CETIS Analytics Series: Infrastructure and Tools for Analytics

Link: CETIS Analytics Series Vol 1, No 11. Analytics Tools and Infrastructure (pdf)
Link: CETIS Analytics Series Vol 1, No 11. Analytics Tools and Infrastructure (MS Word .docx)

Analytics is notable in that it is a headline grabbing trend in many domains, but has also been around for a long time under various other labels. One consequence of that longevity is that there is a bewildering array of tools available that can support an analytics process in some way.

An exhaustive overview of all such tools is near impossible, and probably out of date the moment it’s finished. What is possible, however, is to provide a map of the major categories of tools, and highlight some landmark tools that are available now.

Because of the diverse history and practice of analytics, many different categorisations are possible, but we choose to group them by tradition, or established approach. One reason is that such an approach makes tools more easily comparable, because they have been developed to meet the needs and expectations of their communities over time. The other reason is that it tallies closely with other papers in the CETIS Analytics Series of which this briefing is a part.
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Cloud Computing in Institutions

Link: Cloud Computing in Institutions (pdf).

Summary: The term “Cloud Computing” refers to any “computing capability that is delivered as a service over the Internet. While there is no authoritatively accredited definition of the concept, one of the most frequently used definitions is the one given by Gartner, who describe cloud computing as “a style of computing where massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’ across the Internet to multiple external
customers.”

This briefing paper will explain some of the key characteristics and delivery levels of current development and implementations that provide a basis for understanding cloud computing and the ongoing discussion about it.

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Using ArchiMate to design learning environment architectures

Link: Using ArchiMate to design learning environment architectures.

Published in International Open Forum Proceedings. 24th ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 Plenary and WG meetings, International Open Forum. Shanghai, China: Ministry of Education Information Technology Standards Committee China e-Learning Technology Standardization Committee (CELTSC), pp. 180-194.

Abstract: A desire to customise and personalise learning experiences, combined with the rise of a number of new tool integration technologies has led to a move away from monolithic Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs, also known as Learning Management Systems ‘LMSs’) towards more open and Distributed Learning Environments (DLEs). The various DLE architectures can have very different properties, however, and choosing between them can be difficult.

The Open Group’s ArchiMate standard may help in that regard. It was designed to facilitate communication about architectures between all stakeholders in an organisation. It is a visual language that aims to help conversations about IT systems, business processes, organisational structure and strategy. This paper will present a number of DLE patterns that illustrate the range of possible architectures. Both the potential of these patterns as well as the utility of the ArchiMate language in explicating them will be evaluated.

Keywords:Enterprise Architecture; VLE; DLE; LMS; learning technology
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Transcoder Final Report

Link: Download PDF

Summary: The transcoder project set out to develop and trial a cloud based service that can change one type of educational content package into another (i.e. transcode). Such a capability would help overcome the current proliferation of incompatible content packaging formats, which can be an obstacle to the dissemination and re-use of packaged learning content.

The aim was to both test the technical feasibility of such a transcoder, as well as explore the business case for deploying it as cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS). In that regard, both the initial set-up phase as well as potential future business models were explored. Possible further developments of the service were also considered.

The transcoder software was developed after a pattern established by a similar, advertising supported service for other kinds of file formats. The pattern is centred around a manual upload and download of packages, in order to facilitate maximal transcoding capacity without bottlenecks. The software itself was developed to be hosted on Amazon web services, for a variety of reasons that include flexibility of deployment, price and sustainability.

In the event, demand for the service turned out to be low, which may have something to do with limited usage of packaged content in the JISC community, exacerbated by limitations of the design of the transcoder’s interface, and possibly also the range of conversions that were developed and are currently available. As a consequence, the low start-up investment costs as well as the scalable exploitation costs of cloud computing offered clear advantages for this type of service. Also, at this, or even much higher levels of usage the ongoing costs required to keep the service going are low. Finally, feedback from stakeholders indicate that a few simple extensions to the software could make the service more useful.

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Distributed Learning Environments

Link: Distributed Learning Environments (pdf).

Summary: After a period of relative stability and deeper embedding, the debate about the role and function of the VLE (virtual learning environment)
within the institution is gathering pace again. Many institutions in the UK
are in the process of reviewing their current VLE provision in the light of
changing pedagogical requirements, more administrative integration and the emergence of new classes of social media on the wider web.

In the past, the requirement for deeper integration with other (administrative) systems gave rise to the MLE (managed learning environment) concept. Later, the demand for greater personalisation and the availability of new web tools gave birth to the PLE (personal learning
environment) debate, in which people radically re- conceptualised the notion of a learning environment. During these phases, however, the VLE still remained a dominant force within institutions. This has resulted in a tension between the role of the VLE as a common tool for the institutional community, the desire to make it permeable to the institutional network and the wider web and to allow greater levels of personalization / customization for individuals and institutions.

A number of working solutions are now emerging to address these tensions. This briefing paper will explore five emerging models, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each and link to working examples and further sources of information.

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Assessing the business case for standards: Introduction for strategy planning and resourcing committees

Link: Assessing the business case for standards: Introduction for strategy planning and resourcing committees.
Link: Assessing the business case for standards: Introduction for strategy planning and resourcing committees (pdf).

Making a business case for interoperability and standards is a challenging task for those involved in the strategic planning of IT systems in educational institutions. This briefing with its accompanying references is intended to provide advice and supporting materials to help people to incorporate standards in their ICT-related business cases. It assumes some familiarity with the way IT systems are presently deployed and maintained in educational institutions, and will be of interest to Information Services managers and senior managers for strategy planning and resourcing.
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Open Educational Resources – Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education

Link: Open Educational Resources – Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education (pdf)

Higher education institutions around the world have been using the Internet and other digital technologies to develop and distribute teaching and learning for decades. Recently, Open Educational Resources (OER) have gained increased attention for their potential and promise to obviate demographic, economic, and geographic educational boundaries and to promote life-long learning and personalised learning. The rapid growth of OER provides new opportunities for teaching and learning, at the same time, they challenge established views about teaching and learning practices in higher education.
This briefing provides the background to the current development of and future trends around OER aimed at adding to our understanding, stimulating ongoing debate among the JISC community and developing a research agenda. The briefing is structured in three sections:

  • Discussion on the conceptual and contextual issues of Open Educational Resources.
  • A review of current OER initiatives: their scale, approaches, main issues and challenges.
  • Discussion on trends emerging in Open Educational Resources, with respect to future research and activities.

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