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resaerch 18

An E-learning System Architecture based on
Cloud Computing
Md. Anwar Hossain Masud, Xiaodi Huang

Abstract—The massive proliferation of affordable computers

,

Internet broadband connectivity and rich education content has
created a global phenomenon in which information and
communication technology (ICT) is being used to transform
education. Therefore, there is a need to redesign the educational
system to meet the needs better. The advent of computers with
sophisticated software has made it possible to solve many complex
problems very fast and at a lower cost. This paper introduces the
characteristics of the current E-Learning and then analyses the
concept of cloud computing and describes the architecture of cloud
computing platform by combining the features of E-Learning. The
authors have tried to introduce cloud computing to e-learning, build
an e-learning cloud, and make an active research and exploration for
it from the following aspects: architecture, construction method and
external interface with the model.
Keywords—Architecture, Cloud Computing, E-learning,
Information Technology
I. INTRODUCTION
T present, most of the conventional education forms are
becoming not being suitable for requirements of social
progress and educational development and not being able to
catch up with the changes of learning demand in time, thus
computer networks have brought opportunities for it.
However, in traditional web-based e-learning mode, system
construction and maintenance are located in interior of
educational institutions or enterprises, which results in a lot of
problems existed, such as a lot of investment needed, but
without capital gains to return, without development potential
and staying power. Cloud computing is becoming an attractive
technology due to its dynamic scalability and effective usage
of the resources; it can be utilized under circumstances where
the availability of resources is limited.
As cloud computing has become a research hotspot among
modern technologies, researchers pay more attentions to its
applications. As concerned as cloud computing applied in the
field of education, a lot of problems had been studied, such as
the technology for future distance education cloud [1],
teaching information system [2] [3] [4], the integration of
teaching resources[5], teaching systems development[6].
Md. Anwar Hossain Masud is now with Charles Sturt University, Albury,
NSW 2640, Australia (phone: +61-2-6051-9642); e-mail: manwarhossain@
csu.edu.au).
Xiaodi Huang is now with Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW 2640,
Australia (phone: +61-2-6051-9652); e-mail: xhuang@ csu.edu.au).
In integration of e-learning and network, emphasis is placed
on building of software and hardware platform of e-learning
system, functional structure, network security management
and training, information technology integration to
teaching[7], campus network environment [8], online
education[9], semantic web technologies-based multi-agent
system [10] [11].
From the above we can see that until now, scholars have
made a lot of researches on the following two aspects: cloud
computing used in the field of education, and integration of
network and e-learning. The former places the emphasis on
distance education, information system application,
instructional system design, information resource
development, online course-building, etc. The latter’s
emphasis is placed on construction of campus e-learning
system, e-learning model on campus network, e-learning
system based on agent model and e-learning grid and so on.
But until now the research applying cloud computing to elearning
is not significantly reported. In order to give a full
play for the advantages of cloud computing, in this paper, we
tried to attach cloud computing to e-learning, build an elearning
cloud, and made an active research and exploration
for it.
II. CLOUD COMPUTING
In recent years, cloud computing as a new kind of advanced
technology accelerates the innovation for the computer
industry. Cloud computing is a computing model based on
networks, especially based on the Internet, whose task is to
ensure that users can simply use the computing resources on
demand and pay money according to their usage by a metering
pattern similar to water and electricity consumption.
Therefore, it brings a new business model, where the services
it provides are becoming computing resources [12].
Cloud computing is highly scalable and creates virtualized
resources that can be made available to users. Users do not
require any special knowledge about the concept of Cloud
computing to connect their computers to the server where
applications have been installed and use them. Users can
communicate through Internet with remote servers. These
servers can exchange their computing slots themselves
[13].Cloud computing is one of the new technology trends
likely to have a significant impact on the teaching and learning
environment [14].
In Cloud computing, resources can be either externally
owned (public Cloud – as provided by Google and Amazon)
or internally owned (private Cloud). Public Clouds offer
An E-learning System Architecture based on
Cloud Computing
Md. Anwar Hossain Masud, Xiaodi Huang
A
World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology
Vol:6 2012-02-21
736 International Scholarly and Scientific Research & Innovation 6(2) 2012 International Science Index Vol:6, No:2, 2012 waset.org/Publication/1057
access to external users who are typically billed on a pay-asyou-
use basis. The private Cloud is built for the access within
the enterprise where the users can utilize the facility without
any charge [15]. The methods of meeting challenges such as
user interface; task distribution and coordination are explained
and evaluated in [16]. Praveena and Betsy [17] have described
the application of Cloud in universities. Delic and Riley [18]
assessed the current state of enterprise knowledge
management and how it would turn into a more global,
dependable and efficient infrastructure with Cloud computing.
They have discussed architecture as well as applications.
Cloud computing attributes can be visualised from the
following comparison.
III. FROM TRADITIONAL E-LEARNING NETWORK TO
CLOUD E-LEARNING
E-learning is an Internet-based learning process, using
Internet technology to design, implement, select, manage,
support and extend learning, which will not replace traditional
education methods, but will greatly improve the efficiency of
education. As e-learning has a lot of advantages like
flexibility, diversity, measurement, opening and so on, it will
become a primary way for learning in the new century as in
Fig. 1.
Fig. 1 Architecture of a simplified Learning System
Mendez [19] illustrates that in traditional web-based
learning mode, system construction and maintenance are
located inside the educational institutions or enterprises, which
led to a lot of problems, such as significant investment needed
but without capital gains for them, which leads to a lack of
development potential. In contrast, cloud-based e-learning
model introduces scale efficiency mechanism, i.e. construction
of e-learning system is entrusted to cloud computing suppliers,
which can make providers and users to achieve a win-win
situation. The cloud-based environment supports the creation
of new generation of e-learning systems, able to run on a wide
range of hardware devices, while storing data inside the cloud.
Ouf [20] has presented an innovative e-learning ecosystem
based on cloud computing and Web 2.0 technologies. The
article analyses the most important cloud-based services
provided by public cloud computing environments
such as Google App Engine, Amazon Elastic Compute
Cloud (EC2) or Windows Azure, and highlights the
advantages of deploying E-Learning 2.0 applications for such
an infrastructure. The authors also identified the
benefits of cloud-based E-Learning 2.0 applications
(scalability, feasibility, or availability) and underlined the
enhancements regarding the cost and risk management.
Chandral [21] focused on current e-learning architecture
model and on issues in current e-learning applications. The
article presents the Hybrid Instructional Model as the blend of
the traditional classroom and online education and its
customization for e-learning applications running on the cloud
computing infrastructure. The authors underline the e-learning
issues, especially the openness, scalability, and
development/customization costs. The existing e-learning
systems are not dynamically scalable and hard to extend –
integration with other e-learning systems is very expensive.
The article proposed the hybrid cloud delivery model that can
help in fixing the mentioned problems.
In this article a new paradigm is highlighted in educational
area by introducing the cloud computing in order to increase
the scalability, flexibility and availability of e-learning
systems. The authors have evaluated the traditional e-learning
networking model, with its advances and issues, and the
possibility to move the e-learning system out of schools or
enterprises, inside a cloud computing infrastructure. The
separation of entity roles and cost effectiveness can be
considered important advantages. The institutions will be
responsible for the education process, content management
and delivery, and the vendor takes care of system construction,
maintenance, development and management. The e-learning
system can be scaled, both horizontally and vertically, and the
educational organization is charged according to the number
of used servers that depends on the number of students as in
Fig. 2.
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Fig. 2 Modified E-learning System Architecture.
IV. CLOUD BASED E-LEARNING ARCHITECTURE
The e-learning cannot completely replace teachers; it is only
an updating for technology, concepts and tools, giving new
content, concepts and methods for education, so the roles of
teachers cannot be replaced. The teachers will still play
leading roles and participate in developing and making use of
e-learning cloud. The blended learning strategy should
improve the educational act. Moreover, the interactive content
and virtual collaboration guarantee a high retention factor.
On the other hand, E-learning cloud is a migration of cloud
computing technology in the field of e-learning, which is a
future e-learning infrastructure, including all the necessary
hardware and software computing resources engaging in elearning.
After these computing resources are virtualized, they
can be afforded in the form of services for educational
institutions, students and businesses to rent computing
resources. E-learning cloud architecture is shown in Fig.
3[22][23].
Fig. 3 E-learning Cloud Architecture.
The proposed e- learning cloud architecture can be divided
into the following layers: Infrastructure layer as a dynamic and
scalable physical host pool, software resource layer that offers
a unified interface for e-learning developers, resource
management layer that achieves loose coupling of software
and hardware resources, service layer, containing three levels
of services (software as a service, platform as a service and
infrastructure as a service), application layer that provides
with content production, content delivery, virtual laboratory,
collaborative learning, assessment and management features.
A. Infrastructure layer is composed of information
infrastructure and teaching resources. Information
infrastructure contains Internet/Intranet, system software,
information management system and some common software
and hardware; teaching resources is accumulated mainly in
traditional teaching model and distributed in different
departments and domain. This layer is located in the lowest
level of cloud service middleware, the basic computing power
like physical memory, CPU, memory is provided by the layer.
Through the use of virtualization technology, physical server,
storage and network form virtualization group for being called
by upper software platform. The physical host pool is dynamic
and scalable, new physical host can be added in order to
enhance physical computing power for cloud middleware
services. The following Fig. 4 depicts this in a clearer view.
INFRASTRUCTURE
(622Mbps ATM, Gigabit Ethernet, Wireless Access Points, Satellite, etc)
STAFF
DATABASE
STUDENT
DATABASE
LIBRARY
DATABASE
OTHER
CONTENT DATABASE
INTERNET WIRELESS DEVICES CLIENT/SERVER
STUDENTS LECTURERS ADMIN. OTHERS
Service Catalog,
Component
Library
Datacenter
Infrastructure
Cloud Administrator
Access
Services
Fig. 4 Proposed Infrastructure Layer in an expandable view
B. Software resource layer mainly is composed by
operating system and middleware. Through middleware
technology, a variety of software resources are integrated to
provide a unified interface for software developers, so they
can easily develop a lot of applications based on software
resources and embed them in the cloud, making them
available for cloud computing users.
C. Resource management layer is the key to achieve
loose coupling of software resources and hardware resources.
Through integration of virtualization and cloud computing
scheduling strategy, on-demand free flow and distribution of
software over various hardware resources can be achieved.
D. Service layer has three levels of services namely,
SaaS (Software as a service), Paas (Platform as a service),
IaaS (Infrastructure as a service). In SaaS, cloud computing
service is provided to customers. As is different from
World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology
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traditional software, users use software via the Internet, not to
need a one-time purchase for software and hardware, and not
to need to maintain and upgrade, simply paying a monthly fee.
E. Application layer is the specific applications of
integration the teaching resources in the cloud computing
model, including interactive courses and sharing the teaching
resources. The interactive programs are mainly for the
teachers, according to the learners and teaching needs, taken
full advantage of the underlying information resources after
finishing made, and the course content as well as the progress
may at any time adjust according to the feedback, and can be
more effectiveness than traditional teaching. Sharing of
teaching resources include teaching material resources,
teaching information resources (such as digital libraries,
information centers), as well as the full sharing of human
resources. This layer mainly consists of content production,
educational objectives, content delivery technology,
assessment and management component [24].
V. EXPECTED BENEFIT FROM THE ARCHITECTURE
The intended advantages derived from the proposed
architecture are as follows:
a) Powerful computing and storage capacity: Cloud
based E-learning architecture locates the computing and data
in a large number of distributed computers, the sea of clouds
in the tens of thousands of computers to provide powerful
computing power and huge data storage space, puts the
“cloud” as a service available to students via the Internet.
b) High availability. Through the integration of mass
storage and high-performance computing power, this system
can provide a higher quality of service. Cloud computing
system can automatically detect the node failure and exclude
it, do not affect the normal operation of the system.
c) High security. In the cloud computing model, data is
storied intensively. Relying on one or more data center, the
managers manage the unified data, allocate the resources,
balance load, deploy the software, control security, and do the
reliable real time monitoring, thus guarantee the users’ data
security to the greatest possible degree.
d) Virtualization. Virtualization is the most important
characteristics of this type of architecture. Each application
deployment environment and physical platform is not related.
It is managed, expensed, migrated, and backup through
virtualization platform. It put the underlying hardware,
including servers, storage and networking equipment,
comprehensive virtualization, in order to build a resources
pool of shared, distributed on-demand.
e) The major advantage of the proposal is that it aims at
providing easy access to costly software running on high
performance processors to rural students at institutions which
lack considerable facilities. Considerable investment would be
required to implement this architecture, but the benefits would
easily justify the cost. This advantage can be visualised from
the following Fig. 5 which illustrates the connectivity tier of
the proposed architecture.
Experts,
Mentors
University Study Centres
Web Collaboration Services
Academic
Management
Evaluation Management
Content / Capacity Building
College
Content/Web Resources
Systems, Applications over Clouds
ICT Infrastructure
Managed
Services
Fig. 5 Connectivity Scenario of the Institutions in the proposed
architecture
f) In the classic e- learning model, teachers assign
teaching tasks, conduct regular lectures, or train students’
skills. The students attend the online autonomous learning act
and cooperative learning sessions, or accomplish teachers’
assignments. But in the proposed architecture teachers also
answer students’ questions and offer essential teaching to
major and difficult points. In addition, teachers can also use
multimedia to enhance teaching content. Students work out
their own learning plans, determining learning methods
autonomously. They conduct on-line autonomous learning
when they study each unit, finish its test via Internet and do
some statistics to the test results. Teachers also encourage
students to cooperate with each other to finish simple learning
tasks or complex group-based projects. Through cooperative
learning, students cannot only acquire knowledge, their team
spirit and coordination will also be fostered, skills in dealing
with people will be improved and abilities to express
themselves will be enhanced. Thus the learning and teaching
will be more interactive which is the demand of the age. The
interactive mode of the proposed architecture is furnished in
the Fig. 6.
internet
Authenticatio
n Module
Cloud
Management
System
DATABASE
Public Cloud
Private Cloud
Log in
Log in
Log in
Teacher
Staff
Student
Administrator
Fig. 6 Interactive mode of the proposed architecture
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VI. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK
Cloud computing has recently emerged as a compelling
paradigm for managing and delivering services over the
internet. The rise of cloud computing is rapidly changing
landscape of Information technology and ultimately turning to
the long-held promise of utility computing into a reality.
Cloud computing can help communities and nations, can
transform education. An entire world of knowledge can now
be made available to teachers and students through cloudbased
services that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from
any device. By helping countries worldwide, lowering the cost
and simplifying the delivery of educational services, cloud
computing enables students across the globe to acquire the
21st-century skills and training they need to compete and
succeed in the global information society.
Present economic situation will force different educational
institutions and organizations to consider adopting a cloud
solution. Universities have begun to adhere to this initiative
and there are proofs that indicate significant decreasing of
expenses due to the implementation of cloud solutions. The
aim of our work was to identify an architecture which will be
using Cloud Computing within higher education. Mainly, we
have considered the benefits of cloud architecture. Future
research will include a study regarding the attitude and
strategy for migration to the proposed architecture based on
clouds.
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