Platforms for Stories-based Learning in Future Schools

Prof. dr. Paul M.E. De Bra

Eindhoven University of Technology

This lecture (and workshop) series deals with adaptive methods and techniques for learning. In future "schools" (which may not be buildings with classrooms but on-line learning communities) learning will be personalized to a large extent.

Every learner likes to learn in a different way. Teachers each have their own teaching style and as a result the learner can be "lucky" to find a teacher with a matching style, or unlucky with a mismatch. In on-line learning the situation is not very different, as it is still a teacher who writes his "story" in a single teaching style.

A first way in which a single story can be turned into a multitude of variants is through hypermedia. By offering the learner a number of links navigation freedom is created, providing a personalized learning path and thus (the illusion of) a personalized story or style. The problem (hence "illusion") is that the pieces (pages) making up the story have not been written to be read in any arbitrary order. To solve this we introduce two adaptive sets of methods: for content adaptation and for adaptive navigation support. Through content adaptation we can adapt the text (or other media elements) on a page based on what we know about the learner (e.g. what the learner read before). We can compensate for missing knowledge caused by pages the learner skipped. We can add explanations for learners who already read some other pages. Through adaptive navigation support we can help the user in selecting links to follow. Depending on what the learner already studied some links may lead to highly relevant information whereas other links may lead to concepts the learner cannot (yet) understand.

The course will start with a general introduction into adaptative information delivery and adaptive learning environments. In a first practical session we will learn to create an adaptive navigation structure using prerequisite relationships. (This completes day 1.)

Next we study the technologies for performing adaptation and highlight some problem areas in designing adaptive structures. We learn about adaptation rules and user modeling. The concepts are illustrated by the architecture and technologies used in the EU project GRAPPLE, from which we will use the GRAPPLE Adaptive Learning Environment (GALE). In a practical session we will learn how to create our own adaptive course material, both the content and the adaptive navigation structure.

To come to what we would call "stories-based learning" we need to study the topics of cognitive style or learning style and also the topic of personas. The teacher has a number of ways in which a story can be told (through different author personas) and the learner has a preference for learning in a certain way. Adaptation rules have to combine these (sometimes conflicting) styles in order to make usable suggestions for paths to follow and for content adaptation. In a practical session we will design adaptation strategies to match learning styles and personas.

The future schools will not just offer stories representing courses, but offer more structured learning paths and activities. To this end they employ learning management systems(LMS). Although these system help the "organization" more than the teachers and the learners they do offer facilities that are useful for the learning process, in addition to delivery of course material. We study how (in the GRAPPLE project) the communication between the LMS and GALE, through a generic user modeling framework (GUMF) can make LMS data (like grades and test results) usable for the adaptation process, and how reaching stages in the (adaptive) learning process can be communicated to and recorded by the LMS.

Finally we will go through examples of other applications of the same adaptation/personalization methods and technologies and learn that it is not just in learning but in many communication and information processes we frequently encounter (not only through computers) that adaptation can enhance the experience and make learning and interacting with information more comfortable and more productive.