Guidelines for Developing e-Learning System for Visually Impaired

According to the last “People with Disabilities Report” (cro. Izvješće o osobama s invaliditetom) in Republic of Croatia lives 529 103 persons with disability which is more than 10 % of total population. There is 18 317 persons with impaired vision (blind and visually impaired). Compared to previous years this number has increased by 2044 people. According to estimates 10%, with a tendency to increase, of blind people is using the Internet. Estimates are based on documents and reports that are currently derived from the project “Communication Rod to Independence” (cro. Komunikacijskom štapom do neovisnosti). This paper will discuss described definitions and standards that will be im-plemented in learning management system (LMS) as a module for visually im-paired. LMS developed at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences has been in use since 2004. System is composed of five modules: Document Management System (DMS), The Authorization and Supervision System (cro. Sustav Autorizacije i Nadzora; SAN), students module e-Student, SMS module SMSCentar and mobile learning module FPZMobile.

Model of the new LMS generation with user-created content

The Learning Management System (LMS) of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences has been in operation since 2004 when it was developed for the studying purposes according to the German Fachhochschule study concept and according to the then specific characteristics of studying in the Republic of Croatia. The system consists of five own developed modules (DMS, SAN, e-Student, SMSCentar and FPZmobile) which in synergy form the Faculty LMS. The Document Management System (DMS) is a system of managing documents and processes used for authorized access of the Faculty staff members to the modules that control the work of computer laboratories, e-Learning system administration (publishing of teaching materials, control and assessment of seminar papers, etc.), as well as the module for managing documents and processes within the Faculty (orders for equipment, reports on malfunctions, updated on-line directory, etc.). The authorization and supervision system (SAN) is a set of technologies and applications that allow supervision of students’ work on computers in computer classrooms of the Faculty, and personalization of the working environment in the Windows operating system, regardless of the particular computer the student is using. The e-Student system allows students authorized access to the teaching materials, tasks, exercises and instructions. Apart from this the system provides support in applying and producing seminar papers and various forms of knowledge testing (e-Blic, e-Test, e-Kviz). The SMSCentar and SAN system with smsCRM application (Customer Relationship Management via SMS) open up the possibilities for a number of information services for students and Faculty staff members based on interactive communication by means of SMS messages. Some three years ago, the m-Learning module was added to the e-Learning system of the Faculty in the form of interactive application for real-time information of students via mobile terminal devices, called FPZmobile. The basic idea was to develop an application that will provide accurate and up-to-date information related to the Faculty and the students’ achievements (seminars, exercises, quizzes, etc.) during their studying, in a form suitable for browsing on the mobile terminal devices interface, such as mobile phones, PDA devices or Smartphones. The modularity of such a system allows fast implementation of the new services according to the ideas and suggestions expressed both by the teaching and the non-teaching staff, and the students.

Conceptual Model of Developing a New LMS System of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences

The e-Learning system of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences has been continuously developed since 2004 for the study requirements according to the German study concept of the Fachhochschule and according to the specific study characteristics in the Republic of Croatia, using a modular approach. Currently there are five modules functioning (DMS, SAN, e-Student, SMSCentar and FPZmobile) which together form the Learning Management System (LMS) of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences.
DMS (Document Management System) is a system for managing documents and processes which is used for authorized access by the Faculty staff members to modules: control of work of the computer laboratories (check of access to exercises, etc.), e-Learning system administration (publishing of teaching materials, control and grading of seminar papers, etc.) and the module for documents and processes management within the Faculty (orders for equipment, report on failures, updated on-line directory, etc.)
SAN (cro. Sustav autorizacije i nadzora, eng. The authorization and control system) is a set of applications which applies the advanced IT technologies to allow supervising the work of students on the computers at the computer laboratories of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences and personalization of the working environment in the Windows operation system, regardless of which computer is being used by the student.

Possibility of applying fuzzy logic in the e-Learning system

A four year application with sustainable development of the Faculty of Traffic and Transport sciences’ e – Learning system resulted in the possibility of applying the afore mentioned in various processes, which appear in the education of the Traffic and Transport Sciences’ technologists, based on Bologna System and previously used higher education processes. Almost 10, 000 term paper themes have been turned in using the module which monitors the development of term papers. In order to provide a sustainable monitoring of the development of the term paper and to avoid plagiarism, searching through term paper themes has to be of the highest quality which is extremely complicated and demanding. Methods that have been used so far have given either incomplete or incorrect results, especially in the cases of typing in an incorrect concept. Searching demands usage of the fuzzy logic. Even though there is a vast number of fuzzy logic algorithms, none of them are adapted to Slavic languages or terms which have diacritical marks. A special methodology for searching through the Faculty of Traffic and Transport sciences’ e – Learning system has been developed. Based on this methodology a searching algorithm which uses one’ s own created word database has been implemented.

Security Audit and Mechanism of Protecting e-Learning System at the Faculty of Traffic and Transport Sciences

LMS (Learning Management System) of the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences, called e-Student, was experimentally introduced at the end of 2004 for one subject at the Faculty and was used to carry out a part of the teaching and practical work for about a hundred students. Today the system is used by more than 4800 students. In the period from 2004 to the beginning of March 2007, the system was used more than 145, 000 times. With the fact that e-Student system is a publicly accessible web application has given rise to questions regarding the security of the users interface and the database safety. Although, from the very beginning the system was planned and designed so as to provide security against then known methods of attacks, there are almost daily new failures in the operating systems and database management systems and the methods of attacks and usage of the web application drawbacks. Consequently, the system has to be regularly tested and adequately protected.

The Impact of Introducing e-Learning System in the Teaching Process at the Faculty of Traffic and Transport Sciences

The development of technology has brought to additional improvement in the quality of education by using the e-learning technology. Following the advanced trends of improving the teaching processes the Faculty of Traffic and Transport Sciences started several years ago the development of own e-Learning system modules. The paper presents the phases of the system realization. Special attention has been paid to the analysis of time-independent learning by the students and the work of the teaching staff members using the system. The obtained results indicate an increase in the number of users and their satisfaction in using the system thus saving time and allowing easier and more efficient access to information.

Drawbacks of Implementing e-Learning System in the Teaching Process at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences

The introduction and usage of the e-Learning system for distance learning, i.e. learning via the Internet or some other advanced multimedia method, has become an obligation and not just a possibility, in all the educational institutions, in the function of proactive continuous modernization of the teaching process by applying ICT. Although e-Learning is mostly mentioned within the context of learning at the educational institutions, companies are increasingly accepting and introducing distance learning systems. Negative effects of the implementation have not been sufficiently studied. It is easy to notice that the past focus of research referred mainly to positive effects on implementing the e-Learning method. The relatively short period, and the limited number of syllabuses which apply their own developed e-Learning systems at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences (Faculty), have yielded the realized results of evaluating the implementation. The number of represented subjects in the e-Learning system is continuously growing, and consequently also the number of included students and the teaching staff. In the carried out surveys among students at the Faculty the majority of students has assessed this method of learning as very useful and a significant advancement in relation to classical learning methods. The assessment of their level of knowledge before using the system and afterwards, has shown significant increase and the students expressed a great wish for further development of the system and implementation of the system into the work of the entire Faculty. A very high percentage of students expressed a desire to introduce this type of studying i.e. learning in all the syllabuses, at all three courses of study at the Faculty. Research and surveys of other faculties and companies involved in the development of e-Learning systems are analogue to the achieved results at the Faculty.

Implementation of Information and Communication Technologies in the Teaching Process at the Faculty of Traffic and Transport Sciences

The project of introducing the E-learning system at the Faculty of Traffic and Transport Sciences (FPZ), started several years ago through the project of implementing the WebCT environment. The restrictions in the application led to the development and introduction of the Faculty’s own LMS (Learning Management System) which represents a modularly developed system called e-Student. The base for the performance of the FPZ e-Learning system is the information and communication infrastructure of the Faculty of Traffic and Transport Sciences. The computer network is divided into several logically separated units. The access of the computer network to the Internet has been provided by means of the Croatian Academic Research Network (CARNet) infrastructure. Computer access from the decentralized FPZ locations, such as the building in Vukelićeva Street and the building in the Zagreb district – Siget, the teaching centre Lučko and the teaching centre in Zadar towards the central location of the Faculty, the building in the Vukelićeva Street, has been provided by various access networks, CARNet or T-COM network with the application of a virtual private network. Our own developed application of the SMSCentar, based on the application of T-mobile operator of the mobile network, has enabled the distribution of various data to the mobile network users. The advantage of one’ s own developed solution is reflected in complete knowledge of the system thus enabling relatively simple upgrading of the system with new functionalities and possible adjustment to changes, and elimination of the observed disadvantages and errors in the system operation, which is relatively difficult and time-demanding on the existing remote learning systems.

Analysis of Operation and Possibilities of Improving e-Learning System

Since the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Sciences was connected to CARNet academic network, new information and communication technologies are constantly being introduced and the old ones updated with the aim of improving the quality of studying, from the introduction of WEBCT application to complete design, development and implementation of one’s own solution of e-learning. A complete e-Learning system has been developed, named e-Student which consists of several program modules called SAN, DMS, SMSCentar, etc. Since the introduction of the system, the students and the teaching staff have shown great interest for the system for the reasons of easier monitoring of the students’ activities, through seminar papers and tasks, exercises and throug h solving of various knowledge tests. The work provides graphical illustrations and statistical data which analyze the operation of the system and the exploitation characteristics. The obtained results indicate the increase in the interest of the teaching staff and students which indicates further need to upgrade the system in order to increase the safety and speed of information transfer.