Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An E-Learning System for Extracting Text Comprehension and Learning Style Characteristics

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An E-Learning System for Extracting Text Comprehension and Learning Style Characteristics

Article excerpt

Introduction

Numerous eLearning systems and open learning environments (OLEs) have been developed, especially after the rapid adoption of ubiquitous internet access with most of the interest coming from higher education foundations for the remote delivery of educational material and advanced courses (McAndrew et al., 2010). Many systems were developed in the same manner as most theoretical educational texts; according to the judgement and writing style of the author and not based on any proven educational theory. In their vast majority, even the systems developed according to known educational theories could only quantitatively assess the educational performance of the learner, usually basing their assessment on just the end numerical result of a test or a series of tests (Restivo et al., 2009). OLEs have been designed more as alternative channels for delivery of educational material rather than an autonomous/active stakeholder in the education environment. Such systems are ineffective for a variety of educational applications and especially for engineering students, where the same end result can be accomplished via several paths. It is understandable that effective learning environments need to be based on known educational theories be adaptive to different learners and capable of providing multivariate feedback and assessment (Ihantola et al., 2010). This is especially true in engineering education, where a onesize-fits-all approach was proven to be highly ineffective, removing the possibilities of adaptation and customization that are critical in engineering education (Hofstein & Lunetta, 2010).

In text comprehension studies, researchers focus on assisting comprehension by improving text coherence (McNamara & Kintsch, 1998), by improving the design of the text form and text activities (Denhiere & Baudet, 1992) or by exploiting a student's prior knowledge on a subject and giving feedback to improve a student's skills (Caillies & Denhiere, 2012). Students preferentially take in and process text information in different ways: by seeing and hearing, reflecting and acting, reasoning logically and intuitively, analyzing and visualizing, steadily and in fits and starts (Felder & Brent, 2005; Caillies & Denhiere, 2012). Teaching methods also vary. Some instructors lecture, others demonstrate or lead students to self-discovery; some focus on principles and others on applications; some emphasize memory and others comprehension. When mismatches exist between learning styles of most students in a class and the teaching style of the professor, the students may become bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about the courses, the curriculum, and themselves, and in some cases change to other curricula or drop out of school. A learning style model classifies students according to where they fit on a number of scales pertaining to the ways they receive and process information (Felder & Brent, 2005). The Index of Learning Styles (ILS) is an on-line instrument used to assess preferences on four dimensions (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global) of a learning style model formulated by Felder and Silverman (1988).

In this paper, we present the StuDiAsE, an advanced OLE developed specifically to cater for the needs of engineering learners. StuDiAsE is based on the text comprehension theory by Denhiere and Baudet (1992). This theory, focus on assisting text comprehension by improving the design of the text form and text activities and by exploiting a student's prior knowledge on a subject (Caillies & Denhiere, 2012). StuDiAsE is also based on the dialogue theory of Collins and Beranek (1986), which focus on assisting text comprehension using dialogue activities based on dialogue management, strategies, tactics and plans, which promote personalized feedback in learning. Moreover, it is based on the learning styles theory (Felder & Silverman, 1988; Felder & Brent, 2005), which classifies students in learning style according to where they fit on a number of scales pertaining to the ways they receive and process information. …

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