Monday, October 22, 2007

Using Archimate modelling techniques

Last Friday (Oct. 19th) I attended an information session at Surf Foundation, focused on modelling your information architecture by using the Archimate language. (see We are dealing with Archimate in our 3TU working groups in an attempt to describe the relevant business processes that have to be supported in a federative virtual learning and working environment. However, in our group we mainly focus on the top level of the Archimate framework (the business layer). The functional and especially the application layer is beyond our scope.
Well, back to the Surf session we were offered two presentations of tools that claim to support your modelling work in Archimate: Architect by BiZZdesign and ARIS bij IDS Scheer. Although I had some trouble in following the sometimes fast pace of the demo (including all the technical, architectural issues that were considered as prior knowledge) I saw clear differences between the two. Architect gives me the impression that it delivers results that are suitable for further communication (e.g. validation purposes) with stakeholders in your organisation. It delivers flows that can rather easily elaborated. ARIS seems much more complex (although it has an impressive track record in large industries) to handle and to communicate about for non-technical people. One specific weakness in the ARIS presentation is that the current version is not capable to show the designs in Archimate modelling components yet. This will be the case in the next release (to be expected in 2008-Q1).
Personally I was also more attracted to the presentation style of BiZZdesign. Their business proposition as a lean and mean orgaisation with a clear focus is more attractive that a large multinational and more commercial approach. The IDS Scheer presentation was much more of a commercial kind, and I'm not sure whether the listeners were really waiting for this. Several colleagues indicated that Dutch Higher Education is still at the very beginning of working under architecture and were wondering whether ARIS is the right choice. According to IDS this is the right moment to step in, but I never heard an argument why. So far, I believe we made the right choice to work together with BiZZdesign for our 3TU objectives.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Beyond the VLE

Last week I visited the third SURF conference titled 'Beyond the VLE'. Some of the issues brought up were a follow up of the the Personal Learning Environment as presented by Scott Wilson at the second edition of this conference in 2006. An additional issue that was explicitly mentioned in the presentation of Nico Juist (Hogeschool INHOLLAND) is that we should also take into account the technical 'infrastructure' a student already has when he enrolls for a study program. His bag is not only filled with (note)books, but also with virtual things like a MSN, Skype, Google docs, a Hyves profile, and last but not least an impressive 5Gb mail account on e.g. Gmail. However, when a student enrolls we tend to prescribe a whole range of ICT facilities that can or need to be used as a facilitator for his work as a student. But does the student really need it? For example Hogeschool Zuyd made a clear choice in relation to an instant messaging function: students may need it for their group work, and if so, they can organise it by themselves. Many VLE's offer a (most times) limited chat function, but in daily practice students tend to use MSN. They're used to it, and it contains all their relevant contacts. So why bother to offer an instant messaging service? The same rationale may apply for offering an e-mail account. Why? To have an addiotional e-mail address that won't be used (or only for auto-forward purposes) and has a limited mailbox site of 200Mb? The discussion comes down to the fundamental question what we want to facilitate as an organisation. In addition to the PLE paradigm isn't it much more powerful when a student can create his own portal page, including those components ('web parts') that he needs. If for example Netvibes is your default carrier, you can organise a lot of things only by developing the right RSS-feeds for the user. He is responsible what he wants to see, where he wants to see it and how he wants to see it. I'm afraid it will take a real paradigm revolution before educational institutes will go this far. Many things of our current organisation are based on a sense of control: we want to monitor what happens and what students are doing. In a 'free' PLE format we feel that we loose this sense of control. Can we deal with that? Well think about this: there is already a lot of virtual communication and collaboration going on that we don't know about. It's naive to think that all learning and organisation processes happen inside the virtual walls of our institutional systems.