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4. Delivery of courseware

4.1. Sources of courseware within the UK: TLTP, CTI centres and ITTI

The two stage initiative of the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP) has led to the funding of over 70 projects at a projected cost over 4 years of approximately £35million. The nature of these projects vary but the majority take the form of consortia involving several universities working within a single subject area. The planned effort of many of these projects has been the production of material.

The Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) centres have been established in subject areas to promote the use of Computers within the teaching process. While the approach used has varied between different centres effort has concentrated on the collection of information about existing packages and distribution of that information in booklets and newsletters.

The ITTI projects have in turn concentrated on the training and staff development aspects of the introduction of technology into teaching. The material they have produced is primarily training packages, for example for the Guide authoring program and the use of multimedia in teaching. Recently the central distribution point for ITTI material has established an information server based at one of the sites involved [15].

4.2. Dissemination initiatives

The existence of a range of material and the technology to distribute it suggests that the formation of units to disseminate the information should be considered. These need to promote the best practice and material associated with the other initiatives across a range of subjects. An important aspect of the dissemination process will be the integration of information services into their task. Within Scotland there has been a recent decision to establish a centre based on this approach under the Learning Technology Dissemination Initiative (LTDI) [16]. This will make use of WWW technology in its initial service.

4.3. Existing information servers

The growth of information servers in all areas has lead to some attempts around the world to help disseminate learning material. These can be divided into:

traditional ftp servers: e.g.,, etc.

self contained systems: Global Network Academy

hybrid systems: using the technology to deliver local clients

It is in this last category that this report has concentrated.

4.4. Dynamic pages and databases

The initial organisation of a CBL collection should be fairly simple in its approach. This suggests that pages should be constructed under the control of an evaluation and dissemination centre based on information provided by the authors. As the Web will be used it is then easy to distribute management of such a server around different sites. When the collection grows in size, however, it becomes appropriate to consider alternative ways to organise the material. An option to be considered is to create some of the pages of information to be viewed on a dynamic basis. For example, a database of information about the software could be created and the information needed extracted from this database, a page dynamically created on the server and then sent and displayed on the client. This offers the potential advantages of a uniform appearance and a searchable database. As a disadvantage some of the flexibility of separately created pages would be lost. In practice the best solution is likely to be a combination of static and dynamic pages with an associated searchable database.

4.5. Security and management issues

Access to remote information and packages raises two security concerns: the need to ensure that only appropriate users have access to the data on the server; the need as a user to be sure that data received from the server will not harm their local system.

In the case of server security this is a concern that is being addressed by the community [17]. The initial design of the Web and most other Internet information services is based on public access. The servers are in the main protected against access that is harmful to the serving system but information can be most easily provided if it is freely and openly available over the network. For the case of courseware material it is likely that some, and maybe most, of the material can only be disseminated if some control is operated over who has access to the material. For example much of the output of the TLTP programme is considered to be available to other UK institutions but not to those abroad. Control can be imposed based on machine identities or on personal identities. In practice it is simple for servers to recognise machines (based on IP addresses) but not individual users. For user identification a protocol has been established (identd) but it is not widely used and is not appropriate for client machines where users do not have to login.

In the absence of sufficient remote identification the server itself may need to authenticate users by requesting a user name and password. The continuing identification of the users while they are using the system remains a problem unless dynamic pages are used which carry forward the user's identity. The techniques currently being discussed are unlikely to ensure complete and reliable validation of users, further possibilities are to use a separate exchange of keys (for example a system based on PGP [18]) or examine alternative servers such as Hyper-G [12]. It is important to consider that limiting distribution is only one form of control over use of the software. Important additional factors are enforcing the copyright, using "shareware" licences, and only offering support to those who have registered their use of the software. The logging information provided by electronic distribution could help in many ways with this form of control, which in any case is may more appropriate in the Education sector.

Client security can also be helped by some of the techniques mentioned above. The client can ensure that the material is coming from an established server based on machine address and could use the public key approach of PGP to validate any material delivered. Most existing servers of software however rely (fairly successfully) on trust and the users exercising reasonable care. For the service envisaged above if the installation process is to be made more transparent, this may not be secure enough. Greater security can be given if an intermediate client program with limited privileges and capabilities is used to carry out the servers instructions, this would be similar to the systems discussed in [4] and [7].

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