EELS: An Embedded E-Learning Solution

Christopher Bailey, Pete Walker, Simon Price, Bevis Miller

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paperpeer-review

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Within most undergraduate medical disciplines, students spend time attending off-site placements or rotations in a clinical environment. To access this clinical experience, students are required to submit a report that documents the progression of a patient. This rotation is a logistic challenge for tutors attempting to keep track of their students’ progress. Our goal was to design a system students could use for submitting their case reports online and that tutors could use to review and provide feedback. We wanted to replace the traditional end-of-rotation, monolithic report with a completely web-based alternative, providing students with a richer, more expressive environment for documenting cases, and giving tutors a centralised location for tracking progress, managing students and marking their case reports. To this end we have developed EELS, the Embedded E-Learning System; a highly flexible case reporting system. The software is built using open source XForms technology to manage the forms for data entry. XForms provides a number of key benefits which we harness, such as easy form validation and constraint checking, support for repeated sections in forms, and Web 2.0 (AJAX) style interactions such as auto-saving. At the heart of our system is a custom-built dynamic workflow engine which manages the full lifecycle of cases, from their creation, through edit/review cycles, to assessment, archival and publishing. In addition to defining the stages and terminology, we can also fine tune access rights at every stage; with a group-based permissions component specifying who can edit, view, review or search for cases. We have also harnessed the data abstraction features of XForms to develop a WYSIWYG editor allowing non-technical authors to design and generate new case forms. The EELS system brings a number of key pedagogical improvements to existing practice: providing a library of exemplar cases; enhancing discourse between staff and students; supporting reflective & life long learning. One of the key benefits of our innovation is that students are encouraged to document cases in much more depth than previously possible. Allowing users to upload multimedia material means that for the first time students can attach photographs, video files, audio samples, consent forms, x-rays images etc., which help to create a much more comprehensive case report. We have also implemented a drawable region which allows students to create their own drawings or annotate existing images such as, for example, marking regions on a dental chart. The flexibility of our dynamic workflow engine, form designer and use of XForms technology also means that our system has wide applicability, not just within medical domains. It is easily configurable to any discipline where structured data needs to be obtained from students – this could be recording consent forms, checking skills progression, documenting reports, submitting coursework or running course evaluations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
EventEuropean Universities Information Systems Conference (EUNIS 2008) - Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 27 Jun 200829 Jun 2008


ConferenceEuropean Universities Information Systems Conference (EUNIS 2008)


  • e-Learning
  • TEL
  • VLE
  • XForms


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