Future Learning Environment (Fle2)

User's Manual


Version 0.5

Leinonen T. (edit.) 2000, 2001 Copyright
UIAH Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki &
Centre for Research in Networked Learning and Knowledge Building, University of Helsinki



The Future Learning Environment 2 (Fle2) is a web-based learning environment for computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL). The Fle2 server provide users a collection of tools to carry out problem based learning and collaborative knowledge building. In every Fle2 server there are three type of user: The Fle2 -software consists of several modules, which are usable for a group of people through any standard web browser. The main modules of the Fle2 are: This manual gives and overview of the Fle2 modules and introduce their main features. The manual has been written for Student Users and Course Administrators. This manual does not deal with more technical questions such as installing the Fle2 server or system administration.

1. Getting Started

1.1. Invitation and Registration of New Users

To start using the Fle2 (students) you must have been invited to take part in a course/class using the Fle2 server. The invitation takes the form of an email sent to all the future course attendees, from the Fle2 ?server, by the Course Administrators. These invitation emails (the content is automatically created by the server) contain guidelines to register and instruction on how to create your username and password to the Fle2-server. This operation takes place in a web address sent to you within the invitation email.

After creating the user name and password you may log in to the Fle2 server and join the course /class invited.

Besides the email invitation for the new users, the Course Administrator may add other participants to the course/class from a list of already registered users in the Fle2 server. This means that as the user has been once invited and registered him/herself (got username and password) to the Fle2 server he or she can be found from the list of users and added to any other of the new course/classes that are using the Fle2 server.

The System administrator of the Fle2 server may invite Course Administrators (people with right to create courses/classes and invite new users) in the same way as the Course Administrators may invite student users.

After creating your user name and password you may log in to the Fle2 server and the course/classes from the Fle2-server's home page or by using some direct web-address leading into course/class in the Fle2 server.

1.2. Login First Time and Filling up Your Personal Details

Your first login takes place after creating your username and password. When login for the first time you are asked to fill up your personal details.

Picture 1: Filling Up / Editing Personal Details

It is important that you fill up this information, which will be the information about you available for other participants of the course / class.

In the Personal Details view you may also add your picture to the Fle2. If you do not have already picture available in the web (to which make a link/URL), you may bring your picture into your Webtop and add the link/URL to that picture. The picture must be in .jpg or .gif format and the recommended size of the picture is 50x60 pixels.

After filling up the personal details you have to save the information by pressing the 'Save Changes' -button.

You may later change and edit your personal details, as well. The place to edit your Personal Details, Preferences and Password can be found by clicking your name or picture in the left corner of your WebTop.

1.3. General Navigation of the Fle2

The Fle2 user interface has two general navigation bars: the top bar and left side bar. These bars exist in every view of the Fle2.

Picture 2: General Navigation bars of the Fle2

The top bar contains:

If you happen to be enrolled more than one courses at the same time, you may change the course from the menu and the list of fellow students is updated to reflect the situation in the course selected.

The left side bar contains links to the different modules:

The left side bar contains also several other links, which are:

If the user is a Course Administrator and/or System Administrator the left navigation bar contains two extra links:

 2. WebTop

The Fle2 provides each user with a personal WebTop (containing his/her own folders, bag and a waste bin) to store and share digital materials with fellow students (Picture 3). Every WebTop has direct links to those of the other members of the study group, enabling all to share their materials. The name of the participant in the top bar is shown as bold if that person is online (logged in to the Fle2) at that time.

2.1. Elements of the WebTop

When starting to work with the Fle2, your WebTop contains several elements that are automatically created by the system.

Picture 3: 'Untouched' WebTop

The automatically created elements on your Webtop are:

2.2. Adding and Managing Materials in the WebTop and Folders

Form the upper toolbar you may add new documents (and different kinds of files) into your WebTop. You may also create new folders in your WebTop.

Picture 4: Upper tool bar of your WebTop

The upper tool bar of the WebTop contains the following functionalities:

From the lower tool bar you may manage your files and folders in your WebTop (or in an open folder). The lower toolbar of the WebTop (and an open folder) includes the following functionalities.

Picture 5: Lower tool bar of your WebTop, one Folder and Document created

The lower toolbar of the WebTop (and an open folder) includes the following functionalities:

Under each folder created by you there is a [Rename] -link that allows the renaming the folder.

Under every document and link created by you there is a [Modify] -link for renaming, editing, replacing and converting the file in question.

Folders and documents added by you have also a small square (a checkbox) in the left hand to make the selection.

In other users WebTop you may only see and take copies of the material founded. Other functions like deleting or creating new documents appear in gray, and are therefore inactive.

To get in touch with the owner of the WebTop visited you may post Stickie(s) in to the WebTop.

3. Knowledge Building

The Knowledge Building module facilitates interaction between users and provides means for conducting multiple discussions within a course/class. The discussion takes place by adding notes to the database. The content of the database can be viewed in different manners.

3.1. Main View of the Knowledge Building

In the Main view of the Knowledge Building you will see Announcements and Knowledge Building Course Contexts and under them Announcement Notes, Starting Problems and links to those notes you have to yet read.

In every course there is an Announcement discussion area to direct and organize the working of the group. 'New announcement' starts a new discussion tread. All members of the group may add new announcement notes and comment announcements left by other members. When the 'Course Administrator' creates a new course the system creates automatically an 'Announcement' -area for it.

Within the Announcement -area the Knowledge Building contain one (or several) Course Context -areas to build knowledge of different topics of the course. The Course Context topic and description is written by Course administrator.

In the Knowledge Building main view you see links to those which you have not yet read. From the [Fold Out] and [Fold In] -link you may control how much information about the Course Context will be visible in the first view.

Each Course Context contains a topic and a textual description of the context.  Under these Course Contexts, there can be several Starting Problems which all starts new discussion treads. The Starting Problem is meant to be a major problem, which will be analyzed and solved in the Knowledge Building discussion.

Picture 6: Top level of the Knowledge Building


3.2. Reading and Writing Knowledge Building Notes

You may read Knowledge Building notes by clicking the topic of the note. After reading note you may directly reply to the note by pressing 'reply' or read messages previous in the thread or next in the thread.

Picture 7: Reading Knowledge Building notes

When writing new Knowledge Building note you are asked to label your contribution with a Category of Inquiry (see the next section). In every note you have to give a title, too. If you are replying to someone else's note you will see the text you are answering in the field with reference to the original write. You may edit the text and add your own ideas to the middle of the original text. You may also add link and file attachment into your note. Before adding your note to the discussion you are asked to preview your note. From the preview window you may them send the note to Knowledge Building.

Picture 8: Writing Knowledge Building notes


3.3. Categories of Inquiry

Every Knowledge Building note added to the discussion must be labeled with a Category of Inquiry reflecting a step in inquiry process. Every Knowledge Building note can also contain links and/or a file, attached by the sender (if he/she needs to develop his/her point further or give examples.) Categories of Inquiry are also marked with a color that appears in the background of the note and in the list of notes topics view.

The categories used in Fle2 are the following: Problem, My Working Theory, Deepening Knowledge, Comment, Meta-comment, Summary and Help.

Problem - your study problem in research. The learning process aims at answering to the problems presented by the students. The purpose of defining a problem statement is to explicate your learning goals, to explain your research interests and also to introduce the questions that are directing your inquiry. After critically viewing the present working theories and by introducing new deepening knowledge to the discussion, also new subordinate problems can be defined.

My Working Theory - Working theory presents your own conceptions (hypothesis, theory, explanation, interpretation) about the problems presented by yourself or some of your fellow students. A working theory is not necessarily well defined or articulated early in the inquiry process. However, it is crucial that the explication of your working theories evolves during the process and your working theories become more refined and developed.

Deepening Knowledge - Deepening Knowledge presents some scientific findings or other knowledge that you have sought. Under Deepening Knowledge you may brings to the discussion some new points of view or otherwise helps the inquiry process to continue. It differs from the working theory in that it represents knowledge produced by others, generally some authority or expert. Working theories should be your own ideas where as Deepening Knowledge is some ones else idea in the area in concern.

Comment - Your more general comment to the inquiry process. The comment can be presented for example to someone else's working theory. A comment is used to ask for clarification, more thorough explanation, opinion and so on. With a comment message you can also provide help for other learners' problem-solving process.

Meta-comment  - Your comment that focuses on the inquiry process and its methods instead of the process outcomes. With a Meta-comment you may evaluate e.g. whether the process is progressing in the desired direction, whether appropriate methods are used, how sharing of tasks and inquiry process is accomplished among the members of the learning community.

Summary  - with a summary you draw pieces of the discussion together and provide inferences based on the discussion in the Knowledge Building. The summary may aim at identifying a new Course Context or may reflect the views of the writer on the progression of the inquiry learning process.

Help - Using the Help-category tells that you have, in your work, come across some difficulties where you need guidance from others to be able to proceed.

3.4. Sorting Knowledge Building Notes

Under each note you see a list of other notes related to the same Starting Problem. The process related to the selected Starting Problem can be viewed in different ways. You may see the messages as thread, by person, by Category of Inquiry or just check the notes written by yourself.

Picture 10: Sorting Knowledge Building notes


4. Chat

The Chat is a tool for synchronized text based communication between the users. The Chat opens in another browser window leaving other modules usable. This way the users may open a document or note in the Fle2 main window and have a discussion about it in the Chat window.

To use the Chat write your name or nick to the name field and press enter. In the main window you will see who else is taking part in the chat. Write your messages to the text field at the bottom. In Chat you may also create new rooms and list all users by pressing 'People/Rooms' -button.

Picture 11: chat window