A Virtual Learning Architecture Enhanced by Fog Computing and Big Data Streams
Received: 19 November 2017 / Revised: 24 December 2017 / Accepted: 26 December 2017 / Published: 3 January 2018
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In recent years, virtual learning environments are gaining more and more momentum, considering both the technologies deployed in their support and the sheer number of terminals directly or indirectly interacting with them. This essentially means that every day, more and more smart devices
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In recent years, virtual learning environments are gaining more and more momentum, considering both the technologies deployed in their support and the sheer number of terminals directly or indirectly interacting with them. This essentially means that every day, more and more smart devices play an active role in this exemplary Web of Things scenario. This digital revolution, affecting education, appears clearly intertwined with the earliest forecasts of the Internet of Things, envisioning around 50 billions heterogeneous devices and gadgets to be active by 2020, considering also the deployment of the fog computing paradigm, which moves part of the computational power to the edge of the network. Moreover, these interconnected objects are expected to produce more and more significant streams of data, themselves generated at unprecedented rates, sometimes to be analyzed almost in real time. Concerning educational environments, this translates to a new type of big data stream, which can be labeled as educational big data streams. Here, pieces of information coming from different sources (such as communications between students and instructors, as well as students’ tests, etc.) require accurate analysis and mining techniques in order to retrieve fruitful and well-timed insights from them. This article presents an overview of the current state of the art of virtual learning environments and their limitations; then, it explains the main ideas behind the paradigms of big data streams and of fog computing, in order to introduce an e-learning architecture integrating both of them. Such an action aims to enhance the ability of virtual learning environments to be closer to the needs of all the actors in an educational scenario, as demonstrated by a preliminary implementation of the envisioned architecture. We believe that the proposed big stream and fog-based educational framework may pave the way towards a better understanding of students’ educational behaviors and foster new research directions in the field.