Introducing Monitoring and Management Subsystem in the TeleCAD Web Based Training Environment

AUTHOR

Anna Grabowska,
Distance Education Center,
TUG

Józef Wozniak,
Faculty of ETI,
TUG

ABSTRACT

About TeleCAD project
The main goal of the TeleCAD project (Leonardo da Vinci Programme, 1998-2001) is to develop educational environment in the field of virtual mobility for CAD systems’ users in order to improve the quality of initial vocational training and the transition of young people to working life in the information society .

The project development includes:

  • dedicated platform in the Internet for project developers (for management purpose, exchanging ideas, developing the project contents, monitoring the results),
  • training methodology for teleworkers working with CAD systems on a basis of experiences of partners involved in the project and results of research in this field,
  • dedicated platform in the Internet for teleworkers (with the particular distinguish between managers and workers tasks),
  • electronic-based teaching materials (CD-ROM),
  • special guides for tutors and learners in English and in national languages,
  • delivery of example courses for teleworkers working with CAD systems for different target groups.

TeleCAD Web Based Training Platform – a short characteristic
In the first stage TeleCAD platform in the Internet was developed in order to organise the co-operation between course developers, e.g. communication and file sharing. Building WBT environment (WBT@TUG) for the course delivery was the second stage. The proposed environment provides students management, support for tutors, communication environment and assessment tools. The main stress was put on the management of Internet based distance education. The course manager, who is usually responsible for many virtual classes, should have information about student and tutor activities. Students should know if tutor activities are relevant to student needs. This includes answering student questions promptly and in a satisfying degree, preparing FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) and TMAs (Tutor Marked Assignments) lists. Measuring student progress is a very important issue in distance education. There are a few ways to monitor it with a Web based environment. Students perform self-assessment tests and TMAs that give insight to their progress. System may monitor student activities on discussion lists, access to course material Web pages, FAQ lists and alike.

TeleCAD WBT environment quality aspects – monitoring and evaluation
According to Freeman [Freeman R.: Managing Open Systems, Kogan Page1997] ensuring quality of DE courses offered to learners and achieving a good economic result in any WBT system “monitoring actions should be limited to those functions where changes can be made in a short term. Evaluation should be limited to those functions where it will be possible make changes for some future offering of the course”. Central monitoring system can be divided into three levels:

  1. Course/programme – how the course is doing compared to other courses or compared to an estabilished standard
  2. Individual tutor – how tutor X is getting along with his or her group of students compared to other tutors or compared to an established standard
  3. Individual learner – how learner Y is getting along – compared to other learners or compared to an estabilished standard

There are specific factors that might be centrally monitored at all three levels. For example at the 1st level percentage of students still on the course, number of assignments completed to date against target figure, average mark on each assignment compared to target, report/comments from learners and tutors should be monitored. Monitoring tutor engagement is perhaps the top priority assuming that tutor performance has a significant impact on progress of learners. That is why it so important to know a turnaround time for marking and commenting on assignments, their quality and quantity. At the third level monitoring individual learners number of assignments completed to a deadline seams to be crucial. In order to improve the quality of future courses monitoring must lead to actions. In a case of the course materials the certain issue can be modified, replaced or additional materials can be introduced. Assignments can be also replaced or postponed. Student can be allocated to another tutor or tutor can be additionally trained. In a case of monitoring individual learners alternative study approach can be offered or the learner schedule can be adjusted. The TeleCAD WBT environment introduces the integrated database system in order to collect student, tutor, evaluator opinions reported by questionnaires online.

Selected network security problems
The Internet technology is now widely used in the computer networks environment. The main reason for this is relatively high effectiveness of the TCP/IP protocol suite. With the development of the Internet we observe however, not only increase of the speed of the information exchange, but also new threats introduced into the TCP/IP based computer networks. These threats are mainly concerned with the loss of information privacy and security, and as a result, with the dependability of the network. We should realize that the information safety is today of utmost importance.

Some steps that should be taken in order to change intolerable situation comprise:

  • definition and incorporation of security policy,
  • automation of security procedures,
  • usage of improved systems for users identification and authentication with the wider use of cryptography, and finally
  • implementation of dedicated security systems called firewalls.

The main objective of such dedicated systems is to protect private Intranets against any unauthorized access or use of the internal resources of these networks (e.g. servers with especially important databases), to provide security against denial of service attacks, as well as to support user identification and authentication mechanisms that allow to control the network activity of internal users. To achieve these goals, firewalls incorporate quite complex and sophisticated mechanisms such as packet filtering, dynamic firewalling or proxy, that allow for the control of the whole traffic between public and protected networks.

TeleCAD WBT environment – security versus ethics
Internet based systems which are used for education purposes also face serious problems connected to either careless and improper usage or wrong protection of personal data of learners and tutors. The course management and monitoring subsystem which was developed essentially for DECTUG (Distance Education Centre at Technical University of Gdansk) serves the distance education institution manager and network administrator. It provides information about all system users (students, tutors, administrators, others). The manager has access not only to information about student progress, marks and statistics of activity. Moreover, the manager will have possibility to monitor tutor performance. It will be possible to detect a tutor that is not responding to messages, does not update FAQ lists or does not log into the system. The proposed solution allows to collect all data connected to logging to the system concerning server, bytes, user track, file name, remote host, time served, URL path, content type and user name. It can be stressed that collecting the information is not only the security aspect. The DECTUG is also responsible for ensuring the high quality of the course delivery procedure. On the other hand several issues concerning ethics should have been taken into account. One of them is a monitoring subsystem which is used also in the case of internal e-mail communication between students, tutors and others. One can say that monitoring students and tutors activities regarding general course involvement which is presented in statistics numbers is allowed, while looking into e-mail contents is forbidden. This issue seams to be essential as far as ethics in a virtual learning community is concerned.

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