OLA 3.0 release notes
17 October 2020
The Online Learning Agreement (OLA) has been a centrepiece of the digitisation of the Erasmus programme since its launch in 2015. From 2021 onwards, digital learning agreements will become obligatory as part of the European Student Card Initiative, and, in anticipation of this important step, a new OLA (version 3.0) has been launched in October 2020. Here’s what new:
Rebuilt from the ground up
The OLA was originally prototyped at the EUF in 2013 by Professor Piotr Jozwiak. Over the years, its layout and functionalities have been significantly expanded but its core continued to be powered by the codebase of the original prototype. In order to ensure that the platform can scale efficiently and serve as many Erasmus students as possible, the OLA 3.0 brings forward a completely new engine which was developed by the IT Centre of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
Updating the OLA engine is a major step forward, allowing the project’s team to ensure the platform is able to withstand much more intense usage. The new engine also opens new possibilities in terms of interconnecting it to the EWP ecosystem and other digital tools that can complement its functionality.
The overall update of the OLA engine means the platform is not only more robust but also more secure. Realigning the OLA with contemporary industry standards means that from a maintenance viewpoint future security updates can be deployed more quickly, which is of critical importance.
Ensuring the security of the OLA has extended well beyond updating its engine, and special attention has been paid to the underlying authentication mechanisms and permissions. With regards to student authentication, the OLA 3.0 no longer handles student accounts itself, eliminating a key risk; instead the primary means through which students will now access the platform is through MyAcademicID, which is based on eduGAIN federated access, and eIDAS. A similar approach will be adopted in the months ahead for the staff accounts; in the meantime, and to ensure correct access rights, reviewing or signing an OLA will require a user account.
More transparency and flexibility
The OLA 3.0 also addresses one of the key weak points identified in the OLA 2017-2019 survey report: the ability to more easily make changes to a completed Learning Agreement. In the previous version of the OLA this was rather cumbersome; the new OLA allows students to edit all the key values in the document - even after it was signed by both coordinators - and automatically triggers a new round of verifications as necessary, storing each iteration as a version of the same OLA (these versions remain accessible to students through the OLA itself, and to the IROs and mobility coordinators through the Erasmus Dashboard).
A more student-centred interface
While the key goal of the current project was to update the OLA engine to ensure its robustness and scalability, we have also made considerable updates to the student interface, which is maintained by the ESN. The changes comprise simplified navigation, a livelier graphic theming and new support materials; the later will continue to be expanded, in line with the recommendations of the OLA 2017-2019 survey report.
Making the OLA future-proof
The OLA engine will help us to ensure that the new learning agreement templates will be quickly supported and made available to the whole Erasmus community as the next programme generation approaches, and pave the way to exchange data with other systems through the EWP network. In the months ahead, we will continue to work on improving the OLA 3.0, particularly with a view to enhance the support for the OLA for traineeships, to connect it with the new Erasmus+ App and to enable a simpler click-to-sign solution, which is being built upon the new European Student Identifier.
More detailed information about the new OLA is already available here, and we hope you will enjoy using it in the months and years ahead!