Dr.Virendra Gawande & Sarika GawandeInformation Technology Department, College of Applied Sciences,PO Box 484, Postal Code 411, Oman.firstname.lastname@example.org_vir@yahoo.com
Abstract The challenge for eLearning designers is to develop software tools for effective eLearning.
Effective eLearning systems should include sophisticated and advanced functions, yet their interface should hide their complexity, providing an easy and flexible interaction.
It is necessary to establish the difference between attributes for platforms (containers) and the educational modules provided by a platform (contents).
This work is an attempt towards identifying specific usability attributes for eLearning systems. This paper describes the different eLearning tools that represent the part of the eLearning systems.
There are several eLearning tools which can be categorized into three main groups by their functionality:
a) Teacher tools, b) Learner tools, and c) Administration tools 1.ELEARNING TOOLS
Implicitly there are 3 basic actors and most of the tools are shared between these actors.Basic Tools in eLearning Systems1.Authoring tools (T)2.System Mgt. tools (A)3.Learning tools (L)4.User & group mgt. tools (TA)5.Content Mgt. tools (TA)6.Annotation tools (TL)7.Assessment tools (TL)8.Collaborating tools (ATL)
Collaborating tools (e-mail, forum, news, discussion groups) are shared by all actors. Authoring tools provide the teacher/expert to design, describe organize and publish the learning resources (e.g. learning content, tests). These resources are used by the learner through learning tools and assessment tools.
The learners can annotate (personalize) the learning content by Annotation tools. These tools provide the teacher to point up the important parts of the learning content. The teachers can see and analyze the progress of the learners by using of the assessment tools and the User & group management tools. Managing the user and group data includes the add/edit/remove actions. These tools also provide the teachers and administrators to track and analyze learner actions at the individual and the group level.
Administrator manage overall eLearning system by System management tools (user accounts, setup and configuration data, DB administration). Also he manages the different kinds of the content (learning resources, collaboration data) together with the teachers (Content management tools).
These tools provide the basic functionalities to the eLearning systems. One eLearning system represents the aggregation of different tools.
There are two types of the eLearning systems which are most frequently used:
1.Adaptive systems: Adaptive Hypermedia (AH) and Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS)2.Non-Adaptive systems: Learning Management Systems (LMS).
Adaptive eLearning Hypermedia (AEH) systems are focused on adaptable structure of the educational materials. They provide different adaptation techniques like, conditional text, variants of pages, and frames linked to the concepts.
There are many good examples of the AH systems.
1.ISIS-tutor has adaptability based on the directed graph of concepts. The concepts are in the, based-on/is-basis-for relations.
2.KN-AHS has implemented the presentational adaptation. The learning materials are composed by-fly.
3.In the Hyperflex, the navigational adaptation is implemented in the system. The student has full list of topics, but the order of items is changeable. Examples of AH systems:
ITS are more focused on the learning process and have highlevel modularity.
ITS provide user oriented design and much more pedagogical knowledge is implemented in the system.
These systems are focused on the problem based learning (PBL). PBL requires the precisely defined student profile and high level of interaction between system and student. Therefore ITS exert the intelligent behavior more than other Web based eLearning systems.
The good examples of PBL ITS are Cognitive Tutor and SQL Tutor.
Cognitive Tutor is the rule based system designed for the mathematic tutoring. SQL Tutor represents a ITS designed for the learning of SQL queries.
The authoring tools developed for ITS are mainly implemented as standalone applications. Therefore these tools are described in separately.Generally there are two types of authoring tools. The first is the easy for the teacher type and the other one is easy for the programmer type.
The first type is focused on the description of the course, individual student and pedagogical strategies and techniques.
The second type prefers the domain presentation and the learning strategies.
The example of the teacher tool is REEDEM.
In REEDEM teacher can describe course content by using the course Meta model. This means that the course would be decomposed on the learning units as chapters and lessons. These units can be semantically linked in the course body.
REDEEM is not designed as the content producing tool. It is used to describe and relate different contents produced by ToolBook content authoring tool. REDEEM enable the teachers to define system pedagogy and the learner model.
EON authoring tool is focused on the presentation of the domain concepts, the student modeling and knowledge structure.
The domain concepts are organized in the topic. There are different types of concepts (topics). Every topic is described with attributes such as importance, or difficulty. The teachers also have to specify the relation types between topics (e.g., precedes, is part of, etc.).
Different from the previously mentioned systems, LMS are the domain independent systems. The LMS are much more successful in Web-enhanced education (related to a number of users) because they have better administration capabilities than adaptive systems mentioned above.
The LMS tools provide the teachers to compose their courses from newly created and existed learning units (so called learning objects - LO).
Other tools enable the tracking of the student progression, and communication with the students and the other teachers.
The students are able to use the learning resources, to organize their learning plans, and to participate in the different kinds of collaboration (projects, forums, whiteboards, chat rooms, etc.).
WebCT and Blackboard are the two similar commercial LMS.
WebCT is commercial product implemented as pure Web application. Functionalities are divided in many various tools.
WebCT has strong communication features. The courses are built by LO so called e-packs. The user interface is difficult to use. Therefore WebCT provides the different types of wizards that simplify the course production.
The newest version of this LMS (WebCT Vista) represents the integration effort of WebCT and Blackboard.
BlackBoard (BB) is designed as the tool-set that provides different functionalities.
My Faculty Tools are designed for the course design. The course is represented as package named Course Cartridge.
The learner can search the learning materials by Search Content tool.
The user management is provided by Seneca Toolkit tool.
There is plug-in tool named LinkMaker designed for the linking between the learning resources and course items.
FAQTool represents the tool for managing FAQ lists.
Collaboration is implemented by emailing and forums.
One of the most popular open source LMS is Moodle.
Choices module is designed for survey purposes.
There is separate Survey module. These modules help teachers to evaluate and adapt created learning environment, regard to preferred learning methods and perception of the specific learner group.
Quiz module enables teachers to create online quizzes.
Forums module provides users to have endless group discussions on teacher managed topic.
Resource module is the tool that provide the direct resource creating (plain text only), uploading, or linking external resource and to the course.
ChatRoom is synchronous collaboration tool that is also controlled by teacher.
Journals is designed for teachers and students to write and revise ideas over time.
Dialog module enables users for one-on-one written conversation.
Assignment enables teachers to give students tasks to complete online or offline.
The eLearning tools are designed for three groups of functionalities: teacher, learner and administration.
There are many sub classifications of eLearning tools. Some tools are designed for the content description, others are designed for user modeling or defining the pedagogy.
The eLearning systems have the common feature that they consist of many different tools. These tools can be implemented as stand alone software modules (like as the ITS and AH authoring tools), but usually they act as the embedded system modules (like as the integrated modules and plugins in the LMS).
Main disadvantage of the existing LMS is the low interoperability. LMS producers try to combine the functionalities as much as possible. Therefore LMS become complex for exploitation by the teachers and learners.
On the other side, the domain independence, the integrated authoring tools, collaboration support, management of the overall learning process and the content reusability are the great advantages of LMS.