Web Technologies to support E-Learning{1}

by Penny C

Globe with "E-Learning"

Courtesy of http://www.clinicaltrial-portal.com

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about how web 2.0 could help enhance learning experience with integrating interactive web technology.  This week, I am kind of following up on that same theme with the technologies or programming language to support the interactive web learning.  The article listed a few server-side technologies or programming languages: PHP, ASP, JSP, Python and ASP.NET.  ASP, Python and ASP.NET were identified by the authors as the server-side web technologies or program languages that are most suited for web sites that need high level of interaction with the clients while  PHP and JSP are excellent choices if the custom designed tools are needed in the web applications.  If you would recall from our lecture during the first week, server-side technology means clients send requests to the server.  The server then analyzes the requests, perform the process and sends the results back to the client.

The flip side of server-side is client-side technology.  The authors cited JavaScript, AJAX, Adobe Flash, Adobe Flex and Java Applets as popular choices for client side development.  JavaScript is the only one out of the lot that can be used if the site does not require too much interaction between user and browser.  Adobe Flash, as we know, is to include multimedia files in the web application.  That leaves AJAX, Adobe Flex and Java Applets are choices for web applications that requires interaction and functionality.  Client-side technology processes requested services right on the web browser.

The authors stated that e-learning needs different type of development which largely depends on the type of the site (generate random set of questions, fixed set of questions) and methods used to integrate the chosen test format into the web application.  The fixed set of questions is similar to the quizzes we take in class. The professor picks the questions to be included in the test and pretty much post the questions.  The random set of questions require rules and restriction for the software so that it can automatically generate questions from the database.  In this case professor identifies the level of difficulty, how many questions, etc to be included in the test and the software automatically generate questions per user.   Obviously, dynamically generating test questions is more complex.

The authors chose dynamic test question format and thus choose PHP as server-side technology and AJAX YUI for client-side. because of ease of implementation and response speed.  The authors also went into security side of the online learning.  The questions and answers need to be safely stored.  The servers need to be protected from being hacked in.

I chose this article because we are learning web development and it also integrates e-learning.  I have taken tests online before where the tests would evaluate my knowledge on the subject as I go.  If I get intermediate difficulty questions right, the test escalates to harder questions.  If I don’t get the hard questions, it turns the dial back down.  I think that type of test is probably a better assessment of our knowledge and the effectiveness of instruction than the standard tests we take in classes (not talking about our class specifically, but in general).

Butucea, D., & Cervinschi, C. L. (2011). Building robust E-learning software systems using web technologies. Informatica Economica, 15(2), 107-107-118. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/887898237?accountid=10357