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OASIS portal spec approved

With the technical committee approval and the endorsement of the usual major IT vendors, Web Services for Remote Portlets is a mere weeks away from being an OASIS standard. That should make it easier to configure portals, and also make more portal content readily available for compliant systems.

Where a lot of the traditional elearning specifications are concerned with learning objects, and how to move them around, the portal idea presents a rather different view on sharing content.

Rather than shuttling around glorified zip files, the idea behind portlets is that the content and the application that handles it is somewhere else than the system that displays it to a user. This typically means that a portal page has a bit of space that is filled by a portlet from a different organisation. At its most mundane, this could be a weather forecast within a student's personal college portal page, for example.

Trouble with this model was that there were rather a few ways of both exposing portlets, and consuming them in a portal system. The uPortal system may have made quite some headway in (higher) education, for example, but that still doesn't mean that it covers all portals or portlets.

With the new WSRP 1.0, this should change. Rather than having to agree on specific ways of getting your web service to work in my portal, compliant systems should be able to expose or consume with a minimum of fuss, and no programming. It even supports quite fancy stuff like specifying on the producing server how a portlet's look and interaction can be customised on the receiving end. It also supports standardised ways in which a consuming service should deal with a users' interaction with the content of the portlet.

One other interesting aspect of the spec for more IMS oriented elearning technologists is that WSRP 1.0 is built on some familiar standards: SOAP with attachments for basic messaging, and WSDL for the configuration. That lot also provides the basis for the emerging web services specification work in IMS, which means at least that similar systems can be used within a college for both learning object oriented work and portals, and at best that there may be some integration between the two worlds at the use end. Portlets as resources in learning designs may be an idea.

The WSRP 1.0 specification and much more is available from the OASIS website.

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