A Suite of WWW-based Tools for Advanced Course Management

Kurt NÝrmark
Department of Computer Science
Aalborg University


Index References Contents
These are the annotated slides which are used for presentation of the paper "A Suite of WWW-based Tools for Advanced Course Management"(html, pdf, zipped ps) on the ITICSE Conference, located in Finland, July 2000.

These slides refer to a demo edition of a course home page made with the Course Plan System. Similarly, the slides refer to a few pages which illustrate some features of the LENO lecture note system. Finally, there will be a reference to an exercise which is augmented with an exercise manager page. Notice that this page is not operational, because the real exercise manager is implemented as an interactive service running on a WWW server with limited access rights.

The plan of this talk
Slide Note Contents Index References
This slide outlines the plan for the rest of this talk.

  • Course management

  • Course home pages and the course plan system

  • Course material and the LENO Lecture note system

  • The exercise manager

  • A programmatic authoring approach

  • Concluding remarks

WWW-based Course Management
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Here we present two important issues for 'WWW-based course management'

It is very time consuming to produce comprehensive teaching materials and teaching services of high quality

It may be cost effective to apply and develop specialized tools for this area

  • Issues:

    • Organization of large, educational hypertext materials on the WWW

      • Quality and comprehensive on-line information for the students

      • Power tools for the teachers

    • Use of the WWW to mediate a dialogue between students and teachers

      • Synchronous

      • Asynchronous

Making Course Home Pages
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There are many different ways to produce a course home page. Here we identify three different approaches.

The construction and maintenance of course home pages can be time consuming and expensive

  • The manual approach

    • Every page and every link is constructed by hand

    • Too time consuming

  • The copying approach

    • Pages are constructed by copying an example or template

    • The author is in touch with too many details

    • Hard to maintain

  • The abstract approach

    • The essential informations and relations are described as cleanly as possible

    • The pages are generated from the essential information

    • Makes it possible to separate stable and less stable course home page properties

The Course Plan Tool
Slide Note Contents Index References
On this page we introduce the WWW-based course plan tool for production of course home pages, following the 'abstract approach' introduced on the previous page.

The Course Plan Tool is able to generate course home pages from a course model

  • The course plan tool:

    • Simple course model informations:

      • Title, author, default room, current lecture number, course start time, ...

    • Structured and tabular course model informations:

      • Subject table, lecture table, and time table

    • Tool input:

      • The course model

    • Tool output:

      • A 'course home page' represented as a set of HTML pages

      • A frame-based top-level page, overview tables, and a course calendar

    • Gradual opening of links to the individual lecture pages


The course plan model
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The course plan tool is based on a course model, which is illustrated on this page

Figure. A graphical illustration of the most important and the most interesting data structures of the course model

Separation of stable and less stable course properties

A balance between separation of concerns and fragmentation


On-line Course Material
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On this page we discuss on-line course material in a relative broad context before we proceed to a more detailed discussion of LENO

HTML-based material can be accessed immediately from almost any computer

HTML-based material integrates smoothly with other Internet resources

LENO supports production of on-line, HTML-based, hypertextual course materials

  • Overall characteristics of LENO

    • The material is structured as a number of slides

    • LENO allows for various annotations of slides

    • LENO provides multiple views on the course materials

      • Slide view

      • Annotated slide view    (example)

      • Aggregated lecture view    (example)

    • Created as a reaction against Powerpoint

These slides, which you are reading now, are produced by LENO. It is therefore possible to illustrate the three views in a very concrete way. Either you can use the standard navigational facility to explore the different views, or you can follow the explicit example links which we provide

Powerpoint can produce a bitmapped graphics version of a slide presentation. However, it takes relatively long time to download such a page. Moreover, the navigational facilities are rather poor from the generated page. It is also possible to install a special Powerpoint viewer, which makes it possible to show a powerpoint presentation in an Internet browser. However, this requires explicit installation and a machine which allows such installation. Finally, it is possible to convert a Powerpoint presentation to external formats, such as PDF. Again, this requires a special reader program in order to access the material (Acrobat reader), and the resulting PDF material is only rarely integrated in a good way with other resources on the Internet.

The LENO Lecture Note System
Slide Note Contents Index References
On this page we will - in a more detailed way than above - describe the LENO Lecture note system.

  • LENO features:

    • Text inclusion from external files, such as Java source files    (example, source)

      • Color and font face superposition

    • Selective trails, possibly crossing lectures    (illustration)

      • Can also be used for easy and convenient return from navigational side tracks

    • Support for primitive animations    (example, source)

    • Integrated support of exercises and solutions    (example, source)

    • Comprehensive keyboard navigation in selected browsers

    • Simple graphical illustrations

    • Not good for printing (yet)

    • Browser and screen variations

    • Based on descriptive markup and 'old fashioned' text formatting principles


Exercise Management
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Exercise management deals with the problem of running an exercise sessions with many students in small groups distributed in many rooms

Exercises are carried out in small groups of students

The groups are located in many separate group rooms

Each teacher services 5-7 groups

  • The exercise manager:

    • Deals with the following problem:

      • The teacher is in the wrong room at the wrong time

    • A synchronous tool that expects the students to send messages about progress and problems with the exercises

    • Provides overview of status and outcome to the teacher


Concluding remarks
Slide Note Contents Index References
On this page we summarize the most important contributions of our work

  • The management of a network with hundreds of nodes and thousands of links calls for special tool support

  • The integration and mutual linking in between 'subsystems' constitute a particular problem

  • The programmatic authoring approach

    • is useful because abstraction can be used uniformly as a battle against "disturbing details"

    • limits the potential users of the tools

The Course Plan System, LENO, and the underlying LAML software is available as free software from the authors home page

Collected references
Contents Index
The description of a lecture
The programmatic course model
An example of a course home page
DEMO lecture note pages
Full teacher overview of submitted messages
Exercise manager attached to an exercise


A Suite of WWW-based Tools for Advanced Course Management
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