UOC Technology

Architecture

The Application Layer

The Application Layer

capa_aplicacions

As a great number of diverse applications are used at the UOC, the UOC's technology architecture is envisaged as an open model that supports this diversity. The UOC applications can be classified into two groups: (1) those required for the administration of the University and (2) those required for the e-learning.

(1) Applications for the Administration of the University

University administration requires a set of applications that provide support to a diverse range of processes, such as sales monitoring and client acquisition, complaint handling, academic management, management of materials and deliveries, financial management, human resource management, library administration, and data mining.

The range of applications used for these processes is equally as diverse. It includes tools developed by the University, such as the Academic Management System (GAT, Sistema de Gestiˇ AcadŔmica); commercial tools, such as SAP that supports the management of client relations (CRM, Customer Relationship Management) and the planning of business resources (ERP, Enterprise Resource Planning); and free software, such as Alfresco, which supports the management of business content (ECM, Enterprise Content Management).

In this field, the interaction and exchange of information and the fusion of data from this wide range of applications is especially important. The aim is that the users of each of the University's management processes have the information required to efficiently manage each process. It is for this reason that the services layer (described further on) is particularly important. These applications need to provide certain data as services so it can be fused and recombined with other data as per the requirements of each process.

(2) Learning Applications

In terms of learning applications, the different types of material studied can require very different tools, both technically and educationally speaking. The Virtual Campus is the backbone of this set of applications. The UOC's Campus is what is known as a "Learning Management System" (LMS). An LMS, according to the IMS Global Consortium, is software that facilitates the access of students to content, facilitates learning, and supports the compiling and publishing of the results of this learning. Basically, an LMS provides users (normally students and teachers) with organized access to the learning resources. This meeting point for users and resources is usually called the virtual classroom. Resources include static content (Web pages, documents, videos, audio material, etc.) and applications (blogs, wikis, chats, forums, etc.).

At a functional level, the success of an LMS depends on its user friendliness and the variety of resources available for the users. This second aspect is especially important when the ability to add and modify resources and the support for the different educational models are considered. In general, within the scope of an LMS, the different educational models are achieved through using and combining different resources according to the educational approach of the model in question. Depending on the material taught, the educational approach may also differ. Thus, the amount and diversity of resources available for learning is a fundamental factor that has a big impact on the quality of the learning.

In addition, e-learning tools are becoming increasingly diverse and complex. In recent years, it has become increasingly common to see tools that were not designed specifically for learning being used for this purpose (e.g., blogs and wikis). Complex tools such as video conferencing and conference broadcasting via the Internet are also becoming more common in e-learning. Not to mention the need to integrate a growing list of services available in the Internet cloud, such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

The latest version of the UOC's Virtual Campus (Campus 5.0) incorporates mechanisms for integrating this diversity of tools. Currently, it has 20 different tools, supports using tools of other LMSs, such as Moodle, and is, in short, an open and extendible environment that constantly adapts to user needs.