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Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
Advanced Learning Technologies
The International Workshop on Advanced Learning Technologies took place under the auspices of IEEE Learning Technology Task Force during 4-6 December 2000 at Palmerston North, New Zealand. As stated on the workshop Web site, the main aim of this workshop was to bring together researchers, academics and industry practitioners who are involved or interested in the design and development of advanced and emerging learning technologies. The response was overwhelming and despite the almost prohibitive distance of New Zealand from rest of the world, about 130 participants from more than 20 countries attended the conference.
A large number of presentations reflected concerns on the issues of "social impact" of learning technologies. In a sense, it gives a feeling of satisfaction that the overall research on advanced learning technologies is no longer restricted to the laboratory prototypes it is now flowing into real-world implementations, and the time has come when the subsequent need for assessment of social implications is being felt.
The workshop was formally opened by Professor James McWha (Vice Chancellor of Massey University), and Ms Jill White (Mayor of Palmerston North City). Professor McWha, in his opening speech, stressed the need to use learning technologies in current educational environment and expressed his endorsement of the work which was to be presented during the next three days of the workshop. Ms White was more focused on the information technology aspect of the workshop. She found it no surprise that such an event was being hosted in a city known as the "knowledge city" of New Zealand.
Each day of the workshop started with a keynote speech before dispersing into two parallel sessions. The first keynote speech was delivered by Professor David Merrill, from Utah State University. In his speech, "Does your instruction rate five stars?", he criticised the current state of educational software available in the market, and how it is adversely affecting education. He mentioned five phases of effective instruction: a problem to be solved, activation of prior experience, demonstration of knowledge and skills, application of knowledge and skills, and integration of these knowledge and skills. He pointed out that none of the currently existing educational software provides competence in all five phases.
Professor Piet Kommers, from Twente University, focused on the advancements in virtual reality technology and its applications in education, in the second keynote speech, "imagination through virtuality for in-depth learning". He provided a number of interesting examples from European research, particularly from East Europe.
The third keynote speech was delivered by Professor Ruddy Lelouche, from Laval University. He gave a broad overview of how computers have been integrated in the educational process. Starting with artificial intelligence techniques, he moved to the more novel multimedia and hypermedia techniques that have been used in the development of educational systems. Having given a similar speech a few years ago at another event, he provided an interesting comparative analysis between then and now.
A number of presentations in the workshop included state-of-the-art technology and its implementation as innovative educational systems. A number of systems use agents technology. For example, Anton Nijholt presented his work on the Jacob instruction agent, which helps the user in the Towers of Hanoi game. Maiga Chang presented a diagnostic intelligent agent, OVLER, for problem solving in educational systems. Martin Beer talked about using agents in Internet-based education for health care professionals.
Akihiro Kashihara described the implementation of adaptive hypermedia technology in a Navigation Path Planning system. John Cook presented an approach to computer-based education based on dialogue modelling, particularly in the context of online argumentative debate. Steven D. Tripp talked about a system based on cognitive semantics.
Roger F. Browne presented the application of multimedia technology to the learning of introductory signal processing topics. C. N. Lawrence and R.G. Baird gave a slightly different perspective on using multimedia to teach design through remote access in their DESIGNintro concept. Lorna Uden discussed a multimedia design framework for courseware development using elements of Applied Cognitive Task Analysis, a Multimodal Theory in support of Multimodal Interface Design, and a method for Multimedia Interface Design.
Several papers presented during the workshop were related to online assessment. For example, Theodore Kolokolnikov presented a system using Maple on the Web to mark Mathematics tests. Alex Shafarenko described a secure examination system on the Internet with multi-mode input. Bruce Armstrong demonstrated a PC-based application MarkIt that provides feedback on assessment items. Koun-Tem Sun presented an assessment system based on Item Response Theory.
Several presenters talked about methods of designing educational systems. For example, Chris DiGiano proposed Rapid-Assembly Componentware and demonstrated its implementation in the ESCOT project to produce the "problems of the week" for mathematics learning. Hirokazu Bandoh talked about developing educational software for the whiteboard environment and explained how this method has been used in the development of a mosaic Chinese character quiz tool and a geometry lesson tool. Vladan Devedzic discussed the idea of using patterns in the architectures of educational systems.
Various educational paradigms were also discussed during the workshop. For example, Ontiretse Selepeng-Tau demonstrated the application of Elaboration Theory in the development of educational systems. Graeme Salter talked about using the Web as a constructivist medium for developing staff skills in online teaching. Olivera Marjanovic presented the concept of Flex-eL a flexible, fully integrated, workflow enabled, learning environment. Wiiliam E. Schaaf, Jr discussed the use of multiple instruction strategies, knowledge-mobilization principles and a project-based learning model.
With new technology and its implementations comes evaluation of its effectiveness and efficacy. A number of presenters talked exclusively about evaluation of advanced learning technology systems. For example, Harry R. Matthews described evaluation of two Web-based courses using Oracle database and dynamic on-demand course development. Various factors in the evaluation of educational software were discussed by Georgiadou Elissavet. She commented that the evaluation of such systems has not been easy because educational research, on which the evaluation factors are generally based, cannot keep pace with the advancement of technology. Grainne Conole presented a quite interesting and practical Web-based evaluation toolkit that can be used by typical teachers to evaluate the effectiveness of various technological resources in their instruction process.
Finally . . .
The IWALT2000 workshop provided a broad overview of the pioneering work in advanced learning technologies. This review gives a glimpse of these developments. The research and development in the area of advanced learning technologies are very promising and warrant further events displaying continuity of the work. I am already looking forward to the next event in this series which is scheduled for 6-8 August, 2001 at Madison, WI, USA as the International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies.
Dr Kinshuk is Senior Lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org