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Web Services for K-12 Education Systems


Web Services (WS) are now a reality for many enterprises and have moved beyond the hype stage. Many enterprises have built Web Services pilot projects, proving that WS can reduce integration and development cost substantially and enhance customer and supplier integration. This article will walk you through the Web Service development process using PHP, MySQL, VB, NuSOAP or XML-RPC. Before going further, you can download and install the client (the example, discussed in this article) from here and start playing with it for a better understanding the topics of this article.

Author Info:
By: Ahm Asaduzzaman
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 18
February 18, 2004
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Web Services for K-12 Education Systems
  2. · Requirement Analysis
  3. · Walkthrough Example
  4. · Conclusion

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Web Services for K-12 Education Systems - Requirement Analysis
(Page 2 of 4 )

The ABC Company’s focus has been on test preparation software, as many state-mandated assessments were being implemented across the United States in the mid 1980's. With the promulgation of the U.S. government’s No Child Left Behind program, students are now required to take tests that are aligned to their state’s respective curriculum. But waiting for the test results of the official state assessment can be the path to failure. Therefore, every school district must now identify and remediate student weaknesses based on batteries of tests that correspond to each instructional unit. Now, as each classroom instruction unit is completed, ABC Company decided to offer the following three Web Services:

1. Test Generation-Teachers can use a Web Service to draw test items from large pool that corresponds directly to their instructional objectives and state-respective curriculum (we will discuss only about this service).

2. Test Administration-Tests can be assigned and taken online or test booklets and scannable answer sheets can be printed on plain paper. Later those answer sheets will be scanned by ABC Company’s Document Processing Web Services.

3. Performance Evaluation-A series of reports generated by test results determine both class and student performance for each of the tested subjects.

This article covers implementation of the first service.
   
The Benefit:

When properly applied in today's demanding No Child Left Behind environment, both school administrators and teachers can benefit from these Web Services. At the district level, administrators can quickly identify instructional excellence and distribute good teaching practices throughout the district. Teachers can use state specific items to create tests and class data to identify instructional deficits. Changes in content coverage and methodology can react to the instructional deficits. Teachers can create any test on the fly while keeping his or her main focus on delivering content and teaching methodologies.

The Client:

Assume that XYZ school district decided to use Web Services provided by ABC Inc. for its students from grade level 1 to grade level 8 and also requested test items according to corresponding state specifications (for example: Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS). As a developer from ABC Inc., you are asked to develop a client for XYZ.  Client development requires:

  1. Understanding of WSDL (Web Service Description Language), WSDL is a document written in XML. The document describes a Web service. It specifies the location of the service and the operations (or methods) the service exposes.

  2. Understanding of SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), SOAP is a protocol for accessing a Web Service.

  3. Any software tool of your choice (in this article we will use VB6.0).

The best place in the Internet to learn about Web Services, XML, WSDL and SOAP is W3Schools

You can see a list of activities when you connect with ABC’s Web Services. Each activity name has following format Grade-Subject-Identification. Following the instruction as depicted in pic.1 the user can view a list of items with descriptions (aligned to their state’s respective curriculum) and can use them for testing purposes. So, teachers can pay more attention to classroom management, teaching methodology and content delivery methods. This is how Web Service technology is making difference in education.


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