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E-Learning: Emerging Tools & Technologies

A. Rinku Dixit 1 , B. Shailee Choudhary 2 , C. Prof (Dr.) B B Bansal 3 1 Rinku Dixit, Dept. of MCA, Manav Rachna College of Engineering, Faridabad, Haryana 2 Shailee Choudhary, Dept. of MCA, Manav Rachna College of Engineering, Faridabad, Haryana 3 Prof (Dr.) B. B. Bansal, Manav Rachna College of Engineering, Faridabad, Haryana

Abstract: The E-learning industry has grown tremendously since the early days of computers & the internet. The effectiveness of any training depends on the methods and techniques used for conveying the content. It permits the delivery of knowledge and information to learners at an accelerated pace, opening up new vistas of knowledge transfer. This white paper will focus on the technology categories designed specifically for e-learning: courseware authoring tools, LMSs, and learning content management systems (LMCSs); provide an overview of each category and suggests some of the features/capabilities to consider when making selection decisions for e-learning technologies.

Keywords: Cyber-learning, SCORM, LMS, LCMS, video conferencing

1.

Introduction

Learning

and

Overview

of

E-learning is a platform for learning services and technology to provide high value integrated learning - anytime, anyplace. The main thrust of the cyber-learning programme is to effectively integrate e-Learning methodology and approach with the conventional classroom system to maximize the benefits flowing from the traditional education system, increase its reach to more and more learners and spread e-Learning from teaching of IT related subjects to other subjects. The new practice of education and training has developed into the concept of e-learning environment.

E-Learning Potential

The potential of E-Learning practices adoption reflects in the following areas:

of education. Anytime, anywhere access to globally distributed information resources. Online web courses offering accredited degrees or subjects for personal interest and enrichment. Flexible, efficient, and cost-effective organizational training and professional development.

Globally transform the infrastructure and enterprise

 

Pervasive

and

increasing

use

of

e-Learning

 

technologies

in

education,

organizational

 

and

government training.

 

2.

E-Learning Pre-requisites

 
 

The

pre-requisites

for

creating

and

enforcing

an

E-

learning Environment are as follows:

2.1 Technology

The foundational network and telecommunications infrastructure, hardware and software to deliver e-Learning

must be in place or available, and the content and services ready for use. Especially the software, content and services issues need careful consideration, however, in order to be compatible with the local conditions in the other areas of

E-

concern.

2.2 Instructional design and content

Design of a set of company standards regarding the look and feel of screen displays should be available. Identification of the color scheme, course content, reference information and other relevant information regarding the e-learning setup should also be considered.

2.3 Social Conditions

The culture needs to be open or, better still, positive towards learning and knowledge as well as the delivery technology. People need to have access to the system and the freedom to use it (regarding information and communication). These issues are difficult or impossible to overcome if the project setup is not carefully selected. In the best case they still need a great deal of attention in order for e-Learning to succeed. On a potential e-Learning project’s part a business case—or better still a “social case”—needs to be carefully established and the project results measured against it in order to ensure long-term success and credibility.

2.4 Personal Pre-requisites

On the personal level e-Learning needs “connectivity” in terms of language and literacy to succeed: Either the

learners are able to understand the language the content is presented in or the content has to be produced in the learners’ native language. The same holds true for literacy: Either the learners are able to read and write and use the computer or the computer’s interface has to be adjusted according to the literacy level. These topics need certain resources but can be addressed in the medium itself: e-Learning can be used to teach the skills necessary to successfully use e-Learning.

2.5 Standards

The goal of standards is to provide fixed data structures and communication protocols for e-learning objects and cross-system workflows. This enables interoperability between applications, such as an LMS and third-party or in- house developed content, by providing uniform communication guidelines that can be used throughout the design, development, and delivery of learning objects. When these standards are incorporated into off-the-shelf products, developers can base their purchasing decisions on quality and appropriateness rather than compatibility. Currently, e- learning standards are being developed by four main organizations: AICC, IEEE, IMS, and ADL.

AICC (www.aicc.org) is an international group of technology-based training professionals that creates CBT- related guidelines for the aviation industry. AICC publishes a variety of recommendations, but its standards with the highest impact on the e-learning arena are its computer-managed instruction (CMI) guidelines.

IEEE (www.ltsc.ieee.org) is an international organization that develops technical standards and recommendations for electrical, electronic, computer and communication systems. Within the IEEE, the Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) provides specifications that address best practices, which can be tested for conformance. Basically, they wrote the standard on how to write standards. The most widely acknowledged IEEE LTSC specification is the Learning Object Metadata (LOM) specification, which defines element groups and elements that describe learning resources. The IMS and ADL both use the LOM elements and structures in their specifications.

IMS Global Consortium (www.imsproject.org) is a

consortium of suppliers that focus on the development of specifications that focus on the use of metadata to address content packaging. The specifications are used to define how an LMS communicates with back-end applications and content objects or libraries. Several of its standards are made available on its website at no fee.

ADL (www.adlnet.org) is a U.S. government-sponsored organization that researches and develops specifications to encourage the adoption and advancement of e-learning. The

most widely accepted ADL publication is the ADL Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM). The SCORM specification combines the best elements of IEEE, AICC, and IMS specifications into a consolidated document.

SCORM is a standard that allows systems to find, share, import, export, and reuse e-learning content. The SCORM standard is focused on enabling the plug-and-play interoperability, accessibility, and reusability of Web-based learning content. Based on accepted technology standards, including XML and JavaScript, SCORM is fast becoming the defacto e-learning technology standard widely embraced and supported today by world-leading corporations, universities, system providers, and content vendors.

SCORM components:

1. Overview (Book 1): Information and plan for SCORM

2. Content Aggregation Model (Book 2): specifications

stating how content needs to be put together so that it can be exported or reused in other systems.

3. Run Time Environment (Book 3): specification about

how content is launched and the learner progress tracked and reported.

4. Sequencing and Navigation (Book 4): specifications on

how content may be sequenced through learner-initiated or

system-initiated navigation events.

ADL’s latest release, SCORM 2004 2nd Edition Documentation Suite, offer clarifications and details to the overview. One new area covered in SCORM 2004 that is garnering some attention is the Content Object Repository Discovery and Registration/Resolution Architecture (CORDRA), which is a model for indexing stored content. CORDRA describes how to design and implement software systems for the purposes of discovery, sharing, and reuse of learning content through the establishment of interoperable federations of learning content repositories. It’s important to note that CORDRA is not an actual repository of content.

SCORM 2004 also addresses the use of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS). ITSs are computer software systems that seek to mimic the methods and dialog of natural human tutors, to generate instructional interactions in real time and on demand. Specifically, ADL is actively engaging in research and implementation of the digital knowledge environment of the future in the areas of standards and authoring tools that give instructors the ability to create ITS functionality within a virtual training environment.

Figure 1: SCORM 2004, Depicting the various Components 3. Technologies & Tools for E-Learning E-learning

Figure 1: SCORM 2004, Depicting the various Components

3. Technologies & Tools for E-Learning

E-learning holds great promise for individuals and organizations. One critical step is to carefully match your requirements with the available software. The fragmentation of the e-learning market makes it challenging to decide or choose the right software application. The first attempt needs to understand the gap in skills and knowledge you are trying to fill and at the same time to understand the business issues that are driving the need for an e-learning solution in your organization. You need to consider the basic questions pertaining to organization size, technology to be used, work culture & lastly but most required analysis of the cost factors. The E-learning process tools & technologies can be classified as follows:

Content Development Tools

Training Administration Tools

Content Servicing

Content Access

Databases

3.1. Content Development :

Content development refers to preparation of e- learning instructional content either in a general format for use by the general public or personalized as per the specifications of any specific individual. The following tools are used for this purpose.

Authoring is the act of developing instructional content done through one or a combination of three ways: HTML programming, using general purpose tools such as PowerPoint or Dreamweaver, or using specialized authoring packages. Authoring tools offer elements such as templates for creating courses, features for building tests and quizzes, and schemes for chunking pages into educational units such as lessons, courses, and modules. There are specialized tools to create specific types of content or focused applications such as assessments or simulations right through to products that create traditional online courses. These tools are helpful to course developers, because they eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel by creating navigation devices and site structure specific for learning.

Web-based course management systems are an extension of this category. They help groups of people to communicate, collaborate and manage information from their computers. It gives users an environment where members can talk with high quality audio, share information, pictures, documents and see each other in real time independent of place.

Authoring Tools Products

Listed below are certain authoring tools commonly used today:

Asymetrix

Click2learn

Toolbook

(formerly

Learning Systems)

• Authorware Macromedia

• Trainersoft Professional Trainersoft Course Management Systems Products

• WebCT WebCT Inc.

•Blackboard Learning Systems Blackboard Inc.

3.1.2 Learning Content Management Systems

An IDC research article describes an LCMS as a "system used to create, store, assemble, and deliver personalized e- learning content in the form of learning objects." In order to understand an LCMS, one needs to understand that learning objects are a new way of thinking about learning content. An LCMS consists of an infrastructure designed to create, deliver, manage, and reuse instructional content. Content might be web pages, test, media, or assembled lessons and other course components. Courses in an LCMS are typically created with web-based authoring tools and are viewed with a browser. An LCMS can also launch testing created by testing tools. An LCMS includes the following:

Components: html pages, XML data, media, test questions

Learning Object definitions: use of the above components to accomplish learning objectives

Lesson and Course definitions: use of learning objects to accomplish instructional goals

Templates and style sheets: to control appearance and delivery

Framework: for navigation and user interface

Metadata about all of the above

LCMS Products

Two of the vendors listed for LMS products, Docent and Click2learn, also have LCMS products. Other prominent products include the following:

KM Studio Knowledge Management Group Inc

KnowledgeOne Content Manager Leading Way Knowledge Systems

• TopClass LCMS WBT Systems

3.2.

Training Administration

3.2.1

Learning Management Systems

Though LMS and LCMS have such similar names, but they have two very different functions. While the focus of an LCMS is to manage and deliver content, LMSs manage and administer learning. Understanding the difference can be confusing, because most LCMSs have built in LMS functions. The primary objective of an LMS is to manage learners, keeping track of their progress across all types of learning activities, including classroom and online. To do this, LMS software tracks courses in a catalog, schedules and

registers students for courses, and tracks and reports on learner progress. The latter may be in the form of course completion or rudimentary tests but more sophisticated LMSs provide more in this area. An LMS will also launch e- learning courses. LMS users in the organization are generally training managers, instructors and administrators—not content developers—as an LMS does not include its own authoring capabilities.

An LMS

(Learning

Management System)

consists of an infrastructure platform that allows the tracking of courses or training experiences in relation to learners. The LMS works at the curriculum level allowing the assembling of courses into collections such as academic or training programs. E-Learning courses managed by the LMS might be created with course-authoring tools and delivered with the assistance of Learning Content Management Systems. An LMS is not limited to e-learning and can also manage other forms of instruction. Tasks of the LMS are:

Manage learners taking whole courses

Manage the curriculum

Manage courses in various curriculums

Present options depending on learner profiles

Track learner needs and preferences

Track course completions and scores

LMS products

Following are certain LMS Products:

Saba Learning, Enterprise Edition Saba

Aspen

Learning

Management

Click2learn

Asymetrix Learning Systems)

(formerly

• Docent Learning Management Server Docent

3.3. Content Servicing

The content created as per the earlier step must be either offered in CDs, loaded in standalone PCs for serving through Intranet/Internet. Care should be taken to keep materials in such formats occupying less space. Collaborative sharing of information resources can be explored.

3.4. Content Access

Learners access the courseware through standard Web browsers and Multimedia Players. Many institutions and agencies are engaged in training in the form of short-term

courses, workshops, tutorials, etc. Most of these courses produce a printed volume. The institutions organizing such courses and the funding agencies sponsoring the same should encourage preparing the course materials in electronic form to distribute it to participants and provide network access to these resources

3.5. Databases

Database of different lectures and indexes may be prepared for faster search and access to select materials. The database must also hold the profiles of teachers/guest faculties and learners to evolve personalized learning. The database should be developed in regional languages and more emphasis should be given on locally relevant information. The following variables have to be taken into consideration while selecting the technology for a given training application. It plays an important role in planning and formulating a courseware for a specific group:

Nature of the Learning

Nature of the course

Availability of existing technology

Availability of course content

Management/staff/trainee support for technology use

Nature of the learning environment

How will course be maintained and updated

4. Technology Selection

There are many technologies that can be used to support distance training. Some are used as supplements to traditional classroom environments and others are used as complete replacements for traditional lecture-based courses. However we have to analyse the technologies that can be applied effectively in the field of training for achieving better and faster learning and providing need based short-term courses/seminars/workshops etc. Picking up the appropriate technology plays an important role while planning and formulating a courseware for a specific group. The following are some of the technology suites for the successful implementation of e-learning technologies in training.

4.1. Video

Videotape has a significant impact in the context of training. It is the media used for storing and producing during

the training programmes

when the viewing audience wants the convenience of watching programs at their convenient time rather than a scheduled time. The Centre on Rural Documentation of NIRD is having the Video collection. At present the CORD is having a total of 140 Video cassettes on women development, panchayati raj, local self government, employment, watershed

Videotape delivery is preferred

management etc. and made available to the course directors for use in the training programme as a medium of instruction. A brief annotation is provided with each videotape along with details of the tape like language, producer, duration etc.

4.2. Satellite Teleconferencing

The most common form of teleconferencing used today is satellite teleconferencing, which involve one-way television broad cast and two-way audio (telephone) links. Participants watch the presentation on a television and can ask questions via microphone or telephone handsets. Interaction usually takes the form of questions. It is also possible to equip each location with a fax machine so that questions and information can be sent in written/printed form. Satellite teleconferences tend to be one-time events devoted to a specific topic or issue (e.g. latest research findings)

4.3. Digital Videoconferencing

It provides more interactive capability because it involves two way audio and video transmissions between each site. It is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. Video conferencing is now widely used by most organizations like National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad and National Institute of Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad for arranging meetings as well as training. The major benefit is reduced travel time and cost. The initial cost of equipment and the ongoing telecommunication costs are easily justified by reducing against huge budgets. Through the Power Point Presentations of resource persons who are scattered geographically can be made available for the trainers. This ensures the quality of training and guarantee of not missing the lectures of experts who cannot attend physically. This service is already introduced in NIRD and MANAGE.

4.4. Computer Conferencing

It provides either asynchronous (delayed) or synchronous (real time) interaction. Asynchronous participants read and respond to messages whenever they sign on to the system, in synchronous interaction participants send and receive messages with others on the system at that moment. Asynchronous Conferencing is preferred by most, because it allows people to participate in a discussion according to their own schedule.

4.5. Audio Graphics

In one specialized type of computer conferencing system specially designed for instructional purposes, an audiographic system uses a personal computer to transmit audio and graphic images simultaneously. Each participant has his/her own personal computer running the audiographic software. Audiographics system is used for a wide variety of technical training programmes, when the subject matter involves material that is visual in nature.

4.6. Multimedia

It includes text, graphics, sound, video and animation all together. Multimedia technology has drastically simplified the development process for all media and made it possible for anyone with the right hardware and software to develop multimedia presentations that can be run on inexpensive and commonly available personal computers.

Support and training with a variety of options such as classroom or online, customer site or offsite (Assess the independent support services available for the product through consultants and contractors, newsgroups and forums, and third-party books and training).

Offsite hosting (In e-learning, most categories of software are offered as hosted solutions, but not every product in a given category may be available).

4.7. Internet and the Web

The Internet and the web have strongly influenced the training world. An important function of Internet is news groups and listservs and discussion groups. All these functions provide means for broadcasting messages to people. It effectively works like electronic newsletters in which any one can provide information. People use the Internet informally for learning by joining e-groups on topics of interest and sharing ideas with people. The web provides access to thousands of online magazines, online libraries, online help, discussion groups etc.

Customization (Can you easily extend and customize the product to meet your exact needs?)

Viability and maturity, including assessing the financial condition and longevity of the supplier and its product

6. Conclusion

Demand for technical and professional education is rising with advent of the society to be prepared for the next century challenges of the universe. Evolution through adaptation or adoption of technology is the only successful answer for this preparation. Introducing e-learning tools and

5.

E-Learning Tools : Desired Features & Capabilities

resources may be one way that educators can assist students

in achieving the multiple learning goals of exploration, communication, and collaboration beyond the framework and boundaries of the traditional classroom. Highly customized and efficient education system needs technology much more than anything else. Research indicates that online learning experiences can be highly engaging and thus highly conducive to learning.

In

brief,

global

exploration

into

any

branch

of

knowledge is quite possible sitting in front of a computer with

Internet communication. These have made technical and professional education more comfortable and uniform to all over the world.

7. References

Following are the e-learning tool characteristics to consider in the "best for you" choices along with reviewing organizational considerations:

Ease of use, including an appropriate level of technical ability requirements, an intuitive user interface, features that permit quick and easy addition of material into the product, and quick and easy retrieval

Ease of integration with other business applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, financial and HR systems, customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP

Compliance with standards, including interoperability with other learning components such as actual online content, as it is dependent on the product supporting learning technology standards

Scalability, which includes the capability to serve large organizations with multiple types of learning—formal, informal, offline as well as online and distance learning

Availability of specific features that meet learner's needs, including an assessment that goes beyond rudimentary testing to sophisticated competency mapping and skill gap analysis and may lead to the need to have multiple language options or additional modules for features such as learner collaboration/communication during and after course completion.

2. Dr. T. Rama Devi , E-Learning Tools and Technologies for Rural Development Community with special reference to training: Experiences of National Institute of Rural Development, Paper J, DRTC - ICT Conference on Digital Learning Environment, 2006

3. Bonnie Burwell, E-Learning Technologies, Intranets Enterprise Strategies & Solutions, 2003

4. Notes from GrayHarriman.com, 2004

5. Ryann K. Ellis, E-Learning Standards Update, ASTD’s Source for E-Learning, 2005

Ability to incorporate an array of media types.

6. Faisal Amir, Samir M. Iqbal and M. Yasin, Effectiveness Of Cyber-Learning, IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, 1999

7. Nilay M.Yajnik, E-Learning Technologies for Rural India, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies,Vile Parle (W),Mumbai.

8. CM Mufassil Wahid, Chandan Kumar Karmakar, PROSPECTS Of E-Learning In The Context Of Current Ict Infrastructure Of Bangladesh, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Shah Jalal University of Science and Technology

9. Nichols, M., A theory for eLearning, Educational Technology & Society, 2003, 6(2), 1-10, Available at

http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/6-2/1.html