6 Virtual Campus

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Nov 5, 2013 (3 years and 11 months ago)

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V
IRTUAL
C
AMPUS



R
ESEARCH
P
ROJECT
T
HIRD
-
T
ERM
R
EPORT



S
UPERVISOR


P
ROFESSOR
M
ICHAEL
R
UNG
-
T
SONG
L
YU

P
ROFESSOR
K
AN
W
ING
K
AY



P
REPARED BY


M
A
K
A
P
O
(98080150)




D
EPARTMENT OF
C
OMPUTER
S
CIENCE AND
E
NGINEERING

T
HE
C
HINESE
U
NIVERSITY OF
H
ONG
K
ONG



i

Abstract

Advances in multimedia technologies and Internet technologies lead to
new types of teaching and learning. However, most distant
-
learning or
virtual
-
learning sites are still limited to the dissemination of teaching
materials. Neither the strength
s of Internet have been maximized nor the
functions have been fully utilized, for instance, supporting interactive,
customized and collaborative learning.

Virtual Campus is a place that you can customize your study in your own
pace. Providing the up
-
to
-
dat
e demanding learning materials and personal
study guide, Virtual Campus is an ideal study environment for the 'life
-
long'
learners. The major goal of Virtual Campus is to delivery the 'own
-
paced'
material to the right person in any time.




ii

Contents

1

Introduction & Motivation

................................
................................
...........................

3

2

Definition of Learning

................................
................................
................................
...

7

3

Basic Learning Styles

................................
................................
................................
....

8

3.1

Group learning

................................
................................
................................
..........

8

3.2

Individual learning

................................
................................
................................
...

8

4

Web
-
based Education

................................
................................
................................
....

9

5

Changing Trend in Learning Process

................................
................................
........

11

6

Virtual Campus
................................
................................
................................
............

14

6.1

Logical Architecture

................................
................................
...............................

15

6.1.1.

The Server side

................................
................................
................................

16

6.1.2.

The Client side

................................
................................
................................

17

6.2

Basic Interface Design

................................
................................
............................

17

6.3

Components in the Virtual Learning Environment

................................
................

18

6.3.1.

MWPS (Multimedia Web Presentation System)

................................
.............

18

6.3.2.

JCE (Java Collaborative Environment)

................................
...........................

19

6.3.3.

S
-
Scheduler (Smart Scheduler)

................................
................................
.......

20

6.4

Technologies B
ehind Virtual Campus

................................
................................
....

20

6.4.1.

World Wide Web

................................
................................
............................

20

6.4.1.1.

Web Technology

................................
................................
......................

21

6.4.1.2.

Web Server

................................
................................
..............................

21

6.4.1.3.

Basic Web Server Database Fl
ow in Virtual Campus

.............................

22

7

Conclusion and Future Works

................................
................................
...................

25



3

1

Introduction & Motivation


The World Wide Web (WWW) is being used as a new and strong educational
media undoubtedly

[1]
. Students are kee
n in this new technology, and feel very
interesting in the new communication mode. They can easily connect to Internet
with their personal computers or using the computer laboratory facilities. When
they are surfing the Web, they meet lots of new things an
d friends, which is a new
kind of learning mode that different from the traditional learning in school.
They
can get the most updated all
-
kinds information around the world shortly.
On the
other hand, teachers are also amazing the rich
-
resource Internet an
d deciding how
to make use this treasures to enrich their teaching life, however they are trouble
over adapting the fast
-
moving technology.


The Web provides a platform for delivering not only text materials that a student
might need, but also the multime
dia requirements as well, including audio and
video streams of lectures. In addition, the WWW technology provides the
transparent access to information ignoring the geographical distribution.
This
penetrating power is adequate to enable on
-
line learning sy
stems to deliver
education to special learning sites where regular academic systems can hardly
reach, for instance, adult education centers, company
-
training rooms, special
schools for students with learning or physical disabilities, public libraries, or e
ven
prisons. Learners

can view the on
-
live lecture anywhere through the web in real
-
time manner

[2]
.


In sprite of applying such awesome technology to education, we are wondering that
the learning process under the Internet environment is the same as the t
raditional
classroom interaction between teacher and students. The question, "How can fully
utilize the Internet in order to delivery the right information to the right student at a
right time", is

located
. After investigation,
we found that only "translat
ing" the used
classroom stuffs, says blackboard and written notes, to Internet is not sufficient, as
there still have much room to improve the education flow. Then we define and
model this new learning process as well as magnifying the power of the Interne
t.


4

We develop a learning environment, Virtual Campus, which can be customizing the
learning progress for each student.


In the Virtual Campus, student can fully engage in the learning process through an
interactive, dynamic environment. The on
-
line materia
ls for each student are
scheduled personally depending on his/her studying pace. Hopefully, the student
will not

waste his/her time learning irrelevant or already known material, and some
student fail to understand (or misunderstand) the material.


Customi
zation hardly brings to reality in the existing educational system
.

Most of
the
teaching
materials are planned in a non
-
dynamic order and delivered to a class
of 20
-
40 people in order to improve the effectiveness. The issue, "How to measure
effectiveness a
nd what constitutes a quality education", however are subjects of
much controversy. Effectiveness can be defined in terms of the extent to which a
course achieves a set of learning goals for the learner [
3
]. In general, each person
can have his/her own des
ired goal.


From a
practical

point of view, customization places plenty of burdens and
pressures to the instructors/teachers. They have to select the teaching materials
before class that based on their experiences from their students or the scheduled
syll
abus that try to meet the mass learning goals. It is difficult to be customized for
each student. In the lesson, instructor/teacher
is

presenting these materials to
students, while
he is

receiving different responses and queries from students. It is
hard t
o handle all those questions immediately when the course is running. In these
situations, most students always just sit there passively, and some may be already
"tune out" [
3
].


Fortunately, customization can be brought by the Internet technology automatic
ally.
Given the information provided from each student and his/her academic record, the
intelligence scheduler self
-
produces a periodic preliminary study plan for each
student, which is laborsaving. After reviewing by an experienced consultant and
intercha
nging opinions with the particular student, a customized tailor
-
made


5

timetable is generated. Together with the flexible Internet individual study
environment, delivering right material to the right person at a right time can be
realized in the coming futur
e.


It is very important that allowing the receivers (student/learner) adjusting their
learning rate based on their abilities and interests, rather than totally controlled by
the sender (instructor/teacher). In this information explosive decade, a person
is
hardly surviving as if he is stopping learning new things. That means the society
pushes people to be a life
-
long learner. Although it is not an easy task requiring
self
-
discipline and continuity, customized study planing service promotes the
learners'
convenience. In addition, consultant

act
s

as a
personal

supporter
giving
extra advises to students
.


Other than individual
learning
, Virtual Campus also supports group
-
paced learning
as well. The collaborative facility allows student to accomplish group pr
oject and
discussion. The power of the Web not only restricts to transmit information to the
student, but also provides forums for exchange. When group members participate
and share their knowledge, the knowledge base increases and members continue in
ben
efit [
4
]. This kind of real
-
time communication is not restricted to the peer
interaction (student/student). The active participation of students and instructor in
the shared task of seeking to understand and apply the concepts and techniques that
character
ize the subject area [
3
] shortens the distance between students and
instructor.


In summary, Virtual Campus provides a place for parties, instructors/consultants
and students. It supports both individual and group learning through the Internet
(details sho
wn in Fig 1). It also acts as a gateway to allow teachers/instructors fully
utilizes the Internet conveniently without knowing too much technical details, so
the interface of Virtual Campus needs to be user friendly for them. Virtual Campus
concerns studen
ts' personal requisiteness in favor of leading the study life more
fulfilling and gratifying.




6


There are totally 7 sections including Introduction and Motivation, Definition of
Learning, Basic Learning Styles, Web
-
based Education, Changing Trend in
Learn
ing Process, Virtual Campus, Conclusions and Future Works.


In the section of Introduction and Motivation, we define the problem, lack of
customization in current education situation, and state out its important. Then we
give the definition of learning and

discuss the basic learning styles: group and
individual learning in the next two sections.


Followed by the section of Web
-
based Education and the Changing Trend in
Learning Process, we stretch out the new trend and used way in web
-
based
education.


In t
he section of Virtual Campus, we give fully description in term of design and
implementation: the logical architecture, basic interface design and technical flow.
Finally, Conclusion and Future Work give the summary and direction of the
ongoing research.


.......
World Wide Web
Education
Finance
Seaching
Engine
.......
Individual
learning
Group
learning
On-live/
replayed
lecture
Personal
Scheduler
Material/
Notes/
Reference
Forum/
Project/
Opinion
Exchange
Group/Personal
Communication
Virtual Campus
Fig 1. Summary of Virtual Campus


7

2

Definition of Learning


"95% of people think that learning about new thing boosts your confidence." [5]

"Seven in ten adults (71%) think that learning can lead to a better quality of
life." [6]

"93% of us believe that it's never too late to learn" [7]

"83% of us believe that learning will become more important in the next
millennium" [7]


In this Information Age, our ability to obtain, assimilate and apply the right
knowledge effectively, becomes a key competing skill. The capacity to learn and
adapt i
n the future will be determined our ability, which no longer judged solely by
qualifications gained in the past.


Then we will ask an answer, "What is learning?" Gagne [8] gave a precise
definition of learning as well as address the fundamental theory of l
earning.


"A process of which man and the animals are capable. It typically involves
interaction with the external environment. Learning is inferred when a change or
modification in behavior occurs that persists over relatively long periods during
the life

of the individual."


In other words, learning is an interactive, dynamic, and active feedback process
with imagination driving action in exploring and interacting with an external
environment [9]. Effective communication between the instructor and student
s
becomes an important and crucial factor.


The Chair of the National Advisory Group on Continuing Education and Lifelong
Learning, Professor Bob Fryer gave a modern definition for the 21st Century. [10]


"Learning is a process of active engagement with ex
perience. It is what people
do when they want to make sense of the world. It may involve an increase in
skills, knowledge, understanding, values and the capacity to reflect. Effective
learning leads to change, development and a desire to learn more."



8

3

Basic

Learning Styles


Usually, students learn through classroom lectures, discussions and laboratory work
in school. Each student's progress is monitored and tested by an instructor. There
are two major learning styles: group learning and individual learning.


3.1

Group learning

In the daily
-
classroom learning, teacher and students form a large group,
communicating in a real time manner. And teacher always leads the class, so this
kind of learning named as teacher
-
centered education. In the same way, small
learnin
g group will be formed when the students are working in the project
discussion and opinion exchanging. Though the peer interaction, students have a
chance to learn how to be a leader, understanding how to give satisfactory
responses and pinpoint feedback t
o others.


The major advantage of group learning is the directed communication, as members
are face
-
to
-
face talking to each other. In this way, teachers can feel the tiredness
and distractions from the students and alter the teaching pace and contents to
c
omfort them [11]. However, this two
-
way feedback interaction costs relatively
high transaction and opportunities costs, as both parties need to overcome the
geographically distribution by mean of transportation. Although applying electronic
conferencing fa
cilities can save much transportation time and cost, it still cost
relatively high operational expense [12].


3.2

Individual learning

Learners are self
-
study the referencing relevant examples and readings. The
learning efficiency strongly depends on the abilit
y of the learner. He may need
more time to understanding a new area if he gets a good reference; otherwise he has
a chance to misunderstand the concept or idea. The main advantages are low cost
and high personal flexibility. Learners can learn different th
ings in their own free
time and own specific ways.




9

4

Web
-
based Education

The Internet has been used for the education media for some times, as well as the
growing participation in joining the cyber speeds up the popularity of web
-
based
education. There are

numerous advantages for delivering instruction through the
Web. List some of them for references:



High Interactivity;



Highly massive accessibility;



Workspace orientation, putting workplace aside;



All
-
around ability of multimedia presentation;



Efficient di
stribution and updates of information.


Web
-
based Education can be defined as a combination of individual and group
learning, which is taking place in the Internet in stead of classroom. Adopting the
highly flexibility and interpersonal relationship from t
he above two learning styles
respectively, the Internet enable learners choosing their own paces for learning with
clear direction and befitting assistance. This student
-
centered approach allows
learners re
-
create the campus in home or anywhere.


Hence, ma
ny learning institutes in North America and Asia understand that
technology can be used to support education of the new era. They have started to
use Internet and WWW (see Table 1 below).


The abundant on
-
line courses attest the value of the Internet in e
nhancing distance
learning. However, most of these programs lack the real
-
time interactivity of a
classroom. They generally use email and web pages in place of printed material. In
other words, they only enable dissemination of teaching materials, and inad
equate
facilities are used to support students. Moreover, these Web
-
based courses are not
"flexible": neither are teachers nor the delivery systems can adapt the course
presentation to different students for different need [13].



10


Type of
organization

Pr
oviding service

Grass
-
roots
volunteer efforts



Blue Web'n Library [14]



Netday [15]

Academic
institutions



SUNNY Virtual Classroom [16]



NovaNet of North Carolina State University [17]



The World Lecture Hall at University of Texas [18]



ElectronicCourse of Th
e University of Connecticut [19]



The Virtual Collaborative University at The University of
North Texas (UNT) [20]



Virtual Classroom at New Jersey Institute of Technology [21]



The Virtual Classroom at The University of West Florida [22]

Commercial
sector



Z
dnet University [23]



The Spectrum University [24]

Company
-
commercial product



The FirstClass [25]



WebCT [26]



Misk.edu [27]

Table 1. Examples of research on Internet
-
Based Learning


Hence, the numerous studies of student needs are undergone [12]. The fol
lowing
areas are found that can be improved in the web
-
based educational environment



Pre
-
entry educational and vocational guidance



Pre
-
test is given to each student to access their present level and re
-
schedule
the materials for him/her. After some time,
another test is given to test the
acceptability of the student, then may need to change the content of material
or re
-
arrange it again to optimize the learning efficiency.



Orientation into learning methods



To enable students to gain the maximum from the
variety of learning
resources available



Preparation and development in learning skills



Enable students to become independent (autonomous) learners



Monitoring and support of student progress



Study planning



Personal support throughout study



Confidence


e
specially in adult education



Personal counseling



Support for students with special requirements






11

5

Changing Trend in Learning Process

It is clearly shown that teaching and learning is changing drastically. Instruction
-
based learning pattern is being chall
enged. New learning paradigms are forming. A
summary of the paradigm shift [28] in education is as follows:



Educational focus is approaching to student
-
centered from teacher
-
centered;



Teaching approach is shifting to facilitating students' autonomous and
i
ndependent learning from lecturing monotonously;



Learning style is adapting to active and collaborative learning from passive
learning.


We model the new learning process that is different from the traditional one. First,
customized learning strategy outl
ines the whole picture. There are totally four main
components for delivering the right knowledge to the right people at the right time.
This is shown in Table 2. Moreover, in this new learning paradigm, the behaviors of
each role would have significant di
fferences compared with the traditional
paradigm. This is shown in Table 3.


Components of

Learning strategy

Expected achievement


Choice of

individual/group learning



Depend on personal style (selection of
synchronized/ asynchronized lecturing
m
ode)

+

Collaboration



Learn to solve problems together
(social interaction)

+

Customized learning
progression



Instructor/scheduler advises the pace
(personal pace control)

+

Efficient personal support



Establish closer relationship between an
instru
ctor and students




Delivery of the right knowledge to the right people at the right time

Table 2. New learning strategy



12


Role

Changes

Expected behavior

Students

From passive
to active

-

State what they need and what they want

-

Decide which learn
ing mode fits
themselves

-

Encourage participation


Instructor


Instructor

-

Present the material

-

Answer questions from the students
about the material

-

Relatively less of a leading role

-

From "chalk
-
and
-
talk"

role to "guide
-
on
-
the
-
side" role



-



Personal
Scheduler

-

analyze the learning pattern of each
student

-

give study advice to the student

-

listen to the student

-

personal consultant

Table 3. Changed behavior of roles


In order to reduce the load of an inst
ructor, the role of instructor is split into two
parts. The first one acts as the usual teacher in classroom. The second one acts as a
personal scheduler to support each student individually. Some argue that the Web
-
based educational applications are expec
ted used by different groups of users
without the assistance of a human teacher. In our view, education is an interactive
and dynamic process. Even with the advanced information system, the role of
human teacher is crucial and cannot be eliminated.


There
are mainly three roles in the traditional education: student, teacher and
content provider (teaching/learning material provider). Sometimes teacher and
content provider may be the same person. In general, students and content provider
do not have any direc
t communication and teachers act as a middleperson to present
the material to students, whereas the material is prepared and selected by the
provider. On the other hand, students have no choice to determine what material
they are interested.



The networke
d learning environment enhances the linkage of students, teachers,
schedulers and content providers. In the past, the learning subjects are fixed and the


13

content providers solely determine the used material. The situations of demand
(interested topics stud
ents expected) over supply (materials choose by content
providers) always occur. In today's environment, however, technology can be used
to balance the requirements between demand and supply.


Table 4 shows the relationship between demand and supply in an

education system.
Table 4, in particular, points out the independence of demand from supply is
achieved by "switching" to a combination of resources that best meets current
demand requirements.


Condition

Consequence

Status

Demand

<

Supply

Not fulfilling

the enthusiasms of
learning

Present

Demand

=

Supply

Just
-
in
-
time delivery

Ideal but hard to
achieve

Demand

>

Supply

Customized switching of resource

Proposed

Table 4. The relationship between demand and supply in education


In general, the trending s
chooling operation provided by Internet
-
based learning
system comprises of the components shown in table 5, which is adequate but not
customized.


Component

Purpose

On
-
line lecture notes



providing with teaching material

Messages exchange



achieve communi
cation and
collaboration purposes

Discussion



enabling real
-
time chat or threaded
discussions

Interactive quizzes and self
-
assessment



determining the learning ability



real
-
time marked automatically

Course generation



gathering material by content provide
r



allowing instructor to modify or re
-
sequence the material

Course management



database management

Student management



database management

Table 5. The current components provided in Internet
-
based schooling



14

6

Virtual Campus

Virtual Campus is an Internet
application in education. It is composed of the
advantages of group and individual learning making use of the advanced network
technology. Virtual Campus models the new learning environment that students can
customize their study in their own pace. Providi
ng up
-
to
-
date learning material and
personal study guide, it is an ideal study environment for the 'life
-
long' learners.
The main goal of the Virtual Learning Environment is to deliver the 'own
-
paced'
material to the right person at any time.


In the fig
ure 2 below shows a sample lecture viewed by learner. A video is recorded
and playing in the right
-
hand side of screen, so the learner can see the face of
lecturer as well as listen his voice. There is a rolling caption, which automatically
follows the spe
ech below the image of the lecturer. The slides in the left
-
hand are
sequenced in order and self
-
moving according the pace of lecture. On the other
hand, learner can switch to other activities, says chatting with other by clicking the
system menu bar, whic
h is below the lecture presentation.

Fig. 2 A Lecture Screen Dump in Virtual Campus



15

There are totally three characteristics for the Virtual Learning Environment:

Supported and customized individual learning: The Virtual Learning Environment
provides a cu
stomized learning environment. It offers a clear orientation so that
students always know what they should be doing, what needs to be done next, etc.

Real
-
time and non real
-
time group learning: By using the component MWPS
(Multimedia Web Presentation Syste
m, described in Section 6.3.1), students can
attend a lecture in the Virtual Learning Environment similar to the traditional class
lecture. Moreover, the lecture can be re
-
played at anytime to achieve the
customization need.

Collaboration: By using the com
ponent JCE (Java Collaborative Environment, also
described in Section 6.3.2), students can collaborate with others in a shared board.
Moreover, it supports simple and useful audio communication.


6.1

Logical Architecture

All the components in the Virtual Lea
rning Environment can be distributed
geographically, as shown in Figure 3. For simplicity, the architecture is divided into
two sides: the server side and the client side. The former can be viewed as "the
school" and the latter can be regarded as individua
l students.

Fig. 3 The Architecture of the Virtual Learning Environment


Learner
Student
database
Teacher
Course
Author
Course
Course
database
survey of
the demand
Scheduler
Course
Generator
MWPS
prepare slide
set and make
presentation
provide content
Learner
Network Communication
JCE
Network Communication
JCE
make a set of
pointer to content
Customized
re-order by
the
S-Scheduler
JCE/
MWPS
gather information
from learners
JCE
attend
course
Course
Delivery
Platform:
WWW/
MWPS
1
2
3
4
real-time
communication
Server side
Client side
b
a
c
5


16

6.1.1.

The Server side

There are several processes in the server side. They are marked in Figure 1 and
described as follows:

Gathering of the course material based on the demand of student
s

Learners pass learning requests to the server side, which are collected and analyzed
by the course author before he/she prepares a new course material.

Course generation and storage

After the contents are gathered, teachers convert them into a presentab
le form that
is understandable and clear to students. Making use of MWPS, the teacher can
deliver the lecture in a real
-
time mode (learners can attend the lecture just like in a
traditional classroom and ask questions as usual) or in a playback mode (learn
ers
can replay the lecture at any time).

A course database is used for the storage and retrieval of the course material.

Customized reorder of course material

A personal scheduler rearranges the order of the material in order to fit the pace of
the learner
s depending on their learning ability and other factors. The scheduler sets
the "content pointer" in each student profile and updates it periodically. The system
will alert the scheduler to update the pointer before the student's next log
-
on.

Real
-
time com
munication

a.

Interaction between learners and teachers

Learners can use MWPS to ask questions in a real
-
time lecture. They can also
use JCE, a component adopted for the Virtual Learning Environment, to
conduct a personal communication with the teacher indi
vidually.

b.

Interaction between learners and the personal scheduler

Learners communicate with their personal scheduler by JCE.

c.

Interaction between teaches and the personal scheduler

Teachers interact and collaborate with the scheduler, using JCE to for cour
se
activities.



17

Student profile storage

A student database is used for the storage and retrieval of the student's information.
Privacy and security are the two most important implementing issues to consider.


6.1.2.

The Client side

In the client side, learners pla
n their study according to their personal time
scheduling. They receive the course delivery through the Web. Whenever learners
log
-
on the Virtual Learning Environment, they can attend the lectures, study their
course notes, work on their assignment, chat w
ith others, negotiate with the
personal scheduler for their learning progress, and send queries to the teacher about
the course material.

On the other hand, learners can communicate with other learners using JCE. They
can work on group projects, perform c
ollaboration, conduct brainstorming
meetings, or simply chat informally. The flow in the client side highly depends on
the preference of each learner.


6.2

Basic Interface Design


Fig. 4 A description of the practical usage menu bar




18

The Figure 4 in above page shows the basic features in Virtual Campus. The up
per
screen is used to show the content, and the lower part is the system menu bar. The
most left side window indicates the function chosen by learners. Different button
shown in the right hand side in order:

i.

Scheduled timetable (give learner a personal le
arning schedule);

ii.

Lecture (give learner a lecture);

iii.

Show on
-
line people (let learner know the status of other students and targeted
lecturer or tutor);

iv.

Readings (give reference for the taken course to learners);

v.

Account setting (allow learner to change

the personal detail, for example log
-
in
password);

vi.

Exit.


A sample lecture is shown in figure 1, which gives on
-
live/play
-
back lecture to
learners. Other features will be implemented in the coming semester.


6.3

Components in the Virtual Learning Environment

6.3.1.

MWPS (Multimedia Web Presentation System)

MWPS (Multimedia Web Presentation System) [29] is a Chinese version of NCSU
Web Lecture System (WLS, see
http://renoir.csc.ncsu.edu/WLS
), that supports
construction
, editing, and management of Web
-
based presentations, as well as
synchronous and asynchronous capture and delivery of classes and lessons.

Fig. 5 A screen dump of managing the giving lectures




19

The presentations consist of HTML documents with streaming synchronized audio
and video. The video can be of the low
-
bandwidth variety or it can be based on
MPEG
-
2. Low
-
bandwidth MWPS lesson can be received over ordinary modems
and telephone lines. MWPS contains an on
-
line editor that allows instructors to
prepare slides for delivery. The system captures audio and timin
g data during live
presentations and automatically creates a Web
-
deliverable version of the
presentation.

Fig. 6 Whiteboard: another feature of MWPS


All of the details of the underlying system are hidden from the users, including both
instructors and s
tudents. MWPS allows users to view a presentation using a
standard Web browser, such as Netscape, and watch/listen to the accompanying
streams via a RealSystem player. The system also has the ability to deliver live
presentations with student interaction.


6.3.2.

JCE (Java Collaborative Environment)

JCE (Java Collaborative Environment) [30], which is developed by the National
Institute of Standards and Technologies Group (NIST) and in collaboration with
Old Dominion University, uses Java
-
based collaboration mechan
isms that provide
solutions to overcome the platform
-
dependency problems for collaborative
computing in heterogeneous systems. JCE intercepts, distributes and recreates the


20

user events that allow Java applications to be shared transparently. Using the JCE,

student or teacher can join any of the on
-
going conferences or to start a new
conference. Available tools like whiteboard allows participants sharing a common
writing place when they are in conferencing.


6.3.3.

S
-
Scheduler (Smart Scheduler)

Applying knowledge b
ase rules, the S
-
Scheduler (Smart Scheduler) acts as an
intelligent advisor or consultant. It provides the human scheduler with a powerful
tool to assist him/her in adjusting the studying plan for each student objectively.
The S
-
Scheduler gathers the pre
-
t
est results from each student and come up with a
suggested individual study plan according to the knowledge heuristics and criteria
in the knowledge base. The human scheduler uses the result as a reference and
determines a customized study strategy, which
is tailor
-
fitted to each student.


6.4

Technologies Behind Virtual Campus

6.4.1.

World Wide Web

The World Wide Web (WWW) is accessible to everyone through Web browsers, so
the term "Web" is sometimes used to refer to the "boundless information world"
[31]. Due to it
s universal nature, "WWW has sought to encompass all existing
methods of network information navigation and retrieval" [32]. It has many
distinctive features that it can be flexible and adapting changing rapidly [33]. Let us
give some examples here:

1.

Able t
o store, retrieval and display digitized multimedia documents, say text,
images, audio and video;

2.

Able to create hypertext linking other resource together as well as forming a
large and interconnected information space;

3.

Able to create a communication chann
els.


Hence, an integrated learning and teaching environment can be built on top of the
Internet, which supports various modes of learning activities: self
-
paced learning,
collaborative project team, teleconferencing, etc.




21

6.4.1.1.

Web Technology

WWW technology is

built upon existing computers, networks, and services, so it
has a set of protocols and conventions. Five essential daily
-
using terms [34] use to
describing the architecture of WWW:

i.

URLs: naming/identifier for a particular resource;

ii.

HTTP: communication p
rotocols simply define a request
-
response
"conversation" between server and client;

iii.

HTML: data formats for publishing hypertext on the WWW;

iv.

Web Clients: A client that is capable of accessing Web resources by issuing
requests and render responses containing

Web resource manifestations;
Examples: A Web browser

v.

Web Servers: A server that provides access to Web resources and which supplies
Web resource manifestations to the requestor.


On the other hand, it is common nowadays that the Web server ties to a dat
abase.
Since the database can hold useful historical data, complex graphics and other
objects that organized in fast
-
search manner and can be retrieved with browsers in
client side through the Web server.


6.4.1.2.

Web Server

A Web server acts as a bridge between t
he network and the resources for example
shared video/audio and documents. The job of the Web server software is very
simple: it receives requests from Web browsers for documents over the network,
deciphers each request to determine which file is needed, f
inds that file if it is
available, and sends that file back to the Web browser over the network connection.


In addition to delivering documents, the Web server can execute programs to
dynamically generate information. Once the client browser requests a pr
ogram
(script, general term for programs executed in web server), the web server executes
the requested program and relays the result to the client. Things done by script are
summarized as translates the input from the client, calls other programs, and
tra
nslates the processed output to specific format before return it to the client.




22

This makes it possible to create interactive applications. It also permits the Web
server to act as a gateway to access resources that are not Web servers, such as
databases.
The ability to run scripts makes the Web extremely flexible and lets the
Web incorporate a vast array of services.


6.4.1.3.

Basic Web Server Database Flow in Virtual Campus

The figure 7 below shows the mechanism for connecting databases to the Web
server in Virtua
l Campus. The details discussed here are based on using a Window
Web server (WebSite Professional 2.0). With a database interface module for Perl,
we connect to database (Oracle 8) that runs under Windows NT.

Fig. 7 Basic Flow in the Virtual Campus


The
basic process of connecting a DBMS to a Web Server is shown above. The
numbers indicate the four basic steps that take place. There are two perspectives of
these actions: the client (right
-
hand) and server (left
-
hand) sides. In here, we
describe the simple
st example, says the log
-
in process of a learner entering Virtual
Campus:

1.

Server side: A form (vcc_index.html) is created first and stored in web server.

Web Server
(Web Professional)
Learner/browser
2. Web Page
vc_index.html
1. Request server/
http://pc89075.cse.cuhk.edu/
vc_index.html
3. Action="
login.pl
"
/input login data
4.
Result Page
Network
Database
Documents
Disk
HTML form
vc_
index.html
....
....
Oracle 8
Query
template+Code
login.pl
Scripts
f orm
requested
by learner
passing CGI strings to
script and activate it
query the database
and get the results
change the results to HTML f ormat
2
3
4


2
3

Client side: The form is requested by typing its address
(
http://pc89075.cse.cuhk.edu.hk/vc_index.html
) in the web browser.

2.

Server side: The web server looks up the file (/vc_index.html) in its document
tree. This is done using the file system of the server, which is normally part of
the operat
ing system. If a file of the right name is located and can be read by
the web server and then the web server sends it to the learner.

Fig.8 The login page of Virtual Campus


Client side: Then the learner receives the form (the above login page).

3.

Server sid
e: The web server locate the script firstly (/script/login.pl) and
confirm that it is an executable program of some kind. If so, the server
executes it correctly.

Client side: The learner then enters his personal login information: login
-
name,
password an
d belonging group. This data is returned to the Web server and
activate the script written in Perl language.



24

4.

Server side: The script talks to the interface of the database and makes a query.
Then it changes the output result from query into HTML format tha
t can be
displayed in the learner's web browser.

Client side: An on
-
the
-
fly result page then is sent to the learner side.



25

7

Conclusion and Future Works


Future education and training is in need of proper tools able to overcome space,
time, and performance
demands, which are pointed out by the increasing
geographical distribution of education and training centers. Moreover, it is required
to continuous update in technology
-
related information. The integrated use of
multiple forms of information enhances the
learning effectiveness. [9]


On the other hand, effective collaboration between the instructor and students is
crucial. This essential factor determines the fate of future web
-
based education. In
Virtual Campus, both learners and instructors do not need h
igh technology. But
they can communicate with each other freely. Moreover, Virtual Campus provides
the developmental guidance and support, which are concerned with the learner's
overall progress, across all courses and study programmes.


Continually imple
ment is undergoing to provide more facilities to learners in order
to make the Virtual Campus as an interactive, dynamic, active feedback
-
studying
environment. Specially, the intelligent scheduler will be implemented in the coming
semester.



26

References

[1]

W
eb Site: The World
-
Wide Web Virtual Library: Education,
http://www.csu.edu.au/education/library.html

[2]

NCSU Web Lecture System, WLS, see
http://renoir.cs
c.ncsu.edu/WLS

[3]

Porter, Lynnette R., "Creating the virtual classroom: distance learning with the
Internet", New York: J. Wiley & Sons, c1997.

[4]

Karen E. Goeller, “Web
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based collaborative learning: a perspective on the
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Computer Networks and ISDN Syst
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30 (1998) 634
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635

[5]

National Adult Learning Survey, DfEE, 1998

[6]

Attitudes to Learning, Campaign for Learning/MORI, 1996

[7]

Campaign for learning, About Learning,
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learn
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21 (1998) 584
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589

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[12]

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[13]

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[14]

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)

[15]

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)

[16]

SUNNY Virtual Classroom. (
http://137.142.42.95/west/SVC.html
)

[17]

NovaNET. (
http://www.novanet.com
)



27

[18]

The Worl
d Lecture Hall University of Texas.
(
http://www.utexas.edu/world/lecture/index.html
)

[19]

ElectronicCourse Reservers


The University of Connecticut.
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[24]

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[25]

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[29]

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28

[34]

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