WCS Group - Research Activity

e/m-Learning architectures in a cloud environment

The widespread diffusion of efficient and multi-purpose mobile devices, supported by robust communication systems and huge cloud resources, is spurring the development of a multitude of applications, ranging from business networking to cooperative work and e/m-education. In this context, the design and optimization of an integrated e/m-Learning architecture is being developed and revised, focused on two main aspects. The first refers to heterogeneous access technologies and broadband service release optimization; the second addresses educational aspects, in particular, selection and management over time of participants to autonomous or cooperative e/m-Learning activities, where cloud contents and services are playing an increasingly strong leading role.
The first theme refers to network and software optimization, as well as access to cloud contents and resources: on the one hand, reliable real-time communications must be guaranteed. On the other hand, each task uses applications characterized by suitable platform requirements and accessed through different kinds of network technologies and devices. In the proposed architecture, thus, applications are adapted and scaled to all the students' and teachers' devices.
As far as access optimization is concerned, many robust solutions exist, based on flow prioritisation or dedicated connections. An alternative solution is proposed, which can not be applied to whatever network topology or to very high-risk applications, addresses LANs connected through the Internet, with a federated network authentication, and hosting medium-priority services.
In case the necessary bandwidth is not available, priority applications are guaranteed to run regularly by limiting non critical services to some clients. In more detail, applications are no longer released in a static way, only on the basis of group membership, but are dynamically tailored to the following factors: traffic load detected in the location from where the user has logged on; priority level of critical services currently running on the network; network load along the routes hosting such services. This kind of approach evolved in a general-purpose profile-based system and testbed for QoS management.
As far as group management is concerned (second theme), individuals, groups and activities must be chosen and properly handled over time. In the proposed architecture, many aspects are taken into account: group definition and evolution, individuals' and group testing, as well as possible turnovers. On the one hand, groups are selected also on the basis of the students' skills and attitudes, in order to offer challenging and stimulating contests. On the other hand, expertise and participation are constantly kept under control, mainly through adaptive testing paths based on Petri Nets. In this way, the system can autonomously adapt groups and their evolution to the capabilities detected among participants and their actual advances and provide teachers with precious and detailed information about individuals and groups. A sort of “dynamic curriculum”, constantly at the teachers' disposal, is thus defined and updated along the way, more frequently than it usually happens. Such curriculum refers to competences acquired during the tasks, as well as behaviour in a groupwork context. The last aspect considered refers to turnover management: in case some students change group membership, working continuity and quality must be guaranteed. This is achieved by comparing the people's curriculum above mentioned. When students change group, details stored about their background can guide teachers to define a proper turnover. The main contribution of the proposed architecture is that both individuals and groups are managed in a dynamic, self adaptive way. As a matter of fact, people's interests and actual expertise are constantly evaluated and used to optimize their work. In this way, the system performs a self-adaptation over-time, tailoring groups and their evolution to the capabilities of participants. This kind of management, thus, proposes cooperative educational mobile services as applications of Ambient Intelligence, being based on the main components of such environments: exchange of information between users and the system through advanced mobile devices, appropriate user-system interfaces, a pervasive communication network, data analysis and decision techniques.

  • Prof. Oreste Andrisano
  • Dott. Cristina De Castro
  • Dott. Ing. Barbara Mavì Masini
  • Dott. Andrea Toppan

Related Publications:
  1. A. Toppan, P. Toppan, C. De Castro, O. Andrisano, “A Testbed about Priority-Based Dynamic Connection Profiles in QoS Wireless Multimedia Networks”, in Telecommunication Networks, ISBN 979-953-307-393-3, InTech, February 2012.
  2. C. De Castro, A. Toppan, P. Toppan, “Facing the Digital-Divide through a Quality of Service Distributed System in Real-Time Remote Cooperative Learning”, Proc. of ICERI2011 (International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation), Madrid, Spain, November, 2011.
  3. C. De Castro, B. M. Masini, “A Self-Adaptable Architecture for Cooperative Educational Mobile Environments”, International Conference on Technology, Education and Development (INTED 2011), Valencia, 2011
  4. C. De Castro, “An Architecture For Groupwork Management Based On Adaptive Testing”, EDULEARN10, International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, Barcelona, Spain, 2010
  5. C. De Castro, P. Toppan, K. Kozovska, “An e/m-Learning Architecture based on Adaptive Testing”, Proc. of International Conference on Technology, Education and Development (INTED 2010), Valencia, Spain, March 2010.
  6. C. De Castro, P. Toppan, “An Application of Petri Nets to e/m-Learning Environments”, in Petri Nets, ISBN 978-953-307-047-6, InTech, February 2010.
  7. C. De Castro, P. Toppan, “Customisation of Learning Paths and Network Optimisation in e-Learning Systems”, in Technology, Education and Development, ISBN 978-953-7619-40-4, InTech, October 2009.
  8. C. De Castro, P. Toppan, “Adaptive Release of Braoadband Services for the Management of Medium-Priority Applications”, Proc. of the 18th Annual IEEE International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications (PIMRC'07), Athens, Greece, September 2007.