ASP.NET2.0 and MSSQL used to build generic online course platform.{1}

by Cary C
The journal I read discusses the use of ASP.Net2.0 and its integration with Microsoft SQL Server in the use of building an online course platform to be used in universities.  The ASP portion is used to build the web interface, and of course, SQL is the backend database.  This article discusses the basics for creating the platform with students, administrators, and teachers.  The author first discusses that there are several online course platforms commercially available such as Blackboard or ECollege, but that these systems can be potentially problematic as there are constantly being updated and patched which causes the end users to experience downtimes.  This is further complicated by the fact that many of the “updates” that these companies provide for their end users do not offer features that the end users want.  The authors of the journal are interested in reducing the hardware costs associated with running an online course platform, and they are also looking to move away from the costs of using Oracle as the backend database.  While MSSQL is not generally considered to be better than Oracle in quality, it is far less expensive and it can do a very good job as a database.  The article does not go into the low levels of the design but it does give a good example of the high levels of operation and the different modules that the three user types would each experience.

Because Blackboard is used by so many different universities, it is difficult to imagine that the developers at Blackboard are getting an accurate assessment of their end user’s needs.  I would imagine that they do take the time to speak to some of their users, but I do not think they get a broad enough perspective.  Considering that I work for a University, I have dealt with Blackboard on numerous occasions and I have seen excessive downtimes for our solution which is hosted by Blackboard on the East Coast.  Until I started working at my current position, I had never seen any application or solution where it was acceptable for the service to be down for up to a week which is what our Blackboard goes down for at least once a year.

Considering the excessive and frequent downtimes for maintenance coupled with the enormous costs associated with running Blackboard, I have suggested to my department that we seek to do away with it.  However, I have been thwarted by many members of our organization who absolutely love Blackboard and have said they would not use anything other than it.  So essentially, a good number of our professors have threatened to quit if we attempted to remove Blackboard from our organization.  My wife is a professor at another University and they use ECollege which I have found to be much easier to use when compared to Blackboard.  However, I found out that the person who choose to use ECollege at that University owned a great deal of stock in ECollege.  So I guess it all comes down to the almighty dollar and who is going to get a little cut in the end.



Peng, C.;  Ren, J.; Zhang, J. (2010). Development of a General-Purpose Online Course Platform based-on Asp.Net.  Education Technology and Computer (ICETC), 3, 289-292.