Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Impact of Adapting Content for Students with Individual Differences

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Impact of Adapting Content for Students with Individual Differences

Article excerpt

Introduction and background

The effectiveness of online courses has been questioned, especially in relation to meeting the individual needs, perceptions, and learning outcomes of students (Akdemir & Koszalka, 2008; Rovai, 2003). Although web-based environments offer many advantages such as the ability to offer more interactivity, personalized instruction, and more independent learning (Brusilovsky, Sosnovsky, & Yudelson, 2009; Inan, Flores, Ari, & Arslan-Ari, 2010), one of the major challenges of web-based instruction has, and continues to be, accommodating students with differing profiles, expectations, prior experiences, and learning abilities (Abidi, 2009; Dogan, 2008).

Research on individual differences has found that certain learner characteristics such as field independence (Chen, 2010; Scheiter & Gerjets, 2007), high motivation (Artino, 2008), high self-efficacy (Artino, 2008; Yukselturk & Bulut, 2007), high self-regulation (Azevedo, Moos, Greene, Winters, & Cromley, 2008; Yukselturk & Bulut, 2007), and particular learning styles (Bajraktarevic, Hall, & Fullick, 2003; Graf, Liu, Kinshuk, & Yang, 2009) are more supportive of online learning than are other learner characteristics. However, as with face-to-face classrooms, in order to be effective, online instructors must make accommodations for a large proportion of students, who do not possess these characteristics. In addition, instructors must consider the differing demographics of distance learners. In comparison to face-to-face students, studies have found that distance learners are usually older (Bocchi, Eastman, & Swift, 2004; Moore & Kearsley, 2005), generally work full time (Inan, Yukselturk, & Grant, 2009), and are more likely female (Sullivan, 2001; Halsne & Gatta, 2002). These diverse background characteristics, coupled with cognitive and learning style differences among students, add to the complexities of accommodating for individual differences in web based learning environments.

Adaptive educational hypermedia systems

Adaptive Educational Hypermedia (AEH) systems have been lauded for their ability to accommodate individual differences in online learning. Through the incorporation of various instructional strategies, resources, assessments, and interfaces, AEH systems individualize instruction (e.g., content, interface, and strategies) and provide users with more personalized experiences (Inan & Grant, 2008). In their simplest form, AEH systems gather user information and preferences (Brusilovsky, 2001; Triantafillou, Pomportsis, & Demetriadis, 2003; Tsianos, Germanakos, Lekaas, Mourlas, & Samara,, 2009); make inferences based on the collected data; and then employ various adaptive methods to accommodate each individual student (Inan & Grant, 2008; Lee & Park, 2007; Shute & Zapata-Rivera, 2007).

Several adaptive systems have been designed and developed in order to accommodate learner individual differences. Examples of such systems include AHA! (Stash, Cristea, & de Bra, 2006) and INSPIRE (Papanikolaou, Grigoriadou, Kornilakis & Magoulas, 2003) which adapts instruction based on student learning styles; ELM-ART II which adapts instruction based on knowledge levels and student preferences (Weber & Specht, 1997); INTERBOOK (Brusilovsky, Eklund, & Schwarz, 1998) which adapts instruction based on knowledge level; and AES-CS (Triantafillou, Pomportsis, & Georgiadou, 2002) which adapts instruction based on student cognitive style.

Unfortunately, even though numerous AEH systems have been designed and developed, one of the major limitations in the literature is the lack of evaluation studies which document evidence of their usability and effectiveness in terms of student performance, motivation, and/or attitudes. More than others, AEH systems strongly require evaluation, due to their inherent usability problems (Hook, 2000; Jameson, 2003; Paramythis, Weibelzahl & Masthoff, 2010). …

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