Online Education and Training Technologies

For the Australian Institute of Management NSW and ACT, Sydney, 23 January 2007


  1. Introduction
  2. About the Speaker
  3. CP Program
  4. Course Management Systems
  5. ACS Digital Library
  6. Podcasting
  7. Books

    See Also

  8. ACS
  9. Home


On-line technologies, such as course management systems (CMS), webcasting, and podcasting have great potential for e-learning. May of the products needed are available as free Open Source software. However, e-learning skills are needed to use these tools and create learning content for them. This presentation discusses some of the technologies and issues using the Australian Computer Society as an example.

About the Speaker

Tom Worthington is Director of the Australian Computer Society Professional Development Board. He is an Information Technology consultant with 20 years experience in the ICT industry in Australia. He is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University. Tom is a former IT advisor at Headquarters Australian Defence Force. He is a past President of the Australian Computer Society, Fellow and Honorary Life Member.

ACS Computer Professional Program

The Computer Professional Program is education with a difference - workplace oriented and delivered by e-learning methods - it is real any time, any place learning. The CP Program has been developed by IT professionals for IT professionals and fills the gap between university education and work experience - so you can advance to the next step of your career. The CP Program will provide ACS Members an advantage in the marketplace and improves employment and career prospects.

From: Computer Professional Program, ACS, 2006

Course Management Systems

A Course Management System (CMS) provides a virtual learning environment for students to learn via the web.

A Virtual learning environment (VLE) is a software system designed to facilitate teachers in the management of educational courses for their students, especially by helping teachers and learners with course administration. The system can often track the learners' progress, which can be monitored by both teachers and learners. While often thought of as primarily tools for distance education, they are most often used to supplement the face-to-face classroom.

From: "Virtual learning environment", Wikipedia, 2006

Components of a CMS

A CMS has much in common with other tools used for web based publishing and group communication, but is tailored to learning.

Components of these systems usually include templates for content pages, discussion forums, chat, quizzes and exercises such as multiple-choice, true/false and one-word-answer. Teachers fill in these templates and then release them for learners to use. New features in these systems include blogs and RSS. Services generally provided include access control, provision of e-learning content, communication tools, and administration of the user groups.

From: "Virtual learning environment", Wikipedia, 2006

Moodle E-learning Platform

Moodle is an example of a CMS. It is an Australian free open source software product, available for download. The ACS use Moodle to deliver their CPP program.

Moodle is a course management system (CMS) - a free, Open Source software package designed using sound pedagogical principles, to help educators create effective online learning communities. You can download and use it on any computer you have handy (including webhosts), yet it can scale from a single-teacher site to a 50,000-student University. This site itself is created using Moodle, so check out the Moodle Demonstration Courses or read the latest Moodle Buzz.

From: "Welcome to Moodle!", Moodle, 2006

There are Moodle books available to assist with learning to use the system as well as hosting and consulting services.

ACS Digital Library

Students undertaking postgraduate education need a body of research literature from their profession to work with. The ACS helps provide this with their digital library.

The ACS Digital Library provides international quality magazines, journal articles and conference papers, covering innovative research and practice in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). This service is provided free to the ICT profession by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as part of its commitment to ensure the beneficial use of technology for the community.

From: ACS Digital Library, ACS, 2006

The digital library uses much the same technology as the Moodle system


RIM BlackBerry 8700g

BlackBerry SmartPhone

Podcasting is the distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the Internet using either RSS or Atom syndication for listening on mobile devices and personal computers. The term podcast, like "radio", can mean both the content and the method of delivery. Podcasters' websites also may offer direct download of their files, but the subscription feed of automatically delivered new content is what distinguishes a podcast from a simple download or real-time streaming (see below). Usually, the podcast features one type of "show" with new episodes either sporadically or at planned intervals such as daily, weekly, etc. In addition to this, there are podcast networks that feature multiple shows on the same feed.

From "Podcasting", Wikipedia, 28 March 2006

Podcasting is the distribution of media files using web based syndication to hand-held devices. The term "podcast" came from the iPod produced by Apple Computer, but applies to other portable digital media players. It also applies to playing the audio files with a personal computer, without the use of a portable device. It also applies to devices which can play video files. The term has more loosely been applied to any downloading of audio or video files to a computer. In reality it is the use of digital audio and video which is of greater interest than podcasting, for education and training purposes.

Podcasting Issues

  1. Integrate with training materials and activities
  2. Target devices students have
  3. Provide small manageable units of learning
  4. Use affordable and sustainable c0ontent creation techniques

Integrate with training materials and activities

Podcasting should not be used on its own for education. The video and audio need to be part of a training package. Systems such as Moodle have the ability to include podcasts.

Target devices students have

Most students will not be using hand held media players for playing podcasts; they will be using desktop or laptop computers. The media files and system need to therefore be set up with that flexibility in mind. Hand held devices have small or no screens. Computers have screens which can be used to deliver more detailed visual content than a handheld device. Graphics for podcasts can use similar designs as for presentations and web pages for mobile devices.

Provide small manageable units of learning

The one hour units commonly used for lectures delivered live are too long for podcasting education. Much shorted segments of a few minutes each need to be used. As well as lessening the load on the student this makes the content technically easier to deliver over a network.

Use affordable and sustainable content creation techniques

The major cost with podcasting is not the computer system and network for storage and delivery, but the creation of the content. Preparation of a script, recording and editing is a complex and expensive process. This needs to budgeted, including the cost of revising the material at least every year.

Some Systems

  1. Lectopia: Developed by UWA for recording of lectures. Now a commercial product.
  2. Digital Lecture Delivery: Developed by ANU for audio lecture recording and delivery.
  3. Open Journal Systems: Developed by Simon Fraser University (Canada) for academic journals. Has provision for multimedia and feeds. Available free.
  4. Moodle and ATutor are open source e-learning platforms (aka "Virtual learning environments", "Managed learning environment" or "Learning Content Management System (LCMS)"). Moodle has an ipodcast module

Podcasting Feeds

Once the digital audio, video and other data is prepared, Podcasting uses RSS or Atom syndication, popularized with blogs (web logs) to distribute content. The syndication uses small XML files which provide an automated catalog of material available using standardized metadata elements. The user can subscribe to an RSS (or ATOM) "feed" and then receive podcasts automatically to their PC. The data downloaded to the PC can then be automatically loaded into an iPod or similar hand held player. A hand-held device with a wireless Internet connection, such as a PDA or smart phone, can combine the functions of the PC receiving the podcast and the portable player. In the military context a hand-held terminal can be used.

Some Books

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