learning effectiveness: Uni Open Platform provides functionalities for the web-based administration of courses and students. All important features relevant to students and faculty staff can be accessed with a standard web browser. Uni Open Platform presumes that learning materials are created with standard authoring softwares. This is advantageous because the system will virtually support any kind of course material that can be served from a web server. Uni Open Platform provides the flexibility that is essential in today's e-learning community which still lacks commonly accepted standards. Uni Open Platform can be separated into four distinct modules: personalized information for students, the Uni Open Platform Assistant- an easy-to-use administration front-end for the faculty staff, an independent download tool for course contents - the Offline Navigator, and an extension module for the web server to allow automated periodic release of course material. Uni Open Platform Assistant The Assistant offers the students personalized information and data. Private student data is encrypted before it is sent through the internet(SSL encryption). The students have access to the following features:
- Access to personal data Here the students can specify private data like address, telephone number, email address, etc. These information are essential for university staff to contact a student. The students can also choose if they want to be included in contact and mailing lists for their enrolled courses.
- Results from assignments: The students can check the points they received for their individual assignments.
- Course list: The students get a personal list of their courses, including information about the tutor and the possibilty to directly go to the homepage of the course.
- Contact list: The contact list allows students to see if any fellow students live in the same geographic region. This allows the students to build work groups.
- List of tutors and mailing lists: Here the students get a list of tutors and their email addresses, as well as all course specific mailing lists.
- Personal dates: University staff has the opportunity to enter course-specific dates into the database (e. g. deadlines). The students get a personalize list of dates which are relevant to them.
Offline-Navigator The Offline-Navigator is a tool that automatically download and organize course materials. After startup and authentication, the students get a list of all courses that they are enrolled in. Each course comprises several components which can be downloaded separately. Typical course components are lecture scripts in HTML and PDF format, assignments and their solutions, exercises, multimedia elements, etc. The students can select the components they wish to obtain from the list and then initiate the download process. The Offline-Navigator decompresses the incoming components and stores them on the local hard disk of the student's PC. Furthermore, a table of contents is created that can be used to navigate through the different courses. Since the Offline-Navigator is a Java Application (not a Java Applet!) it can run on diverse operating systems. Administration Frontend The administration frontend is used by faculty staff like professors, tutors, secretaries, system administrators. It can be used to search and enter student and course data like registration numbers, addresses, email addresses, points for assignments, course modules, etc. The frontend is completely based on HTML which allows the staff to access the database from any web browser. Automatic Release Modul It has been found that it is advantageous to keep all students who are working in the same online course in a mutual study rhythm. Otherwise, a common basis for learning and discussion would eventually start to fade because some students would advance faster in the learning material than their fellow students. Technically, a mutual learning rhythm can be enforced by dividing lectures into components and releasing these components in periodic time intervals. This process can be automated in Uni Open Platform by configuring the automatic release module.