Abstract. The EFTWeb is a World Wide Web based
system that allows the interaction between users and contents.
The users can be students and teachers that place, modify and
use available contents. The system provides the means to control
security, intellectual property rights (ipr), and billing issues,
giving both type of users the necessary tools to access the system,
prepare materials and use them. One important facility associated
with the system is its ability to create contexts. The creation
of context is made possible by the combined use of thesaurus
technology and referencing content by recurring to dynamic catalogues.
The paper defends the importance that context may have when providing
usable environments to support education, learning and training
Based on a current project
to support distributed education with strong co-ordination requirements,
the authors developed a framework to assist education, learning
and training needs using common available technologies like the
World Wide Web and databases.
The framework is supported
by an infrastructure that deals with structure; security and
intellectual property rights (ipr) issues. This will lead to
a novel propose of a value added chain for the education business,
where teachers and students play an equal part on the system
being considered both as producers and consumers.
The system aim is to support
with maximum flexibility both teachers and students and treat
them as clients that produce, share and consume contents organised
by well known sequences that can be customised according to different
situations regarding the context of education, learning and training.
The paper presents the system
with a focus on the creation of contexts and how they provide
a real support for both teachers and students work. The paper
will attempt to demonstrate the role that the use of context
creation facility can have to structure information about a knowledge
theme and thus provide users with a better service to support
education, training and learning activities.
The digital economy obeys to
very different paradigms from the traditional ones. Among interesting
characteristics in the Society of Information is the possibility,
with great easiness, to start from information picked up in the
most varied sources and for the most several forms, to store,
to negotiate, to conceive, to produce, to reconfigure, to manage,
to implement and to control the development of new products,
including the opening of enormous opportunities in the field
of the education, training and learning.
Rethinking education, training
and learning is crucial. It can be seen as a group of services,
in a perspective of the demand to the offer, and conceiving it
as a product that allows its easy transformation in a service
and making it more useful to the students and professionals.
It is important to state that, more and more, students are seen
as customers are information and knowledge buyers are. But they
also can be seen as knowledge builders!
2. Education, Training and
Learning in the Web
Education, learning and training
constitutes one of the areas of great potential for innovation.
This enormous potential can promote modifications both in the
processes and in the way that these activities are performed.
It is currently accepted that education, training and learning
will meet, in a close future, among economic activities of larger
However, Education, learning and training is on move. Despite
presential teaching almost remains the same for the last four
centuries , with current available information technologies
and its impact each day new signs can be seen of the growing
difference between what students want and what society needs
and what institutions can provide. Even teachers seems somewhere
lost by the pace of change and by the lack of interest among
students to attend, discuss, and produce work in a traditional
Opportunities to take advantage
of information technologies in educational contexts are reported
by several authors:  and . In particular, there is an opportunity
to innovate by reinventing time and space constraints in educational
settings  and introducing computer and network support on
presence teaching .
However, the use of Information
and Communication Technology (ICT for short) generally does not
introduce innovation into educational practices although they
offer tremendous opportunities for that .
3. EFTWeb System Proposal
3.1 Basic model concepts
The EFTWeb system proposes
an innovation of the education, training and learning process,
through the use of the Web by presenting a framework that bases
teacher and students interaction on the materials and tasks to
be accomplish. In the proposed model content has the same importance
than the means for classifying it .
The EFTWeb model was designed
to support three main concepts for content structuring - unit,
theme and content. A unit possesses themes and for them corresponds
presential sessions or module units. Each theme has a group of
contents that aids information and knowledge transmission. A
content is an independent object of a given format, among the
many multimedia available supported by Internet.
The organisation scheme for user access, unit - theme - content,
is given by the notion of a guide. A well-defined sequence of
the referred elements is associated to structure contents and
gives to the user a path to explore information .
One of the underlying ideas for EFTWeb is to support with maximum
flexibility content access by giving total permission to use
available resources and facilities. This is implemented by assigning
a particular profile to each user. To support it the model implements
a credit based system allowing each user the access to a given
resource based on a cost for each unit retrieved. Each user receives
a given amount of credits that can use with some degree of freedom.
The EFTWeb user can be an individual or a group of individuals
like a class. A user can be any teacher or student.
An important model characteristic
is considering each user a client. The model allows the necessary
flexibility to consider users as potential consumers and producers.
This way, the system provides support to organise student's works
and integrate them in the content offering by appropriate control
of author rights and content's versioning and certification.
It also allows teachers to build along with content, new or existing
guides based on others work. This can include, in all or partly,
already existent guides. This user can also introduce enhancements
in the way content is classified.
3.2 Technology support
The EFTWeb model is implemented
with available widespread technology. To support content distribution,
World Wide Web becomes the natural solution. It has a lot of
information available that needs to be mediated for being trusted.
Also, its information can be searchable and exists in a digital
format, in particular using a textual search engine. Web access
is possible with a personal computer and its cost is acceptable.
To support content, database
technology is used. This technology eases the storage and retrieval
of contents and supports multiple and concurrent accesses supporting
multimedia storage and logs activity. It also provides proven
means for search and dynamic maintenance of contents and model
To support semantic structures,
where relations between contents are of importance, thesaurus
technology is used. This will provide the necessary flexibility
to access content by using a set of ordered concepts that allows
to store, with each content, independent semantic and high order
The combined use of World Wide
Web, databases and thesaurus technologies are designed as the
support for the system offer - distribution plus content plus
structure - and constitutes the system core added value.
One of the more relevant features
of this model is the use of thesaurus technology to structure
content semantics. The thesaurus is used to describe a particular
model of knowledge about a given area in terms of keywords and
relations between these keywords. The system allows the creation
of several different structures in the thesaurus, for different
overlapping classification systems to use at the same time.
From the user perspective,
the Web browser integrates system functionality by offering a
common and easy to use hypermedia interface. This option allows
for the technology integration without increasing user client
complexity to configure and use. Its use also allows integration
with Internet and Intranet existent facilities.
3.3 Model entities
EFTWeb model considers in its
core some support for security and billing issues. The entities
represent the interface with external issues like client, security,
and billing. These three entities were selected in order to provide
a clear business orientation for the EFTWeb model:
client: includes teachers and
students. The model allows a client to be a consumer and also
security: deals with the need of protecting client identification
and client system use. Also included user operations allowed
and what can the user really do, modify, comment and add as content
and context information;
billing: allow the necessary arrangements to use the system in
a commercial way, where different types of promotions, paying
education, learning and training programs, and fees can be applied.
3.4 Model mechanisms
The model mechanisms are used
to interface the offer with the entities presented. The mechanisms
receive the information from corresponding entities and provide
the processes and storage needs to deal with entity requirements
in a flexible and independent way.
For each entity, the model
offers a correspondent mechanism that acts like a system translator
between each entity requirements and the functioning for system
offer integration. The model mechanisms are defined as:
scripts: having the distribution,
content and structure as an organised and available offer, to
each client can correspond a particular path that shows a set
of selected offer;
profiles: corresponds to how each client can interact with the
offer, by allowing different levels of functionality to take
place. These levels are described as use, read, execute, comment,
add, certify and evaluate;
credits: allowing client' interaction with the offer in a cost
based approach. Each content or each kind of interaction can
have a particular cost or be rewarded with credits. Credits also
allow system usage regulation by controlling accesses. The credits
mechanism interact with the billing by allowing an internal unifying
cost for tracking usage and a commercial independent pricing.
3.5 EFTWeb user types
Three types of users should
be considered. The normal user can be a teacher or a student.
The administrative users are responsible for the normal definition
of the system offer and operation. There are two types of administrative
users: the ones that deal with the base offer definitions and
the thesaurus administrative users that are responsible for maintaining
multiple catalogues and thesaurus.
The model also proposes two
types of services: administrative services that allow administrative
users and thesaurus administrative users to enter the information
necessary to the system operation, like user information, content
and structure information. The administrative services are:
certifying and authoring: certifying
contents and authoring scripts;
version control: promoting and maintain related content collections;
catalogue creation: complementing the thesaurus with additional
information by introducing lists of available thesaurus keywords
with correspondent weighting factors.
Notice that although these
services were design to be performed by different people, anyone
can be part of each group and each group will not excludes members
from the other groups. The three groups were devised in order
to reinforce content quality and its categorisation effort.
3.6 System services
The system takes advantage
of existent world wide and low cost web facilities. It is based
on a client / server architecture where the core content is stored
in a database and all the interaction between the system and
users is made by a web browser using standard facilities (no
The novelty is on the model
used to create the database structure, where focus was directed
to clients, security and cost supervision. In order to fill these
requirements, some integration mechanisms have been developed.
In the system core, contents classification (metadata) based
on thesaurus technology is placed along with the contents, allowing
great flexibility in the terms definition.
The EFTWeb can be used as broker
to assist both teacher and students needs by providing content
in context. Different educational contexts can be envisaged as
resulting from presence education support, distance education,
and training or even instruction activities.
The current EFTWeb version
supports several services including the use of a recommender
system and the support for co-operative work for tracking document
and folder sharing (version management). These facilities along
with the more usual electronic mail, news, forum and chat provide
a set of services integrated with the content database and a
thesaurus based content classification for access and search
available content. Users can also trade content by using credits
to buy and sell contents. Security issues are implemented in
the base system in order to certify who is doing what respecting
a given content.
The implemented user services
are : mail: each client must have access an email address
to send/receive messages; dialog: allow client chat in real time.
The service is organised in rooms that groups users by topic;
personal area: works as a system portal, proposing a link collection;
personal folder: the place where the client place his documents
with the option to share them; search engine: available in two
modes - textual search and thesaurus (by directory); and guides:
this facility defines the content sequence "knowledge road"
to be used. It groups other guides, units, and content.
4. Impact on Education, Learning
Considering current education,
learning and training processes, the ones that are proposed by
EFTWeb favoured content reuse by allowing its combination based
on existing context creation facilities. These facilities are
implemented by the creation of a thesaurus and its flexibility
based on alternative catalogues for each context, thus allowing
alternative models to user access content. These models can exist
and be used at the same time for different users and be replaced
at any time for each user, providing alternative contexts to
access content. Four types of activities in the process of education,
learning and training can be proposed as follows:
lecturing: the activity of
content transmission and facilitation;
certifying: the activity of validating contents and education
evaluating: validate and assess client (both teachers and students)
production: the activity of content creation, methodology elaboration
and technology selection.
Considering the above activities,
are proposed three main education types: lecturing: actions that
involve one individual responsible for knowledge transmission
to an audience composed by group of individuals that may have
different goals; training: actions oriented to the content, where
the intended audience have common and well defined goals; and
instruction: actions oriented to the context, where the intended
audience has a well know profile and a group of tasks to be executed.
From these definitions (activities
and education types) two important issues arise. First, there
is a need to deal with the available resources in a flexible
way, specially the ones concerned with content. Second, allow
combining types and education activities for extending and describe
resources as contents and contexts in the EFTWeb perspective.
EFTWeb proposes a model to
support the need to store, represent and maintain both contents
and semantic of contents in order to allow contents relations
in an independent and not previous known ways. This characteristic
allows context support along with contents also with semantic
support given by using thesaurus technology.
EFTWeb provides the support
for education, learning and training activities based on the
flexibility: concerning the
production process. The production includes contents, thesaurus
diversification: by means of reusing existent content in new
guides (contexts) and upgrading them both with new contents or
by improving existent ones;
differentiation at the product level, by offering content and
guides for satisfying each client needs.
EFWeb can be of help in the
emerging of new approaches to the education business not only
by supporting but also for packaging contents and facilitate
its management. Central to EFTWeb use is the creation of thesaurus
and guides who turn easy context descriptions for client needs
fulfilment. These contexts allow taking advantage of existing
content in different perspectives with different goals and within
The creation of multiple catalogues
to be used with each of thesaurus definition provides an even
richer context description by allowing the use of the language
and each area glossary to be integrated with EFTWeb facilities
to browse available content. Beyond content and its reuse is
the context offering to support education, learning and training
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