Forum .LRN Q&A: Response to Info on other academic portals

Posted by Carl Robert Blesius on
Here is some architectural information on uPortal:

In uPortal, each separate little window of information that users can show on their pages is called a "channel". uPortal supports four basic kinds of channels: An ordinary URL (i.e. a normal web page), an RSS document, an applet, and a servlet.  After a user is logged-in the security context is available to channels via channelStaticData.

More here:

What uPortal seems to have nailed down with this structure is a nice presentation layer for various information resources on a organizational level. Integration with existing campus infrastructure seems to be simplified by the platform. I am not sure how much of a two way street it is, but it sounds really interesting.

Here is the first sentence from the architecture overview:
uPortal is a framework for an integrated delivery of content gathered from an assortment
of information sources. The primary function of the framework is to provide efficient and
flexible engine for assembling a presentation. Given a set of information sources
(channels), and a recipe on how to arrange and frame them (stylesheets), uPortal
framework coordinates the compilation of the final document.

I think dotLRN will offer similar "channel" functionality with the dotLRN-applets Ben has mentioned in the bboards. Obviously dotLRN is more than a data collection and presentation tool. dotLRN has course management facilities that are absent in uPortal. As more ACS modules get ported and new ones are created they will become the key selling point for dotLRN. dotLRN will reach critical mass very quickly as soon as more institutions adopt it and we work on marketing it a little.

On another note, WebCT recently reported support for the uPortal platform with a "channel utility" which facilitates the export of an XML Channel from WebCT to uPortal. This allows institutions using the WebCT course management system and uPortal to provide users with access to their WebCT course listings and campus announcements through uPortal. WebCT's uPortal Channel Utility also enables single sign-on between uPortal and WebCT, eliminating the need for students using both systems to enter multiple ids and passwords.

The beauty of dotLRN is the simplicity (and scalability) of the platform on which it is built and the library of tried and tested community building tools that are waiting to be added. It seems that uPortal just adds another layer of complexity to the cake.

Once again, the single sign-on feature is a needed function for implementing a system like dotLRN in large institutions (like my own). No one is interested in starting yet another user database. This kind of integration is something that we need to work on as soon as possible.