Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Attention please! Next-generation e-learning is here

20.02.2008
Take an e-learning platform, mix in a large dose of social networking, sprinkle liberally with intelligent software agents to stimulate users and, according to a team of European researchers, you have a recipe to keep students’ attention even during the most testing training courses.

Recent trials of two new software platforms based on this new approach show substantial promise in overcoming one of the biggest problems that has dogged e-learning: how to keep students motivated and attentive. The platforms, developed in the AtGentive project, are designed to aid students in the classroom and to help them continue learning and collaborating long after classroom sessions have ended.

“The first generation of e-learning platforms focused on replicating online the classroom model of teaching, but this approach has not been all that successful,” explains Thierry Nabeth, the coordinator of AtGentive at INSEAD’s Centre for Advanced Learning Technologies in France. “The biggest problem is that students often lack motivation both inside and outside of the classroom, and fail to dedicate their attention to the learning programme.”

In an effort to overcome that problem, the AtGentive researchers incorporated artificial agents and social networking into their approach toward e-learning, employing, in the case of one of the platforms, similar techniques to those that have made websites, such as Facebook, so popular as a means of staying in touch with friends, relatives and colleagues.

Keeping a (virtual) eye on the class…
“Artificial agents are autonomous entities that observe users’ activities and assess their state of attention in order to intervene so as to make the user experience more effective,” Nabeth says. “The interventions can take many forms, from providing new information to the student, guiding them in their work or alerting them when other users connect to the platform.”

In an e-learning context, the agents provide a smart form of proactive coaching for students, assessing, guiding and stimulating them. For example, an artificial agent can alert a student when an article they have posted elicits the attention of other users, or when they receive feedback on their input into a collaborative learning task. In a classroom environment, an artificial agent embodied as an animated character spots students who are not interacting with the system and probably not paying attention. The avatar helps by trying to “wake them up.”

“For collaborative learning to be effective, it is important for people to know how their input is being received by others and whether what they are working on is of interest to other people,” Nabeth says, noting that in essence the team have adapted renowned psychologist Albert Bandura’s concept of self-efficacy to a collaborative context.

It is also important to minimise distractions. For that reason, the agents designed in the EU-funded AtGentive monitor what students are doing and only intervene when doing so will not unnecessarily take their attention away from the task at hand.

The results of trials involving the two AtGentive platforms show how effective the approach can be. One, AtGentSchool, which was tested in a primary school setting in the Czech Republic, helps maintain students’ attention in the classroom using avatars to interact with students on their PCs. The other, AtGentNet, is a social network platform incorporating artificial agents that has been used in a training programme for international trade managers run by the Swedish Trade Council (STC), a project partner.

“AtGentSchool has a more short-term (real-time) and individual focus on managing attention, while AtGentNet is more long-term (asynchronous), and focused on the group and on social attention,” Nabeth says.

More interaction, more motivation, more attention
In the AtGentSchool pilot, pupils stimulated by “attention aware” artificial agents have shown a higher level of satisfaction and motivation. However, whether the learning process is more effective is a question that will require future investigation, says Nabeth.

According to the project coordinator, trade managers who used a full-featured version of AtGentNet for collaborative learning tasks, in the weeks and months in between seminars, interacted more frequently and showed more motivation than two control groups who used a version with reduced features and who used a legacy e-learning platform.

“The results would need to have a bigger sample to be more conclusive but they suggest we are on the right track toward more effective e-learning,” Nabeth tells ICT Results.

AtGentNet continues to be used by STC and the project partners are rolling it out as a service for both e-learning applications and for research. They are working closely with FIDIS, a network of excellence addressing related issues in the information society.

“[Because our platform] monitors everything users do and shares information about them with other users, [it] will be used to research issues such as privacy and identity in social networks,” Nabeth notes.

Dutch firm Ontdeknet, whose artificial characters are the visible face of AtGentSchool, is continuing to develop the platform and is incorporating it into its product line as an e-learning system for children.

In Nabeth’s view, the AtGentive approach will help end the “shallow” experience of many e-learning systems developed to date, while deepening our understanding of what it takes to hold people’s attention and keep them motivated.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/89524

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Stable magnetic bit of three atoms
21.09.2017 | Sonderforschungsbereich 668

nachricht Drones can almost see in the dark
20.09.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>