The CourseSmart Solutions Approach - Ccctechplan.org

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_____________________________________________________
____________________________________________

All information included in this document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to
change without notice.



CourseSmart Solutions



C
ourseSmart

Solutions

is
a new initiative
that
makes it easier for
educational
institutions
to
connect students and faculty with the digital content they need
.
It
comes from CourseSmart, the
world’s largest provider of
digital
course materials for
North American Higher Education.


CourseSmart Solutions makes it
possible

to integrate a full
range of eTextbook
services

from
selecting a textbook for adoption,
finding and buying the right
eText
book to opening up an annotated versio
n of
the day’s
reading
assignment

into
your

institution’s overall
web
environment.
The connections to
CourseSmart

content
can
range from e
xplicit
to

invisible, and
interactions can

be fine
-
tuned on a

statewide,

campus
-
by
-
campus,
department
-
by
-
departm
ent, o
r course
-
by
-
course
basis.
Searching, viewing, selecting, purchasing, returning, reading
,

and
personalizing

digital course materials
become

integral
parts of

t
he
on
-
line
educational experience
.


There are
many
technical and organization challenges
to

effectively

incorporating
the offerings of a partner organization
into
a

well
-
established

online environment.
CourseSmart has years of experience addressing these challenges
.
CourseSmart
Solutions
i
s our way of sharing
the solutions we have developed. Cour
seSmart
Solutions offers
a program of easily
-
understood concepts, advanced technology, and
start
-
to
-
finish consulting services that deliver exactly the access to CourseSmart
materials that
suits your institution’s needs.

ETextbooks and Beyond


ETextbooks
are
a

H
igher

E
ducation success stor
y
of the new century.
The

number of
students and instructors taking advantage of on
-
line or downloadable
eTextbooks

has grown exponentially every year.
CourseSmart has
been a pioneer in working
with textbook publishers on

producing and distributing
eTextbooks
. We are

now
the
world’s largest provider of digital
course materials
, with over 1
4
,
000 titles from
leading publishers

such as Cengage Learning, John Wiley & Sons MacMillan,
McGraw
-
Hill Education, and Pearson
.
CourseSmart’s catalog of eTextbooks covers
more than 90% of all demand for core textbooks in North American Higher
Education. Most publishers put
nearly

all of their newly
-
published materials into the
CourseSmart catalog, often before these materials are a
vailable in print.


ETextbooks are succeeding for many reasons:



_________________________________________________________________________________________________

All information included in this
document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to change without notice.


2



Ease of access and use



a

CourseSmart

eTextbook is available at any time at
any location
with

an Internet connection. A student
or instructor
can find it,
access

it, and start reading in a
matter of minutes.



Ability to work smarter



an eTextbook can be
search
ed
,
highlighted,
and
annotated
.

Faculty and s
tudents can copy

and paste

important information
into their own summaries. Users can print just what they need when they
need it.



Relevanc
e and currency



CourseSmart provides the exact edition the
instructor recommends, in the same page format as the printed book
, so
instructors and students can use the eTextbook as an exact substitute for the
print textbook if they choose to
.
C
ampus
-
specif
ic c
ustom editions can be
created, so
students

get
precisely

the
content that the
instructor

plans

to
assign.
Instructors have rapid access to new editions as they become
available.



Cost savings



students
and institutions
save an average of 50%

compared t
o
the cost of purchasing new print textbooks.

Institutions using our Faculty
Instant Access program reduce the load on campus mail services by reducing
the handling of heavy examination copies.



Ecology

with an eTextbook there is no paper, no ink, no shipp
ing, and no
driving

to the bookstore
.
Academia especially appreciates how “green”
digital content can be.


eTextbooks are a popular and efficient learning tool. As eTextbooks become more
broadly available and more people become aware of their advantages, the
momentum
increases
. Some institutions have begun integrating CourseSmart
materials into the online tools

they provide to students

learning management and
registration systems, for example

making access to CourseSmart materials easier
and more natural.
Other institutions have taken advantage of the ability to integrate
the entire CourseSmart library into thei
r Faculty Portals, so that Faculty have easy
access to a wide variety of materials.
Now CourseSmart
S
olutions make this kind of
integration available to all

institutions
.

The Integration
Opportunity



Educational institutions
have come to

rely heavily on

web technology. Nearly all
have

bought or built systems for handling on
-
line
class enrollment, grade reporting
,
faculty resources
and campus
news
.
Many

have brought in comprehensive
Learning
Management Systems

(LMS)

and/or Student Information Systems (SIS
)
that
coordinate

a wide

range of administrative and pedagogical tasks.

Incorporating
digital
course

materials
into th
ese online environments is a
n

obvious next step.



_________________________________________________________________________________________________

All information included in this
document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to change without notice.


3

CourseSmart has been
listening to its institutional customers when they talk about
how
eTextbooks can fit into automated learning management.
The wish
-
list
includes:



licensing

widely
-
used eTextbooks in bulk and
making it
easy to distribute
them to stu
dent
s

at enrollment time.



providing

student
s

with
immediate access to electronic course materials as
soon as
they

register for the class, no separate payment involved.



avoid
ing

the cumbersome process of accepting
, crediting,

and shipping
returns
of physical media
when students drop course
s.



making

it
mo
re efficient

for faculty to
find and
review
materials
,
communicate their recommendations to students,
and begin teaching
immediately,
without ordering and shipping delays
.



Embedding links in
the

syllabus within the

LMS
at the level of class
schedules and
assigned
in order to take a s
tudent
directly to the
current
assignment
, perhaps with introductory comments from the
instructor
already

attached



incorporating eTextbook citations or page references into social networking
or on
-
line chat systems



The Integ
ration
Challenge


All of this is possible, but there are
hurdles
.
Like any large
-
scale system integration
job, bringing
together
disparate

learning systems is a
challenging

task.
Data and
functionality that might be required to create a meaningful user experience may
exist in several different systems.
Institutional w
eb

sites and the functionality
behind them
have
typically

evolved over time
.
The
ir historical design has made
l
ittle

or no provision for future
integration o
pportunit
ies
.
Older systems, especially
those developed internally, were
probably
intended to be completely stand
-
alone.


With the rise of the Internet,
opportunities
have arisen
for richer and more effective
on
-
li
ne
experience
s,

if these systems
can find ways to interact at a more
-
than
-
superficial level with

each other and with
partners
such as CourseSmart. This
involves

exchanging
data,
maintaining

security,
making sure users are recognized,
conducting financial t
ransactions, and arriving at a

consistent look and feel so that
users don’t feel

disoriented

as they move around.


Achieving t
ight and secure
integration with CourseSmart
,

or any other partner,

involves a number of tasks:





Find
ing
the
natural
points

in the
institution’s systems
where
connection
s can
be made
.
To let CourseSmart
know, f
or example,
that a user is a faculty
member, or
that

a student has enrolled in a class
so that
the appropriate

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

All information included in this
document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to change without notice.


4

eTextbooks
can be put
on his or her virtual bookshelf,
ther
e has to be a
system
-
to
-
system data transfer a
t
the point
in the LMS
or SIS
system
where

the enrollment transaction is
official
.
(
Newer systems that support a
n
integration
-
oriented
‘plug
-
in’ architecture make
this
easier.
)




Determ
in
ing

what

kinds of techni
cal ‘plumbing’
are
required
to
let
the
institution’s
system
s

and CourseSmart
communicate with one another
.
This
means finding the right conduits to
handle

the
array of
programming
-
language
-
specific interfaces, communication protocols,
and
, in newer
systems
, web
-
service interfaces

that are in place.




Aligning
the security requirements of all parties.
Institutional systems will
be
pass
ing

to CourseSmart confidential data
that might include

instructor email
addresses,
student
contact
in
formation, registration

status,

and
academic

credentials. CourseSmart on its side
needs to validate user identities
and rles
so that it can
protect the intellectual property of the publishers it represents

and make sure that only
paid
-
up

students
access their textbooks
and
that
only
authorized
faculty get
free and instant
access to specific eTextbooks.
Going in, each side will have
different mechanisms for
keeping assets secure
and
even different concepts of what security entails.
It is critical to find cross
-
system ways to imple
ment the highest level of
:

o

D
ata

privacy (ensuring that sensitive data can not be accessed by the
wrong party)

o

A
uthentication (knowing that
parties are

who
they

says
they

are
)

o

A
uthorization (allowing only particular users to perform specified
actions
)

o

M
ain
tenance and reporting functions that
support
these topics.





Ensuring a consistent
user experience.
A successful integration
will

be
virtually

invisible to the student, instructor,
or

administrator

using the
integrated

system
.
If
CourseSmart materials appear as part of a
course
instance in the LMS,
for example, it will not be good if the class’s screen
territory responds to
double
-
clicks

in one way

and
the CourseSmart side in
another.
Much behind
-
the
-
scenes work goes into disguisin
g the fact
that
various

functions are coming from different sources
.
(CourseSmart already
does this kind of work making eTextbook
s
from many different publishers
all present themselves to the reader in
a uniform
way.) What’s called for is
an explicit desig
n
step that studies the ‘look’ (skinning), the ‘feel’ (user
interaction conventions), and even the underlying
user
-
int
e
rface

model (e.g.
,

is the user dealing with objects or with actions
?
).




Enabling single sign
-
on. This is the mark of a thorough and sophi
sticated
integration. The idea is to make sure that a user only has to sign on once,
even as he or she crosses the boundary from university web
-
site
to

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

All information included in this
document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to change without notice.


5

CourseSmart and back again. At every point
the user’s

identity

and,
therefore, what he

or she
is entitle
d to

is known
. Achieving single sign
-
on
requires reviewing the user interface model, finding the one best point spot
to ask the user to log in, and then arranging to securely pass the user’s
“credentials” to the affiliated system
.
For even more convenience
,
additional
information can be exchanged that lets the user interface remember which
book a user had open and what page he or
s
he was on, even
as he or she

switches from a laptop to an iPad.

The CourseSmart Solutions
Approach


CourseSmart
has helped ind
ividual partners accomplish all of these tasks
.
As
interest in deep integration has grown, w
e

have

“package
d

up” our accumulated
solutions
-
set
for enterprise integration
and
backed it up

with personalized, hands
-
on help.
This is CourseSmart Solutions. It p
rovides
a total package of
technology,
people, and a conceptual roadmap for
partners who want to take the next step.

Solving the
h
ard
p
roblems
o
nce

The primary idea behind CourseSmart Solutions is this:
Integrating with
CourseSmart
is not a task that every partner
should have

to figure out
,

individually
,
from the ground up. There is no point to solving the same problem over and over
again.
So CourseSmart has
designed a set of reusable components that
handle the
most fundamental (and
difficult)
pieces of
an integration project. The
se components
are maintained by CourseSmart and stored on CourseSmart servers

in
what we call

the CourseSmart Services
H
ub
. They are available to
any
partner
implementation

that connect
s

into the hub.



_________________________________________________________________________________________________

All information included in this
document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to change without notice.


6


Ser
vice
-
o
rient
ation

The
functionality in the
C
ourse
S
mart

Services H
ub is organized as web services
.
Service
-
orientation reflects
industry consensus
on
the best way to exchange
information and deliver functionality over the Internet.
A
web s
ervice is
an
operation

that one system performs at the request of another system and then
delivers the results

over the web
.
Examples of
Services in the C
ourse
S
mart Services

Hub
are
:
ViewBookshelf, ViewETextbook
, LookUpTextbookByISBN,
,
GoToChapter,
etc.


Service
-
orient
ation
has widely
-
recognized advantages:




Services are reusable, often in
different

contexts. More reuse means more
efficiency, lower cost, and greater reliability.



Requests and responses are exchanged over the ubiquitous
, 24
-
7

web
infrastructure
.



W
idely
-
accepted
web
-
services
standards
govern interconnections between
many different consumers and suppliers



The services world has developed a
rchitected interfaces for critical
auxiliary
capabilities

like security, encryption,
and
workflow.



_________________________________________________________________________________________________

All information included in this
document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to change without notice.


7



Perhaps most
important: Services are e
asy to understand

and talk about
.
They use
the vocabulary and granularity of the business world, not the
programming world.
Instead of subroutines and
do
-
loops, there are service
calls
with real
-
world meaning, such as those listed
above.

Lightweight

adapters

on the partner side

A
partner
institution

exploits the CourseSmart Service
s

H
ub by
invoking

th
ose

services
that implement
the interactions it wants to offer
, and configuring the
results to mesh with its existing systems
.
The connectors
into the hub
are
lightweight and
tuned to
the i
n
stitution’s

specific needs.
Infrastructure for
connecting

to and from the leading LMS

s
is

already in place.
Connecting a
home
-
grown system
may require some custom configuration
, which CourseS
mart
Solutions can help with or even do for you
.
In any event, the “heavy lifting” is
handled centrally

by CourseSmart, and the work on the partner side is reduced to a
minimum.

Standards
-
c
omplian
ce

The C
ourseSmart
Services H
ub is a good network citizen.
W
e

honor industry
standards at multiple levels
, including:





IT standards for service delivery (W3C/SOA), database interoperability, and
system interconnection




Security standards that enable authentication, single sign
-
on, and federated
identi
t
y
. There ar
e many competing standards, and CourseSmart can help its
partners navigate these alternatives and decide on a best fit.




Education standards
.
CourseSmart
has been an active participant in the IMS
Global Learning Consortium. IMS promotes a number of technol
ogy
-
related
standards for educational innovation. In particular, CourseSmart has been an
early adopter of the Learning Tool Interoperability initiative (LTI), and made
it an essential feature on connection with the CourseSmart hub.
(See
http://www.imsglobal.org/lti/

)

Migration opportunity

Digital standards are relatively new to the education field.
Many
educational
institutions run
proprietary applications
that were
built to
meet

a
specific

set of

needs
in the
most expeditious way
.
But the future clearly lies in alliances,
partnerships, consortia, and
inter
-
campus and
inter
-
institution connections.
Connectivity
requires

standards, and the path from
a one
-
of
-
a
-
kind
proprietary
system
to
a
standards
-
conformant

one

can be disruptive.



_________________________________________________________________________________________________

All information included in this
document is confidential and proprietary to CourseSmart, LLC, and is not to be released
outside the company without prior approval. All information included herein is subject to change without notice.


8

Integrating with CourseSmart through CourseSmart Solutions can be an important
step
in this direction.
CourseSmart Solutions is prepared to
start where you are
today,
making the custom connections
you require for the short
-
term while
designing

a

solution that
moves
toward

standards

in manageable steps
.
The

legacy
-
to
-
standards
recipes developed by CourseSmart Solutions may prove useful in
other
integration
projects you

are

contemplating
, and
help you get into
position for
richer
interconnec
t
ivity

overall
.