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Journal of Control Engineering and Technology (JCET)JCET Vol. 2 No. 2 April 2012 PP. 97-105 www.ijcet.org
CWorld Academic Publishing
A Computer Integrated Framework for E-learningControl Systems Based on Data Flow Diagrams
Hamed Fazlollahtabar
*, Ali Abbasi
Faculty of Industrial Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology, Tehran, Iran
Department of Computer Science, Research Institute of Information Technology, Tsinghua National Laboratory for InformationScience and Technology (TNList), Tsinghua University, Beijing, China
E-learning is currently considered as a valid andeffective didactic methodology in courses at different levels suchas high-school or university education, or net-based teaching. Inscientific fields the adoption of e-Learning is more complex sincecourses have to include not only theoretical concepts but alsopractical activities on specific instrumentation. Over the past twodecades, diverse research efforts have been made towards thepersonalization of e-learning platforms. This feature increasesremarkably the quality of the provided learning services, sincethe users’ special needs and capabilities are respected. The ideaof predicting the users’ preferences and adapting the e-learningplatform accordingly is the focal point of this paper. This paperdiscusses different control systems in virtual educational systemand highlights their properties. In conclusion, we derive dataflow diagram (DFD) of a control system in e-learningenvironment designed to aid the managers for better control anddecision making.
 E-learning Systems; Control Systems; Data Flow Diagram (DFD); Computer Integrated 
I. INTRODUCTIONThe advance in information technology creates a need andan opportunity to access a broad diversity of information atmany places and at any time. Modern life also means thatpeople have to be very careful with their time if interested intaking advances as offered by information technology.Consequently, the amazingly rapid development of technology during the recent years has the power to facilitatethis call for web-based systems regarding information andknowledge, using computers to introduce e-learning systems[1-4]. The e-learning systems, which are able to satisfy therequirements of both novice and advanced users, are an areaof interest which is always under the spotlight of researchefforts. In this context, the user preferences should hold aprimary role in personalization and should dictate thestructure and functionality of the entire adaptive educationalsystem [5, 6].Embedded in a so-called User Profile, one of the issuesthat must be addressed is the prediction of the userpreferences and, in general, the modelling of the user’s profilein terms of the user’s overall performance, content, andsystem/platform characteristics.The field of e-learning systems has received significantresearch attention over the past few years. More specifically,numerous web-based learning systems [1-3] have beendeveloped, aiming at being ubiquitously available andtherefore facilitate a user’s learning by saving time. For suchweb-based learning systems, research has proposed differentarchitecture approaches and the usage of distinct componentsto make up the architecture of the system and contribute to asystem’s personalization. More particularly, in [7,8], itfollowed a similar pattern in the architecture, as using theLearner Model (User Profile), Adaptation Model (AdaptationFilter), Detection Mechanisms, Instructional Views (DisplayEngine), Content Domain (Lesson Plan) and Feedback, as thecomponents of an architecture to realize an e-learningplatform. Moreover, [5] use as Value-Added Services, StudentModelling Servers, and Topic Based Inference Agents as themain architecture components. In [9] context interpreter isused in addition to the typical architecture [8], as acomponent, which helps the “translation” of the context andautomatically processes the “annotated content”. In [6] alayered model is used, using a more complex architectureconsisting of the components conceptual model (DomainModel), goal and constraints model, User Model, AdaptationModel, and Presentation Model.For comparing the e-learning system and traditionallearning system, two comprehensive studies are illustrated.Mahdavi et al. [10] compared traditional system with virtualeducational system statistically in Iran. In this way, by meansof economical equations and statistical analysis, theyillustrated a survey in depth. Finally, by means of hypothesistesting, they illustrated that the best option for educationalsystem is the combination of both systems. Fazlollahtabar andSharma [11] compared traditional engineering educationalsystem with the e-learning engineering educational system onthe economic dimension using hypothesis-testing approach inIran. The comparison involved trend analysis and predictionbased on costs and benefits of the two systems. Interestingly,the analysis revealed that the traditional system had greateradvantage on the economic dimension. Several factors supportthe e-learning system despite the associated economicdisadvantage. The final analysis provided results in favor of ablended system, which takes advantage of the traditional ande-learning systems.Different studies have been worked out on costoptimization within e-learning environment. Mahdavi et al.[12] identified varied cost elements in e-learning educationalsystem and optimized them by means of mathematicalprogramming. Then they proposed an effective method toestimate the learning cost between any two skills of learnerusing the grey relational analysis.Mahdaviet al. [13]developed their previous study combining the grey relationalanalysis and a radial basis function network to estimate thelearning cost between any two skills after identification of varied cost elements in e-learning educational system andoptimization by means of mathematical programming.Fazlollahtabar and Yousefpoor [14] applied the cost elementsin the e-learning educational systems and proposed acombination of grey relational analysis and a radial basisfunction network to estimate the learning cost between anytwo skills. An integer programming method was employed to
Journal of Control Engineering and Technology (JCET)JCET Vol. 2 No. 2 April 2012 PP. 97-105 www.ijcet.org
CWorld Academic Publishing98
demonstrate that it is possible to facilitate the acquisition of single skills by considering a set of useful compound skills.Finding the optimal (shortest) learning path for user ortutor has been studied in different researches. Fazlollahtabar[15] applied a dynamic programming to find the shortest pathfor users in the e-learning environment. Since the learningparameters are qualitative, he used an analytical hierarchyprocess approach (AHP) to turn the qualitative parametersinto quantitative ones. Fazlollahtabar and Mahdavi [16]proposed a neuro-fuzzy approach based on an evolutionarytechnique to obtain an optimal learning path for bothinstructor and learner. The neuro-fuzzy implementation helpsto encode both structured and non-structured knowledge forthe instructor. On the other hand, for learners, the neuralnetwork approach has been applied to make personalizedcurriculum profile based on individual learner requirements ina fuzzy environment.Also Tajdin et al. [17] designed an assessment methodbased on real-time simulators. These simulators were able tofacilitate education and play the role of virtual intelligentteacher referring to student capabilities by following thefeedback mechanisms. This system, which was constructed bymeans of network and expert system, was contained a real-time simulator core that has an inference engine based on ahypothesis testing.For analyzing users’ satisfaction in e-learning system,Mahdavi et al. [18] designed a heuristic methodology formulti-criteria evaluation of web-based e-learning systemsbased on the theory of multi-criteria decision making and theresearch results concerning users’ satisfaction in the fields of human-computer interaction and information systems.Furthermore, many approaches have been used withregard to an e-learning system’s personalization in order toachieve adaptation. This is accomplished by using monitoringand evaluation methods during the learning procedure. Forinstance, it can be used as a student modelling server [5],explicit or implicit input by the user in the DetectionMechanism [8] or an adaptation filter, which “cuts” theimplied unnecessary information for the user. Another methodis used in [19], where it is shown that web navigation can bemodelled by studying individual differences and behaviouralmetrics, using Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) [20]. A user-based architecture of an e-learning system is presented inFigure 1.Researchers and developers are making rapidimprovements in the design and implementation of e-learningsystems, resulting in continuous progress toward successful e-learning systems. In such environments a variety of architectures are designed and will be explained in the nextsection
II. MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS IN e-LEARNINGCurrently e-Learning is based on complex virtualcollaborative environments where the learners can interactwith other learners, tutors or the teacher. It is possible to givelearner different synchronous and asynchronous services [21].The former group includes virtual classrooms and individualsessions with the teacher or tutors. The latter group includesthe classic didactic materials as well as Web-based seminarsor simulations always-online [22]. These functions can beusually accessed by means of software platforms calledLearning Management Systems (LMSs) [23], TrainingManagement Systems (TMSs). A short description of thosesystems is as follows.
Fig. 1 User based e-learning architecture
 A. Learning Management System (LMS)
The LMS manages learners, keeping track of their progressand performance across all types of training activities. It alsomanages and allocates learning resources such as registration,classroom, and instructor availability, monitors instructionalmaterial fulfilment, and provides the online delivery of learningresources [24]. A Learning Management System is a largeWeb-based software application comprising a suite of tools thatcentralizes and automates aspects of the learning processthrough the following functions:
register learners
maintain learner profiles
maintain a catalogue of courses
store and deliver self-paced e-learning courses
download e-learning modules and tools
track and record the progress of learners
assess learners
track and record assessment results
provide reports to managementNot all LMSs are fully Web-based; some administrativefunctions, like loading a new course might be executed throughdesktop applications. Since this limits flexibility, all LMSsshould be migrated to fully Web-based implementations [24].Some LMSs deliver additional functionality, for example, theycan help:
personalize content
maintain job-based skills inventories
identify skills gaps
match staff to jobs
manage compliance and certification
manage classrooms and classroom resources
track and report learning costs
integrate Knowledge Management
integrate live e-learning/virtual classes
integrate collaboration tools
support the whole learning value chain
author contentIn the same way that few users take advantage of wordprocessor’s functions and features, few enterprises implementall the functions and features of an LMS.
Journal of Control Engineering and Technology (JCET)JCET Vol. 2 No. 2 April 2012 PP. 97-105 www.ijcet.org
CWorld Academic Publishing99
 B. Training Management System (TMS)
The TMS was around before the LMS. It’s a network application that manages and automates all traditional trainingactivity. Like an LMS, it registers and tracks learners;however, the TMS assumes that all learning is face-to-face. Itmaintains catalogues of courses and classrooms, classroomresources and classroom events.Its calendar function allows a trainer to book a classroomfor a specific number of learners on specific dates and to booa projector, a flip chart, and any other resources she needs.Learners can then register for the course using anauthorization code issued by their manager. The TMS allowsthe instructor to note in each learner’s personal records thesessions they actually attended. Behind the scenes, the TMSuses the authorization code to charge the cost of the course othe learner’s business unit.With the arrival of e-learning, TMS vendors simply addeda new module to manage what was to them just anotherlearning resource online. When e-learning became moreimportant, vendors changed the description of their productfrom TMS to LMS. Meanwhile new dot-com entrepreneurswere developing dedicated Web-based LMS applications thatexploited the power of Internet technologies in ways theTMS-based systems couldn’t. However, it wasn’t long beforeprospective LMS customers asked the new entrepreneurs howthey planned to handle classroom courses. The entrepreneurssimply added a TMS module to their LMS. Customers had tochoose either a TMS with an LMS module or a LMS with aTMS module. That kind of confusion has dogged the marketever since.III. DATA FLOW DIAGRAMIn this section, we propose data flow diagram related to thediscussed control systems. According to the aforementionedexplanations, the LMS and TMS systems are able to corporatemany tasks in relation with student, teacher, and managermodelling in an e-learning system. In the proposed model, aprocess system is designed to get the information from thestudent and teacher, analyse them and keep the data for themanagement. In this system, the student may need thecatalogues, lesson plans and so on. Also the students return theirassessments of the learning system, do their registration, andtrack their educational condition. The teachers would providethe lessons and exam questions. The manager makes thedecisions about acceptance or rejection of the registration andcontent of the lessons. The configuration of the primary systemis presented in Figure 2.
Fig. 2 The configuration of the primary system
Some details could be included in the primary system tocover the whole requirements of an LMS. In this complicatedsystem, whole tasks of user/instructor modelling are beingcovered. Student would enter the system by registration ormaking his profile. After his registration is authenticated by themanager, he can be included in the process of choosing thecourses, teachers and etc. Then the teacher gets the data fromthe user and analyses them for providing the necessarycatalogues. The managers control and monitor all of the statedactivities; whenever they face an inconsistency, they will rejectthe request and stop the process. All classes are recorded forbeing applicable in offline status. The reports of user andinstructor are deposited in the data base storage. Teacher canassess the students through the homework and the online exams.When the teacher finds that the student is able to upgrade thenthe message is sent to the manager and manager would certifystudent’s upgrade. The data flow diagram is illustrated in Figure3.As it is obvious, the proposed system is capable to cover allfunctions of a control system to facilitate the educational goalsvia web. Also because of applying security controls, the systemremains safe in the progress of user/ instructor interactions. Theadvantages of the proposed learning management systeminclude ease of use, being efficient from the security viewpoint,flexibility in choosing courses and teachers by students,availability, i.e. offline use is possible too, easy assessment,quick upgrade possibilities, simple monitoring system, andachievable implementation in any educational systems.IV. COMPUTER INTEGRATED FRAMEWORKHere, we design a computer integrated platform based on theproposed data flow diagrams. We divide the system to studentprofile, teacher profile and administrator profile. The descriptionof the platform is given in the following sections.
 A. Student Platform
In this section of the system, each student has his own webpage as his profile. In his profile he finds his personalinformation as full name, entrance year, interests, researchgroup, user name, password, etc. Another item presented in thestudents' page is the courses. In this section the title of thecourses, names of the professors, and other information aboutcourses are presented. In offline class page a student can viewthe previous classes, which were recorded. Also, he can check the exam results. According to the time introduced in academiccalendar, the student can attend the online classes. Theconfigurations of the proposed platform for students arepresented in Figures 4 – 9.
 B. Teacher Pages
In this section teachers can insert catalogues of newcourses that are viewed to students after administrator'sconfirmation. Different options and module are proposed for ateacher to insert a catalogue such as title, pre-courses,educational objectives, background, etc. Absent/present reportis another capability of the teacher profile. The configurationsof teacher section are shown in Figures 10 and 11.
C. Administrator 
This section helps to manage courses and modules of thesystem. Facilities such as submitting new course, editprevious submissions, omit course, active courses,online/offline courses, class activity report, student evaluationreport are presented. Another section for administrator is

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