Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

A Framework for the Specification of the Semantics and the Dynamics of Instructional Applications

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

A Framework for the Specification of the Semantics and the Dynamics of Instructional Applications

Article excerpt

An instructional application consists of a set of resources and activities to implement interacting, interrelated, and structured experiences oriented towards achieving specific educational objectives. The development of computer-based instructional applications has to follow a well defined process, so models for computer-based instructional applications have been proposed. Some of these models are oriented towards implementing products delivered in a rather specific technical platform. But specifying instructional applications using generic formats that are independent from the implementation platform, as Educational Modelling Languages do, makes it possible to improve their interoperability as well as their reusability.

The work presented here proposes a specification framework based on two formalization levels. A first level proposes a meta-model to specify an instructional application by means of two models to represent the application from two different perspectives: the semantic model gathering its structure and the instructional relationships existing among its components; and the operational model to establish the application operation and behaviour. The second level of the framework implements the application model, which uses XML technologies to represent and process its components, relationships, and behaviour. A tool has been developed to visualize the specification of the model entities as well as to check some properties of the instructional application.

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An Instructional Application (IA) consists of a set of resources and activities to implement interacting, interrelated, and structured experiences oriented towards achieving specific educational objectives (Nervig, 1990). Examples of IA are not just limited to traditional courses; they may include many kinds of learning experiences such as topic introduction, problem-solving, specific tutorial and training processes, or the use of expert systems. IAs have taken advantage of computers and other information technologies to provide access in a distributed and friendly way. Thus, several techniques have been used to develop and improve the learning and teaching processes, including Artificial Intelligence, to adapt the system to the user needs and to manage the knowledge to be taught (e.g., Intelligent Tutoring Systems, Burns & Capps, 1988), telecommunication networks and web technologies to support the access to educational resources (e.g., web-based courses that can also be adapted to the user features, Brusilovsky, 1998) or the application of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) principles and usability engineering to improve the interaction with the IA (Landoni & Diaz, 2003).

Nevertheless, pure instructional aspects are somehow undervalued in the computer-based IA development where technology is often considered as the main subject instead of being considered a means to reach certain educational objectives. Indeed, most of the current development tools address the production of IA in such a way as to be deployed in "online" e-learning environments and little attention is given to the previous development steps, specifically, to the specification of instructional issues. Indeed, relevant development activities such as the analysis of user goals and needs, or the design of the instructional tasks, and the educational contents that will support an effective and efficient learning process, are hardly considered except for some automated instructional design tools, such those reviewed in (Kasowitz, 1998), whose goal is to help designers in integrating instructional aspects into a computer-based IA. Thus, tools such as Instructional Design-Ware (Langevin Learning Services, 2002) or Designers' Edge (Mentergy, 2002) are addressed to "guide non-ID professionals through the process of creating effective instruction." MISA goes a step further (Paquette, Rosca, De la Teja, Leonard, & Lundgren-Cayrol, 2001) proposing an engineering method to develop IAs. …

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