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IS480 Team wiki: 2010T1 Flexperts

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Flexperts
The Team
The Flexperts logo designed by TiYo©
Type Student group
Area Interactive Learning Material
Industry Computer Software
Web-based Applications
Product E-learning Resource System
Team members Bryan Cheong Wen Cai
George Chen Kaidi
Harjani Bharat Gobindram
Urmila Mandapaka
Yohann Yezdi Engineer
Faculty Supervisor Kevin Steppe
Client Soo Wai Man
(CTE, SMU)
The Flexperts Poster

Welcome to the home of Flexperts. Also view our Final Wiki.

Our project involves developing an e-learning resource system that easily generates and manages e-learning Flash objects using our pre-loaded, re-usable templates. We are working closely with the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE), SMU, to give the Professors a more efficient method of communicating certain learning materials that they could not during class, in a more interactive and dynamic method than PowerPoint presentations. This helps to increase the understandability of materials that are not taught in class specifically. This is achieved by allowing students to work with the objects and see for themselves how the theory might apply. Tapping on the concepts of cloud computing (Platform as a Service) and Rich Internet Applications (RIA), users can enjoy richer, engaging experiences with the additional benefit being lightweight, without the need for installations or storage.

Learning Outcomes for each member
Bryan: Learn Flash Actionscript
George: Go back to the basics
Bobby: Learning to Learn
Urmila: Improve skills as a Business Analyst
Yohann: Improve programming skills

Business Scenario

The Problem

E-learning comprises all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching. In Singapore Management University (SMU), e-learning is hardly utilized. Very few faculty members use E-learning applications and processes such as Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classroom opportunities and digital collaboration. The Centre of Teaching Excellence (CTE) wants to expand the usage of e-learning among the SMU faculty, to enhance self-learning for the students following a specific structure. However, the current e-learning development projects are outsourced to external vendors. This incurs high costs and long waiting time due to customization. Currently, only SCORM is being used by School of Information Systems.

The Solution

CTE wants to bring the development of an e-learning resource system in-house as this will save cost and time. Dr. Soo Wai Man, approached our team to develop such a platform for faculty to generate e-learning objects, based on a standard learning pedagogy. The platform must be easy to use and applicable to faculties across the different schools in SMU. Our project comes under a bigger umbrella project called The Pedagogy Project. This scheme provides support for full-time faculty seeking assistance to develop electronic teaching and/or learning resources.

Overview Of The Project

Our project involves developing an e-learning resource system that easily generates and manages e-learning Flash objects using our pre-loaded, re-usable templates. This will give professors a more efficient method of communicating learning materials, in an interactive and dynamic method. Our templates are designed to enable professors to use the five primary types of content that are used in the learning process: facts, concepts, processes, procedures and principles.

Project Description

Pedagogy Project (e-Learning)

Our project comes under a bigger umbrella project called The Pedagogy Project. This scheme provides support for full-time faculty seeking assistance to develop electronic teaching and/or learning resources.

In consultation with faculty and administrative teams, we have articulated a process for supporting Pedagogy Projects (e-Learning). The process provides guidelines for budgeting, proposal submission, project scoping, approval, design, development and pilot testing.

Terms Definition

  • Flash-Learning-Object : A digital resource that can be re-used to support learning [1].
  • Pedagogy Project (e-Learning): Development of an electronic teaching/learning resource that is pedagogically sound, interactive and engaging to supplement a challenging area/topic of classroom teaching[2].
  • 5 types of content: Facts, Concepts, Processes, Procedures, and Principles[3].

More details pertaining to Resuable Learning Objects

5 Types of Content
Fact Unique, specific information in the form of a statement or data or pictures of specific objects.
Concept A group of objects, symbols, ideas, or events that are defined by a single word or term, share common features, and vary on irrelevant features.
Procedure A sequence of steps to be followed by one individual to accomplish a task or make a decision. A procedure contains directions, tasks, or actions that are done the same way each time.
Process A flow of events that describes how something works. It is not necessarily a task done by one person, as manypeople or an organization may be involved.
Principle Directions for tasks that provide employees with guidelines for action. The guidelines must be adapted by the employees to various job situations. Principles require employees to use judgment and discretion when they apply them.

Objectives

Upon completion, our team will have delivered a full working system based on our client’s requirements. The system will be hosted on our school’s server, running 24x7, and we will provide necessary maintenance. Our client and users will be able to efficiently generate new learning objects based on re-usable templates.

Scope

A system which houses:

  1. Flash-Object-Generating-Portal, which includes the re-usable templates, Flex SDK, user account management
  2. Database containing the content of all the flash objects created
  3. Online repository to store our clip art and generated flash objects
  4. Development Server, which we will use to host the portal
  5. Live Application, a real-time whiteboard sharing application for students in class


Part of the development of our portal takes off where George left in his internship. To view more details, visit his page.

Design

Our team designed our products with the end in mind, sticking closely to User-Centered Design philosophy, which builds and designs based on the needs and wants of end-users. Thus, we have much testing, analyzing, surveying to help us forsee the interaction both end-users and non-end users will have with our system. (source:UCD)

Assumptions

  1. Solution can be hosted on the school server permanently, and maintained by us.
    Mitigation: Seek approval once proposal is accepted. Maintenance period is 1 to 1.5 years, will a retainer fee for the team. After which, project will be handed over to either external vendor or student to perform upgrade.
  2. Users will know how to use our system.
    Mitigation: Conduct a User-Acceptance Test on a small pool of faculty.
  3. Users will be comfortable with our system.
    Mitigation: Market research and comparison with other related commercial products.

Reasons we chose Flex

1) Most importantly, it is selected by the client. He explained that flex is an industry product that hinges on interactivity to deliver Rich-internet applications (RIA). We did our own research and found that flex is indeed very scalable, and allows our product to be upgraded with more or enhanced components.

2) Flex is a framework. In designing our application, the importance lies in the design, and the tool which we use is but just a tool. We found that Flex has many components that caters to our needs, for instance, housing a Integration middleware (Live cycle data-services).

3) WYSIWYG – we are focused on customer experience, and Flex allows us to develop applications with WSIWYG interface.

4) Flex SDK is open source, and thus we can use it for production.

5) Flex IDE is license free for academic use. With almost zero resources, it is only natural that we choose Flex.

System

Flash-Object-Generating-Portal

Objectives

  • Deliver interactive, self-learning learning objects to students that is aligned to SMU's interactive teaching pedagogy.
  • A simple, easy-to-use platform that facilitates the creation of flash learning objects with relative ease, using our Flash-object generator and in-built re-usable templates.
  • Cultivate structured teaching/learning through using templates, according to the 5 instructional design content types.
  • Quick building of learning objects of higher interactivity which keeping cost at minimum.


Components Analogy

Templates: Mould

Input: Plaster

Kiln: Flex SDK

Output: Sculpture


The templates are thus resuable and ensure conformity in structural design throughout all output.

But more powerful than this analogy is the capability to 'Edit', or Update under the 'CRUD' model. Therefore, the final output, sculpture, can be modified and then published again. This allows information to be built on top of another.

Key Features

No setup required

This is a Zero-Setup System in which the user only needs a browser and internet access. Unlike Powerpoint or Keynote, there is not installing or upgrading required. Hence, you can use any computer to create or edit your material.

Simply logon to the portal using your SMU username and password. You can now choose one of the carefully crafted templates from the preview screen. You can now customize your template with just a few clicks. There are numerous customization options to help you design e-learning material that is not only effective but aesthetically appealing too.

Now you can start editing the template. You can do so in fullscreen mode by checking the "Full Screen" option at the top right of the page.

Blank template.png

Simple yet powerful

Endproduct-book.png

Crosses all boundaries

Mac.png When it comes to the matter of compatibility, our solution fits right in and bridges the gap. It is platform independent. All you need is a flash compatible browser. Windows.png



Live Application - White-board Sharing

Objectives

  • An easy platform to facilitate class assignments for students and faculty alike
  • View of all submitted assignments at a single glance
  • No requirement of downloading software, like
  • Reduction of the use of paper
  • Convenient storage of all class assignments for future use
  • Dynamic to allow students to make changes

Key Features

Easy method to do class assignments

Students no longer need to do their class assignments in the conventional method. Now, using the same system, students can do their class assignments on their computer itself and with a single click, can upload their assignment on to the server, which will then be stored in the repository, for Faculty to pull out whenever they want to.

Single view of all submissions

As soon as the student clicks on a "Submit" button, the assignment will be uploaded to the server, after which the Professor can pull out to display. The system will allow the Professor to choose how many assignments he may want to display on the screen at one time, thereby allowing the class to view all the submissions at one time. Spaces.png

Dynamic Application

One of the features of this system is that since students are submitting files online, they can make changes and keep uploading to the server and this will keep replacing the older version, thus allowing students to make changes on the spot and thereby learn better.

Users

Non-end-users (Custom Users)

Faculty

End-users

Students

Comparison Table

Features Products
Fx Logo without name.png
Flexperts
Fx adobe elearning.png
Adobe E-Learning
Fx articulate logo.jpg
Articulate
General
Compatibility Cross platform and web-browser Works on major platforms(Windows and Mac) Only works on Windows
Installation Does not require any software setup Package needs to be installed Each package needs to be installed separately
Pricing TBC US $2,187 ex tax US $1,398
Customization Is customized from the start Requires customization Requires customization
Integration with LMS Simple request reply implementation Publishes to acrobat.com Setup required to publish to LMS
Features
Flash generator Yes Yes Yes
Mobile authoring Yes Yes No
Screen sharing Yes No No
Quiz creation Yes Yes Yes
Question of the day setup Yes No No
Features Products
Fx Logo without name.png
Flexperts
Fx Quizcreator.jpg
Wondershare QuizCreator
Fx Vista4.gif
SMU Vista 4
General
Compatibility Cross platform and web-browser Only works on Windows Cross platform and web-browser
Installation Does not require any software setup Package needs to be installed Does not require any software setup
Pricing TBC US $349.95 ex tax Existing
Customization Is customized from the start Requires customization Requires customization
Integration with LMS Simple request reply implementation Able to integrate with any LMS LMS
Features
Flash generator Yes Yes No
Mobile authoring Yes No No
Screen sharing Yes No No
Quiz creation Yes Yes Yes
Question of the day setup Yes No No

Use

A flash learning object is defined as a self-contained, digital resource that can be used to support learning. While flash learning objects are aimed for students to do self-learning outside class, the live application is targetted to be used in class as a whiteboard sharing application.

Exploratory Research

Other than meeting our client's requirements, we also want to know how we can further cater and tailor our product for our users. With our proof of concept, we surveyed xxxx faculty members.....

Incentives

Applying for SMUIA

Our team is also using the SMU Innovation Award as incentive to work towards. This project is innovative because of its purpose to enhance learning between professors and students in a manner that has not yet been tackled.

Project Management

Milestones

Fx milestones.png

  • Each iteration is followed with a User Acceptance Test (UAT)

Presentations

Meeting Minutes

Important meetings with Supervisor
Meeting Minutes - May 31, 2010
Meeting Minutes - July 9, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - August 19, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - August 23, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - August 27, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - September 03, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - September 9, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - September 24, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - October 15, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - October 29, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - November 4, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - November 12, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Supervisor) - November 19, 2010

Important meetings with Clients
Meeting Minutes(Client) - June 03, 2010
Meeting Minutes(Client) - August 26, 2010

Software Setup

Programmers' Setup

  • Adobe Flash Builder (Flex)
  • Flex SDK
  • Microsoft Project / Merlin(Mac equivalent)
  • NetBeans
  • Microsoft Visio

Server Setup

  • Windows XP (Operating System)
  • Flex SDK
  • NetBeans
  • WAMP
  • Tomcat
  • Open Office

Why are we using FLEX?

There are multiple reasons as to why we use flex:

  • Most importantly, it is selected by the client. He explained that flex is an industry product that hinges on interactivity to deliver Rich-internet applications (RIA). We did our own research and found that flex is indeed very scalable, and allows our product to be upgraded with more or enhanced components. The comparison can be found on our wiki page.
  • Flex is a framework. In designing our application, the importance lies in the design, and the tool which we use is but just a tool. We found that Flex has many components that caters to our needs, for instance, housing a Integration middleware (Live cycle data-services).
  • WYSIWYG – we are focused on customer experience, and Flex allows us to develop applications with WSIWYG interface.
  • Flex SDK is open source, and thus we can use it for production. Flex IDE is license free for academic use. With almost zero resources, it is only natural that we choose Flex.

So Why Flash?

  • High distribution

Only the Adobe Flash Player must be installed. No additional player needs to be installed on the client's computer. Because so many well known pages require the flash player, most computers already have the Flash Player installed. In fact Flash has reached an accessibility of almost 99% (look here).

  • Multi-platform

Windows, Linux, Mac

  • Easy and quick installation

If a user has not installed the flash player has an old version the installation / update process is both simple and fast!

  • Quick start up

On an average PC the startup process of the Flash plugin is very quick (normally under one second). Java-Applets (for example) unfortunately often need much longer to start up !

Resources and reference materials

For the purpose of our development in the proposed solution, our client has put together a mini-library of 20 technical help books, covering topics from Flex to XML to databases. We are also using Proquest e-books for reference purpose.
For software, our client has provided us the entire Adobe Master Suite Collection for project development. We have also each obtained an educational copy of licensed Adobe Flash Builder (Flex). The SDK is open-source. We have also obtained budget to purchase an online clip art resource for our repository. For the purpose of comparison, we have also purchased several licenses of related commercial software to better leverage our product.
Server will either be hosted on the SMU Library development server, IS server (yet to seek permission), or on CIT’s server (maintained by us). On top of that, we are in the midst of negotiating with the Vista Team, IITS, on how we can use a prototype of their new LMS to test out our system.

References

  1. Beck, Robert J., 2009
  2. Singapore Management University, 2009
  3. Clark & Chopeta, 2004