Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New technolgies and eLearning

New technolgies represent a very powerful way of doing things. A good application that shows the power is Google suggest. "As you type, the browser goes back to 'Google' and gives you suggestions as to what is available to fill in."

The main problem with new technologies found in Web 2.0, is that they are solutions in search of a problem to solve. "The SOAP/AJAX technology solves the problem that if someone fills in a blank on a form, you may want to give him feedback (from a remote server) without reloading the entire Web page. Basically, it lets just one part of the form be updated based on information that is retrieved from a server in real-time. This is only really needed if you can't incorporate the information into the Web page when it is being delivered to the student. So, you could create a single page, for example, that gives results from various search engines as the user inputs information into one field."

The biggest downsides are ...
  • In order to develop content that uses this, you need to be a "power programmer." You need to be able to code the Web pages to use the AJAX approach (basically, each piece of your Web page can go off to a different server and ask for information when the user clicks, mouses over or types in that piece of the Web page); you need to be able to write and debug the server-side component(s) that provide the information; and you need to make sure that these behave nicely.

  • Not all browsers support this type of architecture yet. In the newer versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, you have to use an ActiveX component. This opens you up to security issues. (The AJAX ActiveX component doesn't, but allowing ActiveX does because an ActiveX component can do anything to your computer once it is allowed.) Older browsers won't handle it, so you need to make sure your page "appears well" with older content.

  • If you are going to provide services, you will need to publish a description of your interfaces so that the power programmers can use them. You'll also need to ensure that there is no way to breach the security of your "services."
If you can find good applications that require the communication/feedback in almost real time -- that AJAX provides -- you may find that traditional approaches will work just fine."

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