National eLearning Platform
Information for Projects and Support Centers
On June 27th '03 the Swiss University Conference has decided to
establish a eLearning platform on a national level. It has been decided
to acquire the learning management software WebCT Vista for a 2 years
pilot phase. It is planned to add at least one additional, complementary
product to the national platform. It will be operational in Spring '04.
The national platform project has been initiated by the Swiss Virtual
This information page should answer the most important questions for
all those who are interested in using the national eLearning platform.
If you don't find an answer to your question, please contact Rolf Brugger.
What is this national eLearning platform?
An eLearning platform is a piece of server software, that allows
students to subscribe to and visit online courses, tutors to communicate
with their students and course designers to create online courses. Such
software solutions are also called learning (content) management
system, course website software etc. - as a short cut, we
will further call it platform.
The platform will be operated on a national level, and it is
available to all higher education institutions (universities,
universities of applied science, federal institutes of technology).
What software will be used for the platform?
It has been decided by the Swiss University Conference (SUC) to use WebCT
Vista during a two years pilot phase. The decision to choose Vista
was mainly based on the platform evaluation,
that was conducted by the edutech group in Spring '03.
WebCT Vista is not the best platform in the world. Typically, a
single product can not solve all problems - especially in such complex
cases as learning and teaching software for higher educations
institutions. It is therefore planned to add at least one more
complementary product/solution to the national platform.
Who will operate the platform?
The server will be operated and maintained by SWITCH. The Vista application however
will be managed by edutech.
Therefore, the contact partner for course developers will be edutech.
When will the platform be available for use?
It is planned to install the software during august '03. If
everything works fine, the server should be ready to use in september '03
Who is allowed to use the national platform?
Basically, the platform can be used by all Swiss higher education
institutions. However, during the pilot phase, the acquired license can
only cover a limited number of students. Currently this number is 10'000
seats (one seat = one student enrolled in one course). (This license of
10'000 seats could be extended, if the national platform is resoundingly
successful and if accounting problems between universities can be
Due to these limitations, the following seat distribution policy is
- the national platform is primarly dedicated to current and future
- every interested Swiss higher education institution will be
allowed to run at least one test and evaluation course. Depending on the
number of seats used, considerably more than one course can be
developped for testing purposes.
Will there be a training and support offer?
Certainly! In a first phase, edutech will provide introductory
courses and technical help. Later, a training and support
infrastructure will be established on a national level.
Is it possible to migrate existing courses to Vista?
The course formats of WebCT CE (Campus Edition) and WebCT Vista are
not compatible. According to WebCT, a migration tool exists that
converts WebCT CE courses into the new Vista course format. We haven't
tested this yet. According to experiences of WebCT Vista users and our
- CE course using standard funtions without tweaking the
- The main conversion should be automatic. Manual corrections might
be necessary to adjust the layout
- CE course using unofficial and undocumented tweaks and
optimizations of the system
- We have to assume that migration will be problematic. In many
cases, it will be difficult or even impossible to migrate "tweaked" functions of WebCT CE. The conversion of the course content and
quizzes, however, should still be possible
- Worst case scenario
- The course structure has to be rebuilt from scratch. 1) Pack all
HTML pages in a zip archive, 2) upload and unpack the archive on the
server, 3) rebuild the course structure - every single content page
needs to be arranged in the hierarchy of chapters (this takes 1-2
minutes per page). The quizzes need to be re-imported (if they are
available in WebCT proprietary format or in IMS-QTI format) or manually
reconstructed in the online quizz editor.
Edutech will provide migration support for all SVC projects.
How much will I be charged if I use the platform?
Nothing. During the 2 years pilot phase the entire platform
including licenses, maintenance, support and training will be fully
paid by the SVC.
It is yet an open question what will happen after the 2 years pilot
- The optimistic scenario is, that the national platform
based on Vista is a real success. All implicated partners understand that
it makes sense to consolidate the platform. They are willing to make
the necessary financial contributions, very much like they are paying
SWITCH to operate the national network.
- The realistic scenario
(if no severe problems are encountered) is that the SVC will continue
to fund the platform until 2007. Also, some institutions are willing to
extend the services of the Vista platform, and some aren't. The
interested institutions will contribute to the funding pot in order to
get full access to the platform to all of their students. They might
also want to stop operating their own local WebCT CE server.
- The pessimistic
scenario is that Vista flops, and alternative solutions have to be
For all questions not answered here, please contact Rolf Brugger at the edutech group.