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ASPECTS OF E-LEARNING

ENVIRONMENTS

Dissertation for the Award of the Academic Degree


Doctor of Technical Sciences
at
Graz University of Technology

submitted by

Thomas Dietinger

Institute for Information Processing and Computer Supported New Media


(IICM),
Graz University of Technology
A-8010 Graz, Austria

2003

© Copyright 2003 by Thomas Dietinger

First reader: o.Univ.-Prof. Dr.Dr.h.c.mult. Hermann Maurer


Second reader: Doz.Dr. Frank Kappe
ASPEKTE VON E-LEARNING
UMGEBUNGEN

Dissertation zur Verleihung des akademischen Grades


Doktor der Technischen Wissenschaften
an der
Technischen Universität Graz

vorgelegt von

Thomas Dietinger

Institut für Informationsverarbeitung und Computergestützte neue


Medien (IICM),
Technische Universität Graz
A-8010 Graz

2003

© Copyright 2003 by Thomas Dietinger

Diese Dissertation ist in englischer Sprache verfaßt.

Erster Begutachter: o.Univ.-Prof. Dr.Dr.h.c.mult. Hermann Maurer


Zweiter Begutachter:_________________________Doz.Dr. Frank Kappe

ii
Abstract

Tremendous advances in computer technology and the evolution of the Internet have led to
new approaches in learning and training which are summarized under the term e-Learning.
This thesis will explain what can be expected from e-Learning and although especially
focused on the technological basis, will examine all kinds of requirements for e-Learning
environments: pedagogical, functional and non functional requirements. A special chapter
will be dedicated to all relevant standards in the field of eLearning due to its importance
for increasing interoperability, cutting costs and gaining acceptance.
An example for a state of the art e-Learning system, which has been designed by and
developed under the guidance of the author, will be given, successfully completed projects
based on this environment will be presented to show possible operational areas, and ideas
for further developments will be sketched.

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Kurzfassung

Gewaltige Fortschritte in der Computertechnologie und die Weiterentwicklung des


Internets haben zu neuen Ansätzen beim Lernen und Lehren geführt, die unter dem Begriff
e-Learning zusammengefasst werden.
Diese Dissertation legt dar, was von e-Learning erwartet werden kann, und untersucht,
obwohl eigentlich auf die technologischen Aspekte orientiert, alle Arten von
Anforderungen für e-Learning Umgebungen: pädagogische, funktionale und nicht-
funktionale. Ein spezielles Kapitel wird allen für das eLearning Gebiet relevanten
Standards gewidmet, aufgrund ihrer Wichtigkeit bei der Steigerung der Interoperabilität,
der Senkung von Kosten und der Akzeptanzsteigerung.
Ein Beispiel für ein State-of-the-Art e-Learning System, das vom Autor entworfen und
unter seiner Führung entwickelt wurde, wird ausgeführt. Auf dessen Basis erfolgreich
abgeschlossene Projekte werden präsentiert, um die möglichen Einsatzgebiete
aufzuzeigen, und Ideen für weitere Entwicklungen werden skizziert.

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I hereby certify that the work presented in this thesis is my own and that work performed
by others is appropriately cited.

Ich versichere hiermit, diese Arbeit selbstständig verfasst, andere als die angegebenen
Quellen und Hilfsmittel nicht benutzt und mich auch sonst keiner unerlaubten Hilfsmittel
bedient zu haben.

v
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Table of Contents...............................................................................................................vi
List of figures.....................................................................................................................xi
Acknowledgments...........................................................................................................xiii
Glossary...........................................................................................................................xiv
Abbreviations....................................................................................................................xv
Preface............................................................................................................................xvii
1 Introduction.................................................................................................18
1.1 Why do we need e-Learning?.......................................................18
1.1.1 What does the ideal learning environment look like?..............19
1.1.2 Prerequisites and application scenarios for e-Learning...........20
1.2 A brief critical analysis of advantages and disadvantages of e-
Learning........................................................................................22
1.2.1 Advantages.............................................................................23
1.2.1.1 Independence of learning place....................................23
1.2.1.2 Free choice of learning time and speed and Just-In-Time
learning........................................................................23
1.2.1.3 Fast distribution and dissemination of new information
to many people.............................................................24
1.2.1.4 Adaptive learning.........................................................24
1.2.1.5 Multimedia and interactive learning is motivating and
ensures learning success...............................................25
1.2.1.6 Not only results but the whole learning process can be
supervised and the learner’s performance and progress
tracked..........................................................................25
1.2.2 Disadvantages.........................................................................26
1.2.2.1 No personal contact to teacher/coach and to other
learners.........................................................................26
1.2.2.2 Incentive of external training does not exist any more..26
1.2.2.3 Learning from a computer display is difficult to get used
to, is unpleasant and unhealthy.....................................27
1.2.2.4 Only few online-learners finish a course......................27
1.2.2.5 The installation and use of learning systems is too time
consuming and complex and thus expensive................28
1.2.2.6 The creation of e-learning courses is too expensive......28
2 The ideal current e-Learning system (based on a requirements analysis).....30
2.1 Pedagogical requirements.............................................................30
2.1.1 Learning Theories...................................................................30
2.1.1.1 Behaviorism.................................................................30
2.1.1.2 Cognitivism..................................................................33
2.1.1.3 Constructivism.............................................................35
2.1.1.4 How it fits together.......................................................39
2.1.2 Learning Styles.......................................................................40
2.2 Functional Requirements..............................................................41
2.2.1 Learning Management Systems..............................................41
2.2.2 Learning Content Management Systems.................................43
2.2.3 Learning and Tutoring Support Management.........................45
2.3 Non-Functional Requirements......................................................47
2.3.1 Technical Requirements.........................................................47
2.3.1.1 Support of operational environment required...............47
2.3.1.2 Interoperability and support of standards......................47

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2.3.1.3 Ensuring of performance and scalability......................47
2.3.1.4 Security........................................................................48
2.3.1.5 Customizability............................................................48
2.3.2 Quality Requirements.............................................................48
2.3.3 Usability and Accessibility Requirements...............................49
3 Standards in the field of e-Learning.............................................................51
3.1 AICC – Aviation Industry CBT Committee..................................51
3.2 Dublin Core Metadata Initiative....................................................52
3.3 IEEE LTSC - Learning Technology Standards Committee...........54
3.3.1 Learning Objects Metadata (LOM).........................................54
3.3.2 Computer Managed Instruction (CMI)...................................56
3.3.3 Architecture and Reference Model - Learning Technology
Systems Architecture (LTSA).................................................56
3.3.4 Platform and Media Profiles...................................................58
3.3.5 Competency Definitions.........................................................59
3.4 ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 – Joint Tech Committee, Sub Committee 36
Standards for: Information Technology for Learning, Education
and Training..................................................................................59
3.5 IMS (Instructional Management Systems) Global Learning
Consortium Inc.............................................................................60
3.5.1 Guidelines for Developing Accessible Learning Applications 60
3.5.2 Content Packaging Specification............................................61
3.5.3 Digital Repositories Interoperability Specification.................62
3.5.4 Enterprise Specification..........................................................62
3.5.5 Learner Information Packaging (LIP) Specification................62
3.5.6 Learning Design Specification................................................63
3.5.7 Metadata Specification...........................................................64
3.5.8 Question and Test Interoperability..........................................64
3.5.9 Reusable Definition of Competency or Educational Objective
Specification...........................................................................64
3.5.10 Simple Sequencing Information and Behavior Model............65
3.6 Microsoft LRN - Learning Resource iNterchange.........................65
3.7 The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) Initiative & SCORM
(Sharable Content Object Reference Model).................................66
3.8 Ariadne – Alliance of Remote Instructional Authoring and
Distribution Networks for Europe.................................................67
3.9 CEN/ISSS WS-LT - Learning Technologies Workshop...............67
3.10 Prometeus - PROmoting Multimedia Access to Education and
Training in EUropean Society.......................................................68
3.11 SIF - Schools Interoperability Framework....................................69
4 The design of GENTLE (GEneral Networked Training and Learning
Environment)..............................................................................................71
4.1 History & Background..................................................................71
4.1.1 Instructor-Led Training Era (Pre-1983)..................................71
4.1.2 Multimedia Era (1984-1993)..................................................71
4.1.3 Web Infancy (1994-1999).......................................................72
4.1.4 Next-Generation Web (2000 – ?)............................................73
4.2 The concept & positioning of GENTLE........................................74
4.3 User Characteristics......................................................................76
4.3.1 Student/Trainee.......................................................................76
4.3.2 Teacher/Trainer......................................................................77
4.3.3 Author....................................................................................77
4.3.4 System Administrator.............................................................78
4.4 Architecture - Rooms and tools within GENTLE..........................78
4.4.1 Rooms....................................................................................79

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4.4.2 Tools within eLS....................................................................79
4.4.3 System Architecture................................................................81
4.4.3.1 Operational Environment:............................................81
4.4.3.2 User Interface:..............................................................82
4.4.3.3 Standards and system interfaces:..................................82
4.5 Detailed description of rooms.......................................................83
4.5.1 Foyer......................................................................................83
4.5.2 Students’ & Teachers’ Study Room........................................85
4.5.2.1 Detailed description of sections within students’ Study
Room:..........................................................................87
4.5.2.2 Detailed description of sections within teachers’ Study
Room...........................................................................91
4.5.3 Course Room (for students & teachers; previously called
Course Environment)..............................................................91
4.5.3.1 Functions available for students:..................................93
4.5.3.2 Functions available for teachers/authors that may modify
the course:....................................................................94
4.5.4 Administration Office.............................................................94
4.5.4.1 User interface...............................................................94
4.5.4.2 Groups..........................................................................95
4.5.4.3 Filters...........................................................................98
4.5.4.4 User section..................................................................98
4.5.4.5 Team/Project section..................................................105
4.5.4.6 Course section............................................................108
4.5.4.7 Resource section.........................................................115
4.5.4.8 System section............................................................115
4.5.5 Virtual Café..........................................................................119
4.5.6 Project Room........................................................................120
4.6 Tools...........................................................................................121
4.6.1 Annotations..........................................................................121
4.6.1.1 Annotatable documents..............................................122
4.6.1.2 Annotation types........................................................122
4.6.1.3 Attachments...............................................................123
4.6.1.4 Creation of annotations...............................................123
4.6.1.5 Accessibility & visualization......................................123
4.6.1.6 Annotating annotations...............................................124
4.6.1.7 Deletion of annotations...............................................124
4.6.1.8 Editing of annotations................................................124
4.6.1.9 Notification of annotations.........................................124
4.6.1.10 Combine annotations and discussion forum...............124
4.6.1.11 Active documents.......................................................124
4.6.2 Discussion forum, structured discussions..............................125
4.6.2.1 Visualizing the structure of the discussion articles.....126
4.6.2.2 Visualizing an article content.....................................127
4.6.2.3 Functions available for trainees..................................127
4.6.2.4 Functions available for trainers and tutors..................128
4.6.3 Messaging.............................................................................128
4.6.3.1 User interface.............................................................129
4.6.4 Synchronous communication, chat, audio/video conferencing,
whiteboard............................................................................131
4.6.4.1 Permanent chat...........................................................132
4.6.4.2 Virtual office hours....................................................132
4.6.4.3 Personal temporary chat.............................................132
4.6.5 Course wizard.......................................................................133
4.6.6 Search dialog........................................................................135

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4.6.6.1 Quick search facility...................................................136
4.6.6.2 Displaying results.......................................................136
4.6.7 Background library /KnowledgeBase...................................138
4.6.7.1 Authoring...................................................................139
4.6.7.2 Reusing – The repository editor..................................140
4.6.8 Glossary................................................................................140
4.6.9 Self assessments collection...................................................141
4.6.10 Media depot..........................................................................141
4.6.11 Structure editor.....................................................................143
4.6.12 Scene editor/viewer..............................................................144
4.6.13 Progress tracking..................................................................146
4.6.14 Statistics................................................................................147
5 Research & Use of GENTLE....................................................................149
5.1 True virtual interactive e-Learning courses with eLS..................149
5.1.1 Introduction..........................................................................149
5.1.2 The learning system..............................................................150
5.1.3 The theoretical part of the lecture..........................................150
5.1.4 The interactive part of the lecture..........................................152
5.1.5 Evaluation of the student’s progress.....................................154
5.1.6 Conclusions and further development...................................154
5.2 MusicWeb...................................................................................155
5.2.1 What is MusicWeb?..............................................................155
5.2.2 MusicWeb extension for GENTLE: MusicWeb specific course
metadata...............................................................................156
5.2.3 MusicWeb extension for GENTLE: The Den Haag 3 layers
concept.................................................................................157
5.2.4 MusicWeb extension for GENTLE: The GUIDO notes server
..............................................................................................159
5.2.5 Using MusicWeb in the classroom: general discussion and
approach...............................................................................161
5.3 YoungNet – a Virtual Learning Community Platform for
Youngsters..................................................................................164
5.3.1 Why YoungNet ?..................................................................164
5.3.2 Design and planning.............................................................164
5.3.2.1 Feature 1: A fascinating and edutaining multi-user
learning environment with clearly defined learning
objectives...................................................................164
5.3.2.2 Feature 2: Enable learners and teachers to communicate
(including audio communication) and co-operate across
national borders and cultures......................................164
5.3.2.3 Feature 3: Overcome the boundaries between school
time and leisure time by intrinsic motivation created
through novel features of the YoungNet virtual meeting
place...........................................................................165
5.3.2.4 Feature 4: Continuous evaluation by the schools
involved.....................................................................165
5.3.3 The YoungNet System..........................................................165
5.3.3.1 The Hyperwave eLearning Suite................................166
5.3.3.2 Macromedia Shockwave Multiuser Server.................168
5.3.3.3 Hearme Audio Communication Server.......................170
5.3.4 The YoungNet Content.........................................................170
5.3.5 Summary..............................................................................171
5.4 Telekom Austria.........................................................................172
5.4.1 The goal: Implement an e-Learning system for 11,000
employees.............................................................................172

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5.4.2 The strategy: An approach in several phases.........................172
5.4.2.1 The evaluation of e-Learning platforms......................172
5.4.2.2 The pilot phase...........................................................174
5.4.2.3 The full roll out..........................................................174
5.4.3 Conclusions..........................................................................177
5.5 Learning Northern Ireland...........................................................177
5.5.1 HP Services to Use Hyperwave`s eKnowledge Infrastructure
for World`s Largest e-Learning Project................................177
6 Visions & Ideas.........................................................................................179
6.1 An Associative Joint Module Repository/Knowledge Network. .179
6.1.1 Introduction..........................................................................179
6.1.2 Metadata alone is not sufficient............................................180
6.1.3 The concept of knowledge clusters.......................................181
6.1.3.1 Creation of knowledge clusters and addition of
documents..................................................................183
6.1.3.2 Searching and browsing within knowledge clusters. . .185
6.1.4 The prototype........................................................................185
6.1.5 Conclusion and future work..................................................187
6.2 Dynamic background libraries (Targeted Information Retrieval) 188
6.2.1 Introduction..........................................................................188
6.2.2 Document clustering system.................................................189
6.2.3 A possible approach: Knowledge gathering process.............189
6.2.4 Conclusions and future work................................................192
6.3 Situation Learning or what do adventure games and hypermedia
learning have in common?..........................................................192
6.3.1 Introduction..........................................................................192
6.3.2 Situation Learning................................................................192
6.3.2.1 Different aspects of SL usage:....................................194
6.3.3 Prototyping...........................................................................194
6.3.3.1 A short description of the structure of the interface....194
6.3.3.2 Authoring (basic approach, tools)...............................195
6.3.3.3 Integration into GENTLE-WBT.................................197
6.3.3.4 Further research – path evaluation..............................198
6.3.3.5 Implementation of path evaluation.............................199
6.3.3.6 Discussion..................................................................199
6.3.3.7 An extended model – the Dynamic Knowledge Space
...................................................................................199
6.3.3.8 Platforms....................................................................200
6.3.4 Conclusions..........................................................................200
7 Summary and Outlook...............................................................................201
7.1 From ubiquitous computers to ubiquitous e-Learning.................201
7.1.1 Hardware and technology improvements..............................201
7.1.2 The Personal Advisor...........................................................202
7.1.3 The future of e-Learning standards.......................................203
7.1.4 Future aspect of pedagogy for e-Learning.............................203
7.2 Concluding summary..................................................................204
Bibliography...................................................................................................................205

x
LIST OF FIGURES

Number Page
Figure 1: Internet host count (Jan. 2002) 21
Figure 2: Behavioristic model of learning 31
Figure 3: Cognitivistic model of learning 33
Figure 4: Constructivistic model of learning 35
Figure 5: Data flow between course content and the CMI system (from [AICC-CMI001])
52
Figure 6: The LTSA abstraction-implementation layers. Only layer 3 (system
components) is normative in this Standard and may be used to analyze
interoperability requirements among major subsystems in learning technology
systems. This graph was taken from [LTSA 2001]. 57
Figure 7: The LTSA system components. This graph has been taken from [LTSA 2001].58
Figure 8: IMS content packaging structure 61
Figure 9: The early GENTLE prototype 73
Figure 10: GENTLE rooms and tools 78
Figure 11: The Hyperwave IS/6 Architecture 82
Figure 12: The GENTLE/HTS 1.0 Foyer 84
Figure 13: The Hyperwave eLS 1.2 Foyer 84
Figure 14: GENTLE user registration/questionnaire 85
Figure 15: GENTLE Table of Courses 85
Figure 16: Layout of Study Room (eLS 1.2, trainee’s view) 87
Figure 17: Example layout of Modify Personal Preferences/My Settings (eLS 1.2) 89
Figure 18: Example layout of Electronic Business Card (eLS 1.2) 89
Figure 19: Example layout of My Statistics (eLS 1.2) 90
Figure 20: The Course Room of eLS 1.2 92
Figure 21: Draft design of the eLS 1.4 course room 93
Figure 22: Example of the Administration office (eLS 1.2) 95
Figure 23: Relations between groups and users 96
Figure 24 : User section of Administration Office (early GENTLE version) 99
Figure 25: Administration: Create new user dialog (early GENTLE version) 100
Figure 26: Modify single user (early GENTLE version) 102
Figure 27: Modify multiple users (early GENTLE version) 103
Figure 28: The team section within the eLS 1.2 administration 106
Figure 29: Create Team dialog (eLS 1.3 design) 107
Figure 30: Course section of Administration (early GENTLE style) 109
Figure 31: Modify course properties dialog (eLS 1.3 style) 110
Figure 32: The Publish Course tool dialog 112
Figure 33: The course statistics (eLS 1.2) 114
Figure 34: System administration (eLS 1.3) 116
Figure 35: System statistics (eLS 1.3) 118
Figure 36: The Virtual Café - Chat section (eLS 1.2) 120
Figure 37: A course page with some inline notes, an opened note and the author’s
electronic business card (eLS 1.2 style) 122
Figure 38: The eLS "Write a note" dialog 123
Figure 39: The eLS discussion forum (hierarchical view) and an opened attachment 126
Figure 40: eLS discussion forum (flat view) 127
Figure 41: The eLS messaging tool 129
Figure 42: The eLS Write/Reply Message dialog 130
Figure 43: eLS Chat 131
Figure 44: eLS-Chat Invite Users dialog 132

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Figure 45: Initial page of Course Wizard (GENTLE design) 134
Figure 46: Second page of course wizard (eLS style) 135
Figure 47: Parts of the Result Area 136
Figure 48: Query Form (Search Entry Point) 137
Figure 49: Search Window Elements 138
Figure 50: The Background Library (eLS 1.3) 139
Figure 51: The Repository Editor (eLS 1.3) 140
Figure 52: The Media Depot with the opened edit metadata dialog 142
Figure 53: The Media Depot metadata search 142
Figure 54: Scene Editor with property dialog 145
Figure 55: The SceneViewer applet displayed within eLS 1.3 145
Figure 56: The Progress Indicator (page and chapter progress) within the eLS 1.2 Course
Room 147
Figure 57: A sample page of the IGTE course (running eLS 1.2) 151
Figure 58: An interactive form with server side calculation 153
Figure 59: The learning system 154
Figure 60 : Example of MusicWeb metadata form 157
Figure 61: The The Hague 3 layers concept 158
Figure 62: A screenshot from the Ear-Training weblication 159
Figure 63: Resulting image, as sent back by the GUIDO noteserver 160
Figure 64: Creating a GUIDO musical notation within a discussion forum article 161
Figure 65: The GUDIO musical notation as displayed within the discussion forum 161
Figure 66: The YoungNet System 166
Figure 67: The Hyperwave eLearning Suite, original design 167
Figure 68: The YoungNet Home 167
Figure 69: The YoungNet Workspace loaded with a page produced by pupils 168
Figure 70: The YoungNet 3D Virtual Home – with two avatars 169
Figure 71: The YoungNet 3D Virtual Home – underwater 169
Figure 72: The Playing Table of the Virtual Home 170
Figure 73: Three examples for YoungNet games: The Quiz, the EuroMap and the Pairs
game 171
Figure 74: The customized Foyer of the Telekom Austria "Web Learn System" (WLS),
based on eLS 175
Figure 75: The WLS Study Room 175
Figure 76: The WLS Course Room with seamlessly integrated existing intranet material as
course content 176
Figure 77: Seamless integration of video technology into WLS 176
Figure 78: Simple hierarchical structure 180
Figure 79: Examples for relation metadata 182
Figure 80: Hierarchy (interlinking) of concepts and information 183
Figure 81: Determining the total weight 184
Figure 82: Modified shortest path rule 184
Figure 83 : Context dependant paths 184
Figure 84: The knowledge cluster prototype: showing a base term with some relations to
other base terms 186
Figure 85: The knowledge cluster prototype: showing a base term with assigned content
and relations to a person and another base term 186
Figure 86: The knowledge cluster prototype: showing the base term of a person 187
Figure 87: The knowledge cluster prototype: filter settings 187
Figure 88: The Knowledge Broker Point 190
Figure 89: The knowledge cluster 191
Figure 90 : Interaction of knowledge clusters 191
Figure 91: Typical SL scene 195
Figure 92: Dreamweaver SL Extensions at work 196
Figure 93: Screenshot of GENTLE displaying an SL course that is being annotated 197

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Figure 94: Hyperwave Link Map visualizing parts of an SL structure 198

xiii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am indebted to my friends, colleagues, and students for their help, support, and teamwork
over the past five years. Everyone at Hyperwave and the IICM has been ready to provide
valuable help and feedback, often at a moment’s notice. Above all, Hermann Maurer’s
leadership and vision and Gerhard Pail’s fund-raising talents and managerial skills
combined to make the IICM the ideal place. In addition to that, Frank Kappe’s conviction
and support helped to make e-Learning a success at Hyperwave. Many thanks also to him
for agreeing to be second reader of this thesis.
Special mention and thanks go to the members, past and present, of the GENTLE and eLS
project team, Tarek Al-Ubaidi, Christian Eller, Angela Fessl, Christian Fessl, Michael
Gartler, Janez Hrastnik, Christian Koch, Mario Körbler, Andreas Kossmeier, Martin Mair,
Mattias Moser, Dominic Panholzer, Richard Persché, Werner Putzhuber, Christian
Stadlmann, and Simon Zwölfer, to my boss at Hyperwave Mansuet Gaisbauer for his
wisdom and understanding and to Christian Gütl and Maja Pivec for long fruitful
discussions and papers we have co-authored.
Much of the early work on GENTLE was supported by the Austrian Research Centers
Seibersdorf, the IICM and Hyperwave.
Last, but not least, I would like to thank my wife Andrea, my daughter Theresa and my
son Benedikt for their love and patience while I was travelling and working long
weekends.

xiv
GLOSSARY

Adaptive learning 24
base terms 182
Behaviorism 30
Cognitivism 33
Constructivism 35
e-Learning 18
Knowledge Card 38
knowledge cluster 183
Learning Action 38
Learning Goal 38
programmed instruction 31
serendipity effect 33
Situation Learning 192
teaching machines 31
Transactional distance 27

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ABBREVIATIONS

ADL Advanced Distributed Learning


AICC Aviation Industry CBT Consortium
ANSI American National Standards Institute
API Application Programming Interface
ASP Application Service Provider
AU Assignable Unit
B2B Business to Business
B2C Business to Consumer
B2G Business to Government
CAI Computer Assisted Instructions
CAL Computer Aided Learning
CBT Computer Based Training
CMI Computer Managed Instruction
CRM Customer Relationship Management
DTD Document Type Definition
ERPS Enterprise Resource Planning System
HCM Human Capital Management
IEEE Institute of Electronic & Electrical Engineering
ILT Instructor Led Training
ISO International Standards Organization
ITS Intelligent Tutoring System
JTC Joint Technical Committee
LCMS Learning Content Management System
LMP Learning Management Platform
LMS Learning Management System
LSP Learning Service Provider
LTSC Learning Technology Standards Committee
P2 Post secondary
PDA Personal Digital Assistant
RLO Reusable Learning Object
ROI Return On Investment
SCORM Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model

xvi
UMTS Universal Mobile Telecommunications System
VLE Virtual Learning Environment
W3C World Wide Web Consortium
WLAN Wireless Local Area Network
xDSL asymmetric or symmetric Describer Line
XML eXtensible Mark-up Language

xvii
PREFACE

This thesis covers the results of more than fives years of work (1997-2002) in the field of
e-Learning. Half of the work has been research oriented and the other half project and
product oriented to transform research results into the real world and test their feasibility.
Chapter 1 starts with a general introduction into the field of e-Learning and e-Learning
environments and conducts a brief critical analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of
e-Learning.
The next chapter, Chapter 2 examines the pedagogical, functional and non-functional
requirements of an ideal e-Learning system which will be complemented by an overview
of the current relevant standards in the field of e-Learning in chapter 3.
Chapters 4, 5 and 6 form the body of the thesis and largely describe my original work.
Chapter 4 describes the concept of the fictitious e-Learning system GENTLE. It was
implemented in large parts, first as the academic system GENTLE-WBT. Afterwards it
was commercialized under the name Hyperwave eLearning Suite.
In chapter 5 various projects are described where the aforementioned system was used. It
shall give a good overview of the flexibility and successful implementation of the system.
In chapter 6 various ideas and visions for future enhancements are presented which are
mostly based on previous papers and presentations of the author.
Finally chapter 7 summarizes the work so far, and presents a visionary outlook into the
future.

xviii
Chapter 1

1 INTRODUCTION

“The biggest growth in the Internet, and the area that will prove to be one of the biggest
agents of change, will be e-Learning. …
Education of the Internet is going to make e-mail usage like a rounding error in terms of
the Internet capacity it will consume”
John Chambers,
CEO, Cisco Systems [Chambers 1999]

1.1 Why do we need e-Learning?

Web Based Training and its newer and more general synonymous term e-Learning are two
of today’s buzz-words in the academic and business worlds. Decision-makers associate
with them new ways of learning that are more cost efficient than traditional learning
strategies and which allow students to better control the process of learning because they
can decide when, where and how fast to learn. However two questions immediately arise:
1. What exactly does e-Learning mean?
2. Is it really the best way to acquire new knowledge?
The first question can only be answered partly and vaguely because it is still under heavy
discussion what exactly e-Learning should look like, and different opinions even exist
about what components it consists of. I therefore will define e-Learning roughly in the
following way and focus later on some of its aspects in more detail:
Definition: e-Learning consists of
 At least one or more e-Learning students who try to achieve a special learning
goal
 e-Learning content which represents or at least describes the learning subject, the
learning objectives and guidelines on how to achieve them. E-Learning content
can be multimedial and interactive.
 An e-Learning environment which works as an interface between the students
and their learning objectives and provides different means to achieve the learning
goal. Usually the e-Learning environment can be accessed using a Web browser
over the Internet or Intranet and supports several learning strategies and different
ways of interaction, communication and collaboration. Additionally e-Learning
environments often include administration and management utilities and
interfaces to other systems to support the organizational part of learning as well.
Other terms for e-Learning environments, which are often used as synonyms or
with slight variations in its feature-set are e.g. (among many others):
o Computer Managed Instruction System (CMI-System)
o Learning Content Management System (LCMS)
o Learning Management Platform (LMP)

19
o Learning Management System (LMS)
o Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
o Web Based Training System (WBT-System)
I will use these terms interchangeably, as they represent the same core idea and
will mention various differences between those terms (e.g. between LMS and
LCMS) explicitly and when needed.
 Preferably one or more e-Learning coaches (or teachers/trainers) that assist and
guide students when trying to achieve their learning goal.
Note 1: Much more comprehensive descriptions of e-Learning and its technical
architecture are discussed in IEEE-Learning Technology Systems Architecture [LTSA
2001]. I will come back to this document later in chapter 3.3, page 56.
Note 2: Strictly speaking e-Learning is just one part, the learning part, and needs to be
complemented by e-Teaching. Both terms can be summarized under the term e-Education.
However because most people understand e-Learning as the overall process I will use it as
a synonym to e-Education.
The second question is easier to answer, because the answer is simply no, e-Learning is
not yet the best way to acquire new knowledge but it has the potential to be the most
efficient one for many situations, if it is used in the right way. I will explain this by asking
and answering the question “What does the ideal learning environment look like?”.

1.1.1 What does the ideal learning environment look like?


To answer this question we do not have to deal with a lot of technology. We just need to
look at the roots of learning and teaching as it was probably already practiced in e.g.
ancient Greece.
In this ideal learning situation we have a very qualified teacher who trains and guides one
or just a few students whom he knows quite well (their personal background, their
strengths and weaknesses, their personalities, how fast they can understand etc.). If there is
more than one student then all students should have about the same level of knowledge
and agreeable personal profiles, know each other quite well and love working together and
helping each other. Direct face to face communication between teacher and students (and
among students) allows to immediately react to requirements of students (questions, speed
of teaching etc.). Thus the teacher can individually respond to each of the students and
motivate them. Also all necessary illustration material is available that the students can use
to understand the teaching subject more quickly and there are plenty of possibilities to
practice and test the already learnt and use knowledge gained to solve problems with it.
This ideal situation will most probably lead to a very efficient learning process, no matter
whether the learning goal is just storing some facts, carrying out processes, or whether
they are as complex as finding new solutions for difficult problems of a certain category
(the learning subject).
However, although it might be the ideal learning environment in reality it is not usable
most of the times for at least one or more of the following reasons:
 It is limited to a very small number of similar students (say 1-3)
 Usually the teacher and the students do not know each other well enough
 It is time and place dependent
 It is very expensive because of the one to one or one to few relation between
teacher and students and the enormous investment in time.

20
Especially the fact that this scenario and all similar traditional learning strategies can not
deliver new knowledge to a large number of students fast enough is the strongest argument
which displaces instructor led training in the way described above. Additionally new
requirements such as life long learning and just-in-time learning arise out of short
development and deployment cycles and continuously changing working profile. That is
the reason why we and our economy need a new way of learning to continue to be
successful.
Psychologists such as Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936), Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-
1949), John B. Watson (1878-1958), Burrhus Frederic (BF) Skinner (1904-1990), Lev
Vygotsky (1896-1934), Jean Piaget (1896-1980), John Dewey (1859-1952), and Jerome
Bruner (1915- ) tried and are still trying to find out what the basic principles behind our
way of learning are and found the learning concepts of Behaviorism, Cognitivism and
Constructivism. These are described in more detail in chapter 2.1.1, p.31ff and their
possible implications and implementations for e-Learning are discussed.

1.1.2 Prerequisites and application scenarios for e-Learning


With e-Learning it seems that we have a new strategy which meets all demands and still
provides an efficient way of learning by incorporating learning theories and combining
them with new technological advances. Analysts such as META, GARTNER, Forrester,
IDC etc. confirm this when they predict tremendous growth for e-Learning.
According to META Group [eLearning Mag 2002/04], within the next two years, 60
percent of organizations will deploy e-learning systems. Whether the training is for new
employees, consultants, the marketing department, customers, partners, or IT workers, e-
learning tools and practices have emerged as the vehicle for efficient transfer and
management of knowledge across the extended enterprise. META Group expects the e-
learning environment market to experience strong annual growth (30%-35% through
2003) as Global 2000 organizations deploy e-learning systems in support of business
initiatives, justifying investment through rapid ROI.
One of the key prerequisites for e-Learning [SunTrust 1999] is the growth and adoption of
the Internet as its transport medium. International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasted in its
report 1998 that there will be 320 million Internet users worldwide by the end of 2002. In
the meantime this has been exceeded by far. According to Nua Internet Surveys [NUA
2002] more than 544 million users are online worldwide as of February 2002, more than
150 million hosts are available [Internet Software Consortium]. Several factors are
facilitating this substantial growth:
 A large and growing base of installed computers in the home and workplace.
 Network security, infrastructure, and bandwidth improvements.
 Advances in the speed of personal computers and modem & xDSL performance.
 Cheaper and more reliable access to the Internet.
 Consumer acceptance of online commerce.

21
Figure 1: Internet host count (Jan. 2002)

Another prerequisite for a successful implementation of e-Learning is the change of the


learner’s and the organizer’s mind because the way of learning is so much different
compared to traditional learning (e.g. learner centered vs. teacher centered) and offers
other possibilities to integrate in the overall working or living process. In addition to that
there is no single ideal way of using e-Learning efficiently, because there are different
application scenarios which require different approaches. Maybe e-Learning alone is not
the best way because it might be wise to combine it with traditional instructor led training,
so-called “blended learning” (the mixture of different learning concepts and techniques).
But at the bottom line I want to stress that e-Learning can help to improve the efficiency
of learning tremendously if done properly.
Main application scenarios where e-Learning can be used are:
 Primary, secondary and post-secondary education. This includes schools, high
schools and colleges & universities. New possibilities here are, just to name a
few:
o Virtual universities which provide access to (high quality) education
otherwise not possible for some students due to time or spatial
constraints or because it is too expensive.
o Bringing together pupils and students from different countries to better
understand other cultures and prepare for the globalized world and
ensure peace between nations. Typical subjects which are well suited
are e.g. languages, geography, history, biology and religion or cross
country projects in any subject. See also chapter 5.3, p. 165ff as an
example project which is based on that concept.
o The chance to better support pupils and students with different needs
e.g. by providing more individual supervision, support and possibilities
for practicing, or by offering a broader or deeper spectrum of
information for highly interested individuals.
o With the new communication and collaboration functionalities of e-
Learning, which are also available outside school, change the drill and

22
practice fact learning to more independent but guided knowledge
acquisition.
However the amount of e-Learning in the sense of virtual learning that seems to
be useful differs much between primary and post-secondary education, because
primary education also has the additional goal of socializing children which can
not be done yet by e-Learning in a sensible way. Therefore in this case it is more
an additional way of learning and teaching and not a replacement.
 Working life (corporate training sector). Here e-Learning has its main advantage
in its elimination of the border between learning and working. However this does
not mean that learning can be done completely on the side, because learning is a
mental process that still needs its time and environment. It means that learning
can be better integrated in the working process. Examples for this are:
o Just in time knowledge: learn what and when you need it. This requires
that the learning system is accessible at any time and easy to use to
concentrate on the knowledge and problem solution and not on the
system.
o Assured rapid knowledge transfer: Inform employees about things they
do not even know exist in a controlled way so that it is verifiable that
the information has been consumed and understood.
o Quick distribution of information about new products and strategies
which have a short life span to a large number of employees. Traditional
learning strategies are not able to perform a “rollout” to several hundred
or thousand employees within short time.
o Human Capital Management (HCM): This is a more focused and
strategic training of employees depending on their future employment
and career path. The training can be done with blended learning (mixing
different learning strategies, e.g. ILT1 and e-Learning), but coordinated
and controlled by skill gap analysis and skill management (as part of an
overall e-Learning architecture).
o Virtual corporate universities: Especially in large enterprises with many
employees it makes sense to have one centralized trainings department,
the so called corporate university. However quite often large companies
have many branches and offices which are distributed over several
countries or even continents. In this case it is much more efficient to
make large parts of the training virtual to cut down traveling costs and
absence of the workplace and offer distant education within a virtual
corporate university.
 Life-long learning: Short production cycles, the short half-life period of
knowledge and new ideas continue to revolutionize business and our everyday
life. As an individual or as an employee "What you Know" equates to "What You
Are Worth". Employers buy Skills and Know How. Keeping up in times of rapid
change increases the individual’s worth and is the prerequisite for career
advances. Even in our everyday life new tools and concepts have an impact and
require ongoing learning. E-Learning could be a good and cost efficient solution
which allows learning at home.

1
Instructor-led training

23
1.2 A brief critical analysis of advantages and disadvantages of e-Learning

Several advantages and disadvantages are usually associated with e-Learning. In this
chapter I will examine the advantages, discuss their potential risks and check under which
prerequisites they can be true and take a look at disadvantages and show possible solutions
for them.

1.2.1 Advantages

1.2.1.1 Independence of learning place


Advantage:
Individuals in various places can effectively communicate with co-workers or instructors
without being in the same room. Students can learn at home in a relaxed atmosphere or at
the working place.
The biggest advantage here is cost and time saving, because neither travel and
accommodation expenses arise, nor do costs arise for missed working time due to
travelling.
Potential risks:
As mentioned in the previous chapter about prerequisites the most important requirement
for e-Learning is access to a server over the Internet or Intranet where the learning
environment runs. However not always are the bandwidth and thus the connection speed
sufficient for the e-Learning content, especially if it is multi-medial. In addition to that
good Internet access can become quite cost intensive. However flat rate xDSL or cable-
modem connections begin to widespread especially in cities and will soon become a
standard in a high percentage of households. In the meantime a combination of offline
(CBT-like) and online learning, where the user need not be online all the time but just to
synchronize with the server, could be a solution for that problem.
But that is just the beginning. True spatial independence will emerge when handheld
devices or lightweight laptops in combination with wireless connections (over e.g.
ISO802.11b [IEEE 802.11b] or UMTS [UMTS]) are fully developed and gain acceptance.
Independently of all technical aspects we also have to take a look at social impacts of
learning at external training institutions: Meeting other learners at different places, in the
case of corporate trainings often in different cities far away from daily business can also be
of special value and often understood as an additional incentive, maybe also because
employees know that this is rather expensive. For this companies have to find explicit
compensations maybe in form of rewards for the successfully passed e-Learning course to
motivate the employees. In addition to that it might be rather wise to not hold an e-
Learning course as a completely virtual course but also schedule real face to face meetings
(we then speak about “blended learning”)
 at the beginning of the course, to introduce all learners and the coach to each
other,
 maybe during the training to enforce communication and collaboration, provide
synchronization points and motivate the learners and
 at the end of the course to discuss how to proceed after the course, because with
e-Learning, learning is not necessarily over with the end of the course but could
be redone or extended.

1.2.1.2 Free choice of learning time and speed and Just-In-Time learning
Advantage:

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Learner can decide when the best time for learning is, e.g. during breaks or when the
learner is relaxed and can adjust the speed of learning according to their needs like their
powers of comprehension or whether they are in a fit state.
Just-In-Time learning allows individuals to learn on an as-needed basis. Employees or
students can access information closer to the time the knowledge is needed rather than
obtaining information that may never be used or may be used in the long-term.
Potential risks:
Two important parts of e-Learning are communication and collaboration. Especially
synchronous communication like chat or video conferencing is highly time dependent and
only works if all communication partners are online at the same time and thus requires
good time management. Even asynchronous communication and collaboration are not
completely free of any time constraints because it does not make sense to answer questions
or work together on a project if the time delays after each reaction are weeks or months.
Even days can become a problem when close collaboration is required; here different time
zones (such as between Europe and Japan) might already become an annoyance.
However from a pedagogical point of view taking an e-Learning course can not be done
on the side during working breaks. Like with a traditional instructor led training at a
different place it needs to be well organized and enough time reserved to be successful.
Given milestones that have to be reached, virtual meetings or virtual office hours with a
fixed place within the learner’s time schedule can help to put a certain pressure on the
student to advance with the self-learning or fulfil the given tasks and exercises.

1.2.1.3 Fast distribution and dissemination of new information to many people


Advantage:
e-Learning increases the rate at which knowledge is acquired, which is especially
important in the corporate market and can be used to distribute information about e.g.
 new products and strategies that have a short life cycle to train account managers
or consultants or
 procedural changes which have to be implemented by a large number of
employees as fast as possible
Potential risks:
The creation of the e-Learning environment, and especially the production of content
material is not fast and efficient enough. Reuse of content units, metadata and standardized
interfaces can help here. Quite often less sophisticated content can be enhanced by a good
learning strategy and good support by the coach or tutor.
e-Learning is not only a technology that has to be introduced but a whole concept which
also requires changes in the organization to work fast and efficiently. Especially in
combination with assured information delivery and just in time learning there is no clear
dividing line between intranet-/ knowledge management systems and an e-Learning
environment. To make it work, an overall concept needs to be made and pushed through.

1.2.1.4 Adaptive learning


Advantage:
With e-Learning the learning content and concept can be adapted to each individual's
strengths and weaknesses to make the learning experience most efficient. Depending on
the knowledge background of the learner, which has been determined by pre-tests, the
preferred learning style and type and the progress made so far (verified via post-tests and

25
the speed of learning) the environment decides what and in which way content should be
offered next. Possible parameters are different learning paths through the content, different
ways of presentation of the same content (e.g. with or without audio) or offering a
different set of functions which the user interface of the learning system provides to reduce
complexity.
Potential risks:
Unfortunately adaptive systems or so called Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS), which are
by concept the most advanced form, are quite complex and not fully developed yet. Most
e-Learning systems only provide a rather restricted feature set (like pre-/post-tests and
simple learning paths) and the creation of contents which support these techniques is
rather time consuming and expensive. Here good authoring tools and reuse of content
could help a lot.
Quite often the learning subject which does not only consist of the content is not well
prepared and does not support several different learning concepts and techniques or the
learner does not know how to deal with or use them because the user interface and
guidance of the system, the tutor and the content is not good enough. The only solution to
that problem is that course authors, tutors and developers of e-Learning environments are
aware of pedagogical principles and act according to them to get the most out of the
technical possibilities.

1.2.1.5 Multimedia and interactive learning is motivating and ensures learning


success.
Advantage:
Numerous research efforts on the effect of media on learning have shown that different
media types have different efficiencies in terms of what a learner can recall. Especially the
combination of media has very different efficiencies.
In general from 100 % of the learning material (facts) we can remember:
 10 % through reading,
 20 % through hearing,
 30 % through seeing,
 40 % through hearing and seeing,
 80 % through hearing, seeing and doing (interacting)
In addition to that well prepared content is fun learning and thus motivates the learner
which increases learning success.
Potential risks:
Unfortunately the creation of good content, especially when it contains animations and
simulations, audio and video parts is very costly and requires good know how in different
knowledge areas. In addition to that available bandwidth and connection speed still limits
the use of large volume of data such as videos.
A way around these problems are better authoring tools which automate large parts of the
authoring process (including technical and pedagogical issues), reuse of content and the
use of other learning concepts that do not only focus on fully prepared content, but make
communication, collaboration, self-controlled knowledge gathering and content
production a key element.
Other possibilities to work around the technical restrictions of limited bandwidth is using
the already previously mentioned hybrid technology which combines online and offline
learning, where large volumes of data (such as videos) are accessible locally (e.g. via
CDROM or DVD).

26
1.2.1.6 Not only results but the whole learning process can be supervised and the
learner’s performance and progress tracked.
Advantage:
Server based e-Learning environments offer the possibility to log any transaction to the
server and thus provide a detailed report how the users behave within the environment.
This information can be used to get a good overview what progress the learners make and
act accordingly by motivating them or offering help in case of difficulties. Or it can be
used to find out who is good at doing certain things at an early stage and sponsor the
learner by offering a special career path.
In addition to that the system can be also used to manage skill profiles of all tracked
students at a higher level to find out who is an expert for a special knowledge area or what
knowledge is missing to make the employee an expert.
Potential risks:
The above described advantages are mainly on the tutor’s or employer’s side; the learner
might see such things a little bit different because this kind of controlling can also be
understood as an infringement of privacy. Depending on the country different laws which
protect people’s private sphere could exist. In addition to considering local laws and
learners’ objections special care has to be taken that this kind of information and data must
not be misused.

1.2.2 Disadvantages

1.2.2.1 No personal contact to teacher/coach and to other learners


Disadvantage:
Virtual communication such as audio and video conferencing is very costly, not always
possible and also not a full replacement of face to face contact.
The lack of personal contact demotivates learners and increases the drop out rate.
Remedy:
To keep online learners motivated, several measures can help:
 Community building: By creating a team of learners working for the same goal
and supporting each other an internal pressure for progress and success is put on
all members.
 Reachable and verifiable goals and milestones help the learners to check whether
they are on track or need to speed up.
 Clear guidelines and a good user interface prevent that users are lost within the
system and give up. User need to feel at home within the environment.
 In case of very difficult topics: Wrap the primary learning goal into a different
more motivating story which is easier to understand and makes more fun. This
uses the incidental learning effect [Holzinger & Maurer 1999].
 Mix online learning with real face to face meetings to introduce all members and
synchronize their learning progress.

27
1.2.2.2 Incentive of external training does not exist any more
Disadvantage:
External, especially longer trainings are often seen as an incentive because they are very
expensive, travelling to other cities and getting in contact with other people and cultures,
social events are fun.
Remedy:
Make clear that participating at trainings is the real incentive and a personal chance at the
same time. Give other incentives directly connected to success of training to ensure that it
has an immediate effect. E.g. finishing several trainings lead to a better position or an
advancement on own career path.

1.2.2.3 Learning from a computer display is difficult to get used to, is unpleasant and
unhealthy
Disadvantage:
Compared to books reading from screen is more strain on the eyes.
Remedy:
One possibility is to also use other media than the screen, e.g. audio voices that explain
certain aspects, or include tasks which do not require the computer display to look at, not
everything need to be done or practiced by using the PC.
For the future there is the hope that display technology will significantly improve. Good
TFT displays are already available and will continue to increase in brightness and contrast,
new technologies like electronic ink (E-Ink, [Jacobson 1997]) are currently under
development.

1.2.2.4 Only few online-learners finish a course


Disadvantage:
According to Forrester research 70% of learners starting with an online course will never
finish it. Carr [Carr 2000] noted that dropout rates are often 10 to 20 percentage points
higher in distance education courses than in traditional courses. Is online learning really
efficient enough?
Remedy:
First there are a number of well-documented reasons for some dropouts, including the fact
that adults sometimes only register for a course in order to obtain knowledge, not credit,
and may therefore drop the course once they obtain the knowledge they desire.
As already mentioned in previous suggestions motivating learners to keep them working
with the learning environment and topic is the key to successful learners. To achieve this
good, use of different pedagogical concepts is required. One key issue here is the support
of learning communities. According to Rovai [Rovai 2002] seven factors are positive
correlates to sense of community and influence course design and pedagogy:
 Transactional distance: This is the psychological and communication space
between learners and instructors and is a function of structure and dialogue
[Moore 1993]. Structure is the amount of control exercised by the instructor in a
learning environment and tends to increase psychological distance. Dialogue is
the amount of control exercised by the learner and tends to decrease
psychological distance and increase sense of community.

28
 Social presence: This means that tutors need to be present within the virtual
community; creating content and establishing the community without fostering it
is not enough.
 Social equality: One of the difficult tasks of a tutor is to play the role of a
moderator to insure equal opportunities for participation by all students. A threat
to community occurs when one or more students use an authoritative tone in
online discussions, followed by those students who have a more inclusive style of
discourse, who feel put off and thus reduce discussion participation.
 Small group activities: Breaking large numbers of students into small groups
(typically under ten learners each), providing specific tasks, and setting timelines
support the concepts of situated learning and communities of practice and help
students make connections with each other.
 Group facilitation: To support the group’s way of working, to strengthen,
regulate and perpetuate the group as a group the following skills are useful for the
tutor to have as the group’s facilitator: encourager, harmonizer, compromiser,
gatekeeper, standard setter, observer, and follower.
 Teaching style and learning stage: Good teaching does two things:
(a) it matches the student’s stage of self-direction, and
(b) it empowers the student to progress toward greater self-direction.
Good teaching is situational and requires that the online instructor design and
facilitate an online course that accommodates the needs of all learners, regardless
of their stage of learning.
 Community size: The right community size is the last important factor to
correlate to the sense of community. Too few members generate little interactions
and too many members generate a sense of being overwhelmed. As a general
guideline eight to ten students are the critical mass necessary for a community
where 20-30 students are the maximum that a single online tutor usually can
handle. However, larger online courses can be managed by using a team teaching
approach in order to maintain a reasonable student-instructor ratio and by using
multiple active discussion groups so that each learner can make connections with
a reasonable number of community members. Alternatively, large courses that
focus on delivering content can be created, followed by small discussion groups
led by subject matter experts providing one-on-few coaching and mentoring.
[Rovai 2002]

1.2.2.5 The installation and use of learning systems is too time consuming and
complex and thus expensive
Disadvantage:
Here we have to distinguish between the installation of the system and its usage. The
installation is indeed a complex task which must not be reduced to the technical parts like
setting up the system and its technical infrastructure but also have to include the
organizational concept which is required to make e-learning a success.
Unfortunately the usage of the system for the different types of users is quite often too
unclear and confusing and leads to improper and inefficient utilization.
Remedy:
Designers and developers of e-Learning environments have to place more stress on
usability, consistency and modularity, keep it simple and intuitive (“less is more”). Users

29
should enjoy using the system, which also includes that such systems have no or very few
bugs. The advantages of the system must be clearly visible for all involved roles (learner,
trainer, author, administrator and the decision makers who pay for all of this). Immediate
Return of Investment is probably more important here than elsewhere to be successful.

1.2.2.6 The creation of e-learning courses is too expensive


Disadvantage:
The production of high quality e-Learning courses is very expensive.
Remedy:
First this is not completely true because that depends on how the course is used and which
costs are compared. If an expensive course is used by hundreds or thousands of employees
that otherwise would have been trained by traditional instructor led training seminars and
if all additional costs such as travel and accommodation costs and absence times are
included in the comparison then the creation of an expensive course and giving the online
seminar might be still the cheaper solution.
According to the Knowledge Management magazine [Grzanka 1999] Hill Associates
compared CBT/WBT with an instructor led training on the basis of a four hour technical
session for 500 employees, which already showed a cost reduction when using e-Learning,
although they use CBTs instead of WBTs and thus the production of CDROMs was a very
large item.
Expenses CBT/WBT Instructor-Led
Course development cost (eloquent, consultants), USD 150,000 USD 0
(ILT material already existed)
Course delivery fee (instructor for 500 students) USD 0 USD 50,000
Travel (instructor and 500 students) USD 0 USD 250,000
Hotels (instructor) USD 0 USD 50,000
Materials (CDs/books) USD 99,500 USD 10,000
Shipping USD 2,000 USD 2,000
Total USD 251,000 USD 362,000

Table 1: Comparing costs of CBT/WBT vs. Instructor-Led training

In addition to that authoring costs can be reduced by good authoring tools and reuse of
already produced material.
Another possibility to cut down costs for creating course content material is to reduce the
amount of material used and substitute it by other learning concepts such as online
collaboration.

30
Chapter 2

2 THE IDEAL CURRENT E-LEARNING SYSTEM


(BASED ON A REQUIREMENTS ANALYSIS)

"The man who can make hard things easy is the educator."
~Ralph W. Emerson (1803-1882)

In this chapter I will discuss the pedagogical, technical and functional requirements which
have to be fulfilled to provide an ideal e-Learning system.

2.1 Pedagogical requirements

Up to now many e-learning systems consist of several parts and functions (like
administration, runtime environment, communication, etc.) that are either loosely
connected or not connected at all and where no overall educational idea lies behind them.
However in a pure virtual learning environment the learners have mostly total control of
from where, when and how they acquire the desired knowledge. Therefore the learners
have to be guided by the content, the tutors and the system to prevent that they are
distracted by too many possibilities. It is also necessary that the system helps the authors
when creating and structuring the learning theme and modeling a didactic concept which
the trainers have to support. We need “guidance without dictatorship” but must avoid the
“lost in hyperspace” problem [Dietinger & Maurer 1997]).

2.1.1 Learning Theories


We talk about learning when we can detect a relativly stable change in some-ones
behavior or behavioral dispositions, which is a result of learning-activities. Examples of
learning are learning to speak language, to calculate equations, to think before you act, to
spend less money or to play a piano part by heart. In all these cases learning has occurred
when we are able to perform those activities, which we were not capable of before.
Learning is an active process, in which we can speak of learning-activities. We have to
focus our attention, decode information and understand the information. Learning takes
place in a learning environment. This means that learning occurs under certain conditions
that are specially designed to improve learning. In this chapter I focus on three different
views on learning environments: behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism.

2.1.1.1 Behaviorism
Behaviorism concerns itself solely with measurable and observable data and excludes
explicit ideas, emotions, and the consideration of inner mental experiences and activities
and is not interested in conscious (cognitive) control processes. The brain is understood as
a “black box” which gets certain input (“stimuli”) and reacts in a deterministic way. In
behaviorist thinking, the focal point of learning is in shaping the responses of the learner.
The theoretical and didactical problem is to research the appropriate stimuli and to enforce
the correct behaviour with adequate feedback.

31
Thorndike2 states in “The law of exercises” that the bonds between stimuli and responses
are strengthened through being exercised frequently. In behavioristic learning terminology
that means whether a connection is “stamped-in” depends on how often it is exercised.
Later on this was superseded by Thorndike’s “Law of effects” which states simply that
responses that are made just prior to a pleasant event are more likely to be repeated and
thus “learnt”, while responses that are made just prior to unpleasant events are more likely
to diminish.
The graphic below shows the behavioristic model of learning:
o Sin(t) means the signal input
o F(t) is the external feedback
o Sout(t) means the signal output
o z(t) are not directly observed events, so called variables

Figure 2: Behavioristic model of learning

f(t)

Brain
sin(t) (black box) sout(t)

z(t)

Skinner [Skinner 1954] noted that the learning process should be divided into "a very large
number of very small steps and reinforcement must be contingent upon the
accomplishment of each step." Skinner also stated that by making the steps of learning
small, the frequency of reinforcement can be increased and the frequency of being wrong
is reduced.
Skinner wrote about "teaching machines" [Skinner 1958], which were mechanical devices
designed to present educational material to students at their own pace and to reinforce
correct responses to the material while preparing the student to respond correctly to
subsequent material. He called this method of teaching (whether it used machines or
workbooks) programmed instruction. Programmed instruction is a special type of
"interactive training". Skinner described the purpose of a teaching machine as follows:
The important features of the device are these: reinforcement for the right answer is
immediate. The mere manipulation of the device will probably be reinforcing enough to
2
Edward Lee Thorndike (1874-1949)

32
keep the average pupil at work for a suitable period each day, provided traces of earlier
aversive control can be wiped out.
The device makes it possible to present carefully designed material in which one problem
can depend upon the answer to the preceding problem and where, therefore, the most
efficient progress to an eventually complex repertoire can be made. Provision has been
made for recording the commonest mistakes so that the tapes can be modified as
experience dictates. Additional steps can be inserted where pupils tend to have trouble,
and ultimately the material will reach a point at which the answers of the average child
will almost always be right.
Skinner concluded with the theory that the proposed changes would free the teacher for
more important functions and that mechanized instruction should be integrated into all
schools, not as a replacement for, but as an adjunct to the teacher.
Behaviorism is therefore well suited for:
 simple drill & practice patterns, such as
o learning vocabulary in a language lab or
o with classical learning software
 learning psychomotoric abilities, such as
o typewriting, piloting, laboratory work, playing a piano
 to generate models and mathematical formulas for explaining learning
(quantitative description)
But it also has the disadvantage that this kind of learning hardly leads to a deeper
understanding of the learning content but mainly to factual knowledge. One of the big
dangers is also that stereotyped procedures demotivate the learners.
If we map Skinner’s teaching machine to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) we can
develop the following requirements for it to support the behavioristic learning theory:
 The learning content needs to be separated into several small chunks (learning
units).
 The VLE has to provide a strict navigation through these chunks of information,
which guarantees that:
o Only relevant chunks are presented to the learner, meaning that the
required skill level is not too high and not too low for the student. This
could be done e.g. by pre-tests and learning paths. A learning path
defines which learning units are presented in which order. As an
extension the concept can also be expanded from the content to the
whole user interface of the VLE, meaning that only those functions are
available that are relevant for the current knowledge of the user and in
the current situation.
o The information is processed by the learner and if not it is reinforced,
meaning e.g. immediately repeated. This could be done by post-tests
and repetitions which are included in the learning paths.
Note: Both requirements above lead to the necessity for tests and
tracking and processing the progress of each student and also to provide
some kind of reporting tools for the teacher and the student to monitor
the progress.

33
o Open questions from students are answered and that the direct (through
questions and remarks) or indirect (expressed by their collective failing
of some questions) feedback of students is incorporated into the learning
content to increase the quality of the learning units. I will later call this
functionality “Active Documents” (see chapter 4.6.1.11, page 126)
To increase or at least maintain the motivation several measures can help:
 Add multimedia, interactivity and humor to the learning content, so that it is fun
to “drill and practice” it.
 Add background libraries, so that the students are not restricted to the material
presented and which they have to go through but can also explore other material
that stays in direct context to benefit from the “serendipity effect” [Kuhlen 1991].
This however would be in conflict with the theory of behaviorism because it
distracts the user from the direct learning path.
 As Skinner notes he sees his teaching machine only as a tool which should be
used as an extension to the teacher. Thus one possible way to enhance motivation
is to combine the behavioristic learning approach with instructor-led training or
with other appropriate learning concepts (see Cognitivism, p34 and
Constructivism, p36). This approach is often called “Blended Learning”.

2.1.1.2 Cognitivism
In general, the term Cognition refers to mental processes that can be described as an
experience of knowing as opposed to an experience of feeling or of willing. Cognition
includes all processes of consciousness by which knowledge is built up, including topics
like conception, perception, recognition and reasoning.
Cognitivism stresses the internal processes within the human brain and tries to distinguish
research and put into relation each of the functions. For a cognitivist the human brain is
not a black box, where only input and output are relevant. Here the goal is to develop a
model which describes the intervening processes. Here the brain’s own processing and
transforming capacity is acknowledged. Individual differences in carrying out some
functions are less important than in Behaviorism.

f(t)

Brain
sin(t) amples for such new sout(t)
devices:
which should be used
ng path, but it leads us
to the next suggestion t
material
ith instructor l(internal
processes)

z(t)
Figure 3: Cognitivistic model of learning

34
In Cognitivism problem solving is the main way of learning: Not one answer or reaction to
a certain question or stimulus needs to be practiced but more generally the right method(s)
and procedure(s) have to be learned and understood and which of them leads to one or
more of the right solutions. It is quite possible that not only one way leads to the optimum
result but that several procedures can do this; however all of them will be trained
explicitly.
Cognitive theories emphasize making knowledge meaningful and helping learners
organize and relate new information to existing knowledge in memory. Instructions must
be based on a student’s existing mental structures, or schema, to be effective. Teachers
should organize information in such a way that learners are able to connect new
information with existing knowledge in some meaningful way. Analogies and metaphors
are examples of this type of cognitive strategy. Such cognitive emphases imply that major
tasks of the teacher/author include:
 understanding that individuals bring different learning experiences to the learning
situation which can impact learning outcomes;
 determining the most effective manner in which to organize and structure new
information to tap the learners’ previously acquired knowledge, abilities, and
experiences; and
 arranging practice with feedback so that the new information is effectively and
efficiently assimilated and/or accommodated within the learner’s cognitive
structure.

If we map the cognitivistic model to e-Learning environments we can derive the following
requirements:
 Emphasis on the active involvement of the learner in the learning process such as
learner control and Metacognitive training. Metacognition is the process of
thinking about thinking. Flavell [Flavell 1976] describes it as follows:
"Metacognition refers to one's knowledge concerning one's own cognitive
processes or anything related to them, e.g., the learning-relevant properties of
information or data. For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that
I am having more trouble learning A than B; if it strikes me that I should double
check C before accepting it as fact." (p 232). To support these techniques an e-
Learning system should support the following tasks with built-in functions and
tools:
o Self planning the learning process (by e.g. offering several different
ways of acquiring the information, by offering a calendar or simple
planning tools such as tasks and milestones lists)
o Monitoring learning progress (by e.g. including exercises or self-
assessments and offering statistical reports to learners about their own
learning progress)
 Emphasis on structuring, organizing, and sequencing information to facilitate
optimal processing. Support of the use of cognitive strategies such as outlining,
summaries, synthesizers or advance organizers by offering tools such as
o An individual workspace, including simple authoring and structuring
tools to summarize and reprocess information
o Powerful search facilities to locate relevant information
o Private annotations and typed links and bookmarks, automatically
summarized by a learner’s diary.
o Mind maps

35
o Semantic networks
 Use of hierarchical analyses to identify and illustrate prerequisite relationships
(cognitive task analysis procedures). Here again Mind Maps could be of great
value.
 Creation of learning environments that allow and encourage students to make
connections with previously learnt material. This should support the recall of
prerequisite skills, use of relevant examples and analogies. This could be
provided by an:
o Acquired-skill inventory (could be part of the skill management
functionality), which is created partly automatically, by summarizing
the difference between the pre- and post-test results after successfully
finishing a course, and. also includes private entries to reflect additional
experiences.
o Private knowledge base (or workspace) organized in a hierarchical or
semantic structure and containing collected articles, summaries,
annotations and bookmarks.

2.1.1.3 Constructivism
Constructivism is a theory which is based on results of Piaget's research. It differs from the
traditional view that knowledge exists independently of individuals, the view that the mind
is a tabula rasa, a blank tablet upon which a picture can be painted.

f(t)

sout(t)
Learner
sin(t)

z(t)
Figure 4: Constructivistic model of learning

Piaget postulated that there are mental structures that determine how data and new
information are perceived. If the new data make sense to the existing mental structure,
then the new information is incorporated into the structure. Rather than simply absorbing
ideas through endless, repeated rote practice, constructivism posits that students actually
invent their ideas. Learning is considered as a reconstruction rather than a transmission of
knowledge. Learners assimilate new information to simple, pre-existing notions, and

36
modify their understanding in light of new data. They will reformulate their existing
structures only if new information or experiences are connected to knowledge already in
memory. Inferences, elaborations and relationships between old perceptions and new ideas
must be personally drawn by the students in order for the new idea to become an
integrated, useful part of their memory.
If the data are very different from the existing mental structure, it does not make any sense
to incorporate them into the structure. The new information is either rejected or the
information is assimilated or transformed so that it will fit into the structure. In short, the
learners must actively construct new information onto their existing mental framework for
meaningful learning to occur. However one logical disadvantage of the constructivist
learning theory is that it is not well suited to approach a topic which is totally new for the
students.
According to Yager [Yager 1991] the constructivist learning approach leads to the
following suggestions on how teachers should proceed in their lessons. These
recommendations are initially made for instructor base teaching in schools, however they
also give an idea how this could be supported by Virtual Learning Environments in e-
learning courses:
 Seek out and use student questions and ideas to guide lessons and whole
instructional units.
 Accept and encourage student initiation of ideas.
 Promote student leadership, collaboration, location of information and taking
actions as a result of the learning process.
 Use student thinking, experiences and interests to drive lessons.
 Encourage the use of alternative sources for information both from written
materials and experts.
 Encourage students to suggest causes for event and situations and encourage
them to predict consequences.
 Seek out student ideas before presenting teacher ideas or before studying ideas
from textbooks or other sources.
 Encourage students to challenge each other’s conceptualizations and ideas.
 Encourage adequate time for reflection and analysis; respect and use all ideas that
students generate.
 Encourage self-analysis, collection of real evidence to support ideas and
reformulation of ideas in light of new knowledge.
 Use student identification of problems with local interest and impact as
organizers for the course.
 Use local resources (human and material) as original sources of information that
can be used in problem resolution.
 Involve students in seeking information that can be applied in solving real-life
problems.
 Extend learning beyond the class period, classroom and the school.
 Focus on the impact of the learning topic on each individual student.
 Refrain from viewing content as something that merely exists for students to
master on tests.

37
 Emphasize career awareness--especially as related to the learning topic.
Many of these suggestions are relevant for the e-learning content author and the teacher
who prepare the learning topic and do only little coaching, but most of them can be
supported by various tools which the learning environment should provide. In reality this
could work like this:
The Teacher will only provide instructions on how to start with the knowledge acquisition.
This could be some basic introductory material describing the topic with suggested
guidelines and some hints on how and with which means to start. The teacher should
decide which tools are offered for the students and are appropriate for them to use to
prevent an overload and distracting with too much technology. During the course the
teacher has to coach the students with answers to their questions or motivate them by
expressing conflicting opinions on the topic, raise new questions or give some hints, but
the teachers should not influence the students too much and should not play an active role,
because according to Constructivism personal experience is in the foreground and not the
helping tutor. At the end or even in between the verification whether the desired
knowledge has been really acquired will not be done by an assessment but by a delivery
describing and summarizing what they have learnt which can also be judged by other
students working on similar topics. The presented material can also be used as an input for
new topics.
This leads to the following requirements for the tool set of the learning environment:
 Authoring tool for the teacher to package all descriptions, contents, references
and supporting tools which are required to work out the target topic by the
students. This package goes beyond what is understood as typical instructional
course material.
 Simple structuring and authoring tools to summarize gained knowledge and
present it to others.
 (Background) libraries and glossaries which include internal material
(background stories, electronic books and publications etc.), simulations
(emulations of the real world or a connection to a real remote lab) and external
material (such as rated and reviewed references) to browse for information.
 Rich and powerful search facilities including full-text, similarity and experts
search and scheduled agents which allow learners to search within the internal
and the external information.
 Personal annotation, rating and linking tools which allow working on the
material.
 Cognitive tools such as mind maps and semantic networks to structure gained
knowledge.
 Collaboration features such as team building with shared workspaces and group
annotations. Shared calendars and task lists might help to coordinate advanced
students and schedule their jobs. Rating/voting tools could support sorting out
and rating relevant material, and during the presentation phase allow the other
students and the teacher to assess the prepared material.
 Synchronous and asynchronous communication features, such as discussion
forums, messaging with mailing lists, text-, audio-, video chat, question/answer
dialogs, shared whiteboards and application sharing tools to communicate with
other learners, experts and tutors.

38
As the reader has perhaps already recognized the cognitivistic and constructivistic
approaches to learning and the required tools have quite a lot of similarities to knowledge
management, where information also has to be collected, organized and structured and
then processed and prepared for delivery to the right people. Here the tasks of a student are
quite similar to those of a knowledge worker.
Learning which is integrated in everyday tasks, such as learning by doing, learning from
mistakes, learning through networking or learning from interpersonal experiments is also
summarized under the term “incidental learning” [Lankard 1995]. According to Holzinger
[Holzinger et al 2001] incidental learning is more efficient than intentional learning
because learners rather concentrate on the learning goal than on the learning process itself
because they are not conscious of the fact that they are learning at the moment. That is also
the way children learn, and they do it quite effectively.
Another strategy which can make learning more effective is to increase the motivation for
(incidental or intentional) learning which is dependent on increasing arousal [Holzinger
2000]. According to Holzinger there is an optimal level of arousal for the most effective
learning behavior. Important sources of arousal are stimulation, meaningfulness and the
novelty of situations. Brehm & Self [Brehm & Self 1989] also define “motivational”
arousal as a function of the extent to which learners assume personal responsibility for the
outcomes of their behavior. Holzinger used this background to produce a prototype system
called VRfriends [Holzinger & Maurer 1999]. Here a virtual avatar, the VRfriend, from
time to time asks questions about a certain topic which the student has to answer. The
problem of how to find the right answer has to be solved by the users themselves. If the
answer is correct the VRfriend stays happy, otherwise it gets sad. The goals is that students
develop a certain responsibility for their VRfriends and always try to keep them happy,
similar to the small devices called “Tamagotchi” which were used extensively by children
during the late 90’s.
All this strategies and theories support the conclusion that learner centered knowledge
acquisition is an efficient way of learning which has to be supported by a good virtual
learning environment.

2.1.1.3.1 The collaborative e-Learning environment Coronet/WBT-Master


One example of an e-Learning system which supports the cognitivistic and constructivistic
approach is WBT-Master [Helic et al 2002][Helic et al 2000], which was also developed
at the IICM.
WBT-Master integrates collaborative learning with knowledge management by linking a
sequence of learning activities with knowledge creation, knowledge structuring and
knowledge dissemination processes in a manageable way.
Of special interest are the following learning concepts:
 Learning Goals:
A learning goal consists of a structured collection of learning actions and is
defined by a tutor. A complex learning action is a collection of other learning
actions. A simple learning action is a request to carry out a particular action to
move a user one step closer to the learning goal. Such an action can be a reading
session, communication with a tutor or another expert, passing a test, publishing a
learner’s own material or solving a training problem such as doing a real work.
This learning action is accompanied by a number of so-called learning resources,
e.g. a course, document, learning unit, discussion forum, brainstorming session,
etc... Tutors can assess the learning actions carried out by learners during on-line
sessions and, thus, communicate with the learners, track their activity and certify
their results.

39
 Knowledge Cards
A knowledge card is a description of a particular concept and allows the
definition of a conceptual view to a number of associated learning resources and
can be also related to other knowledge cards. In addition to specially prepared
training materials and any other type of document the system supports the
involvement of human subject matter experts as learning resources. Learners may
create their own knowledge card to structure their learning resources and
experiences and may combine them into a semantic network using just one type
of relationship: “is a part of”, the inverse relationship is called “consists of”.
 Knowledge Domains[Helic et al 2001c]:
Global structures of learning resources can be organized within knowledge
domains. Each knowledge domain is a set of documents belonging to a number
of predefined semantic categories. A semantic category also includes the
definition of a number of attributes (key-value pair). If for example a semantic
category “module” has been created with an attribute “programming language”
then each author who assigns a document to that category also needs to specify
the used “programming language” of that “module”. The main goal of knowledge
domains is to create and maintain well structured repositories which can also be
browsed and searched.
 Brainstorming sessions
A brainstorming session is a structured collection of articles of different types
(e.g. question/answer, idea, supporting/contra argument, comment). Additionally
all contributions can be ranked to elaborate the best idea. Brainstorming sessions
are initiated and organized by a moderator and can be used for collaborative
problem solving where a number of knowledge workers have to solve a given
problem.
 Mentoring sessions [Helic et al 2001b]
Mentoring session can be used for problem solving with the help of an
experienced knowledge worker (so called mentor) via synchronous
communication sessions. During such a session all learning resources the mentor
selects will be also transmitted to all learners. The mentor and the learners may
also communicate by means of a special chat facility. Mentoring session may be
also recorded and viewed asynchronously later on.

2.1.1.4 How it fits together


The different theories about the learning process also mean a different view about teaching
and the way knowledge and skills should be imparted. In Behaviourism it is a matter of
producing suitable input to cause the correct reaction. Appropriate feedback, which has
been created outside, has to support this process. From this concludes an authoritarian
teacher model: The teacher knows what is wrong and what is right and has to find ways
and means to get it across to the students, which have to remember the correct factual
knowledge to produce correct answers for predefined questions.
In Congitivism this evens out a little bit: Learners have to solve offered problems
relatively independently (procedural knowledge: “know how”). However, the tasks are
already didactically cleaned, meaning that all irrelevant facts have been removed, the
situation has been simplified and has been presented as a concrete problem. The tutors
coach the learning process, supervise and if necessary also help the learners.
In Constructivim the learner’s own personal experience is given priority. Learners have to
cope with complex situations and at the same time have to create the actual problems and

40
tasks which they have to solve (social practice: ”knowing-in-action”). Teachers play the
role of coaches or moderators. They lose parts of their apparent infallibility because they
are, together with the learners, exposed to the criticism of the actual situation. Their
teaching role arises solely from their bigger experience (of life) and from their ability to
support other people to cope with complex situations.
In real life there is not a single theory that fits well for all situations. Which of the learning
theories are best suited to a certain situation depends on the background knowledge, the
learning content, subject and goal of the learner.
According to Baumgartner [Baumgartner 2001] we can distinguish five levels of
knowledge which correlate to recommended learning theories.
 Level 1 – Novice – “Know that”: Novices are not familiar with the learning topic
yet and have not made any related experiences so far. First they need to learn
basic facts and rules which they can not question and which they can only apply
to real situations with guidance from outside because they can not decide on their
own what the best rule to fit is.
In most cases the Behaviouristic model would fit the needs of novices quite well.
 Level 2 – (advanced) Beginner – “Know how”: Beginners start to perceive
different cases and situations and to apply rules according to their contexts. Skills
are executed in more variations but beginners still can not act on their own
without close guidance and controlling.
Beginners achieve good results with a combination of the Behaviouristic and the
Cognitivistic learning model.
 Level 3 – Competence – “Rational understanding”: Competent persons know all
relevant facts and rules and can distinguish between a wide spectrum of different
cases and which solutions apply to them. Thus they can act independently within
their areas and solve occurring problems.
Competency also means responsibility, taking a view and self-critical reflection.
However decision making is still cumbersome and difficult, competent persons
are far away from sudden intuitions real experts can have.
Competent learners can be brought to the next step by a combination of the
Cognitivistic and Constructivistic learning model.
 Level 4 – Proficiency “Implicit understanding”: At this stage the learners move
from analytical realizations with subsequent applications of solution procedures
to holistic perceptions of given situations. The learners seem to see the presented
tasks together with their possible solutions.
In most cases only the Constructivistic learning model can bring proficient
learners to the expert level.
 Level 5 – Expert “Intuitive action”: Experts perfect the holistic perceptions
because various difficult tasks look familiar to them. This works because of an
improvement of their ability to perceive and construct family likeness between
different appearances. The art of this ability manifests itself in constructing cases,
out of amorphous, unclear situations, which already contain their own solutions.
Experts complement their knowledge best by constructing new one.

2.1.2 Learning Styles


According to Meeker [Meeker 1996] students must be able to receive, process, assimilate,
store, and use the information that is being presented in order to learn. Most people have a

41
preference for the type of information they can handle most easily. This is a person’s
learning style, which also has to be taken into account when creating e-Learning content:
o Figural: A Figural is what we can see, hear, and touch directly. It could be a
photograph, a sound, or a gesture. It may be visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. A
learner whose figural abilities are high would be able to manipulate figures
mentally or manually and would have good spatial perception and judgment.
Typically such people are architects, surveyors, graphic artists or carpenters.
o Symbolic: A symbol is an arbitrary sign that has no significance in itself, only
that meaning which society ascribes to it. Examples include numeric codes,
alphabetic characters, musical notes, mathematical signs, and other such symbols.
Persons having high symbolic abilities do well with numbers or letters, and are
often good with music. Typically such people are programmers or
mathematicians.
o Semantic: Semantic or verbal information includes the meanings society attaches
to words. It is reading or writing, listening or speaking. A student high in
semantic abilities is good with words and ideas and will frequently do well in
formal educational settings. Typically such people are teachers, lawyers, writers
or politicians.
Note: Guildford [Guilford 1967] also mentions a fourth learning style called
“Behavioural” (the actions and expressions of people) which was omitted by later
psychologist such as Meeker. Many learning problems occur because there is a mismatch
of learning styles between those offering instruction and those receiving it. So, to help
students who are not learning, we need to insure that the instruction is not inappropriate to
their learning style. Meeker developed a special “Structure of Intellect” (SOI) test. SOI is
based on an intelligence theory that came out of work initially begun by Dr. J.P. Guilford
and later refocused by Dr. Mary N. Meeker and Dr. Robert J. Meeker. The test not only
assesses thinking abilities, but also helps to develop and enhance areas of deficiency as
well as giftedness. It also differentiates five ways of thinking:
o Cognition: The ability to perceive and understand new information quickly.
o Memory: The ability to retain and retrieve information in any form.
o Evaluation: The ability to make decisions and to judge correctness, suitability,
adequacy, or desirability of information.
o Convergent production (sometimes called problem solving): The ability to
synthesize new information from given information to arrive at what is normally
accepted as the best answer or outcome.
o Divergent production (sometimes referred to as creativity): The ability to
generate new information from given information, emphasizing the variety and
quality of answers.
However it would be beyond the scope of this thesis to go into further detail and analyze
what kind of influence this has on the creation of e-Learning content because this thesis
focuses on e-Learning environments. As a consequence this chapter results in the
requirement that e-Learning systems have to support different learning styles by offering
the same content in various forms.

2.2 Functional Requirements

Apart from functions that directly support the learning and training strategy and which can
be derived from the pedagogical requirements an e-Learning system also has to provide

42
features that support the overall learning process including administration and
organizational issues and an integration into other IT systems and infrastructure. In
addition to that it might also be useful to support tasks that are closely related to learning
such as human capital management, resource management and knowledge management.
This chapter tries to summarize all functional requirements a good e-learning environment
should fulfill.

2.2.1 Learning Management Systems


Usually e-Learning systems have been understood as Learning Management systems
(LMS) which mainly focus on administrative aspects of learning and on content delivery
and support the behavioristic drill and practice approach. LMS have evolved from the
early days of Computer Based Training CD-ROMs (CBT), which only presented the
learning content but also needed some kind of course and student management to organize
who should learn what and when. LMS offer at least support for planning, organizing and
managing learning such as course catalogues and registration, event schedules, assessment
services, keeping learner records, organizing group and individual learning paths. In
addition to that they have often been extended by functions for skill and competency
management for tracking and controlling the personal development of employees and by
modules for resource management to also organize trainers, rooms and other types of
resources for instructor-led trainings.
Systematically listed the most important functions and parts of an LMS are:
 Personalized learner portal: This module provides the personalized entry to the
whole system and views to the most important personal information.
 Course catalogues and registration: This enables learners to access catalogue
offerings, register, and enroll in the offerings. It also handles billing issues (which
would require integration in e-commerce systems), notifications, schedule
changes, waiting lists and drop policies and defines gathered skills when
mastering the courses. A curriculum manager tool helps to define and select the
courses for the course catalogue and is tightly integrated with the competency
management functions. Selected courses can be assigned to trainees individually
by the trainers or course managers.
 Learner-records database, with user-profile and competency management for
tailoring learning experiences to competence frameworks. Core components of
this module are:
o Learner records: contain stored information about the learner, such as
job title, organization, location and skills acquired. These cannot be
directly edited by the user. Personal preferences, such as delivery mode
and language, may be edited by the user.
o Learner tracking: Learner tracking tracks a learner’s planned learning
and progress through e-learning offerings by recording the history, and
current status. A learning diary can also track all articles created and
documents uploaded by the trainee.
o Skill gap analysis and personal performance reports visualize the actual
skill profile of a certain user, the target skill profile to e.g. reach a
certain new position and the potential gap between these two. The gap
can be closed by mastering appropriate courses. Trainers can examine
the progress of their students by using progress customizable grade
reports.

43
o Management reporting tools (requires integration with performance
management systems): With these tools managers can access a learning
plan/history for each direct report in their reporting chain. They can
approve registration and add to their employees’ future learning plans.
They can also review their employees’ progress for both offerings and
assessments. Additional tools support team forming according to a
given skill profile. That way the LMS works as a support system for the
production environment and e.g. can be directly linked to a project
management system to form efficient project teams.
o Needs tight integration via interfaces with course catalogues, the
assessment services and the content delivery system.
 Assessment services: Pre- and post-assessments are integrated with learning
content to deliver a comprehensive curriculum that provides feedback to both
learners and managers and adds value to the overall learning experience. Pre-
assessments enable learners to study only the necessary material for a task at
hand, saving valuable time. Post-assessments provide results that are used to
track completion status and are a key element for progress reporting.
 Resource Management: Resource Management assigns classrooms and
instructors for instructor-led training and virtual events, managing the schedules
for equipment, facilities, rooms, and instructors and storing additional attributes
(e.g. number of trainees booked for a course to define the size of the room etc.).
Ideally such modules also support optimization functions.
 Administration management: Here I summarize all other administrative tasks
which an LMS can support:
o Easy administration of users, teams, courses & classes, resources and
the system itself. Import of user and group information and integration
into external directory services (e.g. LDAP or Microsoft Active
Directory) have to be supported.
o Course management: creating, modifying, removing, trainee specific
assigning and monitoring of courses.
o System management: Configuration, load and failure reports, resources
monitoring etc. of the system.
o Support of numerous roles, at least distinguish between learners,
trainers, authors and administrators.
 Integration with learning-content management systems (see next section)

2.2.2 Learning Content Management Systems


Within the last two years a new term describing a different kind of e-Learning systems has
been introduced: Learning Content Management Systems (LCMS).
An LCMS contains similar features as an (Web-) Content Management System but
adapted to the needs for e-Learning. Its main task is the storing and structuring of content
files in a database, managing revisions and modifications, and ensuring that content is
tagged for easy retrieval and reuse. Some of its key features are the availability of:
 A Learning Object Repository which supports different granularities of objects,
such as3 :
3
These levels of granularity follow a model suggested by Learnativity ( www.learnativity.com)
in several articles.

44
o Content Assets, which are the most granular type of objects. Content
Assets are raw media such as photographs, illustrations, diagrams,
animations, audio and video files, applets or simple text documents etc.
o Reusable Information Objects (RIOs) are classified as a concept, fact,
principle or procedure and are usually described by metadata which give
some hints about the (re-)use of the object. To support reuse, RIOs
already contain metadata to describe them.
o Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs) are data formed by assembling a
collection of (ideally 7±2) relevant reusable information objects to teach
a common job task on a single learning objective and are self contained,
like e.g. course chapters4. RLOs are the first level of granularity where it
makes sense to automatically assign its objects to learners based on their
skill gap analysis. However this will only happen in systems with very
advanced competency management functions, usually only courses,
which are the next level of granularity, are assigned to users.
o Learning Components are a result of bundling and sequencing several
learning objects together, such as courses or lessons. Sometimes (i.e.
Autodesk Content Strategy Molecular Model View [Hodgins 2001a])
lessons and courses are handled at different levels because a course can
consist of multiple lessons.
o A Learning Environment is the combination of several learning
components (i.e. a personal curriculum) together with learning support
services, such as communication and collaboration tools.
Note: There exist also slight variations of this model, either simplifications, e.g.
make no difference between content assets and information objects, or
extensions, where several levels of granularity between curriculum and RLOs are
defined: e.g. curriculum-unit-module-lesson (RLO) in [Cisco 2001].
The repository also provides sophisticated reusing and structuring tools to build
up objects of a higher granularity, e.g. learning objects made of multiple
information objects, or courses made of multiple learning objects.
 Meta-tagging for search capabilities according to approved standards such as
LOM (Learning Object Metadata, see chapter 3.4, 61f). Meta tagging supports
the creation of metadata by tagging wizards and tools which can provide
automatic extraction or conversion of metadata. The meta tagging is tightly
integrated into the repository. It is important to note that there exist two different
kinds of metadata:
o Metadata which is steadily bound to the data object, e.g. creation date,
size, type etc.
o Metadata which provides information about the use of the object,
because data can be used in various ways and in different contexts. That
one should not be stored together with the data, but separately in e.g.
multiple areas of the repository for each incarnation. Into the same
category falls meta-metadata, which is metadata about the metadata, e.g.
the author(s) of the metadata.

4
Cisco Systems suggest in their Reusable Learning Objects Strategy [Cisco 2001] that each RLO
consists of 7±2 RIOs plus an overview, a summary and assessments to make a complete learning
experience.

45
 Workflow services
o The Workflow services offer generic learning content development,
review and release workflows, with the flexibility for each workgroup
to select variables to customize to their requirements.
o A mandatory component of all workflows is registering content and
baseline metadata into the repository before releasing the content.
 Collaborative authoring and editing is tightly integrated with the Workflow
services and the Learning Object Repository and
o provides all of the traditional content management functions for
learning and content objects, including
 creation/upload, modification, copying, moving, linking and
removing
 version control,
 notifications, history and reporting of changes (auditing),
 fine grained access control with users, groups and role
handling down to the level of single documents to provide
personalized training content and even
 fulltext searching in addition to metadata and keyword
searching mentioned above
 advanced features like multiple language support and link
management
o offers import/export and conversion of various content types and
complete packages from and to 3rd party vendor systems.
 Authoring
o Form-based authoring tool for (simple) online created content. Ideally
this tool has a built-in quizz tool included, which can be used to create
the following types of tests:
 single/multiple choice
 image map questions
 list matching questions
 randomized and calculated questions
 timed quizzes
 fill in-the-blank tests
 short answer tests
o Tight integration of external authoring tools enables content creators to
write more complex learning objects such as text, graphics, and
assessment questions that can be seamlessly linked to any level of the
learning hierarchy.
 Personalized and adaptive content delivery according to existing standards such
as AICC, SCORM and IMS. The content delivery needs to be tightly integrated
with an LMS to pass on all relevant activity and progress data (i.e. assessment
results) to the according skill and record management modules of the LMS.

46
It also makes sense to offer the already built-in collaborative and knowledge construction
features for students for their personal workspace. That way the system could support the
cognitivistic and constructivistic learning paradigm.

2.2.3 Learning and Tutoring Support Management


Due to its importance I would like to mention a third system component which is usually
integrated in parts in either LMS or LCMS: Learning and tutoring support management
(LTSM). It supports the learning process through tutoring, peer support, communication
and collaboration between learners and / or trainers, ranging from simple e-mail, to forum
and virtual classroom.
Important functions of learning and tutoring support management are:
 Communication functions. Communication functions are classified in
synchronous (place-independent, but time-dependent) and asynchronous (place-
and time-independent) communication:
o Asynchronous communication features are e.g.:
 Mail
 Mailing lists
 Discussion forum
 Question/answer dialogs
 News ticker (one way, for information distribution)
o Synchronous communication
 Instant messaging
 Text chat
 Voice chat
 Video conferencing
 Shared whiteboard
 Application sharing
 Virtual community with avatars
 Group browsing/follow me mode
 Hand raising and/or voting functions
A full set of synchronous communication functions are often
summarized under the term “Virtual Classroom”. Here the trainer
teaches a class of students completely synchronously like in instructor-
based training, just virtually.
 Group work/collaboration
o Shared/private annotation support for any document within the system
o Shared/private bookmarking
o Team forming
o Participant list
o Shared workspace

47
o General workflow services
o Recommender system functions: collaborative rating/voting of articles
or documents
o Calendar
o Task list
o Cognitive tool like mind mapping
o Submission, reviewing and marking of assessments and exercises
o Personal and team home pages which can be customized and modified
by their owners. At least a virtual business card should be provided to
tear down the wall between users that can only meet virtually, increase
the personal touch of the environment and therefore encourage
communication.

All of the three mentioned systems should of course support all relevant (e-Learning)
standards to ensure optimum integration with each others, because each one is a very
important part and can not be left out of a complete e-learning environment.
According to Ravet [Ravet 2001] a modern e-learning environment is a combination or
unification of even more different systems. In addition to the mentioned three parts 5 it
should also contain a knowledge management system for capturing, organizing and
disseminating knowledge, including the knowledge produced during the learning process.
Beyond this e-learning systems are part of a global information system and should
therefore interact with enterprise resources planning (ERP); customer relationship
management (CRM); payroll and billing systems.

2.3 Non-Functional Requirements

The non-functional requirements describe general conditions the software system must
meet to satisfy the needs of the users and are not bound to the specific functions of the e-
learning environment. This section gives an overview about the most important issues and
tries to explain its relevance.

2.3.1 Technical Requirements


The technical requirements describe technical issues which must be fulfilled to
successfully install, operate and maintain a software system. They can be divided into the
following categories:

2.3.1.1 Support of operational environment required


In general an operational environment is the hardware and software environment where
the system should run. More specifically it means the operating system and other software
the system has to interact with.
Usually e-Learning platforms are client-server systems, therefore two different operational
environments have to be supported. On the client side in addition to the operating system
(such as Windows, Linux, Mac OS and specific versions/distribution of these) also the

5
In his article Ravet splits up the three mentioned systems into four: learning management, content
management, learning support management and competence management system

48
browser version is important because the system usually runs within the browser
environment on the client side. If the system should also run on different devices e.g.
PDAs, mobile phones, Braille terminals, then additional requirements concerning user
interface design or optimization for narrow bandwidth have to be paid attention to.
On the server side of special importance in addition to the operating systems are other
software services with which the system has to integrate: E.g. relational database systems,
directory services or other systems which complement the functionality of the e-Learning
system. This leads us to the next subsection:

2.3.1.2 Interoperability and support of standards


As mentioned earlier within the functional requirements e-Learning environments are not
lone islands but are part of a global information system and therefore have to interact with
various other systems e.g. enterprise resources planning (ERP); customer relationship
management (CRM); payroll and billing systems. But to make all this work together, it
would be a good idea to agree on standards. Standards are the condition for
interoperability – making content developed for one system run on any other “compatible”
system [Ravet 2001]. More about e-Learning standards can be found in chapter 3;
however other relevant official and industry standards have to be considered also. It is
recommended to build a modular and open system which supports many technology
standards for connectivity, such as SOAP[W3C SOAP] or more specifically the Web
Services Architecture [W3C WSA].

2.3.1.3 Ensuring of performance and scalability


Due to its complexity and high first time implementation costs e-Learning environments
are usually used by larger corporations or institutions or by application and learning
service providers who offer their services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This
means that such systems, apart from pilot installations, have to deal with large number of
users in the range of several thousand up to several hundred thousand. In addition such a
system is usually deeply integrated in organizational processes and thus mission-critical
for business operations. These facts raise issues in
 network bandwidth consumption, which can be optimized by using caching and
compression techniques for transmitting the Web based user interface as well as
the content data;
 special strategies for handling and separating such large numbers of users (i.e. it
does not make sense to offer a selection list of several hundred users or more in a
user interface for administration purposes);
 increasing the server performance by distributing the system over several entities
and by using load-balancing mechanisms to switch between system parts of
redundant functionality;
 stability, which means that the system does not only not have any critical bugs
but also does not break down under heavy/peak load or destroy data in such
circumstances. In addition fail-over safe mechanisms have to be provided to
ensure a long up-time even in the case of partial hardware failure.
Note: A functional requirement which also support these non-functional requirements
would be the support of a hybrid system. Hybrid systems support online and offline
working with data synchronization when switching between these two modes. In the case
of e-Learning environments this could mean that such a system would support that e.g.
large bandwidth consuming e-Learning content is fetched from local sources (e.g. DVD-
ROMs) instead of downloaded each time via the network, or courses can be downloaded

49
once locally and then used completely in offline mode. Only when the user goes online all
progress information and assessment results will be transmitted and synchronized back to
the server.

2.3.1.4 Security
E-Learning systems contain a lot of very personal and business critical data which are very
sensitive information and therefore needs to be protected against misuse and inappropriate
access. The support of secure transmissions (such as https) between each part of the
system and data encryption are therefore obvious requirements. Additionally measures
have to be taken against hackers and denial of service attacks.
As a matter of disaster prevention backup strategies have to be provided.

2.3.1.5 Customizability
Customizability and a modular system architecture specify to what degree system
functions can be adapted, added or omitted completely and are additional requirements to
ensure a system which is perfectly integrated in the customers IT infrastructure and
corporate design and fulfills exactly that functionality the customer demands.
Customization of look and feel can be done once for the whole system, personalized for
groups of users (e.g. belonging to a certain department or a certain role such as trainers) or
individually. Advanced systems support adaptive user interfaces where the UI changes
according to the user’s personal profile.

2.3.2 Quality Requirements


Fulfilling quality requirements and following a defined quality policy is an implicit
requirement for every successful software production cycle. However an in-depth view
about this topic would go far beyond the scope of this thesis because it deals just with very
high-level issues of the requirements definition process. It is mentioned here for the sake
of completeness and to stress the importance of these requirements.
The first step to guarantee high quality software is to define a comprehensive quality
policy. Proven standards and guidelines such as ISO 9000 can help here a lot and also
provide the additional advantage of the possibility for certification which increases
reputation on the market and in an increasing number of cases is the prerequisite to take
part in a call for tender.
The ISO 9000 series of standards represents the essential requirements that every
enterprise needs to address to ensure the consistent production and timely delivery of its
goods and services to the marketplace. The standards describe what requirements need to
be met, not how they are to be met, therefore each industry sector and in detail each
company has to define their special implementation rules including roles, processes and
documents for quality management. Ideally the quality policy includes each department of
a software company including research and development, support and maintenance,
professional services, sales and finances, marketing and management. Consistency in
production and reliability in delivery are as important as what an organization is selling in
today's marketplace. It is essential to consistently meet all customers’ expectations every
time, to keep them satisfied and loyal. If an organization does not do this, the marketplace,
and with it the customers, will take its business elsewhere.
If we focus on the quality policy for the software development process then the following
work scenarios can be identified:
 Requirements definition: Here the user requirements including use cases, the
operational environment, functional and non-functional requirements are defined

50
 Software requirements definition, analysis and planning: In this phase the user
requirements will be analyzed and translated to software requirements and high
level design including first rough project planning. Object oriented design (OOD)
and the unified modeling language (UML) may offer a good structured approach
here. A complex system may be split into several sub-systems with defined
interfaces for easier handling and further sub-divided into modules.
 Detailed design definition: Here the detailed design of each sub-system and its
modules is figured out and specified. Again OOD and UML are recommended.
 Development phase: In this phase the main development work will be done.
Technologies and programming language which support the object oriented
approach such as Java are advantageous.
 Integration and test phase: After each of the modules have been finished and
tested independently within the development phase they need to be combined and
tested as a full system.
 Delivery: If the system has passed all quality checks including the fulfillment of
functional and non functional requirements it may be delivered to the customer.
 Maintenance phase: Even the best quality management can not guarantee 100%
bug free code and in addition user requirements can be refined or extended upon
use of the software. For these cases the quality policy also has to define
appropriate procedures to handle the maintenance phase which closely works
together with the quality policies for the support services.

2.3.3 Usability and Accessibility Requirements


Perhaps the largest impact of all non-functional requirements on total user satisfaction can
be summarized under the term usability. Usability has been defined within the ISO
standard 9241 part 10 and part 11 as the suitability for use of a product. Crucial for the
usability of a product are the following factors:
 Efficiency: the resources expended by a system's users in achieving accurate and
complete task performance. An easy-to-use and understandable system reduces
training, maintenance and support costs.
 Effectiveness: the degree to which a system fulfills its intended purpose and
supports its users by enabling accurate and complete task performance. An
effective system fulfills organizational objectives and yields improved
operational efficiency, productivity, and customer service.
 Satisfaction: the user's perceived acceptability of the system. A system that
supports the user and achieves high user satisfaction leads to increased job
satisfaction, improved safety and health, and a reduction of costs.
IEEE [IEEE GLOSSARY] defines Usability as the ease with which a user can learn to
operate, prepare inputs for, and interpret outputs of a system or component.
Simply speaking the degree of usability specifies how easy a system is to use by a certain
user. The usability can be increased by following rules and guidelines primarily during the
definition of the system architecture and the user interface design; however it is important
to mention that usability has an impact on all stages of the software development process.
In particular the system integration tests have to be extended by usability tests where the
feature complete system is presented to users who do not know the system yet but who
represent the later end-user through a similar skill and experience profile. The users have
to fulfil several tasks with the new system and are asked to verbalize their thoughts,
feelings, and opinions while interacting with the system. Every action and explanation will

51
be recorded via video or screen cam and later on examined. This could again lead to a
redesign of parts of the software or at least have an impact on the documentation.
A more in-depth explanation of this exciting topic would go far beyond the scope of this
thesis; this short overview should just stress the importance of it.
However a very special form of usability still deserves mentioning because it gained more
attention and importance during the last years: Accessibility or support for people with
special needs or disabilities. A number of guidelines (among others) especially for Web
sites and Web applications have been defined to ensure that Web pages can be read by
special devices such as Braille terminals or screen reading tools. Some of the most
important guidelines are section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act [Section 508] and the Web
Content Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative
[W3C WAI]. Section 508 is especially interesting for all software providers who want to
provide their software to governmental institutions within the United States of America
because it will become a part of government procurement starting in the summer of 2001.
That means that Web design contracts and federal agency Internet content will be subject
to strict procurement guidelines and that a company can lose out on a contract if they fail
to comply with these guidelines. In Europe most likely the WAI guidelines will be
followed and can become the basis for federal or European laws. However as the majority
of the guidelines in Section 508 are taken directly from the WAI Web Content Guidelines
there is a good chance to satisfy both needs with one effort. A good tool to check a
specified Web site against section 508 or W3C accessibility compliance is Bobby [Bobby]
which is free of charge for single Web pages. This tool also provides a list of
recommendations on how to modify the Web page to comply.
For specific accessibility requirements in the area of learning technology please also have
a look at the IMS guidelines for accessibility at chapter 3.5.1, page 62.

52
Chapter 3

3 STANDARDS IN THE FIELD OF E-LEARNING

History has shown that widely adopted, open, and accredited standards are a fundamental
requirement for revolutionary changes to “take off”. In the case of electricity, this was the
standardization of voltage and plugs; for railroads, the standard gauge of the tracks; and
for the Internet, the common standards of TCP/IP, HTTP, and HTML (of course, there are
differences in browsers, but the main point still holds). Standards are a prerequisite for the
interoperability of systems from different vendors and therefore increase the flexibility and
independence from customers to choose from a larger variety of products, but it also has
advantages for the vendors. More specifically for e-Learning the benefits are as follows
[Cetis 2001]:
 Trainees may select from a larger collection of courses on different platforms
because all standardized courses can run on all e-Learning systems which support
those standards. If standards for learner profiles are fully defined and adopted
trainees may also more easily move between institutions – anywhere in the world
- with far greater ease than is currently possible, taking their academic record
with them.
 For trainers and authors, e-Learning standards may make it easier to share course
materials with colleagues, and to use materials produced by a much wider range
of publishers without worrying about those materials being incompatible with
their existing course management software.
 Institutions benefit from the increased interoperability of different systems and
modules and can therefore build up a system which exactly matches their needs
and is made of modules from different software vendors and existing
infrastructure.
 Publishers can reduce costs and time to market, because content does not need to
be developed for multiple e-Learning platforms.
 Vendors of e-Learning systems will have more satisfied customers, due to the
reasons mentioned above. Vendors supporting standards will therefore be
preferred in comparison to vendors which only offer proprietary technology.
However the clear downside of standards for vendors is that their clients can
move on more easily to a competitor if they are not satisfied, which on the other
hand is of course a clear advantage for customers.
e-Learning standardization efforts are made by a number of different consortiums of
various types (research community, user and governmental organizations, or standards
body) which concentrate on different aspects of e-Learning but which mostly work
together in some direct or indirect way. This chapter will focus on what is going on in the
field of e-Learning standards and who is trying to achieve what in cooperation with whom.

3.1 AICC – Aviation Industry CBT Committee

AICC is the oldest (since 1988) standardization consortium in the field of computer based
training and e-Learning. It is an international association of technology-based training
professionals and develops guidelines for the aviation industry in the development,

53
delivery, and evaluation of CBT and related training technologies. As they had been the
first dealing with standardizations they had a big impact on all industry sectors, not
restricted to the aviation industry. Originally it had to deal with the requirements for
operation systems, the standardization of hardware, icons and various document type
formats like graphics, audio and video. All nine standards accepted by its members are
summarized in so-called AGRs – AICC Guidelines and Recommendations and are
supplemented by several white papers and technical documents.
The most interesting AGR is the last one, AGR010 [AICC-AGR010]: “Web Based
Computer-Managed-Instruction” which recommends guidelines that promote the
interoperability of Web-based CMI systems6. Interoperability means the ability of a given
CMI system to manage CBT lessons from different origins. This includes the ability for a
given CBT lesson to exchange data with different CMI systems in two ways (http and
JavaScript –based), the ability to export and import AICC-compatible course structure
files and the generation of AICC-compatible lesson evaluation files. Simply speaking this
guideline recommends how to launch and track courses within an LMS. The technical
details can be found in the document “CMI001 - AICC/CMI Guidelines For
Interoperability” [AICC-CMI001].

Student
Perform ance
CMI System Send
Send R ece ive
C MI
Lesson
to
to
Lesson
CMI

Lesson
Send Records
CBT Lesson
Lesson
E valuation

Figure 5: Data flow between course content and the CMI system (from [AICC-CMI001])

As AICC was the first e-Learning standardization consortium it had a huge impact on
later-forming consortia such as ADL-SCORM, IEEE/LTSC and IMS, which took over
parts of the AICC results and developed them further. Up to now still many course content
vendors follow AICC guidelines when creating their course ware and many e-Learning
system producers support the AICC interfaces and import/export file formats.
More details about AICC can be found at the following Web-site: http://www.aicc.org

3.2 Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) is an organization dedicated to promoting


the widespread adoption of interoperable metadata7 standards and developing specialized
metadata vocabularies for describing resources that enable more intelligent information
6
Computer Managed Instruction systems, another term for learning management system
7
Meta data is data about other data and usually consists of a set of attributes, or elements,
necessary to describe the resource in question. For example, a metadata system common in
libraries -- the library catalog -- contains a set of metadata records with elements that describe a
book or other library item: author, title, date of creation or publication, subject coverage, and the
call number specifying location of the item on the shelf.

54
discovery systems (from [DCMI About]). Its name comes from an initial workshop about
metadata semantics in Dublin, Ohio 1995. More than 50 people discussed there how a core
set of semantics for Web-based resources would be extremely useful for categorizing the
Web for easier search and retrieval.
The Dublin Core metadata standard is a simple yet effective element set for describing a
wide range of networked resources. The Dublin Core standard comprises fifteen elements,
which can be refined to add richness of description. The semantics of which have been
established through consensus by an international, cross-disciplinary group of
professionals from librarianship, computer science, text encoding, the museum
community, and other related fields of scholarship [DCMI UserGuide].
These are the 15 elements [DCMI Elements]:
1. Title: Typically, a Title will be a name by which the resource is formally known.
2. Creator: An entity primarily responsible for making the content of the resource.
For example, authors in the case of written documents, artists, photographers, or
illustrators in the case of visual resources.
3. Subject and Keywords: The topic of the content of the resource. Typically, a
Subject will be expressed as keywords, key phrases or classification codes that
describe a topic of the resource.
4. Description: An account of the content of the resource. Description may include
but is not limited to: an abstract, table of contents, reference to a graphical
representation of content or a free-text account of the content.
5. Publisher: An entity responsible for making the resource available
6. Contributor: An entity responsible for making contributions to the content of the
resource.
7. Date: Typically, Date will be associated with the creation or availability of the
resource. Recommended best practice for encoding the date value is defined in a
profile of ISO 8601 and follows the YYYY-MM-DD format.
8. Type: The nature or genre of the content of the resource. Type includes terms
describing general categories, functions, genres, or aggregation levels for content.
9. Format: Typically, Format may include the media-type or dimensions of the
resource. Format may be used to determine the software, hardware or other
equipment needed to display or operate the resource. Examples of dimensions
include size and duration.
10. Identifier: An unambiguous reference to the resource within a given context.
Recommended best practice is to identify the resource by means of a string or
number conforming to a formal identification system. Examples of formal
identification systems include the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) (including
the Uniform Resource Locator (URL)), the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and
the International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
11. Source: A reference to a resource from which the present resource is derived.
12. Language: A language of the intellectual content of the resource. Recommended
best practice is to use RFC 3066, which, in conjunction with ISO 639, defines
two- and three-letter primary language tags with optional subtags. Examples
include "en" or "eng" for English, "akk" for Akkadian, and "en-GB" for English
used in the United Kingdom.
13. Relation: A reference to a related resource.

55
14. Coverage: The extent or scope of the content of the resource. Coverage will
typically include spatial location (a place name or geographic coordinates),
temporal period (a period label, date, or date range) or jurisdiction (such as a
named administrative entity).
15. Rights: Information about rights held in and over the resource. Typically, a
Rights element will contain a rights management statement for the resource, or
reference a service providing such information. Rights information often
encompasses Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), Copyright, and various Property
Rights.
The discussions within the DCMI were one of the bases of, and had a large impact on 8, the
most successful e-Learning standards of today: The Learning Objects Metadata standard,
which was defined within the IEEE-LTSC workgroups and became the first official and
formal e-Learning standard. Currently this standard has been passed over to ISO/IEC
JTC1/SC36 to become an international standard. More about that can be found within the
next sections.
More details about the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative can be found at the following
Web-site: http://dublincore.org/

3.3 IEEE LTSC - Learning Technology Standards Committee

The Learning Technology Standards Committee (LTSC) is chartered by the IEEE


Computer Society Standards Activity Board to develop accredited technical standards,
recommended practices, and guides for learning technology. The LTSC coordinates
formally and informally with other organizations that produce specifications and standards
for similar purposes. Over time up to 20 working groups have discussed different aspects
of e-Learning. Currently five are still active:
 P1484.1 Architecture and Reference Model WG
 P1484.11 Computer Managed Instruction (CMI) WG
 P1484.12 Learning Objects Metadata (LOM) WG
 P1484.18 Platform and Media Profiles WG
 P1484.20 Competency Definitions WG
In addition to that there is also a study group about digital rights expression language.
The standards development is done via a combination of face-to-face meetings,
teleconferences, and exchanges on discussion groups. Each of the working groups is
headed by a WG chair and the whole committee is governed by the five Sponsor
Executive Committee officers (chair, vice-chair, treasurer, secretary and information
officer).

3.3.1 Learning Objects Metadata (LOM)


Since June 12th 2002 LOM has been approved as an IEEE-SA standard and passed on to
ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36 to become an international standard. LOM is based on the work of
ARIADNE (see chapter 3.8), IMS (see chapter 3.5) and DCMI (see chapter 3.2) and
defines a structure for interoperable descriptions of learning objects of different
granularities. A learning object is

8
IEEE-LTSC and the Dublin Core Meta-data Initiative have agreed to jointly develop
interoperable metadata for learning, education and training [DCMI Press2000].

56
defined as any entity -digital or non-digital- that may be used for learning, education or
training. The LOM descriptions are grouped in general, life cycle, meta-metadata,
educational, technical, educational, rights, relation, annotation, and classification
categories9. This standard does not define how a learning technology system represents or
uses a metadata instance for a learning object; this is partly defined in IMS and
ADL/SCORM.
The purpose of this standard is to facilitate search, evaluation, acquisition, use, sharing and
exchange of learning objects, for instance by learners or instructors or automated software
processes such as course authoring and structuring tools.
LOM defines nine categories which group different data elements [Hodgins & Wason &
Duval 2002]:
1. The General category groups the general information that describes the learning
object as a whole, such as identifier, title, language, description, keyword,
coverage, structure (underlying organizational structure of the learning object,
e.g. atomic, linear or hierarchical) and aggregation level (level of granularity –
from raw media up to a set of courses)
2. The Lifecycle category groups the features related to the history and current state
of this learning object and those who have affected this learning object during its
evolution. Elements are version, status, and contributors of state of object
3. The Meta-Metadata category groups information about the metadata instance
itself (rather than the learning object that the metadata instance describes). E.g. a
unique identifier for this record, the contributors of the metadata, the metadata
schema (e.g. LOMv1.0) and language
4. The Technical category groups the technical requirements and technical
characteristics of the learning object. Elements are format (e.g. mime type), size,
location (e.g. URL or URI), technical requirements, installation remarks, other
platform requirements and duration.
5. The Educational category groups the key educational and pedagogic
characteristics of the learning object. Included are interactivity type (active
learning, like an exercise or a simulation vs. expositive=passive learning, like
reading), learning resource type (e.g. exercise, simulation, questionnaire,
diagram, figure, graph, index, narrative text, …), interactivity level (very low –
very high), semantic density (degree of conciseness), intended end user role
(teacher, author, learner, manager), context (school, higher education, training),
typical age range, typical learning time, description and language.
6. The Rights category groups the intellectual property rights and conditions of use
for the learning object. It consists of a cost field (yes/no), copyright (yes/no), and
a description.
7. The Relation category groups features that define the relationship between the
learning object and other related learning objects such as kind (nature of
relationship, e.g. is/has part of, is/has version of, is/has format of, is referenced
by, is based on, is basis for, requires, is required by), resource (target learning
object resource) and description.
8. The Annotation category provides comments on the educational use of the
learning object and provides information on when and by whom the comments
were created. It contains an entity (people, organisation who created the
annotation), date and description.

9
Within LOM a category is defined as a group of related data elements.

57
9. The Classification category describes this learning object in relation to a
particular classification system. Elements are the purpose (e.g. skill level,
competency, security level, educational level, discipline, idea, prerequisite,
educational objective, accessibility and restrictions), a taxonomic path in a
specific classification system, a description and keywords.
Note: All LOM categories can be directly mapped to Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
elements with the help of a mapping table.

3.3.2 Computer Managed Instruction (CMI)


This working group mainly covers the same aspects as AICC already addressed with the
content to LMS communication interface specified in AGR010/CMI001-appendix A, but
tries to further elaborate and correct it to better conform to and work with other existing
(e.g. ISO) standards. In its most reason version it only focuses on the JavaScript API based
communication process and has omitted the http-based communication, like
ADL/SCORM also did.
Originally this working group also intended to specify a standard for course structuring
and sequencing and relating student performance to objectives. This was later on omitted
or moved to other working groups.
Currently the standard consists of two active Project Authorization Requests:
 1484.11.1 Data Model for Content to Learning Management System
Communication, which describes the data model independent of its
communication technology
 1484.11.2 ECMAScript10 API for Content to Runtime Services Communication,
which describes a JavaScript based application programming interfaces between
an LMS runtime environment and the content objects. In the meantime this
standard is not only based on AICC, but also on ADL/SCORM and works in
close cooperation with these two consortiums to make it a certified standard
(AICC and ADL/SCORM are not formal organization bodies).

3.3.3 Architecture and Reference Model - Learning Technology Systems Architecture


(LTSA)
This standard specifies a high level architecture for information technology-supported
learning, education, and training systems that describes the high-level system design and
the components of these systems. It aims to11
 provide a framework for understanding existing and future systems,
 promote interoperability and portability by identifying abstract, high level system
interfaces,
 incorporate a technical horizon (applicability) of at least 5-10 years while
remaining adaptable to new technologies and learning technology systems.
The architectural framework developed in this standard does not address the specific
details of implementation technologies necessary to create the system components, or the
management systems necessary to manage a learning technology system, i.e., the standard

10
ISO/IEC 16262:1998, Information technology—ECMAScript language specification;
implementations of the ECMAScript standard are JavaScript and JScript
11
According to the Project Authorization Request found at http://ltsc.ieee.org/wg1/1484-1.pdf
[visited 2003/01/05]

58
will facilitate the development of configuration guidelines for general learning technology
systems.
The standardization document [LTSA 2001] distinguishes five refinement layers of
architecture but only layer 3 is normative in this standard, the other four are just for
information and completeness.

Learner
Entity L
Learner/
Layer 1 Environment Environment L
Interactions L
Interactions

Layer 2 Learner-Related Design Features


M LE B
IEEE 1484.1 IC
D E
Layer 3 LTSA System
LC L L LP A
LI
Components CI LI
LR C R
Q
Layer 4 Stakeholder Perspectives/Priorities
Requirements  Functionality  Conceptual Model  Semantics
Codings,   

Layer 5 APIs, &


Protocols
APIs Codings Protocols
  
Calling Data Comm.
Conv. Formats Layers

Figure 6: The LTSA abstraction-implementation layers. Only layer 3 (system components) is


normative in this Standard and may be used to analyze interoperability requirements among
major subsystems in learning technology systems. This graph was taken from [LTSA 2001].

The five layers of the system help to separate the “big picture” from the “details” and help
to understand or analyze the system step by step. Each of the layers can be investigated
independently because they do not influence each other. These layers are called:
1. Learner and Environment Interactions: Concerns the learner's acquisition,
transfer, exchange, formulation, discovery, etc. of knowledge and/or information
through interaction with the environment from an information technology
perspective and is not a description of some sort of learning theory. It just
expresses that the learner has new or different knowledge after some kind of
learning experience.
2. Learner-Related Design Features: Concerns the effect learners have on the design
of learning technology systems and are affected by the needs of learners and, in
particular, the nature of human (in contrast to machine) learning.
3. System Components (normative): Describes the component-based architecture,
as identified in human-centred and pervasive features. The LTSA identifies
o four processes: learner entity, evaluation, coach, and delivery process;
o two stores: learner records and learning resources;
o and thirteen information flows among these components: behavioural
observations, assessment information, learner information (three times),
query, catalogue info, locator (twice), learning content, multimedia,
interaction context, and learning preferences.

59
Learner
Multimedia Entity Behavior

Interaction Context
Delivery Evaluation
Loc Learning nt
ato me
r Preferences ess
Learning Locator Ass Learner Info
Content (current)
Catalog Info (history/obj.)
Learning Coach Learner Info Learner
Resources Records
Query
(new)

Figure 7: The LTSA system components. This graph has been taken from [LTSA 2001].

The overall operation has the following form:


1. the learning styles, strategies, methods, etc., are negotiated among the
learner and other stakeholders and are communicated as learning
preferences;
2. the learner is observed and evaluated in the context of multimedia
interactions;
3. the evaluation produces assessments and/or learner information;
4. the learner information is stored in the learner history database;
5. the coach reviews the learner's assessment and learner information, such
as preferences, past performance history, and, possibly, future learning
objectives;
6. the coach searches the learning resources, via query and catalogue info,
for appropriate learning content;
7. the coach extracts the locators from the available catalogue info and
passes the locators to the delivery process, e.g., a lesson plan; and
8. the delivery process extracts the learning content from the learning re-
sources, based on locators, and transforms the learning content to an
interactive multimedia presentation to the learner.
4. Implementation Perspectives and Priorities: Describes learning technology
systems from a wide variety of perspectives by reference to subsets of the system
components layer. Different use case models for e-Learning systems are analyzed
and their inter-process and communication models are sketched.
5. Operational Components and Interoperability — codings, APIs, protocols:
Describes the generic "plug-n-play" (interoperable) components and interfaces of
an information technology-based learning technology architecture, as identified
in the stakeholder perspectives. The specification of actual coding, API,
protocols, etc., standards is outside the scope of LTSA.

3.3.4 Platform and Media Profiles


The main goal of this work group is to identify other standards or formats that might be
relevant for e-Learning and browser platforms or media types. The standard will not
describe technical details but limitations or enhancements to the referring standards. More
specifically this standard deals with the following issues:

60
 1484.18.1.*: Bundles of profiles: e.g. a browser with a specified set of
capabilities (JavaScript, Java, HTML , CSS and media type support) and plug ins
 1484.18.2.*: Markup Languages: various HTML, XML and style sheet versions
 1484.18.3.*: Audio Formats: such as wav, real audio and mp3
 1484.18.4.*: Video and Graphics Formats : e.g. avi, quicktime, mpeg, jpeg, gif,
bmp, png, flash, shockwave, cgm
 1484.18.5.*: Page Description Languages : e.g. PDF and Postscript
 1484.18.6.*: Java : various JDK and JVM versions
 1484.18.7.*: JavaScript : various JavaScript and ECMAscript versions
 1484.18.8.*: Word Processing Formats: e.g. RTF, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect
etc.
 1484.18.9.*: Presentation Graphics: e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint
 1484.18.10.*: Speadsheet Formats: e.g. Microsoft Excel
 1484.18.11.*: Document Services currently refers to DOM level 1

3.3.5 Competency Definitions


This standard specifies the mandatory and optional data elements that should be included
in a competency definition as used in e-Learning systems, competence and skill gap
analysis, learner and other competency profiles to allow the creation, exchange and reuse
of competency definition records. This group works closely with the Learning Objects
Metadata group because metadata which describes learning content can contain one or
more references to competency definition records that describe the learning objective for
the content. The proposed base document for a draft standard suggests ten data elements in
a competency definition (see [Ostyn 1999]), unfortunately this standard has not progressed
very far but this topic has also been discussed within “IMS Reusable Definition of
Competency or Educational Objective - Information Model” (see chapter 3.5.9).
More details about IEEE/LTSC can be found at the following Web-site:
http://ltsc.ieee.org/

3.4 ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 – Joint Tech Committee, Sub Committee 36 Standards
for: Information Technology for Learning, Education and Training

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is the global organization that


prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related
technologies.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a worldwide federation of
national standards bodies from some 140 countries, one from each country, and was
established as a non-governmental organization in 1947.
IEC and ISO have established a joint technical committee, the JTC 1. Its mission is to
develop, maintain, promote and facilitate IT standards.
Sub committee 36 (SC36, http://jtc1sc36.org) of JTC1 develops international standards in
information technology in the areas of learning, education, and training. It works together
with numerous other sub committees, IEEE/LTSC, CEN/ISSS/WS-LT and the DCMI.
Currently SC36 consists of five working groups:

61
 WG1 Vocabulary: The standard defines core terms used in information
technology applications for learning, education, and training.
 WG2 Collaborative Technology: The goal of this standard is to establish a logical
model for a generic collaborative learning environment and to provide a format
for describing an instance of it. Also users will be supported by defining specific
sets of requirements and developers will be guided in the creation of modular
tools that follow this logical model.
 WG3 Learner Information: This standard will be based on IMS LIP, the LTSC
competency definition, PAPI and others.
 WG4 Management & Delivery: This standard provides a framework for data
models and bindings for management and delivery systems that support learning,
education and training. The working group has just recently formed.
 WG5 Quality Assurance & Descriptive Frameworks: This work group will
address describing and characterizing processes, components, and attributes
related to the quality and architecture of IT-supported environments in the field
of learning, education, and training. The WG5 also has just recently formed.
SC36 will play an important role in the field of e-Learning standardizations once all
working groups are fully established and important standards such as LOM have been
approved by ISO.

3.5 IMS (Instructional Management Systems) Global Learning Consortium Inc.

IMS is developing and promoting open specifications for facilitating e-Learning activities
such as locating, using and sequencing educational content enveloped and extended in an
overall concept called learner design, tracking and reporting learner progress and
performance, exchanging student records between different systems and making e-
Learning accessible by people with disabilities.
IMS has two key goals:
 Defining the technical standards for interoperability of applications and services
in distributed learning.
 Supporting the incorporation of IMS specifications into products and services
worldwide. IMS promotes widespread adoption of specifications that will allow
distributed learning environments and content from multiple authors to work
together.
IMS is a subscription based non-profit organization with members from educational,
commercial, and government organizations, which is based in USA with a subsidiary in
Europe.
Currently the following specifications are either in draft or already in final state:

3.5.1 Guidelines for Developing Accessible Learning Applications


This is rather a set of guidelines than a specification on its own. It will analyze existing
solutions and standards and will provide a framework which includes recommendations on
how to use existing approaches and suggestions on how to extend them to target the
distributed learning community and specifically address the challenges that exist in online
education. Extension will also flow into other IMS specifications, such as Learning Design
or Content Packaging, to increase their focus on accessibility.

62
The guidelines address several types of disabilities affecting vision, hearing, physical
capacity, and cognitive skills because each disability presents unique challenges to
computer users.
More information can be found at the IMS Web site,
http://www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/index.cfm.

3.5.2 Content Packaging Specification


The IMS Content Packaging Specification provides the defiinitions for describing and
packaging learning materials, such as an individual course or a collection of courses, into
interoperable, distributable packages while ensuring interoperability between content
creation tools, learning management systems, and run time environments (which are
usually part of an LMS).
The IMS content packaging is the first specification describing the IMS content
framework which also comprises a data model and a run time environment but has not
been defined yet.
The IMS content packaging mainly consist of a package interchange file (e.g. ZIP, jar or
cab file), representing a unit of (re)usable content, which includes an XML file describing
the data structure, called imsmanifest.xml, and the physical resources which reside in a
sub-directory within the package.

PACKAGE Package Interchange


File
Manifest

Meta-data Manifest File

Organizations

Resources

Sub-Manifest

Physical Files
The actual content, media,
assessments and other files

Figure 8: IMS content packaging structure

The top-level manifest is a mandatory XML element describing the package itself and
consists of a metadata, organizations and resources section. It may also contain further
sub-manifest files. The metadata XML element describes the metadata of a manifest as a
whole, organizations describe zero, one or more organizations of content within a manifest

63
and finally the resource elements contain internal (physical files) or external (outside, e.g.
URL) references to all actual resources and media elements which are required, including
metadata describing the resources.
However the manifest file will not only be used by content packaging but can be seen as a
general container for e-Learning data, such as learner profiles, learning object metadata
and metadata for question & test interoperability.

3.5.3 Digital Repositories Interoperability Specification


The digital repositories specification is rather new (first public draft 2002/08) and provides
recommendations for the interoperability of most common repository functions. It defines
digital repositories as a collection of resources that are accessible via a network without
prior knowledge about the structure of the collection. Repositories can hold raw files and
metadata, whereas the metadata need not be located in the same repository as the assets
they describe.
The current phase 1 specification focuses on the core functional interactions between the
mediation and provisioning layer of the functional architecture and is intended to utilize
schemas and standards defined elsewhere rather than introducing new ones. For object
querying and locating functions this specification recommends the use of XQuery [W3C
XQUERY] in combination with SOAP [W3C SOAP] or Z39.50 [ZOOM].
In the future directory and registry services will be also considered, more specifically this
will be divided into
 Identify and locate services, such as UDDI [UDDI] or JXTA [JXTA]
 Identify and locate objects
 Identify and locate people, such as X.500 or LDAP
 Identify and locate resources

3.5.4 Enterprise Specification


The main goal of this specification is to support interoperability between Learning
Management Systems (LMS) and the following classes of Enterprise Systems:
 Human Resource Systems track skills and competencies;
 Student and Training Administration Systems e.g. support the functions of course
catalogue management, class scheduling, academic program registration, class
enrolment, attendance tracking, grade book functions, grading, course
administration, course enrolment and completion functions etc.;
 Library Management Systems track library patrons, manage collections of
physical and electronic learning objects, and manage and track access to these
materials.
More specifically the Enterprise specification mainly defines how to maintain and
interchange user and group profiles and group memberships which are also the three main
element types an enterprise data object can consist of, apart from its own description and
comments.
Multiple IMS Enterprise XML instances can be packaged within an imsmanifest.xml file
by using the content packaging specification.

64
3.5.5 Learner Information Packaging (LIP) Specification
As the name already indicates this specification defines how learner information can be
packaged for interoperability between different systems. To increase flexibility all
elements within LIP are optional, but may also be extended by two facilities: It is possible
to extend the elements within any of the segments of the specification. The second
mechanism sits outside the segments to allow unrelated information to be added to the
package.
The original specification includes eleven groups of XML elements:
 Identification: The basic information that helps to identify an individual
 Goal: the learner’s personal goals and aspirations
 QCL: This is the area for qualifications, certifications and licenses.
 Accessibility: this includes learner preferences, language information,
disability/accessibility information and technical/physical preferences.
 Activity: This area contains the education/training work and service of the
learner.
 Competency: This area provides elements for capturing skills the learner has
acquired.
 Interest: This segment contains information on hobbies and other recreational
activities.
 Transcript: This is a placeholder for emerging standards from other
organizations.
 Affiliation: This includes descriptions of the organizations associated with the
learner.
 Security Key: Here learner information such as passwords or security keys are
packaged.
 Relationship: This area is used to store the description of the relationships of data
contained in the other segments.
Multiple LIPs can be also aggregated within an IMS content packaging file.

3.5.6 Learning Design Specification


The Learning Design specification is intended to act as an integration of a number of other
existing IMS specs: IMS content packaging, IMS Metadata/LOM, IMS Question and Test
Interoperability (QTI) and IMS Simple Sequencing, IMS Reusable Competency Defintion,
IMS Learner Information Package and IMS Enterprise specification and hereby provides a
generic and flexible language to support the use of a wide range of pedagogies in online
learning.
The language was originally developed at the Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL)
and has been only recently (2002/10) accepted as a draft specification within IMS.
To support sophisticated collaboration, personalization and adaptability, whilst not making
the spec too complicated to implement, IMS Learning Design is not defined in one single
XML schema, but three progressive ones:
 Level A provides all the basic elements. It contains all the core vocabulary
needed to support pedagogical diversity.

65
 Level B adds properties and conditions which will enable personalization and
adaptability functions (sequencing and interactions) based on the learners profile.
 Level C provides a notification function for all of these elements to communicate
outcomes of events in the learning activity.
The specification describes a model for learning design that contains three primary
components [IMS LD]:
1. A conceptual model that presents the vocabulary and functional relationships
between the concepts and the relationship with IMS Content Packaging.
2. An information model that describes the IMS Learning Design elements for
respectively the levels A, B and C.
3. A behavioural model which describes a set of runtime behaviours the delivery
systems must implement.
As this specification is highly complex and comprehensive a further in-depth view will be
beyond the scope of this thesis.

3.5.7 Metadata Specification


The current metadata specification is based on an earlier draft version (v6.1, from
2001/02/13) of the IEEE/LTSC Learning Object Metadata standard with some minor
extensions and changes and defines appropriate XML bindings and schemas for it. I
expect that a newer version of this standard will follow the approved IEEE-LOM standard
(see chapter 3.3.1, page 56).
Note: This specification also defines an RDF [W3C RDF] binding and a binding based on
vCard (see http://www.imc.org/pdi).

3.5.8 Question and Test Interoperability


The IMS Question & Test Interoperability Specification, which is currently available as
approved version 1.2, provides an XML language for describing questions and tests. It has
been defined to support the interoperability between e-Learning content and assessment
systems. The specification has a powerful set of features that enable it to exchange a wide
range of question types plus a number of extension facilities that allow it to support
proprietary features. QTI differentiates between participant, which is the user interacting
with an assessment and item, which is a combination of one or more questions and
responses, the presentation/rendering instructions, the feedback that may be presented
(including hints and solutions) and the metadata describing the item. Items can be grouped
hierarchically into sections, which may themselves contain other sections, and a collection
of sections form a complex assessment. In addition to that an object-bank can contain a
mixture of items and sections or only items or sections. An object-bank has its own unique
identifier and metadata to enable its contents to be searched.
Also available is a QTI-lite version which only focuses on multiple choice tests and does
not support sections, assessments or object banks, just items.
The IMS Content Packaging Specification can be used to package QTI data together with
referencing resources.

3.5.9 Reusable Definition of Competency or Educational Objective Specification


From IMS: The Reusable Definition of Competency or Educational Objective (RDCEO)
specification provides a means to create common understandings of competencies that

66
appear as part of a learning or career plan, as learning pre-requisites, or as learning
outcomes. The specification has been recently (2002/10/25) approved as version 1.0
The information model in this specification can be used to exchange skills, knowledge,
tasks and learning outcomes between learning systems, human resource systems, learning
content, competency or skills repositories, and other relevant systems. The core part of
RDCEO is an unstructured textual definition of the competency which can be referenced
through a globally unique identifier. As in all IMS specifications an XML binding, in this
case in the form of an XML schema (on contrast to a dtd as in older specification), is
available.
The information model consists of the following elements:
 Identifier: A globally unique identifier
 Title: A mandatory text field describing the competency or learning objective
 Description: An optional human readable description of the competency
 Definition: An optional structured description, which provides a more complex
definition of the competency. The definition contains the following sub-elements:
o Model-source: referencing the source on which the definition is based
o Statement: describing a single competency characteristic
 Metadata: An optional metadata record that further describes the competency.

3.5.10 Simple Sequencing Information and Behavior Model


This specification defines a method for consistently describing the branching or flow of
learning activities through learning content depending on the learner’s interaction with the
system. A course author can declare the relative order in which content objects shall
appear and the conditions under which piece of content can be selected and will be
delivered or skipped during presentation and navigation.
This specification is called simple because more advanced branching techniques like
artificial intelligence-based or schedule-based sequencing, adaptive learning etc. are not
included here, not because the model itself is simple. Simple sequencing recognizes only
the role of the learner and is not dependant on other actors.
The specification is based on the same content organization and tree structure as the
Content Packaging and can therefore be included in a manifest file.
Simple sequencing relies on the concept of learning activities. A learning activity may be
loosely described as an instructional event embedded in a content resource. A learning
activity may use a learning resource or it may consist of several sub-activities. E.g. an
activity “take lesson” can be composed of three sub-activities “take pre-test”, “attend
lecture” and “pass post-test”.
Learning activities have the following characteristics:
 Learning activities have a discrete start and end
 Learning activities have well-defined completion and mastery conditions
 Learning activities can consist of sub-activities, nested to any depth
 Learning activities occur in context of their parent activity, if one exists
 Learning activities may or may not have associated learning resources

67
The Simple Sequencing process uses information about the desired sequencing behaviour
to control the sequencing, selection and delivery of activities to the learner. The intended
sequence or learning experience for a learner is described by a specific set of data
attributes called sequencing definitions and the underlying model is called sequencing
definition model which consists of a number of controls, rules and conditions.
A number of additional models are defined within simple sequencing to describe the
possible sequencing operations and their parameters and hereby ensure that content
delivery systems are able to correctly interpret the sequence information. However a
further examination and explanation of this sophisticated standard is beyond the scope of
this thesis.
More details about IMS can be found at the following Web-site: http://www.imsglobal.org

3.6 Microsoft LRN - Learning Resource iNterchange

The Microsoft Learning Resource iNterchange is mainly a reference implementation of the


IMS Content Packaging Specification. The newest version of their toolkit (v3.0:
http://www.microsoft.com/elearn/support.asp) also supports ADL/SCORM 1.2 in the
meantime.

3.7 The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) Initiative & SCORM (Sharable
Content Object Reference Model)

The Advanced Distributed Learning initiative was established by the US Department of


Defense (DoD) in 1997 to develop a DoD-wide strategy for using learning and
information technologies to modernize education and training and to promote cooperation
between government, industry and academia to develop e-learning standardization. In the
meantime it is supported by a number of other US governmental institutions and a large
numbers of universities and commercial companies.
The ADL vision is to: “Provide access to the highest quality education and training,
tailored to individual needs, delivered cost-effectively, anywhere and anytime.” Its goal is
to provide an open architecture specification for a robust and dynamic Digital Knowledge
Environment (DKE) by addressing:
 Embedded Training
 Job Performance Support Systems
 Simulation
 Multiplayer Online Gaming
 Intelligent Tutoring Systems
 Multi-language and Multi-cultural Capabilities
 Distributed Repositories and Digital Knowledge Libraries
Apart from the specifications ADL also currently provides three “Co-Labs” which serve as
a public and private sector forum for cooperative research, development and assessment of
new learning technology prototypes, guidelines and specifications. In addition to that so-
called “Plugfest” events are organized by these Co-Labs approx. twice a year to bring
together early adopters of their standard specifications to discuss and demo their
implementations and by that get feedback about the practicality of the standards.

68
Currently the standard specifications are summarized within the Sharable Content Object
Reference Model, abbreviated as SCORM. SCORM defines a Web based learning
“Content Aggregation Model” and “Run-Time Environment” for learning objects. In its
current specification (1.2) three different levels of granularity of Los are distinguished:
 Assets, which are raw media files such as text, images, sound, Web pages,
assessment objects or other pieces of data that can be delivered to a Web client.
An Asset can be described with Asset Metadata to allow for search and discovery
within online repositories.
 Sharable Content Objects (SCOs) are a structured collection of assets with
metadata applied and include a single launch-able resource that utilizes the
SCORM Run-Time Environment to communicate with Learning Management
Systems. SCOs are intended to be subjectively small units, such that potential
reuse across multiple learning objectives is feasible.
 A Content Aggregation is a content structure which provides the mechanisms for
defining the structure and sequence of learning resources that are presented to the
user and mainly consist of a number of SCOs and Assets.
The SCORM 1.3 draft specification also introduces a fourth level, called
 Sharable Content Assets (SCAs). SCAs are mainly the same as SCOs but do not
contain an interface for communicating with the LMS
SCORM 1.2 is mainly based on the following existing e-Learning standards with minor
modifications:
 IEEE/LTSC CMI draft standard, which took over the JavaScript-API
communication interface specification of AICC, for the SCO – LMS interaction
process
 The IMS content packaging specification
 The IEEE/LTSC LOM specification in combination with the IMS metadata
elements definition
The SCORM 1.3 draft specification also includes the support of the IMS Simple
Sequencing concept with some minor changes.
More details can be found at the following Web-site: http://www.adlnet.org

3.8 Ariadne – Alliance of Remote Instructional Authoring and Distribution


Networks for Europe

The ARIADNE foundation is the successor of a two phased European Community project
within the 3rd framework program which focused on the creation and evaluation of tools
for producing, managing and reusing of computer-based pedagogical elements (thus
learning objects). In addition to that they also tried to build up a distributed resource
sharing system which should contain a critical mass of reusable learning resources. One of
their most important achievements was their work on defining metadata guidelines for the
learning resources which were later the basis for IEEE LOM and therefore also for the
metadata standards within IMS and SCORM.
Currently ARIADNE provides a Knowledge Pool System to its members, which is a
European-wide distributed repository for learning and teaching resources, and documents
relating to learning and teaching. It is sometimes also referred to as the "European
Knowledge Pool".

69
More details about the foundation can be found at: http://www.ariadne-eu.org

3.9 CEN/ISSS WS-LT - Learning Technologies Workshop

CEN/ISSS was created in mid-1997 by CEN (European Committee for Standardization /


Information Society Standardization System) to focus on ICT (Information and
Communications Technologies) activities and wants to ensure that any standards reflect
European needs - i.e. can be internationalized and/or localized.
The CEN/ISSS Learning Technologies Workshop (WS-LT) has already delivered a
number of standards (so called CEN workshop agreements – or CWAs) and is currently
working on a few more. Those are:
 Internationalization of the IEEE LTSC Learning Object Metadata (LOM)
specification (delivered)
 Availability of alternative language versions of a learning resource in the IEEE
LTSC Learning Object Metadata (LOM) specification – (delivered), a translation
of LOM into various (at least all official EU and EFTA) additional European
language is also going on.
 Description of language capabilities (delivered as CWA 14590). This standard
provides a standardized data model for reusable language capability records that
can be exchanged or reused in one or more systems.
 Quality assurance – (delivered). The objective is therefore to define a work
program for standards, guidelines and codes of practice for quality description
and assurance during the lifecycle of a learning resource.
 Educational modeling languages – (delivered). The purpose of this project was
not to define a standard but to produce a survey report of different educational
modeling languages which are currently under way at various institutions. An
EML is a semantic information model and binding, describing the content and
process within a ‘unit of learning’ from a pedagogical perspective in order to
support reuse and interoperability. Six models have been investigated:
o CDF from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)
o EML from Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL)
o LMML from University of Passau, Germany (UP)
o PALO from UNED University, Spain
o Targeteam from Universität der Bundeswehr, München (UB)
o TML / Netquest from ILRT, University of Bristol, UK (ILRT)
More details about the survey can be found at
http://www.cenorm.be/isss/workshop/lt/eml-version1.pdf
 Repository of taxonomies/vocabularies for a European Learning Society: The
objective of this project group is to collect and organize a register of
vocabularies, taxonomies, and thesauri relevant to a European learning society,
via an on-line repository.
 Educational Copyright License Conditions: The goal is to collect and organize a
collection of European and American best practice regarding educational
copyright licenses and associated business processes
More details about the workshop can be found at: http://www.cenorm.be/isss/workshop/lt/

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3.10 Prometeus - PROmoting Multimedia Access to Education and Training in
EUropean Society

PROMETEUS was launched in March 1999 under the sponsorship of the European
Commission with the aim of promoting multimedia access to education and training
throughout European society and is just transforming into a fully self-sustaining not-for-
profit association.
Its vision is as follows: "PROMETEUS is a European Partnership for a Common
Approach to the Production of e-learning Technologies and Content".
Prometeus consists of a number of special interest groups (SIGs):
(from the Prometeus Web site)
 SIG Accessibility: To find, develop, discuss and promote solutions to increase
accessibility to information and communication to all persons with special needs.
 SIG Businesses: To study self-sustainable e-learning services and to try and
extract best practice as to how to build new e-learning services.
 SIG Corporate: To gather and publish Best Practice from Organizations in order
to document what is really happening in the Corporate world about corporate
learning and to convince leading organizations to share their best practice. To
build a European database of best practices.
 SIG Design: To specify a generic design methodology and an open framework
for electronic learning environments taking into account the demands of
preferably all stakeholders in the European learning society. To submit formal
proposals for the implementation of this framework and to participate in world-
wide standardization activities, being clearly identified as a European partner.
 SIG Higher: To identify and disseminate best practices in higher education using
information technologies, by: studying the best way of introducing IT-based
teaching in traditional universities; considering the positioning of traditional
universities compared to emergent virtual campuses; looking at how LT can
serve traditional university missions.
 SIG Lifelong Learning: The prime focus of Prometeus LLL-SIG is on lifelong
learning aspects of e-learning. Within the LLL-SIG the prime attention is placed
on a number of key issues, concerns and operational aspects are related to ‘non-
formal learning opportunities’ as well as 'ubiquitious learning' with its focus on e-
learning, e-society and lifelong learning perspectives.
 SIG Marketplace: The prime focus of the Prometeus EML-SIG is on e-learning,
on-line and multimedia-supported learning opportunities being mediated via
Electronic Marketplaces for Learning (EML), though learning portals, or via
other types of e-learning online services as well as through ASP-based learning
technology driven services. Within the EML-SIG the prime attention is placed on
a number of key issues, concerns and operational aspects of what may be called
'service provision' and 'knowledge brokerage' within an e-learning service, online
marketplace or learning portal setting.
 SIG Pedagogies: To assess and attempt to create consensus regarding the kinds of
pedagogical approach most suited to ICT based learning, with particular
emphasis on conversational, self-directed, collaborative and organisational
learning and cognitive apprenticeship. Information will be collected in the form
of research, case studies and good practice.

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 SIG School: To investigate models for ICT use in schools. To analyze barriers to
the future uptake of ICT in a school context.
 SIG Web-ODL: To look at the state-of-the-art on pedagogical issues related to
the use of the Web for Open Distance Learning. To look at the advantages and
disadvantages of the use of Web for ODL with specific attention to the design
and the interface (multimedia) to see whether it includes or excludes certain
categories of people with different learning styles (such as the deaf, the elderly
and disabled).
More details about the association can be found at: http://www.prometeus.org

3.11 SIF - Schools Interoperability Framework

The Schools Interoperability Framework is an industry initiative to develop a technical


blueprint for K-12 software that will enable diverse applications (such as a student
information application, a food service application, and a library automation application)
to interact and share data now and in the future. The SIF Implementation Specification
defines the software implementation guidelines for SIF. It does not make any assumption
about what hardware and software products need to be used to develop SIF-compliant
applications. Instead, it only defines the requirements of architecture, communication,
software components, and interfaces between them. The goal of SIF is to ensure that all
the SIF-compliant applications can achieve interoperability, regardless of how they are
implemented.
More information can be found at the SIF Web site and at the SIF specification:
 http://www.sifinfo.org
 http://www.sifinfo.org/SIF_Spec_v1_0r1_final.pdf

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Chapter 4

4 THE DESIGN OF GENTLE (GENERAL NETWORKED


TRAINING AND LEARNING ENVIRONMENT)

This chapter describes the fictitious system GENTLE. Most of the features described have
been realized within the research based product GENTLE-WBT and enhanced by the
commercialized successor Hyperwave eLearning Suite (eLS). However, some marked
parts never made it into the products and represent additional ideas. This chapter is largely
based on the GENTLE Software Requirements Document [Dietinger 1998] but has been
updated to include recent developments and has been extended by new aspects.

4.1 History & Background

The research project which is the basis for this thesis has become possible because many
advances has been made in the field of technology-aided learning and in the basic
technology itself, which are the Personal Computer, its multimedial capabilities, network
technologies and last but not least, the Internet. The Institute of Information Processing
and Computer supported new Media (IICM), where this project has been carried out, has
been doing many successful and historical contributions to science, especially in the fields
of technology based learning and multimedial information systems. The following sub
sections try to distinguish the history of e-Learning into different periods and give a short
introduction to them.

4.1.1 Instructor-Led Training Era (Pre-1983)


Before computers were widely available, instructor-led training (ILT) was the primary
training method. ILT allowed students to get away from the office to focus on their studies
and to interact with their instructor and classmates. However, ILT usually incurred high
costs and downtime during office hours, leading training providers to search for a better
way to conduct training sessions.
Early distance education systems were based on books, cassette tapes or records. Later on,
they were replaced or complemented by video cassettes or TV-based courses.

4.1.2 Multimedia Era (1984-1993)


Windows 3.1, Macintosh, CD-ROMs, Powerpoint. These were the technological
advancements of the Multimedia era. In an attempt to make training more transportable
and visually engaging, computer based training (CBT) courses were delivered via CD-
ROM. The anytime, anywhere availability of CD-ROMs also provided time and cost
savings that instructor-led training couldn’t, and helped reshaped the training industry.
Despite these benefits, CD-ROM courses lacked instructor interaction and dynamic
presentations, making the experience slower and less engaging for students.
The first versions of computer based online trainings had already been started in the mid
80’s: At the IICM, the Mupid (Multipurpose Universal Programmable Intelligent Decoder,
1982-1985)[Mupid] [Maurer 1982] and Costoc courses (1987) [Makedon et al 1987],
[Huber & Maurer 1987], [Huber et al 1989] had been developed in this area. The Mupid

73
was an intelligent computer terminal with a dial-up connection to a server hosted by the
national telecommunication and postal services company which provided access to
numerous databases, services, games, communities and also downloadable applications.
The Bildschirmtext can be seen as a predecessor of the Internet on a small scale. At the
same time, the Mupid was also a high resolution color computer based on the Zilog Z80
processor12, which could be also used offline due to its support for diskette drives.
More than 800 interactive Costoc (COmputer Supported Teaching Of Computer Science)
courses have been created and offered to interested students. These courses already
included color graphics, animations and question/answer dialogs. Many experiences have
been made while producing and using these courses, which became a good basis for
ongoing research in the field of e-learning later on.
Unfortunately, due to various business reasons, the Mupid and its Costoc courses never
reached a larger degree of familiarity outside of Austria. The market was not yet ready for
such innovative products.
One of the projects which benefited from the experiences made so far was the multimedia
information system called Hyper-G [Kappe & Maurer 1993] [Kappe et al 1994] [Kappe et
al 1993] [Maurer 1996b] [Andrews et al 1995a] [Andrews et al 1995b] [Andrews et al
1995c], which concentrated on distributed publishing, organizing and transferring of
knowledge and was, in some aspects, a competitor to the upcoming World Wide Web,
which was developed at the same time. In other aspects, it was much more advanced than
the WWW, but also more complex which hindered its dissemination. The system was later
commercialized under the name Hyperwave and became the basis of GENTLE.
On the authoring side, a course authoring system called Hyper-PC ([Maurer et al
1993][Scherbakov et al 1994]) had been developed which was later superceded by the
project HM-Card.

4.1.3 Web Infancy (1994-1999)


One of the cornerstones of today’s Internet is definitely the first graphical Web browser
called Mosaic from NCSA [NCSA] which was released (v1.0) on November 11, 1993.
With its ease of use, and pleasing look and feel, it immediately convinced most PC users
to use the Internet. From then on, the Internet became a network for the broad masses of
people; it wasn’t just restricted to knowledgeable scientists and experts anymore.
As the Web evolved, training providers began exploring how this new technology could
improve training. The advent of e-mail, Web browsers, HTML, media players, low-
fidelity streamed audio/video, and simple Java applets and applications began to change
the face of multimedia training. Basic mentoring via e-mail, intranet CBTs with text and
simple graphics, and Web-based training with low-quality intermittent-delivery Web casts
emerged.
During this period, the IICM focused (among other things) on two aspects of e-Learning:
Authoring and platforms. On the Authoring side, HM-card, a function-rich e-Learning
content creation system with offline authoring and offline and online runtime environment
was created in 1994 [Maurer et al 1995a] [Maurer & Scherbakov 1996], which has been
continuously extended.
In 1996, a new concept for a learning environment called LATE (Learning And Teaching
Environment, [Maurer 1996a]) was developed. It was later improved to become
MANKIND (Multimedia Applied to Networked Knowledge-transfer Introduces New
Dimensions, [Maurer 1997b]) and finally put in concrete terms and renamed GENTLE
12
A popular micro processor with similar functionality as the Intel 8088, which was built-in into
the IBM PC evolving at the same time. Both had the same origin, namely the Intel 8080
microprocessor. The Zilog Z80 is still available in modified versions

74
(General Networked Training and Learning Environment [Dietinger & Maurer 1997]
[Dietinger & Maurer 1998a]). The first fully functional prototype was developed in 1997
(see Figure 9), and its use during lectures and the resulting feedback led to the architecture
of GENTLE 1.0 [Dietinger 1998]. A pre-release version was developed by the end of
1998 and in 1999 GENTLE 1.01 had been released.
GENTLE tries to achieve maximum benefit through new learning and teaching methods
and tools, and through its simplicity of usage for both the trainers as well as students. With
its integration of communication, collaboration and content management, its functionality
has been ahead of its time compared to other systems just evolving on the market
[Dietinger et al. 1998d].

Figure 9: The early GENTLE prototype

4.1.4 Next-Generation Web (2000 – ?)


Technological advances, including Flash and JAVA applications, rich streaming media,
high-bandwidth access, and advanced Web site design, are revolutionizing the training
industry. Today, live instructor-led training via the Web can be combined with real-time
mentoring, improved learner services, and up-to-date, engaging “born on the Web”
content to create a highly-effective, multi-dimensional learning environment. These
sophisticated training solutions provide even greater cost savings, higher quality learning
experiences, and are setting the standard for the next generation of e-learning.
In 2000, GENTLE was commercialized under the name Hyperwave eLearning Suite 1.2
and in combination with the Hyperwave knowledge management products (Information
Server, eKnowledge Suite, eKnowledge Portal, Team Workspace and Workflow) coined

75
the term knowledge managed based eLearning. The following versions (2002: 1.3, 2003:
1.4) focused on increased support for e-Learning standards, better performance and the
increased use of new technologies such as Java.
For the future, I expect an increase in the use of communication and collaboration
functions which evolves to cooperation without borders on all levels of education,
especially within schools, colleges, and post-secondary institutions. This will have a global
and social impact on the youth growing up with these new possibilities and finally our
whole civilization.
In enterprises, e-Learning will continue its integration into total knowledge management
and will adopt several new forms of learning not known or at least not practiced before.
e-Learning will not be restricted to cumbersome PCs and laptops anymore but will become
ubiquitous due to new wireless connected mobile devices. Through the use of such
“personal advisors” the difference between personal information management, just-in-time
learning and education will vanish.

4.2 The concept & positioning of GENTLE

The main goal of GENTLE is to provide an integrated Web based training environment
for students/trainees, teachers/trainers and authors. It addresses today's needs of
universities and corporations to deliver cost-effective, easy-to-use training courses for
employees and students - anytime and anywhere.
There are several ways in which GENTLE can be used as learning and training tool:
 It can be used as a substitute for instructor-led training where traditional training
is not possible or too expensive.
 It can be used as a tool for blended learning to support training seminars to
improve quality and enhance efficiency.
 It can be used for new ways of learning such as for just-in-time learning and
training:
o Just-in-time learning can be accomplished by gathering the required
information by using various tools and restructuring it according to
one’s needs to construct one’s own knowledge representation and
interpretation.
o Just-in-time training can be achieved by gathering and reusing various
existing information pieces and by combining them into a new course
with specific training and learning goals. When the course has been
created, it can be immediately assigned to other users (by notifying
them and putting the course announcement on the personal portal) to let
them verifiably complete the course within a specified amount of time.
Lecturers can also use GENTLE to create, maintain, and offer courses and also to
administrate student affairs.
Rich communication facilities extend the advantages the system provides to its users.
GENTLE is based on a Hyperwave Information Server [Maurer 1996b] and only requires
a JavaScript capable browser like Netscape 4.x or Internet Explorer 5.x (or higher) on the
client side because the whole user interface is implemented using HTML, DHTML and
JavaScript.
The e-Learning system currently defines four different types of users (so-called roles) and
provides different features and functionality for them. These roles are participating

76
students and trainees, teaching staff, such as trainers and tutors, courseware authors and
system administrators. Users can also belong to several types at the same time (e.g. an
administrator could be a student in one course and a teacher and author in a different one).
Within the learning environment various so-called rooms separate different scenarios, and
tools provide additional functionality to the users.

Typically, users enter the environment through the foyer where they can register for a
personal account, read the introduction and overview of the system, or look at the list of
available courses. After the users have registered, they will get a unique login name and a
private space on the courseware server, called the study room, which can be entered upon
successful identification. The study room is the main working place and it also provides
access to all other rooms. Here students will get a list of suggested courses (depending on
the users' profiles), or then may enter enrolled or review already finished courses.
Teachers and authors may also create new courses by using a tool called the course wizard
which, upon activation, asks a few questions concerning the lecture (such as aim of the
course, prerequisites required to master it, time and place of live lectures if appropriate,
tutors, etc.) and then automatically creates a course skeleton and some introductory HTML
pages. The course content itself can easily be added either by using the Web browser or
via drag and drop by using Hyperwave Virtual Folders, a Windows Explorer extension.
Access to the administration office is only granted to teachers, authors and administrators
and is used to maintain user accounts, teams, courses and modify system settings. Of
course, not all functions are available to all three user types in the same manner, e.g.
teachers can suggest or assign their own courses to different students but may not remove
other courses or delete user accounts. Although students do not have access to the
administration office, they can directly change their own profile by altering the settings of
their electronic business card. Most parts of the business card such as photo of the student,
the name and other personal data may be made public and can be viewed by other
members of the system whenever they click on a visible user name. This has the positive
and important effect that a personalized virtual community can be created because users
can see what other users look like or what their hobbies are, which simplifies team
working and collaborating. The study room also contains a personal Web space where the
students can develop their own projects or work together in shared areas.

If students select one of the listed courses in their private study rooms, they will be moved
to the course room of the specific course. The course room provides access to the course
content, which is dynamically interlinked (including e.g. the creation of a table of
contents) and adaptively presented, which means that it can vary depending on the
student’s preferences. Furthermore this room offers different tools for communication like
a messaging system which can be synchronized with Internet mail, a discussion forum
with sophisticated functionality that surpasses e.g. Usenet News, and personalized and
typed annotations.
Annotations can be directly attached to a certain area of text within the HTML content
page (or to the whole page if it is non HTML) just by selecting the text area and adding the
note. Afterwards, an icon indicating the annotation and heading the selected area will be
visible only to the author of the note, or to a team or the public depending on the assigned
access rights. Annotations can also contain attachments and are of a certain type like
remark, question, answer or supporting argument. If a student poses a question note, the
tutors of the course will be notified automatically by the messaging system so that they
can answer the question as soon as possible. After doing that, the student that asked the
question will also get a notification that it has now been answered. To minimize
question/answer dialogs and thus supervising effort, the system supports various
sophisticated searching techniques such as full-text query within every part of the system
and a course specific section for storing background material called the background
library. This should improve the chance that students can find answers to their questions
on their own.

77
The system can also be seen as an integrated component of a knowledge management
system which will become a vital part of enterprises and will replace old style intranet
systems that
a) only store information but do not transfer the needed information to the right
place and
b) have few communication and collaboration facilities.
Using Intranet or Internet, the GENTLE system supports the learning process within the
corporation, provides courses and necessary information to the employees and can become
a rich knowledge source of great value.
The GENTLE system can be implemented in different environments. With various
features, the system is designed to meet the users' needs and supports the requirements of
learning processes in the electronic world with its challenges such as virtual classrooms or
virtual universities. Furthermore, the proper use of technology facilitates entering into the
area of creativity, problem solving, analysis and evaluation.
We believe that the cornerstones of GENTLE’s success are customisation, personalisation
and “guidance without dictatorship”. [Dietinger & Maurer 1997]

4.3 User Characteristics

The previously introduced future-oriented learning system provides a set of tools


supporting courseware authors, trainers and learners, and system administrators. The
foundation of the learning environment is based on the experiences of already existing
systems and the knowledge drawn from published research. The resulting environment is
characterized by its extreme user friendliness for both trainer and learner. Furthermore, it
supports the reuse of existing material and is focused on good communication and
teamwork.
Unrelated to its implementation, the system supports four different types of users:
 Trainees enhance learning, communicating and collaborating with other members
of the system and help administrate their trainee affairs.
 Trainers may enrich or replace traditionally held lectures, supervise and support
trainees and simplify everyday tasks like sending announcements, assigning
exercises, grading, etc.
 Courseware authors may use several of the editors and wizards the system
provides to simplify the creation of new modules.
 Administrators can install, configure the system and change general policies.
The main modules (like navigation etc.) of the system follow common user interface
guidelines and standards, so the users feel familiar right from the beginning. Basic skills
and experiences with using a Web browser are required, but no special training for using
the system is necessary.

4.3.1 Student/Trainee
Students may use the system to support and enhance learning, communicate and
collaborate with other members of the system and help administrate their student affairs.
Basic skills and experiences in using a Web browser are required, but no special training
for using the system is necessary.

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When the trainees log into the GENTLE system, they get access to their personal study
room, which is the main entry point. Here, the trainees will find a list of suggested courses
and their possible sequence, the courses in which they are currently enrolled and the
courses they have already taken. Further, trainees may access the private or shared
workspace and their personal characteristics (like name, department, grades, progress
statistics etc.). If a trainee enters a currently enrolled course by clicking on it, the course
environment will become visible. In detail, the system provides
 access to the courseware content (hierarchically structured),
 general information (such as course objectives, table of contents, requirements,
information about the trainer, previous exams etc.) and announcements (such as
when the next exam takes place etc.),
 previously recorded virtual office hours,
 exercises and assessments,
 a glossary and
 a background library.
However, due to the high degree of adaptability, this list can be easily extended by other
resources.
The trainees may also access the asynchronous and synchronous communication and
collaboration features where several annotation types (remark, pro, contra, question,
answer, etc.), documents types (not only text), and access rights (private, public, group)
are supported. Annotation or notes may also be the starting point of a discussion in the
discussion forum. The synchronous chat facility can be used for virtual office hours to talk
with the trainer (such a talk will be recorded for later reuse to build a knowledge base) or
to meet in learning groups and (virtual) rooms.
The learning environment also serves as an administration utility for the students to help
them plan their study program.
Further enhancements are that the system automatically suggests certain courses
depending on the students’ talents, which can be determined by examining their previous
grades and courses taken, and also predicts what study schedule could be completed
within what time (assuming continuing success and ambition). This will be summarized
under the terms skill management and skill gap analysis.

4.3.2 Teacher/Trainer
Teachers will use the system to enrich or replace traditionally held lectures, supervise and
support students, and simplify everyday tasks like sending announcements, assigning
exercises, grading, etc. The user interface for the teachers also has to be as simple as
possible because it cannot be guaranteed that teachers have more expertise in using
computers than students. However a certain degree of experience with using Web
browsers has to be assumed.
One of the key aspects for the acceptance of the system by teachers is the gentle approach
to Web based training by supporting a soft migration of courses from the traditional
lecture room style, over electronically assisted courses (blended learning) and working up
to fully featured pure virtual Web based lectures where no physical presence of students or
teachers is required anymore. Courseware creation and reuse is supported by various so-
called wizards, managers and tools that take over routine tasks and provide guidance for
more sophisticated undertakings, using helpful user interfaces. In addition, GENTLE can
be used as an administration system for managing students records (exercise assignments,
grades, learning progress etc.) classes (who may or has to participate in a course etc.) and

79
for keeping statistics on courses (quality, efficiency, acceptance, etc.) to ease cumbersome
everyday tasks.

4.3.3 Author
Courseware authors may use several of the editors and wizards the system provides to
simplify the creation of new modules. Because these tools are quite powerful, a special
training about their usage might be necessary for people that have less experience in
advanced usage of computers.
Authors may also use the full range of document management tools, like the easy to use
Virtual Folders, which simplify authoring and structuring of content using the drag and
drop process within the authors familiar environment (e.g. file explorer in Windows).
Apart from that, authors can also profit from the powerful data control features the
Hyperwave Information Server provides (such as version control, opening and closing
time of pages etc.).
Additionally, a smart background library provides many valuable features. The
courseware author can use background libraries to search for specific information to create
new or update existing lessons. The Media Depot can be used to hierarchically organize
reusable courseware elements and add metadata to speed up finding the appropriate
information when later assembling new courses where the structured material can be
useful. Furthermore, relevant information evolving from discussion or question-answer
processes can be used to extract “recycled information”.
In addition to issues concerning the courseware, desired extensions are the support of
different students profiles, like learner type, knowledge and cultural background and skill
levels (e.g. different granularity of detail); different network bandwidths (by offering
several qualities of the same material, like text, image, audio and video) and different
presentation types, depending on the way the lecture is held (e.g. slides with animations
for a life demo, or more detailed explanations including audio etc. for Web based
training). Each of these different materials has to be kept within the same course structure
and it has to be possible to switch between these types whenever suitable (e.g. switching
between materials optimized for the visual learner type and another one, to let the students
find out to which type they belong).
Especially important for authors is the support of various e-Learning standards (like AICC
and SCORM) to assure that the system provides interfaces to other courseware authoring
systems and to off-the-shelf course contents which need to be integrated into the system.

4.3.4 System Administrator


The System Administrator’s job is to install and configure the system and to change
general policies or perform actions that require system privileges such as changing
sensitive access rights or configuring the mode for automatic account creation. Simple
tasks can be completed without deep knowledge of the underlying system due to the user-
friendly interface. With more detailed knowledge of the system, the administration can
change the complete look and feel of the system, activate/deactivate functions and
features, add new languages, etc. However, for most of the tasks, there are no true
programming skills necessary to accomplish them because the code of the system need not
be changed.

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4.4 Architecture - Rooms and tools within GENTLE

Figure 10: GENTLE rooms and tools

The GENTLE environment gives manifold support to different user groups in their
interactions with course contents within the learning environment. For the teaching and
learning as well as for structuring the content, the GENTLE system offers many different
modules and features to users.
As the graphical presentation of the structure in Figure 10 shows, systems modules and
features are grouped into two categories, namely rooms and tools. These are described in
more detail in the following paragraphs.

4.4.1 Rooms
The Foyer is the main access point for a guest or a new user. Here the user may read an
overview about the system and register for full access.
The Study room is the main entry point of the GENTLE system for identified users.
Through lists of courses and forums, direct or indirect access to all other system features is
provided. User specific data is also stored in the study room.
The Course room enables the teaching/learning process. With the help of the navigation
provided, trainees can browse through the course content and make notes or annotations,
which can be personal or public. Discussion forums and chat possibilities make virtual
lecturing even more interesting and friendly.
The Administration office enables GENTLE system configuration and other actions such
as creation, configuration and removing of users, teams and courses. Also assigning
courses to teams or learners and grouping learners into teams can be done in
administration office. It also serves as a platform for manifold statistical evaluations.
The Virtual Café is a supplementary meeting place where all trainees can meet in their
leisure time to discuss certain topics. In the Virtual Café, all public discussion forums and
permanent chats are listed.

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The Project room13 is used to collaboratively work on projects, tasks and documents. It can
be used by multiple authors working on the same courseware, by teachers for sharing
experiences and know-how, or by students for learning together or reaching certain
common goals.
Other rooms (such as a public library) can be added or activated on a customization level
without much effort (depending on the type of room).

4.4.2 Tools within eLS


With the help of different tools, user’s interactions with course contents within several
rooms are enabled. Tools are displayed in an add-on window. The same tools can occur in
multiple rooms. Tools exist for the following categories:
 Communication & Collaboration: supports manifold formal and informal
communication within GENTLE
o Annotations: Notes and Question/Answer Dialogs
o Discussion Forum
o Messaging
o Shared Workspace14
o Task listError: Reference source not found
o CalendarError: Reference source not found
o Address Book15
o Chat
o Audio Chat16
o Video ChatError: Reference source not found
o Shared WhiteboardError: Reference source not found
o Application SharingError: Reference source not found
 Information Retrieval: simplifies learning and work
o Search Dialog
o Background Library/Knowledge Base
o Glossary
o Self Assessments & Exercises Library
 Authoring and Structuring of Content: supports easier authoring of course
structure

13
The Project room has been planned but not implemented in GENTLE yet, however similar
functionality is offered by the Hyperwave Team Workspace which can be used in conjunction
with GENTLE.
14
This has not been implemented in GENTLE but in the Hyperwave Team Workspace, which can
be used in conjunction with GENTLE.
15
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE.
16
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE but in the Hyperwave eCommunication Suite,
which can be used in conjunction with GENTLE.

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o CourseWizard
o Module Repository/Media Depot
o Shared authoring & structuring tool17
o Scene Viewer and Editor18
o Hyperwave Virtual Folders
o Infoboard
o Offline version & Offline-Publisher (GENTLE CD-Publisher)
 Administration
o User Wizard & Administration
o Team Wizard & Administration
o Course Enrolment & Administration
o Resource Management19
o System Usage Statistics
 Human Capital and Competency Management
o User Progress Reports
o Course Usage & Progress Statistics Reports
o Grading & Assessment Tool
o Competency & Skill Gap AnalysisError: Reference source not found
Note: The following tools may be based on the same tool as they share the same feature
set, but with a different entry point into the data structures:
 Shared Workspace
 Library/Knowledge Base
 Media Depot
 Shared authoring & structuring tool

4.4.3 System Architecture

4.4.3.1 Operational Environment:


The system is based on the Hyperwave Information Server (and IS/6) and requires a Java
and JavaScript capable Web browser on the client (both for trainers and trainees).
Netscape 4.x or Internet Explorer 5.x (or higher) are recommended, however, if the need
arises this can be customized to other Java and JavaScript capable browsers (required
effort may vary). The system can also be integrated into existing Hyperwave servers and
applications.
17
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE, but the Hyperwave eKnowledge Suite offers
similar functionality which can be used in conjunction with GENTLE
18
So far, only a prototype has been implemented which has not yet been packaged and further
integrated in GENTLE.
19
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE.

83
Virtual
Folders Browser Clients

Wavemaster
Server
(n *) Waveslave

GENTLE/eLS

FTServer HGServer DCServer

Waveengine

Wavedriver Wavedriver
DC

Database
FT
Repository
Databases Oracle,
MS-SQL

Figure 11: The Hyperwave IS/6 Architecture

4.4.3.2 User Interface:


The User Interface has to be kept completely separate from the functionality and the rest
of the system because it is very likely to be customized in various applications. Usage of
resource files is therefore required. The UI has to follow common HCI guidelines and has
to take support for disabled users (see chapter 2.3.3, page 51) into consideration.

4.4.3.3 Standards and system interfaces:


The system has to follow established standards wherever possible and interfaces to other
systems (e.g. database, directory services, ERP systems etc.) have to be made, where
useful.

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4.5 Detailed description of rooms

4.5.1 Foyer
The Foyer room (see Figure 12 for original GENTLE style and Figure 13 for eLS style)
works as the main entry point for the users to
1. inform new users about the system, thus giving them an introduction and
overview to the system and explaining features.
 It can be used as an advertisement (show highlights and advantages of e-
Learning) and as a
 user guide (for very interested users or students & teachers; a more detailed
description). The user guide can be implemented as a demo course with
guest account access rights, but with restricted functionality for unregistered
users (registered users doing this introduction course may access all
functions of the system!)
2. show an overview of all available courses (see Figure 15). This is a table listing
the most important information like title, type, time and duration (e.g. at a
university it could be winter and/or summer term and hours per week) about each
course. Each entry includes a link which leads to the public part of the course
(overview and logistic information).
Note: In later implementations, the table listing has been extended to a tree view,
in which each open branch shows the listing of all courses offered within a
course profile. Course profiles are collections of courses belonging to the same
category (such as same course of study, or courses which employees belonging to
the same department have to take).
3. provide access to the user registration & account creation (if automated), if the
users decide to actively use the system. For the registration, users must fill out a
questionnaire (see Figure 14, for items of the questionnaire form see the
preferences section within the study room). The account creation can be
automatic or semi-automatic:
 Automatic: An anonymous user has to fill out a questionnaire; after which a
user account and a Study Room (including a home collection structure) is
created and an info message or email will be send to server administrators.
 Semi-Automatic: An anonymous user has to fill out a questionnaire which
will be sent to server administrators with special registration duty, who then
manually grants the account. This method makes it possible to include some
kind of billing between filling-out the form and granting access to the
system.
4. identify themselves to the system (for already registered users) and to guide them
to their personal Study Room
Apart from that, the welcome page provides an Identification button, a language select
button, a help button, and an exit button to leave the WBT-system:
 Exit WBT environment: jumps back to specified general home page of the
server. The destination has to be configured during the installation process (may
be changed later on within the system administration).

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Figure 12: The GENTLE/HTS 1.0 Foyer

Figure 13: The Hyperwave eLS 1.2 Foyer

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Figure 14: GENTLE user registration/questionnaire

Figure 15: GENTLE Table of Courses

4.5.2 Students’ & Teachers’ Study Room


The Study Room is the main entry point of the system for identified users (substitute for a
Hyperwave “home collection”). It provides access to all other features of the system in a
direct or indirect way and stores user specific data.
It consists of the following sections:
 List of courses, in which users have enrolled, once they have finished or created
or which are suggested to them

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 List of discussion forums, to which the user is subscribed
 More detailed information about the user’s statistical data, such as progress
information and assessments results (“My Statistics”)
 Personal settings (“My Settings”)
 Personal files (“My Files”) - it is planned that this component will be extended to
a private workspace.
 Shared workspace (“My Projects”)
These sections can be displayed within the left frame of the study room vertically or as
horizontal switchable tabs. In a more flexible version each o f the elements within the
section could be realized as a portlet or track (Hyperwave terminology) which can be
assembled to a personalized learning portal.
In addition, the study room provides access to the following rooms:
 the Administration Office
 a back to the Foyer button
 the Virtual Café
and tools:
 the Messaging tool: If a new message has been sent to the student an e.g. waving
flag (animated GIF) indicates, that a new message has arrived or not (GIF
image). By clicking on the icon, the Messaging Section window will be opened
or displayed within the same browser (UI dependent). This is the same behavior
as in the course room.
 the Calendar tool20: The calendar is used to store all important dates such as
course starting and finishing time, task deadlines, meetings, etc. Entries can be
created by the trainee, trainers, administrators and automatically by the system.
 the Media Depot: The Media depot allow to store and maintain a structured
hierarchy of chunks of media content for later reuse by authors. Metadata can be
applied to each object to support targeted search and find later on.
via buttons.
Depending on the users' roles appearance and functionality of the Study room can differ.

20
Although a calendar tool has been implemented, it has never been integrated into GENTLE, but
rather into the Hyperwave Team Workspace which can be used in conjunction with GENTLE.

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4.5.2.1 Detailed description of sections within students’ Study Room:

Figure 16: Layout of Study Room (eLS 1.2, trainee’s view)

 Personal Courses Section:


 Courses Enrolled: The course listing provides quick access to the enrolled
courses by clicking on a list element.
 Courses Suggested – A list of suggested courses in which the user may enrol.
Enrolment can be done by clicking on the “enroll”-button either automatically
or semi-automatically. The course listing is also clickable, which provides the
user with a preview of the course. A course will be suggested to a certain user if
he/she meets the course requirements (if there are any set for the course).
Current definable requirements are the finishing of other courses, or a certain
user profile like being member of a certain department etc. 21 For later versions,
it was also planned that enrolment may also depend on certain conditions, like a
skill gap analysis, max. number of students or, if billing applied whether there is
enough e-cash available etc.
By enrolling in a course, the following actions are carried out:
 Automatic mode:
 A message will be sent to the course administrator, informing
him that a new student has enrolled for the course.
 The user will become a member of the user group that is
allowed to access the course.

21
The course dependency feature has been removed in eLS 1.2

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 The suggested course will be moved to the “courses
enrolled” section.
 Course-specific user objects will be created, which store the
progress information and the grading.
 Semi-Automatic mode:
 A message will be sent to the course administrator, informing
him that a new student wishes to be enrolled in the course.
 The course administrator may afterwards complete the
enrolment procedure manually. The user will then become a
member of the user group that is allowed to access the
course.
 The suggested course will be moved to the courses enrolled
section.
 Course specific user objects will be created, which store the
progress information and the grading (after finishing the
course).
 Courses Finished (Archive) – This section lists the courses already finished.
 Discussion Forums Sections: - This section lists the following categories of forums:
 General Forums: Forums about general topics. They can only be created by
administrators
 Course Forums: Here are listed the forums of all courses in which the user is
currently enrolled
 Team Forums: Here are listed the team specific forums
 in which the user has currently enrolled, or
 are suggested to the user (=invitation to participate in a team)
 My Settings - The personal settings section is used to maintain
 a public homepage, which will be automatically generated during the account
generation process and may be changed by the student later.
 electronic business card (dynamically created by template based on user
preferences, can be viewed by other users). It can be used
 by the current user to view and change the personal preferences and
other data by using a form based interface.
 by other users to retrieve publicly available information about a user
(especially about teachers, their offices, ...).

90
Figure 17: Example layout of Modify Personal Preferences/My Settings (eLS 1.2)

Figure 18: Example layout of Electronic Business Card (eLS 1.2)

 My Files: The personal files section can be seen as an e-Learning diary because it lists
and provides quick access to all
 questions, answers, annotations/notes and discussion articles a user has created.
These articles will be displayed hierarchically grouped depending on their
belonging to a course or team. When clicking on an annotation or discussion
article, the corresponding tool (e.g. forum) will be opened displaying the article.

91
 The private workspace tool22 can be seen as an enhanced My Files section. In addition
to the own notes and discussion articles created a private background library can be
configured by creating a knowledge base structure, uploading and modifying own
documents, linking a user-specific set of books linked from the global background
library, linking relevant pages from subscribed courses and adding resources from
other Web sites (bookmark list). This tool follows the constructivistic approach of
supporting the construction of the student’s own mental structures.
 My ProjectsError: Reference source not found section- access to projects rooms23:
This section lists all the projects of the student and provides the possibility of entering
a shared workspace for viewing/modifying them, subscribing to new projects,
unsubscribing from projects, or, depending on the role and access rights, creating new
or deleting existing projects.
 My Statistics – The personal statistics section gives an overview about the progress
the user has made for each of the courses in which the user is enrolled. In addition, the
assessments results are also listed. In later versions, the current skill level of the user
according to the skill matrix and skill gap analysis can be shown here.

Figure 19: Example layout of My Statistics (eLS 1.2)

22
This tool has been planned for GENTLE but has not been realized so far. However the
Hyperwave Team Workspace, which can be used in conjunction with GENTLE, offers similar
functionality.
23
This tool has been planned for GENTLE but has been realized only in a very limited way as team
based discussions. In addition, the Hyperwave Team Workspace can be used instead.

92
4.5.2.2 Detailed description of sections within teachers’ Study Room
The teachers’ study room contains all sections and functions of the students’ study rooms
plus:
 Courses Created (for editing) – This section lists all courses a teacher has created or
has write access to. By clicking on a course, the teacher enters the course. The
courses’ preferences can be modified by clicking on the icon of the course 24. The
preferences of a course are:
 Policy for course suggestion (can also be applied within administration
module):
 manual suggestion (students don’t see availability of course; default
during course development)
 (semi-)automatic suggestion: specify conditions for automatic
suggestion (e.g. prerequisites)
 Policy for course enrolment (can also be applied within administration module):
 (semi-) automatic enrolment: specify conditions for automatic
enrolment (e.g. max. number of participants etc.) or actions for semi-
automatic enrolment (trainer notification if trainee enrolled in course
etc.)
 Create New Course – This function opens the Course Wizard tool
 Open Media Depot– This function opens the Media Depot tool
 Switch to Administration25 – This function switches to the administration room
for creating/modifying/deleting accounts, granting/disabling enrolments,
manually finishing courses, assigning grades, etc.

4.5.3 Course Room (for students & teachers; previously called Course Environment)
The course room is the main location for working through a selected course. The main
task of the course room is to provide access to the course content and navigation and to
offer access to appropriate tools to support several learning concepts.
In addition, the course room is based on a modular architecture which separates
functionality and layout. It also provides an API26 to control the UI by function calls
embedded within the content, which offers additional functions such as opening of
windows to show additional explanations, different link types which directly open the
library or glossary at a special position, or which link to external sources. This ensures
maximum flexibility for authors to combine the functionality of the system with the
learning content and for administrators to customize the course room according to the
corporate design and adapted purposes.
Furthermore the course room is based on established standards such as AICC, IMS and
SCORM to integrate existing contents that follow these standards.

24
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE or eLS
25
Within eLS the Administration button is also visible for trainees, because they can administrate
their team affairs there
26
Within eLS this client side JavaScript API is called AAI (Advanced Authoring Interface)

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Figure 20: The Course Room of eLS 1.2

94
Figure 21: Draft design of the eLS 1.4 course room

4.5.3.1 Functions available for students:


 Course Navigation: previous, next, (display) table of contents and a click-able status
information showing the topmost hierarchy level (main chapters)
 Exit Course: jumps back to the Study Room. This function will not be available for
the anonymous user.
 Progress Tracking: percentage of pages/modules seen/mastered. Progress may be
determined by passing post-tests. This function has to be disabled for users that have
not enrolled in this course (e.g. guest/anonymous users, users which preview the
course).
 Create Annotation/Note. This function has to be disabled/handled especially for users
that have no full access to the course (e.g. no annotations for anonymous users, only
private annotations for identified users that have not enrolled in this course (preview
mode)).
 Open Discussion Forum: For details, look at the description of the discussion forum.
This function has to be disabled/handled especially (e.g., go to special discussion
forum with demo content) for users that may not access the forum, e.g. because they
have not enrolled in this course.
 Open Chat: Synchronous Communication with List of Current Users (in same course,
chapter, vicinity and separate rooms for collaboration if member)
 Search - Note: A nice feature would be to capture a selected area of the text in the
browser as a preset query string. This could be combined with special search buttons
for searching in a user (course independent) configurable library (e.g. in dictionaries).
This would simplify and speed up the looking up process tremendously. This also
requires a UI for creating a user configurable library.

95
 Open Background Library: This function has to be disabled/handled especially for
users that may not access the background library of the course, e.g. because they have
not enrolled in the course or it does not exist!
 Open Glossary: This function has to be disabled/handled especially for users that may
not access the glossary of the course.
 Open Exercises Tool. This function has to be disabled/handled especially for users
that may not access the exercises of the course.
 Open Messaging with status indicator for new messages: If a new message has been
sent to the student, a waving flag (animated GIF) will indicate, that a new message
has arrived. By clicking on the icon, the Messaging Section window will be opened in
a new window or displayed within the same browser (UI dependent). This works the
same as in the study room.
Note: This function has to be disabled for the anonymous user.

4.5.3.2 Functions available for teachers/authors that may modify the course:
Trainers and authors will have access to all functions for students plus:
 Open Structure Editor27 for modifying the course structure.
 Open Scene-EditorError: Reference source not found for creating/modifying a course
page/scene.
 Open Library Manager28 for modifying the course library.
 Open trainees, teams and courses/classes administration (statistics, marks, team
management for collaboration, etc.).

4.5.4 Administration Office


The Administration Office is used to administrate
 users,
 teams,
 courses,
 resourcesError: Reference source not found and
 the system configuration.
Possible actions are creating/configuring/removing of user accounts, teams/membership
and courses, assigning courses and teams to users.
In addition, it also works as a platform for performing statistical evaluations.

4.5.4.1 User interface


The UI of the Administration office is divided into four frames:
 The left frame contains the buttons to switch between the four different
administration sections (user, team, courses and system administration) and to go
back to the Study Room.

27
This feature has not been implemented so far
28
This feature has been implemented only rudimentarily and has been called “Repository Editor”

96
 The upper right frame is reserved for the filter module which is needed for the
user administration, team administration and course administration. Currently,
the system section will omit this frame.
 The middle right frame is used for listing users, teams, courses or system options.
 The lower right frame is reserved for providing the activity buttons (e.g. create,
modify, delete, apply) for the four sections.

Figure 22: Example of the Administration office (eLS 1.2)

4.5.4.2 Groups
To provide a deeper understanding of the different user roles the system supports, the
relation between system specific groups and users will be explained briefly:

97
Depending on the memberships to different groups (wbt-admins, wbt-teachers, wbt-
authors), users have access to the functionality (e.g. CourseWizard, Administration Office)
of different roles (administrators, teachers, authors). In addition, a finer grained security
model can be created by using different access rights.

wbt wbt-
teams

wbt-
admin team1 team2

wbt-
admin teache
1 rs
team1-
wbt- cours moderat
author e1- ors
s stude
cours nts
e1-
teache
rs
cours
e1- student student
teacher author 1 2
1 s

cours
e1- student
finish 3
ed

Figure 23: Relations between groups and users

4.5.4.2.1 wbt
 global GENTLE group
 each group or user of GENTLE must be a direct or indirect member of this group
 this group must be created during the installation of the whole system

4.5.4.2.2 wbt-admins
 system administration group
 all members of this group are system users and allowed to configure the whole
system
 this group and a user of this group must be created during the installation of the
whole system

4.5.4.2.3 wbt-teachers
 teacher/trainer group

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 all members of this group are teachers/trainer/tutor-groups for different courses.
Depending on their rights, they configure their courses and assign users, teams,
related to it
 this group must be created during the installation of the whole system

4.5.4.2.4 wbt-authors
 authors group
 members of this group may create and maintain content for courses and
background libraries. The respective access right depend on the membership of
course specific authoring groups
 this group must be created during the installation of the WBT system

4.5.4.2.5 wbt-teams
 group containing all teams
 members of this group are typically other sub groups representing teams
(collection of users working together on a specific topic)
 this group must be created during the installation of the whole system

4.5.4.2.6 Course dependent groups


For each new course the following course groups will be created automatically by the
course wizard or the publish course function:
course-teachers (e.g. “506032m-teachers”)
 this group is a sub-group of wbt-teachers
 this group contains all users who will be teachers or tutors of the course
course-students (e.g. “506032m-students”)
 this group is a sub-group of wbt
 this group contains all users who have enrolled in this course
course-finished (e.g. “506032m-finished”)
 this group is a sub-group of course-students
 this group contains all users who have finished this course
course-authors (e.g. “506032m-authors”)
 this group is a sub-group of wbt-authors
 this group contains all users who will be authors of this course

4.5.4.2.7 Team dependent groups


For each new team, the following additional team group will be created automatically:
wbt-team (e.g. “wbt-team1”)
 this group is a sub-group of the team group
 this group contains all members of the team
wbt-team-suggested (e.g. “wbt-team1-suggested”)
 this group is a sub-group of the team group

99
 this group contains all users who have been invited to become members of the
team
wbt-team-tutors (e.g. “wbt-team1-tutors”)
 this group is a sub-group of the team group
 this group contains all users who will be able to moderate the team and the
corresponding forum (e.g., delete articles recursively)

4.5.4.3 Filters
The task of the filtering system is to list users or courses in a specially sorted way. For
example, a teacher can ask for a list of students who belong to group A and have passed
the examination with a mark better than a 3.
This has the advantage that a user is not overwhelmed by a long list of users or courses,
which takes too long to process and to download, but is shown a one on which certain
operations can be performed (e.g. exporting of the list to a text file, deleting etc.).
In previous versions, a list of intelligent filters has been defined, which can be used by
teachers and administrators. In future versions, there will be a so-called Filter Wizard,
with which users have the possibility to create their own filters.
After leaving the administration tool, the currently selected filter will be stored in the
users' preferences. When they re-enter their tool, their last filter will be used.
Remark: this filter system will not only be used in the administration office but also for
example in the messaging system to send a special message to a filtered user list.

4.5.4.4 User section


The User section allows handling of all user specific administration tasks. These are e.g.:
 Creation of new user accounts
 Modification of existing user accounts, including changing properties, course
assignments and status, team memberships and roles
 Deletion of user accounts which are not needed any more
 Grading and statistical reports of users
 Exporting of user lists to various file formats for external post processing

100
Figure 24 : User section of Administration Office (early GENTLE version)

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Notes:
 Create user: all selected users will be ignored
 Delete user: all selected users will be deleted (by administrator)
 Modify user: properties can only be modified if exactly one user has been
selected If multiple users have been selected only assigned courses and roles can
be changed
 Export user list: export the list of selected users
 When a user’s name is clicked on the electronic business card is automatically
opened.

4.5.4.4.1 Create new user


As the name of this dialog indicates, it is used to create a new user account including all
necessary data structures. This dialog is the same one this is accessed from the Foyer for
registering a new user. Depending on the role and access rights of the user who calls this
dialog, the options vary (see tables below).

Figure 25: Administration: Create new user dialog (early GENTLE version)

Actions performed after submitting this dialog box:


a) create new user account
b) create new study room structure

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c) define type of user (admin, teacher, author, student): only available for
administrators
d) add courses suggested:
 add all courses which should be added automatically to a new user
(depends on the preferences of the course and profile of the user)
 teachers can manually add their own courses, if they are not added
automatically (depends on the preferences set in the course itself)

New User  Admin Trainer Author Trainee


 Current user
Admin yes yes yes yes
Trainer no no no yes
Author no no no yes
Trainee no no no yes
Table 1: Automatic mode: who is allowed to create which kind of user

New User  Admin Trainer Author Trainee


 Current user
Admin yes yes yes yes
Table 2: Semi-automatic mode: who is allowed to create which kind of user

Note: In newer versions of GENTLE and eLS, this dialog box has been extended to a User
Wizard, which consists of several pages where the administrator can page forward and
backwards and which is also used for the modify single user dialog.

4.5.4.4.2 Delete user


This function is used the remove the selected user accounts from the system. This action is
irreversible. Depending on the role (admin), either all types of user accounts may be
removed or only their own account (see table below).
Actions performed after submitting the warning dialog box are:
a) delete account
b) delete locker structure
c) remove user from groups
d) remove user from teams
Delete User  Admin Trainer Author Trainee
 Current user
Admin yes yes yes yes
Trainer no self no no
Author no no self no
Trainee no no no self
Table 3: Who is allowed to delete which kind of user

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4.5.4.4.3 Modify user

Figure 26: Modify single user (early GENTLE version)

104
Figure 27: Modify multiple users (early GENTLE version)

Actions performed after submitting this dialog box:


a) users can modify their own properties (examples, because customizable):
 First Name
 Last Name
 Position
 Phone number
 Fax Number
 Address
 Room
 E-mail-address

105
 Change password
 Study ID
 Student ID
b) modify user type
 change users' role from e.g. student to a tutor for the course and vice
versa (by a teacher)
 change users' role to a different one (only by administrator)
c) add user to and remove user from teams
 add user to team group
 remove user from team group
d) add/remove courses suggested (courses for all users, courses for users who have
special prerequisites)
e) add/remove courses enrolled
f) add/remove courses finished

Modify User  Admin Trainer Author Trainee


 Current user
Admin yes yes yes yes
Trainer no self no yes
Author no no self no
Trainee no no no self
Table 4: who is allowed to modify properties of which kind of user

Modify User  Admin Trainer Author Trainee


 Current user
Admin yes yes yes yes
Trainer no no no yes
Author no no no no
Trainee no no no self
Table 5: who is allowed to modify courses of user

4.5.4.4.4 Grading/Statistics
This function provides similar information about the student (=selected trainee) as is found
in the student’s My Statistics section of the Studyroom, but here it is also accessible to the
trainer of the relevant courses (which the trainer administrates). In addition to just viewing
the assessments results, the trainer may also modify them if necessary (e.g. because it is a
hand-in assessment and the results are not calculated automatically).

4.5.4.4.5 Filter user list


If larger numbers of users are hosted within a system, the listing of existing users needs to
be filtered to keep an overview, find the relevant users fast and reduce server load and
network bandwidth demand. Appropriate filters that can be combined (logical “AND”)
are:

106
 Filter after user name:
o Show all users (needs to be deactivated if larger number of users are
hosted to prevent too long of a response time)
o Show all users whose names start with a certain letter or string (e.g.
“A*”, “B*”, “Di*” …)
 Filter after role:
o Show all users (only available for administrators)
o Show all users who belong to a specified role (trainee, trainer, author,
administrator)
 Filter after courses membership:
o Show all users = do not apply filter
o Show only users who are enrolled in the specified courses
 Filter after team membership:
o Show all users = do not apply filter
o Show only users who belong to a specified team
Valid combinations of filters are, e.g.
 Show all trainees who are enrolled in the course “Multimedia Information
Systems” and whose names start with “D”
 Show all trainers of the course “Introduction into compression algorithms”

4.5.4.4.6 Export user list29


As the name indicates, this function can be used to export a list of selected users with
specified properties (to be checked within the dialog) in various formats for further
processing. A select all button makes it easy to select all listed users according to the
currently adjusted filter.
 Export selected user accounts to text plain separated by a „ ; “ (could be used to
import them into Excel)
 Export selected user accounts to HTML
 Export selected user accounts in vCard format

4.5.4.5 Team/Project section


The purpose of teams is to form a community of users that want to work on the same task
e.g. to learn or discuss together. Teams can be seen as an alternative training aid that
supports the constructivism (as opposed to the Course Room which supports
behaviorism/instructivism). Currently, a team specific forum will also be created together
with every new team to provide a working and discussion area. For later versions it is
planned that each team gets assigned a specific project on which they will work, including
a project room as the working environment.

29
This has not yet been implemented, but can be easily added e.g., through a project based
customization..

107
Figure 28: The team section within the eLS 1.2 administration

During the creation process (and afterwards when modifying it), the author of the team has
the possibility to invite other users to participate in the team. If other users have been
invited, the corresponding forum will appear in their study room under the "suggested
team specific discussions" section. Users may then take part in the team discussions and
will have access to all documents the team has access to. Furthermore, the team group can
also be used for specifying more sophisticated access rights e.g. as notes, discussion
articles in other forums, libraries etc.
Note: In future versions as well, restrictions similar to course prerequisites may be added
to team properties; e.g. max. number of team members, finished courses, to pre-select the
number of target users.
The author of a team automatically becomes the owner and moderator of the
corresponding forum. Team owners may withdraw the team membership of another user
or recursively delete discussion articles within a team specific forum. An owner may also
assign the moderator role to some other user.
Administrators and teachers may also directly assign teams to users (instead of just
inviting them to their teams).
Apart from team specific forums, there also exists global forums which may be accessible
by all (wbt-) users. Such forums may only be created by administrators.

4.5.4.5.1 Create team


This dialog allows the user to create a new team including
 The definition of the team name
 A list of team members who will be invited to join the team. A select users dialog
will be used to make the selection process easier.
 One or several tutors who work as the administrator of this team

108
 An overview page to inform the invited users about the team’s purpose
 Team propertiesError: Reference source not found (prerequisites, max. number
of members, opening and closing time, etc.) for further regulation of the
subscription process.

Figure 29: Create Team dialog (eLS 1.3 design)

After submitting the dialog, the system will


1. Create the team group
2. Invite or add (only teachers and administrators may perform this action) users
who should belong to the group
3. Create shared team workspace:
o Create shared collectionError: Reference source not found in each study
room structure of the members of the team
o Create a discussion room for the team
o Create chat roomError: Reference source not found for the team

4.5.4.5.2 Delete teams


This function will unsubscribe all members from the selected team(s) and afterwards
delete the team(s) group and the shared workspace which belongs to the team(s). This
function is only available for team tutors and administrators. Team tutors may only delete
the teams they administrate, administrators may remove all teams.

109
If the team group is used to specify additional access rights to documents not residing
within the workspace, then these documents remain within the system and will not be
removed.

4.5.4.5.3 Modify team


As the name presumes, this function allows you to modify all properties of the selected
team. These are:
 Change description and overview text of team
 Add/remove team moderator
 Change properties of teamError: Reference source not found
 Add new user to team
o Add user to team group
o Copy team collection/shared workspace to locker structure
 Remove user from team
o Remove user from team group
o Delete team collection from locker structure

4.5.4.5.4 Filter team listError: Reference source not found


If larger numbers of teams are hosted within a system, the listing of existing teams needs
to be filtered to keep an overview, find the relevant teams fast and reduce server load and
network bandwidth demand. Appropriate filters, that can be combined (logical “AND”)
are:
 Filter after team titles:
o Show all teams (needs to be deactivated if larger number of teams are
hosted to prevent too long of a response time)
o Show all teams, whose titles start with a certain letter or string (e.g.
“a*”, “b*”, “mm*” …)
 Filter after tutor:
o Show all teams of all tutors (only available for administrators)
o Show all courses of a specific tutor (a tutor may only list his/her own
teams)

4.5.4.5.5 Export team listError: Reference source not found


As the name indicates, this function can be used to export a list of selected teams with
defined properties (to be selected within the dialog) in various formats for further
processing. A select all button makes it easy to select all the listed teams according to the
currently adjusted filter.
 export selected user accounts to text plain separated by a „ ; “ (could be used to
import them into Excel)
 export selected user accounts to HTML

110
4.5.4.6 Course section
Courses are virtual lessons that can be hold completely online or used in addition to
support an instructor led training course. A Course is always a didactical entity and thus
has assigned one or more trainers to it.
Only trainers (and administrators) are allowed to create new courses and maintain them
afterwards. Trainers may define authors, who have the task to create content for their
courses and the corresponding background library. Authors have full control over the
modules they created such as, modifying, deleting and reusing/granting of reuse. However,
they should take care about physically deleting their own modules because someone else
might be using it.
This section provides access to the administration of courses and the involved roles and
users and, by default lists all courses which correspond to the currently chosen filter.
When one of the listed courses is clicked on, the system switches to the course room of the
clicked course.

Figure 30: Course section of Administration (early GENTLE style)

4.5.4.6.1 Create new course


This function opens the course wizard, which is the main tool for a trainer to create a new
course skeleton. See chapter 4.6.5, page 135 for more details.
A newly created course has the status “under construction” and is only viewable by its
authors and trainers until it is published to the public or a certain profile.

4.5.4.6.2 Delete course


This function removes the selected courses from the system. This includes:
 Withdrawing the course from all course members (trainees, authors and trainers),
including course groups and links into study rooms

111
 Remove the course structure, but take caution with the course libraries: Do not
delete modules which belong to the background or media depot/content library
 Delete user groups belonging to the course
Note: Authors may not delete any course (except when they are trainers at the same time),
trainers may only delete their own courses (which they administrate), and administrators
may delete any course.

4.5.4.6.3 Modify course


This dialog allows the changing of preferences and properties of the selected course. Only
the trainers of the respective course and the administrators may modify course settings.

Figure 31: Modify course properties dialog (eLS 1.3 style)

The following properties of a course can be changed. These modifications should be done
by reusing the course wizard30:
 Course title
 Trainers/Tutors for the course,
o With enrollment notification – yes/no
o With question/answer notificationError: Reference source not found –
yes/no
 Authors for the course
 Policy for course enrolment:
o Automatic mode: course collection is copied from courses suggested to
courses enrolled; user is added to the course group
30
As the dialog shows, this has not been implemented that way. Instead the crossed through
properties have to be changed manually by using the Virtual Folders and editing properties or
HTML pages.

112
o Semiautomatic mode: the responsible trainers are notified that a user
wants to enroll in the course; if all conditions such as course fee has
been paid, the course is not full are met, the trainer grants the course
enrolment.
 Duration, type, and time of the courseError: Reference source not found
 Keywords for the courseError: Reference source not found
 Learning objectivesError: Reference source not found
 Target audienceError: Reference source not found
 How to use this courseError: Reference source not found
 Place and time for courseError: Reference source not found
 Expected time to master this courseError: Reference source not found
 Overview – content of the courseError: Reference source not found
 Place and time for course exercisesError: Reference source not found
 Expected time to master the course exercisesError: Reference source not found
 Overview – content of the exercisesError: Reference source not found
 ReferencesError: Reference source not found
 Course library31
 Discussion forum usage – yes/noError: Reference source not found
 Available article types for the forumError: Reference source not found
o Question/Answer – yes/noError: Reference source not found
o Agree/Disagree – yes/noError: Reference source not found
 Policy for automatic course suggestionError: Reference source not found: should
this course be added automatically to the courses suggested of a new user or not.
If yes, what kinds of prerequisites have to be fulfilled to suggest the course?
Potential prerequisites are:
o Finishing of one or more other courses
o Meeting a certain skill level at a specified competency
o Being member of a certain team
o Being member of a certain profile
 Policy for the visibility of the courseError: Reference source not found: e.g. only
for trainers and authors; for all wbt-users, etc.
Note: The name of the course and the name of the groups belonging to the course can not
be modified

4.5.4.6.4 Publish course


After a course has been finalized, it may be published to the public or to a certain profile.
After that, the course will be visible to users other than the responsible trainers and authors
(and administers). If the course is published to the public and set to automatic suggestion,
then it will be suggested as a recommended course to all trainees. If the course has been
31
In GENTLE and eLS currently, this has to be done by using the Repository Editor.

113
published to one or more certain profiles, then it will only be suggested to those trainees
who fulfill the selected profiles and their policies.

Figure 32: The Publish Course tool dialog

4.5.4.6.5 Course Statistics


The Course Statistics button provides statistical information to trainers about the courses
they created. It includes information about the number of users enrolled, the amount of the
course material covered, and which chapters have been read the most.
The statistics information window consists of three parts, which can be viewed
individually or all together on one page:
 General Course Information
 Most Visited Pages
 Trainee’s Progress
The General Course Information section gives a quick overview about the current status
and use of the course. It includes:
 The number of trainees enrolled in the course
 The percentage of the course covered
 The percentage of trainees that have finished the course
 The number of users enrolled but who have not yet started the course
 The number of chapters in the course
 The percentage of each chapter finished

114
 The average number of days a course has been in use by all enrolled trainees
For the most visited pages, the trainers can specify whether they want to see x percent of
the top most visited or top least visited pages or the status of all pages of the course. This
section displays in detail:
 The title of the page
 The percentage of users who have viewed the page
 The number of users who have viewed the page
In the trainees progress section, trainers can decided whether they want to list all students
or just the best (or worst) performing students (displayed in percentages). The list can also
be sorted by the following criterions:
 Name: This will list user statistics alphabetically.
 Percentage: This will list user statistics according to the percentage of the course
the user has completed.
 First Visit: This will list user statistics according to the date the user first visited
the course.
 Last Visit: This will list user statistics according to the date the user last visited
the course.
 Number of Days: This will list user statistics according to the number of days the
user has visited the course.
The system can also be configured (by system administrators) so that no names are
displayed, due to data protection issues. In this case the displayed information is only of
general value for the trainers to see how the progress is distributed over individual class
members.

115
Figure 33: The course statistics (eLS 1.2)

4.5.4.6.6 Filter course list32


If larger numbers of courses are hosted within a system, the listing of existing courses
needs to be filtered to keep an overview, find the relevant courses fast, and reduce server
load and network bandwidth demand. Appropriate filters that can be combined (logical
“AND”), are:
 Filter after course titles:
o Show all courses (needs to be deactivated if larger number of courses
are hosted to prevent too long response times)
o Show all courses whose titles start with a certain letter or string (e.g.
“a*”, “b*”, “mm*” …)
 Filter after trainer:

32
A simple version of this filter has been available in early GENTLE versions but has been
removed in later ones

116
o Show all courses of all trainers (only available for administrators)
o Show all courses of a specific trainer (a trainer may only list his/her own
courses)
 Filter after profile:
o Show all courses of all profiles
o Show only courses which belong to a specified profile

4.5.4.6.7 Export course list33


As the name indicates, this function can be used to export a list of selected courses with
defined properties (to be selected within the dialog) in various formats for further
processing. A select all button make it easy to select all listed courses according to the
currently adjusted filter.
 Export selected user accounts to plain text separated by a „ ; “ (could be used to
import them into Excel)
 Export selected user accounts to HTML

4.5.4.6.8 Resource management34


This dialog lists all time slots for assigning resources of the selected course. It allows the
adding, removing or modifying of time slots, which can be labeled to identify a special
lecture. Each time slot can be assigned one or more available resources of different
categories.

4.5.4.7 Resource section35


Resource Administration is used to assign and manage resources such as class- or meeting
rooms, video beamers, books, maps, computers and other electronic equipment, or even
human resources. Resources can be reserved for a specific time (can be a labelled time
slot) and assigned to persons such as trainers, administrators or to events such as courses.
This supports mixing online lectures with instructor led trainings (blended learning).
Resources can be added to or removed from the system, and modified or assigned to
persons/courses. In addition, a report of their utilization can be created: on which day/at
which time it is used by whom/what.

4.5.4.8 System section


System Administration is used to configure the system for proper use, set general settings,
do basic customizations and provide system statistics.

33
This has not yet been implemented.
34
This has not yet been implemented.
35
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE.

117
Figure 34: System administration (eLS 1.3)

System administration is divided into three sub-sections:


 General settings: The following entries can be made here:
o Mail server name: The mail server that should be used to send SMTP
mails. If this has not been specified, then SMTP emails will not be sent,
just system internal messages.
o Exit address: The URL that should be called when clicking on the
system exit button
o Sort order: Specifies the default sort order of the chapter and title listing
within the table of contents of a course:
o Semi-automatic registration: Specifies whether all (self)-registered users
can use the account they just created immediately or whether the
account has to be confirmed by an administrator
o Admin to notify: This specifies which administrators are to be notified if
the system is switched into semi-automatic registration mode and when
a user asks for a new account.
 Statistics: Systems statistics may be opened here (see Figure 35) and various
filter settings may be specified. The statistics show information about the
following aspects for a specified period:

118
o Total number of requests
o Requests per hour: hourly distribution of requests. This indicates server-
load peaks over a day.
o Requests per weekday: daily distribution of requests: This indicates
server-load peaks over the whole week.
o Requests per course: distribution of requests over all used courses. This
indicates which courses are used more often than others.
o Requests per host name: number of requests depending on browsers’
domain name. This should give some information on which domains
(e.g. Internet provider, company, university, etc.) users are typically
coming from.
o Requests per IP Address: number of requests depending on browsers’
ip-addresses. This should give some information on which ip-addresses
users are typically coming from (if the domain is not available).
o Requests per platform: number of requests depending on browsers’
operating systems. This should give feedback on which operating
systems should be supported.
o Requests by browser: number of requests depending on user browser
version. This should give feedback on which browser versions should
be supported.
o Requests by client screen size: number of requests depending on
browsers’ available screen size. This should give feedback on which
screen size the whole system should be optimized for.

119
Figure 35: System statistics (eLS 1.3)

 Simple customizations: Simple changes to the UI and function-set of the system


can be done without any technical knowledge of the system. These are:
o Size and style of dialogs and tools.
o Default UI themeError: Reference source not found. This way, the
administrator can select the standard theme a new user will get from
several pre-configured themes. The color and font style, icons,
background images and other images within the system change
accordingly.

120
o Default language and number of supported languagesError: Reference
source not found
o UI text stringsError: Reference source not found for each of the
supported languages. The administrator can easily change any of the
texts used within the UI.
o Activated modulesError: Reference source not found (rooms and tools)
and module specific configurations (such as business and user profile
properties).

4.5.5 Virtual Café


The Virtual Café is a supplementary meeting place where all students can meet in their
leisure time to discuss certain topics or where they can get an overview of the currently
available discussions and chats to which they have access. In detail, the Virtual Café
provides the following sections and functions:
 A general information section for an introduction to this room
 A Chat section with access to the following chat types:
o Permanent chats: These are general purpose chat rooms that are
maintained by administrators and can be used to address various topics.
o Virtual Office Hours: These are chat rooms which are bound to a course
and that are only available to members of the specific course for a
specific time and duration. These chats can only be created by trainers
and are moderated by them. After the end of a virtual office hour, the
chat text is automatically stored within a special area of the respective
course to
 make it available for other students
 make it full-text searchable and
 provide the possibility to attach notes.
In this way various techniques (synchronous and asynchronous
communication and search) can be combined.
o Personal36 chats: These can be initiated by any user such as a trainee.
The chat creator can invite other users to join the chat room. The chat is
either public, which means that it is visible within this section for every
user, or it is hidden, which means that it is only visible for those users
who have been explicitly invited by the chat creator. After the last user
has left the chat room the chat dialog will be automatically closed.
In addition, the Café provides access to the
 Discussion forum section, which is similar to the one offered within the Study
room (see chapter 4.5.2.1)

36
Within eLS they are called “private chats”

121
Figure 36: The Virtual Café - Chat section (eLS 1.2)

4.5.6 Project Room37


The Project Room is used to work on a selected private or shared project. A project can be,
e.g. a project to achieve a learning goal, or to accomplish an assignment. All team data
will be accessible by all members of the team (readable and writeable by team members),
however private entries that can only be seen by the respective user can also be created.
The room will combine the following tools on a per project basis:
 Communication tools such as discussion forum, messaging and chat,
 a project specific knowledge baseError: Reference source not found containing
internal books from the global background library and external references,
 a task list, where each task has simple attributes such as
 tasks owners
 percentage of completion
 due date
 priority
 other required resources
 A time planner/calendar toolError: Reference source not found for planning
events and meetings with several views such as day, week, month or a list of the
next appointments or events. The calendar entries can be filters to only show

37
A Project Room has not yet been implemented in GENTLE or eKS, however a tool with similar
functionality called “Hyperwave Team Wizard” has been implemented for eKS
(eKnowledgeSuite)

122
the entries of the actual project or all entries including private events, those of
the subscribed courses and all other projects and teams.
 A shared workspaceError: Reference source not found for exchanging
documents and collaboratively working on them. In addition to upload, modify
and delete functions, version control, configurable release
management/sequential workflow are also provided.
 An address book
 A synchronization function for offline working and for synchronizing with MS
Outlook and PDAs such as Palm OS or Pocket-PC.

4.6 Tools

4.6.1 Annotations
Annotations in GENTLE are based on Hyperwave’s annotation function. Every member
of the course has the possibility to annotate the course material. Features of GENTLE’s
annotations are:
 Annotations are typed. They can be of different types, e.g. remarks for general
remarks about the course material, questions to ask about the course material,
answers to questions, or teacher hints to allow teachers to give useful hints about
the course material.
 Annotations can have different access rights. They can be public (readable by the
whole class), private (readable only by the author) or belong to a team.
Additionally, annotations can be anonymous, which means that the original
author of an annotation cannot be revealed. Anonymous annotations are always
public.
 Whole documents or parts of documents can be annotated.
 Annotations can be of different media types. (e.g. text, audio or images)
 The content of an annotation can be a URL, to allow the creation of private links
in the system.
 Annotations can be annotated. All annotations to a course document can be
displayed in a hierarchical view, similar to the hierarchical view of discussion
articles in the discussion forum.

123
Figure 37: A course page with some inline notes, an opened note and the author’s electronic
business card (eLS 1.2 style)

4.6.1.1 Annotatable documents


Any type of document can be annotated. However with HTML documents it is possible to
annotate parts – text phrases – , which other types only the whole document can be
annotated. Note that course pages which consist of more than one document (e.g.
multiclusters) cannot be annotated inline.

4.6.1.2 Annotation types


Annotations are plain text or HTML documents. Six types of annotations are available,
from which the course author chooses during the course creation. They are:
 remark
 question
 answer
 agreeing remark
 disagreeing remark
 trainer’s hint (only available for trainers)
Annotations can be private, team, course-public, or anonymous38. A private remark may
only be read by the user who created the note, and by the responsible trainer or tutor if it is
of type question. A team note can be read by all members of the specified team and

38
This has not yet been implemented.

124
removed by the team tutor. A course-public note may be read by all course members and
may be removed by the course trainers. All notes may be also removed by administrators.

4.6.1.3 Attachments
With the file upload functionality, annotations of type image, audio, or video is possible.
Annotations can also be URLs, so that the creation of links is possible.

4.6.1.4 Creation of annotations


The course environment provides the user with a note button to annotate course material.
By clicking on the button, a window is opened which contains the input form for an
annotation. If a text was selected before the Annotation button was clicked on, that text is
taken as the phrase to be annotated. Title and content of the annotation have to be entered
and type and access rights of the annotation have to be defined.

Figure 38: The eLS "Write a note" dialog

4.6.1.5 Accessibility & visualization


Annotations can be accessed from the document which they are annotating and from the
“My Files” section of the creator’s study room.
Annotations to a whole document are listed at the bottom of the document 39 or within a
special information box at the top40. For an annotation to a text phrase in a document, an
icon representing the annotation type is displayed at the beginning of the text. The

39
GENTLE and eLS 1.2 behavior.
40
eLS 1.3 behavior.

125
annotated text is highlighted and when the mouse pointer is moved over the annotated text,
a bubble (tool tip) appears, which shows the author and the title. By clicking on the
annotation icon, the annotation is displayed in a new window. For answered questions,
both the question and the answer or possible multiple answers are displayed in that
window. The window displaying the annotation also contains buttons that allow you or the
user to annotate the annotation or to delete the annotation.
By clicking on the author’s name, an electronic business card dialog is opened.

4.6.1.6 Annotating annotations


In general, annotating annotations works the same way as annotating course material. The
exceptions are answers to question annotations. In this case, the type of the question
annotation has to be changed to answered question so that answered questions can be
visualized differently. This helps users to distinguish between questions that have been
answered and those that haven’t. Answer annotations can only be created as annotations to
annotations.

4.6.1.7 Deletion of annotations


The course member who creates a note may delete it as long as there are no further
annotations to it. Teachers may delete an annotation together with all annotations to that
annotation.

4.6.1.8 Editing of annotations


As long as there are no annotations to an annotation, it should be possible to edit the
annotation, instead of deleting it and creating it again.

4.6.1.9 Notification of annotations


For question and answer annotations a notification mechanism exists. If a question is
asked about the course material, the course trainer (or trainees) receives a notification that
a question has been asked. This notification is sent by e-mail or by the GENTLE
messaging system, or by both, depending on the preferences of the teacher. If a question is
answered, the user who asked it is notified. The notification contains a URL to the
annotated document that automatically opens in an additional window.

4.6.1.10 Combine annotations and discussion forum41


If annotations are annotated, threaded discussions emerge. By clicking on a button,
annotation threads can be linked into a selected part of the discussion forum for further and
more comfortable processing.

4.6.1.11 Active documents


Annotations can be seen as the basis for (inter)active documents. Active documents are a
special form of documents with which users can interact and communicate. The idea is
that users may ask any question relevant to the document and the document itself answers
the question with minimal or even without involvement of a supporting human expert.
Learners therefore can get the information or clarification required immediately without
waiting for asynchronous processing by the tutor. This works under the assumption that
many users (>500) read the same document and might ask similar questions. Questions

41
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE.

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that have not been asked before will be directed to a human expert for answering.
However answers to similar questions that exist will be shown immediately to the user.
The difficult part here is to find out whether a new question matches an existing answer.
According to Heinrich & Maurer [Heinrich & Maurer 2000], three approaches to the
implementation of active documents are iimaginable:
 The iconic approach: The simplest form of active documents is already supported
by GENTLE with the implementation of question/answer annotations. As already
mentioned above, learners can mark a referring phrase and add a question
annotation. The supporting tutors will immediately get a notification so that they
can answer the question as soon as possible. When the tutor has answered the
question, the learner who asked the question will also get a notification. An icon
in front of the marked phrase in the document will indicate the question that was
answered. If the question has not been asked privately, all other learners or at
least the learners of the same team can see the icon. By moving the mouse cursor
over it, a bubble will be shown containing the title of the question. By clicking on
the icon, the yellow annotation window will be opened displaying the full
question answer pair. This mechanism ensures that the same question is not
asked twice because the answer can be easily found in front of or near to the
corresponding and relevant phrase. If a lot of users view the page, then all open
questions will be asked and answered after a certain amount of time. The number
of questions asked will also indicate the quality of the document and provide
valuable feedback for the author about whether and how to improve its content.
 The heuristic approach42: Another possibility is to store all relevant questions and
corresponding answers for a document but do not show indications of them
immediately in the page. Instead, a question can be entered in natural language
and the built-in similarity functions of a fulltext engine like Vertity or Autonomy
compares the similarity of the newly posed question to already existing
questions. If the similarity function results in a number of questions with high
conformance, then these are presented to the user to check whether one or more
of them satisfy the needs of the user. If one of them answers the user’s question,
then the new question will be also stored and related to the selected answer and
the document. If none of the already existing questions and answers fit, then the
question will be forwarded to a human expert for answering. This new answer
will be also stored and related to the user’s question.
 The linguistic approach: The difference between the linguistic and the heuristic
approach is that a similarity function which compares the new question with all
existing ones will not be used but instead the new question will be analyzed and
the semantic equivalence between this and the existing ones will be examined.
This is the most satisfying but also most complex approach. To make it more
feasible, a simplified grammar could be used [Heinrich et al 1999]. However, the
downside of this is that special training might be required to pose the questions in
an appropriate way and therefore is not implemented in GENTLE yet.

4.6.2 Discussion forum, structured discussions


Discussion forums are platforms where users can exchange ideas and documents on
various themes. Users can post articles on particular topics in the forum, or directly to the
forum itself. They can also reply to articles that are already posted, or post a question
about an article.
There are three types of discussions available within GENTLE:

42
This functionality has been implemented within the Hyperwave Interactive Knowledge Center.

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 General discussions: Any eLS user can take part in these discussions. Only
administrators may create these forums.
 Course-specific discussions: These discussions are specific to a course, and can
only be accessed by users who are enrolled in the course. Trainees and trainers
can access a course-specific discussion by clicking on the Forum button in the
Course Room. A course-specific discussion forum is automatically created
during the course skeleton creation by the Course Wizard.
 Team-specific discussions: These discussions can only be accessed by members
of a specific team. A team is a group of users that wish to communicate based on
a common work group, project, outside interest, etc.. Any user can create a team
for a team-specific discussion.
All discussions a user has access to can be opened from the Study room’s or the Café’s
discussion section.
The discussion forum tool consists of two important parts: The structure and the
presentation of the discussion content.

Figure 39: The eLS discussion forum (hierarchical view) and an opened attachment

4.6.2.1 Visualizing the structure of the discussion articles


There are two possible viewing modes for the discussion forum structure; the hierarchical
tree-view and the linear flat-view. In both modes, the rooms are symbolized by special
icons. All discussion entries have to be characterized by a symbol, to show what type of
article it is.
 The hierarchical structure of the discussion forum will have the same behavior as
the tree-view in the collection hierarchy of the Hyperwave Information Server.
The first level of the structure contains one or several collections, which

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represent the different discussion topics for the course. Each deeper level
contains the discussion documents and the thread hierarchy.
 In flat mode, all articles within one topic are listed. The user has the possibility to
sort the list by subject, author, creation date or type.

Figure 40: eLS discussion forum (flat view)

4.6.2.2 Visualizing an article content


When an article is selected in the hierarchy or flat view, it will be displayed within the
content frame. At the same time, the document is also highlighted or marked in the
structure, to prevent the users from losing their orientation. In addition to the article, the
content frame also contains an article toolbar which provides the possibility for the user to
reply to this article, and for the owner of this article (if the article is not already annotated)
an edit and a delete button are available.

4.6.2.3 Functions available for trainees


Students can insert documents of any type such as plain text, HTML, images, video and
audio files.
Students only have the possibility to edit/delete their own discussion entries, they are
never allowed to edit/delete documents of other users. If a document is already annotated
by another student, the owner of this document is no longer allowed to edit/delete the
article. The edit/delete-button will be displayed within the content frame.
Users are also allowed to define a type (such as question, answer, remark etc. according to
the supported types as specified during the course creation), specify access rights, and add
attachments. In general, the insert discussion article dialog is quite similar to the insert
note dialog.

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Students may also search in the discussion forum. They can search for titles, authors,
creation dates, full-text search and article types, like remark, question, answerError:
Reference source not found etc. The user may also specify whether to search in one or in
several topics.43
Every time a trainee asks a question, the trainer or tutor is notified by the messaging
system (and if so configured, by email). In this notification, there is a short description of
who inserted it and what kind of article it is. Additionally there is a link to the question in
the discussion forum.
Vice versa, if a teacher or tutor answers the question of a student, the student also gets a
notification.

4.6.2.4 Functions available for trainers and tutors


The functions available for trainers or tutors are the same as for the trainees plus the
following:
 Teachers can create and delete topics for their course.
 Additional to the trainee article types, trainers may use the type teacher-hint,
which can be used for special announcements.
 The trainer is also allowed to delete all (except private) contributions of the
students, if desired. If one article already has a child thread, all child articles will
also be deleted.
 The teacher can also move or copy articles with all its annotations from one topic
to another, if desired44.
 Teachers are also allowed to see a log of all users who have already seen a
specific article. This may be also seen as an indication of the student’s
participation and may be used for grading purposesError: Reference source not
found.

4.6.3 Messaging
As an alternative to sending traditional mails by using an external e-mail application, users
can send messages to individual GENTLE users, whole teams of which they are members,
all trainees or trainers of a specific course, etc. The system itself can also post messages,
which will appear in the incoming messages folders of the targeted users.
The internal handling of messages has the advantage that
 The System knows the actual state of users and its memberships
 The users and groups can be addressed by selecting their name; there is no need
to keep an additional address book
 Every message that is sent to all members of a whole course is also linked to a
separate archive collection (one for each course, system messages are copied to
all course specific archives). The reason for an archive is that students who enrol
in courses at a later time can also view older announcements which might be
relevant to them.
 Users get a notification within the system when a new message arrives

43
This has not yet been implemented
44
This has not yet been implemented.

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 The system supports an e-mail gateway for better compatibility with existing
systems:
o Users can also specify whether they prefer to get a copy of the messages
sent to them via ordinary e-mail (adjustable in the users’ “My Settings”
section of the study room), so that they get a notification of new
messages when they are not logged into the system.
o It is also possible to send or respond with an e-mail from an ordinary e-
mail system to the GENTLE messaging system by specifying the
GENTLE user-id together with a configured e-mail server (usually the
same as the GENTLE server).
 It is simple and thus intuitive to use

Figure 41: The eLS messaging tool

4.6.3.1 User interface


The messaging tool opens in a new browser window and consists of three areas:
 The list frame displays all messages of the currently opened folder. Each entry in
the list contains:
o A symbol in front of the message which indicates whether the user has
already read the message or not
o The title
o The author of the message
o A creation/sending time and date
 The navigation frame contains the following buttons:

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o Close: closes the messaging window
o Help: links to the help module for online help
o Incoming folder: opens the incoming messages folder
o Sent items folder: opens the outgoing messages folder
o Deleted items: opens the folder which contains the messages which
have been marked for deletion.
o Write Message: opens a new window to allow the user to send a new
message

Figure 42: The eLS Write/Reply Message dialog

o Delete selected: this function either moves the selected messages to the
Deleted items folder or, if this is the currently opened folder, removes
the selected messages permanently.
o Search: opens the search dialog with the scope set to all messaging
folders (similar to simple search in background library).
o Address book: For convenience reasons users can organize an address
book of message recipients to group together several users who do not
map to an already existing team or add other non-system users by
specifying their e-mail address. In the latter case, no internal messages
will be sent to the external user, just e-mails.
 The content frame displays the subject, content, author and recipients of the
message selected in the navigation frame. If the user clicks on the author or on
any of the recipients’ names the corresponding electronic business card will be
opened. The content frame also supports the following functions:
o Reply: the user can answer a message.

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o Reply all: the answer will be sent to all recipients of the initial message
o Delete it: depending on the folder the user is in, the message is either
moved to the deleted items folder or permanently removed.
o Print: the current message will be printed.
Note: GENTLE currently supports only three folders (incoming items, sent items, deleted
items), but it is also planned to add folder management for adding/removing new folders
and moving messages between folders.

4.6.4 Synchronous communication, chat, audio/video conferencing, whiteboard


The current version of GENTLE includes a very simple implementation of a text based
chat to reduce complexity and make it work in all environments (e.g. through firewalls).
The chat allows users to communicate in real time with other users that are online. There
are three different types of chat available
 Permanent chat
 Virtual Office Hours
 Temporary personal chat
For a detailed description of the differences between these chat types see chapter 4.5.5,
page 121.

Figure 43: eLS Chat

The chat provides the following functions:


 Invite other users to join the chat
 Save the current chat text to the private working space (“My Files” within study
room)

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 Hide a chat from other users. In this case, it is only visible to explicitly invited
users.

Figure 44: eLS-Chat Invite Users dialog

To complete the required tool set for synchronous communication third, the following
party tools need to be integrated:
 More advanced group based moderated chat
 Audio/Video Conferencing
 Synchronous File Sharing
 Shared Whiteboard
 Application Sharing

4.6.4.1 Permanent chat


A permanent chat can only be created by administrators. As the name indicates, permanent
chats are open all the time. Users can take snapshots of an ongoing talk and store them
within their study room area. Permanent chats are usually accessed through a virtual café,
where all chats are listed.

4.6.4.2 Virtual office hours


This is a chat that has been created by a trainer and corresponds to a certain course. It has a
specific start and end time. During this period of time all talks are logged and
automatically stored within the course for later reading (by all course members).

4.6.4.3 Personal temporary chat


This chat can be created by any user, and is done by inviting one or more users on the list
of active users. The active users will be listed within the chat creation or invitation dialog.
The active user list can be restricted to the users who are currently in the same room,
course, chapter or page vicinity45.
The chat automatically closes if users do not talk within a certain period of time (e.g., 5
minutes). If a personal talk is not set to hidden, it will be listed within the chat tool as an
45
This has not been implemented yet. Currently, all users who are logged into the system are listed.

134
active chat, so that the other users can also join it. Users can also switch to a non-disturb
mode. In this case, they will not be listed as active users and can not be invited to a chat.
Users can also take a snapshot of an active chat and store it within their study room.

4.6.5 Course wizard


The course wizard, which can be accessed from the trainer’s study room as well as from
course administration, is the main tool for a trainer to create a new course. The course is
created according to clearly predefined pedagogical guidelines by suggesting a consistent
structure. Upon launching, it will ask the trainers to fill in information about the course
content and style (e.g. title of course, course objectives, requirements, table of contents,
short abstract, information about the trainer and tutors etc.). This is done to ensure a
minimum set of information and courseware quality. After the trainer answers the
questions, the wizard creates a course skeleton including a basic structure and the
complete courseware environment. If the trainers decide to not invest more work into the
generation of the course, they may finish at this point and use electronically created course
information as a support for traditionally held lectures. This course would then appear in
the list of available courses after it is published and assigned to certain learning profiles,
after which time it may be subscribed to by trainees. Even if no courseware content apart
from the general information about the course is available for the trainees, they may still
profit from a course environment that provides communication, collaboration and
information features.
The Course Wizard is activated by pressing the ‘create new course’ button. Afterwards,
the course trainer is guided through a dialog (containing various HTML input form
elements) supported with the following navigation and help facilities:
 Next page Button
 Previous page Button
 Go to first page of wizard dialog button
 Go to last page of wizard dialog button
 Finish button to start the course creation process
 Cancel button
 Help button to provide online help for the corresponding wizard page
The CourseWizard creates a skeleton consisting of the following elements by asking
questions using an author/system dialog:
 New course environment (includes generation of new user groups: student group,
teacher group and authoring group, entry points, templates etc., and also specifies
which layout will be used to visualize course environment). The course will be
located within the main courses collection and within the trainer’s study room in
the course collection. The new course will be visible in the course table after
publishing.
 Content of overview page (publicly accessible)
o Course Content : overview / abstract / introduction to the course content
o Exercises Content: overview of course exercises (if any)
o Learning Objectives and Aims
o Target audience

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o Prerequisites (recommended and necessary)
o References
 Content of logistics page (publicly accessible)
o How to use this course
o Time and place of lectures
o Time and place of exercises
o Teacher and supporting staff
o Time required to master the course
o Time required to master the exercises
 Empty chapter structure if a table of contents has been provided
 Preparation for discussion forum(s)
 Preparation for course background library. Books from the online library can be
selected and linked into the course background library with the Course Wizard.

Figure 45: Initial page of Course Wizard (GENTLE design)

136
Figure 46: Second page of course wizard (eLS style)

4.6.6 Search dialog


The search module provides an interface to the native Hyperwave search containing the
following elements:
 searching for a given phrase containing multiple words:
o each word may only contain those characters which are supported by a
Hyperwave search engine (letters, digits, underline and hyphen
characters)
o each word may be right-truncated with the wildcard "*" character
o each word may be prefixed by the "+" character if the word must be
contained in the search results.
 searching for this phrase in one collection (sub)tree for:
o the whole course
o the current course content, its library or discussion forum
o the user’s private messages, articles and chat archives
o the whole server
 searching within different indices (full-text, keywords, title, etc.)

137
However, the current implementation of the query form does not provide the choice of
different indices or a search in multiple collections because the complexity of its usage
might confuse the users.

4.6.6.1 Quick search facility


If users want to get more information about a certain term in the course content, they just
have to select it and press the search button. The search dialog window will pop up with
the selected term as a query string. After that, users just have to decide where to search.
Alternatively, a search can be performed automatically without any user interactions
(search area will be the whole course content).

4.6.6.2 Displaying results


After the search engine has found documents which contain the specified query, the results
will be listed. Each entry will contain information about the document to help the user
deciding whether the document is relevant for viewing or not. This information includes a
title with link to the document, the document author with a link to the author’s business
card, and a preview of the relevant part of the document including highlighted search
terms.

Figure 47: Parts of the Result Area

4.6.6.2.1 Document title


The document title is taken from its "Title" attribute (Note: the appropriate title is chosen
by means of the client's language setting). Words that are similar to those in the search
string are highlighted. The title is also a link (containing all necessary parameters) to one
of the following modules:
 Course Environment
 Forum Article
 Message
 Annotation
 Library
 Glossary
 Self Assessment

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4.6.6.2.2 Author
The name of the document author is shown and if the user is a WBT user, a link to the
business card module is also created.

4.6.6.2.3 Document preview


For text documents, a document fragment is displayed. This fragment is determined by
means of the current search words and the document content words contained in the search
string are highlighted as in the title.

4.6.6.2.4 Navigational Aids


The search results can be viewed by means of the following elements:
 Buttons to view the previous/next page of the search results
 Buttons to jump to the first/last page
 Page numbers which can be used to jump directly to any page

Figure 48: Query Form (Search Entry Point)

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Figure 49: Search Window Elements

4.6.7 Background library /KnowledgeBase


In the Background Library, additional information can be stored that completes the
material offered within the course. In this version of the system only a static library will be
supported. This means that all searchable data has to be stored locally on the server. This
data can be either electronic books and journals or, just metadata (e.g. according to
DublinCore, LTSC, IMS, SCORM etc. standards) which references to internal or external
material. In the latter case, only the metadata will be searchable; not the external material.
In future versions, a dynamic library will be supported which provides the human-based
knowledge database as well as the indexed Web sites (see chapter 6.2, page 189).
The human-based knowledge repository is composed of the most relevant discussion
contributions, question-answer processes, former exercises, studies, etc. Usage of the
learning system will extend the information that users need during their learning process.
The information quality will be determined by persons who are allowed to enter new
information into the system. A list of gathered Web sites represents an additional
information repository. Only indexing pre-selected sites could be seen as first step toward
a higher-level quality of information. Further quality assessment, annotations and revised
indexing will improve the quality too.

140
However, in the first version, the simple static library can be seen as a customized version
of the Course Room, with a reduced user interface. The Background Library contains the
following functions:
 Search
 Note
 Navigation: previous, next, table of contents
By clicking on the Background Library tool button, the background library will be opened
in a separate window, so that users can browse through the library and keep the course
content open.
Note: The Background Library can also work as a separate Reading Room, which may be
accessed from the Foyer46. In this case, it will not be opened in an additional window but
will be loaded into the main window. In addition, a personal library where users can build
their own knowledge space can be opened from the study room.

Figure 50: The Background Library (eLS 1.3)

4.6.7.1 Authoring47
The current version of the Background Library as implemented in GENTLE and eLS does
not include an authoring mode, thus all contributions have to be added using Virtual
Folders. However, later versions will include a sophisticated authoring user interface for
 collecting metadata (following several standards),
 uploading documents (add & upload, copy, move, modify, delete; manage billing
etc.),

46
This functionality can be easily activated by customizing the Foyer of eLS/GENTLE
47
This has not yet been implemented in GENTLE, however eKS can also be used as an appropriate
Web based tool to maintain the background library.

141
 adding metadata relations (describing internal & external documents),
 search agents (QueryWizard for intelligent and adaptive internal and external
queries),
 qualifying documents, metadata and relations by using collaborative voting (see
also chapter 6.1, page 180).

4.6.7.2 Reusing – The repository editor


Reuse of information is essential when offering several context-specific libraries. It has to
be possible to reuse content stored in a global library/knowledge space and link it into e.g.
a course-specific library. In GENTLE and eLS, this is done by the simple module
“Repository Editor”, which is accessible from within the library.

Figure 51: The Repository Editor (eLS 1.3)

4.6.8 Glossary
The glossary works similar to the background library but differs by the content types
which in the glossary are definitions and short explanations of certain terms. Usually the
glossary is of a much simpler structure than the background library; it typically contains
just a few pages and has no hierarchy.
In addition, it provides a quick search functionality which works like this: When the user
selects a word and then activates the glossary, the system will automatically search for the
selected term within the glossary48.

4.6.9 Self assessments collection


The self assessments collection (SAC) works similar to the background library but differs
by its content type which are tests and exercises of various types. The SAC will be used if
self assessments are not integrated within the course content. The SAC is optional and can

48
This has not yet been implemented.

142
be deactivated by course authors by not adding content to this section within the course
structure.

4.6.10 Media depot


The media depot works similar to the background library but mainly contains reusable
course content material. Typically it is used together with the structure editor during the
authoring process. However, the Media Depot, Library and Structure Editor may be also
combined into one tool because all of these tools deal with basic content management
functions.
In this version the Media Depot offers the following functions:
 Add a new folder in the Depot
 Upload a new document in a selected folder of the Depot
 Delete a selected document
 Edit a document’s metadata, including reuse information and restrictions
 Check a document’s reuse state: in which course(s) is the document reused?
 Preview a selected document
 Search within the whole or a selected sub-section of the depot by specifying
various metadata.
Note: The metadata which can be added and searched is easily configurable by the
administrator so that it is customized according to the system’s needs and operational area.

Figure 52: The Media Depot with the opened edit metadata dialog

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Figure 53: The Media Depot metadata search

4.6.11 Structure editor49


The Structure Editor can be seen as a common content management tool and combines the
features of SCORM Reuse, the Media Depot, the Background Library & Glossary, the
Repository Editor, My Files and Shared Workspace. It replaces the already existing
modules with its consistent UI and functionality. The Structure Editor is an important part
of a complete LCMS and bridges the gap between a Learning Management System and a
Knowledge Management System.
Authors will mainly use it as a course structuring and editing tool with the additional
ability to reuse already existing content (e.g. SCOs and common Hyperwave documents)
that has been stored in the Hyperwave Information Server. Learners will use it as a
collaboration tool and to construct their own knowledge representation of what they need
to learn.
The Structure Editor supports the usual editing functions such as:
 Inserting & Uploading/editing/deleting of new objects and the corresponding
metadata.
 Uploading and downloading of several files at the same time for offline editing of
whole chapters. This can be implemented either by a signed Java applet or by an
installed Java application.
 Reordering of an existing object within the same hierarchy level
 Reusing of objects collected in the knowledge clipboard, including required
extensions of the access rights. Reusing can be done by either linking the selected
objects or by physically duplicating them.
 Moving of objects, including required changes of the access rights if an object is
moved from one course to another one.
 Versioning of documents.
49
This has only been implemented as a prototype and is not yet included in GENTLE.

144
 Importing and exporting: The module has to support the SCORM and IMS
content packaging format as import and export interface
In addition, it could also be the tool of choice to create and edit dynamic course structures,
in which the learning path is not linear or hierarchical. Instead, it could depend on the
user’s profile and other prerequisites. This is also currently under discussion within
ADL/SCORM 1.3 (see chapter 3.7, page 68) and IMS (simple sequencing, see chapter
3.5.10, page 67). Further ideas can be also found in chapter 6.3, page 193).
The UI of the AID publisher could look like the old Norton Commander UI (an extremely
useful old DOS tool, see [Symantec NC]) with two frames displaying different structures
of the server.
 Examples for a two frame layout are:
o Knowledge Clipboard and course structure
o HIS content and course structure
o Media Depot section and course structure
o Global Library and course library etc.
Further ideas for alternative representations of structuring information can be found in
chapter 6.1, page 180.

4.6.12 Scene editor/viewer50


The Scene Editor is a Java application that is intended to create and edit multimedia
material chunks, called scenes. Scenes may be seen as highly interactive multimedia
documents because they include text, pictures, vector graphics, animation, sound and all
kinds of interaction with users such as pre- and post-tests. These scenes are displayed by
the Scene Viewer, which is a Java applet displayed in a Java-capable Internet browser. The
Scene Editor works on the principles of drag & drop, buttons, dialog boxes, icons and
other convenient tools, providing a productive and easy-to-use interface.
A scene created by the Scene Editor consists of the background and the number of actors.
Actors can have a graphical representation and contain interactivity and sounds. Actors
and their interaction with users control the flow of a scene. Actors are composed of one or
more simple objects such as rectangles, circles, ellipses and similar shapes for graphical
actors or they are composed of buttons, check boxes and text fields, etc. if they are
interactive actors or forms. The Scene Editor also provides authors with the possibility of
creating actors and then reusing them in a number of scenes.
Therefore, the Scene Editor can be used to create the following type of content pages:
 Animations including time synchronization
 Questions/answer dialogs. They can be used for the following purposes:
o Pre, in-between and post tests for progress tracking or assigning of
knowledge / skill level; also used for comparison to check course
quality
o Learning style tests
o Exams
 Composition of other data types such as clip-art, text, animations, sound, etc.

50
Only a very early version has been implemented which was never extended in GENTLE or eLS

145
Figure 54: Scene Editor with property dialog

Figure 55: The SceneViewer applet displayed within eLS 1.3

146
4.6.13 Progress tracking
The idea of progress tracking is to find out how many of the course pages a student has
understood (by passing test or self assessments) or at least read. This information can be
used for various tasks:
 As a feedback for the student, especially for e.g. finding out what parts (or
percentage) of the course have not been completed yet.
 To provide statistics for the teachers to show how far their students have gone.
 To restrict the visibility of further course pages depending on the knowledge
level worked out by e.g. passing pretests or completing other courses.
In GENTLE, every page, chapter or learning unit within a course can have a special user-
specific status that is dependent on the user’s behavior. In the simplest case the status can
be:
 Unseen
 Seen
 Finished
Whenever a page has no additional special property it has the status unseen, if the user has
not visited the page yet, and the status finished if the user has opened the page. If all pages
within a certain chapter are finished, then the chapter is also marked as finished. If all
chapters are finished then the course will be finished.
In addition to ordinary pages, a learning object or page can also be of type “test”. In this
case, opening the page only sets the status to seen but not finished. It is the responsibility
of the test to set the status to finished depending on the behavior of the learner or test
result. For that purpose a special JavaScript API is offered, which allows the transmission
of the resulting score for later evaluation. That way, simple HTML test pages could be
created using tools such as Macromedia CourseBuilder. Additionally, a successfully
completed test can also set other course pages to “finished” to indicate that the user need
not visit them.
A more advanced possibility is to use the eLearning standards AICC or the SCORM
runtime environment (RTE). AICC provides a http and JavaScript based API. SCORM-
RTE is a successor of the JavaScript API version of AICC. Both APIs provide the
possibility to initialize a page or learning unit (within SCORM it is called SCO – sharable
content object), to load historical data from previous sessions of this user, which can be
used to influence the behavior, and after completion of the learning unit transmit data back
to the e-learning system. Usually, the data handled can be quite comprehensive and is
stored within a relational database to provide the possibility of detailed statistical reports.

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Figure 56: The Progress Indicator (page and chapter progress) within the eLS 1.2 Course Room

4.6.14 Statistics
The purpose of this module is twofold:
To provide an overview for the teachers about the success of their students and the quality
of their courses. Teachers can only see statistical information about the courses (and
enrolled students) they are administrating:
 Course Usage & Progress Statistics Reports:
o Show a general overview about the course usage. This should also
indicate the course quality:
 Success rate (finished pages and pre/post test..)
 Average time to understand/finish a page or learning unit.
o List all passive students. Passive students are those who have not visited
a course page within the last x days.
 Learner Statistics/User Progress Reports:
o List all classes a student has enrolled, finished or has been suggested to.

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o For each course enrolled, list the percentage of the course that has been
completed and which pages a student has already finished, and the
status and score of each assessment.
o For each course finished, certain skills will be gained which will be
listed within a skill matrix. This can be used to monitor the student’s
career for human capital management.
In addition to the reports for the trainers, the learner statistics reports can also be seen by
the learners themselves. Additionally, a special human resources manager role could have
full access to all information of all students belonging to a certain department that the HR
manager is responsible for.

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Chapter 5

5 RESEARCH & USE OF GENTLE

These four examples will show in which way and in which areas GENTLE has already
been successfully used, and will give an idea how versatile its application scenarios can
be:
o Chapter 5.1 (page 150) will show how true virtual courses can be implemented
with GENTLE at geographically distributed universities with connections to a
remote lab. It also explains how to transform traditional course material into e-
Learning content with reduced effort
o Chapter 5.2 (page 156) shows how to use e-Learning in non-typical areas such as
musical education, and describes necessary extensions to GENTLE to handle the
requirements of such a situation.
o Chapter 5.3 (page 165) describes a system for e-Learning in schools. This project
includes the e-Learning environment as well as the content and usage guidelines,
and is based on pedagogic and didactic concepts.
o Chapter 5.4 (page 173) briefly describes how corporate e-Learning based on
GENTLE was successfully implemented at the largest telecommunication
company in Austria.
o Chapter 5.5 (page 178) mentions the most recent success: The largest e-Learning
project world wide and it is also based on GENTLE and Hyperwave.

5.1 True virtual interactive e-Learning courses with eLS

In 1999 the Institut für Grundlagen und Theorie der Elektrotechnik (IGTE) was one of the
first to use GENTLE as the base system for offering online lectures, distributed over
several continents, including interactive virtual labs.
In this chapter a comprehensive course construction concept using novel Web
technologies is proposed, featuring simplicity and practicability especially for non
technically experienced authors. All vital features, such as a learning environment,
treatment of written basics, and interactivity are briefly discussed and introduced with a
pilot course.

5.1.1 Introduction
Today, most universities feel the necessity to offer virtual Web-based courses to educate
their students or employees. Therefore, many teachers and authors of Web-based lectures
are in search of a complete concept to create virtual and interactive courses from text-
based scripts and books used for traditional lectures. Beside an excellent mastership of the
subject area, there are a lot of additional requirements like programming experience,
knowledge of Web technology, and so on.

Study at the Institute for Fundamentals and Theory in Electrical Engineering at the
Technical University of Graz mainly deals with the numerical calculation of
electromagnetic fields and the optimization of electromagnetic devices. Up to now, the use

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of Web technology was more or less reduced to the application of a browser. But the
change in teaching and learning paradigms, the need for spatial and temporal
independence for local students as well as “long distance” availability for non local and
worldwide spread students, make it necessary to offer virtual courses. There have been
some initial experiments with online electromagnetic field calculation examples using CGI
and TCL scripts to remotely control a finite element software package and its pre- and
post-processors [Preis et al. 1997]. Nevertheless, there has been neither a real concept how
a virtual course should be designed, nor the technical know-how to implement it, which,
however, seems to be a common problem.
This section proposes a way to overcome these difficulties using the example of a highly
interactive Web-based course of the lecture “Optimization in Electrical Engineering”.
Although the implemented course comes from the field of engineering, many of the
suggested solutions, which had to be totally programmed by the courseware authors, can
be adapted for other fields. This is even more applicable as upcoming tools will simplify
the process of treating dynamic contents. Also, users who are not experts in Web
technology will be able to use these tools.

Basically, the task should be divided into two major parts: The Web-based learning
environment, which builds up the backbone of any good course, and the handling of the
contents. The content itself is again divided in two elements:
1. Theory and basics
2. Examples and interaction
Almost as important is the evaluation of the students’ advancement and their self-
assessment, which accompanies and completes a course.

5.1.2 The learning system


The quality and comprehensibility of the course content is definitely one of the most
important aspects when teaching a certain topic with the support of the Web.
Unfortunately, the course pages can not exist alone, at least some sort of navigation like
leafing forwards and backwards or a table of contents has to be provided. As we have seen
in the chapters about pedagogic requirements for e-Learning, it is also necessary that the
learning and teaching process is supported by communication and collaboration facilities
between distant students and teachers, and among students themselves in order to utilize
the possibilities of the Internet.
Of course it is desirable that authors do not have to invest a lot of time and work to
accomplish this, rather, routine tasks like interlinking pages should be performed
automatically and it should be very easy to configure an environment that optimally
embeds courses, so that authors can fully concentrate on the actual content creation
process. GENTLE is the base system which provides all this.

5.1.3 The theoretical part of the lecture


Generally, the theoretical part of a technically-oriented lecture consists of written text,
figures, equations, tables and references. Standard multimedia contents like MPEG videos
or spoken audio files can easily be added without special plug-ins – which was a major
requirement for our course. Nevertheless, the preparation of high-quality multimedia
content often exceeds many authors’ capabilities.
But even generating a single, multi-page document caused great problems at the time this
project started. So far, no proper HTML editor is known to cope with automated page
numbering, figure numbering, equation and table numbering, as well as chapter and
section numbering, and header and footer insertion, which are standard features of nearly
any text editing system like Microsoft Word or Latex. HTML editors like Microsoft
FrontPage or Netscape Composer still only support single pages, and deal with multiple
pages in an unsatisfying way. To overcome this problem, a couple of small utilities were
developed using Perl programming language, following the model of the Latex text editing

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system [Wall et al. 1996][Lamport 1994]. Each figure, table and equation is assigned a
reference name in the plain HTML text which is processed, and the respective numbering
is inserted in the correct way. Headers and footers and any desired HTML parts can be
inserted at marked positions in a similar way.

Figure 57: A sample page of the IGTE course (running eLS 1.2)

To ensure reusability of individual course chapters within other courses, a modular


concept was adopted. Each single chapter is treated as an independent module with few
hyperlinks to other chapters and no links to the Internet. Modules can be detached from
one course and easily reused within another one by deactivating or reorganizing the
hyperlinks. Instead of a flood of links within course pages, advanced searching and
browsing facilities and additional reference links are provided via the background library.
But even inside a single chapter one can easily get lost somewhere in hyperspace, between
the current page and some auxiliary pages which are referred to and displayed [Dietinger
& Maurer 1997]. The authors have overcome this problem by keeping the current page
always visible. Figures, tables, equations and even references which are not part of the
actual viewed hypertext page are overlaid in extra windows on demand and closed
automatically when the user browses to the next main page. This supports the generation
of short and efficient pages.
Another feature, well known from offline education software but not easily available for
Web-based systems until Dynamic HTML, is a series of figures with a corresponding
explanation successively displayed at the same location of the main page. Series of
pictures with correlated text and little animations were implemented in JavaScript using
Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) features. Applying DHTML, figures and text can be
separated and text remains text in contrast to “slideshow” figure/explanation series.
Animations can easily be inserted. It has turned out that this is a good way to make even
complex subjects easier to understand (see Figure 57).

Another special element is used to visualize program flowcharts or more complex


(sequential or parallel) processes: An image map controls accordant images and

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illustrations with DHTML, which may again be combined with animations. Applying such
elements has the positive effect that normally inactive text is enhanced with some
interactivity. The students are instructed to click the image maps and serials, watch the
animations and changing figures according to their learning style and speed, all of which is
much more challenging than plain text. JavaScript program modules can easily be reused
in other pages or courses with only few adaptations required.

5.1.4 The interactive part of the lecture


There are two philosophies to allow interactivity for online courses:
1. the client solution
2. the server solution.
Examples executed at the client computer, mostly implemented as Java Applets, do not
need an additional server and could also be used in offline mode (e.g., on a CD-ROM
edition). Many authors put a lot of effort into implementing sophisticated examples as
Applet programs, but really complex examples like finite element calculations are
absolutely impracticable with a client solution. Server-side-run programs are much more
powerful, but the interface is hard to implement, and an additional online administrated
server is needed to provide full performance for both the learning environment and the
examples. Therefore, we use a combination and benefit from both methods.
Simple numerical and theoretical examples are realized as client applications. For
example, the student is asked to derive analytical formulas and the result appears directly
within the page without a hyperlink to click. This is the same as a method often used in
text books, where the solution of examples can be looked up in the back of the book, only
much more comfortable and faster. Simple numerical examples may either use the click-
and-show system, which is also applicable for ordinary text questions, or the students are
asked to enter their solutions which are validated by the system. The students receive
either confirmation that their results are correct or an invitation to redo the calculation with
a text, depending on the number of trials already performed. The design and
implementation of these objects is fast, efficient and technically not too difficult, in
particular because there already exist a growing number of commercial applications
supporting such DHTML objects.
To deal with more complex examples, we have been using a server-side solution. Like in
modern class room lectures where computer applications are often used to support and
improve the traditional lessons, Web courses can make use of these applications if they
can be remotely controlled. Application programs in our implementation are MATLAB
[Mathworks 1999], Fortran optimization routines, and a finite element package solving
electromagnetic field problems. Using this software, the design of very complex, real-life
simulations and examples is mainly reduced to conceive the example itself ,while its
implementation is strongly supported by the program packages. The functional elements
for user input are standard HTML forms, and input data are transmitted using the “Post”
method. Input data for training examples are mostly parameters – in the optimization case
strategy parameters and problem parameters, formulas, sometimes instructions – and the
output data are pictures, text, numerical data and animations packed into HTML pages.
Online calculated animations are provided as image frames and displayed using an
appropriate Java Applet.

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Figure 58: An interactive form with server side calculation

The amount of data transfer over the Internet can be kept fairly low this way, as all
calculation and generation of HTML output is done on the server. The performance
bottleneck of the whole chain is the application server. If there are too many students to be
served at a time, data can be split between multiple application servers [Kovács et al.
1998]. We have experience with about 150 students doing extensive finite element
calculations within a month, which was carried out with one server in a satisfying way.
Since the calculation period of our examples lasts from some seconds to some minutes, a
pure CGI-compliant interface using Perl scripting language is sufficient. A form of remote
controlling that is simple and relatively easy to implement is possible if the application
supports a scripting language and the transfer data is passed through files. Therefore, our
data transfer between applications and CGI is mostly handled by files and DDE (Dynamic

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Data Exchange), but it could also be worked out by another direct link between server
programs and a Web server (NSAPI, ISAPI) or with FastCGI, depending on the remotely
controlled application [Göschka 1998]. A semaphore concept using file locking guarantees
error-free concurrent multi-user service of the application server. The whole system
structure can be seen in Figure 59.

Figure 59: The learning system

5.1.5 Evaluation of the student’s progress


As well as the most obvious form for evaluation in Web based courses, the multiple choice
quiz, written statements, reports or exams with open questions are other possible options.
Either automatic grading (easy to attain with multiple choice quizzes) or manual
assessment may be used by the teacher. At the time of providing the online lecture, no
evaluation concepts were implemented in the GENTLE learning environment, these were
added later on. Despite a rather high level of personal engagement, we decided to
implement question forms with open questions and questions to be answered by a
statement, which are both graded manually. Although designed for self-assessment, the
objects described in the interaction section are very well-suited for test and evaluation
purposes. A number of questions can be based on a server-based example module which
has to be used by the student to answer the question. For example, the students are asked
to run an optimization problem with different optimization strategies and to interpret the
results. Answers to the questions are automatically formatted and prepared for database
access by CGI scripts. To ensure objectivity, examinations are held at fixed times in
computer rooms with a person in charge.

5.1.6 Conclusions and further development


All necessary parts to successfully create a Web-based course have been briefly discussed
in this paper. The GENTLE system fulfills all requirements for an excellent courseware
system, and the further development of the software benefits from persistent feedback by
course authors.
The “first time” development of the quoted Java Scripts, HTML modules, Perl programs,
CGI programs etc., is expendable and time consuming. Once available the modules can be
adopted for other courses very quickly with few adaptations. Up to now, the time-
consuming implementation of proposals has been restricted to technically experienced

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people with programming skills, but forthcoming application software like Dreamweaver
will ease the task significantly [Macromedia1999]. The most difficult job remaining will
be the adaptation of server-based software, especially because no practicable solutions can
be expected in the near future.
Currently, there is a lot of work in progress to apply solutions for interactive tutorials for
finite element software applications also in offline mode. In the future, we plan to transfer
many more lectures from the traditional way of teaching to the virtual one with a high
grade of interactivity.
Concurrently, further progress is taking place in the development of the GENTLE virtual
learning system, and new features like standardized evaluation methods will be added.
Note: In the meantime the center for information services of the University of Technology,
Graz offers GENTLE as the campus e-Learning system to all faculties of the university,
where the IGTE is one of the leading institutes.

5.2 MusicWeb

5.2.1 What is MusicWeb?


Note: Parts of this chapter were taken out of the MusicWeb Authoring Guide [Dietinger et
al 2001]
When the MusicWeb project started in 1995, the founding idea was to make music
education and learning via the Web a primarily musical experience.
The main focus of the project since then has been to enable the creation and development
of music educational materials to which members of the MusicWeb group can have
common network access.
The project is designed to facilitate the integration of these materials into a wide variety of
music courses and independent learning scenarios, provide a learning platform which can
host the courses and unlock the specialist skills and resources available within individual
institutions so that they can be exploited to the general educational benefit of the music
community at large.
In practice, the physical outcome of this project is a pool of music education-related
modules (so called “weblications”) that are available to be used in a variety of ways by a
variety of people. The modular design and reusability of tools and materials should appeal
to young people, music professionals, teachers and students regardless of their
technological background. MusicWeb targets all levels of music education: not only can
students and teachers in higher music education institutes become involved, but also
young people in primary and secondary schools and music professionals in the framework
of continuing (adult) education.
There are a growing number of weblications accessible in MusicWeb, of which the
following will be used as demonstration packages:
 An Introduction to Analysis created at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague
 An Introduction to Score Reading created at the Hannover University for Music
and Drama
 A History of Voice and Electro-Acoustic Music created at IRCAM
 Ear Training created at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague
The resource collection comprises several hundred notated and performed examples of
classical and contemporary music which have been embedded into these weblications.

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These demonstration packages concentrate on core musical skills such as aural training,
musical analysis and score reading, and on more specialised information, like the package
that unfolds the specialist area of 20th century use of the human voice in electro-acoustic
computer music, developed and realized at IRCAM in Paris.
The project required the design and implementation of a framework for storing, accessing
and reusing music educational content, a framework that can also be used as a portal for
the broad range of users to whom the project is addressed, and which has entailed the
integration of innovative user tools and educational and media metadata within a
sophisticated information management environment. The framework is based on
GENTLE with slight modifications and extensions applied to it.
The aim of MusicWeb is to encourage members not simply to reuse all or parts of these
resources for learning and teaching, but also to encourage the creation of additional
weblications that will continuously enlarge the resources and teaching and learning
facilities available, and stay up to date with ongoing pedagogical paradigms. It is not only
possible to use the modules in whole or in part, but also to use the additional music tools
and weblication creation tools that are provided by the MusicWeb group specifically to
ease the process of creating new weblications.
The European Commission is currently supporting these activities through the MusicWeb
CONNECT project51.

5.2.2 MusicWeb extension for GENTLE: MusicWeb specific course metadata


To support the reuse of music-specific Weblications (courses), the metadata model of
GENTLE had to be extended, as it only supports a GUI for document-specific metadata
(within the Media Depot) out of the box. A new tool similar to the Media Depot had been
developed which provides this functionality. The following categories are editable, are
indexed for keyword search, and lean on parts of IEEE/LTSC-LOM :
 Course language
 Course title
 Course description, including purpose and prerequisites
 Name and URL of course author
 Publisher and publisher’s URL
 Subdiscipline
 Main concept
 Didactical context: for which level this course is intended to be used
 Difficulty level (easy, medium, hard)
 Pedagogical duration: recommend duration of course

51
The project ran until 2001/06 but in the meantime a request for continuation has been granted

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Figure 60 : Example of MusicWeb metadata form

5.2.3 MusicWeb extension for GENTLE: The Den Haag 3 layers concept
At the Royal Conservatory of Den Haag, special scripts have been developed which allow
the author to organize the course material in an interactive environment of three layers.
These layers can be either visible or invisible, and can display any content in HTML
format. Each layer has a specific function and place on the screen. The most important
layer is called the main text layer, and fits the largest area in the left half of the screen. The
reference layer or annotations layer, is a smaller area at the right side of the screen. It is
resizable and can be moved to any desired place on the screen. The resource layer is at the
bottom, and is resizable to a maximum of the whole screen.
The specific functions of the layers are as follows:
 The main text layer contains the main text and (smaller) images that are
embedded in the text. To prevent the user from losing orientation, there should be
no hyperlinks going directly outside of this main text page, only links that will
affect one of the other layers. Larger images that directly illustrate the text should
be displayed in the resource layer.
 The annotations layer contains annotations to the main text. These can be
compared to a footnote in a traditional article, but they can be more than that,
since they can also contain links to other modules in the course, or even to
modules outside of the current course. The annotations are displayed when the
user clicks on an annotation link from within the main text layer.

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 The resource layer is meant for displaying large images like score excerpts, either
from within or from outside the current course, as well as for displaying feedback
information for exercises, such as control versions in a dictation exercise. This
layer can be activated both from the main text layer and from the annotations
layer.
In the image below, taken from the The Hague weblication “Introduction to Analysis”, the
main text layer is highlighted in yellow, the references / annotations layer in green, and the
resources layer in pink.

Figure 61: The The Hague 3 layers concept

Of course very different functions can be assigned to each of the three layers, depending
on the ideas of the author. A good example of this can be found in the MusicWeb
demonstration package in the ear training course as published in The Hague. In the aural
dictation exercises, the main text layer is used for an explanation of the exercise, the
annotation layer is used as an area for controlling playback of the audio material and for
checking answers. The resource layer is used to display hints and final score examples of
the dictations.

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Figure 62: A screenshot from the Ear-Training weblication

5.2.4 MusicWeb extension for GENTLE: The GUIDO notes server


The GUIDO music notation format is a formal language for creating music scores. It is a
plain text format capable of representing all information contained in conventional musical
scores. As the code is based in plain text, it means that the GUIDO language is human-
readable, can be easily read and created in a wide variety of packages, is platform-
independent, and the file size is small. The basic GUIDO format is very flexible and can
be easily extended and adapted to capture a wide variety of musical features beyond other
text-based music notation languages such as CMN (Conventional Musical Notation).
The GUIDO Noteserver converts GUIDO Music Notation (ASCII) into conventional
music notation (GIF or Postscript) that can be displayed with any Web browser and
embedded in Web pages.
The GUIDO Noteserver (http://www.noteserver.org) is the place where the GUIDO text is
interpreted and converted to the graphical image, by typing in the GUIDO text, specifying
the page and output dimensions and pressing ‘Send’.
Example for a GUIDE musical notation:
% Frere.gmn
%
% Frere jaques, a popular french song

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%

{ [ \meter<”4/4”> c d e c c d e c e f g/2 e/4 f g/2


g/8 a g f e/4 c g/8 a g f e/4 c],
[ \meter<”4/4”> _*8/4 c/4 d e c c d e c e f g/2 e/4 f
g/2 ] }
And the resulting image:

Figure 63: Resulting image, as sent back by the GUIDO noteserver

Once the NoteServer has created a graphical representation of the code there are various
ways in which the image can be used.
1. The simplest option is to right-click on the image generated, and ‘Save As’ a GIF
image to your local drive. If the users want to embed the image in the Web page,
they can then embed it statically, as with other images.
2. Alternatively, if the users prefer to save space on the hard drive, they can use the
extended URL provided from the Noteserver to get an automatically updated
picture every time they load their page.
3. The third option is to use a JAVA Applet that is scrollable and can easily be
adjusted to new musical input.
To simplify the use of GUIDO, GENTLE has been extended in such a way that the user
can type the GUIDO notation prefixed with a special GMN tag in every note, message or
discussion forum article.

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Figure 64: Creating a GUIDO musical notation within a discussion forum article

As a result implicitly the tag will be converted to the corresponding Java applet parameters
so that the image of the produced score will be displayed inline.

Figure 65: The GUDIO musical notation as displayed within the discussion forum

5.2.5 Using MusicWeb in the classroom: general discussion and approach


There are many different ways of using MusicWeb in an educational environment. It can
be used as a stand alone information system, where users learn from the material presented
in a single course. Through many cross-references (links) it is possible to browse through
the system and follow your interest in a very associative way, thus moving from one
course to another. It can also function as a remedial teaching tool, for students who need to
catch up with skills and/or knowledge.

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Another very good way of using the system is to design the courses in such a way that they
complement existing “physical” courses, thus providing additional information,
references, exercises and tests that complement the educational trajectory. In addition,
discussion forums and messaging functionality can be used to enhance communication
between students and teachers.
MusicWeb can be used for numerous purposes:
 Teaching and learning support
 Communication support
 Resource/material management and organization
 Central information point
MusicWeb is specifically structured so that it can act as a teaching and learning support for
both students and teachers, and the learning environment that GENTLE provides enhances
this. There is a chat room facility and messaging options, and there are also virtual office
hours for staff and students, so that there is good provision for online communication in
real time and using messaging. Online assistance and guidance with work, discussion
forums and other support networks can be established to enhance communication and
support network between teachers and students in Musicweb, and the
MusicWeb/GENTLE environment can become the focal communication point between all
members, enabling access to people and materials. In addition, information and resources
are well structured and easy to access and reuse, with the additional bonus that being
online enables efficient access to the Web and various internet resources by simply
opening a second browser.
MusicWeb can be used by a variety of people:
 Teachers
 Learners
 Professionals
 Groups
 Individuals
 Various communities and common interest groups
MusicWeb does not only cater for individuals or those in a specific teaching and learning
environment, it also facilitates and enables groups and individuals with a common interest
to communicate, share and research. As such, it is not simply a learning tool, but can
become a personal research and development resource. In addition, it is not a pre-requisite
to be in a registered establishment or learning environment to participate: anyone with an
interest in the subject matter, both groups and individuals, can become a member of
MusicWeb.
MusicWeb can be used in numerous diverse learning situations:
 In the classroom
 At home
 In libraries or centers for study
 Within a distance learning context
The flexible and multi-functional resource material that MusicWeb offers, and its
placement and structuring in a Web-based environment means that it can be accessed and

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used wherever and whoever you are, as long as you are a member of the MusicWeb
community and have access to the Internet: at the university, your local library, or at
home, MusicWeb resources can be used as both main material and supplementary
resource material. The modular way in which MusicWeb weblications are structured
ensures that the material can be used in whole or in part and as core or supplementary
resources. This means that it is possible to incorporate relevant parts of modules as the
basis for, or as part of the main lecture or study topic. It is also possible, however, to use it
as additional, non-core material: i.e., for additional background/further material, in a
bibliography as a reference, or as optional ‘for more information/personal research on this
topic’ material.
MusicWeb material can be used in a multitude of ways, for example through:
 Working through the whole of one module
 Skipping between modules
 Using individual chapters of one or more modules
 Using parts of chapters
 Using only examples (audio, visual)
 Supporting and providing communication and efficient feedback
 Creating discussion and interactive learning/research forums out with core study
The modularity of MusicWeb again comes into its own when discussing ways to use the
resources available. The material can be used as it is, i.e. working through the whole of
one chapter or the whole of the module.
Alternatively, modules or examples from various different weblications/chapters can be
used in conjunction with one another. Not only this, but the modular structure also means
that use can be broken down into ever smaller parts: the examples from various chapters
(quotes, audio examples, visual images and so on) can be used independently as core or
supplementary material for lectures and study topics. Furthermore, not only can the
physical material and resources be used, but the whole structure of the MusicWeb system
allows for the modules and topics to be properly supported and discussed out with the core
study. For example, the possibility of creating discussion groups encompassing students,
teachers, professionals and anyone with an interest in the topics raised within modules,
and creating a raised awareness of the functionality and purpose of modules through these
groups helps to stimulate and continue research and interest in topics.
Material and resources within MusicWeb weblications can be presented in various forms,
by:
 Playing just audio examples from listed modules
 Displaying visual information through in printed form, on screen or by projection
 Providing practical exercises
 Using material as reference material, inline quotes and for further study,
supplementary reading and supplementary
 Using material as core or additional exercises
One of the benefits of using resources online is that the whole or parts of modules can be
used as core or additional learning material to complement or replace written and audio
material in a variety of ways. They can be used as additional exercises to learning, or as
quotes, background, bibliography or supplementary reading in a variety of formats. They
can be displayed on your computer screen, printed out, projected for

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classroom/lecture/presentation use, played from the internet, or downloaded and used at
another time incorporated into offline projects.
All of this means that MusicWeb is a good, flexible teaching and learning tool that can be
used as a complement or alternative to traditional teaching and learning methods. It can be
used to enhance and stimulate learning for a variety or users in a variety of ways.

5.3 YoungNet – a Virtual Learning Community Platform for Youngsters

5.3.1 Why YoungNet ?


Networked learning and virtual education has already been accepted not only as a new, but
also as a more efficient way of education and training in business, especially at corporate
universities. Also, academic universities are starting to adopt e-Learning on a larger scale
by centrally organizing the introduction of learning management systems. The new ways
of learning are currently making their way from pilot projects to real use. In schools, the
situation still looks a little bit different. Money and resources are often restricted, therefore
highly motivated teachers are a prerequisite. However, especially for young people such as
pupils, it is important to develop learning skills and cope with new learning environments
and innovative learning materials as early as possible. Through them they can not only
learn factual knowledge, but also gain the ability to communicate, co-operate and learn
from one another. Young people also gain knowledge of foreign countries and cultures,
which is more important than ever in our globalized society. Furthermore, positive
experiences in youth will facilitate the development of a positive attitude towards
internationalization and help students to deal with foreign cultures and to understand the
need to be able to express themselves in a foreign language. In fact, all these are key
factors for future competitiveness.
These needs are addressed by the virtual learning community for young people (8 - 14
years old) presented here, which features a virtual meeting place where joint educational
projects can be undertaken, educational games can be played, and informal information on
day to day life can be exchanged across borders.
At a technical level, it offers both synchronous and asynchronous communication based on
leading edge ICT technology like Virtual Reality, 3D representations, audio
communications and shared applications, and provides a fascinating and “edutaining”
multi-user environment. The use of this platform is induced by intrinsic motivation and
thereby overcomes the borderline between learning (school) and leisure.
YoungNet aims to help schools to use e-Learning during and in addition to their lessons by
providing technology as well as content and guidelines.

5.3.2 Design and planning


In order to help achieve learning objectives, the YoungNet project is developing a virtual
e-Learning community for young people where they can meet and interact with other
young people from different countries.
The major features of YoungNet are as follows:

5.3.2.1 Feature 1: A fascinating and edutaining multi-user learning environment with


clearly defined learning objectives.

The multimedia game market is the driving force in the technological development. Good
multimedia games - especially multi-user co-operative games – are very attractive to
young people. The market potential is undoubtedly enormous. However, the objectives
underlying these games are not always educationally sound (e.g., combat games).
YoungNet combines this attractiveness with well-defined educational goals, e.g., the

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application of higher level cognitive goals, fostering problem-solving and creativity and
wih a special emphasis on team work aspects.

5.3.2.2 Feature 2: Enable learners and teachers to communicate (including audio


communication) and co-operate across national borders and cultures.

In an increasingly globalized world, the ability to communicate and co-operate with


people from other countries is becoming a key skill for both individuals and societies as a
whole. The traditional educational system can not sufficiently teach these communication
skills. A stay in a foreign country is usually limited to a short period of time. This ability
can only be developed and strengthened by a continuous opportunity to communicate and
co-operate with peers in other countries on a more regular basis than is possible in
traditional classroom lessons.

5.3.2.3 Feature 3: Overcome the boundaries between school time and leisure time by
intrinsic motivation created through novel features of the YoungNet virtual
meeting place

Most of the existing Internet communities merely offer chat rooms and bulletin boards. A
successful virtual community needs to take a comprehensive approach by incorporating
the virtual environment, educational games (challenges), communication features and the
navigational controls as integral components of the same system that depicts the real world
in a virtual world [Soliman 2001].

5.3.2.4 Feature 4: Continuous evaluation by the schools involved

Teachers in 50 schools in various European countries are involved in different phases of


the project. They are regarded as the core specialists for evaluating the YoungNet
functionalities, tools, services and contents with the eyes of pedagogical experts and with
regard to the reality of the schools and their students.

The project is a two-year European funded project52 that started in April 2001 but has the
potential to expand globally. Currently YoungNet involves partners from 5 countries:
 Austria (Hyperwave Research & Development GesmbH),
 Finland (University of Helsinki),
 Germany (Ernst Klett Verlag GmbH, University of Stuttgart, Mindlab Krieger &
Partner GmbH),
 Switzerland (Klett & Balmer AG Verlag),
 UK (Institute of Education University of London) and

The following chapters describe the architecture of the YoungNet community which is
composed of two major components, the YoungNet system and the YoungNet contents,
and which fulfills the objectives mentioned above.

5.3.3 The YoungNet System


The YoungNet system will be an integrated Internet/Intranet solution adjusted to the needs
of teachers and their students, which combines the following technical components:
 An application of the Hyperwave eLearning Suite for communication and
administration (master server)
 The Macromedia Director 8.5 Shockwave Multiuser Server as a 3D environment
for communicating and gaming (Slave server 1).
52
The YoungNet project is partly funded by the European Commission Information Society
Technologies Programme action line “Schools of Tomorrow”.

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 The Hearme audio communication server as the audio component for authentic
Internet communication (Slave server 2)

Client
Internet
Client

Macromedia
Director Hyperwave eLS Hearme audio
multiuser server communication
HW server
database
Slave server Master server Slave server
Shockwave 3D asynchronous communication audio conferencing
multiuser Database (applications, application
applications templates, documents)
user management (rights, roles)

Figure 66: The YoungNet System

Basically, the three servers operate independently from one another. Cross-server data
exchange that might be necessary is done over the user client.

5.3.3.1 The Hyperwave eLearning Suite


The Hyperwave eLearningSuite works primarily as a dynamic Web server which
accommodates the entire YoungNet platform. The dynamic application layer serves both
as a Content Management System (CMS) and as an Object Database Client, which as a
master server provides all connected clients with dynamically created Web content while
additionally contacting the slave servers.
All content, application templates and applications are kept in the Hyperwave database.
They are accessible only by users who have the rights to use them. Since the
authentication is carried out by the master server, it is guaranteed that access protection
exists for objects such as an audio application running on a slave server, without the need
to perform further authentication on the audio server. Thus the entire rights and roles
management and the corresponding user management are done over the master server,
which is capable of transmitting the necessary user data over the clients to the slave
servers.

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Figure 67: The Hyperwave eLearning Suite, original design

Beside its function as a CMS, the Hyperwave server operates as an application server on
which the Hyperwave eLearning Suite is hosted. This application mainly determines the
process support and process flows, and provides special functionalities such as news
groups or document upload and download. Also, functions or complete objects
(application templates) are kept here, which set up the connection with the slave servers
when the client is opened.
The user interface of Hyperwave eLS has been heavily customized according to the needs
of the environment and the main users’ age (8-14 years). Several functions have been
dropped to simplify the system and more focus has been put on collaboration by adding a
shared workspace. As examples two most important rooms are mentioned here:
5.3.3.1.1 The YoungNet Home

The YoungNet Home is a replacement for the eLS Study Room and works as the main
page of the YoungNet system to give access to different areas:
 the personal Workspaces
 the personal Business Card (My Settings)
 the member list
 the language selection
 the administration (only for teachers and administrators)

Figure 68: The YoungNet Home

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5.3.3.1.2 The YoungNet Workspace

The Workspace replaced the eLS Course Room and provides the main collaboration
functions. Here, every school has its own folder. The class can upload and manage
documents. According to the rights the teacher has given, the documents are only visible
to the class, only visible to the teacher or visible to all classes. In addition, teachers can
create their own learning games. The project-related discussion forum can also be found
here.

Figure 69: The YoungNet Workspace loaded with a page produced by pupils

5.3.3.2 Macromedia Shockwave Multiuser Server


The Macromedia Shockwave Multiuser Server is used as a slave server in order to enable
communication among the clients on which a multiuser Shockwave application was
loaded by the master server. Although the respective Shockwave file is embedded in an
HTML page on the master server, the information concerning the connection to the
multiuser server is stored in the application itself, i.e., after the application is started, the
connection to the Shockwave Multiuser Server is set up. By means of adapted interfaces,
the Shockwave application can also be provided with dynamic information that may lie in
a dynamically generated file on the master server. By doing so, it is possible to transmit
user information or integrate dynamically changing pieces of content into the running
application. Pieces of content created and edited by users within a specific application can
be stored temporarily and transmitted back to the Hyperwave server either directly or over
an HTML frame accommodated in the client browser. This guarantees that data can be
exchanged dynamically between both systems.
The Multiuser Server has been used to provide the 2D and 3D worlds, such as the Virtual
Home, and the YoungNet Games.
5.3.3.2.1 The Virtual Home

The Virtual Home is the personal home in YoungNet, where 3D worlds underwater, in the
air or underground are on offer. Friends from YoungNet can be invited to the Virtual

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Home to communicate and to play. In the Teachers’ Virtual Home, planned events take
place at defined times.

Figure 70: The YoungNet 3D Virtual Home – with two avatars

Figure 71: The YoungNet 3D Virtual Home – underwater

In the Virtual Home there is also a playing table. Here, different games can be played
together, where the participants are represented by avatars sitting around the virtual table.
In addition to that it also provides the possibility to produce and discuss project results in
the form of transparencies that are visible for all.

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Figure 72: The Playing Table of the Virtual Home

5.3.3.3 Hearme Audio Communication Server


In principle, the Hearme audio communication server works in the same way as the
Shockwave server. The Hearme server is also used as a slave server in order to enable
audio communication between the clients from which an audio connection was started.
The information about which communication server the respective client has to access is
accommodated in an HTML/JavaScript file that was opened on the master server
(Hyperwave server). Data resulting from an audio connection are stored on the
communication server.

The design of the unified system will support a paradigm shift from pure
instructivistic/behaviouristic to constructivistic learning [Baumgartner 2001] where
teachers become a facilitator of learning rather than an instructor training factual
knowledge. Communication and collaboration are offered on an individual level between
teachers/pupils by appropriate communication tools, meeting places (e.g., the teachers’
room) and games for leisure time activities. Teachers and students are free to use these
features on a national or on an international level for establishing contacts.
However, it is very important that the system is not provided without any guidelines, best
practice examples and material for use during the lessons, otherwise it will not be very
helpful, and would not be likely to be applied in the most efficient and planned way.
Therefore the project also includes the definition of the YoungNet content. Some of the
partners (especially the publisher Klett) have already gained a lot of experiences in former
EU projects (Eurogame, Eurodelphes), which they have used to contribute to the definition
of the content and its usage guidelines.

5.3.4 The YoungNet Content


The YoungNet content has been designed for use in schools. It is a combination of
materials optimized for multimedia-supported lessons, including:
 Multi-user educational content-specific games which can be played alone or in teams
 Content-specific teaching and methodological guidelines for teachers and students
 Multimedia materials (e.g., sounds, pictures, audio files, videos)

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The content reflects subjects taught by involved teachers, i.e., interdisciplinary. At the
moment Geography and English are the two subjects because the domain of the involved
partners and because both subjects are easy to interconnect to a good overall story, which
will then be the background for the content.
Collaborative contents are, for example the “Travel Book” story board: Here every school
produces their own travel book in class concerning where their live. This book describes
famous places, famous people, buildings, the landscape, mountains, seas, etc.
Documents are designed with an HTML editor with the help of the teachers and some
templates, and then uploaded to the YoungNet server, where other schools can access
them. In the next step, students prepare questions for their travel book with several similar
sounding answers, and these are also put in a special quiz engine on the server. All of the
schools will prepare themselves for the national quiz contest which will be similar to the
“who wants to be a millionaire” game show. Afterwards the best schools will participate in
an international quiz game.
This is a good example of how the integration of communication and collaboration
between national and international classes into a scenario (story) will work. The topics
chosen have to motivate the classes involved and define a natural obligation to collaborate
with other classes. Generally speaking an integrated story has to be worked out. Parts of
this story are:
1. Work within the class (alone and in group)
2. Asynchronous communication between different schools
3. Controlled synchronous events such as a competition

Experiences from previous projects have shown that particularly synchronous events must
be well prepared in order to work properly, because it is quite difficult to organize them
between schools especially if they are in different countries.
Furthermore, the YoungNet system enables the teachers to create their own projects in any
subject they wish. They can upload their own instruction guidelines and create their own
content by using the comprehensive administration and communication possibilities.

Figure 73: Three examples for YoungNet games: The Quiz, the EuroMap and the Pairs game

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5.3.5 Summary
This chapter has shown the outline of a concept to bring networked learning to schools and
youngsters by offering an integrated real-time virtual education environment with both
synchronous and asynchronous communication based on leading edge ICT technology.
More specifically the objectives have been to
 provide a community platform that enables young people up to 14 years of age to
communicate and co-operate across national borders and cultures;
 offer a fascinating and edutaining multi-user environment with innovative
services and learning materials with clearly defined, sensible content;
 provide a platform the use of which is induced by intrinsic motivation, and
thereby overcome the borderline between learning (school) and leisure.

During the first half of 2002 the first part of the content was implemented and tested in
schools together with an early version of the system to gain feedback from schools during
the development phase. Both the system and the content were finished by the end of 2002
when a long evaluation phase started and the system has been thoroughly tested in
practical use. In parallel, a self-financing business model has been worked out to keep the
project moving after its initial EU funded project phase.

Up to date information about the project can be found on the public project Web site
www.youngnet.at .

5.4 Telekom Austria

This section will give a brief overview about the implementation of GENTLE-WBT, and
later Hyperwave eLearning Suite, at Telekom Austria, which, with the help of GENTLE,
became the largest e-Learning provider in Austria.
The course of events, the goals of the project and the involved processes and roles will be
presented and explained in a concise way.

5.4.1 The goal: Implement an e-Learning system for 11,000 employees


Telekom Austria is the largest industry group for telecommunications in Austria. It is the
leading provider of mobile and fixed line networks for Internet, voice, data, image and
multimedia communications. Total managed revenues amounted to nearly 4 million Euro
and headcount totaled more than 16,000 employees at the end of 2001. The company is
listed at the Vienna and the New York Stock Exchange and owns other companies in
Lichtenstein, Croatia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
The e-Learning strategy of Telekom Austria intended to build up an e-Learning system for
11,000 globally-distributed employees with a permanent load of about 250 concurrent
users (maximum peak load about 2000 concurrent users) and about one million objects
stored in the content repository. The system had to be integrated with their existing IT
infrastructure, fulfill their requirements concerning load distribution, failure safety and
security; and had to be customized according to their organizational structures, functional
requirements and corporate design.

5.4.2 The strategy: An approach in several phases


The whole project was based on a joint initiative between the training and human
resources department. The project team was soon extended by employees from the IT and
the call center department for requirements analysis and the evaluation process, which
formed the first phase.

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5.4.2.1 The evaluation of e-Learning platforms
The project team consisting of six people started at the beginning of 2000 to build up a
weighted requirements catalogue consisting of five main topics:
 Technique (weight: 20%): this included the integration capabilities and openness
of the solution, the feasibility of a simple pilot installation and the requirement of
a pure Web-based system without any client side installation other than browser
plug ins,
 General functions (weight: 15%):
o Asynchronous communication: e.g., discussion forums, e-mail,
question/answer dialogs, news ticker, feedback possibilities,
o Navigation: e.g. automatically-generated index, search functionality and
link management,
o Support of various data formats in online courses and the integration of
instructor-led courses,
 Learning process (weight: 30%):
o Fine grained access rights for learning objects and support of multiple
roles
o Reports about learning progress
o Course structuring possibilities
o Support of pages notes, glossary, library, assessments and bookmarks
 Costs (weight: 30%):
o Staggered licenses (1000, 5000, 10000 users)
o Maintenance and support costs
 Future product perspectives (weight: 5%)
After the creation of the requirements catalogue seven e-Learning system vendors were
identified and given the chance to present their systems in sales demonstrations and
workshops. The selected systems were:
1. Trilog ILF - Information and Learning Framework
2. Siemens/Bitmedia Sitos
3. GENTLE-WBT
4. Lotus Learning Space
5. Ingenio Lernsystem
6. Click2Learn Ingenium
7. Docent Learning Management System
After the first round, three systems remained in the evaluation and had to be installed as
test systems on-site. The site had been tested by the project team and test users. Those
systems were Trilog ILF, GENTLE-WBT and Docent LMS.
After 4 months of testing and evaluation, GENTLE-WBT was finally selected as the
winning system, partly due to the following reasons:
 Manifold support of the learning process and different pedagogical concepts

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 Technical recommendations from the IT department

5.4.2.2 The pilot phase


The project team decided to prepare the implementation of the e-Learning system
thoroughly, because it not only requires a tremendous technical effort but also a significant
organizational endeavour, and therefore started with a pilot phase. In this pilot phase the
IT department had the chance to gain knowledge in maintaining, administrating and
customizing the system because large parts of the customization were done by the IT
employees themselves. The pilot phase course content had been contracted to a
professional course authoring company to ensure a high acceptance of the system and its
learning content right from the beginning. At the beginning of the testing phase, 2,000
pilot users participated. This was later extended to 4,000 users.
The feedback gained during the pilot phase was also used to enhance the system’s user
interface and functionality. The whole pilot and feedback phase lasted for nearly 1.5 years.
After the end of the pilot phase, the final fully customised system had been completely
rolled out to more than 11,000 users.

5.4.2.3 The full roll out


Before the start of the full roll out, the system’s UI had to be completely customized
according to the new corporate design and Web site layout. This would ensure a seamless
integration within the company’s intranet. In addition, the whole system had been
upgraded to a new major release of the software (Hyperwave IS/6 and Hyperwave
eLearning Suite 1.3) over the course of only two weeks.
Further new high quality courses with e.g. video support and several courses created by
company internal departments have been offered, among these are, for example:
 Introduction to the administration and use of the Telekom Austria Active
Directory System
 Introduction into the Telekom Austria personal reporting and time tracking
system
 Introductory course for performance management
 Preparations for and legal aspects of the employee feedback interview
 Introduction to the intranet tool „Telekom Austria Academy“ (company internal
education and career path)
 Introduction to the customer relationship tool “Clarify”
 Introduction to SAP

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Figure 74: The customized Foyer of the Telekom Austria "Web Learn System" (WLS), based on
eLS

Figure 75: The WLS Study Room

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Figure 76: The WLS Course Room with seamlessly integrated existing intranet material as course
content

Figure 77: Seamless integration of video technology into WLS

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5.4.3 Conclusions
The implementation of GENTLE and later Hyperwave eLearning Suite, at Telekom
Austria showed that GENTLE not only has a good pedagogical and technical concept, but
also proved to be a professional system which can be used highly successfully in a big
production environment for more than 10,000 users.
The system significantly reduced costs because of a reduction of employee absence times,
reduction of travel and a reduction of expensive instructor-led live trainings. The quality of
the online training could be significantly increased by accompanied interactive support
from experienced tutors. The easy-to-use out-of-the-box functionality increased user
satisfaction and acceptance of the system. By using the communication and interaction
tools, employees from different departments could work together, increasing the overall
efficiency and knowledge of the company. Finally, the use of annotations, discussion
forum articles and question/answer dialogs in combination with the course materials led to
a knowledge pool which is an integral component of the overall company intranet, and
therefore bridged the gap between e-Learning and knowledge management.

5.5 Learning Northern Ireland

After essentially completing this thesis a major breakthrough has finally been made. The
world’s largest e-Learning project now called Learning Northern Ireland (previously
Classroom 2000) will be based on Hyperwave and GENTLE. As this project is still under
development and therefore all internal documents describing the software architecture are
still company confidential details are not allowed to be described here currently. However,
because of the tremendous success this means to the author’s ideas, it is still worth
mentioning it. To allow the reader access to the most important facts about the project, the
official press announcement of Hyperwave as of March 26, 2003 is included here:

5.5.1 HP Services to Use Hyperwave`s eKnowledge Infrastructure for World`s


Largest e-Learning Project
Hyperwave, a leading supplier of collaborative knowledge management and e-learning
software, today announced it will be providing its eKnowledge Infrastructure software for
HP Services' Classroom 2000 (C2K) project in Northern Ireland. The largest e-learning
project in the world to date, HP will be managing and providing the technology
infrastructure for C2K which involves 1,280 schools, over 330,000 pupils and 20,000
teachers. The overall deal is estimated to be worth over $97 million and, in its largest deal
ever, is worth $15.5 million for Hyperwave.
Both teachers and pupils are set to benefit from Hyperwave's e-learning technology in the
classroom. Schools across Northern Ireland will be able to collaborate and exchange 'best
practices'; delivering consistent curriculum material that matches pupils' Key Stage Level
assessment programs. Crucially, the interaction between teachers and pupils will be
greatly enhanced, improving the connection between teachers and pupils who cannot
easily attend school because they have special needs, are ill, or are prevented from
attending school. In addition, the way in which pupil performance is monitored, measured
and analyzed will be improved, providing better opportunities to help under-achievers and
extend over-achievers.
The system caters for different age levels, allowing primary and secondary schoolchildren
to interact with others in their age group across Northern Ireland. Parents will also be able
to communicate with teachers as part of the learning community in the Managed Learning
Environment (MLE).

178
Christoph Michel, CEO of Hyperwave, commented, "As well as reducing teachers'
administration loads, the opportunity of communicating through a digital medium will
help break down social exclusion barriers by giving all pupils the chance to gain digital
literacy. C2K is a major project providing the vital infrastructure to ensure that young
people acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed beyond school and into their
working lives."
A total of 62 e-learning software providers were short listed for the C2K project. In the
end, it was the strongly collaborative aspect of the Hyperwave eKnowledge Infrastructure
that won. Clifford Harris, Director for Education, HP Services, commented, "We were
impressed not only by the collaborative features but also by the modularity of
Hyperwave's e-learning software. The C2K project further proves HP's commitment to
developing education through technology by delivering industry-leading, enterprise-class
knowledge management and e-learning software to the learning community."
Commissioned by the Northern Irish education department, C2K aims to fundamentally
change the way education is delivered to the learning community in Northern Ireland and
involves all state schools. Every child in Northern Ireland will have internet access and an
email address from age one. As part of the existing CLASS Project (Computerized Local
Administration System for Schools) launched in the 1990s, the initiative is intended to
support the development and implementation of modern information systems in Northern
Irish schools, creating the basis for efficient information management.
About Hyperwave
Hyperwave offers Information Management software solutions to empower information
distribution, team collaboration and continuous learning across the extended enterprise.
Dedicated to unleashing the potential of organisational knowledge, Hyperwave delivers
the means to use corporate information most effectively through its four key offerings:
Smart Information Distribution, Smart Collaborative Workspace, Smart Collaborative
Learning and Interactive Knowledge Center. Hyperwave's business partners include
Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Unisys, Siemens Business Services and KPMG. Hyperwave
supports more than 220 customers worldwide, including Audi, BMW, Colt Telecom,
McCann-Erickson, EADS, European Commission, Siemens Group, Universal Music, The
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and the US Department of Defence.
Hyperwave is headquartered in Munich, Germany, with subsidiaries in the United States,
Austria and the UK. To learn more about Hyperwave, visit www.hyperwave.com.
About HP
HP is a leading global provider of products, technologies, solutions and services to
consumers and businesses. The company's offerings span IT infrastructure, personal
computing and access devices, global services and imaging and printing. HP completed its
acquisition of Compaq Computer Corporation on May 3, 2002. More information about
HP is available at http://www.hp.com.
About Classroom 2000
The Classroom 2000 project is a ten-year government initiative designed to provide
communication and information technology within a managed learning environment for
all schools in Northern Ireland.

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Chapter 6

6 VISIONS & IDEAS

“We can let the future happen or take the trouble to imagine it.
We can imagine it dark or bright – and in the long run, that’s how it will be.”
David Gelertner, 2000

In this chapter, several ideas will be presented which aim to show in which directions e-
Learning could be extended and further evolved.
o Chapter 6.1 (page 180) suggests a new concept for structuring and integrating
computerized and human knowledge.
o Chapter 6.2 (page 189) further elaborates on the idea of a knowledge network for
general use in targeted information retrieval
o Chapter 6.3 (page 193) presents a highly interactive multimedia learning
paradigm as an alternative learning approach to currently used teaching methods.

6.1 An Associative Joint Module Repository/Knowledge Network

One of the main difficulties in the area of Web based training systems are the cost and
large effort that has to be invested in the production of good courseware modules. While
the problem of creating new pages cannot be solved easily, costs can be reduced by
providing efficient methods for reusing already existing material. In this chapter I will
introduce a concept for collaboratively and adaptively administrating modules, that may
reside either internally or externally. This idea can also be extended to fully automate the
creation of whole courses or information units consisting of a certain structure and dealing
with a specific topic. Further, this concept can be extended for general knowledge
organizing and sharing, including computerized and human knowledge, and therefore
bridges the gap between e-Learning and knowledge management.

6.1.1 Introduction
When designing GENTLE, I decided not to develop a new authoring application for
course modules because there are already several good ones on the market. Our intention
was to improve integration of those tools and, even more importantly to provide methods
for easy administration and reuse of already existing materials: The creation of high
quality courseware is still quite cumbersome and expensive, and superfluous work like
recreating an already available module should be avoided.
The demand placed on such a module repository is flexible categorization and thus ease of
location of required information and modules, in combination with simple usage. In
particular, efforts that can only be accomplished by IT and domain experts are quite
expensive and therefore have to be reduced to an absolutely required minimum and
substituted by automatic methods like computerized generation of content description, or
incidental tasks that do not bother users. It also has to be considered that not all data may
reside within the system, but may be also found externally at a different place, or just

180
somewhere on the Internet. This means that the system does not have control over outside
modules and thus might not modify or add metadata, for example. Additionally, external
information may be dynamic and change without notice. Nevertheless, it might be
valuable to include this kind of information because of topicality and quality.

Another important feature is personalization: by this we mean that a group of users (or a
single user) may have their own view about the meaning of some modules, because the
same data can be used differently in various situations: For example, a chapter about
multimedia concepts might be introductory or advanced material, depending on the course
topic. This can only be accomplished if situation dependent meaning and object-oriented
properties like title, creation time, author etc., are separated, because the meaning of a
module can change with the point of view.
Adaptive views can be also used to automatically suggest certain modules to authors if
they specify a course profile that describes the meaning and aim of the course, by for
example, a table of contents. The system can achieve this by trying to match the profile.
This information about the course can also be used for suggesting suitable courses to
students, if students also own a profile about their preferences.

The whole system could not only be used to find appropriate course components, but also
to retrieve relevant information in more general terms, like a background library for
students, or as part of a knowledge management or intranet system to be used by
employees. In the following sections, I will examine existing strategies and present a
concept for an adaptive, associative, joint, dynamic and location-independent module and
information repository.

6.1.2 Metadata alone is not sufficient


The most obvious way to store categorized data is to save it in a data warehouse with a
static hierarchical structure similar to the file system organization of a PC. For example the
“History of Hypertext” and data about “HTML” are saved in the “Hypertext” subcategory,
which belongs to “Hypermedia”, which is categorized under “Computer Science” (see
Figure 78).

Figure 78: Simple hierarchical structure

Such inflexible data organization brings many disadvantages. The static keyword
categories must be very precisely specified and regularly updated and reorganized, so that
categorizing and storing of data can be efficiently supported. Otherwise stored data cannot
be found again because they have not been categorized properly. Such a complex structure
results in poor performance.

A possible solution to avoid the inflexibility of a hierarchically structured data warehouse


as mentioned above is the usage of metadata. Nowadays, there are many standardization
initiatives e.g., Dublin Core, Warwick framework, IEEE-LTSC/ISO-IEC JTC 1 SC 36 and
IMS, trying to define the metadata structure [Weibel et al. 1998], see also chapter 3, page
53. The standardization efforts are coming from different backgrounds e.g., technology
suppliers, aviation industry, learning technology users. Because all of the different
initiatives are aware of the great importance of metadata for categorization, structuring of

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knowledge and finding relevant information, they try to be compliant within reasonable
boundaries of other initiatives.

One of the definitions which has been long discussed by the IEEE Learning Technology
Standardization Committee (LTSC)53 is that metadata are data about data, meaning that
metadata provide us with information about certain objects e.g., documents. This
additional information about the objects can be information about the author of the object,
language used, date of creation, topic, key words, possible use of the object, conditions for
use, etc. We can add additional attributes that explain, for example, different possibilities
for using the object, pedagogical values, or other categories like learning style, learning
level, and prerequisites, which are relevant for re-use of the objects within the learning
environment. Thus, metadata can be seen as a feature that facilitates finding specific
requested information (text documents, pictures, video clips, course units, etc.).

Compared to the first solution mentioned in this chapter, metadata introduces tremendous
improvements for the categorization and knowledge management process, but there are
still some problems left regarding the gathering of relevant, reliable and up-to-date
information. In the categorization process, different key words are assigned to the object.
Exactly which key words provide the most appropriate description of the content or
meaning of the object is the decision of the person creating the metadata. This leaves the
difficulty of finding the required object to the user, because it may be described in a
different way than expected. The fact that the same key words can have different meanings
within different contexts also causes some problems for users who want to find a specific
object.
A possible way to create useful and sufficient metadata is probably to combine human
knowledge and technology. The disadvantage of metadata being rigidly coupled with the
object can be avoided. Grouping of metadata offers a solution to this problem. Grouping of
metadata means that metadata which describe the physical appearance of the object stay
coupled with it. Other metadata which describe some more general concepts e.g., topic,
category, key words, can be transformed into separate objects. Those meta-objects exist
independently and can be linked to many different objects. Meta-objects can be shared by
many objects, and relations can be defined between meta-objects themselves. One possible
implementation of this concept is described in the next chapter.

6.1.3 The concept of knowledge clusters


A cluster usually describes a collection of objects that are relatively close to each other
according to a chosen criterion. Cluster analysis is used for grouping similar, related
objects. One possible application of clustering algorithms is document retrieval. In a
dynamic environment content changes are also made in the content indicators attached to
the documents. In such cases clustered file organization is preferable because similar sets
of content identifiers are automatically grouped into common classes or clusters. The
search is performed looking only at those clusters that exhibit close similarity with the
corresponding query identifiers. A clustered file produces fast search output.

In real life, concepts are neither isolated nor very simple, so clusters may overlap allowing
data, documents or part of documents (e.g., sections) to belong to more than one cluster.
To get better results we can use conceptual clustering. The difference between
conventional and conceptual clustering is that in conceptual clustering the entities are
grouped based on a conceptual cohesiveness (e.g., a set of neighboring examples)
[Michalski et al. 1998]. Unlike statistical clustering methods, these algorithms rely on a
search for objects within the same or similar concepts. As an example of conceptual
clustering we can use the term virus. If we search for virus, we may retrieve documents
53
The relevant metadata keywords have been recently standardized within ISO-SC36 as LOM or
Learning Objects Metadata

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which describe the topic in computer science or documents which deal with viruses in
medicine. Using the conceptual clustering, these documents are put into different clusters
because they belong to different concepts.

What we need to accomplish is a network of metadata, where each metadata object


correlates on one hand with the information it describes (metadata and data may also
physically be the same object) and on the other hand with other instances of metadata. I
suggest using pure metadata (without document content), so called base terms, which are
related to other base terms to describe main concepts and thus work as a “seed” for new
clusters. To improve effectiveness and versatility, relations themselves should also contain
some metadata:
 A type that specifies what kind of relation exists between two nodes (e.g.,
subconcept or superconcept, cause or result, opposite or synonym, prerequisite,
introductory,),
 a weight value that specifies to what degree this type applies to the relation (e.g.,
fuzzy values like perfect, good, average, bad,. expressed by a certain percentage)
and
 a quality value that specifies the reliability of the connection (also a percentage).
In this way users can give feedback about the correctness of the relation while
browsing and searching the cluster, and thus influence weight and reliability of
the relation. This has the advantage that a new relation need not be completely
correct right from the beginning, but can converge to a commonly accepted status
by collaborative voting. Thus, it is no longer important whether the creator of the
relation is completely trustworthy or not, it just influences the starting reliability
value. This means that not all connections have to be created by domain experts
but can also be created by others, for example, novice users or algorithms.

Type: introductory
Weight: 95%
Quality: 70%

Type: superset
Weight: 50%
Qualitity: 90%

Figure 79: Examples for relation metadata

The example in Figure 79 shows that within a cluster many connections, hierarchical or
parallel (e.g., horizontal or vertical), can be established. Within a broader concept, many
different subconcepts can be defined. Depending on the point of view, one can define
basic terms within those concepts. Not only the definitions of basic terms depend on the
point of view, but also the definitions of concepts and subconcepts may vary. For example,
what is for someone a subconcept (e.g., for a novice user) is for an expert in that field a
concept with a much more detailed structure underneath. For a novice user, “Hypermedia”
is a subconcept of “Information Technology”, for an expert “Hypermedia” is a concept
(that is, a cluster with a very detailed structure underneath).
If we combine the relation attributes with access rights (like private, group and public
access) and ownership, even different points of view for concepts are manageable because
relations can be seen differently by different users.

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Computer
Science

Hypermedia
Networks
Access: private
Type: Subconcept
Weight: 50%
Quality: 40% Multimedia
LAN

Internet Hypertext

History of
Hypertext

FTP

Access: group
Type: Introduction
Weight: 90%
Quality: 100%

WWW HTML

Access: public
HTML 4.0 Type: Reference
Reference Weight: 100%
Quality: 95%

Figure 80: Hierarchy (interlinking) of concepts and information

Similar approaches to sharing ideas and opinions within society, and building the contacts
between people who have related interests and opinions, are described in Automated
Collaborative Filtering (ACF) and semantic transports of information [Chislenko 1997b].
The semantic transport of information can be seen as a social tool, overcoming the side
effects of the present-day individual isolation. Implementations of some fragments of these
ideas can be also found in Recommender Systems [Resnik & Varian 1997] such as Alexa54
(http://www.alexa.com) and Phoaks (http://www.phoaks.com/) or in new generations of
search engines like Google (http://www.google.com).
To avoid any possible confusion, I would like to define what we understand by the term
knowledge cluster: The combination of a knowledge broker point (KBP), expert
knowledge, and collaborative community system, as well as the automatic processing
modules can be seen as a knowledge cluster. The task of knowledge broker points is to
manage static and dynamic knowledge sources within the learning environment. An
automatic process module e.g., a knowledge cluster, can help to categorize information
entities, to position them as new pieces of knowledge in the system, and to store and find
them when necessary.

6.1.3.1 Creation of knowledge clusters and addition of documents


Typically, the creation of new knowledge clusters will be started by defining a skeleton of
related base terms describing a certain knowledge area by domain experts. As all relations
created by trusted experts get assigned a maximum reliability value, the quality of the
network is more important than its extent and number of nodes.
Additionally, a depending relation like "A is an introduction to B" and "B is an
introduction to C" can be dynamically calculated by multiplying its weight and quality
values, and need not be created manually [see Figure 81].

54
In the meantime Alexa also uses Google technology

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focus 70%

50%

35%

Figure 81: Determining the total weight

However, if in special cases dynamic relations do not result in meaningful values from
some point of view, they can be shortened by static relations which have higher priority
than the calculated ones but which, for example, might not be seen by everybody because
access rights for these relations are restricted [see Figure 82].

focus
50%

50%

70%
90%

Figure 82: Modified shortest path rule

In this context we speak about a modified shortest path rule because here the shortest path
is the one with fewest relations and not with the smallest edge length. It should be noted
that in some instances the calculation of two paths of the same length (equals the number
of relations between nodes) and same starting and ending node can lead to different
results. However, this is absolutely correct because different paths also mean different
contexts or conclusions [see Figure 83]!

Internet browser

HTML
focus

WWW

Webpage RFC 2070

Figure 83 : Context dependant paths

New base terms and metadata (including information content such as documents and
course modules, or pointers to data like references), and also relations between new base
terms and metadata cannot only be created by experts but also by ordinary users, or even
by algorithms like user profiling, content analysis, etc. The quality of these relations then
depends on the status of the user. For example, an anonymous user or a not too trustworthy
algorithm leads to quality values that start quite low, whereas identified users who have
gained a certain expertise within the specific knowledge area may create more promising
relations.

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Whenever users browse or access a knowledge cluster they should be able to provide
feedback on, whether the visited relation proved helpful and they thus found what they
were looking for, or whether the relations had been misleading. Such feedback could be
given by simply clicking on a plus or minus sign, indicating approval or rejection, or by a
more complex form where the user has the possibility to suggest a different type, and
different weight and quality values. The feedback can also be provided by a profiling
algorithm that analyzes the behavior of users. For examples, users starting all over again
with a search after following a lot of relations express with this behavior that they did not
find what they had been looking for and thus that these relations, in their context, had not
been very helpful. In each case, the influence of the feedback on the attributes of the
relation again depends on the trustworthiness of the user or algorithm which provides the
feedback. Identified users can gain higher trustworthiness in a certain knowledge area if
relations and objects they created for this area get higher ranking through feedback. The
effect of this concept is that the cluster and the quality values of contributing users and
algorithms converge into a commonly accepted status. This means that newly created
relations need not be perfect right from the beginning but are 'polished' on usage. In this
way, the effectiveness of an algorithm which automatically creates new structures only has
an influence on the duration as long as the resulting relations evolve to a high quality
network influenced by users!

6.1.3.2 Searching and browsing within knowledge clusters


Access to a knowledge cluster starts by defining an entry point to the data structure. This
can either be a common root term or, more likely, a traditional keyword query on the
metadata stored within the base terms and relations. The list of search results can be
linearly sorted by priority or, even better, displayed as several clusters or clouds of
documents and relations that indicate which terms belong together and what their
neighboring nodes are. From now on, users may browse through the clusters by putting the
focus on a selected term or altering the filter values. The filter specifies how many and
which adjacent nodes and documents will be displayed, thus forming a new cluster. We
have the following possible filter values: type of relations (e.g., introductory), threshold
values for weight and quality, number of relations displayed, visibility expressed by
maximum length of path that is dynamically calculated and, of course, also document
metadata like mimetype, creation time, author, Dublin Core attributes, etc. The filter can
also be used for the very first display of search results. As mentioned before, users can
give feedback on the displayed relations or add new ones during the browsing process.

Another interesting feature is the so-called rucksack which is used to store documents for
later reuse, or may be used to execute more complex filtering by combining items
collected in the rucksack as additional filter criteria such as 'all items displayed in the
neighborhood have to be a sub concept of rucksack item X and an introduction to rucksack
item Y', etc. An intelligent rucksack could also log or analyze the behavior of users and
define a certain task-specific and user-specific profile which can be used to foresee the
next action and suggest suitable filter settings and items. Certain rucksacks, or more
generally, agents, can also be reconfigured for a specific task like chapter creation (e.g., a
chapter consists of an introduction, a main part and a summary) or even the creation of
new clusters.

6.1.4 The prototype


The prototype, which was developed by Christian Eller [Eller 2000] in a first and by
Martin Mair [Mair 2002] in a second version, like the rest of the e-Learning system, is
based on the Hyperwave Information Server. In fact, the concept and features of
Hyperwave servers proved to be very helpful for this special requirement, since it supports
an object-oriented approach for storing documents and hyperlinks (so-called anchors). All
objects within the database, including anchors, may store arbitrary attributes like

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keywords, owner, access rights etc.. This provides the possibility to use anchors for
creating our specialized relations, because the required metadata such as type, weight and
quality can be stored within the object. Furthermore, anchor-object relations are bi-
directional, which means an application can find out which links are pointing to an object
and which are pointing from this object to a different one, which is also an important
requirement. Hyperwave objects without content (like a remote object) were used to
implement base terms or external metadata that just have pointers to their accompanying
documents. Personalization has been easily added by using access rights, which can be
applied to anchors and which are used to specify which user(s) may see a relation.

Currently the prototype supports creating base term skeletons, adding of documents and
personalized relations and simple querying and filtering during cluster browsing.
Collaborative voting and the rucksack feature are not available yet. Thus the prototype can
be used for jointly administrating a module or knowledge repository, or a reference and
background library. Another simple application for the prototype would be shared
bookmark archives, which might be helpful when doing task-oriented teamwork like
student exercises etc.

Figure 84: The knowledge cluster prototype: showing a base term with
some relations to other base terms

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Figure 85: The knowledge cluster prototype: showing a base term with assigned
content and relations to a person and another base term

Figure 86: The knowledge cluster prototype: showing the base term of a person

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Figure 87: The knowledge cluster prototype: filter settings

6.1.5 Conclusion and future work


As we have seen, the concept of applying attributes to relations that interlink metadata
provides a possibility to add additional meaning to course material, which is a basic
prerequisite for further automatic processing. Combined with situation-dependent and
user-dependent views and collaborative rating techniques, it can be used as a fundamental
model not only for managing courseware repositories and background libraries but also for
administrating all kinds of related data. One of the next steps will be to examine the
usefulness of this concept for adaptive tutoring which could be realized by courses that are
generated on-the-fly, and depending on users’ preferences. Future work will also include
the integration of our ideas about dynamic background libraries and intelligent knowledge
gathering [Dietinger & Maurer 1998b] [Dietinger et al. 1999b] to expand the model to a
generalized and distributed concept.

6.2 Dynamic background libraries (Targeted Information Retrieval)

The goal of targeted information retrieval is to get more relevant information, which is
task-specific and user-specific, and which may be used for adaptive problem solving.
Possible problems and their solutions are discussed with emphasis on collaborative
knowledge transfer environments. Distributed knowledge gathering and knowledge
clustering as a quality improvement of gained information is described in the main part of
this section. The impact of gained relevant information for the learning process
improvement is presented.

6.2.1 Introduction
Our present-day society could be described as the so-called information society. It is
characterized by a huge unstructured knowledge repository as well as rapid increase of
information. In the last few years, the Internet has become a very interesting area for

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publishing and gathering information, and must be included in a future-oriented learning
environment. In early 1998 the number of Web pages was estimated to exceed 150 million
[Gütl et al 1998]. According to Jacob Nielsen [Nielsen 1998] there were around 320
million and for the year 2000, the predictions are that there will be over 1000 million Web
pages. But only gathering this information does not satisfy users' needs!
The main challenge is to get the correct information in the appropriate quality, reliability
and actuality, and to get only the information that has been requested (knowledge). Rieder
[Rieder 1997] addresses this situation by saying "Not only is the gathering of information
demanded; this information must also have meaning...". From the users' point of view,
obtaining the right information that is needed to solve a problem or accomplish a task
increases the value of the Web decisively. This means that not only is the access to
information important, but also the relevance of quality itself matters. If the information
can be used for task accomplishment, then this information has the value of additional
knowledge for the particular user. Furthermore, with the need for more information and
more knowledge, the life-long learning process steps into the foreground, leading to the
following conclusion: Getting the requested information of desired quality represents the
step from an information society towards a knowledge society.
In the future, sharing information and knowledge between possibly interested users will
bring new values to the net. Thus, providing users with information, advice and
experiences relevant for their particular situation helps to improve their problem solving.
Sharing ideas and opinions within society and building contacts between people who share
similar interests and opinions is described in Automated Collaborative Filtering (ACF) and
Semantic Transports of information [Chislenko 1997a][Chislenko 1997b]. The semantic
transport of information can be seen as a social tool, overcoming the side effects of the
present-day individual isolation. On the other hand, one can see ACF as an
implementation of existing manufacturing logistic (just-in-time) in an information logistic.
The possibility of knowledge elicitation from external sources based on user-sensitive
Web search improvement as well as on the merging of on-line sources and static and
dynamic libraries, introduces new aspects of information retrieval. At this point, we should
also emphasize the possibility of knowledge gathering through the saving of tutor/learner
dialogues in a knowledge base as an additional source of knowledge. This results in high-
quality courseware, enriched with the knowledge generated from past lessons. These
features are important for the entire education process and are in the process of opening
new opportunities for better educational systems, being a key issue for electronic learning
system improvement.

6.2.2 Document clustering system


By definition [Fayyad 1996], clustering is a common descriptive task where one seeks to
identify a finite set of categories or clusters to describe data. The categories may be
mutually exclusive and exhaustive, or consist of a richer representation such as
hierarchical or overlapping categories. Examples of clustering applications are the
discovery of homogeneous sub-populations (e.g., for consumers in marketing databases)
or identification of sub-categories (e.g., of spectra of infra red sky measurements). In the
dynamic environment, changes are made to the content indicators attached to queries and
documents. In such cases, clustered file organization is preferable because similar sets of
content identifiers are automatically grouped into common classes, or clusters, and a
search is performed by looking only at those clusters that exhibit close similarity to the
corresponding query identifiers. A clustered file produces fast search output, and the file
updating operations are relatively easy to implement [Van Nostrand 1993]. Cluster
analysis is used for the grouping similar objects. Often the term cluster is used in statistics,
meaning 'is related but different' [Michalski et al. 1998]. A cluster usually describes a
group of objects that are relatively close to each other according to a chosen numerical
distance.

190
To illustrate the definitions of cluster mentioned above, we could say that a group of
students attending a lecture is a cluster. 'Students of information science' share interest in
the mentioned discipline. In this case, the defined concept is much broader and more
complex, and is defined by characteristic features like sharing interest in information
science related topics.
An advanced way to deal with clustering similar objects has already been described in
chapter 6.1, page 180.

6.2.3 A possible approach: Knowledge gathering process


As already mentioned, today mankind has to handle highly dynamic knowledge structures.
Besides electronic journals and electronic publishing of books, a wide range of reliable
information, as well as information junk, leads daily to information overload of users. On
the other hand, such highly dynamic knowledge structures have to be taken into account
for obtaining current and relevant information [Dietinger et al. 1998c].
In the field of Web-based training or distance learning environments particular domain
knowledge can be built by course material as well as by a static and dynamic background
library [Dietinger et al. 1998c]. The distinction made between the dynamic and static part
is based on the premise that we have control and influence over the static part whereas our
influence is minimal in the dynamic component of the background library. The dynamic
part consists of relevant Web sites or Web areas, news forums, etc. The static library will
include electronic books, electronic journals, question-answer dialogs, exercises, student
papers, etc. The static and the dynamic knowledge sources are gathered, processed and
stored by a knowledge broker point (see Figure 88). Such a broker point can process
content and metadata, that is, additional information about content like keywords, author,
language, license conditions, creation date, reader level, quality ratings, etc. Former
experience has shown that in particular, metadata are very valuable since they make the
gathering of relevant, reliable and up-to-date information possible. Metadata can be
published either by the author or by the reader, or can be created automatically. The
knowledge broker point can support metadata generation and therefore provides added
value for the recherché process.

Figure 88: The Knowledge Broker Point

As another important point, the principle of the learning system discussed above can also
be seen in a generalized form. Knowledge is stored, and interlinked information and the
process to enlarge the knowledge base is called learning. Corresponding to this model the
learning process has to be seen in a much wider context. Any system which allows you to
find relevant information with respect to the given problem and to users’ preferences
supports the learning process.

However, former experience [Maurer 1996b] [Tomek et al 1993] [Hodgins & Wason &
Duval 1998] [Weibel et al. 1998] has shown that metadata are particular important for the
categorization and structuring of knowledge as well as for allowing users to find relevant
information. On the other hand, there is the problem of generating proper metadata
because the process causes additional effort. An almost exponential increase in

191
information, and therefore rapid growth of knowledge, will make it impossible for human
domain experts to categorize whole sets of documents or even sections of such documents
(it should be noted that documents need not necessarily be text documents). This dilemma
has to be solved. Consequently, authors and publishers cannot guarantee sufficient and
correct generation of metadata because the creation of metadata will mostly not be
consequent and objective. A possible way for useful and sufficient metadata to be created
can be achieved with a combination of human knowledge and AI techniques.
Human domain experts are able to define a set of terms - the base terms (see chapter 6.1.2)
and the relations (similarity, hierarchy, etc.) concerning their specific domain subject.
Furthermore, experts are able to categorize and rate a small subset of available documents.
Rating and categorization of knowledge sources (e.g., a Web site) or their subset (e.g., a
Web area) can also be of great value. This may allow a rough overview, and can be a
source for metadata. Not only will domain experts provide valuable metadata, but also the
users from collaborative communities can add such data in the same way. The weight of
their opinion, and therefore the consequence for the knowledge system, depends on the
role and the experience of the user. This means that a human domain expert will get a
higher weight than a normal user. The weight should be able to dynamically adapt the
learning system. The introduced solution makes a combination of knowledge from domain
experts and users possible and enables an information flow between both user groups.
Automated processes and AI techniques have to be taken into account as well. The
automatic process component may, for example, learn from domain knowledge experts
and users to provide automatically extracted or generated metadata. Base term relations,
categorization and ratings, as well as knowledge source metadata, can be the basis for
automatic processes. Quite similar to the human learning process, automated system
components need information from human experts or users to improve their internal
knowledge. A solution for such a feedback process may be output rating by users.
Automatic process modules can also help to categorize new information, to position it as
new pieces of knowledge in the system, and to store and then find it when necessary. By
providing a dialog between users and the system, a further learning process can be
available. Automatic processing modules may be used for further detection of new base
terms and possible relations to other terms, as well as new knowledge sources and
connections between them.

Figure 89: The knowledge cluster

One of the automatic processing modules can be an advanced knowledge clustering


system, which has been already implemented in a first prototype. Based on well-known
clustering methods, the introduced system uses only relevant keywords. Former

192
experience [Dietinger et al. 1998c] [Dietinger et al. 1999b] has shown that only keywords
relevant to the appropriate domain subject or environment have to be taken into account.
In the gathering process, the keywords from metadata as well as automatically extracted
keywords from content are held by the system. The dynamic keyword filter module holds
back keywords with high frequency that are based on a whole set of documents. The
remaining keywords represent the relevant keywords. These relevant keywords will be
used for the clustering process. The main advantage is a dramatic reduction of extent and
therefore a much better resulting performance. Furthermore, a stop-word list for additional
static keyword filtering is implemented for improved results. The system allows the
creation of knowledge clusters (see chapter 6.1.3) by using weight of relevant keywords of
any document. Similar relevant keywords may infer similar content and meaning of the
documents. Relevant keywords and base terms define a term universe, and knowledge
clusters define galaxies of meaning. Clustering within a knowledge cluster can be done at
any level. Such clusters can also be seen as a new knowledge cluster and so on. Therefore
the system looks like a fractal surface structure in a hierarchical view (see Figure 90).

Figure 90 : Interaction of knowledge clusters

6.2.4 Conclusions and future work


As we have seen, the increased availability of information is only helpful if the quality of
information retrieval and extraction is also improved. To accomplish this, application of
metadata alone is not enough. A proper structure is needed that interlinks relevant
information and gives these relations a meaning by adding reliability values and
descriptions. Such a network may be based on knowledge clusters as a result of
collaborative filtering and link creation, and be combined with the possibilities of a
keyword extraction mechanism and similarity checkers. However, since the quality of
information retrieval is user-specific, adaptive technologies that take into account users
preferences and current knowledge have to be considered as well. Possible applications of
the system presented in this paper are manifold. It can be seen as a new way of structuring
and finding data or - if we process the gained information - learning.

6.3 Situation Learning or what do adventure games and hypermedia learning


have in common?

In this section Situation Learning (SL) - a highly interactive multimedia learning paradigm
as an alternative learning approach to currently used teaching methods - will be presented.
Different aspects of Situation Learning concerning teachers, learners and authors
respectively will be listed. Further, tools will be presented that support the authoring of SL
courses and explore the integration of SL into the GENTLE environment. At the end of

193
this section, it will be explained how the “path evaluation” of SL will provide feedback to
the learner.

6.3.1 Introduction
Computer-supported learning is becoming an increasingly important factor in formal and
informal distant education. Already today many Web-based online training systems exist
for the distribution and administration of multimedia educational materials over the
Internet or in intranets. The usual approach to content structuring is a hierarchical course
structure, where the connection to other pages is provided by several links. As the opposite
of the traditional linear oriented learning there are other possibilities like incidental
learning, often called implicit learning [Holzinger & Maurer 1999]. With the method
proposed in this paper of content structuring, our intent is to provide answers to the
following questions:
 How does one design effective learning opportunities?
 How does one provide the learning experience needed to respond to current
challenges?

6.3.2 Situation Learning


Situation Learning (SL) courses are highly interactive hypermedia courses. The idea of
Situation Learning is to embed the learning objective in a sequence of different plausible
situations (usually shown as multimedia documents). A Situation Learning course can
consist of one or more related situations. The term Situation in the context of Situation
Learning denotes a specific fictitious environment in which the learning objective is
embedded. The situation is a collection of different screens that are related in the sense that
they describe a certain event or task. The screen consists of an image, text, meta-
instruction and, for example, four selections. In these screens users, are able to decide
between a few (2-6) offered choices. Based on the decision they make, users get to the
next screen and eventually to the end of the situation and a summary. While trying to find
the solution, users have to reflect on what is known and use previously gathered
knowledge to make a choice. Immediate feedback provides an evaluation of the actions
taken. In this way users learn incidentally. With the help of this virtual world, users can
also check the results of decisions taken in the real world. To get the maximum user
involvement and attention, one has to create situations that are interesting to the users.
Cases where users can identify with the situations or find the occurrence of the situations
plausible are most preferable.
SL may also influence users' consciousness and provide new ideas about how much they
know about a certain topic. For example, users can realize that what they have learnt is not
enough to solve a problem or to help efficiently when some special real-life event occurs.
Such an approach increases users' motivation for learning.

Situation Learning is based on a hypermedia paradigm, i.e., a combination of hypertext


and multimedia [Maurer et al 1998], where each document is a multimedia document and
can have a number of different media objects such as pictures, sounds, animations or
videos. From the structure point of view, SL content is different from other multimedia
content. In SL, paths are neither linear nor is the situation development predefined. As
described previously, users influence the development and the outcome of a situation,
based on individually made choices. The users' interaction with SL content is very
different from simply clicking through the linearly presented content.

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When working with SL, students will usually not go through one module just once, but
after having finished will try the same module again, hopefully with better (more correct)
choices the second time around. Students may repeat the process until they are satisfied
that they make one of a set of correct decisions at any point. However, the repetition of
such an SL module may then lead to users encountering the same situation a number of
times, and this will get boring. For this reason each situation should be replaced by a set of
“equivalent” situations and different situations should be picked (possibly at random) on
each try.
Note that SL leads to a myriad of different situations very fast. After all, after going
through 4 steps (for example) when in each situation we would have 5 choices, we would
already end up with 625 different situations! To avoid this, in larger SL modules, all paths
have to “merge” again at a certain intermediate learning goal. Only after having achieved a
particular resulting situation, can branching take place again.

SL is entertaining and challenging. High content interactivity stimulates users' engagement


and mental involvement. With the chosen decision, users directly influence the
development of the situation. This principle of immediate feedback in the form of different
situation outcomes has a similarity to adventure games and contains other principles of
edutainment. Higher learner attention and motivation can facilitate learning. Quinn [Quinn
1999], Lepper and Cordova (1992) showed that enhanced learning, which is fun, can be
more effective. Using some simple educational tasks, they demonstrated that learning
embedded in a motivating setting improved learning outcomes.

Games, in particular, require elements of imagination and creativity. Malone (1981)


defined the following elements of computer games:
 Fantasy (the environment in which the activity is embedded)
 Curiosity (the introduction of new information and non-deterministic outcomes)
 Challenge (the level of difficulty, i.e., difficult enough but not too difficult)
 Control (choice opportunities that have consequences; one can also have the
possibility to control a character; the user, learner or player must be the one
making decisions and choices)
Cognitive apprenticeship starts by modeling the desired behavior for students. After this,
practice opportunities need to be provided. Underlying this approach is the belief that the
knowledge becomes meaningful and, consequently, learnable in the context of application
[Qinn 1994].
We distinguish between two types of motivation:
 Intrinsic and
 Extrinsic.
Both types can be used with computer games as follows:
We use extrinsic motivation in the case of giving a reward to users after they make a
correct decision. For example: by solving a physical problem correctly, users get to see a
joke or in the case of a game, they receive a special set of tools or other kinds of a bonus
that may be helpful later on.
Intrinsically motivating games incorporate the learning activity in the fantasy world. The
game character has to solve a certain problem and can proceed further only after solving
the problem. In this case the problem is part of the game and players are motivated to
provide a solution in order to continue with the game. An example for intrinsic motivation

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is a game where players discover different rooms of a house. The access to the next room
is possible only by solving a riddle that is actually a problem in the topic of, for example,
logic. In the described game, enjoyment is strongly related to the learning activity, which
can be viewed as a desirable outcome. Moreover, the motivating effects of computer
games provide a strong argument for their potential in instruction.

6.3.2.1 Different aspects of SL usage:

6.3.2.1.1 Learner aspect:


SL courses are based on real-life situations; they improve cognition and encourage
knowledge utilization. Through the process of using (utilizing) the acquired knowledge,
learners can build their own mental concepts, that is, they can check their understanding
within the concept.

6.3.2.1.2 Teacher aspect:


Students’ choices reflect their understandings of different theoretical topics, their ability to
connect interdisciplinary knowledge and to utilize it in a proper manner. Based on the
analysis of student performance, teachers check how the students understand the topics
and whether they are able to use the acquired knowledge. SL provides teachers with the
necessary information to further guide students and to offer them help and additional
material.

6.3.2.1.3 Author aspect:


To guarantee a consistent usage of the SL idea, it is essential to provide an environment
which can also be used by HTML-inexperienced authors. We consider the prototype
described below as a first approach to such a system.

6.3.3 Prototyping

6.3.3.1 A short description of the structure of the interface


The interface consists of four basic elements. Each of them is dedicated to a certain type of
information or functionality. This convention supports users by maintaining a consistent
interface structure.

 Meta Instructions - Display messages to the user concerning the further progress
of the demo and the tasks that have to be carried out in relation to it. Hints can
also be given here.
 Situation Description - Displays a short text that describes the current situation.
 User Selection – Engages the user interactively (e.g., the user must make a
selection from several choices).
 Media Display – Displays images, AVIs and other types of multimedia content.
In the case of clickable image maps, for example, the functionality of ‘media
display’ is similar to ‘user selection’.

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Figure 91: Typical SL scene

6.3.3.2 Authoring (basic approach, tools)


Authoring SL courses is based on a scenario. A Scenario contains a detailed description of
the situation, different situation developments with all screens and multimedia in the
scenario. At present there is no sufficient software support for authoring SL courses, that
is, support for scenario writing. In the case of authoring a more complex situation scenario,
e.g., a scenario describing an adaptive situation, the course author ends up fighting to get
and keep an overview of the scenario and possible connections to other screens or
situations. Hyperwave’s Link Map visualisation (see Figure 94) could be a first approach
to solving the problem. Future versions of the tool could be customized to take into
account the special needs of Situation Learning.

6.3.3.2.1 Scenario - formal templates for a screen description


In a scenario, all multimedia documents and displayed screens should be described in
detail [Bruns & Gajewski 1999]. In the SL scenario, the screen description contains the
following elements:
 text that describes the situation
 meta-instructions to the user (questions, hints, etc.)
 possible choices together with links to other screens
 detailed description of the media content e.g., the pictures and video

6.3.3.2.2 Visualization - graphic, table


Visualization has two functions: First, it helps users navigate through the selections;
linking of the screens is carried out with the help of a graph and a table. Second, it helps
users understand the content structure and sequencing, i.e., links between screens (and
maybe to other SL courses), and it can provide help in navigating through the whole
scenario. For example, one could mark a certain node on the graphic and get to the
dialogue screen to see or edit the content. For our prototype situation (waitress demo) we
used a graphic and a table to present linking of the multimedia documents and connections

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between screens. However, because we do not have the authoring tool support that would
draw the connections automatically based on the scenario, we draw the graph manually. In
the same way we also created a table containing interrelations between screens.

6.3.3.2.3 Dreamweaver templates


To provide consistent interface structure throughout different SL courses, the
Dreamweaver SL Extensions (DSLE) support the generation of course pages. DSLE
provides templates as well as additional functionality to generate and edit course pages.
Different templates can be offered in the future to support different interaction models
(e.g., clickable image maps or text inputs). The image below shows the editor with the
basic template (2-6 selection page) and the SL Media Form. With the use of this form the
author can insert images, short animations consisting of up to four distinct images, and
background sounds, as well as mouse over beeps (sounds that are triggered when the
mouse pointer moves over a link, i.e., roll-over effects for images).

Figure 92: Dreamweaver SL Extensions at work

6.3.3.3 Integration into GENTLE-WBT


We have integrated the Situation Learning example into the GENTLE WBT learning
environment. The GENTLE course room itself supports at present only linear, that is,
behaviouristic teaching approaches whereas Situation Learning follows the
constructivistic learning model. The learning material in GENTLE is structured in
chapters with high similarity to an electronic book. The students can browse through the
topics following their own interests and preferences and explore the advantages of the
GENTLE environment for example navigation, notes, communication with the tutor, etc.

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Figure 93: Screenshot of GENTLE displaying an SL course that is being annotated

We have investigated:
 Whether the environment supports such an application type and to what extent
authoring is influenced.
 How the SL course content can benefit from the GENTLE environment.
Although there is no native SL support built in to either Hyperwave (the Web environment
GENTLE is based on) or GENTLE right now, both already provide some tools that help
authoring and viewing SL courses. Figure 93 shows a situation that is being annotated by a
student. Annotations (public GENTLE notes) can be used by the author to give hints.
Students can use public notes to warn other students, to give hints, or to pose questions.

6.3.3.3.1 Authoring support in GENTLE


SL courses can be created with the help of the DSLE templates and uploaded to GENTLE
with Windows or Java Virtual Folders via drag and drop. The Link Map is part of Java
Virtual Folders. It can be used to visualize and verify the structure and to interlink several
SL pages by changing display parameters such as depth of view (incoming and outgoing
hyperlinks), type of links, color, type and size of fonts used, etc.

199
Figure 94: Hyperwave Link Map visualizing parts of an SL structure

GENTLE, on the other hand, supports the basic requirement of switching off hierarchical
navigation such as the automatic generation of a table of contents and navigation controls
that usually guide the students through the whole course. This is necessary, so that users
are not distracted by alternative access possibilities. In this way, students can only use the
controls provided by the DSLE templates.

6.3.3.3.2 GENTLE tools used as adventure game concepts


GENTLE supports various communication and collaboration tools, which can be nicely
used in an adventure game context as a new pedagogic paradigm as follows: The
possibility to create teams moderated by self-elected tutors, in order to collaboratively
learn and to complete projects can be transformed to role plays where the members use
forums, chat rooms and messaging to collaboratively explore the adventurous SL scenes
and “solve” riddles (situation-relevant questions on an SL page) together. These riddle
guide the members to the next pages. The authors and trainers of the course can use hint-
annotations to place hints and tricks and, by using the communications facilities such as
chat and questions/answer dialogs, work as an oracle or a “master of ceremony”.
GENTLE supports a high degree of user interface customization, thus it would be fairly
easy to modify the traditional learner-oriented UI to a more edutainment-like adventure
style environment.

6.3.3.4 Further research – path evaluation


The described Dreamweaver SL extensions provide a simple first-hand approach for small
SL courses. However, they only offer limited support as regards authoring and flexible
structuring. The following paragraphs describe some ideas for improvements that should
be implemented by a good SL environment.
Path evaluation analyzes the semantics of actions taken by the user. Path evaluation uses a
state-oriented concept, so that each action the user undertakes changes the current situation
as well as the user’s current state. The sequencing of situations within an SL course can be
computed dynamically depending on the state information of the user. The actions a user

200
undertakes determine the further development of the situation. After finishing the course,
the state information can be used to derive valuable feedback.

6.3.3.5 Implementation of path evaluation


A first model for path evaluation is to assign scores to every possible user action. User
actions can be a variety of things, depending on the input mechanism defined for the
respective situation. These scores are processed and, together with flags, constitute the
input for the path evaluation. Each action can set one or more flags that indicate certain
circumstances like "user is older than 60 years" or "user has measured the pulse of the
patient in situation 2". Scores and flags are processed to generate an appropriate output or
feedback that is displayed on the summary page at the end of the course. An additional
application of path evaluation would be dynamic sequencing of situations, whereby
interlinking between pages is not static but depends on previous choice made (dynamic
development of scenarios).
Thus, the author of a course has to supply the following information:
 Amount of points that are added to the total for each user action (can be zero).
 Set of flags (can be empty) that is raised for each user action.
 Set of rules that generates the (textual) feedback by evaluating the score in
relation to flags that have been set.
o Every flag must be at least regarded in one rule.
o Every rule that is ‘fired’ adds an element to the feedback. This could be
a line of text like "Don’t forget to fasten your seat belt" or an image that
is displayed, etc.

6.3.3.6 Discussion
Assigning scores to user actions should be a rather easy task for course authors. However,
when defining flags it is very important to assign unambiguous meanings that clearly state
which actions or circumstances led to the raising of the respective flag, and what
conclusions can be deduced. The tricky part certainly is the generation of appropriate rules
that produce meaningful output when applied to the input data (the scores and flags).
These rules, of course, can only be meaningful when the processed flags are meaningful.
In a first prototype, the code that processes the scores and flags (the rules) will of course
be "hand created". Depending on the evaluation of the prototype, further versions of DSLE
could support the generation of the code as well as the insertion (triggering) of scores and
flags in user choices.

6.3.3.7 An extended model – the Dynamic Knowledge Space


Scores and flags can hold a lot of information that is gathered during the execution of the
course. Nevertheless, processing always solely depends on rules that are provided by the
author in one form or another. An alternative model could use a Knowledge Space (KS)
through which a user ‘travels’ during the execution of the course. Thus, each action the
students take can move them to a different point within the KS. The advantage of this
representation is that conclusions about the user’s performance can be drawn by
measuring distances within this n-dimensional space (n is the number of score types and
depends on the complexity of the course). The distance to the coordinates of the ideal
solution in the KS can be used as further input to the rules that finally compute the output
of the system.

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The Dynamic Knowledge Space could be a powerful tool when large courses have to be
processed. Through the use of distance information, the rules that finally generate the
output could be less complex because some pre-processing has already been carried out
by calculating the distance. If we consider the KS to be a sphere, then the information that
has originally been stored in scores can be represented by the distance to the centre of this
sphere. Flags could be translated into the angles accordingly when coordinates are stored
in polar form. Radius and angles can be processed in the same way as scores and flags,
they also have the same drawbacks regarding complexity of rules and the need to assign
unambiguous meanings (see discussion above).

6.3.3.8 Platforms
Courses generated with DSLE can be viewed on every common browser that is capable of
processing JavaScript. However, when path evaluation is added to the system in future
developments, the environment SL courses are used in becomes more important. HTTP is
a stateless protocol, so server-side scripting or cookies must be used to implement path
evaluation. In any case, server-side scripting is more powerful and opens up a whole range
of further possibilities (user interaction etc.). Possible platforms would be, e.g.,
Hyperwave/GENTLE in combination with Servlets.

6.3.4 Conclusions
As we have seen, Situation Learning provides a powerful and flexible new approach to the
constructivistic learning paradigm. For the evaluation of SL, we carried out a
demonstration of the described prototype implementation to a group of people with
background knowledge in health care and prevention. The SL approach was very well
accepted. The evaluation group found the Situation Learning approach interesting,
involving and educational. Furthermore, we can say that SL proved to be successful. The
result of the acceptance was the L I F E (Leben-Inspiration-Fortbewegung-Essen) project,
financed by Fonds Gesundes Österreich. The goal of the project is to educate the
population in the areas of fitness, stress regulation and nutrition, in order to increase the
common awareness of the importance of these factors on our lives. Furthermore, citizens
can be encouraged to take a responsibility for their behavior and to realize the possible
consequences of their accustomed life-styles. SL modules were created for knowledge
mediation in each of the topic areas (fitness, stress, nutrition). SL modules have been
further embedded in the environment from Infomed Austria (www.infomed-austria.at).
Infomed Austria is a medical portal server that provides additional features such as
discussion forums, public and personal annotation possibilities, expert advice, additional
medical contents and rated medical references.
However, the creation of SL courseware can not be accomplished without appropriate
authoring tools, especially when using such complex techniques as path evaluation. The
pedagogic increase in value of the edutainment effect results from the usage of path
evaluation in combination with an adventure game-like UI. Furthermore, users can be
motivated to work together while solving certain problems. Thus, students learn how to
work in self-organizing teams.

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Chapter 7

7 SUMMARY AND OUTLOOK

"We are drowning in information, but starving for knowledge"


~John Naisbitt (“Megatrends”, 1982)
As this thesis has stated, e-Learning has evolved from first Computer Based Training
approaches which were often a good replacement for written books but hardly a
replacement for teachers, up to Web Based Trainings with wider range of material,
potential of personalization and support for communication and collaboration. The
pedagogy of e-Learning systems has changed from pure behavioristic drill and practice
models to a combination of different models, including cognitivism and constructivsm,
and a mixture of different technologies.
Standards significantly contributed to this development by helping us to lower content
production, system implementation and maintenance costs by increasing interoperability
and reusability.
An example of a state of the art e-Learning system has been given, possible operational
areas have been shown and ideas for further developments have been sketched.
Now the question arises: What will the future of e-Learning environments look like – what
will come next?

7.1 From ubiquitous computers to ubiquitous e-Learning

7.1.1 Hardware and technology improvements


One need not be a clairvoyant to foretell that technology, especially computer based
devices will become smaller, faster and contain more memory if we follow Moore’s law,
which states that computing power doubles every 18 months, and if we look at current
research efforts in the areas of storage (see [IBM Storage]) or transistor technologies,
which are the basis for microprocessors (see [IBM Nanotubes]). Other improvements like
a better highly reflective and extremely flexible display technology (it can be printed on
nearly any surface) often referred to as electronic ink or e-ink are currently under
development and are expected to hit the mass market next year. See [EINK 2002a] and
[EINK 2002b] for press releases on the current state of e-ink technology.
However, such advances in computer technology will not only bring more quantity, they
will also change the way we see and use computers completely within the next few years.
In addition to the fact that computers are already and will become to an even larger extend
an invisible part of our every day lives because they are increasingly embedded in any
device, tool or personal appliance, I expect a more noticeable existence of a new type of
computer:

203
7.1.2 The Personal Advisor
This device will replace PDAs, laptops, most desktop PCs 55 and mobile phones56 used
today because it combines all features of them into one device. An example of the first
generation of such devices will by available quite soon: OQO is the world’s first
“ultrapersonal computer” (see [OQO]). It
has the same size as a usual PDA, but runs
Windows XP, includes a 1GHz Cruseo
processor with 256 MB Ram and 10 GB
hard drive, wireless LAN, Bluetooth, USB
and 1394 Firewire for total connectivity
and a 640x480 touch screen display. It can
be used as a PDA and laptop replacement
as well as a full desktop replacement when
connected to a keyboard and larger screen.
As this is just the first of this generation of
computers, further tremendous advances concerning increase of speed and storage,
reduction of size and power consumption and the unification with mobile phones can be
assumed. In a midterm view I expect that such devices will evolve to a personal
companion or advisor. Maurer and Oliver [Maurer & Oliver 2003] describe in their
visionary paper “The future of PCs and implications on society” how such a device they
call eAssistant could look like.
The most interesting new feature is that it does not only store all data required, or accesses
other devices to get the data via wireless technologies, and can be used as a universal
working and knowledge tool, but that it also stores and learns all private data and personal
preferences, either directly by user input or by monitoring the user’s behavior. Future
models will also include GPS-like functions for determining the user’s geographical
position and new input and output devices such as free speech recognition, image and
video analysis and head mounted display. It will work as an information, recommendation,
learning and training, communication, and collaboration device. It will provide learning on
demand by proactively determining what is interesting for its user according to the
preferences and current actions tracked. Therefore it can be used for realizing “augmented
reality”. “Augmented reality” means that, in contrast to “Virtual Reality”, it does not shut
out all of the input of actual reality but rather overlays it with additional information. This
can be either visible information which is projected on the user’s eyes by using the head
mounted display, or auditory information which is whispered in the user’s ears or a
combination of both. With such a device, learning on demand will really come true.
Examples for that are e.g. a car mechanic who while repairing an engine gets an
explanation of the best way to do it, or in health care a first aid man gets instructions on
how to best treat a more complex injury.
A Personal Advisor will provide all functions to integrate informal learning in everyday
tasks. With its help we can learn in the same manner a child learns, incidentally and in an
informal way, which will be easier, more efficient and is more fun.
A formal learning process will be more an exception than the rule; however, this can also
be supported by a PA, because it can detect the best time for doing that, e.g. in the car on
the way to the office, and can dynamically create a course fully adapted to the user’s
preferences.

55
It will not replace the upcoming home entertainment PC, which will work as a substitute for
devices such as DVD players, VCRs, satellite receivers, game consoles etc.
56
Initially only parts of mobile phones are substituted by PAs because the other part are used as
small fashionable devices. This will change once PAs are getting smaller and then are also treated
like jewelries.

204
These things might sound like science fiction to us, but all technologies necessary to make
it true are currently under research or even on the way to the market.
Wayne Hodgins predicts a similar future of technology, when he describes in his work
”Into the Future – a vision paper” [Hodgins 2001b] what technology should look like:
o Technology adapts itself to you and your environment, not vice versa.
o There is a pervasive, ubiquitous, and transparent technical infrastructure
supporting all your learning and performance needs.
o Technology looks after all the details so you can stay focused on solving the real
problems.
o You are part of the “infrastructure,” a “node” connected to the system that is
aware of who and where you are.

7.1.3 The future of e-Learning standards


Reusability of learning objects can only really be successful if these standards are
combined with standards for learning design (pedagogical & didactic as well as graphical
design) and are extended with adaptive technologies to customize learning objects
dynamically to preferences and the intentions of teachers or coaches. Further
enhancements would be the support of a finer granularity of reusable information chunks
which could be more universally reused. This concept was already introduced in the sixties
by Ted Nelson in his project Xanadu [Nelson 1981] and has been called Transclusions: A
transclusion is the reuse in whole or in part of another node (chunk of information) in one
node's rendering. A transclusion is different from pure copying, however, in that only a
reference to the foreign material is stored. The reader's client software is expected to fetch
the foreign material and place it inline with the main material.
However one problem still restricts the reusability of RLOs and that is the fact that the
styles of language and technical terms used differ from teacher to teacher, between cultural
backgrounds, subjects, learners’ target age and skill level etc. We would need some further
flexibility to customize or translate the respective RLO in the appropriate target language
so that a new e-Learning content which consists of several RLOs is a completely rounded
piece of work and therefore is easier to learn and understand. This kind of content
“massaging” could be done by very advanced LCMSs for text-based content which on the
fly exchange all inappropriate terms by more relevant ones or even reformulate phrases
similar to already existing online translation services. However for more complex content
types this would not be possible in the foreseeable future and thus a different approach has
to be taken: Here the number of different reuse scenarios has to be taken into account right
from the beginning when the content is created. Powerful tools will help to create slightly
different versions of the same content for different areas of use with little additional effort
but with a maximum of benefit. However much research and development has to be done
till this works well enough so that it will get accepted by producers and consumers of
RLOs.

In the future standards will also cover all for e-learning relevant areas, not only small parts
as now, but still will be flexible enough to allow further innovation.

7.1.4 Future aspect of pedagogy for e-Learning


As already stated I expect that in the future in combination with technological advances e-
Learning will move from formal learning to informal learning. Learning will be directly
embedded in everyday tasks and include communication and collaboration or interaction

205
with other people because the new devices will support ubiquitous information and
communication access and collaborative working. That way learning will not only be
provided to a single person but to a group or team of people. With this new concept a team
of people will be more efficient in doing certain things than a sum of knowledgeable
individuals. This kind of group learning will also require new learning models.

7.2 Concluding summary

e-Learning and its technological basis - e-Learning environments - proved to be an


appropriate tool which can support the learning process efficiently, effectively and
satisfactorily. In the future they will open up to us new dimensions in the world of learning
we never experienced before. With their help the right knowledge will be learnt at the right
time, by the right person, in the right context – a life long.

206
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