Friday, October 13, 2006

Asynchronous transition

This week I spent quite some time on 3TU issues. The federation of the three Dutch technical universities (3TU) will be formally established on April 1st, 2007. One of the jobs that needs to be done is providing e-learning facilities for 3TU students and instructors. The 3TU Graduate School already launched two master programs (Embedded Systems and Sustainable Energy Technology) in September 2006. For the short term the students and instructors can logon to their own virtual learning environment (VLE; TeleTOP, Blackboard or StudyWeb) and to the VLE of the other two institutes. However, this will not be a sustainable solution. The University of Twente is seriously looking into Sakai - as you may know -, as a possible subsitution for TeleTOP. The two other TU's have quite another time frame for reconsidering their VLE, if at all. This is the first type of asynchronous transition, which makes it difficult to define a common 3TU VLE. Moreover, it is not clear whether they will make the same choices as Twente will make. A possible solution might be found in the definition of a common functional architecture in terms of a set of services. The components fulfilling these services may differ between universities. A second type of asynchronous transition can be seen between the 3TU entities that work on different aspects of the fedaration process. The (board) of the 3TU Graduate School has already some high expectations about pilots for the new 3TU VLE. However, the development groups that are involved in the master programs are not in a big hurry and want to start easily, e.g. by starting with lectures in streaming video format. Sharing content and collaborative working accross institutes is not an issue yet, but may develop slowly during the current academic year. The VLE projectgroup will proceed anyway, looking into more detail into the possibility of setting up a common framework in which a set of services will be defined. When the question is there (and it will be), we hope to be ready to provide an adequate solution.

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