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Work in Progress

During the Blackboard VLE training sessions held last October 2006 at the Heriot-Watt University, a member of the University Library staff presented their work done to integrate some basic services of the University Library within the VLE. We noticed that their integration was at the User Interface level (simple URLs linking to the Library website within an iframe of the VLE) I discussed with the librarian other possibilities of integration. In particular she showed interest in the advantages of integration between the Library and the VLE at the system level. Consequently we have started to investigate this system level of integration using the PerX toolkit.

Our aim is to have a demonstrable version of the Library-VLE integration by the end of the PerX Project. What follows is a series of notes and descriptions of the work carried out so far, since last November 2006.

  1. We have created an instance (clone) of PerX for this integration work, and named it "Heriot Watt Library-VLE Integration Pilot Study". The pilot is available at http://www.eevl.ac.uk/vle/dev The content included in this clone has been agreed with the Library and it is only there for testing purposes..
  2. The Library-VLE integration has proven to have a great synergy with PerX architecture enhancement work. Thus, as a direct consequence of this integration work, the PerX project has been beneficed with a new SOA-transitional version of the PerX Toolkit software, released in January 2007.
  3. This work has also contributed and motived the development of a basic SRU support mechanism within the PerX toolkit software, which it is envisaged to be ready by March 2007. Currently an XML outline for this SRU service can be tested at http://www.eevl.ac.uk/vle/dev/sru.
  4. Architecturally we can conceptualise the Blackboard VLE of the Heriot Watt University as a portal running on a Tomcat JVM, the reference implementation of Servlet and JSP specifications. This environment has been an advantage for the PerX technical team as we have already expertise developing java portlets using Tomcat. A "first try" portlet or Building Block (BB, as it is known in the Blackboard jargon) has been developed and installed on the Blackboard Learning System. Currently this BB does nothing else than receiving an XML token from http://www.eevl.ac.uk/vle/dev and returning an XML acknowledgment message encapsulated in a hash string.
  5. At the Embedding PerX Toolkit in BlackBoard VLE web page, we are putting notes to explain with more detail the integration at the system level that we are intending to build. That web page also contents a description of how we are developing the middleware, which will embed the PerX toolkit functionality within the VLE framework

to be continued...