Managing e-Content | digitalLEARNING Magazine
July 2006

Managing e-Content

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Often time and support for implementing
an effective online  e-learning system is underestimated. The environment and cultural background of students and instructors are often neglected and not understood. These results in many portals
reducing to a mere  depository site where
students log on to  download traditional
notes prepared by  nstructors. This article
proposes a structure of the cooperative e-learning portal, based on an e-learning management system. The structure focuses on instructor and student centric active learning where students not only learn from their dedicated instructor but  have the opportunity to share and learn from a pool of instructors and even students.

All researchers and content developers may be students and instructors at one point in time but not all content developers are instructors and students at the same time. Not many instructors are content  developers, they may be content
providers also. This mismatch has hindered the widespread adoption of  e-learning to the chagrin of the e-learning managers and  implementers. As a result of this, many e-learning setups has been  reduced to merely a depository portal – instructors uploading their existing  Word, PDF or power point files for
students to download and thus has not released the real potentials of

Problems of existing e-learning setups
Many e-learning setups have been introduced in schools, tertiary institutions and organisations  because of various reasons. Often the measurement of success in such adoptions are through the portal  access volume statistics which is  flawed, statistics does not reveal the satisfactions of the students and
instructors for such system nor it reveals much of the online learning  experience. The environment and   cultural background of students and instructors are often neglected and  not understood. Supports and time for implementing an effective online e-learning system is often underestimated. Trainings, where provided to instructors, may not be  effective because of time constraints and the steep learning curves of elearning  development tools for non-  IT personnel. All these results in many portals reduced to a mere depository site where students log on  to download traditional notes prepared by instructors. Besides,  third party content development is expensive and very often educational  institutions are reluctant to spend or have very low budget for this. Requirements for performance and costs often contradict each other,
which may lead to user frustrations and disillusion for e-learning.

Cooperative e-learning portal
In this section, the proposed structure of the cooperative e-learning portal, based on the e-learning management system, ecLEMS (http://www. ecpresence. com), is presented along  ith some illustrations on the logics  and the benefits of such portal. Cooperative e-learning is about  instructor and student centric active learning where students not only  learn from their dedicated instructor but get the opportunity to share and  learn from a pool of instructors and  even students in a portal designed for sharing. The portal is organised under a broad umbrella of a learning centre  where a group of schools or  institutions conducting similar courses are signed up as partner members. All partner members can create courses on the portal for their  own pupils organised in classes.  Other members can join the course and share information created for the course by creating their own classes  under the course. While information is  shared in the background, students and instructors from members retain  their own identity throughout the learning experience. In this way, instructors are not required to prepare  every single content themselves but  can focus on tackling what they do best – teaching and guiding the students. Content and materials come in various  forms. The most important ones are the teaching materials. These can be  in the form of simple power-point
slides, word documents or PDF files, flash or other interactive programmes,  proprietary designed contents and  even interactive simulators using Java Applets and others. These types of contents are expensive to write and develop and therefore it makes sense that it should be reached out to more  users to share out the costs. Another area of learning materials is in the  form of teasers,
quizzes and assignments.  Instructor  members can  contribute to the pool by uploading  them to the central bank under some  defined common topics for the course that can be  setup by instructor members  themselves. With the  aterials  in  lace, instructors and students can  then benefit from these contents to  embark on a more meaningful active  learning with the built-in interactive tools. Interactivity depends very much on the cultural makes of individuals; some are more reserved  while others are more ready to participate in group discussions. Hence, the portal caters to this  diversity of student groups to bring  them up gradually to the public discussion forum.  Instructors can start by using the  more private short message service  (SMS) system to get the students to  open up leading them to the public forum. Assignments and projects form  one of the very important processes of learning. The portal provides an interactive feature for instructors to  setup projects and assignment for  students to submit. Instructors can then give feedback to individual  students on their progress and make comments while the system will keep  the parties involved and informed through emails. All these activities could be easily setup by the  instructors and the students informed through the Announcement as shown  in the image or the Planner system. Students could learn from their fellow  classmates through the user pal system, ecLEMS Pals where students can seek out other users of the portal  for discussion and friendship. In  recent years, this form of interaction  has generated a lot of interests by Internet users and this forms an  important tool for online learning.
Students can form study groups to experience online interactive learning  with other fellow users of the portal. The world-wide-web is more than a  global network. It is a network of  intelligent machines capable of not only fast computational activities but  also a major resource of contents and content delivery. The proposed  system taps onto these resources to create not just a standalone portal but a global integrated network of  resources and servers to form a global e-learning portal. Partner members and  individual users need not upload the contents onto the portal. They only  need to register the contents to be  used by students with the central portal server. The central server will keep track of the content information and the source computer server. Users will be channel to the appropriate resource to render out the content when requested through the portal. In this way, hardware  resources as well as bandwidth
resource can be distributed over the global portal. 

Case studies for interactivelearning using the proposed system
Two cases will be presented here to demonstrate the benefits of the proposed system. Case 1: The first involves the  teaching of embedded or micro
controller system with hands-on Assignment project is then setup  for students to carry the programming and loading onto  the hardware. Throughout the project, students can submit  the project progress report weekly through the project assignment page. Instructors can feedback  and interact with the students by making comments on the project  as it progresses. To mitigate instructors’ burden in tracking  submission, emails are sent by the system to the instructors  whenever students submit their reports. Similarly, students are
prompted when comments by instructors are submitted.  Case 2: In this application,  students were involved in an  industrial attachment either locally or while in another country. Students are required to  submit bi-weekly reports for the supervisors, one from the  organisation where the student is attached to and the other from the institution, for record and  assessment. The institution
supervisor or the instructor is often required to make appointment  with the organisation supervisors  and students for meetings. To ensure the students have a beneficial  attachment, the instructor can feedback to the students through the portal based on the bi-weekly  reports that he submitted. Every
single entry by the students and the supervisors are logged and  can be easily retrieved and the parties involved informed  through email whenever there is
a new update. In addition to the necessary  close interaction between the instructor and the student in an online active learning environment,  peers interaction is also necessary  to set up the right cultural mode for a successful e-learning setup. The ecLEMS portal has  demonstrated to have these features necessary to build upon a global e-learning portal. 
Interactivity depends very much on the cultural makes of individuals; some are more reserved while 
others are more ready to participate in group discussions. Hence, the portal caters to this diversity of student groups to bring them up gradually to the public discussion forum.
experience using an online Applet programmer, called PicWorks. A copy of the Applet view is shown above where users  make use of a graphical tool to programme real-time system using   ow-chart. Users make use of the  interactive programme for the  rogramming and debugging of the  controller and subsequently uploading the binary programme onto  the hardware for the final test. Students’ interests are upheld  through the use of a web-cam to feedback to them the fruit of their  ard work. At shown in the figure of  the web-cam feedback image. First instructor can upload the content as  power-point files, video such as the CoreChart and eRacer Project or talking  head content for the formal teaching of micro controller.

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