What Have We Achieved by Advanced Learning Technologies?

Library Hi Tech News

ISSN: 0741-9058

Publication date: 1 October 2001

Citation

Kinshuk, (2001), "What Have We Achieved by Advanced Learning Technologies?", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 18 No. 10. https://doi.org/10.1108/lhtn.2001.23918jac.003

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited


What Have We Achieved by Advanced Learning Technologies?

What Have We Achieved by Advanced Learning Technologies?

Kinshuk

Overview

The IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT2001) was hosted at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA during 6-8 August 2001. It was the second event in its series, with particular focus on the issues, challenges and achievements in using advanced learning technologies. The conference received over 200 submissions from 34 countries. With about 30 per cent acceptance rate, the conference resulted in very high quality presentations by pioneers in the field. The conference was divided into various sessions ranging from theories and formalisms to support tools and systems and to specific applications.

It was interesting to see that, despite so many concrete examples of advanced learning technologies implementations, the conference was not just a repository of case studies. Various theoretical issues were discussed, including architecture, standards, and evaluation of learning systems.

Opening

The conference was opened by a keynote speech from Professor Tim O'Shea of Birkbeck College, London. He spoke at length about the development of virtual universities and gave examples from his experiences at the Open University, UK, and various initiatives in the USA. He also talked about the technological progress and its effects on the virtual educational environment. Using various examples from his own institutions, he demonstrated that virtual universities are not just the repositories of technology, but they require a fundamental change in the thinking process of academics as well as policy makers. He also talked about various government policies in the UK that are affecting the education. It was a thought-provoking talk covering a wide range of issues, both at decision and operational level, in the success of virtual universities.

The second keynote speech was also arranged on the first day, during dinner, by Professor Elliot Soloway of University of Michigan, USA. He talked about the importance of pedagogy over technology. It was a very interesting talk, full of anecdotes. With a straightforward attitude, he pointed out that most efforts in the past have been to play with technology ("little boxes" in his terms), but little has been done to actual education. He stressed the importance of "opportunities for all" and discussed some of his projects in this direction.

Snapshot of conference presentations

The conference presentations were divided into several sections: full and short papers, posters, panels, workshops and tutorials. Rather than describing each and every section, I would give here some highlights of the conference. A number of papers focused on providing adaptivity to learners. For example, Charalampos Karagiannidis discussed architecture for defining re-usable adaptive educational content. Amy Metcalfe discussed another architecture for virtual adaptive learning. A number of theories were also discussed during the conference. For example, Penelope Semrau discussed constructivist values for Web-based instruction, Brian M. Slator talked about role-based learning, and Barry Kort mentioned the role of emotions in learning.

Grainne Conole's workshop on advanced learning technology frameworks and toolkits was another interesting part of the conference. There were three tutorials presented during the conference: "Animated pedagogical agents" by W. Lewis Johnson, "Learner-centered design" by Chris Quintana and Elliot Soloway, and "Adaptive systems for cognitive skills" by Ashok Patel and Kinshuk.

Visit to Fort McCoy

A unique feature of ICALT2001 conference was a visit to the United States Army Reserve Readiness Training Center (ARRTC), Fort McCoy, on the second day of the conference. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience the state-of-the-art advanced learning technologies used for United States Reserve Army training. It was a day-long trip to the center, starting with a classroom presentation of the techniques used in different types of training scenarios, and a tour to the facility for demonstrations. The demonstrations included Heavy Equipment Tactical Transporter (HETT) troubleshooting, simulated human medical trainer, scalable alternative deliverable distance learning equipment, digital trainingfacility, distance learning production lab, and video tele-training (VTT) studios.

Finally

The conference was a good representation of where advanced learning technologies are heading. It was comforting to know that implementation of such technologies is not far behind research, and that the focus of researchers has been moving from just research to the actual practicality of research.

Dr Kinshuk(kinshuk@massey.ac.nz), is Associate Professor at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.