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Portal and eLearning Platform Solution

An ICT solution for corporate websites and an eLearning platforms in parallel - both are tailor made during the CPeO and free of licence costs.

A website and eLearning platform is setup while participating in the CPeO. This is especially helpful for those organisations who are not running a platform yet or would like it to be redesigned. Participants are guided step by step through the CPeO Standard Operating Procedures to accomplish the setup process and deliver a customised solution. If organisations run their own platforms the CPeO helps them to optimise and tailor the existing platforms to their needs to improve service quality and efficiency of use.

1. Platform introduction

ZMS is a platform solution for the Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) market. It is free of license costs and tailored to the needs of publishers and teaching professionals. A partner consortium of German IT and consultancy companies guarantees the maintenance and continuous release of ZMS updates. The underlying publishing model is derived from many ePublishing consultancy projects where different Content Management Systems were deployed.

The ZMS technology is based on ZOPE, a worldwide leading open source application server. It was optimised for building content and applications for educational purposes. ZMS facilitates content editing through preconfigured templates for the structuring contents for further processing (e.g. books, journals). An inexperienced user can publish expert content through the "One-Click-Publishing" features leading to a quick result. Professional users benefit from the comprehensive content modelling capabilities for electronic (learning) content.

A unique feature is the powerful combination of a corporate / institutional portal facility for contents and the eLearning platform offering specific tools for educational purposes.

2. eLearning and Content Management features

The following table summarizes the most relevant features for publishing, teaching, learning and system management.

For instructional designers:
How is the instructional planning process supported and the production of course contents?

  • Module templates for action based learning
  • Templates for re-usable learning objects
  • Templates for different course scenarios
  • Introduction of multimedia learning content (legacy content) through standardised SCORM interfaces
  • Platform independent production of learning content
  • Various import and export functions for structured learning content
  • Functions for collaborative production of learning content and use
  • Assessment features
  • Development and administration of tests and exercises
  • Development and administration of FAQs and glossaries
  • Procedures for formative and summative evaluations
  • Procedures for evaluation of face to face events
  • Tracking of learners and progress reports through the SCORM interface
  • Ready to deploy personal homepages and business cards
  • Features for personalisation

For authors:
How is the development of professional content and content management supported?

  • Efficient procedures and templates for publishing of multilingual content
  • Integration of media objects into contents
  • Platform independent WYSIWYG editor with XHTML support
  • Features for image processing
  • Flexibly configurable meta-data model for contents
  • Drop-down formatting options for authors
  • Import and export functions for XML structured contents
  • Administration of authorsĀ“ to-do lists
  • Procedure for administration and release of content (work-flow engine)
  • Search functions for authors and users
  • Support of the publication procedure through tailored interfaces
  • Cross media publishing (export to multiple formats)
  • Version management for publications
  • Integrated link management and link consistency check
  • Functions for content syndication and distribution
  • Print-on-demand (e.g. publishing of print journals, manuals)

For teachers and tutors:
Which communication and cooperation facilities are offered?

  • Learning and cooperation environments for different teaching scenarios
  • Cooperation support: definition of work-flows, calendar and meeting administration, annotations and commenting, recommendation features and file exchange
  • Synchronous event tools: Instant Messaging, Games Based Learning environment for competitions and tournaments
  • Asynchronous tools: forum, mailing list, poll, voting, survey, newsletter, peer-review templates
  • Portfolio assessment templates (ePortfolios)

For teachers and tutors:
Which further teaching support tools are offered?

  • Participant assessment
  • Synchronous group assessments and tournaments
  • Moderation features for Game Based Learning events
  • Comprehensive evaluation tools for teacher-participant evaluation, participant-teacher evaluation and training impact evaluation

For participants:
How do course participants benefit?

  • Complete ePublishing environment for participants at beginner, advanced and expert level
  • Game based learning events at the workplace
  • Exams and self tests
  • Instructional material for offline and online view
  • Simple navigation and "one-click-publishing"
  • Quick feedback options and votings
  • Smooth synchronous (e.g. for hot-line) and asynchronous (e.g. for expert exchange) communication tools
  • Community features for peer authoring and peer review

For system managers:
How is the system management supported?

  • Very little hard- and software requirements on the client side (standard browser and PC required only)
  • Cost-efficient server hardware requirement: powerful desktop PC
  • Support of hard- and software platforms and databases available in the market
  • Simple user and rights model
  • Fast adaptation to the corporate design
  • Scheduling of tasks
  • Shop system and ERP interface
  • Multi-client portal capability
  • Functional expandability
  • Built in system interfaces
  • Flexible scalability
  • Intranet and Internet solution (e.g. staging)

How is usability and skill development assured?

  • Training packages for authors
  • Training packages for producers and system managers
  • Screen demonstrations for authors, producers and system managers
  • Standard interfaces for software developers
  • Flexible design of navigation and site structure
  • User support during navigation and deployment
  • Progress reporting during reading and editing of content
  • Help features
  • Manual (in German and English language)
  • Pre-configured interface available in 9 languages (Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Russian, Spanish; easily extensible)
  • Moderated public support mailing list available
  • Support of multidisciplinary teams
  • Library of freely available special objects and software tools to alleviate repetitive publishing and management tasks

3. Technology

What are the server side requirements?

  • Hardware: PC, Mac, Solaris;
  • Operating system: Windows 32bit, Solaris 2.8, Linux, OsX; Applications Server: ZOPE (Python)
  • Databases: ZODB (built-in object database), interfaces e.g. to Oracle, MySQL, PostGres, ODBC, LDAP

What is the eLearning platform technology and the underlying application server technology?

How to backup the content?

Content backup is quite conveniently done since all information is stored in a single object database file. This file must be archived continuously.

Are legacy content and other platforms compatible?

Content is referenced through the SCORM-/XML-interface and can be ex-/imported with a single mouse-click.

How are new system functions added ?

Software development for web applications is done through scripting with DTML/ZPT. Core system features are developed in Python language usually.

What about scalability?

A ZMS server can be run in a distributed environment with multiple clients. Vertical scalability is done through RAM extensions and powerful CPUs, horizontal scalability through ZOPE Enterprise Objects (an unlimited number of identical servers can be clustered).

What about adaptation of the management interfaces?

The content production interface for editors and authors can be tailored according to typography, colour scheme and header logos to the corporate design.

How is the system stability achieved?

A stable server operation requires the professional setup and configuration of a secured operating system (e.g. Linux, Windows) and a continuous backup facility.

Which international technology standards have been embedded?

Meta-data schemes can be defined and configured flexibly. The Dublin Core meta-data model as well as the SCORM reference model are available with the default ZMS distribution.

How can the platform be deployed in international projects?

The server technology can be setup at any place or it can be used as an application service through the Internet (e.g. as an ASP service offered by an Internet Service Provider).

4. Costs factors

How can the complete eLearning platform be handed over to an institution participating in the CPeO? What about the costs?

The eLearning platform is provided as a single file (a ZOPE export file). This file can be imported to the server located at the participating institution. There are no license cost involved and the system can be operated independently.

What are the costs for the implementation and customisation of the eLearning platform?

The platform setup requires up 10 person days on average. Staff experienced in system management is a prerequisite.

How much are the software licenses?

The eLearning platform and the application server are free of license costs. The operating system is license cost free also if Linux is used.

How much effort is required for a secure hosting operation?

The hosting service should include minor soft- and hardware maintenance services. On average, the effort for a secure server operation is between 1 - 5 person days per month, depending on the skills available, server load and complexity of the applications running. A professional hosting provider familiar with all server hard- and software components is a prerequisite.

How much training is required for system managers to use the platform?

1-2 days, experience in the setup and maintenance of Internet servers is a prerequisite.

How much training is required for template producers?

2-3 days, experience in the development and design of content management templates is a prerequisite.

How much training is required for content authors?

2-3 days, media literacy and experience in the development of digital texts, images is a prerequisite. The establishment of follow-up support (e.g. a hot-line, a moderated mailing list) during operation is recommendable.

5. References

In which market segments is the platform deployed?

  • Health Care Business and Research
  • Universities and International Organisations
  • Small and medium enterprises (SME)

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