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2008 International Conference on Computer Science and Software Engineering

An Extensible Development Platform for


SOA-Based E-Learning System
Zhifen Cheng Tinglei Huang Jia Nong
School of Computer & Control, School of Computer & Control, School of Computer & Control,
Guilin University of Electronic Guilin University of Electronic Guilin University of Electronic
Technology Technology Technology
Guilin, P.R.China Guilin, P.R.China Guilin, P.R.China
melody1225@126.com tlhuang@ guet.edu.cn jerry7981@163.com

Abstract — In this paper, we propose an extensible development Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a computer
SOA-based platform that facilitates implementation of e- system's architectural style for creating and using business
Learning systems. The platform has applied a service-oriented processes, packaged as services, throughout their lifecycle.
framework and model-driven architecture into the analysis, SOA also defines and provisions the IT infrastructure to allow
design, implementation and integration of e-Learning
different applications to exchange data and participate in
application, and makes e-Learning systems to be flexible and
scalable enough to meet changing, complex and dynamic business business processes [4]. SOA is a design principle, whereas
requirements. It also supports the distance learning system in the web services are an implementation technology. [5].
complex processes and the integration of various learning Web services technology is based on the XML
resources services, which uses web services technology and .NET specifications WSDL (Web Service Description Language),
Framework 3.0. SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), and UDDI (Universal
Description, Discovery and Integration) and can be enhanced
Keywords- Service Oriented Architecture (SOA); Model Driven by several additional XML specifications. Web services come
Architecture( MDA); E-Learning with technical descriptions that are published by their
providers (by means of WSDL), and that can be found (by
I. INTRODUCTION means of UDDI) and used by potential users or subscribers to
E-Learning has been a topic of increasing interest in recent invoke the services (by means of SOAP). Subscribers can
years. E-Learning is a general term used to refer to a form of compose Web services in order to build comprehensive
learning in which the instructor and student are separated by applications with specific and customized functionality [6].
space or time where the gap between the two is bridged The research work presented in this article is a
through the use of online technologies [1]. With web-based methodological framework for the development of e-Learning
learning, it is possible for the students to learn from anywhere, systems based on SOA and MDA.
anytime, at their pace. Web-based learning brings MDA is an approach to system development, which
unprecedented level of accessibility to courses in remote area, increases the power of models in that work. It is model-driven
courses prohibited by budget constraints, courses updated to because it provides a means for using models to direct the
recently discovered knowledge, qualified instructors, course of understanding, design, construction, deployment,
instruction at any time, etc [2]. Learning systems are built operation, maintenance and modification[7].The three
using web services. The strength of this approach is reusability
abstraction levels of the original MDA are proposed: CIM
and interoperability. Developing the learning platform will
(Computation Independent Models), PIM (Platform
involve assembling the required web services. The learning
platform can be developed and run on different hardware and Independent Models) and PSM (Platform Specific Models).
software platform as a middleware [3]. A platform independent model is a view of a system from
the platform independent viewpoint. A PIM exhibits a
The remainder of the article is structured as follows: specified degree of platform independence so as to be suitable
Section 2 gives a general overview of the technology and for use with a number of different platforms of similar type. A
concept in which the research is framed. Section 3 presents computation independent model is a view of a system from the
SOA-based extensible development platform for e-Learning. computation independent viewpoint. A CIM does not show
Section 4 presents the design and realization of platform. After details of the structure of systems. A platform specific model
analyzing some related work, in Section 5, Section 6 presents is a view of a system from the platform specific viewpoint. A
the main conclusions and future works of our research.
PSM combines the specifications in the PIM with the details
that specify how that system uses a particular type of platform
II. TECHNOLOGY AND CONCEPT REVIEW [7].
There are some technologies and concepts related with the
topic of this article.

This paper is supported by the Guangxi Science foundation under grant


No.0640169.

978-0-7695-3336-0/08 $25.00 © 2008 IEEE 901


DOI 10.1109/CSSE.2008.377
III. SOA-BASED EXTENSIBLE DEVELOPMENT model can be used to generate main parts of the code. The
PLATFORM FOR E-LEARNING Implementation model consists of System Structure
Implementation, Interface Implementation, and Operation
After reviewing the current service oriented technologies
Implementation. The Analysis and Design Model can transfer
and model driven methodology, we can take advantages of
into different implementation models by different platforms
SOA and MDA methodology to construct an extensible
and specifications.
development platform for SOA-Based e-Learning systems as
illustrated in Figure 1. In the processing, we refer to the The service bus which provides the necessary
service-oriented architecture model. communication infrastructure is mainly the function of the
intermediary. In a service-oriented architecture (SOA), the
According to the MDA, the model driven development life
communication layer which is standards-based enables services
cycle consists of a sequence of iteratively performed
to be used across multiple communication protocols. It can
development phases as shown in Figure 1. Three main models:
shield the heterogeneous enterprise applications. Service bus
Business model (CIM), Analysis and Design Model (PIM),
also provides centralized management for services, and its
implementation model (PSM).
purpose is mainly service-oriented integration, and it supports
the trouble-free operation for all parts.
Service Basic Platform enables composite services
integrated from component services. Service Basic Platform
includes integration engine, publication engine, security
engine, discovery engine, service management.
The e-Learning platform based on SOA and model-driven
framework is business process-oriented development platform.
For varying with changing in demand, the second-round
development is based on the business process basic
development platform. So we can omit basic, repetitive work,
and reduce the workload. According to the demand of learner,
we can quickly integrate the knowledge service system, tackle
Information Island, and achieve the cooperation and integration
between learning system, so that the overall operational
efficiency is enhanced, so as to serve learner better.

Figure2. Mode of operation on the e-Learning platform


Figure1. Framework for the e-Learning platform based SOA and Figure 2 above illustrates the mode of operation on the e-
MDA
Learning platform.
Business modeling is a process, which uses modeling tools
1) Business model is developed which plays the role of and business process-based development platform to design
computational independent model. It contains detailed and construct information management system. Its artifact is
information about Business Use Case, Business Structure and called business resources. As for the e-Learning platform, we
Business Processes. It abstracts from the technical details of the publish learning resources onto the basic operating platforms.
structure of the whole e-Learning implementation system. Then we can get the appropriate management systems.
2) Analysis and Design Model is created by refining the Learning Resources is the most frequent part for user’s demand.
business model. It is a conceptual description of an information Through the separation of the business and technology, we
system which consists of System Process Analysis, System can’t re-configure or upgrade operating environment, even
Organization Analysis and System Activity Analysis. Analysis doesn’t affect the realization of the underlying technology. In
and Design model is a visual PIM which specifies services in a one word, it is truly on-demand change. The independence of
technology independent manner. the running platform guarantees that the application can
achieve cross-technology. And it can run on different systems
3) Implementation model is also a visual model which with the advantage of no lost of relocation to a new realization
makes the platform a good communication platform for of technology. This advantage is fully consistent with the
business engineer, technical engineer and user .Implementation

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model-driven architecture (Model Driven Architecture, Resources system is the existing applications of learning
MDA)’s core idea. Both are model-based design. systems, including file server and data server resources. For
these legacy systems, data migration platform is designed for
IV. THE DESIGN AND REALIZATION OF PLATFORM the system of learning resources for rapid and precise
movement. The first step is to realize that Web Service
In order to realize the whole platform, we choose in the packages for the learning system in Microsoft Visual
development environment of VS.NET. New managed code Studio.NET platform. Then they are integrated into
programming model ---.NET Framework 3.0 embody a wide applications.
range of technologies, such as Windows Workflow
Foundation. Windows Workflow Foundation is a part of the Learning Resources Service is the package of
.NET Framework 3.0 (and 3.5) that enables developers to components, so a different function can form atom services and
create workflow enabled applications. It consists of the composite services. This process analyses target services of
following parts [8]: Activity Model, Workflow Designer, and various resources and defines unit services. Its purpose is to
Rules Engine. define system functions and reasonably organize them into
services. Further analyzing the target services, we has firstly
Activity Model: Activities are the building blocks of access to target demand from different business systems, next
workflow, think of them as a unit of work that needs to be we identify services. This step is to understand and compare
executed. the demand for services in order to find the desired services.
Workflow Designer: This is the design surface that you see Finally, it is the analysis of business process and target services
within Visual Studio, and it allows for the graphical make business processes as a series of activities to implement.
composition of workflows, by placing activities within the For business process management, we design a process
workflow model. designer as middle layer. Professional can simulate rich
Workflow Runtime: Our runtime is a light-weight and learning management activate; also can display the various
extensible engine that executes the activities which make up a processes of visual learning. The thought about designing the
workflow. process designer is inseparable to the core essence of SOA ----
to achieve the complete separation between business and
Rules Engine: Windows Workflow Foundation has a rules technology and reuse. Of course, if the business processes of
engine which enables declarative, rule-based development for learning never change, they will be written in a fixed way
workflows and any.NET application to use. conveniently. But in the face of constantly changing market
As the following figure 3 depicts, it is the architecture demand, if there doesn’t have the process designer as the
design of the e-Learning platform. middle layer, the maintenance of the users and programmers
for the learning system will be very troublesome. As we all
known in the concept of SOA, the business processes play an
important role. The design and implementation of the basic
learning platform use new NET platform technology. That is,
Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF). Throughout the
system design and implementation, business process as the
core of the whole system engine need interact with all modules,
especially interact with the ESB. We combine Workflow with
the Office components technology in Office 2007, and work
second-round development, and then the office documents can
integrate with the extensible development platform of the
learning system. The information of documents in system can
be freely exported with the form of Word 2007 or Excel 2007.
It is easier to manage. Of course, there are Permission
problems here.
Individual application interface combines different kinds of
learners by Internet to learn and exchange. As long as there is
network, we can find our own learning content and learning
styles by this setting. Its use is very easy. The implement of
this part uses Ajax technology. In Visual Studio 2005
integrated development environment and Asp.NET Ajax
framework, we develop more interactive user interface.
ESB which provides an integrated services infrastructure is
mainly the function of the intermediary. ESB provides
centralized management for services, and its purpose is service-
oriented integration.
Figure3. Architecture design of the e-Learning platform

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Security, performance, quality management and monitoring Future work will involve expanding the function of the e-
are assistant functions of the entire platform. They can be Learning platform, especially involve in ESB and Security,
shielded by means of packages. performance, quality management. We will develop an E-
learning Service Bus, instead of using IBM SIBus or BEA
V. APPLICATIONS AquaLogic Service. One important area is the security in the
platform. This topic is quite large and very significant.
Through the e-Learning platform, the purpose of e-learning
can be realized, at the same time, with the demands of
application changing, professionals can develop the new
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