Jeff Longland

Relax, don't worry – have a home brew!

RSS Feeds of WebCT Content

I previously posted (briefly) about my adventures attempting to provide podcasts from WebCT. The larger issue this drives at is generating RSS feeds of WebCT Content. Andrew Gruhn commented today that he’d like to get RSS feeds of WebCT content as well. I drafted a post about this in November and have been kinda sitting on it ever since. So here it is with a whole lotta late night revisions. I’m working on implementing this but it’s currently more of a hobby than anything so don’t expect anything immediately. Hopefully someone finds this useful, let me know if you come up with anything or have suggestions for improvements.
So what type of content could we get out of WebCT? In particular, out of WebCT Vista 3/4 or CE 6. The PowerLinks SDK provides a few webservices that might be useful:

  • Mail – new messages, etc
  • Calendar – upcoming entries?
  • File Manager – RSS w/ enclosures, ie. podcasting
  • GradeBook – maybe grades?

I’m a little hokey on the GradeBook idea, but the other three sound decent. There’s also a beta Discussion webservice that’s available through the Vista Developers Network and that would likely be one of the most useful RSS feeds out of WebCT.

  1. Instructor creates the RSS tool like they would any other tool. The tool is essentially an authentication module that can integrate with other systems or return a string – ie, HTML.
  2. Student clicks on the proxy tool. The tool generates an HTML page with information about using an RSS reader along with a URL for the feed, perhaps a servlet on another server. ex. http://host/VistaRSS/feed?id=30303039 Velocity would be good for generating the HTML.
  3. The user adds the RSS feed in their favourite reader. For me, BlogBridge or Thunderbird.
  4. The reader makes the request and the servlet handles communication with the WebCT webservices. For example, goto the specified learning context (30303039) and get a list of all files in the /podcasts/ directory. Substitute any of the other content I mentioned earlier.
  5. Using the list of all files, generate the XML for the feed. I’ve been using with Rome in my experiment with podcasting. Though Velocity would also make a good candidate.
  6. Return the XML to the user.

Ideally in step 4 it would be nice to wrap some authentication around this whole thing. Authentication seems to be supported in a handful of RSS readers and podcast clients, mainly for standard HTTP authentication. Potion Factory walks through the steps of setting up a password protected podcast. Bottom line is that some form of restriction should be available should the instructor wish to restrict access to students only.

Well, time to mosey along. I should be working more on implementing this rather than writing about it, but I felt compelled to post today since I’ve been meaning to do this. So here it is.


Written by jlongland

April 19, 2006 at 6:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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