GENERIC TEMPLATES FOR COURSES WITH MULTILINGUAL CONTENT IN LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
One main task of Learning Management System (LMS) is representing learning content for learners like students. A course author, for example the teacher, usually is responsible for administrating his courses in settings and content. Actions which are done by authors in a LMS at a university are iterating every year or semester. For example the creation of a course for a lecture or a seminar will be done with same elements, settings and with similar content. Normal copy/paste functionality is useful for this procedure. But maintaining and updating content, like date and time for appointments, registration period and exam is not supported by this basic function. Therefore a special implementation is necessary. Moreover due the internationalization in university study programs the content of a course usually has to be maintained and created in more than one language. This means more time and effort for the author because each action (like updating definition of time and location for exam) need to be done for each language.
Most of the current available LMS have an individual implementation of courses. A specification of generic templates would ease the usage of a common layout in a heterogeneous tool landscape. By specification of a generic course template an exchange of courses structure between different LMS would be no problem. Furthermore the definition of a generic template for courses is one step towards a common exchange format of learning content between different LMS. Moreover many LMS have an individual realization of multilingualism for user content like courses. Most of them offer multilingualism just for system text but not for user content.
Our concept introduces a general approach for abstract templates of courses. A course consists of elements with different functionalities, like registration, information page, download area or other elements with multilingual content. To support changes in the content, which is defined by author, special tags are used to define dynamic text. Each tag has a type to represent different kinds of dynamic content. If a course template is reused a wizard helps the author to change easily the tagged text pieces. The main idea is to abstract courses as templates which allow creation of a new course based on this template. This template can be used in several LMS. This simplifies and supports the steps of course authors for course creation. A consistency check of existing courses against a template would be possible to provide a consistent presentation of learning content from an institution (university, faculty).
The realization of this concept was structured into two subprojects. Both were implemented in the LMS OPAL (Online Platform for Academic Learning). OPAL is used by Saxon universities (Germany). The focus of the first project was the implementation of abstract templates for courses and was finished in the year 2013. To support usability, user-friendly wizards were implemented for generation and usage of templates in OPAL. A template contains information about course elements, properties of elements, graphical representations and content. The second project was the migration of OPAL from monolingual to multilingual LMS. This project will be finished in 2014. By these basics a combination and improvement occurs for realization the presented overall concept.