People are your greatest asset, and one of the best ways of retaining and fostering their talent is learning. It is crucial to the success of any organisation, it builds understanding, develops full potential and creates a collaborative and positive environment.
However, with all the best intentions, its imperative to have the right learning platform in place. Without it, employees won’t get the most out of their Learning & Development, they lose interest and the organisation wastes both time and money.
With this in mind, you’ve made the sensible decision by implementing Oracle Learning Management System with eBusiness Suite. Now, you need to work out how your users will access your online learning content. The answer is- by installing and configuring a Content Server. Here’s my simple guide to this process, let’s start with the obvious question-
What is a Content Server?
My Oracle Support Note Utilizing gives a great definition of this:
“A content server, in simplest terms, is a computer with a web server that stores online learning content files. Learning objects that exist within OLM point to online learning content stored on a content server. When a learner accesses online learning content through the OLM player, the content server delivers the content to the learner’s browser”
There are two types of Content Server are available:
- OLM Content Server
- External Content Server
If you have an existing content server in your organisation – or an arrangement with a third party that already provides this for you – an external content server would probably be most sensible, so that you can re-use your existing investment. But, if you are installing this for the first time then installing a new OLM Content Server would be the more logical choice.
The main difference being that an OLM Content Server allows learning administrators to upload online learning content to the content server via eBusiness Suite screens.
Paul Bird, the Learning Technologies Manager at the National Trust states the benefits they have found from our implementation of their content server:
“Here at the National Trust we would be hard-pressed to provide our 12,000 staff and 70,000 volunteers with version controlled digital content if it wasn’t for our content server. In the last year alone it enabled over 14,000 hours of learning to be delivered to our people. Being able to host any format of content we want, when we want, with only a few clicks of a mouse mean it’s a crucial part of our learning technologies strategy.”
The Requirements for installing an OLM Content Server
It’s worth noting that Oracle eBusiness Suite 12.1 comes with two 10.1 application servers – these, however, cannot be used to also act as the OLM Content Server.
“An OLM content server cannot be set up and configured on any middle tier application server running the Oracle eBusiness Suite. It must be set up and configured on a separate machine outside the eBusiness Suite middle tier application servers”- Oracle
Although, this does not necessarily mean a completely separate server, it means that the OLM Content Server must be installed in its own Oracle Home, separate from eBusiness Suite (just in the same way as Discoverer 10g/11g must be installed).
There are a number of possible technology options for a server to act as an OLM Content Server, but all of them are for products that are de-supported by Oracle so it only really makes sense to install Weblogic.
The amount of CPU, memory and disk space the new OLM Content Server needs depends on a few factors:
- How many users can you expect to be accessing online learning?
- How many of them at the same time?
- How many courses will be available in the catalogue?
As a general guide based on my example:
- 2 CPU cores
- 8GB memory
- 50GB disk space (for the Middleware install and content store)
The eBusiness Suite middle tier needs to be able talk to the OLM Content Server on the port on which it is running (7003 in my case).
Weblogic OLM Content Server
The steps for this are documented in Oracle Learning Management Content Server Installation & Configuration on WebLogic Server – Release 12.1 and 12.2 Doc ID 2016176.1.
However, I have summarised it for you here:
- Install Java7
- Install Weblogic server 10.3.6
- Create a Weblogic domain (‘olm_domain’)
- Define an Administration server (under port 7001)
- Define a Managed Server (under port 7003)
- Create content and contentstorage directory structure
- Copy various XML and class files from eBusiness Suite
- Deploy content application
- Deploy contentstorage application
- Install SCORM adapters
- Amend configuration to accept connections from eBusiness Suite middle tiers
- Start it all up
- Define Content Servers in eBusiness Suite to point to new OLM Content Server
- Define SCORM adapters in eBusiness Suite
The only deviation I had from the Oracle note was that it was not really necessary to install all components of Weblogic; so a tip to reduce the footprint of the server, a minimal install with these modules worked fine:
• Core Application Server
• Administration Console
• Configuration Wizard
• Weblogic SCA
What about SSL?
HTTPS is currently not supported as a connection method to an OLM Content Server – only HTTP requests are accepted.
This can be mitigated somewhat by hosting the OLM Content Server behind a reverse proxy server.
What about DR?
I set this up quite simply – I installed a second Weblogic server on my DR machine and then defined a daily rsync script which made sure that the DR server was kept up-to-date with changes to the content store on my live server.
What about Cloning?
When you clone your eBusiness Suite environment to test instances, the OLM configuration will still point to the live OLM Content Store. This might be adequate and consequently not need to be changed, but if your learning administrators want to be able to test uploads/updates to courses before they are made live, you will need to install a non-production OLM Content Server, then have a post-clone step to re-point the environment to this instance.
Anyhow, this is a simple change:
• Learning Administrator > Learning Administration > Setup Administration
• Content > Content Servers
• Click Update
• Change the Host value
• Setup > SCORM Adapters
• Update the URLs
Can an OLM Content Server Be Available on the Internet?
Yes – in this case you would want to deploy your OLM Content Server in a network demilitarized zone (DMZ).
In eBusiness Suite you can then define the OLM Content Server to point to the URL of the reverse proxy server or hardware load balancer, and then implement rewrite rules will re-direct the traffic down to the OLM Content Server on port 7003.
Example re-write rules if using an Apache reverse proxy server:
CustomLog "logs/<EXTERNAL_HOST>.<DOMAIN>-access_log" common
# Set access permission
Require all granted
# Reverse proxy server section
ProxyPass / http://INTERNAL_SERVER.<DOMAIN>:7003/ retry=0
ProxyPassReverse / http://INTERNAL_SERVER.<DOMAIN>:7003/
In this setup the users will need access to the external host; the reverse proxy server/load balancer will need access to the OLM Content Server; the eBusiness Suite middle tier will need access to the external host and the OLM Content Server.
What about licences?
It’s a bit of a grey area on whether licences for the Weblogic OLM Content Server are required or not if using it for OLM.
Oracle Note Does Oracle Learning Management Content Server Need License ? (Doc ID 1293821.1) states:
“you MAY need additional license for using any of the Oracle products involved. To find out whether you really need to buy a separate license or not , kindly please contact your sales liaison consultant who manages your support licenses. They would be able to provide your more detailed information on licenses”
• If you need to make any changes to the definition of the OLM Content server, always do an Update on an existing row rather than trying to create a New one and Delete the old one. If you do the latter, any URLs for existing courses do not get updated and will still point to the old server and you will need to do a SQL update on OTA_LEARNING_OBJECTS; if you perform an Update it to automatically update this table.
• We found that trying to upload zip files of a certain size (10’s of MB) via eBusiness Suite would not work. There is an Oracle eBusiness Suite patch for this 20320811 (‘Unable to Import SCORM 2004 file (size 91.1 MB) to WLS Content Server’) but applying the patch on its own does not fix the problem. This is not mentioned in the readme of the patch but if you have eagle-eyed DBAs they will notice that the files delivered by the patch are the same ones that are copied from eBus to the OLM Content Server as part of the initial build. So, the new versions of these files need to be copied over and the Weblogic server restarted. If starting from scratch this duplicate step could be avoiding by applying patch 20320811 at the start.
So, here’s my step by step guide to using a Content Server with Oracle Learning Management 12.1, to improve delivery of learning to your employees. Hopefully you will find the process simple and easy, if not you know where we are.