VCSE Guidebook/How to organize and implement a Virtual Campus for a Sustainable Europe/Technical Aspects and Content of the Web Portal/General Infrastructure
2.3.1. General Infrastructure
The first challenge of setting up a Virtual Campus for a Sustainable Europe was to find a technical solution that meets the need for both internal and external communication. In this regard, the two main objectives have been to offer:
- (1) a recognizable and user-friendly entry point to all virtual courses
The portal is an information point, as well as a place for internal communication and collaboration, and serves students, e-learning networks’ participants as well as staff and interested others.
- (2) a promotional medium for the VCSE-model
As a point of information and promotion for other European universities, local/regional decision-makers, local/regional social actors and the general public all relevant information is given on a public website.
Furthermore, it was intended that the EU-funded VCSE portal functions as an example for future virtual campuses through the sharing of experiences in developing and running such a portal and of critical considerations regarding existing approaches and lessons learnt from previous projects.(Thus, experiences made available for example within the project "Promoting Best Practice in European Virtual Campuses" have been considered.)
To achieve these objectives and to consider the different target groups, two basic tools have been implemented. For the internet area, a Content-Management-System (CMS) provides a possibility to easily edit pages. This is most useful to provide information and to create content-based pages. For the intranet and the students’ area, a Learning Management System (LMS), also known as collaborative software, provides several possibilities for collaborative work. By combining these different approaches with a «best of both worlds» strategy, a large number of tools both for promotion/information and for collaboration are available.
To implement the VCSE-Portal, two well-established open-source solutions have been used. By choosing the approach of open-source-systems, a more «sustainable» attempt has been chosen that can be seen as a model for other virtual campuses. In addition, this approach provides the possibility to offer the platform to as many new partners and projects as intended. Thus, we decided to run the VCSE-Portal as a combination of two systems: TYPO3 (See http://www.typo3.org for more information and the whole software package to download.) for web content management regarding all “internet pages” and Moodle (See http://www.moodle.org for more information and the whole software package to download.) both for groupware and student area. The resulted system –with the functionality of both a groupware and a full content-management-system– was integrated on a university server for a permanent operation and offers possibilities like content-based sites with full control of editing, interactive forms for enrolment and questionnaires including administrative tools for evaluation, communication and collaboration.
The main advantages of this system are:
- A free and fully customizable open-source system
- «best of both worlds»: Content Management and Learning Management System with a huge number of additional modules for any individual need
- «one system for the visitor»: Two parts with a corporate design assuring an identical appearance
- A system that is fully transferable and adaptable for future tasks and projects and which shows the possibilities for other Virtual Campuses
- A long term investment with no restriction in use in terms of time or quantity