Computers are created to aid human activities aimed at improving skills. Multimodalities
available in the virtual world-the internet-have substituted the significant
human culture of yesterdays. The varieties of our requirements and the challenges
of globalization have reduced our world into tiny communities linked by computers.
Within these tiny units, the philosophy of learning is not forgotten. In fact,
learning has become universal and thus we have E-learning (Fernandez-Manjon
et al., 2007; Wilson and Stacey, 2004; Abrami
et al., 2011).
Students are no longer restricted in the classrooms with this transformation
and innovation. They become skillful learners who are given chances to develop
their critical and cognitive skills, understand other cultures and nurture intercultural
relationships. Hence, the obstacle right there is to make sure that the education
sector permits the current web-based applications approachable to teachers and
students alike to enable them to collaborate efficiently along with the academic
mission set by their respective educational institutions. More essentially,
E-Learning helps in molding the students as the world they live in today and
the world they will study in the future, is becoming more competition-based
and knowledge-based (Panitz, 1999b; Laal
and Ghodsi, 2012).
As educational innovations are shaped to the needs of the more competitive
students, various software were designed to supply instruments to guide, assist
and monitor online learning activities. Thus, the idea of Collaborative Learning
(CL) was born. CL aims at supporting active student involvement in the learning
field. In CL, students are able to study together in small groups towards a
shared learning target. CL emphasizes on combined working efforts among students
in their group along with the teachers guidance. Students are responsible
for their own and the group members learning. Hence, the ones success
helps other students to be successful (Gokhale, 1995).
CL gives students the opportunity to express and criticize their opinions and
encourages them to be sensitive and analytical (White and
Pea, 2011; Dillenbourg, 1999; Ingleton
et al., 2000).
In this study, we develop collaborative software which can do homework and
project together in separate places. This proposed software gives an application
of the tools and features of CL software suitable for learners and teachers
The education field has changed drastically compared to the yesterdays. The
once commonly used teacher-centered strategy in the classroom has become the
topic of a heated debate among educators and social scientists. As opposed to
the conventional learning method, Collaborative Learning (CL) aims at giving
importance to various individuals who are interested in learning something not
as separate learners but together (Dillenbourg, 1999).This
section highlights the vital role of computers play in education through Collaborative
Learning (CL) (Hennessy et al., 2007).
Advantages of collaborative learning applications: While students are
able to learn more effectively with Collaborative Learning (CL), many educators
place a strong emphasis on teaching strategies that are more than just masteries
of content and ideas. Experts believe CL promotes a larger educational agenda
that encompasses several rationales involving students, teachers and staff and
various institutions, especially schools (Liu et al.,
2011; Laal and Ghodsi, 2012; Panitz,
1999a, 2000; Ingleton et al.,
Instead of being teacher-centered, collaborative learning is all about students
and learners. Students are the active agencies who are provided with the courseware
to complete assigned tasks by cooperating with others. Towards this end, students
become more analytical and critical-thinking. Cooperating with peers encourages
critical thinking, develops higher level of cognitive skills and sharpens communication
skills. As students are actively involved in the learning process, teachers
allow them to do the exercises that are less confining. CL also reduces tension
by increasing students persistence to accomplish the tasks. In its wider
application, CL gives students the ability and freedom to solve problems using
new techniques that they might have discovered by themselves. Weaker students
are helped by advanced students in an atmosphere of trust. Through teamwork,
the students learning outcome is shared among themselves (Panitz,
In collaborative learning environment, teachers and staff are introduced to
a range of themes, topics and topics for students to complete. A wider range
of resources through various online links result in a more dynamic engagement
between students, teachers and staff. The benefits of CL are outlined and summarized
(Panitz, 1999b, 2000). CL is
used to personalize large classes to encourage students to participate. It promotes
understanding among teachers and staff and provides teachers to explore on assessment
techniques aside from the traditional exams or tests after each lesson.
Wilson and Stacey (2004) justified that CL has benefits
to institutions. These benefits include Return of Investment, Deployment of
Technology and Frameworks of Collaboration.
The classification of the tools and features of CL application: Within
the field of Information and Computer Technology (ICT), many literatures exist
on CL Applications. In this study, WeRcLeA, a reviewing tool, is used to analyze
the applications of collaborated learning. The techniques that are specifically
applied were introduced by Ab Rahman (2006). He came
up with a model which combines the classification of collaborative tools earlier
discovered in the studies of French (2003), Koschmann
(1994) and Stahl et al. (2006) research. Because
Ab Rahman (2006) adopted model is similar to the scope
of this study, the same grouping of tools, namely, communication, shared repository,
group learning and assessment tools are implemented.
Communication tools can be asynchronous or synchronous tools. The main attributes
of asynchronous communication tools are group email, announcements, Calendar
(Exam time table)/Progress review tool and discussion forums. However, the main
attributes for Synchronous Communication are chat, shared whiteboard, application
sharing, virtual space, voice chat and video conferencing.
The main features for shared repository tools are shared facility, curriculum
objectives, shared bookmarks, real time data, data collection, list of projects/courses/activities
and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). The shared repository tools for teachers
include Design Activities.
The important features of group learning tools that are made available to students
are project space or group space, personal workplace, group forming, negotiation,
expert services, presentation and submission, online guide and wiki. Some of
the important features introduced for teachers are online authoring and online
presentation which are used simultaneously as collaborative software.
The different assessment amenities are self-reflection, self-assessment, group-assessment,
progress tracking and online survey. Assessment tools for teachers are very
important because they provide ways to monitor students
learning progress. Aside from the monitoring tools, teachers can also use the
assessment manager and personal workplace.
Comparison of three existing applications: Based on the comparison of
three existing applications that named ATutor, Moodle and Sakai, that mentioned
in our previous article (Lotfi and Nasaruddin, 2009).
Moodle and Sakai are more powerful than ATutor. There are some features which
are only available within Moodle and Sakai, such as on-line course calendar,
spell checker in discussion forum, unlimited chat rooms, on-line clubs, forming
groups by students, own whiteboard and personal test banks for teachers. Moodle
has more functionality than ATutor and is easier than Sakai. It is clearer to
be used by the learners of secondary schools. Moodle has been widely used in
Secondary Schools. In conclusion there are not group assessments or group questions
for each of systems. The comparison shows the lack of group assessment and also
there are no online classes individually but they can be made by discussion
forum. This research has focused in group questions, group assessments as well
as online classes. The lack of group assessments and group questions made us
develop Lotfi VCL that will be discussed in the following sections.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
In the process of investigating the applications of Collaborative Learning
(CL) activities as well as formulating a system that would improve students
learning, researchers must have a background on different research paradigms.
Among academicians, information and technology experts, technocrats, health
and medical scientists and others, two paradigms have been used: qualitative
There are various information systems which need processing of the human mind.
Throughout centuries, information has been related to communication and since
only human beings have the ability to comprehend and interpret information,
various models exist. However, before human civilization has truly matured,
information sharing was done verbally because of the absence of a much systematic
method. As human civilization grows, there seems to be no stopping in innovation
and technology. One of the recent contributions in information sharing in the
education field is collaborative learning.
The innovation of learning has been revolutionary. From the traditional two-way
teaching system of teacher-student, it has revolutionized. Among academic staffs
that have to get accustomed to the information highway, CL is a requirement.
Until today, the study emphasizes on the importance of CL in education. Specifically,
it tries to discuss the different tools, features and applications of CL as
well as the advantages that this system poses to both learners and teachers.
To accomplish a web-based tool for Secondary School students and teachers to
support their CL activities, the following strategies are conducted.
The researcher summarized the philosophy behind computers and education with
links to CL and its support system. Since the whole educational system gains
profits from CL applications, the perceived advantages of CL are narrowed down
to the learners, teachers and institutions. In the process of identifying the
different CL applications, the researcher identified those that are considered
successful and practical based on the needs of the users. Thus, three CL applications
and features are shown.
To determine the usefulness of the CL features, the researcher scheduled two
meetings with learners. Since CL has too many important attributes to be focused
on, it is nearly impossible for the researcher to enquire every single detail.
Hence, the researcher conducted some meeting with a smaller population. Its
purpose was to provide the learners the chance to find out which CL tools they
find most suitable based on their needs as learners.
From the information obtained during the two meetings, the researcher came
up with two questionnaires for the research sample size. In these questionnaires,
the learners as well as the teachers were required to rate the significance
of the tools and features that they find supportive to the different CL activities.
Data from the questionnaires provided the weighted average values (Lotfi,
Based on the weighted average values of the tools and features, the researcher
plotted the rates in a comparative table consisting of the three CL applications
(Lotfi et al., 2010b; Lotfi
and Nasaruddin, 2009).
From the information available from the table, the researcher identified the
functional and non-functional requirements necessary in developing the Lotfi
VCL (Lotfi et al., 2010a).
The researchers Lotfi VCL system
was implemented and tested. Data from the testing were collected, tabulated
and documented to determine its strengths and weaknesses so that the system
can be improved in the future.
Meetings: To gather suitable CL tools and features, we invited all students
that had e-learning experience. Then we arranged two meetings with them, with
secondary (containing 22 students) and Pre-University (containing 20 students)
students. We followed these steps during each meeting:
||Introduced CL tools and features for learners
||Explained each CL tool and feature for learners
||Discussed the important ones from students view
||Obtained suitable CL tools and features from learners view
Questionnaires: Two forms of two-paged structured questionnaires with
three sections were made for learners and teachers in order to find the suitable
CL tools and features for learners based on the meetings. The general details
and students satisfaction of using CL applications were measured. The
application details that indicate the essential tools and features from students
or teachers point of views and the last section was a free response feedback
we also examined in this study.
Implementation of learners
questionnaire: The participants of the questionnaire were 205 students from
grades 9, 10, 11 and Pre-University from the Complex of Imam Khomeini in Kuala
Lumpur. Before filling up the questionnaires, the following steps were taken:
||The research was explained and introduced
||The Collaborative Learning applications were explained
||Collaborative tools and features were introduced
||One CL application was shown and its tools and features were indicated
Then, the questionnaires were distributed and collected back. This task took
about a month.
Implementation of the teachers
questionnaire: The participants of the questionnaire were 55 teachers from
secondary school and pre-university. Before filling up the questionnaires, verbal
explanations were given to some and for the rest written explanations were sent
by E-mail. Then, the questionnaires were distributed and collected. This task
took longer than a month.
Data collection and analysis of the questionnaires: From 711 students
in Educational Complex of Imam Khomeini in Kuala Lumpur, 224 study in secondary
and Pre-University. The questionnaire distributed to all secondary and pre university
students that there were many students that had experience in e-learning education
system and 205 students answered completely that we used in this research.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The questionnaires are aimed rating the importance of tools and features in
supporting Collaborative Learning (CL) activities from students
and teachers views. The group
rating of each tool and feature obtained was used in the development of Lotfi
VCL. The results of these two meeting are shown in Fig. 1.
|| The important CL tools and features for learner from learners
and teachers view
Questionnaires results: There were 16 and 21 questions for learners
and teachers, respectively. Some questions required general data, such as age,
gender and educational experience. There were 150 male and 55 female learners
who participated. On the other hand, 4 male and 51 female teachers were involved.
There were questions requiring details related to the research, as well. The
important statements are listed in Table 1.
Table 1 shows that most participants like to use computer
and technology in the learning and teaching fields that is most important tool
for working online. They are also interested in sharing activities and tasks
and they like to engage to CL applications for learning and teaching. This section
can be as the participant description section that shows the motivation of students
to study collaboratively online. This speculation is congruent with some researchers
that have been conducted in the past. They demonstrate that students and teachers
are able to learn better when they actively engage in meaningful activities
or when they collaborate with peers (Vrasidas and Zembylas,
2004: Herrington et al., 2009; Ab
Rahman, 2006; Jamil and Shah, 2011; Wilson
and Stacey, 2004; Waycott et al., 2010).
CL results: This part contains the results of CL applications that are
categorized based on learners
and teachers views. We used
Weighted Average Value (WAV) of each feature and mean value for each category
of tools. Weighted Average Value (WAV) of each feature represents the group
rating from 205 students of the importance of each feature. Thus the greater
the weighted average value (WAV), the more important is that feature for a CL
application. Weighted average value (WAV) for each feature is calculated using
the formula below:
where P, Q, R and S are the number of responses for the Likert Scale 1, 2,
3, 4, respectively and 205 is the total number of responses.
|| The important output of both questionnaires
As the mean value is calculated from the Weighted Average Value (WAV), it is
concluded that the greater the mean value, the more important is that category
of tools. The mean value of each category of tools is given by the following
where, n is the maximum number of features in that category of tools.
Table 2 shows that the asynchronous communication and group
learning tools are important with 3.13 point mean value. The assessment tool
holds the highest importance with 3.45 point value. All other categories are
just as highly important with values above 3.00 except for synchronous communication
and assessment from learners
view and only synchronous communication from teachers
view. The overall mean value for learners
view is 3.032 while for teachers
view is 3.04.
These results are also supported by the findings discovered by So
and Brush (2008), which represent asynchronous communication channel with
the instructor as being more preferred by students who tend to be shy in traditional
classroom than the vocal and active ones. As well as having the willingness
and motivation to participate in group projects, students had a positive view
of the course by the students as they enjoyed working with group members and
at the same time received high grades on the group project with group learning
tools (So and Brush, 2008). Moreover, Schellens
and Valcke (2005) and Dillenbourg et al. (2009)
found positive learning outcomes from the usage of online asynchronous communication
According to Rogers (2009), asynchronous communication
can be used to facilitate collaborative learning experiences among students
located in different time zones. Rogers (2009) also mentioned
that group support systems are an effective medium to improve collaborative
It is essential to know that the purpose of a CSCL environment is not simply
to allow collaboration across distance but to provide the required conditions
in which effective group interactions are expected to occur. Students who form
a group for a learning activity are expected to develop a shared goal for the
joint activity (Dillenbourg et al., 2009; Lo,
|| Important of tools and features from learners and teachers
On the other hand, during a group activity, members might face challenges due
to variations in their priorities, respective goals and expectations or conflicts
generated by interpersonal dynamics, such as different styles of working or
communicating, the tendency for some individuals to rely on others to do their
share of the work and power relationships among members (Burdett,
2003). Yet further complications are faced by culturally diverse groups
due to more substantial differences in their personal background characteristics.
Among these are language barrier and preferred communication style. Due to prior
cultural-educational experiences, students might also feel unprepared to come
out of their comfort zone and interact with less familiar peers (Dillenbourg
et al., 2009).
Analysis and develop of Lotfi VCL: Before develop of Lotfi VCL, the
suitable tools and features of learner were gathered by two printed questionnaires
from learners and teachers view.
Then, these tools and features were compared with three existing systems ATutor,
Moodle and Sakai.
Based on the comparison, it was observed that group assessments or group questions
were not found in any of the systems. The lack of group assessment and also
online classes individually encouraged us to develop Lotfi VCL.
The developing of Lotfi VCL includes three parts: requirements capture, system
structure chart and user interface design. Requirements capture is divided in
two types: Functional requirements and non-functional requirements. Functional
requirements include all users, administration function, teacher function and
student function while non-functional requirements include usability, operational,
performance, supportability and security.
System structure chart is used to show the hierarchy of the modules in the
system where high level module indicates the higher level functionality while
the lower level modules show the detailed functionality. Figure
2 shows the main structure of Lotfi VCL system.
The user interface develop of the Lotfi VCL effectively influences its practicality.
A good user interface design will reduce the time master the system. It will
also increase the users efficacy
as well as enabling users to remember the functions of system even after some
Administrators can create new course by choosing a teacher from teachers list
and then creating a course for the selected teacher, which can be activated
right away or later. Administrators can create new accounts for teachers, students
or the other administrators whereas a student can make an account for himself.
Teachers are free to choose a course to manage, which can be done by setting
group question, group assessment and or group project then marking them or by
creating sub course and new group (Fig. 3).
|| The main structure of Lotfi VCL system
Teachers have the liberty to delete students from their course as well. Also,
teachers can go to the time table and select a course to go to the online class.
Only the classes that will be conducted on the day will appear red in color
and can be entered only after the starting time and before the ending time.
Teachers can go in discussion forum and discuss with their students who are
registered in the course during the class time.
On the other hand, students can go to the time table during the class time,
follow the class board and discuss with classmates and teacher about the on-going
lesson. Sometimes the teacher will prepare a set group questions during the
class time; there can be a group assessment given to the students during this
time as well. Students cannot attempt the group question or group assessment
in any other time except the set class time. Students can select items that
are shown in Fig. 4 and get the results of group projects,
group assessments or group questions. Students can do the group project from
this page or even delete themselves from the course. Students can examine their
knowledge in two ways. They can answer descriptive question by going to Group
Question or answer MCQ by going to Group Assessment. While either page opens,
a chat room opens simultaneously whereby students are to discuss the questions
and finally the group leader will post the answer. For group assessment, the
system marks the questions automatically but group questions are marked by the
teacher. Figures 3 and 4 show a few screenshots
of Lotfi VCL.
Lotfi VCL implementation, evaluation and results: Here, the implementation,
evaluation and results are explained.
||Screenshot of Manage Course page by teacher
||Screenshot of Manage Course page by students
For implementation tools, hardware and software requirements, Lotfi VCL architecture,
execution of Lotfi VCL, tools and features for each user such as administrator,
teacher or student are described.
There are some hardware and software requirements for Lotfi VCL which need
to be specified. The minimum requirements for Lotfi VCL are shown in Table
3 and 4.
Lotfi VCL architecture: Determining where the identified software components
of the system will best be located to the various hardware components on which
the system will operate is the objective of the architecture design. Many applications
today are web based applications mainly because of its easy accessibility and
frequency of being updated, satisfying users
expectation for up to date information and task completion. As users
activity is continuously expected, Lotfi VCL is developed to be web based. The
popular client server architecture is used, which can balance the process between
the client and server.
Dennis et al. (2005), classified that all software
systems are divided into four functions which act as the basic building blocks
of any information system.
||Data storage: Data is required to be stored and retrieved
in most information systems.
||Data access logic: this requires data accessing which often means
database queries in SQL
||Application logic: Functional requirements and the logic documented
||Presentation logic: display information to the user and the acceptance
of the users command or the user interface
|| Hardware requirements
|| Software requirements
Client computers, servers and the web which connects them are the three primary
hardware components of a system.
Execution of Lotfi VCL Lotfi VCL aims to guide students in collaborative
learning activities. The homepage acts as the center of the system. The homepage
provides linkage to login page, register page, about me and contact me in two
languages which are Persian and English.
There are many tools and features for administration which are explained below.
Register new user: Administrator can register any user with different
access account (Admin, Teacher or Student).
Manage users: Administrator can manage all users. Administrator has
to be able to delete a user from system, edit user profile, lock/unlock login
name and confirm validation/invalidation of user login name.
Create new course: Administrator can create new course by selecting
a teacher for it.
My profile: Administrator can edit his profile in this section.
Change password: Administrator can change his Password by himself.
The tools and features used for teachers are described as following.
My course: In this section, teacher can unregister student from course,
create new group and new sub course, edit sub course, set group question, set
group assessment, set group project, mark students
questions answers and students
Time table: Teacher can login online classes only when the class has
begun and teach the lesson and also he can discuss with students in discussion
My profile: Teacher can edit his profile in this section.
Change password: Teacher can change his password by himself.
There are many tools and features for students which are explained in the following.
Register new course: Student can register in course that he wants.
My course: Student can unregister from course by himself, do group project
with group members and see Group assessment results, question results and project
Time table: Student can login online classes during the class time and
look at the class board, go to discussion forum to discuss with classmates and
teacher about on-going lesson, do group question with group members and do group
assessment with group members.
My profile: Student can edit his profile in this section.
Change password: Student can change his Password by himself.
The evaluation focuses on the following 6 aspects of Lotfi VCL:
||Ability to carry out online classes. This is achieved when
the participants use Lotfi VCL for online classes
||Ability to carry out discussion forum. This is achieved when the participants
use Lotfi VCL for discussion forum during online classes time
||Ability to carry out group assessments. This is gained when students do
the assessments with group members in Lotfi VCL during online class time
||Ability to carry out group question. This is gained when students do the
question with group members in Lotfi VCL during online class time
||Ability to carry out group projects. This is gained when users do the
projects together in Lotfi VCL
||Usability of Lotfi VCL. This is to determine whether Lotfi VCL is user
These are the following evaluation steps i took: 15 students from grade 10,
10 from pre-university and 5 teachers volunteered and participated in the evaluation.
First a short description on the objectives and evaluation steps were given
to the participants. Then, they worked with the system for a period of about
two hours and finally, filled up the questionnaires.
One form of questionnaire being two-page structured consisting three sections
was made for learners and teachers in order to evaluate Lotfi VCL and its tools
and features. Section 1 measured the general details and users satisfaction
of using CL applications. Section 2, measured the system evaluation that is
to test the system usability. In this part, the tester requires to rank Lotfi
VCLs functionality according to the usability, criteria of efficient
to use, easy to remember how to use, easy to learn,
safe to use and have good utility. While the second
part of evaluation form is concerned with the system functionality, the third
section is user interface evaluation that focuses on the non-functional requirements,
such as user interface design and performance. The end of this part is free
response feedback. Results of evaluation of Lotfi VCL are divided into 3 sections.
Results of section 1: This section obtained general details. There were
13 questions for users. Some questions required general data, such as age, gender.
There are questions requiring details related to the research, as well. The
important statements are listed in Table 5.
Table 5 shows that most participants like to use computer
and technology in learning and teaching fields. As the percentages shows, users
are not really interested in traditional learning and they would prefer using
computers to get their homework done through Internet. They are also interested
in sharing activities and tasks and they like to engage to CL applications for
learning and teaching.
Results of section 2: This section obtained the system evaluation. The
results were analyzed and summarized in Table 6. We used 5-point
Likert scale (1 = very poor; 5 = very good).
Table 6 shows that all the functional requirements of the
system are very applicable as the WAV obtained in all seems to exceed 4.00 and
4 indicates of good. As shown, Group Assessment during Online Class Time scores
the least having the value of 4.05.
|| The important output of evaluation form from section 1
|| The output of system evaluation
|| The output of user interface evaluation
On the other hand, Discussion forum during online class and group question
during online class time sharing the same value of 4.5 score the highest. The
mean value of 4.33 proves that the functional requirements of the system are
appropriate for users.
User interface evaluation: The results were analyzed and summarized
in Table 7. We used 5-point Likert scale (1 = very poor; 5
= very good).
Table 7 shows that all heuristic evaluation of the system
is very useful as the WAV obtained in all of them seems to exceed 4.00 and 4
indicates of good. Background color and Text style are rated to be the lowest
having the same WAV of 3.5. Hyperlink and Navigation between Webpages and Download/Upload
time are both rated to have the highest WAV of values 4.7 and 4.6, respectively.
The mean value 4.16 proves that heuristic evaluation of the system is appropriate
Creating software and perfecting it are two different things. This section
explains the strengths and weaknesses of the Lotfi VCL, software specifically
developed for collaborative learning. This is followed by discussing a few suggestions
on how to enhance the system. Finally, the section ends with some insights on
the processes of software develop and challenges on information technology.
The strengths of the Lotfi VCL are determined by assessing its product aspect
and the process aspect. Product aspect pertains to the capabilities of the system
to operate based on its specifications. Compared with the other systems available
in the market, the strengths and competitive advantages of the Lotfi VCL are
||Makes group assessments and projects which can be uploaded
by the respective teachers for different groups, allowing students to work
independently as a group without sharing their answers with other group
members provided that the questions are not usually the same. This feature
motivates students to work as a team and improves their knowledge
||Allows teachers to create not only a courses but also sub courses, hence
encouraging students to work in different groups based on the sub courses.
Because the content of the course has been itemized through the sub courses,
students have many topics to work on, not only as individuals but more importantly
as groups which design their critical thinking, cognitive and communications
||Provides separate features for each type of user: Administrators, students
and teachers; enabling users to work independently.
||Includes features facilitating collaborative learning for teachers and
students. These include online classes, group assessments (i.e. posting
and submission) and group discussions. All these are accessible during online
classes and group assessments and projects among members. ATutor, Moodle
and Sakai do not have these features
||Is insured by a security feature. All posted data are stored in the SQL
Server that forbids non-subscribers to access data
||Has an authentication system where only valid users can log in, either
as an individual or a member of a group. Authentication is based on the
roles in each member
||Uses microsoft ASP. Net which gives the system the ability to run faster
compared to the scripting such as PHP
||Uses ASP. Net for its online chatting feature and HTML for the output
so users or clients do not have to install chat program because chatting
is already activated in the system. In other programs, users need to have
Java or ActiveX before they could go to the chat room
||Is bilingual: Persian and English. Although, the aim is to provide a system
for the Iranian users in the Education Complex of Imam Khomeini in Kuala
Lumpur, this feature will also expose other users to the Persian language
In terms of the process aspect, Lotfi VCL tried to incorporate the development
and maintenance aspects. If the development of the product followed the prescribed
process, it is more likely that the product is also acceptable. The other features
of the Lotfi VCL are as follows:
||Uses the Unified Modeling Language (UML) to specify, visualize,
construct and document the system. With UML, the system is simple, clear
||Is developed for software reuse. The modules in the system, namely user
class, course class, group class and admin class are reusable
||Is easy to maintain. Developed for teachers and students whose activities
are object-oriented, the system can be modified to allow new requirements
and future enrichments.
Although, the system attempted to introduce new features, some of its limitations
are listed below:
||Lotfi VCL does not offer shared whiteboard, shared application,
voice conferencing and video conferencing. Such features usually require
a complex process
||Lotfi VCL provides chatting but it cannot send or receive email. Incorporating
the email feature into the system requires the configuration of POP3 server,
which at the moment is beyond the scope of this research
||Lotfi VCL is linked with SQL Server so the database is faster and more
secured compared to Access database. However, the user has to pay the additional
charge for database hosting
||In Lotfi VCL, marking for teachers is limited. She/he cannot simultaneously
mark the page of the group leader and also be on the discussion page
Future enhancements are encouraged to enrich the facilities of Lotfi VCL for
a more effective collaborative learning among teachers and students. The future
enhancements are as follows:
||Include other features like shared whiteboard, shared application,
voice conferencing and video conferencing.
||Integrate the necessary software like ActiveMail and devMail.Net as well
as POP3 mail server so that Lotfi VCL would have an Email system
||Include a template control so that the user has more freedom to develop
and layout the page according to his needs and preferences
||Develop a support system which allows users to choose the database system
based on their requirements and financial capabilities
||Make the system multilingual
Teenagers of this generation are generally computer-conscious, if not literate
on the different web-based applications available online. In fact, the unprecedented
access to the World-Wide-Web (WWW) has reduced the world into small communities
of learners, paving the ways for distance learning. Students are now learning
via the web through group assessment, group project and online classes. These
are new ways that need web-based programs. For this advancement, developing
a system for Collaborative Learning (CL) is important. With CL, methods are
enhanced for knowledge sharing and for the improvement of students skills.
The Lotfi VCL is a web-based project conceived to integrate some features that
are not available in the existing modules that provide collaborative activities.
The main objective of Lotfi VCL is to educate; however, it also offers features
for social networking like forming alumni groups and learning communities. Lotfi
VCL supports online knowledge sharing while at the same time, it allows the
course Instructor (the teacher) to monitor the exchange and quality of the information
The process involved in developing the Lotfi VCL has been a rewarding experience,
amidst some limitations and constraints. The knowledge learned has surpassed
the difficulties and in the end, a system for CL is now a reality. In developing
the software, understanding the different existing programs and applying the
various procedures were all integrated in the whole process. Working with the
Unified Process, developing the system with UML models, setting up the Web Server
as database and programming with DOT.NET have ensured that the system is ready
for implementation. The Unified Process provides the development framework and
the supporting tools like ASP.NET AJAX Extension 1.0, AJAX Control Toolkit 2.0
helped in the overall develop. All these have been useful for the effective
and efficient development of the Lotfi VCL.
Indeed, there are no mountains too high to climb and there are no processes
too difficult to integrate in developing a system for CL. The Lotfi VCL is a
product of persistence, hard work and dedication. The mission is to share knowledge
and to make this software available to those who need it.