online help is available to help student use
library resources
/ X X
Platform has e-mail management capabilities
for students and faculty
/ X /
Platform supports multiple instructors for a
course
/ / X

Table 5 shows that these three systems support
standard authentication, multimedia support, threaded
discussion among the faculty and students, progress
tracking through student performance in quizzes,
search tool and file submission for any extra notes or
assignment. Blackboard and TopClass do not have
function that can support automated index tool and
image database. TopClass also lack of whiteboard
feature. Finally for the student tools comparison, it
shows that these three systems do not allow students to
1. Blackboard Learning System
2. Top Class Learner Support
3
.
WebCT

1. Blackboard Learning System
2. Top Class Learner Support
3
.
WebCT

1. Blackboard Learning System
2. Top Class Learner Support
3
.
WebCT

4 International Journal of Computing & Information Sciences Vol. 4, No. 1, April 2006, On-Line
view all current courses that they have enrolled after
logging in into the system. Table 6 shows the
comparisons on administration tools and stated the
three systems support all of the features listed except
that WebCT does not provide the administrator
support tools.

Table 5: Comparisons on Student Tools



Student Tools
1
2
3
Authentication
/ / /
Bookmark management
X / /
Multimedia support
/ / /
Private e-mail
X / /
Threaded discussions
/ / /
Course Chat rooms
/ X /
Progress tracking
/ / /
Automated glossary tool
X / /
Automated index tool
X X /
Search tool for course content
/ / /
Allows students to view all current courses
in which they are registered after logging in
X X X
File submissions / / /
Whiteboard / X /
Image database X X /


Table 6: Comparisons on Administrative Tools



Administrator Tools
1
2
3
Server / / /
Client/web interface / / /
Authorization tools / / /
Logout feature / /
Resource and remote access tools / / /
Crash recovery tools / / /
Student support tools / / /
Instructor support tools / / /
Administrator support tools / / X
Guest account creation / / /

Table 7 shows that the systems vary in terms of
administrative features offered to the University. All
the three systems give sole ownership of course
content to University, however only WebCT allows
the University to solely own the custom code used to
create the courses. Blackboard leads the other systems
by providing the majority of the administrative
features. However, it does not use the pricing structure
that is based upon number of students within the
course.
Table 7: Comparisons of Administrative Features


Administrative Features
1
2
3
University will have sole ownership of custom
code used to create courses
X X /
University will have sole ownership of course
content
/ / /
Platform provider will provide technical
support to University
/ X /
Platform provider will host courses on their
server
/ X

X

Platform provider will advertise courses / X

X

Platform provider can provide documentation
and contacts to demonstrate a positive track
record with higher education
/ / /
Pricing structure is based upon number of
students within the course
X / /
Platform is focused on locally developed
courses
/ / /

Generally, all the three systems require start-up costs
and ongoing costs, however only TopClass does not
charge the University any site pricing cost. As for
hardware and operating system requirements, the three
systems may run on UNIX server, NT server, Sun
Solaris machine and Linux operating system.
However, only TopClass is made suitable for the
Macintosh operating system. Blackboard and WebCT
could be viewed using Java-enabled Web browser
whilst only TopClass could be viewed using the CGI-
enabled Web browser.

3. Rapid E-Learning Content
Management System (RE-CoMS)

The Rapid E-Learning Content Management
System(RE-CoMS) is a propose system to cater the e-
learning needs of any Malaysia’s higher learning
institutions in general and UNITEN in particular. RE-
CoMS stands for Rapid E-Learning Content
Management System. The term ‘Rapid‘ is used to
stress that one of the system goals is to produce a
courseware that is versatile and yet very simple to use
with minimum effort and time required. Currently, a
team of researchers at College of IT at UNITEN is
designing and strategizing some parts of the systems.

The proposed system aims at combining the
specificities of the distance/online learning scenario,
the most promising web technologies and the
emerging standards. The target is to attain a highly
competitive e-learning environment including
1. Blackboard Learning System
2. Top Class Learner Support
3
.
W
ebCT

1. Blackboard Learning System
2. Top Class Learner Support
3
.
WebCT

1. Blackboard Learning System
2. Top Class Learner Support
3
.
WebCT

Rapid E-Learning Content Management System (RE-COMS) 5

innovative and/or state-ofthe-art features to implement
reusability, portability, scalability, heterogeneous
database, security, and integration [5]. The main goal
of RE-CoMS is to produce an LCMS that provide
customizable templates for various types of subjects.
This will give the author flexibility in authoring and
preparing the content in a simplest way possible. For
example, mathematic or engineering may need a
template that suit with the theorems and steps of
problem solving. As for the theory-based subject such
as Basic of Management a different template will be
used. Minimally, it should provide support for
creation, editing, consuming, discovery and
persistence of learning objects in a web-based learning
environment.

3.1. RE-CoMS Framework

The framework of the proposed system can be divided
into three main tiers – presentation, CMS services, and
business processes, each with a series of modular
components. These three tiers are depicted in Figure 2.

The presentation tier is a frontline that allows users to
interact with the service or application. Ideally the
subject’s context should be delivered through different
choice of media and technology. Media could be
chosen for their specific characteristics and include
combinations of print material, computer-mediated
communication such as email, bulletin boards and
chat, CD-ROMs or web sites.

The CMS services tier contains two major services -
common and e-learning. Common services provide
common facilities from the typical ‘LMS only’ model
including:

• User Management – manage users, groups and
roles account registration and information. Also,
provides the backbone for the user authentication,
authorization and entitlement of services.

• Collaboration Management - supports multiple
forms of interaction such as e-mail, threaded
discussion, whiteboard, and chat, and

• Event Management – capture all interaction
between users and services.

The e-learning services include the learning content
management service that provides:
• automated authoring services – create the
reusable learning objects that are accessible in the
learning object/ content repository. The services
automate development by providing authors with
templates and storyboarding capabilities that
incorporate instructional design principles.

• learning management and administration
services – manage learners’ records, launch e-
learning courses from course catalog, track and
report the progress of learners, and provide other
administrative features.

• assessment services – measure learners’
performance against specific learning goals.
Assessment includes multiple choice questions,
multiple right answer, short answer and true/false,
and

• dynamic delivery interface services – serve up a
learning object based on learner profiles, pretest,
and/or user queries. Also allow authors to
localized the look and feel of courses.

The resource tier contains learning content repository
that uses meta-data to store and manage individual
learning objects, learning assessment repository that
contains quality-assured assessment questions,
learning administration repository that contains the
administration data and modules, and user repository
that includes the user’s profile, assessment and
transcript information.

3.2. Additional Considerations

Several additional considerations are worth to be
aware of when strategizing, designing, and
implementing e-learning platforms. These include:

• Learners and Learning style – different learners
will have different learning styles and needs,
therefore the e-learning instructional goal should
be to maintain a healthy balance between the
teacher-centric and learner-centric.

• Bandwidth-friendly design – e-learning platform
flexible enough to deliver multiple types and file
size content, at the user’s discretion is obviously
the most preferred.

• Integration with existing LMS or enterprise
system and linkage with business needs –
6 International Journal of Computing & Information Sciences Vol. 4, No. 1, April 2006, On-Line
beforehand researchers must ensure that the e-
learning fits into an organization’s overall business
plan otherwise the e-learning will be an expensive
curiosity and potentially an expensive failure.

• Enterprise security – the system must contain
robust security and encryption mechanism to
protect content and user data.

• Legal issues – copyrights to the content of the
subject must be crystal-cleared to avoid
unexpected situation.

3.3 Proposed Features

Upon reviewing the existing commercially available
systems, the authors feel that the average features
provided by the systems are discrete and not sufficient
to cater certain niche area in managing the course
content. Therefore the development of RE-CoMS
would include a few key features that are more
relevant and simplify the content management process.
The system includes:

1. Dynamic and contains the right content. The
learning objects and related expertise about any
subject must be current and relevant.

2. It should operate in real time, making the best use
of the technology and the resources should come
from both inside and outside the organization.

3. Provide increased personalized services and an
individual approach to the learner. Learners’
activities should pertain to their background, job,
and career at that very moment.

4. Learning events should come from many sources
(media) enabling the learner to select a favorite
format of learning method.

5. Present simulated, real-life situations, and make the
learning engaging and interactive.

6. Adapt meaningful assessment and testing (pre and
post) available to the learner.

7. Maintain links to current articles and readings for
the community.

8. Provide a variety of content delivery or learning
modes to the learner.

Expected benefits of the system are inclusive of the
following:

• Fast production and deployment of courses
• Reduce production and deployment cost
• Supporting innovation of web technology
• Security and privacy of contents
• Increased return on investment
• Increased security and privacy
• More time and focus to learning

Below is the comparison table of proposed features of
RE-CoMS against the other systems. The features are
chosen based on various survey carried out among
academicians on practicality and ease of use.

Table 8: The Proposed Features



Development Features
1

2

3

4
Content format will allow for simple
transfer to/from another vendor’s platform
/

/

/

/
Platform uses open data standard so that it
can communicate with existing university
database applications
/

/

/

/
Platform utilizes standard HTML for
content creation
/

/

/

/
Platform is structured so students can view
all of their current courses when they log
on
/

/

/

/
Questions can be created with platform’s
authoring software
/

/

/

/
Platform has built-in threaded discussion
list capabilities
/

/

/

/
Platform has built-in chat capabilities
/

X

/

/
Platform allows author to view course as
student without logging out
/ / /
/
Platform supports question database for
management of test questions
/

/

/

/
Platforms supports reporting features for
test questions
/

/

/

/
Vendor provides development services /

/

/

NA

Management component will create
reports for tracking student progress
/

/

/

/
Instructor Tools
1

2

3

4
Course planning, managing, fast course
revising and monitoring
/ / /
/
Instructional designing / / /
/
Presenting information in format / / /
/
Online testing and grading / / /
/
Instructor can assign specific course
/ / /
/
1. Blackboard Learning System
2. Top Class Learner Support
3. WebCT
4. Proposed RE-CoMS

Rapid E-Learning Content Management System (RE-COMS) 7

material to individual or group of students
Generate random set of questions
/ / /
/
Allows developer to preview course as a
student
/ X

X

/
Managing records / / /
/
Customization of student curriculum
X

/ /
/
Student tracking
/ / /
/
Multiple choice self test tutorial questions
– provide automatic marking
/ / /
/
Fill in the blank" self test tutorial questions
– provide automatic marking
/ / /
/
Customized feedback to tutorial questions X

/ /
/
Redirect path of tutorial depending on
question answers
X

/ X

/
Provide a various types of content
templates
X

X

X

/
Instructional Features
1

2

3

4
Faculty to student asynchronous
communication is possible
/ / /
/
Faculty to student synchronous
communication is possible
/ / /
/
Faculty can make their own changes to
content
/ / /
/
Courses can have consistent interface / / /
/
Online help is available to help student use
library resources
/ X

X

/
Platform has e-mail management
capabilities for students and faculty
/ X

/
/
Platform supports multiple instructors for a
course
/ / X

/
Student Tools
1

2

3

4
Authentication / / /
/
Bookmark management
X

/ /
/
Multimedia support / / /
/
Private e-mail
X

/ /
/
Threaded discussions
/ / /
/
Course Chat rooms / X

/
/
Progress tracking / / /
/
Automated glossary tool
X

/ /
/
Automated index tool X

X

/
/
Search tool for course content / / /
/
Allows students to view all current courses
in which they are registered after logging
in
X

X

X

/
Learners personalized activities or profiles

X

X

X

/
File submissions / / /
/
Whiteboard / X

/
/
Image database
X

X

/
/
Administrator Tools
1

2

3

4
Server / / /
/
Client/web interface
/ / /
/
Authorization tools
/ / /
/
Logout feature / /

/
Resource and remote access tools
/ / /
/
Crash recovery tools
/ / /
/
Student support tools / / /
/
Instructor support tools
/ / /
/
Administrator support tools / / X

/
Guest account creation /

/

/

X
Administrative Features
1

2

3

4
University will have sole ownership of
custom code used to create courses
X

X

/
/
University will have sole ownership of
course content
/ / /
/
Platform provider will provide technical
support to University
/ X

/
NA

Platform provider will host courses on
their server
/ X

X

/
Platform provider will advertise courses
/ X

X

/
Platform provider can provide
documentation and contacts to
demonstrate a positive track record with
higher education
/ / /
/
Pricing structure is based upon number of
students within the course
X

/ /
NA

Platform is focused on locally developed
courses
/ / /
/

With the intention of creating an LCMS that caters the
author and learner’s need, a few additional features
have been identified:

1. Content authoring – A few types of customizable
templates will be provided. Authors will be given
an authority and flexibility to design their content
that suit with their needs for example, linking to
the resource library for images, embedding audio
or video.

2. Content publishing – Content can be published in
a number of formats with a variety of content such
as text, graphics, video and etc. The process will
require only a few steps.

3. Content management – Authors shall manage
their content by adding additional notes, exercises
and updating the contents.


4. Conclusion and Future Work

The proposed architecture aims at building an updated
and competitive solution by incorporating various
administration and management facilities, appealing
user interfaces and innovative and/or state-or-the-art
methodologies to implement reusability, portability,
and scalability. The prototype of the system is yet to
be developed tentatively by benchmarking and
leveraging the Macromedia MX Studio, ColdFusion
MX and Flash Communication Server products.
Current studies also have been done on a few
languages such as ASP, PHP- Hypertext Preprocessor
for the scripting language and MySQL for the
database. In the future, we hope that RE-CoMS will be
8 International Journal of Computing & Information Sciences Vol. 4, No. 1, April 2006, On-Line
able to cater and support the teaching and learning
activities in UNITEN and other institutions.

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http://company.blackboard.com/product/Is/ind

ex.htm
, [4/15/04 ]
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products,

http://www.marshall.edu/it/cit/webct/compare/

comparison.html

[3] EduTools,
http://www.edutools.info
[05/22/04]
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rd
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http://www.learningcircuits.org/2002/dec2002

/greenberg.htm
[6/17/04]
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[04/05/04]
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http://www.learningcircuits.org/NR/exeres/48

3F426A-BEA4-4E32-8080-
01FC7AA26DED.htm
[6/17/04]
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http://www.iei.ul.ie/pages/topclass.htm#intro
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[10] WebCT Courseware System Tools
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[11] WebCT Product,
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[04/15/04]
[12] WBT TopClass,
http://wbtsystems.com/products/topclass

[04/15/04]
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Alternate track papers & posters, May 2004.


Badariah Solemon is a lecturer at
the College of Information
Technology (COIT), University
Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN). She is
currently doing her PhD study in
Requirements Engineering area. Her
research interests include software
engineering, e-learning and software
quality management. She is an active member of the
COIT e-learning Research Group and had/currently
involved in a number of e-learning projects. She
teaches several courses on programming languages,
software engineering, as well as systems analysis and
design.





Rosnafisah Sulaiman received her
Master in Computer Science from
University Malaya, Malaysia in
1999. She is a lecturer at College of
Information Technology, University
Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) and
currently is doing her PhD study in e-
business. She is also a member of the
COIT e-learning Research Group and involved in a
few e-learning projects. Her research interests are e-
business, e-learning and courseware developments.