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Journal Article

Some Factors to Consider When Designing Semi‑Autonomous Learning Environments  pp93-100

Paul Bouchard

© Jun 2009 Volume 7 Issue 2, Editor: Shirley Williams, pp85 - 190

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This research aims to answer the question, "in what ways do mediated learning environments support or hinder learner autonomy?" Learner autonomy has been identified as one important factor in the success of mediated learning environments. The central aspect of learner autonomy is the control that the learner exercises over the various aspects of learning, beginning with the decision to learn or not to learn. But as Candy (1995) points out, there are several areas where learner‑control can be exercised. The first are the motivational‑intentional forces that drive the learner to apply some determination (or "vigour") to the act of learning. They are the conative functions of learning and include learner intiative, motivation and personal involvement. They are often associated with life goals that are independent of the actual learning goals pursued within the strict confines of the learning environment (Long, 1994). The second area of learner‑control is the one comprising the "nuts‑and‑bolts" of the act of learning, such as defining learning goals, deciding on a learning sequence, choosing a workable pacing of learning activities, and selecting learning resources (Hrimech & Bouchard, 1998). These are the algorithmic aspects of learning, and in traditional schooling, they are the sole responsibility of the teacher. In mediated learning environments, it can be shared between the platform and the actual learner. Just a few years ago, learner control was necessarily limited to these two sets of features, conative and algorithmic. Today however, with the proliferation of educational offerings in both the private and public sector, as well as the developments in educational technology, two other aspects of the learning environment emerge as important areas where learner‑control can be exercised. The semiotic dimension of learner‑control includes the symbolic platforms used to convey information and meaning, for example web "pages", hypertext, videoaudio multimedia, animation, each of these bringing with them their own specific set of possibilities and limitations for autonomy in learning. And then again, all learning environments exist in their own distinct economic sphere where decisions about whether, what and how to learn are made on the basis of cost‑benefit, opportunity cost, and extrinsic market value. We will examine the implications of each of these areas of learner‑control, and share our analysis of a series of interviews with cyber‑learners, based on this framework of conative, algorithmic, semiotic and economic factors.


Keywords: self-directed learning, learner autonomy, educational policy, international development self-directed learning, learner autonomy, educational policy, international development


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Journal Article

Enhanced Approach of Automatic Creation of Test Items to foster Modern Learning Setting  pp23-38

Christian Gutl, Klaus Lankmayr, Joachim Weinhofer, Margit Hofler

© Apr 2011 Volume 9 Issue 1, ECEL 2010 special issue, Editor: Carlos Vaz de Carvalho, pp1 - 114

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Research in automated creation of test items for assessment purposes became increasingly important during the recent years. Due to automatic question creation it is possible to support personalized and self‑directed learning activities by preparing appropriate and individualized test items quite easily with relatively little effort or even fully automatically. In this paper, which is an extended version of the conference paper of Gütl, Lankmayr and Weinhofer (2010), we present our most recent work on the automated creation of different types of test items. More precisely, we describe the design and the development of the Enhanced Automatic Question Creator (EAQC) which extracts most important concepts out of textual learning content and creates single choice, multiple‑choice, completion exercises and open ended questions on the basis of these concepts. Our approach combines statistical, structural and semantic methods of natural language processing as well as a rule‑based AI solution for concept extraction and test item creation. The prototype is designed in a flexible way to support easy changes or improvements of the above mentioned methods. EAQC is designed to deal with multilingual learning material and in its recent version English and German content is supported. Furthermore, we discuss the usage of the EAGC from the users’ viewpoint and also present first results of an evaluation study in which students were asked to evaluate the relevance of the extracted concepts and the quality of the created test items. Results of this study showed that the concepts extracted and questions created by the EAQC were indeed relevant with respect to the learning content. Also the level of the questions and the provided answers were appropriate. Regarding the terminology of the questions and the selection of the distractors, which had been criticized most during the evaluation study, we discuss some aspects that could be considered in the future in order to enhance the automatic generation of questions. Nevertheless the results are promising and suggest that the quality of the automatically extracted concepts and created test items is comparable to human generated ones.


Keywords: e-assessment, automated test item creation, distance learning, self-directed learning, natural language processing, computer-based assessment


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Journal Article

iSELF: The development of an Internet‑Tool for Self‑Evaluation and Learner Feedback  pp313-325

Nicolet Theunissen, Hester Stubb

© Jul 2014 Volume 12 Issue 4, Editor: Dr Rikke Ørngreen and Dr Karin Tweddell Levinsen, pp313 - 410

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Abstract: This paper describes the theoretical basis and development of the iSELF: an Internet‑tool for Self‑Evaluation and Learner Feedback to stimulate self‑directed learning in ubiquitous learning environments. In ubiquitous learning, learners follow t heir own trails of interest, scaffolded by coaches, peers and tools for thinking and learning. Ubiquitous learning solutions include on‑ and off‑line, formal and informal learning. To benefit from its possibilities, learners need to develop competencies f or self‑directed learning. To do so, a self‑evaluation tool can help the learner to get insight in his/her own development, to manage and monitor his/her own learning process, to collaborate in learning, to relate the learning to 'real life' needs, and to take control over educational decisions. The iSELF was developed in an iterative process, complying to the following high level requirements: (1) Enabling learning anytime, anywhere; (2) Supporting self‑directed learning; (3) Evaluating learner, le arning solutions and job‑needs; (4) Assessing learner competencies; (5) Using card‑sort method for questionnaires; (6) Facilitating questionnaires 'under construction'; and (7) User‑friendly design. The resulting online tool contained a card‑sort module, looking somewhat like a 'solitaire' game, a profile module to evaluate core competencies, and a feedback module to suggest learning possibilities. For illustration, 14 different studies that contributed to the development of iSELF and to the devel opment of self‑evaluation questionnaires compliant to iSELF, are briefly discussed. These illustrative studies included various populations: e.g. students, employees from small and medium enterprises, crisis management organizations, and the military. Use fulness and usability of the self‑evaluation tool were valued positively. The iSELF contributes to an adaptive ubiquitous learning environment in which the learner can make the educational decisions according to self‑directed learning principles. The iSEL F will stimulate self‑directed learning in a ubiquitous le


Keywords: Keywords: self-evaluation, self-assessment, internet-tool, ubiquitous learning, self-directed learning, feedback


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Journal Issue

Volume 9 Issue 1, ECEL 2010 special issue / Apr 2011  pp1‑114

Editor: Carlos Vaz de Carvalho

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Vaz e‑Learning is one of the most active fields of research and practice in Europe, in all the education and training sectors. The use of new and innovative technologies for learning is raising expectations and motivation between researchers, teachers, students and other education stakeholders.The European Conference on e‑Learning (ECEL) is an annual event that has been at the forefront of this revolution. It brings together groups of people in a variety of areas related to e‑Learning seeking to combine cutting‑edge research with practical, real‑life applications, in order to advance the state of e‑Learning around Europe.

The 9th European Conference on e‑Learning ‑ ECEL 2010 took place in Porto, Portugal. Porto is renowned for its historical City Centre (World Heritage) and its wine but also for being an innovation‑prone city which is an excellent environment for an e‑learning conference. This special edition of EJEL is dedicated to ECEL 2010.

With an initial submission of 220 abstracts, after the double blind, peer review process there were 97 papers published in the Conference Proceedings, an acceptance rate that places ECEL 2010 on the top of the conference quality rankings. The number of high‑quality submissions to the conference required a thorough process of selection by the session chairs and the editors to finally produce this edition of the journal. The selected articles cover different points of view of e‑learning from a more technological approach to a more pedagogical one.

The first set of articles is precisely concerned with technological aspects and in particular with the importance of computer aided assessment systems in the efficiency of e‑learning. Trevor Barker presents a study on the importance of automated feedback to provide good quality individual feedback to learners. He also demonstrates that these systems, by relieving the teachers from the exhaustive task of test marking can give them more time for communicating with students. Escudeiro and Cruz present a very innovative approach to the grading of students' answers in free text. Their work minimizes fluctuations in the evaluation criteria, improves detection of plagiarism, reduces the assessment process time and allows teachers to focus on the feedback to the students. Gütl, Lankmayr, Weinhofer and Höfler approach the design, development and validation of an automatic test item creation tool. This tool is able to extract concepts out of textual learning content and create different types of questions on the basis of those concepts.

To complete this more technically‑oriented view, Kurilovas, Bireniene and Serikoviene present a model and several scientific methods for the quality evaluation of Learning Objects (LOs). They pay special attention to their reusability level, in particular, when crossing linguistic barriers.

The second set of articles focus on pedagogical aspects of e‑learning and in particular, in students' related issues. Karin Levinsen presents new concepts related with e‑learning. She addresses the phenomenology of acquiring digital literacy and self‑programming in order to be able to identify relevant learning objectives and scaffolding.

Marques and Belo approach the profiling of student through their web usage habits. Through their investigations they can discover what students do, by establishing user navigation patterns on Web based platforms, and learn how they explore and search the sites’ pages that they visit. Nakayama and Yamamoto also address student issues by examining participants’ assessments made during the transitional phase in a learning environment which includes blended and fully online courses. O’Hara, Reis, Esteves, Brás and Branco focus on the effectiveness of learning through sports with the systematic integration of interactive situations in different contexts, with or without electronic devices. Sabey and Horrocks tackle the need for new electronic resources for health research for use within the context of a classroom taught course. They describe the process of developing an interactive resource incorporating a narrative element. Finally, Tuncay, Stanescu and Tuncay present a very innovative approach to the use of metaphors in e‑learning to reinforce communication between students and teachers.

As chair of ECEL 2010 and editor of this special edition of EJEL I feel privileged to have been in contact with such exciting thoughts, ideas and projects presented by the authors. It is now my pleasure to pass on to you this collection of articles, knowing for sure that they will motivate you to continue or even to start your research, development or use of e‑Learning as a major learning strategy. I also look forward to meeting you in Brighton, this autumn, for another fascinating ECEL conference.


Keywords: active learning, assessment, assessment in transition, automated systems, automated test item creation, blended learning, Clickstream analysis, computer-based assessment, design for teaching and learning, development, distance learning, e-assessment, eLearning, evaluation, evidence-based practice, feedback, free-text assisted grading, fully online learning, learning objects, lifelong learning, Markov chains, metaphors, multiple criteria decision analysis, narrative, natural language processing, Navigation paths analysis, networked society, nurse education, online learning, optimisation, quality evaluation, research methods teaching, reusability, self-directed learning, self-programming, skills acquisition, sport, student assessment, students, SurveyMonkey, task design, technology, text mining, web based elearning platforms, web usage profiling.


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