Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Opportunities for New "Smart" Learning Environments Enabled by Next-Generation Web Capabilities

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

Opportunities for New "Smart" Learning Environments Enabled by Next-Generation Web Capabilities

Article excerpt

Empirical evaluations suggest that use of interactive technologies can reduce the costs of instruction by about one-third. In addition, they can either increase achievement by about one-third while holding time constant or reduce time needed to achieve targeted instructional objectives by about one-third. These technologies can be delivered over the Web, which can also support systems that generate instruction on demand. Development of either generative instruction or pre-specified interactions will benefit from a ready supply of instructional objects such as those specified by the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), which is now receiving wide, international acceptance. SCORM will be further enhanced by the development of the Semantic Web, which will allow more extensive links between available representations of knowledge and enhance the discovery of learning objects for use in instruction.


How might the emerging standards and infrastructure for Web-based learning objects enable, or even encourage, the development of sophisticated learning environments that evolve into intelligent tutoring systems? This question, which is the basic topic of our paper, raises many questions of its own. Suppose these learning objects do enable development of intelligent tutoring systems. Would the result be worthwhile? What do we mean by intelligent tutoring systems? What emerging standards, infrastructure, and learning objects are needed for these systems? How might the Web and Web services influence this evolution? And where does this line of development lead those of us who are concerned with human learning and capabilities? We try to address each of these questions as well (and as briefly) as we can in the following comments.


AreTechnology-Based Learning Environments Worthwhile?

As discussed in more detail by Fletcher (2003), the case for using technology to create these learning environments may be summarized as the following:

(1) Tailoring instruction (education and training) to the needs of individual students has been found to be an instructional imperative and an economic impossibility. Research has determined that students tutored one-on-one score about 2 standard deviations higher on end-of-course achievement tests than students taught in one-on-many classrooms (Bloom, 1984). However, except for a few critical skills (e.g., airplane piloting, surgery), we cannot afford the one instructor for each student that such tutoring requires.

(2) In many situations, technology-based instruction can make this instructional imperative affordable. Under any appreciable student load, it is less expensive to provide instruction with technology than to hire a tutor for each student.

(3) Technology-based instruction has been found to be more effective than current classroom instructional approaches in many settings across many subject matters. Review of 233 evaluations of typical technology-based instruction found an average improvement of 0.39 standard deviations over classroom instruction, which is roughly equivalent to raising the performance of 50th percentile students to that of 65th percentile students. Review of 44 similar evaluations of interactive multimedia instruction found an average improvement of 0.50 standard deviations, roughly raising the performance of 50th percentile students to the 69th percentile. Intelligent tutoring systems have produced improvements of 1.05 standard deviations, roughly raising 50th percentile performance of students to about the 85th percentile.

(4) Technology-based instruction is generally less costly than current instructional approaches, especially when many students or expensive devices are involved. In 16 studies where achievement under technology-based training was at least equal (and mostly superior) to that of classroom instruction, the cost ratios of the former to the latter were found to be 0. …

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