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January 18, 2005

Frameworks: Work in Progress

I've been working on frameworks today, specifically the JISC-DEST-Industry Canada e-Learning Framework, known more colloquially as the "ELF".

For those who aren't aware of it, this is an initiative that drew upon a lot of the early work on architectures for e-learning:

There was quite a flurry of activity in this area a couple of years back, but most recent activity in this field within JISC (and CETIS) has been in the "ELF".

Its very difficult to get a proper handle on frameworks; they often come across as being a very top-down design method for building large scale distributed systems, which is fine as this is what they usually are.

ELF is a little unusual in that its trying to support work on the small scale involving web services (not just Web Services!), and provide a focus for assembling the lessons of ground-up experimentation, but old habits die hard, and the work-in-progress ELF website's current incarnation does look an awful lot like another giant system architecture on initial glance, especially as very few outputs from JISC's projects have been linked in yet.

I think the ELF should be less about 'architecture' per se than about creating a community that communicates design concepts; a place where we can share ideas about how capabilites can be realized - an opportunity to converge naturally on common approaches and patterns of solutions. This is much more difficult than a few people making top-down design decisions, and this is going to require a lot more effort, especially as government agencies are involved.

I'm also not very impressed with the "forums" on the site, which don't seem quite right, and there are no RSS feeds for each area. Still, early days yet.

The idea is that anyone wanting to construct some sort of e-learning application can visit the framework site, select the sorts of services their application will want to use or provide, and find out what specifications are useful, what code libraries there are to support implementation, and who's done work in that area already.

Its a bit threadbare at the moment though, content-wise.

There are going to be more discussions between the sponsoring partners in Australia next month; hopefully when the governance model is sorted out and the creative commons licensing agreed, then some of the issues around participation and community can start to be addressed.

In the meantime, if you come across the ELF and have any suggestions for how you think it should work, let me know.

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