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Original article

doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00262.x

An enhanced Bayesian model to detect students’ learning styles in Web-based courses
P. García, S. Schiaffino & A. Amandi
ISISTAN Research Institute, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Pcia de Buenos Aires, Tandil, Buenos Aires, Argentina and CONICET, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Abstract

Students acquire and process information in different ways depending on their learning styles. To be effective, Web-based courses should guarantee that all the students learn despite their different learning styles. To achieve this goal, we have to detect how students learn: reflecting or acting; steadily or in fits and starts; intuitively or sensitively. In a previous work, we have presented an approach that uses Bayesian networks to detect a student’s learning style in Webbased courses. In this work, we present an enhanced Bayesian model designed after the analysis of the results obtained when evaluating the approach in the context of an Artificial Intelligence course. We evaluated the precision of our Bayesian approach to infer students’ learning styles from the observation of their actions with a Web-based education system during three semesters. We show how the results from one semester enabled us to adjust our initial model and helped teachers improve the content of the course for the following semester, enhancing in this way students’ learning process. We obtained higher precision values when inferring the learning styles with the enhanced model. Bayesian networks, e-learning, learning styles, student modeling.

Keywords

Introduction

Students learn in many different ways (Felder & Silverman 1988): by seeing and hearing; reflecting and acting; reasoning logically and intuitively; memorizing and visualizing; drawing analogies and building mathematical models; steadily and in fits and starts. Similarly, teachers teach with different methods. Some teachers lecture, others discuss or demonstrate; some emphasize memory while others understanding. Studies have shown that greater learning may occur when the teaching style matches the students’ learning styles than when they are mismatched (Allinson & Hayes 1996; Felder & Brent 2005).

Accepted: 13 September 2007 Correspondence: Silvia Schiaffino, ISISTAN, Campus Universitario, Paraje Arroyo Seco, Tandil, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Email: sschia@ exa.unicen.edu.ar

In the context of Web-based courses, the teaching styles are characterized by: the content of courses, that is, texts, examples, exams and exercises proposed; how information is presented to students; the interaction mechanisms among students and between students and teachers, such as chat rooms, forums and other collaborative or groupware tools; and the order in which contents are organized and presented within a course. One of the most desired characteristics of a Web-based education system is that of being adaptive and personalized (Brusilovsky & Peylo 2003), as it has to be used by a wide variety of students with different skills, preferences and learning styles. To achieve this goal, it is vital to discover each student’s learning style and adapt the courses or assist the student according to it. The system or an intelligent tutor could then assist students by suggesting to them courses of actions that correspond to the students’ learning style, or by suggesting courses of actions that supplement the negative
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© 2007 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (2008), 24, 305–315

Ford & Chen 2000. Peña et al. First. The initial proposal is described in detail in the study by Garcia et al. Chen et al. In the following subsections we describe a new model that incorporates new variables to enable a more accurate detection of these styles. 2005). because it was designed for engineering students and second. the influence of these actions on the different dimensions that compose a learning style is also modeled. Different student’s actions that are observed while the student works with the learning system are modeled in the BN. We chose this model after analysing several learning styles. Although they have been critically analysed by some authors (Coffield et al. This model comprises 32 learning styles. because we observed that for students of exact © 2007 The Authors. The strength of these dependences is specified by conditional probability values that indicate. However. Dimensions of Felder’s learning styles (those marked in italics are the ones considered in this work). García et al. such as the type of material preferred or the number of exercises done. aspects of a certain style depending on the approach adopted. 2007). than with the initial model. More importantly. In this article. 2002. we present the enhanced Bayesian model and we describe the different experiments we carried out during three semesters to evaluate our proposal. Paredes & Rodriguez 2004). In this work we use the model proposed by Felder and Silverman for engineering students (Felder & Silverman 1988). 2000.306 P. Perception Input Processing Understanding Organization Sensitive Intuitive Visual Verbal Active Reflective Sequential Global Inductive Deductive learning styles automatically based on the observation of their actions. we present the new Bayesian model to infer students’ learning styles. Honey & Mumford 1992. we proposed the use of Bayesian networks (BN) to represent and automatically detect students’ learning styles in a Web-based education system. for example. This model showed some difficulties at detecting some of the dimensions of students’ learning styles. that if the type of material preferred by a student is abstract. Litzinger & Osif 1993) have been proposed. Learning styles Our approach uses BN both to model students’ behaviours while taking a Web-based course and to infer their A learning style model classifies students according to where they fit on a number of scales belonging to the ways in which they receive and process information. we also detected some flaws not only in the proposed model but also in the design of the underlying Web-based course that yield to low precision in the detection capability of our technique. Felder & Silverman 1988. In a previous work (Garcia et al. We evaluated the proposed approach with students of an Artificial Intelligence course and we obtained promising results. and that cognitive styles are linked to quantitative differences in both navigation behaviour and learning performance (Dufresne & Turcotte 1997. Table 1 shows the dimensions of the learning styles in this model. (2007). enhancing in this way students’ learning. models and frameworks. In the next section. The information used to build the Bayesian model is obtained by analysing students’ log files that contain records of the tasks carried out by the students in the system. we present the experiments carried out to evaluate the proposed model. Detecting learning styles with BN Table 1. Several models and frameworks for learning styles (Kolb 1984. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . After which. we present our conclusions and future work. This article is organized as follows. Also we present some related works. We show how the results from one semester helped teachers improve the content of the course for the following semester. We obtained higher precision values when inferring students’ learning styles with the enhanced Bayesian model. This Artificial Intelligence technique enables us to model both quantitative and qualitative information about students’ behaviour with a Web-based educational system. Finally. the use of learning styles for experimental research in Web-based educational systems has demonstrated that providing material according to students’ learning styles can enhance students’ learning (Walters et al. then it is quite probable that the student reasons intuitively. 2004).

In this work. Deduction proceeds in the opposite direction. Sequential learners follow linear reasoning processes when solving problems. or is determined by. The arcs in the network represent the relationships between the behaviours observed while a student uses the system and the learning style dimensions studied. Bayesian networks Bayesian networks. sensors like facts. intuitive students are bored by detail and welcome complications. namely perception. supposing that ‘behaviour_x’ and ‘behaviour_y’ can take the values ‘observed’ and ‘not observed’. we consider only three dimensions of Felder’s framework. The figure also shows the probability tables that define the quantitative information of the BN. Verbal learners remember much of what they hear or read. the values of the nodes. In this work. global learners make intuitive leaps and may be unable to explain how they came up with solutions. Sensors are patient with detail but do not like complications. constitute an Artificial Intelligence technique widely used to model uncertain domains. Induction is the natural human learning style. corresponding to the various values that the variable can take. providing material and teaching according to students’ perception dimension values helped them improve their understanding in regular classes. In our work. Nodes in a BN represent variables of interest in such domains and arcs connecting the nodes represent causal relationships between these variables (Jensen 2001). a probability table specifies the probability of each possible state of the node given each possible combination of states of its parents. intuitive students prefer principles and theories. the probability values indicate that ‘behaviour_x’ was observed . films and demonstrations. that is. The arcs in a BN are directed. the nodes in the network represent the different dimensions of learning styles and those students’ actions we observe to determine them. Each node in a BN can have different states. The values of probabilities can be obtained by different means. ‘behaviour_x’ and ‘behaviour_y’ are independent nodes representing actions in a Web-based system. in the simple BN shown in Fig 1. The direction of the arcs indicate this dependence. they can be calculated from a set of data using some learning algorithm or from observation of facts. Experiments have proved that most engineering students are inductive learners (Felder & Silverman 1988). and reflective learners do not learn much in situations that provide no opportunity to think about the information being presented. They can be specified by an expert in the domain considered. data and experimentation. On the other hand. also known as causal networks. Sequential learners can work with material when they understand it partially or superficially. we decided to take this experience from classrooms to e-learning. this dimension is not considered and 16 learning styles remain. According to this model. the direction of arcs indicates that a given student behaviour with the learning system determines a certain value in a learning style dimension. They are marked in italics in Table 1. while global learners may have great difficulty doing so. Active learners work well in groups. and ‘style_dimension’ depends on the values that ‘behaviour_x’and ‘behaviour_y’take.Students’ learning styles in Web-based courses 307 sciences (math students. Visual learners remember best what they see: pictures. Induction is a reasoning progression that proceeds from particulars to generalities. Tables for independent nodes just contain unconditional or simple probabilities. diagrams. They go from the cause (parent node) to the effect (child node). Thus. These tables are known as conditional probability tables (CPT). and more of what they hear or read and say. For each node. which are given by probability tables. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd model both qualitative and quantitative information. In this example. Nodes without parents are known as independent nodes. Thus. the actions the student carried out. they can be obtained from statistical information. quantitative information in a BN is expressed through the strength of the relationships between nodes. BN enable us to © 2007 The Authors. and the arcs that connect them. Active learners do not learn much in situations that require them to be passive. depending on the problem we are modeling. Qualitative information is given by the network structure. for example) or more values. In other words. they indicate that the learning style depends on. time lines. the nodes. processing and understanding. reflective learners work better by themselves or with at most one other person. computer science students). For example. Variables can have two (true and false. We discarded the input dimension because we are currently not considering videos or simulations as part of the Web courses. and ‘style_dimension’ can take the values ‘style_one’ and ‘style_two’.

we can infer the value of any node in the network given evidence of the values taken by other nodes. In the example of Fig 1. Equation (1) reads: the probability of A given B equals the probability of B given A times the probability of A. build a network that contains the variables of interest and the relationships between these variables. then the probability of the student having ‘style_two’ is 70%.5 0. assuming we know: information about another variable B in terms of the conditional probability distribution of B given A. Then. P(A) is the probability of a student having a certain value in a style dimension (this probability can be obtained by counting the number of students having this style dimension over the total number of students observed).7 behaviour_x=not observed 0. P(B) is the probability of a student showing a particular behaviour (it can be obtained by counting number of occurrences of actions in the log file). behaviour_y) Fig 1 A simple Bayesian network. first. Through these mechanisms. the mathematical model underlying BN makes them a sound technique and enables us to make inferences about the value of a certain node given the observation of values in other nodes in the network.308 P. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .7 0. In the following subsection.5 style_dimension=style_two 0. In addition to BN’s simplicity to model different domains in terms of variables and the relationships between them. generalized versions of the Bayes’ theorem are used when trying to infer the probabilities of nodes given evidence of the values of other nodes (Pearl 1988).3 0. B in equation (1) could represent a given student To use BN we must. and the probability distribution of A alone.8 0. Bayes’ theorem yields the conditional probability distribution of a variable A.5 P(style_dimension/ behaviour_x. considering information about a set of students’ actions.6 behaviour_y=not observed 0.5 0.3 behaviour_x behaviour_y behaviour_y=observed 0. and using the model built to make inferences about this domain. we describe how we use this technique to infer students’ learning styles. assign the probability distribution to each node in the graph in order to indicate the strength of the relationships previously modeled. The use of BN implies two steps: building a BN that models the problem or domain. 70% of the times the student used the system and ‘behaviour_y’ was observed 60% of the times.2 0. behaviour_x=observed 0. we could infer the value of the node ‘style_dimension’ given evidences of a fixed value in the node ‘behaviour_x’. The CPT indicates. that if ‘behaviour_x’ is observed and ‘behaviour_y’ is not observed in a set of a student’s actions. In the ‘style_dimension’ CPT.4 style_dimension behaviour_x=observed behaviour_x=observed behaviour_x=not_ behaviour_x=not_ behaviour_y=observed behaviour_y=not_ observed observed observed behaviour_y=observed behaviour_y=not_ observed style_dimension=style_one 0. which is shown in equation (1). The mathematical model underlying BN is Bayes’ theorem. behaviour (‘behaviour_x’ for example) and A can stand for a style dimension. © 2007 The Authors. we specify the probability of the node having the values ‘style_one’ and ‘style_two’ given each possible combination of the values of ‘behaviour_x’ and ‘behaviour_y’. divided by the probability of B. for example. that is P(A|B). Then. and second. For more complex networks. Using BN to infer learning styles P ( A B) = P ( B A) P ( A) P ( B) (1) Bayes’ theorem is the key of Bayesian inference mechanisms. P(B|A) is the probability of a student showing a particular behaviour given that the student has a certain learning style (this probability can be also obtained from the information in the log file). García et al.

reads messages. • chat: participates. We model each dimension with a variable in the BN. The results the student gets in the exams while he/she is jumping over the contents give us an indication of his/her understanding style. replies messages. concrete) Number of exercises done Number of examples read Participation in forums Use of chat and mail systems Participation in collaborative/group tasks Pattern of access to information Exam results Processing Understanding In our domain. but it is not as relevant as the one we can obtain with a forum access log. reads proposal. As said before. which are recorded in students’ log files. students use this tool to propose solutions to the problem. As regards the type of reading material the student prefers. continuous. • participation: participates. Behaviours observed to detect learning styles. • messages: sends message. listens. Finally. • exercises (in relation to the amount of exercises proposed): many (more than 75%). • mail: uses. • information access: in fits and starts. • exam delivery time (considered in relation to the time assigned to the exam): less than 50%. we analyse his/her participation in forums. to make a counterproposal to a proposed solution and to read the solutions available thus far. To detect whether the student prefers to work things out alone (reflectively) or in groups (actively). Perception Time dedicated to exam revision Time it takes the student to finish and submit the exam Number of changes in exam answers Type of reading material preferred (abstract. reads message (within group task). This information is obtained by analysing the data recorded in a student’s log file. the system logs the participation of each student in the group activity. and sequential/ global. The dependencies between behaviours and learning styles that we mentioned before are encoded in the network structure. processing and understanding. none. more than 20%. a student who carefully checks the examinanitons or exercises is generally sensory. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd enable students to work collaboratively. respectively. If the student jumps through the course contents. chats and mail systems. The values these variables can take are sensory/intuitive. our Web-based education system (named SAVER) provides a collaborative facility. we consider only three dimensions of Felder’s framework. A student who reads or accesses various examples of a given topic is more sensory than one who reads just one or two. no participation. The following sentences describe in detail the different states the independent nodes can take: • forum: posts messages. The resultant network is shown in Fig 2. replies to a message or just reads the messages posted by other students. to determine how students understand. we analyse whether the student begins a discussion. variables represent the different dimensions of Felder’s learning styles and the behaviours that determine each of these dimensions. no participation. As regards forums. according to Felder. The behaviours we analyse to determine the different dimensions of learning styles are summarized in Table 2. • exam revision (considered in relation to the time assigned to the exam): less than 10%.Students’ learning styles in Web-based courses 309 Table 2. more than 75%. we can conclude that the student does not learn sequentially. Given a certain problem-solving activity. . does not use. no participation. between 10% and 20%. To © 2007 The Authors. In addition. a sensory learner prefers concrete (application-oriented) material. • reading material: concrete. few (between 25% and 75%). If the student gets a high mark in a topic despite having not read a previous topic. makes counterproposal. On the other hand. namely perception. a student who does not revise his/her exercises or exams is likely to be intuitive. while an intuitive learner usually likes abstract or theoretical texts. we analyse access patterns to information. They can also send messages to other members of the group or read messages posted by others. between 50% and 75%. With respect to the Perception dimension we can say that. The participation in chat and mails can give us some information. abstract. active/reflective. we can say that he/she does not learn sequentially but in fits and starts. • tasks: makes proposal for group task. The frequency of this participation is also important.

As new factors determine this dimension. that is. As an example. Initially. The probability functions attached to the independent nodes are adjusted to represent the new observations or experiences (Olesen et al. The third cell of the second column in the ‘Forum’table indicates that 50% of the times the student used the application he/she posted messages to the forum. the Bayesian model is continuously updated while new information about the student’s interaction with the system is obtained. With respect to the quantitative aspect of the model. Fig 2 Bayesian network modeling a student’s learning style. the major change in the enhanced BN is the reformulation of the probability function that corresponds to the Processing variable. few (between 25% and 75%). • access to examples (in relation to the number of examples proposed): many (more than 75%). the values are updated as the system gathers information about the student behaviour. García et al. a b Fig 3 Probability table for (a) ‘Forum’ and (b) CPT for ‘Understanding’ given ‘Exam Results’ and ‘Information Access’. few (between 20% and 50%). Consequently. We © 2007 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Fig 3a shows the probability values obtained for a certain student for the ‘Forum’ node. the probability that this student is a global learner is 100%. none. Then. 1992). the strength of relationships.310 P. The expert knowledge was obtained from Felder’s definition of learning styles. The model is completed by establishing the probability values associated with each node in the network. • answer changes (in relation to the number of questions or items in the exam): many (more than 50%). medium (between 4 and 7). none. For example. the second cell in the first (numbered) column indicates that if the student reads in fits and starts and he/she gets high marks in the exams. probability values for independent nodes are assigned equal values. the probability values contained in the different CPT were obtained via a combination of expert knowledge and experimental results. • exam results: high (more than 7 in a 1–10 scale). the corresponding probability function has been redefined. The final step in constructing a BN is to determine the probability values. On the other hand. Fig 3b shows the CPT for the ‘Understanding’ node. low (below 4). Our model contains 18 probability tables.

in turn. divided into a set of topics. we obtain the probability values of the learning style node given the values of independent nodes. how intuitive or sensitive a student is. Similarly. our goal is inferring the values of the nodes corresponding to the dimensions of a learning style given evidences of the student’s behaviour with the system. This scale goes from 1 to 11 for each value of a given dimension. in the ILS questionnaire. If the first probability is 75. That is. he is fairly well balanced on the two dimensions of that scale. Students were encouraged to do all their studying through the e-learning system. Each topic has reading material available that is categorized either as abstract or concrete. for example. We considered only the valid or useful logs. The system automatically marks these exercises. These computations. are done by Bayesian inference mechanisms implemented by the software we use. If the score on a scale is 9–11. We considered these learning styles as correct.3 Experimental results knowledge on the topics taught in the Web-based course. For example. the student has a moderate preference for one dimension of the scale. The results obtained in our experiments were computed by averaging the students’ behaviour in different units. Thus. in Felder’s model.1 This questionnaire determines a student’s learning style through a set of 44 questions. However. In most cases. we compared the learning style detected by the BN model against the learning style obtained with the ILS questionnaire proposed by Felder. we considered three values for each dimension: the two extreme values. Then. To determine the values experimentally. It is worth noting that the values in the CPT are equal for all students. namely Hugin.Students’ learning styles in Web-based courses 311 took into account the influence of the different factors analysed on the dimensions of the learning styles. that is. the values corresponding to independent nodes are different for different students as they represent the actions taken by a particular student and are obtained from each student’s log file. We considered a course unit or topic as the minimum observation unit. If the score on a scale is 5–7. Methodology We evaluated our approach through an Artificial Intelligence course taken by Systems Engineering students using an e-learning system named SAVER.5%. the student has a very strong preference for one dimension of the scale.5% and the second 24. The learning style of the student is the one having the greatest probability value. in combination with the expert knowledge. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd To evaluate the precision of our approach. which are based on Bayes’ theorem. each unit has a set of exercises students can optionally do to test themselves. and they can optionally have access to more examples if they need them. All the material was provided through this media. Exam Results). p(Understanding = Global/Information Access. we let these students use the education system to learn a topic of an Artificial Intelligence course. we have to compute the probability p(Understanding = Sequential). no units are mandatory within a course and no previous units are required to read a given topic. in our experimental results. Students are presented with a number of examples for a certain topic. and a neutral value corresponding to the 1–3 scores. which is a tool to determine a student’s learning style. As described earlier. Thus. a value of ‘neutral’ in a learning style dimension means that the student does not show a tendency towards one of . suppose that we want to determine whether the student learns sequentially or globally. then the student learns sequentially. However. that is p(Understanding = Sequential/ Information Access. students must submit a final exam. the author defines a scale that indicates. Each unit is.2 Information about their recorded behaviour was used to determine the conditional parameters of the BN. However. there are no prerequisites within a course. some students (3%) did not use the system properly and downloaded the material to print it and read it. and p(Understanding = Global). and recorded their interactions with the system. The log files of these students were discarded in our experiments. Exam Results). As we have mentioned before. the value of the dimension is the one with the highest probability. At the end of the course. Then. Once we have built the BN and we have determined the values of the probability tables. we gave a set of 50 Computer Science Engineering students the ILS (Index of Learning Styles) questionnaire. The students involved in the experiment had no previous © 2007 The Authors. each dimension of a learning style can take one of two possible values. as they represent the strength of relationships between different behaviours and learning styles. If a student’s score on the scale is 1–3.

37% of the students were sensitive. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . and a way of evaluating more precisely the processing dimension. The incorporation of a group task as part of the evaluation of the course is a way of forcing students to use collaborative tools. To enhance the Web-based course. With respect to perception. The population of students with respect to their learning styles (according to ILS) was as follows. Finally. LSILS ) i =1 n (2) n In the following sections. that is. we learned that to detect correctly the sequential/global dimension we have to observe students’ behaviour while working with big courses. the extreme values of the dimension considered and that he/she can learn or process information in both ways. examples and exercises. more examples and exercises. 33% neutral and 37% active. • most students did not skip units and read the material sequentially. A student showing a probability of 50%–60% of having a certain value in a dimension was considered as neutral. We also found that the inexperience of students at working with Web-based courses made them study differently from the way they usually do. The experiments were carried out during three editions of the Artificial Intelligence course. The causes of this phenomenon were: the initial Web-based course did not promote the use of chat and forum facilities. 63% in the understanding dimension. Evaluation of the initial model The first experiment was carried out in 2005 (Semester 1) with 27 users with the initial model. We assumed in our calculus that the learning style determined by the ILS questionnaire is correct. that is. Experiments with the enhanced Bayesian model Precision = ∑ sim ( LSBN . We used the formula in equation (2) to compute the precision of the technique. a collaborative tool to carry out the task mentioned before. Sim is 1 if the values obtained with the BN (LSBN) and ILS (LSILS) are equal. we discovered that we should encourage students to make use of facilities such as forums and chats in order to discover the active learners. regarding the processing dimension. Using the formula in equation (2). more topics per unit. This last percentage was computed only considering the styles that could be obtained by the BN (52% of the students). and hence our model. As said before. they did most of the exercises proposed and they read most of the examples. 30% intuitive and 33% neutral. Finally. this © 2007 The Authors. and 0. the most popular processing style was reflective. The aim of the first three changes was obtaining a more complete higher-quality course that would enable us to obtain more precise results in the understanding dimension. the extreme value with the greatest probability value was considered. and 58% in the processing dimension. we obtained a precision of 77% in the perception dimension. and students did not normally use these technologies for studying. we describe the results obtained when evaluating the Bayesian model. We found the following causes: In the first experiment. 30% of students were reflexive.312 P. 15% sequential and 48% neutral. The probability values obtained from the BN were also transformed to three values. and n is the number of students participating in the experiment. they read most of the theoretical material. 0 if they are opposite. they should carry out collaborative tasks so that we could measure their participation in group activities. We included: • • • • • more units. • most students have read the whole course. • most students made little use (or no use) of the chat. According to the initial BN. during three semesters. • many students had little or no experience at working with Web-based courses.5 if one is neutral and the other an extreme value. mail and forum facilities. As regards the understanding dimension. independently of their learning styles. 35% of the students were global. a group task as part of the evaluation of the course. In this equation. Otherwise. García et al. where the size is measured in terms of numbers of units. We further analysed the lack of information and the mismatches in this dimension by surveying the students who participated in the experiment. we applied the following changes. Moreover.

20% neutral and 17% were sequential. In the first experiment. We are aware that the number of students that took part in the experiment might be small for statistical validity. 72% in the understanding dimension and 66% in the processing dimension (computed considering 73% of the students). the number of students tested and the number of experiences recorded are higher in the first and second experiments. Consequently. With respect to the precision of the BN to infer the different dimensions. This factor influenced the way in which © 2007 The Authors. 64% neutral and 20% global. The distribution of their learning styles is as follows. Experimental results summary. The inclusion of more exercises. This increment leads to a higher precision in the detection of the learning style to which students fit in. Considering the perception dimension. Thus. Then. of examples 6 9 9 No. It also shows the precision obtained for the different dimensions. 63% of the students were global learners. of exercises 5 10 10 Processing precision (%) 58 56 66 Understanding precision (%) 63 70 72 Perception precision (%) 77 77 80 First Second Third 1 7 7 7 14 14 leads to the incorporation of new variables in the Bayesian model and new probability functions in the corresponding CPT. Experiment No. Finally. . while in the second experiment. the number of experiences registered increased in the last two experiments. The population of students’ learning styles was the following. we observe that in the Processing dimension. and hence. In addition. we observe an increase of 8% in the precision. we will revise the probability values in the CPT affecting the Processing dimension. more complete course was used during the last two experiments. 33% of the students were sensitive. 70% in the understanding dimension and 56% in the processing dimension (computed considering 98% of the students). Finally. With respect to the understanding dimension. the precision values are about 70% in the last two experiments. we conducted a third experiment during the second semester of 2006 with 30 students. 16% were sequential. we observe an increase of 3% in the Perception dimension. for future experiments. we obtained a precision of 77% in the perception dimension. 63% neutral and 30% active. and in the third experiment. Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd students read the course and used the material provided.Students’ learning styles in Web-based courses 313 Table 3. In this third experiment. considering the understanding dimension. With respect to the perception dimension. 37% active and 57% neutral. Although we did not get a considerable increase in the prediction precision in this dimension. We can observe that a more organized. 57% neutral and 10% intuitive. considering the processing dimension. of units No. number of exercises and number of examples. As regards understanding. 7% of students were reflexive. the probability values learned by the BN are not representative. it was 22. Discussion Table 3 shows the characteristics of the Artificial Intelligence course in terms of number of units. 8% of students were intuitive. The precision values for this dimension are around 80% in all the experiments. number of topics. 6% of the students were reflexive. As regards processing. We observe an increase of about 7% with respect to the initial model. if we have few experiences. of topics No. the style assigned to a student might be wrong. We carried out an experiment using the enhanced course and the new BN model during the first semester of 2006 with 49 students. the number of students whose processing dimension could be determined automatically was only 14. we obtained a precision of 80% in the perception dimension. examples and topics within the course enabled the observation of a higher number of students’ actions for the detection of these two dimensions. they have a great impact in the calculus of probabilities. We will carry out more experiments with bigger groups of students in the future. it was 48. It also enabled us to record more information about students’ behaviour. as we still experience some difficulties at detecting the active and global learners. As we explained before. Finally. 55% neutral and 37% sensitive. In this second experiment.

CS388 (Carver et al. with the aim of improving the student’s performance. 2006) have also been tested. such as the content of the student model. the type of student being modeled.hugin. neural networks are not as easily understood as BN. Related work Numerous works have addressed the problem of student modeling (see (Brusilovsky & Peylo 2003) for a review).x Please note: Blackwell Publishing are not responsible for the content or functionality of any supplementary materials supplied by the Authors.2007. 2002). Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .ncsu. IDEAL (Shang et al.engr. 119–135. 2001) uses this technique to categorize students into novice. ANDES (Gertner & VanLehn 2000) and SE-Coach (Conati et al. We are currently working on an intelligent agent that will use the information about a student’s learning style to provide him/her personalized assistance with the Web-based course. Table S3. These works can be categorized according to different characteristics. what the model is used for. Notes 1 2 http://www. the authors use BN to assess students’ state of knowledge and learning preferences in an intelligent tutoring system.00262. Conclusions and future work Web-based courses.1365-2729.com References In this article we have presented an enhanced Bayesian model to infer the learning style of students that take Allinson C. The graphic form of BN makes them more comprehensible and intuitive. Our work can be placed among those modeling psychological features of students. Our work uses BN to model a student’s learning style. BN and case-based reasoning (Peña et al. In Gamboa and Fred (2001). © 2007 The Authors.1111/j. Experimental results (First experiment). as it is hard to explain and understand the values taken by nodes in a neural network and the structure of the network. The proposed model has been evaluated during three semesters with good results. Different techniques have been used to represent student models such as rules (Jeremic & Devedzic 2004). Experimental results (Third experiment). textual). 3 http://www. perception towards the e-learning system and amount learned from observable student behaviour recorded in a log file. Any queries (other than missing material) should be directed to the Correspondence for this article. In the study by Arroyo and Woolf (2005). among others. neural networks (Villaverde et al. Although the precision obtained at detecting learning styles with this technique was good. intermediate. reading-listener. As regards BN. We will consider both providing assistance to supplement the negative aspects of the student’s learning style (for example. such as ARTHUR (Gilbert & Ham 1999) that considers three learning styles (visual-interactive. Table S2. The information obtained from these experiments not only enabled us to adjust our initial model by incorporating new variables and by adjusting the probability values in the BN. & Hayes J. but also to enhance the quality of the Web-based course improving in this way students’ learning. Journal of Management Studies 33.edu/learningstyles/ilsweb. The precision of our technique to automatically detect students’ learning styles increased for all the dimensions modeled.html Detailed information about how students used the system can be found in Experimental results section. 2002) use this technique to model students’ knowledge in Physics. the authors build a Bayesian model to detect a student’s hidden attitudes. in our research group.314 P. how the student model is updated. beginner. by suggesting intuitive learners to revise carefully the exam before handing it out) and providing assistance without intending to change the learning style. 1996) and MAS-PLANG (Peña et al. an aspect not considered in the previous Bayesian student models. Particularly. (1996) The cognitive style index: a measure of intuition analysis for organizational research. 2003) that uses the styles proposed by Honey and Mumford (Honey & Mumford 1992). This material is available as part of the online article from: DOI: 10. advanced or expert. Experimental results (Second experiment). 2002) that use Felder and Silverman styles. and the INSPIRE system (Papanikolaou et al. Supplementary material The following supplementary material is available for this article: Table S1. García et al.

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