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2. Introduction

2.1 Background

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Since the early 1970s, computer networks have been used in educational activities for course delivery (Harasim et. al., 1995). Later, the same networks were used to facilitate collaboration of learners. This type of application is commonly called computer-based learning environments. As computer networks grow, previously inaccessible learners, such as full-time workers or geographically dispersed populations, can be accommodated.

These computer-based learning environments were proprietary, in the sense that components or modules of one system are not interoperable with other systems. This means that:

One way of eliminating this problem is to establish standards, a common way to represent computer-based learning environments (Schoening & Wheeler, 1997). Specifically, the environments should be broken down into components, where each component's interface is standardised. This would allow components from separate environments to work with each other. For example, some education providers could specialise in course contents, while others would concentrate on learner management.

2.2 Project Objectives

Although currently there are no established standard for the representation of computer-based learning environments, several activities are going on to define such standards. This project See section Project homepage for WWW site. will examine the role of standardisation for computer-based learning environments. Specifically, this project will define the term distributed open learning environments (DOLE) to generalise the current trend for computer-based learning environments. It will also propose a specification framework for standardising DOLE. The resulting framework will be useful for further work in standardisation. A case study using Lotus LearningSpace as one example of current DOLE will also be done. This case study will provide an overview of current advances in the use of computer networks for education purposes. Also, the case study will give an indication of how Lotus LearningSpace conforms to the goal of standards-based computer-based learning environments.

2.3 Report Overview

First, the second chapter reviews various existing computer-based learning environments and standardisation activities for these environments. It will give the background for the definition of distributed open learning and discusses the impact of standardisation to learning environments. The third chapter will present a standards-based specification for distributed open learning environments. The fourth chapter presents the case study using Lotus LearningSpace. The case study selected for this project is a short course on network design. The fifth chapter presents the conclusion and suggestions for further work. The final chapter lists all the references used in this project.


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