Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Visualisation of Interaction Footprints for Engagement in Online Communities

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Visualisation of Interaction Footprints for Engagement in Online Communities

Article excerpt


Contextualised and ubiquitous learning are relatively new research areas that combine the latest developments in ubiquitous and context aware computing with educational approaches in order to provide new forms of access and support for situated learning. The majority of activities in contextualised and ubiquitous learning focus on mobile scenarios, in order to identify the relation between educational paradigms and new classes of mobile applications and devices (Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, & Sharples, 2004). However, the meaning of context aware learner support is not limited to mobile learning scenarios by default. The educational paradigms of situated learning and communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) highlight the need for contextualisation of informal learning, particularly where learning activities are related to the workplace. In these scenarios learning processes are often unstructured, unguided, and sometimes even unintended.

Our previous work analysed the potential of contextualised visualisations of interaction data for supporting informal learning (Glahn, Specht, & Koper, 2008). We call such visualisations action indicators. They are called smart indicators, if the visualisation follows rule-based adaptation strategies (Glahn, Specht, & Koper, 2007; Glahn, Specht, & Koper, 2008). Such indicators may help actors to organise, orientate, and navigate through environments as well as reflecting on their actions by providing relevant contextual information for performing learning tasks, informally.

The purpose of our research is to identify variables and conditions for selecting and adapting visualisations of "interaction footprints" (Wexelblat & Maes, 1999) in order to provide context sensitive learner support in informal learning. Such learning usually takes place in unstructured environments, where unstructured refers to the lack of pre-defined roles and instructional designs. In these environments learners interact at different expertise and activity levels in changing or implicit roles. The footprints of user interactions can be used to determine the context of a learner (Zimmermann, Specht, & Lorenz, 2005) by defining rules for the boundaries of each context.

In order to evaluate the benefits of indicators for learning processes, we proposed an adaptation strategy for visualizing action information on team.sPace (Glahn, Specht, & Koper, 2007). It was necessary to evaluate the indicators of the adaptation strategy regarding their supportive effects and their contextual boundaries, because the design of the adaptation strategy is based on basic presumptions that were sound from the perspective of prior research. But could not be sufficiently grounded on empirical evidence. Therefore, this study is a qualitative exploration of the underlying design principles of contextualised learner support and focuses on the presumptions made for the adaptation strategy. We analyse the contextual boundaries regarding the level of learner participation and if the proposed indicators are suitable for engaging learners in participating and contributing to a community.

The following sections this paper report on this evaluation. The next section discusses the conceptional background of our research. It compares and links psychological models and educational concepts with the findings of research on technology enhanced learning. The third section links the concepts to identify the gap for further research. This gap is used to set the question for research. The fourth section describes the setting of the evaluation. In this section the team.sPace system is introduced and the set-up of the indicators is explained. The fifth section links our research question and the setting towards the four hypotheses that were tested by our study. The method of analysing the setting regarding the given hypotheses is given in section six. Section seven reports the results of the automatically collected interaction footprints and the results of the interviews with participant. …

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