Service oriented computing for dynamic virtual learning environments
Using the Internet for teaching and learning has become a trend in modern higher education, facilitated through the exploitation of advanced computing technologies. Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) applications support online learning over the Internet, and VLEs have thus emerged as e-learning domains that are essential prerequisites in cutting edge design and implementation technologies in education. Service Oriented Computing (SOC), as a novel software development and implementation approach, has become an active area of research and development. Web services, as an example of SOC, support the integration of software applications in an incremental way, using existing platforms and languages that utilize and adopt existing legacy systems. Thus, VLEs should be particularly well suited to Web ser- vices through the SOC approach. VLE services is a field subjected to continuous development but VLEs as Web services are still not generally accessible for academic institutions, although they have been adopted by some scientific projects. The next generation of VLEs should address the limitations of the current online systems by providing a richer context for online learning, one that is sensitive to the specific domain requirements of e-learning. Web Services Matching and Selection (WSMS), as a part of the functional requirements of Web services, has received less attention from SOC researchers. It involves discovering a set of semantically equivalent services by filtering a set of available services based on service metadata, and instantaneously selecting the best possible service. WSMS is the discovery of a service by a user, where correspondence is established between the objectives of the consumer and the capabilities of the service. It thereby aims to match and select the optimal service that best meets the requestor's needs. The main aim of this doctoral work is to explore novel architectural designs for VLEs, based on the SOC paradigm and its related techniques. In addition, this investigation aims to extend the core ideas behind VLE tools, which are gradually becoming dominant within academic institutes. Another aim is to devise a policy- based technique to enforce security requirements for VLEs and to build a test-bed for VLE security based on Modular Moodle. The fundamental contribution of this thesis that it demonstrates that VLEs can be considered as services, which can be published, discovered and composed as perceived in the SOC paradigm. An additional contribution to the knowledge is that it has built a new extension to the structure of Web services: the Web Services Matching and Selection (WSMS) system. Another contribution to the knowledge is that traditional security requirements have been modified to cater for the highly mobile and changeable environment of VLEs; this has been achieved through policy- based techniques. These contributions to the body of knowledge have been published in learned journals and at conferences.
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