Goals of the Project
TANGLE (Techniques and Applications for Network Global Learning) ultimate goal is to produce know-how. That means to grow up a working team provided with the skill and the tools necessary to handcraft and deliver academic courses according to the e-learning paradigm.
Following the "learning by doing" approach, specific goals have been set that must be achieved by the end of March 2004. More specifically, the goal are three:
- The deployment of a suite of low cost tools supporting synchronous learning over Internet.
- The development of a learning platform, SCORM and AICC compliant, supporting asynchronous e-learning.
- The design and implementation of five experimental e-learning courses. In order to test how e-learning approach depends upon the discipline, the teachers and the students, the courses have been chosen in different curricula and involve different subjects
A beginner looking inside the e-learning market is immediately astonished by the tremendous costs: course development, platforms, servers, providers looks simply unaffordable for a university. However, this is the world of "e-learning for rich peoples", i.e. for big enterprises.
At a second glance, another world appears, where many universities are investing developing by themselves open source platforms and handcrafting homely made courses. This is the e-learning world for "poor peoples" where what it really matters is not a "sophisticated technology" but the quality of the "content" delivered by of the courses.
TANGLE approach belongs to this second type. More specifically TANGLE aim to provide an essential but effective e-learning support to small universities, high schools and small companies, which cannot invest in sophisticated technologies while they could really benefit from e-learning.
Then, the focus of the project is on open source technology and on teaching methodologies, more than on teaching technologies.
Recently, a number of e-learning platforms appeared in the open source world. In general, they do not cover all e-learning requirements. Nevertheless, most essential features are presents and represent a good start point for further developments.
Then, the strategy chosen for TANGLE is to work inside the open source community, exploiting and extending e-learning tools already available, or designing and implementing new ones.
Several commercial tools providing video-conferencing on IP are today quite inexpensive for the educational institutions. Therefore, TANGLE project will provide a solution based on a commercial tools able to support low band network connections (typically 56.6 Kbit/sec).
Selected e-learning courses.
The five academic courses committed to TANGLE project are:
- "Emergenze Medico Chirurgiche" curriculum in Medicine.
- "Programmazione Concorrente", curriculum in Information Science.
- "Programmazione in XML", curriculum in Information Science.
- "Matematica Finanziaria", curriculum in Economy.
- "Storia Contemporanea", curriculum in Communication Science.
Today multi-media technology may offer excellent e-learning solutions providing sophisticated audio-video interfaces. Unfortunately costs rapidly increase along with the technological level, so that this technology may become unaffordable in an academic environment.
On the other hand, successful e-learning stories exist where quite rough technology has been used (basically textual tools). Thist means that e-learning success much more depends on the investment on the course architecture and on the teacher-student interaction support, than on the investment in multi-media technology.
Therefore, TANGLE project will primarily invest on teaching methodology in order to learn the best way to reframe into an e-learning paradigm what, up to now has been taught according to a classical paradigm. The technology will be chosen according to the real needs.
Working group organization
The working group is subdivided into two subgroups: The "software" group and the "multi-media" group. The software group is concerned with providing tools and apparata, and operates in Alessandria, hosted by the Dipartimento di Informatica. The multi-media group is concerned with course development and operates in Novara. Currently it is hosted by the FAUSER institute. The two subgroups strictly cooperate via a video-conferencing equipment.
The workplan entails specific goal achievements by specific deadlines:
- 31/3/2003, full suite of tools supporting the synchronous e-learning component must be operational.
- 30/11/2003, a platform prototype, SCORM compliant, supporting asynchronous e-learning, must be operational
- 30/6/2003, the course in "Emergenze Medico-Chirurgiche" must be fully operational.
- 30/9/2003, the course in "Programmazione XML" must be fully operational.
- 30/11/2003, the course in "Programmazione Concorrente" must be fully operational.
- 31/1/2004, the course in"Storia Contemporanea" must be fully operational.
- 31/3/2004, the course in "Matematica Finanziaria" must be fully operational.
Current project status.
Up to now, the goal number 1 has been successfully achieved. More specifically, two low band video-conferencing tools have been deployed and field-tested with students delivering tutoring support, and running group-collaboration sessions in Internet. The two tools are:
- CentraOne Symposium.
Moreover, a dial-up service (WIND-ACCESS), country level available, has been activated. This service guarantees a communication bandwidth larger than 50Kbit/sec sufficient to support a low cost video-conference, via CentraOne and SameTime.
Furthermore, several open source e-learning platforms have been tested, and two of them (MOODLE and CLAROLINE) have been selected and made available to the academic environment for field-testing. MOODLE has been chosen as a base line in order to develop a SCORM compliant platform fully satisfying TANGLE project purposes.