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Consulting, Training and Support

Success Stories

Landegg International University
Landegg International University Brings Unique Vision to Three Distinct eLearning Programs

"Companies can also have their executives access courses through a customized Web portal: Sun LearnTone LMS is flexible enough to enable us to create custom home pages that include a company's logo or other corporate-specific information."

Shahin Sobhani
Chief Financial Officer of Landegg International University
Managing Director of Swiss Virtual Business School

Landegg International University strives to bring the concepts of peace, unity, and success to all aspects of education. Unique not just in its philosophy, Landegg is one of Europes few private universities, and one of the first to offer a distance learning program to graduate students. Leveraging its knowledge of distance learning, Landegg has recently collaborated with professors from the University of St. Gallen to develop and manage a Web-based, eLearning program for global executives called the Swiss Virtual Business School (Swiss VBS).

Landegg engaged ISOPIA, a leading provider of learning management systems software that was acquired by Sun in 2001, to architect the Swiss VBS's eLearning and administrative systems. The solution would include two Netra[tm] 1405 servers running what is now known as Sun LearnTone[tm] Learning Management System (LMS) Hosted. Landegg also enlisted ISOPIA's professional services, now Suns Education Consulting Services, to help design engaging online courses. In less than one year, the Swiss VBS blossomed from a concept to a program, taken by approximately 250 executives from Fortune 500 companies.

With the successful launch of the Swiss VBS, Landegg is now applying its eLearning expertise to benefit more people by:

  • Developing an eLearning program for Landegg's graduate students
  • Migrating Landegg's administrative systems to Sun LearnTone LMS Hosted
  • Adding online courses to the internationally funded Education for Peace (EFP) Program in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Landegg's Unique Vision Breathes Life into Three Diverse eLearning Programs
Overlooking beautiful Lake Constance and nestled at the base of the Alps in Switzerland, Landegg International University is quickly gaining recognition by global corporations, universities, and governments. Not only does the university hire professors from more than 25 countries, including the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Australia, and Denmark to teach its students from 32 countries, Landegg will be one of the first European universities to offer a Web-based eLearning program to graduate students. Additionally, Landegg is the only university driving the internationally recognized Education for Peace Program, educating K-12 students in the war-torn regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and soon around the world.

The schools unique vision reveals why it is involved in using the latest technologies in educating executives, college students, as well as K-12 students. Landegg wants to help create a civilization that is peaceful and just, united and diverse, prosperous and benevolent, technologically advanced and environmentally healthy, intellectually rich and ethically sound. Surprisingly appropriate given current events, every Landegg program promotes these ideals. eLearning complements the schools vision not only because it is technologically advanced, but also because a virtual campus enables interested and eligible students around the world to connect in a universal web of knowledge and learning.

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Swiss VBS: eLearning for Executives
Creating the vision of a robust eLearning program developed slowly, over many years. In 1995, Landegg became one of the first higher learning institutions to offer masters level classes through a distance education program. "We recorded the lectures and sent the tapes to students all over the world," says Shahin Sobhani, chief financial officer of Landegg International University and managing director of Swiss VBS. "In just one year, we grew 300 percent because of our distance education. And because of that, we knew distance education was the wave of the future.

"Over the next several years our distance learning program continued to grow on our own home-grown systems," continues Sobhani. "We began offering classes on the Web, over e-mail, and on CD-ROMs." By 1999, Landegg International Universitys program had earned an excellent reputation, and consequently some professors from the University of St. Gallen approached Landegg and suggested they jointly build an eLearning program for executives. The professors would provide the course content; Landegg would provide the system infrastructure, the course development, and administrative processes. The eLearning program, called the Swiss VBS, would enable executives to take engaging online courses developed by professors from leading universities in Europe, North America, and other regions of the world.

Landegg began researching learning management systems to drive the Swiss VBS system infrastructure. They found a comprehensive system and service solution through what was then ISOPIA. "What attracted us to ISOPIA (now Sun) was its learning management system," explains Sobhani. "It was an integrated platform that could run online classes as well as the whole administrative side of our vision. Then we learned about their consulting services and how they could develop custom classes. It was like a one-two punch: we found a platform that could run the Swiss VBS administratively, and a professional services organization that could develop custom, asynchronous classes."

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Creating the First Online Course
Instead of developing many different online classes simultaneously, the Swiss VBS opted first to develop one course: Strategic Management. ISOPIAs course creation and development teams could then introduce the schools professors to the process of building online courseware.

ISOPIA assigned approximately 20 people from its professional services to design and produce the custom course. The team faced several challenges: unlike product training, Strategic Management would cover abstract concepts such as developing a corporate strategy. The course creation and development team resided in Canada, while the professors lived in Switzerland. Additionally, the students would be executives, so the presentation could not be simplistic. Finally, bandwidth limitations needed to be addressed: most students use a 56K modem, so the course designers and developers had to use technologies that would not adversely affect performance.

After translating portions of the curriculum from German into English, ISOPIAs instructional designers worked with two professors and their TAs to plan the course, including its learning objectives, teaching points, and performance objectives:

  • Learning objectives outline the key concepts to be delivered in an online course.
  • Teaching points are the smaller modules developed to teach the key concepts.
  • Performance objectives reflect the standards that students will be expected to achieve once they have completed the learning modules.

For each module, the instructional design team created the learning plans, based on the content provided by professors via e-mail. The designers then discussed their ideas with the rest of the team, reviewing which instructional methods they believed would be most effective from a pedagogical perspective: audio, text, animation, sample scenarios, or interactivity.

Once the team established course objectives and instructional methods for each teaching point, the instructional designers began storyboardingmapping out each screen of the course on paper. As designers completed a module, they sent it to the TAs for review. The time difference actually helped with this stage since designers would turnover a module at the end of the day, and often find the TAs comments waiting for them when they started work the next morning. Once the storyboards were complete, the instructional designers flew to Switzerland to meet with professors and their TAs to make any final changes, and sign-off on the material. Approximately four months after the process had started, the storyboards were approved and ready for production.

ISOPIA's media development team created the course using the storyboards as the script, and Macromedia Flash technology as the development tool. The team chose Macromedia Flash since it can deliver animation and photo-realistic graphics over a 56K modemfeatures usually requiring higher bandwidth technologies for optimal performance. Once the course creation process was complete, the team installed the course on the system architecture, which included Sun[tm] servers and Sun LearnTone LMS Hosted.

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Building the System Architecture on Sun LearnTone LMS Hosted
Sun LearnTone LMS Hosted drives the Swiss VBS, including its online courses and administration operations. Sun LearnTone LMS, available in both hosted and licensed models, supports various online course formats including asynchronous, CD-ROM-based, or virtual classrooms. Content can include live or prerecorded video, audio, and asynchronous or self-paced animations. Advanced Java[tm] 2 platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE[tm]) technology-driven functions include personalized home pages, individual learning profiles, hierarchical organizational structure of administrators, advanced assessment features, fully automated statistical tracking, commerce functions for online course billing, multiple languages, and asynchronous communication, including voice-over-Internet protocol.

Sun's n-tiered LMS architecture can include presentation, business logic, application logic, and database layers. Swiss VBS's implementation includes three: presentation, application logic, and database. A Netra 1405 server running Java technologies, including JavaServer Pages[tm] (JSP[tm]), powers the presentation layer. Java technologies make it easy to customize the user interface. JSP technology enables a thin-client module, so students only need an Internet-ready Web browser to access classes.

A second Netra 1405 server powers the application logic and database layers. BEA WebLogic Application Server and CentraOne Symposium run in the application logic tier, enabling students, faculty, and administrators to communicate online, as well as access classes and administrative data. The database is driven by Oracle 8i. It contains all program information including class content, training profiles, student registration information, and faculty data.

Even though Sun is hosting the architecture, Swiss VBS sent its system administrator to instructor-led classes through Sun Educational Services to learn how to operate Sun LearnTone LMS.

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Putting It All Together to Create the Swiss VBS
Once the Swiss VBS's system architecture was set up, ISOPIA installed the Strategic Management course for final review. Within weeks, the Swiss VBS had its first online course. ISOPIAs professional services had transformed a five-day, instructor-led class into a 20-hour online version in only nine months. The Swiss VBS also had a Web site, a solid process for developing more classes, and a user interface template that could help maintain a consistent look and feel for future courses.

Sun's Education Consulting Services is currently working on four additional courses: two accounting, one marketing, and one human resources. They are expected to be available over the next six months.

To meet clients varying needs, the Swiss VBS offers classes in three modes: stand-alone, teacher-assisted, or hybrid. Sobhani explains, "Our courses, which are divided in modules, follow our metaphor of climbing the Matterhorn. In the stand-alone mode, the whole mountain is open to the executives. They progress through the modules by themselves, but there is a clearly defined learning path for them to follow. In the teacher-assisted mode, the TA becomes the guide, meeting with executives once a week in a virtual classroom, reviewing the information presented in one or more modules. In the hybrid mode, companies decide which modules they want executives to work through on their own, and which ones they want to complete in a live classroom with professors.

"What is nice about the hybrid mode is that companies can choose which modules they want executives to work through independently," continues Sobhani. "So by the time the executives meet in the classroom, they all share a common baseline of knowledge. This makes the class more interesting for the executives and faculty because they do not have to spend time reviewing information students already know."

"Along with choosing the delivery mode, companies can lease the Swiss VBS courses to run on their own systems," Sobhani adds. "Companies can also have their executives access courses through a customized Web portal: Sun LearnTone LMS is flexible enough to enable us to create custom home pages that include a companys logo or other corporate-specific information."

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Landegg Applies Its Knowledge to Develop Two Other eLearning Programs
Leveraging what it learned in the development of the Swiss VBS, Landegg has engaged Sun to deploy another implementation of Sun LearnTone LMS Hosted to drive an eLearning program for graduate students, as well as support the universitys administrative operations.

"The Swiss VBS was a new program so ISOPIA built the system from scratch," Sobhani explains. "With Landeggs Sun LearnTone LMS system deployment, weve had to first integrate existing administration systems with the new architecture so we could deliver and manage an eLearning program. We are also working on how we will integrate an eLearning program for Landeggs graduate students with our existing programs. We are definitely taking advantage of the learning curve from the Swiss VBS and building courses we always wanted to do, but never thought possible."

In a completely separate arena, Landegg is working to bring eLearning to its internationally recognized Education for Peace (EFP) Program. The EFP Program started in 1999, when Landegg was invited to conduct a training workshop in Sarajevo based on the universitys unique course "Conflict-Free Conflict Resolution." The Minister of Education of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and officials from Bosnias Office of the High Representative realized the impact Landeggs training could have on the people of the region, especially children. Government officials invited Landegg to help promote peace in the region by developing a peace-based curriculum for K-12 students. The university agreed and in June 2000, the Government of Luxembourg funded what is known as the EFP Program.

Landegg has led the EFP Program, bringing Bosniak (Muslim), Serb (Orthodox), and Croat (Catholic) K-12 faculty together to form a seamless team. Overcoming interpersonal challenges using the Programs peace-based principles, they have developed a curriculum that explores worldviews and their influence on civilization, and also how the concept of unity impacts all subjects including history, chemistry, biology, and religion.

Today, over 6000 students, 400 teachers and administrators, and 10,000 parents participate in the Program. By 2006, EFP is expected to reach more than half a million people. Additionally, Landegg will soon expand the EFP Program to include EFP-World: an eLearning program that will bring peace-based curriculum to any country in the world.

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By Embracing Ideals and Technology, Landegg Is Making a Difference
The EFP Program has already reached nearly 17,000 people, and that number is expected to grow into the millions with the introduction of online courses through EFP-World. From a small initial base, Landegg International University is growing at an annual rate of 30 percent for the baccalaureate program, and 14 percent for the masters program. The university expects enrollment to increase significantly once it starts offering graduate-level classes through the upcoming eLearning program. The Swiss VBS is expected to grow 45 percent every year, over the next three years. Landegg believes however that eLearning though critical to the university, the EFP Program, and certainly the Swiss VBSwill not replace traditional classroom-style classes.

"Were not going to destroy brick and mortar," states Sobhani. "We still need that human contact. I think eLearning is going to enhance and bring human development to another phase that we have not known." He later adds, "The fact that we are always pushing the technology envelope has put us on the map and made peoples heads turn. Online learning is just one area where we have done this. We had a vision to put online learning into action. ISOPIA and Sun have taken our vision, which we are very proud of, and put a framework around it. On top of that, the framework is allowing us to administer our vision.

"We have outsourced all technical matters for the Swiss VBS and Landegg to Sun," concludes Sobhani. "We do not have any servers here for Swiss VBS, and we will not have a server here for Landeggs learning management system. Weve done that on purpose because we trust Sun Microsystems and like their services. Sun is helping us realize our eLearning visions."

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"We have outsourced all technical matters for the Swiss Virtual Business School and Landegg to Sun. . . . We've done that on purpose because we trust Sun Microsystems and like their services. Sun is helping us realize our eLearning visions."

Shahin Sobhani
Chief Financial Officer of Landegg International University
Managing Director of Swiss Virtual Business School

©Copyright 2001, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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