Design And Implementation Of ‘Software As A Service’ (SAAS) Based E-Learning Platform

Computer Science Project Material with Source Code Included

Computer Science Project Material with Source Code Included


Abstract


In this project, an e-learning platform for students in various fields was designed from reviewing relevant literatures with the aims of positively revolutionizing the educational process by making education much more practical, and relevance-based as w ell as effectively bridging the gap between students, schools, and their tutors/instructors. Looking at information and technological trends in the world, information and management technology needs to be delivered on the go. Therefore, the system was designed considering efficiency, satisfaction, delay, errors etc. The waterfall software development approach was adopted (because of its iterative nature) and Data were collected based on some unstructured interviews on campus and some general observations of existing e-learning web platform as well as general online computing. Also, systematic and theoretical analyses in the methods applied in the work typically encompassed concepts such as paradigms, theoretical models, faces and qualitative techniques. Technologies used in implementation were JavaScript, PHP (for the back-end design), HTML & CSS (for front-end design) and MySQL (for database management).


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of Study

However and whatever our dispositions are to education, it becomes imperative to note that the more efficient and faster the nature of education and learning, the better and more productive the results will be. E-learning is an extremely significant (but incomplete) subset of educational technology. The origins of the term is not certain, although it is suggested that the term most likely originated during the 1980’s, within the similar time frame of another delivery mode online learning. Nichols (2003) defines e-Learning as strictly learning that’s possible by using technological tools that are either web-based, web-distributed, or web-capable. Ellis (2004) added to this definition that e-learning also makes use of audio and videotape, satellite broadcast and interactive TV and it is not strictly achieved through web-based means as defined by Nichols (2003).

The e- part of the term e-earning does not necessarily mean electronic as per e-mail or ecommerce. Rather, according to Bernard Luskin, an educational technology pioneer, he advocated that the “e-” of e-learning should be interpreted to mean “exciting, energetic, enthusiastic, emotional, extended, excellent, and educational” in addition to “electronic”.

This approach to learning called e-learning has been adopted by organizations in different parts of the world for instance “Google Classroom, Coursera, Khan Academy” etc. Through these establishments it has been seen that e-learning would provide great benefits especially in a continent like Africa. In the light of these benefits, it is not surprising that institutions and international agencies have been spending many thousands of dollars to pilot and implement various e-Learning solutions in the region (Farrell & Isaacs, 2007). For example, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) provided a grant of $15.6 million to African Virtual University (AVU) to build e-learning centers and train content developers at 31 partner institutions in Africa (Adkins, 2013). Seven of these institutions are in East Africa. Similarly, the Partnership of Higher Education Africa (PHEA) has given funding to seven institutions in Africa (three of them in East Africa) to implement various e-Learning solutions (Hoosen & Butcher, 2012).


1.2 Statement of Problem

E-learning is a relatively new method of learning in Nigeria and existing e-learning facilities like web applications are very sparse and the existing ones have shown really little efficiency as it does not engage students in a manner that would help foster learning which is meant to be the main purpose of e-learning. It also continues the usual trend of students typically amassing knowledge without a viable means for application of the acquired knowledge. Also, there is inadequate awareness of these available e-learning facilities which keeps a large percentage of the Nigerian population oblivious of the possible benefits associated with these facilities. Also, some existing e-learning websites have poor development for example a web application called “SIMER”, this webapp(short for web application) is heavily dependent on JavaScript but most mobile users use devices that aren’t capable of running such amounts of JavaScript thereby reducing the amount of devices that would be able to easily make use of the webapp.


1.3 Objective of Study

Our goal is to promote and extend the functionalities, flexibility, awareness, ease of access as well as the educational standard of e-learning with focus on web application. This is necessary since in recent times, Nigerians are becoming more “Computer Savvy” coupled with the fact that ease of access to the internet is far greater now than it used to be years ago.

Seeing the challenges posed by existing e-learning webapps, we deem it fit to harness these earlier identified opportunities and challenges for the good of people that would like to learn things both people in school, those out of school for whatever reason as well as those in organizations.

Here are factors and objectives we have considered in the course of our study.

1. To reduce learning costs

As a student or even a small business owner, you know that online transactions cost a fraction as much those requiring paper or staff. It’s the same with e-Learning because there are no papers, no delays, and no travel expenses.

To reduce the time required for effective learning Electronic learning is sometimes called “just-in-time” learning. Such learning enables both employees and students to take what they have just learned from their computer screens and apply it to the tasks at hand.

2. To motivate Individuals

e-Learning is considered an effective way to keep up with new technology, to generate new ideas, and to keep your scheme fresh and inspired.

3. To expand the capabilities of businesses

Small organizations need to get more out of their high-potential employees. e-Learning helps employers take these employees to a higher level of contribution.

Other goals and objectives include the following:

  • To reduce the need for classroom training
  • To track the progress of employees and students
  • To track training effectiveness (or absorption)
  • To link training with Knowledge Management
  • To reduce time away from the job
  • To improve performance of individuals
  • To support business objectives
  • To make learning available anytime, anywhere
4. To Provide Employment opportunities for students based on their performance in courses
5. To make examinations much more effective

This is achieved as the system would not need to take the long amount of time that’s normally required by the traditional educational process to provide results of students in the exams or quizzes.

The system also notifies the students on questions they got right and those they didn’t.


1.4 Significance of Study

With the successful implementation of this research project, the following will be achieved:

  1. Students would be able to learn at a very accurate pace and with the approach that that suits them best
  2. Learning would be very practical, engaging, collaborative, and relevant to tackling actual real life problems in the field that’s being studied
  3. Students would get resources and materials for the courses in which they are enrolled for at a very early time (Even before the resumption of the semester). Thereby enabling them ask much more informed questions when the lectures on those courses begin
  4. Students wouldn’t frequently be faced with the problem of idleness, time and resource wasting after coming for lectures and the lecturer ends up not showing up as the system provides a platform where the lecturer duly notifies the class of his/her presence or absence, and if the lecturer would not be present, he could also give the students their lecture online or an activity to keep them from wasting the time slated for the lecture.
  5. The issue of unemployment would be tackled by the system as it has a platform for referring students for jobs in organizations that need the service of people who have excelled in the courses they hosted on the platform.
  6. Through the online lecture proposed by this system, students would not necessarily miss lectures if for one reason or the other, they could not make it to school
  7. Funds of conducting examinations will be reduced to a considerable minimum as costs for producing and printing question papers and answer booklets will no longer be paid for.
  8. Work load involved in sorting and marking the examination scripts by the instructor will be eliminated as the process will be automated by the system.

With all these, it is quite clear that this system, if adopted, Intends to revolutionize the learning process from the usual traditional approach to a much more effective one.


1.5 Scope of Study

The concept of e-Learning is one of both broad implications and applications. This is so because there are different methods through which e-Learning is achieved. These are some of the methods applied for e-Learning:

  1. Web-Based Training
  2. Computer-Based Training
  3. Interactive, Online Training Support

Each of these methods have their areas of strength as well as their weaknesses too, but our focus would be on the first and third methods listed above.

  1. In Web-Based Training, Learning take place via the Internet, users get the convenience of participating from wherever they might be located users also get the bonus of having reduced training expenses. Nevertheless, users who lack internet connection are unable to access the services provided by this method
  2. Computer-Based Training (CBT) provides many of the same benefits as online training solutions, this method is delivered via CD-ROM, intranet or local area network. Computer-based e-Learning solutions require no connection to the Internet. Users can experience more graphic- or audio-rich learning without the distraction of audio and video streaming complications.
  3. Interactive, Online Training Support is a supplemental service to e-Learning courses that provides an Interactive Support System (ISS) with each training. Users will have easy access to answers, simulations of tasks and more – all in a safe and private environment.

We however deemed it fit to limit the scope of our study, and invariably, our implementation to the Web-Based e-Learning Method (which implores the countless possibilities of the internet) with major consideration on webapps and mobile apps.

Our system is designed to interlace between tutors (primarily, those who offer genuine courses for study which could either be free or paid-for) and Students (any individual willing to enroll for a course available for free or for sale).

Individuals can only access the services of the intended application if they have created an account with the application. Accounts are created from either the mobile app (web-based hybrid implementation) or the web app (a website). Through this platform, the accounts can be funded by purchasing “SLATE CREDITS” with real money through a payment gateway such as “PAYPAL” by creating an API that links out webapp to this gateway. In turn, the purchased slate credits can be used to pay for resources that require payment such as books and courses.

The cash flow process for purchasing a resource is noted below;

  1. Tutors create the definitions of the resource
  2. Interested individual discovers their target resource and request its description
  3. Customers Instantiate purchase
  4. System displays billing info
  5. Customers authenticates billing request
  6. System checks customer’s account.
  7. If cash balance is greater than or equal to the desired product or service, the system bills the buyers account with the required cash otherwise, it informs the buyer of their inability to purchase the item due to balance insufficiency.
  8. Once the transaction is successful, the system then credits the tutor’s account and updates their inventory if necessary.

1.6 Limitations of Study

We have made tireless effort and have worked relentlessly to ensure that this system is both realistic, practicable and easily adoptable by a wide range of users. However, we have only chosen to adopt the Web-Based Training and Interactive, Online Training Support methods of e-Learning due to the very limiting time frame, and seeing that there are three primary methods for e-Learning as noted in the scope of study, it is therefore obvious that individuals who would have preferred the other method for whatever reasons would be cut out of this system.

We have put this limitation into consideration but are placing our bets especially after watching recent trends in smart phone adoption rates, and believe that in the next 2 to 4 years mobile devices without access to the internet will become obsolete and virtually everyone will have access to the internet thereby exposing even more persons to our e-Learning System in order to solve the learning challenges currently being faced with the conventional learning method existing in the society especially as our solution involves convenience.


1.7 Definition of Terms

API:

Application Programming Interface

SaaS:

An acronym for Software as a Service. It is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet.

Satellite:

A well-structured piece compactly engineered mechanical and computational masterpiece orbiting in space and designed to acquire information and transmit to a base station

WebApp:

Website Application


Chapter Five


Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

In this project, an e-learning platform for students in various fields was designed from reviewing relevant literatures with the aims of positively revolutionizing the educational process by making education much more practical, and relevance-based as well as effectively bridging the gap between students, schools, and their tutors/instructors.

Looking at information and technological trends in the world, information and management technology needs to be delivered on the go. Therefore, the system was designed considering efficiency, satisfaction, delay, errors etc.

The waterfall software development approach was adopted (because of its iterative nature) and Data were collected based on some unstructured interviews on campus and some general observations of existing e-learning web platform as well as general online computing. Also, systematic and theoretical analyses in the methods applied in the work typically encompassed concepts such as paradigms, theoretical models, faces and qualitative techniques.

Technologies used in implementation were JavaScript, PHP (for the back-end design), HTML & CSS (for front-end design) and MySQL (for database management).

After debugging and testing, the results obtained show that it would be more effective to achieving the goal this application if the same e-learning system is provided as an application on mobile phones.


5.2 Conclusion

Research and development are continuous processes; this is the same in computer and software development. However, the effectiveness and efficiency of this new system provides room for further improvements. As earlier mentioned, some of the objectives of this project were not actualised due to some limitations. So these objectives could be improved upon. Nevertheless, this learning management system developed will offer greater opportunities in the educating system of institutions.


5.3 Recommendation

Information management technology holds a great promise for enabling universities to provide enhanced services in a form users increasingly are demanding. The project work was focused e-learning only.

I therefore recommend to Universities starting from here in Nigeria, then West Africa, and ultimately Africa to develop a full portal for an effective and wholesome implementation of information management technology in our universities. When this is done, it would make it a whole lot easier for the e-learning services provided by this application to be implemented in these institutions by making the whole process automatic, linking each student’s university portal with the e-learning portal, maintaining a central database for accessing all information relating to students.

I also recommend for universities to implement efficient internet services with enough speed so as to enable students easily access the resources provided by the e-learning service which this project proffers.


5.4 Contribution to Knowledge

This project will help build a much more effective learning management system for the school and data will be processed with great speed and efficiency. Also it will improve on the traditional system currently being used in the majority of learning system in Nigeria, West Africa, and even Africa as a whole by making learning much more engaging, practical and relevant to the solving of actual existing problems.


5.5 Suggestions for Future Study

This study covered designing a web-based e-learning system; however for future studies, a comparative study of such systems should be carried out, to see how individuals can be made more eligible for employment into organizations that partner with this learning management system depending on their performances in the courses they enroll for after successfully completing those courses. Also, Studies should be carried out on how all transactions and payments with regards to the student’s activities on the platform would be carried out online.


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