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eLearning, Interactive Hypermedia, Neuroscience and Digital Learning Module Creation

eLearning, Interactive Hypermedia, Neuroscience and Digital Learning Module Creation

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Published by jalam
This paper explores the possibilities of using the recent findings within the area of Neuroscience for developing effective instructional material in the digital form using the interactive hypermedia components that can be used for effective delivery of eLearning. The different components of eLearning, eLearning infrastructure, Interactive Hypermedia are described. A review of findings from Neuroscience for the brain functions that are deemed relevant for learning process is also provided.
This paper explores the possibilities of using the recent findings within the area of Neuroscience for developing effective instructional material in the digital form using the interactive hypermedia components that can be used for effective delivery of eLearning. The different components of eLearning, eLearning infrastructure, Interactive Hypermedia are described. A review of findings from Neuroscience for the brain functions that are deemed relevant for learning process is also provided.

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Published by: jalam on Mar 12, 2008
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eLearning, Interactive Hypermedia, Neuroscience and DigitalLearning Module Creation
Javed AlamCivil/Environmental and Chemical Engineering DepartmentYoungstown State UniversityYoungstown, Ohio, USA 44555 jalam@cc.ysu.edu
Abstract
This paper explores the possibilities of using the recent  findings within the area of Neuroscience for developing effective instructional material in the digital form using the interactive hypermedia components that can be used  for effective delivery of eLearning. The different components of eLearning, eLearning infrastructure, Interactive Hypermedia are described. A review of  findings from Neuroscience for the brain functions that are deemed relevant for learning process is also provided.
1. Introduction
The Information and Communication technology(ICT) provides an infrastructure that allows creation anddissemination of the information in digital form. Itfacilitates the creation of digital content that could beused for communication and collaboration purposes. TheeLearning is an emerging application that is built uponthe infrastructure supported by ICT.The eLearning methodology [1] differs significantlyfrom the traditional teaching and learning approach. Itseffectiveness depends on the implementation of the pedagogical approaches that are based upon the “Learner Centered” design that encourages “Active CooperativeLearning” style of the learners. The introduction of thehypermedia based digital content helps in drawing theattention of the younger generations who are more tunedinto the current “Visual Culture”.The existing learning theories that are used todesign the instruction material are based upon the use of traditional media such as text books that are linear in the presentation and highly text oriented. These theories useCognitive Psychology as their theoretical foundation.They have been successfully used in the past indeveloping effective pedagogical approaches and thesupporting material for learning.With the introduction of digital content based uponthe interactive hypermedia there is a need to expand thescope of the existing learning theories to accommodatethe different characteristics of the new media. Theadditional variables that are prominent in the newer media are, a visual nonlinear narrative, and theintroduction of interaction with the content that changesits behavior upon the response from the user. It isanticipated that a properly designed multimedia contentshould lead to better retention of attention and learningexperience for the learner. This could also be helpful in providing immediate feedback to the learner leading to arapid learning experience.
2. eLearning Basics
The convergence of print, radio, TV and interactivemedia in the form of interactive hypermedia opens upmany new possibilities and also challenges in designingeffective instructional material for eLearning on thesound learning design principles. However, at the presenttime these principles are constantly evolving due therapid changes in the capabilities of the media itself.
eLearning follows the traditionalinstructional design model as described inthe reference[2]
Analyze
- analyze learner characteristics, task to be learned, etc.
Design
- develop learning objectives, choose aninstructional approach
Develop
- create instructional or trainingmaterials
Implement
- deliver or distribute theinstructional materials
Evaluate
- make sure the materials achieved thedesired goals.The eLearning is modeled as mapping of thetraditional teaching and learning practices to the VirtualLearning Environment (VLE). It consists of thefollowing:1.The wired or wirelessly connected desktop,laptop computers and small form factor 
 
computing devices such as Personal DigitalAssistants (PDA) to the Internet.2.The computers running the web server andapplication server software including theLearning Management Software (LMS) andLearning Content Management Software(LCMS). The implementation of LearningDesign (LD) is accomplished through the LDsoftware tools that are add on to the applicationserver software.3.The eLearning content that can further besubdivided into the following categories:
eContent
, that deals with the subjectmatter, similar to a traditional text book.
eLecture
, that simulates the traditionallectures
eAssessment
, that simulates the traditionaltests and surveys
eSimulation
, that simulates the traditionallaboratory and learning experiments
Standalone and web based
Symbolic andNumeric Mathematical Compute engines.
 The four hypermedia components that areused in creating eLearning content are:
Hypertext (includes hyperlinks)
Graphics (Images, Photographs andVector-based Drawings)
Digital Sound
Animation/Digital Video The interactivity can be added through theuse of scripting languages. The existing ICT infrastructure allowscreating and disseminating the digitalcontent at a lower cost. The multiple copiesof the digital content can be made with anease without any additional cost. Thisprovides a competitive edge for the use ICTin eLearning when compared with thetraditional approach of teaching and learning. Traditional print media provides a higherresolution when compared with the screenresolution of the computer monitor, 1400dpivs. 75-125 dpi. There is a need for betterdesign principles to overcome this drawbackto make eLearning model more effective. Theanimation and video content can seamlesslybe integrated within the same interactivedigital document. The design and creationprocess of an effective interactivehypermedia document at the present time issimilar to creating an artwork. There is astrong need to develop sound designprinciples for creating this type of documentsthat can be used for eLearning for enhancedlearner experience. There has been a debate within eLearningcommunity about “No Significant Difference”phenomenon [3, 4]. This relates to thecomparison between classroom teaching andonline learning. It shows that there is nosignificant difference in the outcomes of learning between two modes of learning.However, it is difficult to evaluate thesubjective experience, emotional andmotivational drive of the learners during thelearning process. The traditional approach of teaching and learning appeals to the cerebralpart of the brain that produces a cold feeling,requiring learner to be self motivated toachieve desired learning outcomes. It ispossible to design learning modules usinginteractive hypermedia that also haveemotional and motivational appeal providingan engaging experience for the learners.However, this area is still in its infancy andneeds further research and development.The ideas within the newly emergingareas of “User Interface Design” and “UserInteraction Design” [5, 6, and 7] emphasizinguser experience and the new findings withinNeuroscience about the working of the brain,together form a body of knowledge that canbe used as a basis for developing effectiveeLearning content. That enhances thelearning experience also making acceleratedlearning possible.
3. Neuroscience and Learning
The field of Cognitive Psychology itself is moving inthe direction of more empirically grounded Cognitive Neuroscience. The researchers in the area of  Neuroscience are studying the functions of different partsof the brain [8, 9, 10, and 11] of humans and animals asit relates to the sensations, perceptions and the motor responses including the basic emotions. The behavioraland cognitive processes are also studied withinBehavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience. The mappingsof different neural correlates to the actual stimuli andresponses are accomplished through the use of non-invasive techniques such as PET and FMRI scans of the brain. These findings hold a strong potential for developing sound learning design principles that can be
 
utilized for creating hypermedia based digital content for learning.The researchers in the area of Cognitive Neuroscience have been successful in identifying theneural correlates responsible for many well knowncognitive tasks performed by the human brain. In somecases the findings revalidate the existing theories of Cognitive psychology and provide a more empiricalgrounding to the theories of behavior modification. Theyare also discovering new information about thefunctioning of the human brain and how it responds tonovel stimulus and changes. There is a need to further explore the use these recent findings in brain basedresearch for developing effective learning schemas.The Organization of Economic-Development andDevelopment (OECD) published a report entitled“Understanding the Brain: Towards a New LearningScience”. This report [12] explores the potential use of findings within Cognitive Neuroscience on learningdesign. The book by Zull [13] also explores these parameters based upon the theories and findings of BrainScience.
4. Neural processing in Learning
The learning in its simplest form can becharacterized as behavior modification caused by thelearning process. Therefore, the theories from Neuroscience in this area become relevant for learningdesign. The role of the following brain processes isessential in learning process:
Visual/Aural stimulus processing
Memory sub systems
Emotion/Motivation processing
Neural-plasticity
Attention processing
The brain contains special cells known as Neuronsthat communicate with each other through the synapticconnections by the use of neurotransmitters. Different parts of the brain are specialized in performing differenttasks and it utilizes these units in parallel to carry outseveral different tasks to complete a project.A typical learning session will involve manyactivities; therefore, it will utilize many distinct parts of the brain dynamically and the mental processes describedabove.In the first step, the learner is presented with themultimedia learning module requiring the use of Visualand aural processing units [14] of the brain to create aninternal mental representation of the learning material.The visual and aural stimulus is processed by the visualand aural cortex of the brain. This step may also requirethe mental faculties of inductive and deductive reasoninglocated in the left and right hemisphere of the cerebralcortex.The relevant information is at first stored in thesmall working memory [15, 16, and 17] and the longterm memories of the learning material are created in thehippocampus region [18] of the brain. The process of long term memory formation is dependent upon theemotional arousal of the learner’s brain through therelease of neurotransmitter in the part of the brain that processes the emotions such as Amygdala, Hypothlamus,and brainstem [19, 20, 21, 22]. Ulate [23] discusses theimportance of emotional arousal on learning in virtualenvironments.The high motivational factor to direct the actionstowards a desired task is dependent upon the Brain’sreward circuits. These are well defined circuits withinthe brain and require the release of neurotransmitter Dopamine in the Nucleus Accumbens and VentralTegmental area of the midbrain. The effect of Dopamineon arousal and goal seeking are well documented in thearea of drug addiction, gambling etc [24]. It isanticipated that the same rewards circuits can be used for developing high motivation for learning if the learningmaterial is designed appropriately to excite this part of learner’s brain. The use of video games for entertainment purposes most likely utilize these brain circuits leadingto a highly rewarding activity. It is possible to useconcepts that are used to design video games for creatingengaging and entertaining digital content for eLearning.A memory reconstruction process is used to recallthe learned material during the evaluation phase of theeLearning. Neural-plasticity [25] is defined as thereconfiguration of synaptic connections and formation of new synaptic connections between neurons duringlearning activity. This is the core process that makeslearning a possibility. Recently, it was found that this process remains active in the elderly [26] providing a basis for life long learning for the adult population.All of these brain processes are mediated by thelearner’s attention and the neural circuitry that isinvolved in the process of attention [27].A simplified model of the brain can be built bydividing it into three parts namely, reptilian, mammalianand cerebral cortex respectively. The symbolic, linear,text based older media is more likely to create a neuralexcitation in the cerebral cortex part of the brain.However, attention, long term memory formation,emotional, and motivation related to drives of goalseeking are found to be highly dependent on theexcitation of the reptilian and mammalian part of the brain. These findings partly explain the persuasivenature of the TV as a visual medium because it producesactivation within the reptilian and mammalian part of the brain that is considered older part of brain fromevolutionary perspective.

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