A little over 30 years ago, the development of TCP/IP
provided the technical foundation for the Internet. A scant 10 years
ago, HTTP and HTML were developed as foundations for the Web. At
the turn of the twenty-first century, XML had heralded new frontiers
for e-business, promising robust new layers of middleware. The de
facto standardization of XML made this possible, spawning thousands
of new niche applications. And just as HTML delivered publishing
tools to all who have access to the Web, the XML-based standards
and protocols underlying the development of Web services will deliver
comparative expansion in service provision. Web services
will extend the notion of who may become a service provider.
With advances in computer networks and programming
driven by the increasingly collaborative and distributed
nature of business, research, and learning the next generation
of the Web is being built to accommodate integrated, dynamic, and
transactional processes that assist in supporting peer collaboration
and automating workflow. Importantly, Web services standards and
protocols are being developed upon the foundations already in place.
Moreover, Web services provide a future-proofed means
for scalable Internet applications and capability.
Key technologies enabling this layer of infrastructure development
- XML (eXtensible Markup Language);
- SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol);
- UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration); and
- WSDL (Web Services Description Language).
While Web services can be deployed in a variety of
both proprietary and non-proprietary ways, the essential capability
is platform-neutral. During 2002, the W3C established a number of
working groups to develop abstract models and formal definitions
of Web services.
The Web Services Description Language (WSDL) has been
one of the ongoing outputs of this work and is a means for exposing
and discovering services, applications, and data in a standard XML
description, thereby enabling dynamic interactions between distributed
What sorts of Web services applications could be developed
for learning settings? Gleason (2002) and Jacobson (2002) offer
the following examples:
- a class roster services that provides class rosters to online
grade books and enterprise-wide learning management systems;
- a clearinghouse function that validates the immigration status
of international students;
- a credit card service that accepts credit card and payment information
and returns bank authorization;
- an interface service that permits students, faculty, and researchers
to use an online art collection on their own terms; and
- a student loan tracking service that allows students to monitor
the status of guaranteed student loans.
Over the next five years, Web services-based applications
will enable many enterprises to integrate best of breed applications
into their existing enterprise applications infrastructures.