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Getting your college MIS to talk to your VLE:
Interoperability – the Why
(Castlereagh College of FHE, Belfast; 6th June 2003)

The meeting was organized by Dawne Hodkinson of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and the Regional Support Centre of Northern Ireland (RSCNI). It was aimed at MIS managers, network managers, technical staff and people with responsibility for the strategic development of the College MLE.

The theme of the day was joining up college systems to develop a managed learning environment, using e-learning specifications such as Enterprise to enable interoperability between systems.

“Why does my Student Record system need to talk to my VLE? Does the VLE need to talk to the SRS? What effect will this have on how my networks talk to each other? What are the benefits and what impact will this have on my business processes? What’s going on elsewhere in this area?

“These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this event, which will be examining the need for interoperability to enable colleges to move towards the development of a managed learning environment. Achieving interoperability between core component systems will be illustrated through a case study approach.” (RSCNI Event Archives.)


1. MLE Development Programme: Dawne Hodkinson (JISC)
Dawne described various MLE programmes currently being funded by JISC including:
  • Managed Learning Environments for Lifelong Learning: Building MLEs across FE and HE (2 large projects: NIIMLE and SHELL)
  • Managed Learning Environments for Lifelong Learning 2 (forthcoming projects)
  • SWANI (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
  • Building MLEs in HE
  • Linking Digital Libraries with VLEs (DiVLE)
  • 2. Update on SWANI Programme: Dawne Hodkinson (JISC)
    Dawne gave an update on the SWANI (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) Interoperability Projects, or as Scott kept calling them: SWA (due to timing, there are no Northern Ireland projects in this strand).

    The SWANi programme aims to “establish the concepts of interoperability using IMS within managed learning environments in the further education sectors of Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland.” (SWANI Programmes).

    There are 7 SWANI projects in total. 4 projects are linking MIS – VLE – MIS (using Enterprise), 2 projects are using LIP, and 1 is looking at content interoperability and packaging.

    The 4 projects linking MIS and VLE are:

  • Coleg Menai, North Wales: linking Granada Learnwise (VLE) and Microcompass (MIS)
  • Data Validation between VLE and MIS (Coleg Llandrillo, North Wales): linking Teknical (VLE) and Fretwell Dowing (MIS)
  • Engaging with Skillnet (Banff & Buchan College, Scotland): linking Skillnet (VLE) and SITS (MIS).
  • Enigma Project, Perth (Scotland): linking Learnwise and WebCT (VLEs) and Capita (MIS).
  • IMS has recommended the use of SOAP with attachments as a transport mechanism for transferring data, and vendors have agreed to commit to this.
    Application profiles are also being prepared and tested (see Scott’s presentation for more on application profiles).

    3. Interoperability: why and how (Powerpoint Presentation): Scott Wilson (CETIS)
    4. CETIS and the Special Interest Groups (Powerpoint Prsentation): Vashti Zarach (CETIS)
    5. Coleg Menai SWANI project: Steve Blight and Finn Newick (Coleg Menai, North Wales)
    Steve and Finn spoke about their experiences of linking their college VLE and MIS.

    6. View from a vendor: Paul May (Microcompass)
    Microcompass is the MIS partner working with the Coleg Menai SWANI Project. Due to a flight cancellation, Paul May was unable to attend the meeting.


    After lunch, the participants were asked to get into groups, and discuss the approach to linking systems in their own colleges. Most of the colleges had not yet transferred data between systems. They were then invited to ask any general questions they had; most of which were answered by Scott Wilson, with contributions from Dawne.




    Meeting Flyer (PDF)


    Address: Vashti Zarach, CETIS Enterprise SIG Coordinator, Research Institute for Enhancing Learning, Padarn, School of Education, University of Wales Bangor, Normal Site, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2PX. Tel: 01248 388384. Email: