Monthly Archives: July 2006

Agility and Composability for SOA

A recent article by Jason Bloomberg analysed the drivers for SOAs (Service Oriented Architectures). The perceived key aspect of building services around reusability, in his opinion, is not always the most rewarding.

Reusability mainly follows the top-down approach of reducing redundancies in business processes, but this may leave organisations with orphaned legacy processes or with implementation issues. Some processes, Jason argues, may benefit more from their evolvability rather than their reusability. I can only agree, as services and demands are constantly evolving and perpetuating traditional service behaviour may leave organisations at a dead end in the medium term, despite any reusability. Services must evolve, which is what Jason calls “the agility of services”.

The other point he makes is that coarser-grained composed services are less reusable than finer-grained ones. I am uncertain as to whether I would agree with him on this, as more granular services are usually also more context sensitive and embedded, thus I find them less reusable. I believe that lower granularity composite services may actually be more reusable when designed in a more abstract way.

Holistic teaching and learning

John Casey gave an interesting presentation at our institution recently, again emphasising the shift from ‘online bookshelves’ to learning design. Instead of merely saving photocopying time for members of staff by uploading lecture notes into the VLE, thus pushing the burden and cost onto the students, it is increasingly demanded that delivery strategies are transferred into the online flexible-learning space.

John sharply summarised the status quo in a very down-to-earth view. Ordinary lecturing staff, he said, were familiar with only a handful of tools: Word, Powerpoint, the Web-browser, and e-Mail. Computer literacy only rarely exceeds these skills. Of course, this is not where we want to be, and there is an urgent need to address these deficiencies while at the same time providing lo-tech solutions.

The other important point was the student experience, where, from their point of view, course modules are often perceived as an incoherent mosaic of unconnected pieces of study. The diversity in content and aims is usually due to different personalities teaching “what interests them”! In Austria this is particularly notorious as knowledge transfer is often split into different (supposedly complementary) types of modules: lectures and tutorials. The former is used to cramp knowledge into students’ heads, the second format should stimulate the mental digestion process and deepen the understanding. Frequently, though, there is no perceivable connection between the two, which leaves students disoriented and confused.