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Learning Activities in Personal Learning Environment

Learning Activities in Personal Learning Environment

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Published by Martin
Publication at World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013, Victoria, Kanada
Publication at World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013, Victoria, Kanada

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Published by: Martin on Jun 26, 2013
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12/05/2013

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Originally published in: Taraghi, B., Softic, S., Ebner, M. & De Vocht, L. (2013). Learning Activities in Personal LearningEnvironment. In
 Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013
 (pp. 2466-2475). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Learning Activities in Personal Learning Environment
Abstract
: Nowadays Learning Management Systems are an integrated part of educationalinstitutions. Teachers as well as learners profit from the so-called Web 2.0 applications in their daily learning process. Communication and collaboration between students have beenenhanced using mashups of Web 2.0 technologies. Smart mobile phones and the increasedavailability of free wireless network access points make the integration of all these tools in our  personal daily life and personal learning process much easier than before. This publicationfocuses on the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) that was launched at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) in 2010. It illustrates how the PLE at TU Graz has been extended tomove towards mobile PLE. Furthermore the learning activities of about more than 4000learners in the last two years are revealed based on the tracked user behavior. The activitiesand usage traces are modeled using domain specific semantic ontologies. The models are usedas the input for our Analytics Dashboard to visualize statistics and get a quick overview of learning habits and overall reflection usages and activity dynamics in the PLE.
Introduction
Tim O'Reilly (2006) introduced the word Web 2.0 the first time in 2006. Since then many online Web2.0 applications and services have been raised like YouTube (for sharing Videos), Flickr (for sharing pictures),Slideshare (for sharing presentations), Scribd (for sharing documents), Mendeley (for sharing publications) or Delicious (for sharing bookmarks). The huge amount of such applications and their usage in learning andteaching has changed the online behavior and attitude of learners in respect to the new arising technologies(Downes, 2005). Many research studies have been carried out to observe and analyze how Web 2.0 applicationsauch as Weblogs (Farmer & Bartlett-Brag, 2005), Wikis (Augar et al., 2006), Podcasting (Towned, 2005) aswell as Microblogging or Social Networks (Ebner & Maurer, 2008) influence users and enhance education.Mobile learning has gained more attention since the growth of smartphones and mobile application,driven by Apple’s iPhone and Android mobile Operating System. It was first surveyed in 2000 to see how theuse of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) helps to increase the learning efforts (Kukulka-Halme & Traxler,2005). Nowadays, especially in industrialized countries, many people are permanently online, share differentresources and contribute to World Wide Web (WWW) with their mobile devices including teachers and learnersin context of E-Learning (Ebner et al., 2008). Due to the fact that mobile technologies and social web areavailable ubiquitously and are pervasively used, they have influence on our every day life and learningenvironments (Holzinger et al., 2006, Klamma et al. 2007). On the other hand the WWW provides lots of different services; each can be used for teaching and learning. It is quite challenging for education not to beoverwhelmed by all these various opportunities within a learning environment. Various studies on Web 2.0usage amongst students (Ebner & Nagler 2010) underline that it is hard to follow these tools and even more tomonitor them in an appropriate way. Mashups (Tuchinda et al., 2008) and personalization can be used tomanage this challenge in learning environments. This led us to the idea of Personal Learning Environment(PLE), where tiny applications (widgets) can be integrated and combined within a learning environmentmanaged by the learners according to their actual needs (Schaffert & Kalz, 2009).The PLE at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) was first launched in October 2010. The mainidea of using a PLE at TU Graz was to combine and integrate existing university services (Ebner et al., 2010) aswell as resources and services on WWW in one platform in a personalized way (Ebner & Taraghi, 2010). It bases on mashup of widgets (Taraghi et al., 2009a, Taraghi et al., 2009b, Taraghi et al., 2009c) that representthe resources and services integrated from WWW within the PLE. The PLE has been redesigned in 2011, usingmetaphors such as apps and spaces for a better learner-centered application and higher attractiveness (Taraghi,2012). The new User Interface (UI) relies on full widget or app-based architecture. It resembles pretty much tothe mobile app environments, i.e. a widget store is offered where the learners can install widgets on one or many spaces or personal desktops. The resemblance of the new UI to mobile app stores attracted the users a lot.The statistics show an increased number of active users in average. Figure 1 illustrated a user’s spaces (space 1in this case) where several widgets are installed and positioned by the user arbitrarily.
 
Originally published in: Taraghi, B., Softic, S., Ebner, M. & De Vocht, L. (2013). Learning Activities in Personal LearningEnvironment. In
 Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013
 (pp. 2466-2475). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
 
To support mobile learning in case of PLE, the mobile view of PLE has been developed as a steptowards a ubiquitous PLE. This publication aims to introduce the mobile PLE and illustrate how the extensionto mobile view can be carried out efficiently.Furthermore after two years of running PLE, concerning the increasing number of active usersspecially after supporting the PLE mobile, a tool is needed to reveal and analyze the users’ learning activities. Inthis publication we demonstrate how such a tool, in our case PLE Analytics Dashboard, can be developed andshow some results of the first analysis regarding the learners’ activities, widgets’ usage and user’s behavior within PLE.
Figure 1:
One Space in PLE desktop view, full of widgets arranged arbitrarily by the user.
 
Mobile PLE
Considering the rapid growth of mobile devices and the increased availability of free wireless network access points, a new form of e-learning has been arisen, known as ubiquitous learning or u-learning. Learnershave the possibility to use e-learning facilities any time, in any place and any situation. Zhan and Jin (2005)defined u-learning as a function of different parameters:u-Learning = {u-Environment, u-Contents, u-Behavior, u-Interface, u-Service}The mashup-based concept in PLE at TU Graz meets actually the parameters defined above. The learners havefull control over the content in PLE (widgets), they decide how and what to work with, they have full controlover the UI, number of spaces they need and distribution and positioning of widgets within spaces and finallythe services they would like to use. The environment where they could access their PLE was reduced only todesktop devices. The mobile view of PLE was the next step towards ubiquitousness.The PLE at TU Graz bases on a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). In such architecture the clientside logic is apart from a server side backend. The frontend is responsible for the whole UI on the client devicewhereas the server side backend is responsible for the permanent data storage and data management. The clientcommunicates with the server over a specified Application Programming Interface (API) to retrieve data neededon the client UI. To support mobile devices, only the client side logic had to be extended. The same is true for the existing widgets. The widgets needed to be refactored in a way that they run on mobile devices. The widgetdevelopment framework that has been used for widget development at TU Graz (Taraghi & Ebner, 2010) relieson a well-known MVC design architecture. It reduced the refactoring time to a great extent as only the Viewshad to be refactored.The mobile interface is introduces briefly for the sake of completeness. Figure 2 (1) shows the start page of the mobile PLE after login. Users can navigate to different pages within PLE from this page. Figure 2(2) shows a list of user’s spaces and the widgets that the user has already installed in each space. Selecting awidget would open up and start the corresponding widget immediately. Figure 2 (3) shows “Geolines” widgetalready opened up by the user on her mobile device. The “Geolines” widget solves direct and inverse geodetic
 
Originally published in: Taraghi, B., Softic, S., Ebner, M. & De Vocht, L. (2013). Learning Activities in Personal LearningEnvironment. In
 Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2013
 (pp. 2466-2475). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
 pr 
 
oblems in 2d-cartesian and ellipsoidal coordinate systems. Users can trigger several actions on each specificwidget. Clicking on the “option” button on the top right corner (see figure 2 (3)) opens up a dialog windowwhere the user can select the desired action (see figure 2 (4)). Figure 3 demonstrates the widget store. On theleft an overview of all provided widgets is offered. On the right the detail view of the widget “Geolines” isdepicted.For information about the overall UI structure of the desktop PLE refer to (Taraghi, 2012).
Figure 2:
PLE mobile view, from the left: (1) Start page, (2) list of user’s spaces and widgets, (3) “Geolines”widget running, (4) list of widget actions.
Figure 3:
 
PLE mobile view, left: widget store, right: detail view of a widget in widget store.
PLE Analytics Dashboard
The PLE at TU Graz has been running since two years. In order to enhance PLE in general andimprove the usability as well as usefulness of each individual widget a tracking module was implemented(Taraghi et al., 2011). The tracking module helps to track the user behavior and capture implicit informationabout what widgets and how often they are being used and in which activities users are mostly engaged. By thetime there are more than 4000 active users in PLE. It is quite interesting to analyze the tracked data for the better understanding of common popular learning activities and PLE usage. To fulfill this goal a semantic basedapproach has been applied to enrich and model the data gained through the tracking module. The semanticallyenriched information are used in the next step as the input to an Analytics Dashboard to visualize the learners’activities, widgets’ usage and user’s behavior. Figure 4 (left) demonstrates the main three dimensions of PLEmeasuring confidence that are taken into consideration for the analytics. Activities reflect user’s behavior.Statistics about widgets usage can be used for prediction and recommending of widgets to other users. The dataabout user’s behavior help to detect implicit information about the user that can be used later for a recommender system within PLE, i.e. user’s interests and main learning context of the user. Reflection of leaner’s activities,the widgets’ usage and the tracked users are directly in relation to each other, which implies that one influencesthe other and vice versa.

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