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FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
Leinonen T. (edit.) 2000, 2001 Copyright




Q: What is the Future Learning Environment 2 (Fle2)?
A: Fle2 is a web-based groupware for computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL).
    The Fle2 system is client server application using web-browsers as clients. Users may login and use the Fle2 through the Internet (TCP/IP) with any HTTP/HTML compliant browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer. In this way, access to the system is platform independent and usable across Linux, Macintosh, Unix, MS Windows, and palmtops, e.g., Nokia Communicator or Windows CE. Thereby, the Fle2 provide seamlessly support for co-operation in heterogeneous computer/ device environments which is normally a pre-requisite for the collaboration of open groups.

Q: What is the pedagogy behind the Fle2?
A: Fle2 is designed to support problem-based learning (PBL) and inquiry learning.
    Fle2 help students and teachers to engage in co-ordinated efforts to solve problems and build knowledge together. Process of the study course using the Fle2 should follow the stages of progressive inquiry. Visit our pedagogy section for more information about the pedagogical ideas behind the design of the Fle2.

Q: What are the tools of the Fle2 groupware?
A: Knowledge Building tool, WebTops, Chat, Library and Administration.

    In the Fle2 users see all the time with whom they are working in the course selected. The user also see in bold those users names who are logged in the Fle2 at the same time.

    The Knowledge Building tool is a shared space for asynchronies dialogue and conferencing. The discussion is constructed around Course Contexts and notes posted to the database are labeled with a Category of Inquiry reflecting a step in process. Categories of Inquiry are: Problem, Working Theory, Deepening Knowledge, Comment, Meta-comment, Summary and Help. Tutors and students may also sort the notes in several ways: by date, by person and by category of inquiry.

    The WebTops enables tutors and students to store and share digital materials with fellow users. Every WebTop has direct links to those of the other members of the study group, enabling all to visit each other WebTop and share their materials. In to their Web Tops the users may create new folders, documents and links. The users may also bring files from their local disk or from the web into the WebTop and rearrange their WebTop by using the Bag (to move and copy objects) and Waste (to delete objects). Web Tops contains also Stickies tool to leave short notes in other user's WebTop.

    The Chat tool enables tutors and students to chat online in real time. Chat opens in a new browser window. This way tutors and students may chat about some note in the Knowledge Building or document in the WebTop open in the other browser window.

    The Library contains straight links to several article (full text) databases containing more than 1300 Journals. These databases can be accessed from most of the Univerisities in Finland. The Library contains also straight access to Finnish Academic Link Directory and WWW Search engines.

    Administration is available only for the tutors of the courses, called Course Adminstrators in the Fle2. In the Administration section the tutors may create new, remove and edit his or her own courses. To create new course the tutor may use the Course Wizard guiding step by step through the course creation process. From the Administration section the tutor may also invite new users, and add and remove users in and out the courses.

    The Fle2 development team is currently working on to implement some new tools and features to the Fle2. These includes for instance Jam Session tool for collaborative construction of digital artifacts.

Q: How I can start to use the Fle2?
A: You get an invitation to use some Fle2-server or you may set up your own Fle2-server (or ask someone to set up the server for you :-)

    Course Administrator of some Fle2-server may invite you to his or her course using Fle2. The invitation comes in form of email generated automatically by the Fle2-server. The invitation mail contains instructions to generate your own username and password. After making your own username you may login to Fle2 and start inquiring with others.

    If you want to set up your own Fle2 server you may download the server software package from this website and install the software to run it on your own server (works on Unix/Linux systems). Please, visit the download section.

    You may also contact to your institution's department taking care of your server facilities (web, email etc) and ask them to set up the server for you.

    The Fle2 server software itself is released under GNU General Public license, meaning it is free software. Please note that the Fle2 software distribution package in http://fle2.uiah.fi includes also a third party software governed by a different license. To the third party software you may apply royalty free license for educational and non-commercial use.


Q: On what kind of computers will the Fle2 work?
A: On every computer, for which there is a webbrowser (and Internet connection).
    Fle2 works on every webbrowser, that supports HTML 3.2 (Netscape, Explorer, etc.). We have also tried Fle2 on different text-based browsers, such as Lynx and Nokia Communicator.

Q: How can I put my picture in the Fle2? Why is this important?
A: The picture that identifies you can be added in your Personal Details section.
    The picture and (other information) that identifies you can be added in the Personal Details section. The Personal Details can be found by clicking your name in the upper left corner of you WebTop. In the Personal Details select the "edit Personal Details" and you will get a form. In the form add in the correspondant field the location in the web (URL) of your image.

    If you do not have a picture of yourself available somewhere else in the web (to which you can make a link) you can bring your picture into your own WebTop. Open your picture in your WebTop and copy that URL (looks something like this: http://fle2.uiah.fi/bscw/fle.cgi/0/99348) into the Personal Details form. This way you create a link to the image and you start to have "a face" in the Fle2.

    Having "a face" in the Fle2 is very important. The issue of "group coherence" is crucial in all the courses using the Fle2 (or any other web based collaboration tools). We have noticed that the pictures help participants to get known of each other in the Fle2 course, recognice and present themselves. Pictures are also one way to strenght pariticipants commitment to the course.

Q: How can I move a document from my WebTop to inside a folder?
A: Select the document, move it to the bag, open the folder and drop the document.
    First select the document by marking the check box next to the document. Choose the 'move' feature located over your 'bag', the document will be temporary stored in the bag. Open the folder on which you want to move your document. Once in there click on the 'drop' feature under the bag. The bag will be empty and the document will appeare in the new location.

Q: May I move or copy folders (and all their content) from one place to another?
A: Yes - It happens exactly the same way as the moving of a single document (see above).


Q: How I tutor my students in Fle2 -course?
A: Plan your course, make schedules, be active, encourage your participants etc.
    Tutoring in Fle2 -course is a key point to ensure fruitful learning process for your students. First thing is that you plan your course. This means that you have an idea what the participants are expected to do in the Fle2 and how long the process will last.

    If the participants are not familier with the idea of knowledge building process, please introduce them the pedagogical model of progressive inguiry. The process is introduced, for instance, in this website's pedagogy section.

    The knowledge building does not happen with out your active involvement. You, as the tutor, must set up the Course Contexts and then enhance the discussion. Good strategy is to start by presenting your own Study Problem and even Working Theory of the field under investigation. This way the students get an idea of the dynamic in the knowledge building.

    You may also encourage your student to join the knowledge building session by sending them email messages with links to relevant and interesting notes in the knowledge building. This way the student are reminded about the work in process and supported to join in it.

Q: How can I deliver learning materials for my students using Fle2?
A: To share your learning materials with the Fle2 participants you can upload them into your Webtop.
    To share your learning materials (texts, presentations, pictures, videos, links, multimedia etc. ) with the Fle2 participants you can upload them into your Webtop. You may create in your personal Webtop different folders with descriptive titles, inform your students and let them know they can visit your Webtop and view the materials from there. Remember that in this way the participants can also make copies of these for themselves.

    A good strategy to make the materials visible is to link them also from the Knowledge Building area. Include links of their locations (URL of your Webtop or other place in the web) into your notes. remember that you can also attach a file in the note itself. When the students read the note they can follow the link presented and review the materials you are offering.

    NOTE: When you upload your materials into the Webtop (folder, documents, jpg, video clips, etc) you can open them and then copy the URL location that appears in the browser window (it looks something like this: http://fle2.uiah.fi/bscw/fle.cgi/0/83456). Use that URL to create the links to that materials in your notes, emails, etc. All objects, pages, notes, etc in the Fle2 have their unique URL and can be called using it.

Q: How I organize knowledge building with my students?
A: There are many different ways to organize knowledge building, but here we offer one possible model.
    There are many different ways to organize knowledge building and you are free to develop 'your own style'. However, We have noticed some issues which can help you to arrange and organize fruitful knowledge building processes.

    A problem in the knowledge building can be that, when the number of notes increases it gets difficult to related them to any context. For this reason you and your students may start to suffer of fragmented information floods (notes). One strategy can be to keep only ONE knowledge building process ACTIVE at time (one Course Context).

    After advancing in the process ask your students to write summary notes of the process. Then you close the process (write a note telling about this) and start a new knowledge building by creating a new Course Context. This way the earlier process is now 'officially closed', even that your students may still continue in there. However, now everyones focus should be in the next Course Context.

Q: Can I translate the user interface of the Fle2?
A: Yes.
    When translating the user interface of the Fle2 you need to take a look at the BSCW3/messages/english/lg_flemsgconfig.py file. Copy the file to a temporary directory, and edit it.

    Basically all lanuage definitions are defined as python strings:
    Webtop            = 'WebTop'
    My_Webtop         = 'My '+Webtop
    or as members of more complex structures:
    Webtop_colour = {'background': '#FFFFCC', 
                    'navigation': '#CCCC99'}
    Do not change the variable name (in left side of the =-mark). Translate the rvalue (on the right side of the =-mark). For instance:
    Webtop = 'Translate this!'
    'nuff said.

    Now you need to create the message and icon folders:
    % mkdir BSCW3/messages/[language] BSCW3/icons/[language]
    % cp -Rf BSCW3/messages/english/* BSCW3/messages/[language]/
    % cp -Rf BSCW3/icons/english/* BSCW3/icons/[language]/
    Now your new language should appear on you language chooser in your user preferences.

    We would appreciate you sending us a copy of your translated lg_flemsgconfig.py file once you're done.

Q: Do I need the Python crypt-module for Fle2 to work?
A: Yes.
    Fle2 uses the Python crypt-module to generate password hashes to the src/data/htpasswd file. The Python crypt-module is not enabled in Python by default, so you may need to rebuild Python. This problem does not exist on most of the Linux distributions we tested. The python from atleast Free, Net and OpenBSD ports trees do not have the crypt module. There is also another issue with Fle2 and BSD.

    A way to test whether or not you have the crypt module is to simply write in you shell:
    % echo "import crypt" | /path/to/python
    If there is no output, you have the crypt-module. Otherwise the following errormessage should appear:
    % echo "import crypt" | python 
    Traceback (innermost last):
      File "", line 1, in ?
    ImportError: No module named crypt
    Some basic instructions on how to setup the crypt-module in Python:

    First get the python-package from http://www.python.org. Then unpack it, and chdir to the resulting directory.

    Configure python (the configure application), and before you run 'make', do the following:

    Seach a line in the file Modules/Setup that looks something like this:
    #crypt cryptmodule.c -lcrypt     # crypt(3); needs -lcrypt on some systems
    Remove the commenting '#' character. Note that some systems (FreeBSD beeing one of them) need that -lcrypt. If your compilation fails, comment -lcrypt out, and try to recompile.

Q: Does Fle2 work on *BSD?
A: Yes.
    Your choice of Operating System is indeed in balance with the rest of the universe. There is however some problems with Fle2 and *BSD. They are because of a bug in the BSCW3.2 software, on which Fle2 is built. BSCW3.2 excepts python open().tell() to return 'int', while it in the *BSD world, with FFS, returns a 'long'. We cannot fix this bug in Fle2. The only sollution is to cripple your Python installation, and disable the LARGEFILE support. Please also note an issue with the Python crypt-module and Fle2.

    To remove LARGEFILE support, please chdir to your python distribution root. Information about obtaining a copy of the Python source code can be found at http://www.python.org/.

    Run the following command:
    ./configure [your options here]
    Edit the config.h file, and search a line, that looks as follows
    And under it add the following line:
    And then continue to build the Python software.

Q: Will Fle2 server package run on Windows server?
A: No.
    Due to some compability issues between the Windows, and the *nix world, you are unable to use Fle2 on Windows.

    The third generation of Fle will however work on windows.

Send your questions to Fle2@fle2.uiah.fi

FLe2 Research and Development is supported by NordUnet2.
R&D parters of the Fle2 project are: UIAH Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki,
Department of Communication, Journalism and Computer Science, Roskilde University, and
Centre for Research in Networked Learning and Knowledge Building, University of Helsinki

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