Computer-based training that emulates a human

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




(2000), "Computer-based training that emulates a human", Education + Training, Vol. 42 No. 6.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Computer-based training that emulates a human

Computer-based training that emulates a human

Keywords Computer-based training, Italy, European Union

Research by a group of six organizations – three in the UK and three in Italy – has produced a system that adapts any piece of computer-based training material to each user's preferred learning style. The result of the research is a ten-hour multimedia "Training in Electrical Systems" (Test) programme, which provides training on the European Cenelec wiring regulations. But the consortium that has developed the programme believes that the infrastructure can be used for any piece of computer-based training. The programme's artificial intelligence makes deductions from the user's reactions to the programme and then offers on-screen prompts that are in line with its judgement of the user's preferred learning style.

The £1.25 million project forms part of the European Union Esprit programme and represents a combined effort of almost 16 man-years over 27 months. Electronic-learning specialist Vega Skillchange, of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, is developing the training design and courseware, Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University is developing the artificial intelligence at the heart of the system and Eastern Contracting is providing the subject-matter expertise.

Adrian Snook, a consultant with Vega Skillchange, commented: "We have tried to develop an adaptive learning system that emulates a human tutor. The Test project involved defining 80 separate training goals which relate to the testing and inspection of domestic electrical installations. We then defined some 80 training plans, comprising one or more sequences of training. Each training plan has a number of components – there are 800 in all. Each of these is a discrete chunk of learning that could be accessed at any time throughout the programme." According to Snook, designing the course curriculum posed challenges. He said: "Since you cannot have a conventional storyline running through the programme, it can be a real challenge to link courseware components. There has also been some difficulty in defining the rules regarding a user's learning preferences in such a way that they can be passed to the intelligent system we are developing."

The results of the group's research are currently being put to the test. One group of electricians has been selected to undergo training using the Test intelligent multimedia system, while another group is following a traditional, tutor-led approach. Further information is available from Alistair Morrison, at Skillchange, Tel: +44 1438 741441.

Related articles