About CEAS Version 3
The first version of the CEAS was developed in 2002, using open source software in collaboration with a company (Panasonic Learning Systems Co., Ltd.), and in 2003 it was upgraded to the second version (CEAS Version2 ("CEAS2")). Since then it has been extended and maintained by a research group at the Faculty of Engineering. The CEAS2 is also distributed to other educational institutions as free open source software.
The CEAS2 is written in PHP code and minor upgrades have been repeated. Although it works on a campus-wide scale without any performance problems, we anticipated problems associated with major upgrades. Along with the maintenance of CEAS2, we have developed a new version, CEAS Version 3 ("CEAS3").
In order to make the software maintenance easier we adopt a layered architecture and use the following Java frameworks:
- JSF (JavaServer Faces) as a server-side user interface component framework,
- Spring as an application framework for the Java platform,
- Hibernate as an object-relational mapping (ORM) framework for mapping an object-oriented domain model to a traditional relational database.
Furthermore, in order to support the internationalization we prepared a set of keys which are placed in the source code to replace them for the associated values described in the resource bundle files at runtime. As for the user interface design, we conformed to the Teaching-Support User Interface of the CEAS2.
We started the trial use of the CEAS 3 in actual classes in September 2007, and achieved its performance improvement during the fall semester of 2007.
Characteristic Features of CEAS and Teaching-Support User Interface
Functions available to an instructor are those related to the delivery of preparation assignments, materials to use in the class, and review assignments. The functions also include the support of a test and/or questionnaire execution in the classroom, the evaluation of the student's achievements at the end of a semester, and the reuse of course contents. Functions available to students, on the other hand, include those for obtaining materials related to every class, submitting assignments, and communicating with instructors or with classmates using FAQs, the bulletin board, and group folders, etc. In addition to the roles of an instructor and a student, the role of an administrator is introduced to manage and maintain enrollment information and the course related data being accumulated during the semester. This role is indispensable when the system is used on a campus-wide scale that requires linkage with an on-campus enrollment system.
The functions described above are similar to those available on the conventional e-learning platforms and classroom-support systems. However, the system design that underlies the functions and the user interface is different.
In an analysis model, we introduce explicitly the "class session" object and differentiate it from the course object. Each course is composed of class sessions (e.g., 15 sessions in a semester) and each session is explicitly treated in an internal system model. This model allows the user to manage course-related materials in the unit of session. An instructor can prepare and register to the relevant course his/her own materials such as the CEAS-based contents, Power Point files, and PDF files to the relevant course, and then allocate those materials to each session as the sessions proceed. The "one at-a-glance course page" is such an example where materials such as preparation and review assignments, lecture slides and hints for exercises, are assigned up to the sixth session. The feature described above gives flexibility in the allocation of course materials. In addition, an instructor can add course-materials any time as the session proceeds, i.e., there is no need to prepare a complete course contents at the beginning. This makes it easier for an instructor to start to use the CEAS system.
The instructor's functions are grouped according to the activities on the cycle of class teaching and self-learning. The function selection menu on the instructor's top page is arranged to reflect the grouping, where material-preparation functions, material allocation to each class session, and class activity evaluations (e.g., attendance, quizzes, etc.) are grouped together and deployed on the left hand side of the menu. When one of the "Go to class execution" buttons on the right hand side is clicked, a "one at-a-glance course page" of the selected course appears.
The CEAS system is also equipped with functions that are useful in the class execution. When we give students a test using a CEAS-based quiz in a PC-equipped classroom, a pre-set password enables us to synchronize the start/end of the test. Quiz-marking facilities such as self-marking, peer-marking, and automated-marking are available.
The reduction of the instructor's administrative workload is one of the important issues that we should cope with, particularly in a large-sized class education. We have not intended to automate the evaluation of various types of student's achievements. Instead, we make it our policy that CEAS can prepare related data in any editable form, leaving the evaluation to the instructor's own manipulation. The "student-record-at-a-glance" table is such an example where classroom data and performance data for all enrolled students are listed. These data can be downloaded to the local PC so that the instructor can manipulate them on the Excel software.
The above mentioned feature of the page design and item configuration forms a unique user interface which leads instructors to start to use the CEAS without any guidance. We name this interface the Teaching-Support User Interface. One of the reasons that underlie easy accessibility for instructors is considered to be not in the outlook of the screen but in the user interface design that coincides with the instructor's work-flow in managing teaching activities.
The CEAS Version 3 series is licensed under the Educational Community License, Version 2.0.
Last Updated: Friday, September 24 2010 @ 03:56 PM JST|Hits: 2,935