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The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning

VIRTUAL LEARNING – VIRTUAL REALITY

www.icvl.eu/2009 www.cniv.ro/2009

ICVL 2009 Awards – Sponsored by Intel Corporation

Excellence Award "Intel®Education" – USD 1000

Special Award "Intel®Education" – USD 500

The ICVL Award is offered in recognition of ICVL papers published within in "Proceedings of the
International Conference on Virtual Learning"

ICVL and CNIV Coordinator: Dr. MARIN VLADA

The printing of Proceedings was sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Research and
Innovation, National Authority for Scientific Research, ROMANIA
Proceedings of the 4th
International Conference
On Virtual Learning

October 30 - November 1, 2009

MODELS & METHODOLOGIES, TECHNOLOGIES, SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS

, 2009
ICVL and CNIV Partners:
Grigore Albeanu, Mircea Popovici, Radu Jugureanu, Olimpius Istrate
www.icvl.eu www.cniv.ro

© Bucharest University Press


Şos. Panduri, nr. 90-92, BUCUREŞTI – 050663; Tel.Fax: 021 410.23.84
E-mail: editura@unibuc.ro
Web: www.editura.unibuc.ro

Tehnoredactare computerizată: Meri Pogonariu

ISSN: 1844-8933
MOTTOS

„The informatics/computer science re-establishes not only the


unity between the pure and the applied mathematical sciences, the
concrete technique and the concrete mathematics, but also that
between the natural sciences, the human being and the society. It
restores the concepts of the abstract and the formal and makes
peace between arts and science not only in the scientist' conscience,
but in their philosophy as well..”

Gr. C. Moisil (1906-1973)


Professor at the Faculty of Mathematics, University of Bucharest,
Member of the Romanian Academy,
Computer Pioneer Award of IEEE, 1996
http://www.icvl.eu/2006/grcmoisil

”Learning is evolution of knowledge over time”

Roger E. Bohn
Professor of Management and expert on technology management,
University of California, San Diego, USA,
Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies
http://irps.ucsd.edu/faculty/faculty-directory/roger-e-bohn.htm
GENERAL CONTENTS

About ICVL 2009 ................................................... 13

Section M&M
MODELS & METHODOLOGIES .................................................... 23

Sections TECH
TECHNOLOGIES ........................................................................ 179

Sections SOFT
SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS ............................................................. 255

Section Intel® Education


INNOVATION IN EDUCATION AND RESEARCH ............................ 329

News and Events


ICVL 2009 Web site .................................................................... 437

Authors Index ..................................................................... 443


C O N T E N T S

Paper Page
PAPER TITLE AND AUTHOR(S)
No. No.

Section Models & Methodologies


E-Learning and Educational Software. Educational Projects and
1 Experience of Implementation in Romania 25
Marin Vlada, Radu Jugureanu, Olimpius Istrate
Scientific Knowledge and Solving Problems Modelling.
2 Representation and Processing 40
Marin Vlada
Towards virtual learning grid developments
3 52
Grigore Albeanu
How to Model the Design Efficiency of the VLE?
4 60
Patrick Wessa
A model for the evaluation of learning styles design effectiveness
5 70
G. Bruno Ronsivalle, Massimo Conte
Metrics and requierements in Learning Management System
6 78
Ion Roceanu, Virgil Popescu
Mapping the Spaces of Virtual Learning Environments
7 83
Ioannis Paliokas
On line environments to enhance entrepreneurial mindsets in
young students
8 91
Allegra Mario, Fulantelli Giovanni, Gentile Manuel,
La Guardia Dario, Taibi Davide
Future of Virtual Learning Methods and User Expectations –
9 Can Present Methods Flourish Without Change? 98
Indika Perera
Learn of the Network Concepts Using Project Based Learning
10 106
Costel Aldea, Ion Florea
Computational Physics with Python
11 112
Rubin H. Landau, Cristian C. Bordeianu , Manuel J. Paez
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 9

SRoL - Web-based Resources and Tools used for e-Learning of


12 Languages and Language Technology 119
Silvia Monica Feraru, Horia-Nicolai Teodorescu
Virtual Learning, Blended Learning and Modern Foreign
13 Languages: Let’s listen to the students! 127
Nathalie Ticheler
The eLiTA (e-Learning in Textiles & Apparel) Project
14 134
Mirela Blaga, Simon Harlock
Recommender Systems for Smart Lifelong Learning
15 142
Ahmad A. Kardan, Omid R. B. Speily, Somayyeh Modaberi
A Proposed Structure for Learning Objects Using Ontology
16 for Effective Content Discovery 151
Ahmad A. Kardan, Shima Zahmatkesh
Interdisciplinary and Specialized
Programmers Used in the Practical Part of Teaching
17 a Technical Course 158

Irina-Isabella Savin, Ioana Pristavu


Research Project on Implementation of Open Distance Learning
18 Method in University Education 164
Tudor Bragaru, Ion Craciun
Knowledge Communication Programs Design
19 172
Ioan Maxim, Tiberiu Socaciu-Lendvai

Section Technologies
Java in Scientific Computation
20 An educational approach 181
Ernest Scheiber
New ways of transforming Drupal from CMS to LCMS
21 189
Liviu Beldiman, Dorin Canepa
Management of Knowledge –Base Systems in
Desktop and Mobile Learning Environments
22 195
Veronica Ştefan, Ion Roceanu, Cătălin Radu,
Ioana Stănescu, Antoniu Ştefan
e-Tutor - An Approach for Integrated e-Learning Solution
23 203
Pradipta Biswas and S. K. Ghosh
10 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

A Multilingual Virtual Environment for Shoe Design Training


24 214
M. Sahin, A. Mihai, S. Yaldiz, M. Pastina
Educational software for the simulation of virtual dynamical
systems
25 223
Puşcaşu Gheorghe, Codreş Alexandru, Codreş Bogdan
Stancu Alexandru
Development Interactive Courses of Education in Microbiology
Based on E-Learning System Applying
26 in Technical College of Yambol 231

Dineva S., Nedeva V.


Advantages of the Web-Based Training for the Increasing Quality
of Preparation and Self-Preparation of Students from the Specialty
27 “Food Technology” 239

Margarita Pehlivanova, Zlatoeli Ducheva, Snejana Dineva


Dynamics in the meaning negotiation: can online participation and
28 reification be correlated in informal settings? 247
Nicolò Antonio Piave

Section Software Solutions


Open learning resources as an opportunity for
29 the teachers of the Net Generation 257
Fulantelli Giovanni, Gentile Manuel, Taibi Davide, Allegra Mario
Applying Agent-Based Technology to
30 University Knowledge Management 265
Mihaela Oprea, Elia Petre
Differential Geometry of Surfaces with Mathcad:
31 A Virtual Learning Approach 276
Nicolae DăneŃ
Restructuring the Easy Learning On-line Platform
32 284
Radu Rădescu, Radu VelŃan, Raul Tudor
New Operating Tools in the Easy Learning On-line Platform
33 292
Radu Rădescu, Adrian Şişu, Raul Tudor
A Hybrid Recommender System for E-learning Environments
34 Based on Concept Maps and Collaborative Tagging 300
Ahmad A. Kardan, Solmaz Abbaspour, Fatemeh Hendijanifard
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 11

Ranking Concept Maps and Tags to Differentiate the Subject


35 Experts in a Collaborative E-Learning Environment 308
Ahmad A. Kardan, Fatemeh Hendijanifard, Solmaz Abbaspour
Validation of Messages in Discussion Groups Using the Learner
36 Model: An Approach to Enhance Trustworthiness 316
Ahmad A.Kardan, Mehdi Garakani, Somayeh Modaberi
Using Genetic Algorithms to Increase the Quality of University
37 Research Management 322
Florentina Alina Chircu
Section Intel® Education
Digital education usage models for the classroom of the future
38 331
Peter Hamilton, Eileen O’Duffy
Effective eLearning
39 341
Olimpius Istrate
The evolution of Learning Object repository:
Towards the Learning Object Management System
40 and dynamic use of metadata 349
Gentile Manuel, Fulantelli Giovanni,
Taibi Davide, Allegra Mario
E-portfolio and semantic web to support informal learning
41 in social network environment 357
Taibi Davide, Gentile Manuel, Fulantelli Giovanni, Allegra Mario
Integration of Multimedia in class work and lab activities
42 364
Carmen – Gabriela Bostan, Ştefan Antohe
Using data mining techniques in higher education
43 371
Elena Şuşnea
Classification techniques used in Educational System
44 376
Elena Şuşnea
Intelligent Agents as Data Mining Techniques Used in Academic
45 Environment 380
Irina Tudor, Liviu Ionita
Knowledge Exchange in an Experimental E-learning System
46 385
Iuliana Dobre
12 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

E-literature in E-learning
47 393
Zlatko Nedelko, Carmen Elena Cirnu
Discovering green energy @ portal.moisil.ro
48 401
Mihaela Garabet, Ion Neacşu
Toward A Comprehensive E-Learning Style (CELS)
49 408
Ahmad A. Kardan, Seyedeh Fatemeh Noorani
Social Network Analysis for e-assessment: reliability of formal and
50 informal social reticles 416
Nicolò Antonio Piave
Using of Suitable Software for Students Education in Clothing
51 Technology 424
Magdalena Pavlova
An Approach to the Study of Science for Young Learners
52 430
Daniela Popescu, Flavius Popescu
About ICVL 2009

ICVL Project – www.icvl.eu


2010 – TOWARDS A LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY – 2030
VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENTS FOR EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
C3VIP: "Consistency-Competence-Clarity-Vision-Innovation-Performance"

© Project Coordinator: Ph.D. Marin Vlada, University of Bucharest, Romania


Partners: Ph.D. Prof. Grigore Albeanu, Ph.D. Mircea Dorin Popovici,
Prof. Radu Jugureanu, Prof. Olimpius Istrate
Institutions: The Romanian Ministry of Education Research and Innovation,
SIVECO Romania, Intel Corporation

ICVL 2009 is held under the auspices of:


– EYCI - the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009
– The European INTUITION Consortium
– The Romanian Ministry of Education and Research
– The National Authority for Scientific Research
14 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Conference Organisation

• General Chair Dr. Marin Vlada, Professor of


Computer Science, University of Bucharest, Research
Center for Computer Science (Romania), European
INTUITION Consortium member

• Technical Programme Chair Dr. Grigore Albeanu,


Professor of Computer Science, Spiru Haret University,
Research Center for Mathematics and Informatics
(Romania)

• Associate General Chair Dr. Dorin Mircea Popovici,


Professor of Computer Science, Ovidius University of
Constanta (Romania), CERV- European Center for
Virtual Reality (France)

• Associate General Chair Prof. Radu Jugureanu, AeL


eContent Department Manager, SIVECO Romania SA,
Bucharest, Romania

• Associate General Chair Prof. Olimpius Istrate,


University of Bucharest, Romania, Education Manager,
Intel Romania Bucharest, Romania

October 30-November 1, 2009 – JASSY, ROMANIA

Location: "Gh. Asachi" Technical University of Iasi, Faculty of Electrical


Engineering, ROMANIA
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 15

Organizers: University of Bucharest, "Gh. Asachi" Technical University of Iasi,


Siveco Romania, Intel Company

Scientific Committee/Technical Programme Committee / Executive reviewers

Dr. Grigore Professor of Computer Science, Spiru Haret University,


Albeanu Research Center for Mathematics and Informatics, Romania
Professor of Electrical Engineering Fundamentals, Technical
Dr. Adrian
University "Gh. Asachi", Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Iasi,
Adascalitei
Romania
Professor of Electrical Engineering, Carinthia University of
Applied Sciences, School of Systems Engineering, Villach,
Dr. Michael E.
Austria
Auer
General Chair, ICL - Interactive Computer aided Learning,
http://www.icl-conference.org/
Research Associate Professor (INTUITION Coordinator,
Dr. Angelos http://www.intuition-eunetwork.net/), Institute of
Amditis Communication and Computer Systems, ICCS- NTUA
Microwaves and Optics Lab, ATHENS, GREECE
Professor of Applied Science (Robotics), Rutgers – The State
Dr. Grigore
University of New Jersey, Director, Human-Machine Interface
Burdea
Laboratory, CAIP Center, USA
LISYC – Laboratoire d'Informatique des Systèmes Complexes,
Dr. Pierre
CERV – Centre Européen de Réalité Virtuelle (European Center for
Chevaillier
Virtual Reality), France, European INTUITION Consortium member
Virtual Reality Applications Research Team (VIRART), School
Dr. Mirabelle of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering
D' Cruz (M3),University of Nottingham University, U.K., European
INTUITION Consortium member
Noyce Visiting Professor of Computer Science, Grinnell
Dr. Steve
College, Grinnell, Iowa 50112, USA Department of Computer
Cunningham
Science
Professor of Computer Science, Executive Editor of IJCCC,
Dr. Ioan Dzitac
Agora University,Oradea, Romania
Dr. Victor Professor of Computer Science, “Al.I. Cuza” University of Iasi,
Felea Faculty of Computer Science, Romania
16 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Dr. Horia Professor of Computer Science University of Bucharest, Faculty


Georgescu of Mathematics and Computer Science, Romania
Dr. Radu Professor of Computer Science University of Bucharest, Faculty
Gramatovici of Mathematics and Computer Science, Romania
Dr. Felix Professor of Computer Science at Armstrong Atlantic State
Hamza-Lup University, USA
Dr. Angela Romanian Academy, Institute for Artificial Intelligence
Ionita (RACAI), Deputy Director, Romania
Intel Education Manager, Bucharest, Romania
Olimpius Istrate
www.intel.com/education
Prof. Radu AeL eContent Department Manager, SIVECO Romania SA,
Jugureanu Bucharest, Romania www.siveco.ro
Dr. Bogdan Professor at University of Buchares, CREDIS Department
Logofatu Manager, Bucharest, Romania www.unibuc.ro
Dr. Jean-Pierre ISEN Brest (école d'ingénieurs généralistes des hautes
Gerval technologies), France, European INTUITION Consortium member
AFPA Direction de l'Ingénierie Unité Veille sur la Réalité
Dr. Daniel
Virtuelle MONTREUIL, European INTUITION Consortium
Mellet-d'Huart
member
Dr. Mihaela Professor in the Department of Informatics, University of Ploiesti,
Oprea Romania

Thomas Osburg Intel Education Manager, Europe www.intel.com/education

Virtual Reality Applications Research Team (VIRART)/Human


Dr. Factors Group Innovative Technology Research Centre, School
Harshada(Ash) of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering,
Patel University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, U.K.,
European INTUITION Consortium member
Professor at Computer Science Department of Western
Dr. Dana Petcu University of Timisoara, Director at Institute e-Austria
Timisoara, Romania
Professor of Computer Science, Ovidius University of
Dr. Dorin
Constanta, Romania / CERV– European Center for Virtual
Mircea Popovici
Reality (France, European INTUITION Consortium member)
Professor of Computer Science, Director of the Advanced
Dr. Ion Roceanu Distributed Learning Department, "Carol I" National Defence
University, Bucharest, Romania
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 17

Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics Lab., Department


Dr. Maria
of Computer Science, University College London, U.K.,
Roussou
European INTUITION Consortium member
CERV – Centre Européen de Réalité Virtuelle (European Center for
Dr. Ronan
Virtual Reality), Laboratoire d'Informatique des Systèmes
Querrec
Complexes, France
Professor of Computer Science, University "Politehnica" of
Dr. Luca-Dan
Bucharest, Romania and Professor at the "La Sapienza"
Serbanati
University, Italy, European INTUITION Consortium member
Professor, “Transilvania” University of Brasov, Product Design and
Dr. Doru
Robotics Department, Romania, European INTUITION
Talaba
Consortium member
Dr. Leon Professor of Computer Science, "Babes-Bolyai" University, Cluj-
Tambulea Napoca, Romania
CERV – Centre Européen de Réalité Virtuelle (European Center
Dr. Jacques for Virtual Reality), LISYC – Laboratoire d'Informatique des
Tisseau Systèmes Complexes, France, European INTUITION
Consortium member
Dr. Alexandru Professor at “Al. I. Cuza” University of Iasi, FEAA, “Al. I.
Tugui Cuza” University Iasi, Romania
Professor of Computer Science, University of Bucharest, Faculty
Dr. Marin
of Mathematics and Computer Science, Romania, European
Vlada
INTUITION Consortium member

Participate

The Conference is structured such that it will:

• provide a vision of European e-Learning and e-Training policies;


• take stock of the situation existing today;
• work towards developing a forward looking approach.

The Conference will consider the perspectives and vision of the i-2010 programme and
how this will stimulate the promotion, and development of e-Learning content, products
and services and the contribution of these to lifelong learning.

Participation is invited from researches, teachers, trainers, educational authorities,


learners, practitioners, employers, trade unions, and private sector actors and IT industry.
18 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Research papers – Major Topics

The papers describing advances in the theory and practice of Virtual Environments for
Education and Training (VEL&T), Virtual Reality (VR), Information and Knowledge
Processing (I&KP), as well as practical results and original applications. The education
category includes both the use of Web Technologies, Computer Graphics and Virtual
Reality Applications, New tools, methods, pedagogy and psychology, Case studies of
Web Technologies and Streaming Multimedia Applications in Education, experience in
preparation of courseware.

Thematic Areas / Sections

• MODELS & METHODOLOGIES (M&M)


• TECHNOLOGIES (TECH)
• SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS (SOFT)
• "Intel® Education" – Innovation in Education and Research (IntelEdu)

Objectives

2010 – Towards a Learning and Knowledge Society – 2030

At the Lisbon European Council in March 2000, Heads of State and Government set an
ambitious target for Europe to become "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-
based economy in the world" by 2010. They also placed education firmly at the top of the
political agenda, calling for education and training systems to be adapted to meet this challenge.

Relevant topics include but are not restricted to:

• National Policies and Strategies on Virtual Learning


• National Projects on Virtual Universities
• International Projects and International Collaboration on Web-based Education
• Dot-com Educational Institutions and their Impact on Traditional Universities
• Educational Portals for education and training
• Reusable Learning Objects for e-Learning and e-Training
• Testing and Assessment Issues of Web-based Education
• Academia/Industry Collaboration on Web-based Training
• Faculty Development on Web-based Education
• Funding Opportunities for Projects in Web-based Education

Learning and the use of Information and Communication Technologies (I&CT) will
be examined from a number of complementary perspectives:

• Education – supporting the development of key life skills and competences


• Research – emerging technologies and new paradigms for learning
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 19

• Social – improving social inclusion and addressing special learning needs


• Enterprise – for growth, employment and meeting the needs of industry
• Employment – lifelong learning and improving the quality of jobs
• Policy – the link between e-Learning and European / National policy imperatives
• Institutional – the reform of Europe’s education and training systems and how
I&CT can act as catalyst for change
• Industry – the changing nature of the market for learning services and the new
forms of partnership that are emerging

General Objectives

The implementation of the Information Society Technologies (IST) according to the


European Union Framework-Programme (FP6, FP7)

• The implementation of the Bologna Conference (1999) directives for the Romanian
educational system.
• The development of a Romanian Framework supporting the professional and
management initiatives of the educational community.
• The organization of the activities concerning the cooperation between the educational
system and the economical companies to find out an adequate distribution of the
human resources over the job market.
• To promote and implement the modern ideas for both the initial and continuing
education, to promote the team based working, to attract and integrate the young
graduates in the Research and Development projects, to promote and implement
IT&C for initial and adult education activities.

Particular objectives

The development of Research, projects, and software for E-Learning, Software and
Educational Management fields

• To promote and develop scientific research for e-Learning, Educational Software


and Virtual Reality
• To create a framework for a large scale introduction of the e-Learning approaches
in teaching activity.
• To assist the teaching staff and IT&C professionals in the usage of the modern
technologies for teaching both in the initial and adult education.
• To improve the cooperation among students, teachers, pedagogues, psychologists
and IT professionals in specification, design, coding, and testing of the educational
software.
• To increase the teachers' role and responsibility to design, develop and use of the
traditional technologies and IT&C approaches in a complementary fashion, both
for initial and adult education.
20 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

• To promote and develop information technologies for the teaching, management


and training activities.
• To promote and use Educational Software Packages for the initial and adult education.

Thematic Areas/Sections

Models & Methodologies (M&M):


• Innovative Teaching and Learning Technologies
• Web-based Methods and Tools in Traditional, Online Education and
Training
• Collaborative E-Learning, E-Pedagogy,
• Design and Development of Online Courseware
• Information and Knowledge Processing
• Knowledge Representation and Ontologism
• Cognitive Modelling and Intelligent systems
• Algorithms and Programming for Modelling

Technologies (TECH):
• Innovative Web-based Teaching and Learning Technologies
• Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) technologies
• Web, Virtual Reality/AR and mixed technologies
• Web-based Education (WBE), Web-based Training (WBT)
• New technologies for e-Learning, e-Training and e-Skills
• Educational Technology, Web-Lecturing Technology
• Mobile E-Learning, Communication Technology Applications
• Computer Graphics and Computational Geometry
• Intelligent Virtual Environment

Software Solutions (SOFT):


• New software environments for education & training
• Software and management for education
• Virtual Reality Applications in Web-based Education
• Computer Graphics, Web, VR/AR and mixed-based applications for
education & training, business, medicine, industry and other sciences
• Multi-agent Technology Applications in WBE and WBT
• Streaming Multimedia Applications in Learning
• Scientific Web-based Laboratories and Virtual Labs
• Software Computing in Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence
• Avatars and Intelligent Agents

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

Virtual Environments for Learning (VEL):


• New technologies for e-Learning, e-Training and e-Skills
• New software environments for education & training
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 21

• Web & Virtual Reality technologies


• Educational Technology and Web-Lecturing Technology
• Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) technologies
• Innovative Web-based Teaching and Learning Technologies
• Software and Management for Education
• Intelligent Virtual Environment

Virtual Reality (VR):


• Computer Graphics and Computational Geometry
• Algorithms and Programming for Modeling
• Web & Virtual Reality-based applications
• Graphics applications for education & training, business, medicine,
industry and other sciences
• Scientific Web-based Laboratories and Virtual Labs
• Software Computing in Virtual Reality

Knowledge Processing (KP):


• Information and Knowledge Processing
• Knowledge Representation and Ontologism
• Multi-agent Technology Applications in WBE and WBT
• Streaming Multimedia Applications in Learning
• Mobile E-Learning, Communication Technology Applications
• Cognitive Modelling, Intelligent systems
• New Software Technologies, Avatars and Intelligent Agents
• Software Computing in Artificial Intelligence

Education solution towards 21st Century challenges (IntelEDU):


• Digital Curriculum, collaborative rich-media applications, student
software, teacher software
• Improved Learning Methods, interactive and collaborative methods to
help teachers incorporate technology into their lesson plans and enable
students to learn anytime, anywhere
• Professional Development, readily available training to help teachers
acquire the necessary ICT skills
• Connectivity and Technology, group projects and improve communication
among teachers, students, parents and administrators
Section

MODELS & METHODOLOGIES

Models and Methodologies (M&M):


• Innovative Teaching and Learning Technologies
• Web-based Methods and Tools in Traditional, Online
Education and Training
• Collaborative E-Learning, E-Pedagogy,
• Design and Development of Online Courseware
• Information and Knowledge Processing
• Knowledge Representation and Ontologism
• Cognitive Modelling and Intelligent systems
• Algorithms and Programming for Modelling
E-Learning and Educational Software. Educational Projects and
Experience of Implementation in Romania

Marin Vlada1, Radu Jugureanu2, Olimpius Istrate3

(1)University of Bucharest, Research Center for Computer Science, Romania


(2) Siveco Romania, AeL eContent Department, Romania
(3) University of Bucharest, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences and Intel
Corporation
marin.vlada@g.unibuc.ro, radu.jugureanu@siveco.ro, olimpius.istrate@elearning.ro

Abstract
The responsibility for education is nowadays shared: collaborative demarches and
adequate commitment from all stakeholders is very much increasing the effects of
education as a whole, oriented towards preparing competitive human resources
equipped with competences for the 21st Century: cooperation, communication,
critical thinking, creativity, innovation. In Romania, the emergence of a knowledge-
based economy and the need to assure conditions of social inclusion to all for the
21st Century have brought into light the necessity to enhance the continuous
development of the human capital according to a lifelong learning perspective. In
these regards, innovative education strategies aiming to integrate ICT are effective
and viable when supported by several stakeholders: companies, European
institutions, NGOs, schools, teachers, education managers, parents and students
themselves. The present paper focuses on the use of ICT in Romanian education
system, using research data from several reports released in the last year.
Throughout the article, we will be paying consideration to two assumptions: firstly,
introduction of ICT helps students to have access to knowledge and to develop
competencies for the XXI Century: critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, use
of ICT; secondly, the introduction of ICT helps teachers improve the way they
educate, by employing various updated resources, by improving their methods, by
exchanging resources and ideas within larger online communities of professionals.

Keyword: E-Leanrning, educational software, knowledge society, develop competencies.

1 Introduction and Motivation


The general trend of Romanian society towards intensive use of new technologies,
generated by the need to keep up with the evolving European economy, is encouraged,
supported and pushed ahead by governmental programmes and complemented by several
European initiatives or by projects developed by private companies. “Today’s pupils took
part actively in transforming the IT labs in classrooms, redefining IT as a support for
teaching and the computer as a support for training. We are determine to involve the
pupils more and more in developing their own knowledge as well as in the process of
creating educational resources meant for future generations”, R. Jugureanu, Vision 2020
26 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

– How Pupils See the Future of Education [6]. In the United States and also in UNESCO
strategies these are referred to as the 21st Century Skills. The European Union in the
Lisbon framework outlines eight domains of Key Competences for Lifelong Learning.
These 21st Century Skills are critically important to support the challenges of the modern
work-place and the dynamic and rapidly changing knowledge society. Highly structured
and disciplined schooling systems do not necessarily prepare students well for the
dynamics and challenges of the 21st century workplace and society. More self-motivated,
individualized, group and collaborative learning processes, supported by ICT will
contribute significantly to the preparation of a more agile modern workforce.

2 IT-Based Education System in Romania (SEI Program)


One of the most effective governmental action is the SEI Programme (Sistem Educational
Informatizat – IT-Based Education System), started in 2001, aiming to equip schools with
computer labs, to train teachers in the use of ICT, and to provide educational software to
support the teaching and learning. The IT Based Educational System (SEI) is a complex
program initiated by the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation, aiming to offer
ICT support for the Romanian education system. The Program is implemented in
partnership by the state administration (RMER) and the private sector. The main
companies involved in SEI implementation are the Romanian company SIVECO
Romania SA, HP and IBM. SEI is aiming to provide all schools in Romania with
complete IT solutions for use in the teaching/learning process. Also, the SEI program
promotes ICT in education through specific projects designed both for administrative and
educational purposes. The SEI Program offers new tools for use in schools, thus
increasing the quality of the education process. It offers a substitute for expensive or
dangerous instruments and experiments by means of virtual counterparts. Within SEI
Program, the local, regional and country administration is provided with managerial and
administrative support. The main components of the solution are: Hardware (IT
laboratories); Learning, Content Management Solution (the AEL software system);
Educational software and electronic educational content; Teacher training; Internet
connectivity. AeL is an integrated Learning and Content Management System developed
by SIVECO aimed to support professors/tutors, students, content editors, administrative
staff and other stakeholders in the learning process. AEL is qualified of management and
delivery of various content types such as interactive multimedia, tutorials, exercises,
simulations, educational games etc. Its powerful knowledge base, which acts as a content
repository and management solution, adaptive, configurable and searchable, allows first-
time users to easily:
– create content (built-in HTML editor, mathematical formulae editor, test editors
and wizards, glossaries/dictionaries editor);
– import/export content from files, archives/folders of resources, standard packaging
formats like SCORM and IMS;
– adapt or modify content;
– derive their own courses from common content components.
These are the stages in the SEI implementation:
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 27

– SEI-1 (2001-2002): the pilot period – design and experimental use of the main
components, adjustments at different levels based on the data that were obtained;
– SEI-2 and SEI-3 (2003-2004): the transition period – the communication lines and
technical support were established, the general methodology for implementation
was developed and the favourable area was covered at high-school level; the
methodology for construction, approval and distribution of multimedia educational
contents;
– SEI-4 (2005-2008): period of the construction and generalisation of ICT in the
education system.

2.1 Effects of SEI program in Romania


The results of this process are presented in a synthetic form (December, 2006):
• equipment: 76,000 computers and servers; 4,780 laboratories, auxiliary equipment
included;
• IT labs at the Ministry of Education and the 42 county school inspectorates and
teacher centres;
• computers for administrative use;
• educational software in every laboratory for teaching, testing and assessment,
school management, educational content management.
The multimedia educational content distributed in each school includes 1650 lessons
for grades 5 – 8 (gimnaziu) and 9 – 12 (high-school), 8500 lesson moments for: biology,
mathematics, computer science, languages, history, geography, chemistry, physics,
technology etc.; encyclopaedias, dictionaries, glossaries. Some 25,000 high-school
teachers and 40,000 gimnaziu teachers have been trained in the use of ICT. The results of
the 4th stage speak for themselves: 3270 laboratories in schools; 42 laboratories for the
teacher centres; updates for the laboratories established in 2001; 1255 multimedia
lessons; multimedia English lessons for grades 1 - 8; 40,000 teachers included in the
training programmes.
An in-depth investigation carried out in 2008 by a group of researchers from several
institutions reveals the following aspects of the SEI Programme: (a) to what degree
different types of schools are provided with computers and other equipment, (b) students’
and teachers’ access to the new technologies, (c) to what degree these technologies are
used, (d) the impact the use of the new technologies had in the beneficiaries’ view
(managers, teachers, students), including different kinds of problems which require
interventions/ solutions, as well as human/technological/ financial resources.
Representative samples in each category of beneficiaries were returning their opinions
relevant for the entire Romanian education system: 195 school managers, 1588 teachers
and 3953 students. We can already say that the SEI Programme establishes in the
Romanian schools working practices based on 1:1 student-computer interaction model. In
time, “lessons in the SEI laboratory” will become regular lessons – as frequent as the
other lessons – where each student has access to an individual computer (Fig. 1).
With regard to the type of learning activities carried out with students, it’s relevant to
mention the average scores [Based on the average which resulting from the
transformation into a 0-1-2 scale of the ranking of activities based on their frequency
28 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

(never-rarely-often)] which are higher for diversified activities in urban schools,


especially with regard to those activities that encourage creativity and for activities which
use the Internet (Table 1).

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

0%
In a regular class,
In the SEI lab, using In a computer lab,
with computer and Other situation
AeL without AeL
videoprojector
Series2 58,70% 4,00% 12,30% 3,70%

Figure 1. Situations in which ICT is used for teaching-learning-evaluation

Total R U
Sequences when teaching and learning involve the use of
1.036 1.000 1.092
electronic lessons (for my subject)
Tasks when the students work individually using ICT 0.965 0.912 1.051
Tasks when the students work in groups using ICT 0.958 0.929 1.003
Sequences when the students learn to use computer
0.851 0.875 0.836
programmes (editing, computing, Internet browsing)
Sequences when the students use the Internet look for
0.848 0.559 1.026
information
Activities when the students are required to be creative, to
explore and to innovate, using especially ICT resources 0.816 0.682 1.028
and/or the Internet
Activities having as a result a multimedia product (a film, a
0.655 0.539 0.833
web page, a presentation)

Table 1. Types of teaching&learning activities involving the use of ICT; rural-urban


differentiation

On average, a little past half (53.1%) of the students who participate in lessons taking
place in the computer laboratory have access to an individual computer, 34.9% share a
computer with a classmate at the same time, 7.1% share a computer with other two
classmates and 1.3% work together with other three colleagues on the same computer,
and 1.7% of the students work in groups even larger on the same computer.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 29

Differences between educational levels are considerable in point of the number of


students using a computer at the same time during classes in the computer laboratory as
follows: most of the students who work alone on a computer are high-school (HSC)
students (67.8%), and only 25% are gymnazium students (Table 2).
In this situation, it is obvious that the most significant inconveniences encountered by
students during classes in the SEI laboratory are the limited time for computer use during
classes, indicated by 35% of the students, and the number of students per computer,
mentioned by 21% of the students.

Total GIM HSC


1. One student 53.1% 25.5% 67.8%
2. Two students 34.9% 54.5% 24.7%
3. Three students 7.1% 12.9% 3.8%
4. Four students 1.3% 2.0% 0.9%
5. Other: 1.7% 3.2% 1.1%
No answer 2.0% 1.9% 1.8%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Table 2. Number of students per computer

Extending the range of possibilities for using the computers available in the school to
a series of current activities carried out by teachers (Table 3), we find out that the
equipment and the Internet connection are mainly used by teachers for:
– consulting the school legislation or the news on the Internet: 54.4%
– creating worksheets for students, informative materials, sketches, assessments:
50.1%
– searching information to help them prepare the lessons – 46.4%.
At the opposite end, teachers use the new technologies least for creating educational
soft (56.9% saying they don’t use at all a computer for this activity), for communicating
with students after school hours (49.2%) or with their parents (64.7%).

Activities carried out with the use of computers Average


consulting school legislation or news on MoE website, official portals etc. 1.403
creating worksheets for students, informative materials, sketches, assessments etc. 1.384
information to prepare the lesson 1.375
teaching-learning activities in the computer laboratories 1.067
administrative activities: student records, filling-in pedagogical and psychological forms 1.015
etc.
use of educational resources (enciclopedias, picture libraries, dictionaries etc.), delivered 0.967
and installed by MoE/ school inspectorate/ Siveco Company
communication with teachers from other schools, via email, chat or the Internet 0.920
computer-based assessment tests for students 0.892
designing development projects for my school 0.755
contact with my students, outside school hours 0.549
creating educational soft 0.342
contact with my students’ parents via email or the Internet 0.291
Table 3. Types of teaching-learning activities involving the use of ICT
30 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Regarding the continuous professional development, teachers begin to see the value of
the Internet and computers for information and documentation activities, for distance
courses, for exchanges of experience, for learning computer programmes, for publication
of articles etc. The use of the new technologies for professional development looks pretty
much the same in rural and urban areas, teachers being equally aware of the opportunities
of the computerisation process.
However, we can see that the use of ICT is still at the beginning and still far away
from the quality and competitiveness promoted by the Ministry of Education and the
strategy documents and recommendations of the European Commission: in early 2008,
one in five Romanian teachers had never used the new technologies for information and
documentation purposes, and one in four teachers said they had used only once in a
semester a computer or the Internet for such activities.

Use of computers for professional Use of computers for professional


development in rural schools development in urban schools
3,7% Never
2,3%
11,9% 22,1% 14,5% Once per semester
21,0%
2 times per semester
4,7%
3,9% 3 times per semester
7,3% 5,3% 4 times per semester
5 times per semester
9,1% 9,8% M ore than 6 times
27,0% 26,2% NA
14,0%
17,0%

Figure 2. Use of computers for teachers’ professional development; rural-urban


differentiation

2.2 Effects of ICT Use in Education


Speaking about the effects of ICT use for learning-teaching-assessment, the teachers
ranked some potential benefits, from several points of view (Table 4):
With regard to teachers, ICT contributes first to the facilitation of learning objectives,
and then to the facilitation of teacher’s activity; the modernisation of the educational
process is not seen by teachers as an important argument for using ICT in designing,
teaching and assessment activities;
With regard to students, teachers consider that classes in the computer laboratory are
useful first because they facilitate students’ understanding. Then, they mentioned the
development of computer use skills, and last they pointed to the role of the new
technologies in attracting and motivating students for higher achievement;
With regard to the organisation of the education process, the benefits of ICT are seen
by teachers especially in connection with active, participative learning, as well as with
cooperative learning; the contribution of ICT to individual or personalised learning is
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 31

surprisingly ranked last, although the majority of educational applications are more
suitable for individual learning.

Average
Segment Poz Estimated effects
place
Teacher 1 facilitates the learning objectives 1.856
2 facilitates teacher’s activity (design-teaching-assessment) 1.717
3 encourages innovation/ modernisation of the teaching
process 1.585
Student 1 facilitates understanding of different phenomena 1.973
2 develops computer use skills 1.593
3 improves the learning outcomes/ attracts students, develops 1.534
interest in studying
Didactic 1 favours active, interactive, participative learning 1.787
activity 2 allows cooperative learning, develops team work abilities 1.785
3 allows individualised/ personalised learning 1.501

Table 4. Positive effects of using SEI laboratories in teachers’ view

2.3 Impact of ICT Courses on Teaching Practice


The attendance of ICT courses by teachers is equitably distributed among areas of
residence and education levels. But one third of the Romanian teachers did not attend any
course on the new technologies, which is surprising when considering the early
initiatives, projects, and programmes for the introduction of ICT in the Romanian
education system.
With regard to the usefulness of the existing training programmes (Tabel 5), when
compared to the concrete needs for classroom activities, most teachers (58.3%) think they
are appropriate for start, but the development of efficient learning activities based on the
new technologies requires direct experience and a lot of practice. 7.4% of the teachers
consider that the initial and in-service training programmes should be improved.

To what extent do you think that the initial and/or in-service training
programmes in which you participated are appropriate when considering the
practical use of computers for classroom activities?
They are appropriate in a first stage, but I still need more practice 58.3%
They are appropriate and meet the requirements of real use; I don’t need more
other courses so as I can carry out efficient learning activities with the help of 17.2%
ICT
They are inappropriate; the courses I attended are not enough for me to design
7.4%
and carry out learning activities with the help of ICT
I don’t know/ I have no opinion. 11.4%
No answer 5.7%
Total 100.0%
Table 5. Opinions on the usefulness of training programmes for the use of computers in
the classroom
32 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The introduction of more simulations and practical exercises is one way in which the
teacher training programmes (Table 6) for the use of ICT could be improved (indicated
by 10.8% of them). In addition, the organization of cyclic training activities, in phases
from simple to complex (16.4%), differentiated based on subjects or level of difficulty
(6.5%), supported by adequate teaching materials (7.7%) is considered by teachers an
initiative which would support more efficient training, with real benefits for the
improvement of pedagogical practices in the use of ICT.
Continuing to analyse the usefulness of training courses, one significant difference can
be seen between teachers who attended a specialised training programme and teachers
who didn’t attend such a programme, more teachers from the first category saying that
their use of new technologies in the classroom had a positive impact on their students –
both on highly-achieving students (83.3% compared to 64.5%) and on low achievers
(65.3% compared to 48.2%).

Has the teacher Impact:


attended an ICT Don’t know No answer
Target group positive negative none
course?
On highly- YES 83.3% 0.4% 3.4% 10.2% 2.6%
achieving
students NO 64.5% 1.2% 5.3% 21.5% 7.5%

On low- YES 65.3% 3.9% 14.4% 12.8% 3.6%


achieving
students NO 48.2% 5.2% 13.7% 23.3% 9.7%

Table 6. Teachers’ opinions on the impact ICT has on school achievement, differentiated
across student categories

There is also relevant that the no-answer rate


and the percentage of those who cannot estimate
NA
such an impact are lower among teachers who
7%
No attended ICT courses.
11% A different study, measuring the impact of a
very recently initiated teacher training programme,
reveals the extent to which innovation penetrate
the education practice. Intel Teach course
Yes
(Essentials, ver. 10, face-to-face) started to be
82% delivered in early 2008 in Romania and is aiming
to train more than 15,000 teachers in a couple of
years. More than 3,000 beneficiaries already
graduating the programme were asked about the
changes in the teaching and learning as a result of
Figure 3. ICT courses improve the the course.
way teachers use technologies in Being asked if they have used technology in
the classroom new ways with their students (Fig. 3) since they
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 33

participated in the Intel Teach training, 82% of the teachers said that they did innovate
their didactic activities.
Furthermore, participant teachers (Fig. 4) used the ICT firstly with the goal to allow
students create multimedia products (22%), then to encourage cooperative skills and
attitudes (13.7%) and to improve students’ computer skills (12.2%).
4,5% 4,5% Students learn curriculum content
Students work on basic skills (such as math and reading)
3,4%
Students express their ideas/opinions by creating multimedia products
23,3%
22,2% Students conduct research
Students gain preparation to succeed in the workforce
Students present information to an audience
5,1% Students improve their computer skills
7,1%
Students learn to work in groups
13,7% 4,7% Students learn to work independently
12,2% None of the above
3,8%
NA

Figure 4. Goal of the computer-assisted lessons held after undertaking ICT course

The roles of the teacher are extending and continuously re-defined, ICT being one of
the influencing factors (Fig. 5):
– ICT contributes to teachers’ professional development through the addition of
new competencies, useful for the activity with students.
– ICT stimulates the communication and collaborative activities within the
teachers’ community.
– ICT helps teachers in accomplishing administrative tasks they have at school.
Strongly Agree Agree No Opinion Disagree Strongly Disagree NA
100%

80%

60%

40%

20%

0%
ICT contibutes to my professional ICT stimulates the communication ICT helps me in accomplishing It would have been useful to have
development through the adition of and collaborative activities within administrative tasks I have at school. such courses within pre-service
new competencies, useful for the the teachers’ community. teacher training programme.
activity with my classes.

Figure 5. Teachers’ view upon contribution of ICT to their professional development


More than 2/3 of the teachers agree with these statements. However, it is obvious that
technologies is more and more becoming useful and effective instruments for educating
34 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

young generations, and it is a gain that most of the teachers are becoming aware of this
fact.

2.4 Excellence Awards for SEI project


The European IT Excellence 2008 awards promoted by the prestigious publication – IT
Europa, rewards annually the most efficient software solutions designed for commercial
and governmental organizations. The quality of the implementation as well as the impact
of the SEI project (The IT-based Educational System) were the main reasons for which
SIVECO Romania managed be successful in the European IT Excellence Awards 2008
Gala, receiving a new and prestigious European recognition. “The eLearning solution
provided by SIVECO Romania for the country’s Ministry of Education Research and
Youth is an excellent example of how to deploy a multimedia based content management
system tailored for a dynamic educational environment” [John Chapman, awards
organizer and Editorial Director of IT Europa]. SIVECO Romania and SANAKO
launched the Virtual Lab for science experiments. BETT 2009, the largest educational
technology exhibition, took place between the 14th and the 17th of January in London.
650 companies presented innovative solutions for the 21st century education, and the
organizers estimated that more than 30,000 visitors from all around the world visited
Olympia Hall (Fig. 2). As every year, at BETT are hosted revolutionary education
products launches. The new products encourage the use of modern technologies for
developing the education systems to better face the 21st century challenges (Fig. 6).
SIVECO Romania and SANAKO Corporation launched SANAKO Study Science Lab.

Figure 6. The Virtual Lab for science experiments – BETT 2009, London – Olympia Hall

3 Experiences of Universities
Regarding the higher education system, the level of implementation of the new learning
technologies as well as of up-to-date ICT infrastructure is quite high, mainly due to the
involvement of Romanian higher education institutions within European and international
projects in the field of technology enhanced learning, institutional development and other
related fields. Beside the know-how transfer, the higher education institutions benefit of
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 35

higher funding resources through these programmes that increased substantially the funds
received from the Romanian Government through different national programmes.
Consequently, most of the higher education institutions have set-up a Distance Education
department and some of them Technology Enhanced Education units that deal with the
implementation of the new teaching methodologies within the traditional education
activities.

CREDIS (Centre for Resources, Documentation, Information and Services for Open
Distance Learning)
The Open Distance Learning Department of the University of Bucharest was
established in 1994. It offers various distance courses, either initial, continuous or post
higher education. By the Governmental Decision 944 /29 Aug. 2002 the University of
Bucharest has 15 authorized specializations to function by distance education. The
distance education programs have comparing to the regular study program the same
curriculum, the same specialization, equivalent diplomas, all the rights of the graduates
assured by law. The distance study program offered by CREDIS provides specific
resources, individual learning tutoring, bi-directional communication and self-assessment
facilities. The new ICT used are: CD-ROM, e-books, audio-video tapes, websites, and
virtual laboratory. There is used ongoing evaluation as well as an final examination. The
elearning platform used can be found at http://portal.credis.ro

SNSPA (National School for Political and Administrative Studies)


As an example the Department of Political Sciences from SNSPA have also on
distance education program for post high education level. The admission procedure takes
into account the bachelor diploma marks as well as the results of an short interview
according to a fix number of places. It also provides tutorial facilities (speciality guiding
and coordination of the student), run by university teachers and researchers. The
curriculum is the same as for the regular study program and ends with exams accounting
a certain number of credits.
The program is flexible with regard to the dates of the exams, recognition of the
diplomas and opportunity to enter in the regular study program.
Any student may take the diploma exam provided he accomplished the required
credits from the analytical curriculum aside the students from the regular study program.

Romanian-European eUniversity
Politechnica University of Bucharest has different projects in the field of elearning. One
of the biggest impacts is the Socrates /Minerva project “Romanian-European eUniversity”
accessible at the www.reu.pub.ro/re2u. Its aim is to become a major provider of services
to universities as well as to lifelong learning communities based on the development of
state-of-the-art innovative teaching and learning methodologies and emerging ICTs.
The main challenges for the Romanian-European eUniversity in becoming alive are:
– to promote a critical and responsible use of ICT aimed at supporting the
innovation processes within the higher education system;
– to help the Romanian Higher education system to integrate itself in the European
Higher Education Area;
36 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

– opens the universities towards the outside world by promoting the collaboration
between the university and other actors in the economy and society;
– addresses the issues of access to higher education and lifelong learning by
disadvantaged target groups.
– improved quality;
– addresses the issues of organizational and economic sustainability.

ASE - Academy for Economic Studies


ASE is one of the first universities from Romania establishing a distance education
department. Yet it was mainly about the correspondence education than using modern
information and communication technologies.

Babes Bolyai University


Babes Bolyai University is also offering some academic course for graduates and
graduate education online.

Academia Online
Academia Online is a private initiative in the continuous education area, providing online
courses either for free or chargeable. Since 2003, Academia Online stands for the
Romanian model of quality elearning services, being the winner of Education Projects
section of 2004 IT&C Awards of the Government of Romania. The award, along with the
35.000 students enrolled in online continuous courses, were for several years the
Romanian barometer of interest in elearning, in the area of continuous/ adult learning.
The success of Academia Online project is considered to be the result of the close co-
operation between programmers, designers and researchers in pedagogy, as the public-
private partnership (a private company and the Institute for Education Sciences) was
exercised since the design stage.

4 Complementing and Supporting National Programs


Romania is part of global and European education initiatives which brings closer innovation,
creativity, competence and commitment, in an effort to raise the quality and the equity of
the education system and to complement the governmental steps towards developing an
authentic knowledge society.
In particular, two programs have a visible impact on the education practice,
contributing to the improvement of the classroom teaching, learning and assessment on
the new co-ordinates set up by the 21st Century: development of new competences for
future professionals, introduction of computer-assisted education, and increased
importance of non-formal learning [7,8].
One of them is the eTwinning project [1], an European initiative aimed to link
schools in order to develop collaborative projects involving students, and the other one is
Intel Teach program [2], aiming to prepare teachers to better use pedagogy and ICT to
create adequate learning situations. The two demarches complete each-other and overlap
to a certain extent, one creating the premises for hands-on activities with pupils using the
ICT and especially the Internet for collaborative activities, being based on the project-
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 37

based learning method, and the other setting-up the theoretical frame and the pedagogical
tools needed by teachers to educate in the 21st Century. The first one is a community of
schools and teachers, the second one prepare teachers to use new ICT tools to co-operate
and to develop collaborative projects with their students. Furthermore, both initiatives are
putting stress on the learner-centred approach and on the transversal competences as a
result of learning: communication and social skills, using new technologies, critical
thinking, collaboration, creativity.

eTwinning
eTwinning has an innovation and creativity dimension, addressing an area of the formal
and non-formal education at the very heart of the on-going reform, allowing
experimentation of new ways of teaching and new ways of performing traditional tasks.
Being part of Life-long Learning Programme, accompanying Comenius action, the main
aim of the eTwinning program is to facilitate communication and cooperation between
schools in EU countries, involving students in new learning activities: creation of various
colaborative educational projects with the use of ICT. So far, around 4000 Romanian
teachers, from both urban and rual areas, initiated and participated in eTwinning projects
together with colleagues from around Europe [1].
The eTwinning projects promote the use of ICT for development, allowing schools to
incorporate innovative practices with impact at students and teachers levels, but also at
institutional level. Participation to eTwinning allows pupils to learn using the new
technologies, to communicate with their peers from other countries, to aknowledge other
cultures’ elements, and to improve their competences of communication in foreign
languages. As indicated by their teachers, the students’ enjoyment and motivation to
accomplish learning tasks is significantly improving when they are involved in such
collaborative projects. The teaching methods are also diversifying, becoming more
efficient and motivating for learners, as a result of experience exchanges between
teachers within eTwinning partnerships and professional development activities. Not
least, the online twinning of schools allows the transfer of information and good practices
at institutional level, having also, in some cases, an impact at community level. As
stressed by the Romanian Minister of Education (March 2008), eTwinning initiative is a
way to capitalise upon the investment in ICT equipments for schools – the Romanian IT-
based Education System program – providing teachers proper pedagogical instruments to
develop significant learning situations for their students.

Intel Teach
The support offered by Intel programs in Romania complements the demarches of
implementing ICT in education, creating the premises for adequate education reform. The
areas of support shows the concern and the added value provided by Intel to Romanian
education system in the last years: development of education policies towards
implementing education solutions for XXI century, teacher training programmes, access
of teachers and students to reliable IT equipments, access to Internet and knowledge,
support for education process through offering pedagogical materials for teachers,
supporting Science education through participation to the International Science and
Engineering Fair (the world's largest pre-college science competition, with more than 4
38 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

million USD in awards), establishing a common arena for eLearning stakeholders:


education policy makers, researchers, teachers, education software developers, opinion
leaders [2].
Intel Teach programme was accredited by the Ministry of Education, Research and
Innovation in 2007. Implemented by SIVECO Romania and with the support of the
County Teachers’ Houses, the Teach Essentials course is run all over the country and the
Romanian teachers are part of a global initiative which trained over 6 million teachers
around the world. This coverage and impact have led Intel Teach to be called the most
successful professional development program of its kind [12].
Within this initiative, along with the continuous teacher training activities, Intel was
supporting the localisation of two significant packages of support-materials for teachers:
Designing Effective Projects and Assessing Projects. Romanian teachers have access to
pedagogical instruments, education projects templates and examples, in an extended
range of curricular domains and levels.

5 Conclusion
In Romania, the emergence of a knowledge-based economy and the need to assure
conditions of social inclusion to all for the 21st Century have brought into light the
necessity to enhance the continuous development of the human capital according to a
lifelong learning perspective. In these regards, innovative education strategies aiming to
integrate ICT are effective and viable when supported by several stakeholders:
companies, European institutions, NGOs, schools, teachers, education managers, parents
and students themselves.

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Vlada, Marin, Adascalitei, A. and Jugureanu, R. (2009) Trends of eLearning: Learning - Knowledge -
Development. In eLSE 2009 - The 5th International Scientific Conference ”eLearning and Software for
Education”, BUCHAREST, April 09-10, 2009, "Carol I" National Defense University, Romania,
Available Online: http://adl.unap.ro/else2009/index.php
Scientific Knowledge and Solving Problems
Modelling, Representation and Processing
Marin Vlada

University of Bucharest, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science,


14 Academiei Street, RO-010014, Romania
E-Mail: vlada@fmi.unibuc.ro

Abstract
This article presents several important topics that show the importance of
knowledge and solving problems in the development of scientific knowledge. At
present the scientific and technical development, solving problems in a different
field (math, science, physics, chemistry etc.) is a creative activity, by building a
reasoning, generation, describing the following activities: demonstration process
(deduction and reasoning) to show the existence of a solution or several solutions
and / or to determine the exact effective solutions; computational process
(algorithm) to codify a demonstration, a method or technique to solve in order to
determine (possibly approximate) exact solutions. In the problem-solving processes
require demonstrative thinking, a algorithms thinking. From the methodological
point of view, we need to recast usual problems explicitly and properly resolve their
mathematical. If the computer should use to develop algorithmic methods. In both
cases you must know the limits of thinking demonstration. You should also know the
limits of performance computing and algorithmic thinking. Every science is based
on the theories, theorems (laws) and hypotheses that have been identified, studied
and demonstrated by the strengthening, development and evolution in time of
sciences. The article presents the problem of Gauss and Green theorem used to
calculate the area of any polygon. Finally, we propose the following meta-model:
problem solution = modelling + processing; modelling = knowledge +
representation; processing = language + interpretation.

Keywords: Mathematical Models, Algorithmically Method, Computer Graphics,


Gauss’s Problem, Green's Theorem

1 Introduction and Literature


Today, Computer Science (Informatics) is among exact sciences along with mathematics,
physics and chemistry. If in 70 years at the university level, there were several disciplines
own science, today there are complex areas of computer science: Programming and
Software Engineering, Computer Networks and Computing, Databases and information
systems, programming and Web development, computer graphics and reality virtual,
computational geometry, modelling and simulation, parallel and distributed Computing,
artificial intelligence and expert systems, knowledge engineering (Vlada, 2005; Vlada
and ługui, 2006). A major requirement of today’s knowledge society makes the
educational systems of countries to be in a high dynamic. Change theories, disciplines,
specializations, skills, and even in the sciences are constantly changing.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 41

Today, one can say with certainty that the Mathematics and Computer Science are
scientists who have contributed to a rapidly developing Information and Communication
Technologies (ICT), in addition to other sciences and areas: Automation, Electronics,
Electrical Engineering, Telecommunications etc. Information technology is the
technology required for processing, in particular electronic computers use to convert,
process and transmit information. Therefore, the computer is only device that theoretical
concepts are implemented. Professor Edsger Dijkstra said: "In Informatics you have to do
with the computer, as you with the telescope in astronomy." Informatics expression is a
word that comes from the word alignment Information and Mathematics.
Computer Science history proceeding the time of occurrence digital computer. Before
1920, the term "computer" referred to a person who performed calculations (an official).
The first researchers in what was to be called Computer Science, such as Kurt Gödel,
Alonzo Church and Alan Turing, were interested in the computational problem.
Computer Science (Informatics) is characterized by the most spectacular evolutions of the
impact on human activity. Computer (Computer System) includes technologies of which
man has never dreamt. Although at the beginning the use of computer was regarded with
reservation, nowadays most of the people are convinced by the performance and utility of
computer in all activities.
At present the scientific and technical development, solving problems in a different
field (math, science, physics, chemistry etc.) is a creative activity, by building a
reasoning, generation, describing the following activities: demonstration process
(deduction and reasoning) and computational process (algorithm). Today, the specialists
working in a certain field face different complex problems, many of these requiring the
use of computer and software products.

2 Mathematics and Computer Science


Mathematics is the oldest of the exact sciences and Informatics has emerged and
developed as a science in the second half of the 20th century (after 1960, when already
emerged modern computer - designed for Hungarian mathematician John von Neumann
(1903-1957) and develop theories, methods and techniques of data processing /
information), being the newest. And today's report is recognized on John von Neumann's
EDVAC Report 1945 (von Neumann, 1945), EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable
Automatic Computer) is one of the first electronic computers that utilized the binary
system that first began performing basic tasks in 1951 (von Neumann, access 2009).
World in those years for pioneering the field of IT and computer use, and Romania has
made an important contribution by the school of logic and data created by Romanian
mathematician Grigore C. Moisil (1906-1973). Professor Gr. C. Moisil had outstanding
contributions to the development of Informatics in Romania and in the formation of the
first generation of informaticians. He had a contribution to the introduction and use of the
first electronic computing machine in our country. Particularly valuable are the
contributions made by Grigore C. Moisil the algebraic theory of automatic mechanisms.
He developed new methods of analysis and synthesis of finite automatic and structural
theory of them. He entered algebras called him lukasiewicziene trivalent and polyvalent
42 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

(known today-Moisil Lukasiewicz algebras) and it has used in the study of logic and
circuit switching (Vlada, 2005; Vlada and ługui, 2006). For these contributions, post-
mortem in 1996, Gr C. Moisil (O’Connor and Robertson, 2009) received the Computer
Pioneer Award of IEEE (received award for his work "For polyvalent logic switching
circuits."). The example provided by Moisil was followed by generations of
mathematicians and informaticians contributions that have internationally recognized,
both in scientific research and the use of computers for the overall development of the
Romanian society and international.

2.1 Mathematics and scientific method


The word "mathematics" comes from the Greek µάθηµα (máthema) which means
"science, knowledge or learning"; µαθηµατικός (mathematikós) means "one who likes
learning”. The terms "model", "hypothesis", "theory" and "theorem" has other meanings
in science than in the usual language. Scientists use the term "model" to express the
description of something, specifically something that can be used to make predictions that
can be tested by experiment or observation. In the modern sense, mathematics is the
investigation of structures defined in an abstract axiomatic using formal logic. Investigate
the structures of mathematics often have their roots in natural sciences, often in physics.
Mathematics and investigates and defines the structure and its own theories, in particular
to synthesize and unify multiple fields in mathematical theory, single, a method that
facilitates generally generic methods of calculation. Mathematics is generally defined as
the science which studies the patterns of structure, operations in time and space.
The most important function of mathematics in science is the role that is the
expression of scientific models. Processes of observation and grouping the results of
experiments, creating assumptions and predictions often require mathematical models.
Branches of mathematics most often used in science include the calculation and statistics,
although almost every branch of mathematics has applications, even areas "pure" such as
number theory and topology. Mathematical models are based on scientific methods.
Mathematical models can take many forms, including but not limited to dynamical
systems, statistical models, differential equations, graphs, theoretic models etc.
These and other types of models can overlap, with a given model involving a variety
of abstract structures. Mathematical models are used not only in the natural sciences and
engineering disciplines (such as physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, meteorology,
and engineering) but also in the social sciences (such as economics, psychology,
sociology and political science); physicists, engineers, computer scientists, and
economists use mathematical models most extensively.
Grigore C. Moisil say "All what is correct thinking is either mathematics or feasible
to be transposed in a mathematical model".
“Sciences are models and virtual representations of knowledge” (Vlada, 2008a).

2.2 Computer Science and solving problems


Competence and experience in solving problems using computer can be permanent only
if it is the dependency System Computer-Algorithmic-Programming, and if efforts are
undertaken to acquire new knowledge and knowledge of all relevant aspects of the
physical and virtual model. The entire research and development of software in the field
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 43

of Information Technology is determined by the invention, design, development, testing,


and implementation of useful algorithms and performance.
Wide variety of algorithms and their great applicability in all fields, makes the subject
is always present and in a continuous change and improvement. In essence, solving a
problem is expressed by the encoding of universe problem and the reasoning for
demonstration (Vlada, 2005; Vlada and ługui, 2006). Stages of solving a problem with
the computer: the problem, mathematical model, algorithm, program, computer, results
and verification solutions [Fig. 1].

Fig. 1 The evolution modelling in solving problems

The performance of IT developer is determined by experience and expertise gained in


conducting the two stages (ANALYSIS, PROGRAMMING):
• object thinking stage (ANALYSIS / Projection) - method of analysis and
description of the problem by defining the correct objects, the types of objects,
relationships between objects and specific operators (UAP development, stage
design and analysis-design);
• algorithmic thinking stage (PROGRAMMING / execution) - the choice and
proper application methods of solving the exact specification of the operators of
processing objects, the correct representation of algorithmic strategies, codified
representation of objects and processing according to a programming language
(and algorithm development program; stage programming - coding
implementation and enforcement).
„Natural environments are ruled by languages. Computer Science use artificial
languages. Languages exist therefore, not for communication purposes alone, but
particularly for knowledge.” (Vlada, 2005)
Practice solving problems using computer (programming languages or specialized
software) resulted in time, various approaches based PC performance. It also depends on
44 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

the methods and techniques on implementing advanced solution. Addressing a theoretical


problem solving does not guarantee its practice with the computer, and vice versa. We
illustrate this in the next section.
Language of knowledge (Vlada and Sarah Nica, 2009):
• Natural languages (the languages of the peoples) - "entity"=word; lexical
constructions describe states, images, actions, etc.
• Languages of sciences (used in the fields of science: mathematics, physics,
chemistry, economics, etc.) - "entity"= knowledge/meet; study of objects and
relationships between objects in the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry,
computer science, biology, economics, etc.
• Artificial languages (used computer) consisting of
 Procedural Programming languages - "entity" =memory location
 Functional Programming Languages - "entity" = item list
 Logic Programming Languages - "entity "= object, clause
 Object Oriented Programming - "entity" = object
 Web Programming Languages - "entity" = web/multimedia elements
 Languages for Databases - "entity" = registration
 Languages for Computer graphics - "entity" = graphics object
 Languages for Modeling-Simulation - "entity "= event
 Languages for Operating Systems- "entity" = process/ task
 Languages for Artificial Intelligence - "entity" = object/ knowledge
Definition. A language of knowledge is virtual system/logical
L = ( V, Sin, Sem, O, C, T, Tc),
where
V = vocabulary / alphabet, Sin = syntax (rules), Sem = semantics (rules), O = objects,
C = concepts / terms, T = theories / methods / techniques to solve, Tc = treasury of
knowledge (knowledge base). (Vlada, 2005)
Using computers in language led to the conclusion that they are effectively used for
processing, not only for communication. Develop programs to solve problems with a
computer led to the development and evolution of all sciences. In most countries,
research programs, development and innovation are the number of increasingly large and
the results are not expected leave. Meanwhile, continuous improvement, knowledge and
use of new knowledge in the field of activity should be the major goal of each specialist.
They demonstrate that the necessary knowledge and experience to achieve consistent
results on various topics of research and development. Also bring important arguments
concerning the modelling, representation and processing, all contributing to the
performance of technologies.

3 Gauss’s problem solved by a computer


Karl Friedrich GAUSS (177-1855) is world’s most famous mathematicians. The German
mathematician Karl Friedrich Gauss made outstanding contributions to both pure (studied
for its own sake) and applied (studied in order to solve specific problems) mathematics.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 45

Gauss’s Problem.
A vessel containing 2000 liters of liquid with a concentration 80% alcohol. Every day
removed from 15-liter vessel and replaced with another 12 liters of a liquid whose
alcohol concentration is only 40%. After how many days the liquid in the vessel reaches
50% ?

Apparently, as set out is a simple problem. This is interesting in terms of resolving


them, as was mentioned at the time of Gauss. Solving the problem is not obvious, as will
be seen in what follows. From mathematical point of view, solving requires notions and
concepts of higher mathematics in functional equations (equations with finite differences
of order scratchy). The problem was solved by W. LOREY (1935) and A. WALTHER
(1936) by two scientific articles. From the numerical problem requires specific
knowledge of numerical methods to solving equations with finite differences. W. LOREY
used a machine to solve the numerical calculation of the difference equations (the
solution is obtained after a considerable number of iterations). To make comparison
between algorithmic solutions obtained computer and analytical solution (mathematical
method), we present brief time resolve A. Walther.

Solving mathematics (Mathematical method)


We will do the following:
a - the quantity of liquid (in liters) contained initially in the vessel;
b - the quantity of liquid that is removed daily from the vessel;
c - the amount of liquid that is added daily vessel;
y0 - the amount of alcohol per liter (the concentration of alcohol) a liquid vessel at
the time of the initially ;
yp - the amount of alcohol per liter of liquid that is added;
yf - the amount of alcohol per liter of liquid in the vessel, at the end;
x - number of days (operations fluid replacement);
y (x) - the amount of alcohol per liter of fluid from vessel operations after x
replacement fluid.

Obtain the following functional equation:


( a - bx + cx ) y(x) - ( a - bx + c(x-1) ) y(x-1) = c yp
General solution is
Γ (( a − b ) /( b − c )) Γ ( a /( b − c ) − x )
y(x) = yp + (y0 - yp) Γ ( a /( b − c )) Γ (( a − c ) /( b − c ) − x ) ,
where Γ(x) is Euler’s function:

Γ ( x ) = ∫ e − t t x −1dt .
0
In the case a = 2000, b = 15, c = 12, y0 = 0.8, yp = 0.4, y (x) is a polynomial of degree
IV:
3x 3x 3x 3x
y(x) = 0.4 + 0.4(1− )(1− )(1− )(1− )
1988 1991 1994 1997
46 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

By approximation is concluded that the y (194) = 0.5004515, y (195) = 0.4995996, so


after x = 195 days to get to the concentration yf =0.5.

Solving using computer (Algorithmics method )


In addition we use the following variables:
z - the quantity of alcohol in the vessel at a time;
t - the quantity of liquid in the vessel at a time;
y0 - the concentration of alcohol in the vessel at a time.

algorithm Gauss;
int x;
float a,b,c,y0,yp,yf,z,t;

begin // main
read a,b,c ; //liquid quantities
read y0,yp,yf; //concentrations
// initializations
x←1; z←(a-b)*y0+c*yp; t←a-b+c
while yf < z/t do
begin
x←x+1; y0← z/t; //concentration
z←(t-b)*y0+c*yp; t←t-b+c;
end
write x; // solution
end

Execution by the computer program we tested for the following:

a y0-final x (days)
2000 0.5004515 195
5000 0.5001438 488
10000 0.5000983 976
100000 0.5000064 9763
Table 1. Solutions of program: some cases

4 Computer Science and Computational Geometry

"A picture is worth ten thousand as the words" (Chinese proverb)

“The book of nature is written in the characters of geometry” (Galileo)

The term Computer Graphics has several meanings:


• the digital images so produced;
• the representation and manipulation of pictorial data by a computer;
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 47

• the various technologies used to create and manipulate such pictorial data;
• the sub-field of computer science, which studies methods for digitally synthesizing
and manipulating visual content.
The field of computer graphics developed with the emergence of computer graphics
hardware. In 1953 has invented the graphical display (Graphic Display) and so switched
to a new stage in the development and spread of the computer. Possibility of modeling the
spatial output (OUTPUT device) could not be achieved by using only bits of memory.
Early projects like the Whirlwind (The Whirlwind computer was developed at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the project's budget was $1 million a year)
introduced the CRT (cathode ray tube) as a viable display and interaction interface and
introduced the light pen as an input device. A light pen could be used to draw sketches on
the computer using Ivan Sutherland's revolutionary (1963, PhD thesis) Sketchpad
software (Sketchpad is considered to be the ancestor of modern Computer-Aided Drafting
(CAD) programs).
At first graphical representations made on paper using characters (letters and numbers)
for images. A plotter is a vector graphics-printing device to print graphical plots that
connects to a computer. Graphical representations using character (numeric or
alphanumeric) was not a solution to achieve a faithful representation of real objects. The
period 1960-1980 after it was invented hardware support; it took research and
experiments, models, algorithms and software to use the lighting of a "pixel" (indivisible
unit graphics provide a graphical display). Computer displays are made up from small
dots called pixels. The word "pixel" was first published in 1965 by Frederic C.
Billingsley. Each pixel intensity and colour offering, and their crowd formed a structure
of graphic representation (resolution). The intensity of each pixel is variable. This
structure is in computer science, which is the calculation in mathematical analysis
(Newton, Riemann, Darboux, Leibniz, etc.). System division (discrete process) from the
calculation is entirely analogous to the resolution (pixel matrix) provided a graphic
display (Vlada 2008; Vlada, Posea, Nistor, Constantinescu, 1992). From that moment was
born on Computer Graphics (2D and 3D): drawing a straight segment (Bresenham
algorithm), and drawing the circle ellipse, drawing curves and approximation, algorithms
for clipping (algorithm Cohen - Sutherland, Hodgman algorithm-Sutherland, Weiler-
Atherton algorithm) techniques for 2D and 3D, models of illumination and reflection,
raster graphics, vector graphics, texture techniques. Thus were laid the foundations for
integrated software solutions and hardware for design, analysis and computer-aided
manufacturing (CAD / CAM / CAE). By involving computer use in solving problems in
many areas have been defined and solved various requirements and projects in the past
were unthinkable.
Road open Computer Graphics was continued for Computational Geometry: polygonal
domains, spatial orientation problems and algorithms, triangulation, covering convex 2D
and 3D (Quick Hull algorithm, Graham algorithm, the algorithm Jarfis involution, Chan's
algorithm), monotonous polygons, Voronoi Diagrams (Fortune algorithm), Delaunay
triangulation algorithm, Graph visibility, Dijkstra's algorithm, problems and intersection
algorithms, dynamic movement of objects in space, causing the points belonging to a
domain (O'Rourke, 1998; Goodman and O'Rourke, 2004).
48 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

NOTE: The Jordan Curve Theorem for Polygons.


Any simple closed curve C divides the points of the plane not on C into two distinct
domains (with no points in common) of which C is the common boundary. We shall take
the case where C is a closed polygon P. The proof given by Camille Jordan (1838 -1922)
he was quite complicated and it turned out to be invalid (Hales, 2007). A demonstration
of the theorem is given in “Computational Geometry Student Projects - 1997”
(Toussaint, 1997; CGAL , 2009; Davis, 2006; Goodman and O'Rourke, 2004).

4.1 Green's Theorem and area of a polygon


"Imagination is more important than knowledge" Albert Einstein
"The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms." Socrates

George Green (1793-1841) English mathematician and physicist is known for its
contributions through mathematical analysis with applications in the theory of electricity
and magnetism. (“An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories
of Electricity and Magnetism”, George Green, 1828).

Green's theorem gives the relationship between a line integral around a simple closed
curve C and a double integral over the plane region D ⊆ R2 bounded by C. In a cartesian
system of axes XOY is considered domain D ⊆ R2 which has the border curve C (D be the
region bounded by C) consists of the meeting closed curves C1, C2, C3, C4 (where C2
and C4 are vertical lines).
The curve C1 is given by parametric equations: x = x, y = g1(x), a ≤ x ≤ b.
The curve C3 is given by parametric equations: x = x, y = g2(x), a ≤ x ≤ b.
It is considered L and M are functions (class C1) of (x, y) defined on an open region
containing D and have continuous partial derivatives. Define
D = {( x, y ) | a ≤ x ≤ b, g1 ( x) ≤ y ≤ g 2 ( x)}
where g1(x) and g2(x) are continuous functions on [a,b].
Green's formula establishes the relationship between curves integral and double integral.

Green's formula is given by

In physics, Green's theorem is mostly used to solve two-dimensional flow integrals,


stating that the sum of fluid outflows at any point inside a volume is equal to the total
outflow summed about an enclosing area.

Green's theorem for path of class C1


Let a plane region D ⊆ R2 bounded by C, where C = FrD =Im γ , γ is path of class C1,
γ : [a, b] → R 2 , γ (t ) = ( x(t ), y (t )) , a ≤ t ≤ b.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 49

Theorem 1.
If a plane region D ⊆ R2 bounded by γ , where γ is path of class C1 and FrD =
Im γ ,
1
2 ∫γ ∫∫
m( D ) = ( xdy − ydx) ≡ dxdy ,
D

where m(D) is Jordan measure (area of D).

Proof. Because the assumptions are valid Green theorem, mainly considering L(x,y)=
- y/2, M(x,y)= x/2 and apply Green’s theorem.

Green's theorem for polygons

Theorem 2.
If a plane region D ⊆ R2 bounded by γ , where γ is path of class C1 upon portions
and FrD = Im γ , then
γ = γ 1 ∪ γ 2 ∪ ... ∪ γ n ⇒
1
1 n
m( D ) = ∑ ∫ ( xdy − ydx ) ,
2 i =1 0
where γ is path of class C1 upon portions, and m(D) is Jordan measure (area of D).
Proof.
Let γ : [0,1] → R 2 , 0 ≤ t ≤ 1 and
γ i : [0,1] → R 2
 ,1≤i≤n
γ i (t ) = ( x(t ), y (t ))
Using γ = γ 1 ∪ γ 2 ∪ ... ∪ γ n ⇒
1 1 n
m( D) =
2 ∫γ
( xdy − ydx) = ∑ ( xdy − ydx) .
2 i =0 γ∫i
Corolary.
Let the polygon line P=P1…Pn, Pi(xi, yi), 1 ≤ i ≤ n, then area of polygon P is
1 n xi yi
S= ∑
2 i =1 x i +1 y i +1
,

where xn+1=x1, yn+1=y1.


Proof.
To see Theorem 2, consider plane region D ⊆ R2 bounded by P = FrD .
Using the bijective application between the real segments [0,1] and [a,b], given by
φ(t) = a + t(b-a). The polygon line is modeled using the reunion of the γi paths
parametrically represented as follows:
γ i : [0,1] → R 2 , γ i (t ) = ( x (t ), y (t )) , 1 ≤ i ≤ n,
50 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

whereas
x(t) = xi + t (xi+1 - xi), y(t) = yi + t (yi+1 - yi), 1 ≤ i ≤ n-1
noting that for the last path, γn parametric equations are
x(t) = xn + t (x1 – xn), y(t) = yn + t (y1 – yn).

Note. Another formula for the area of any polygon:


1 n
S= ∑ ( xi + xi +1) ⋅ ( y i +1 − y i) (Davis, 2006; Vlada, 1992)
2 i =1

5 Conclusions
Languages exist therefore, not for communication purposes alone, but particularly for
knowledge. Develop programs to solve problems with a computer led to the development
and evolution of all sciences. Results and performance obtained through the use of
computers have boosted the development of all sciences. Today, information and
knowledge are represented differently, shaped and processed. Also, troubleshooting took
new dimensions through the use of algorithmic methods. Many issues would have
remained unsolved if not using the methods and performance offered by computer. The
concepts of language and algorithm were reviewed. Were invented artificial languages
used by computer. These languages are not only used to communicate information, but
also for processing information and knowledge. Today, all benefit from this science
invention. Weight consists of representation and interpretation. Therefore, scientists need
to think both in natural environments, but also in virtual environments.
According to the above considerations we conclude with the followingremarks:
1) Problem solving is based on models of knowledge representation and processing
paradigms;
2) Processing can be described using some language under a specific interpretation.
Finally, we propose the following meta-model:
• PROBLEM SOLUTION = MODELLING + PROCESSING
• MODELLING = KNOWLEDGE + REPRESENTATION
• PROCESSING = LANGUAGE + INTERPRETATION

6 Acknowledgement
The author would like to express their gratitude to Prof. Grigore Albeanu for their
invaluable input and suggestions in this research.

REFERENCES

CGAL (2009): Computational Geometry Algorithms Library, Open Project, http://www.cgal.org/, access may
2009
Davis, T (2006).: Practical calculation of Polygonal Areas, http://www.geometer.org/ mathcircles/
polyarea.pdf, access 2009.
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Goodman, J.E. and O'Rourke, J. (eds) (2004): Handbook of Discrete and Computational Geometry (2nd
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Knowledge Management, http://academic-conferences.org/
Towards virtual learning grid developments
Grigore Albeanu

Spiru Haret University


13, Ion Ghica Str., Bucharest, RO-030045, ROMANIA
E-mail: g.albeanu.mi@spiruharet.ro

Abstract
Virtual learning has opened new vistas in meta-information handling. Large
collections of portfolios and e-books, large communities of e-people and processes
over widespread virtual campuses impose a new management strategy. The most
appropriate solution for a global university is to use a grid architecture based on
distributed warehouses in order to use its distributed processing power. This paper
describes the state of the art in grid computing methodologies and reviews grid
models to support the global university paradigm.

Keywords: virtual learning, interoperability, grid computing, global university

1 Introduction
Virtual learning becomes an important topic not only for business entities, but also for
academic institutions and for researchers. Recently, a great interest in using advanced
ICT methodologies like grid computing proved the validity of the globalisation theory
related to business, research and education.
According to (Albeanu, 2007), virtual learning “is a subset of technology-based
learning using Virtual Reality Technologies or/and Virtual Environments”. Virtual reality
applications for education ask for powerful computing resources, mainly for simulation
and visualization. A solution for managing costs consists of using the grid paradigm.
Created by UNESCO, the United Nations University, and the Technical University of
Catalonia, in 1999, the Global University Network for Innovation - GUNI is composed of
the UNESCO Chairs in Higher Education, higher education institutions, research centres
and networks related to innovation and the social commitment of higher education”,
according to GUNI. This is an idea to think about a global university. Another thought
comes from distance learning based on ICT methodologies. Finally, an entrepreneurial
characteristic of the global university should be considered due to the current nature of
globalisation phenomena in business, research and education.
There are universities which already added the slogan “global university”. Only one
search using the global searching machine will identify them. However, in our opinion, a
global university represents more when taking into account a global infrastructure, not
only based on some internet services offered by one server or a cluster of servers.
The aim of this paper is to describe the state of the art in grid computing methodologies
suitable for developing powerful virtual learning applications for global universities.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 53

The presentation is organised as follows. The second section is a review on current


grid computing methodologies used both for research and e-learning.
A grid computing based model of the infrastructure of the global university is
described in the third section. A distributed infrastructure as considered by (Berman et al.,
2003) is used to solve the problems of interoperability, scalability, reliability and
availability, to mention only some quality attributes of such a solution.
Finally, a set of concluding remarks will be outlined in the fourth section.

2 Grid computing methodologies


The grid concept was defined by (Foster & Kesselman, 1998) as the “controlled and
coordinated resource sharing and problem solving in dynamic, multi-institutional virtual
organizations”. Considering the references (Ferreira et al, 2003) and (Jacob et al, 2005),
“a grid is a collection of machines, sometimes referred to as nodes, resources, members,
donors, clients, hosts, engines, and many other such terms”, being seen as a virtual
computer, where “individual users (or client applications) gain access to computing
resources (processors, storage, data, applications, and so on) as needed with little or no
knowledge of where those resources are located or what the underlying technologies,
hardware, operating system, and so on are”. Other debates related to definitions, grid
architecture requirements, and generations of grid systems can be found in (Berman et al,
2003).
When an organization will develop a large scale application, as virtual learning
projects for global universities, the grid characteristics of infrastructure, methodologies
and a best understanding of the computing power, type of systems’ coupling and
interoperability standards are very important.
According to (Jacob et al, 2005), the benefits of grid computing are: 1) reducing time
processing by running the application on an idle machine from the network, or using a set
of machines available in the grid for parallel/distributed processing by scalability – a
measure of the efficiency of the multiple processors usage on a grid; 2) the unused
storage capacity can be aggregated, using the data grid concept (a larger virtual data
store), in order to improve the performance of the system; 3) the virtualization of
resources (files, specialized devices, software, services, licences, etc.) improves the
interoperability among heterogeneous grid users; 4) the virtualization of organizations,
the building of virtual communities of users improves the sharing and balancing of
resources and asks for special security rules; 5) the automatic computing approach is used
by grid systems, that means the “grid management software can automatically resubmit
jobs to other machines on the grid when a failure is detected”, in order to increase the
service availability, or “multiple copies of important jobs can be run on different
machines throughout the grid”, for assuring an increased level of fault tolerance and
reliability; 6) the maintenance actions of the machines does not decrease the service
availability, and a dynamic resource management of the shared resources will assure the
needs of running applications; 7) grid computing makes use of “an evolving set of open
standards for Web services and interfaces”.
The data grid capacity is increased dynamically by usage the storage of the multiple
machines based on a unified file system like: NFS (Network File System), DFS
54 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

(Distributed File System), GPFS (General Parallel File System), AFS (Andrew File
System), or the generic GFS (Grid File System) assuring distributed replication, and
distributed data request/fulfilment.
Depending on the grid size, the implementation can use the cluster approach (the
machines have the same architecture and operating system), the intragrid solution
(heterogeneous machines but a networked file system; for single organizations, no partner
integration support, a single cluster, with a static set of resources), and the intergrid
approach (intragrids are extended with dedicated grid machines and dedicated
communications’ connections; providing support for many organizations, multiple
partners, and based on many multiple clusters). As already established by scientists, and
stated in the IBM Red Book, written by Jacob et al (2005), “the primary characteristics of
an intragrid are a single security provider, bandwidth on the private network is high and
always available, and there is a single environment within a single network”.
An intermediate grid architecture model is called the extragrid. An extragrid brings
together two or more intragrids, and involves more than one security provider. Following
(Jacobs et al, 2005), “the primary characteristics of an extragrid are dispersed security,
multiple organizations, and remote/Wide Area Network connectivity”.
Any application asking for peer-to-peer computing, serving a collaborative
computing community, or based on end-to-end processes will be designed in the
framework of an intergrid architecture. This is the case of global universities or networks
of universities virtual learning solutions.
A particular machine can be enrolled in the grid by installing the grid software and
declaring the machine role (passive or donor). As (Jacob et al, 2005) mentioned, the
enrolling requires authentication for user/machine. Logging onto the grid depends on the
grid solution adopted (ID, grid login, proxy login); once logged on, the user can sent
different queries (grid status, the submitted jobs’ status, etc), and can submit jobs. A
possible software solution is GSI-OpenSSH being also used to remotely create a shell on
a remote system to run scripts or sent shell commands interactively. The grid application
developer will use special functions provided by the grid system software application
programming interfaces in order to automate the monitoring and recovery from fail of
subjobs (processes, threads).
A special grid user is the administrator with special tasks in managing the grid: grid
configuration, software customization, the members’ management, controlling the rights
of the users/machines, removing the users/machines, communication with the
administrator of the donor machine (about user ID, software, access rights, policy
restrictions, etc.), setting permissions for grid users to access resources (usage tracking,
billing reports generation), job priority assignment and data grid maintenance (creating
backup copies and replicas).
The highest level of security it is assured using a Certificate authority having the
following responsibilities: a) to identify the entities requesting certificates; b) certificates
management (issuing, removing, archiving); c) names management (by a namespace of
unique names for certificate owners); d) the Certificate Authority server protection; e) to
manage the signed certificates, and f) to assure the login/logout activities. Currently, the
public key encryption system is used.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 55

Developing a grid application requests the usage of open solutions like OGSA (Open
Grid Service Architecture), OGSI (Open Grid Service Interface), OGSA-DAI (Data
Access and Integration), GridFTP, WSRF (Web Services Framework), XML, WSDL,
SOAP, and standards related to Web Services Interoperability.
OGSA is the general model for grid computing environments defining all
requirements related to resource models, interfaces, expected behaviours, and run-time
bindings. The creation of new instances of resources, global naming and references
management, lifetime management, registration and discovery operations, clients
notification, authorization and concurrency control are some of the key capabilities of
OGSA. OGSI can be used to implement OGSA-compliant services, and deals with
mechanisms for creating, managing, and exchanging information for Grid services using
an extension of the WSDL (Web Service Definition Language), called GWSDL. OGSA-
DAI provides the basis for “access and integration of data from separate data sources via
the grid”, according to the mentioned reference. Data transfer across the grid network is
supported by GridFTP. Parallel transfers and partial file transfers can be realized secure
and reliable. The developers can implement high level services on top of GridFTP.
Before discussing WSRF it is important to mention that Grid services are implemented
using Web-services technology. However a fundamental difference among them there
exists: Web services deal with persistent services, while grid services are transient, being
created/destroyed dynamically. Other considerations can be found in (Berman et al,
2003).
WSRF, also, can be used to implement OGSA-compliant grid services. The Web
Service Resource definitions are described using WSDL (XML style) and presents the
properties of the resource (called stateful resources). Any stateful resource “is known to
and accessed by one or more Web services”, and can be implemented as a file, a record in
a database, or a data structure stored in memory. Its life-cycle is well defined and the data
about its state is described using XML.
An OGSA-compliant middleware is Globus Toolkit (Foster, 2005), an open source
software useful for building computational grids and grid applications. Binary packages
of GT4 are available for Linux environments and Solaris. However, by compiling the
source packages or making use of Java-based components, the GT4 can be used on other
operating systems. The major components of the version 4 (GT4) address: runtime
processing, security, data management, information services and execution management.
There available Web service based components (as Java WS Core, C WS Core, Python
WS Core, Reliable File Transfer, OGSA-DAI, RLS , WS GRAM, WebMDS, etc.), and
non Web service based components (like GridFTP, C-common libraries, etc.). Java WS
Core, C WS Core, or Python WS Core, consists of APIs implementing WSRF, and other
grid services with Java, C, or Python. The RFT provides a Web service interface useful
for transferring, and deletion of files, and is built in top of GridFTP. The RLS (Replica
Location Service) provides information about the physical location s of replicated data.
MDS (Monitoring and Discovering Services) is responsible with the collection, indexing,
archival, distribution of information about the state of resources, services, and
configurations. WebMDS is a Web-based interface to WSRF information. WS GRAM
provides the remote execution and status management of the jobs.
56 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

For computing intensive jobs the Condor software which incorporates many of the
emerging Grid-based computing methodologies and protocols is an important solution.
Condor-G is fully interoperable with resources managed by GT4. Previous information
about Condor was published by Berman et al (2003). Recent information about the last
version of Condor is available on the Condor website. A powerful system for automated
installation, configuration and management of clusters and farms is Quattor. A positive
experience using Quator for Grid-Ireland and Irish e-Research is reported in (Gerdelan,
2008).
In the following, we describe the most valuable characteristics of the grid
methodologies to be use in virtual learning solutions.

3 On supporting global university by grid computing


Our study considers the usage of grid computing concepts for supporting e-learning and
research in the framework of global society. The concept of global university arises in the
recent time, mainly based on e-learning. However, a lot of advantages were established,
but there are some disadvantages related to communication (communication between
students, and between students and teachers/supervisors can not be as close as face-to-
face communication), and laboratory-based activity.
Recently, more advance in creating virtual laboratories and virtual e-lessons
removed such disadvantages, and the new ICT methodologies with the aid of grid
computing advancement create the environment for building a global university having
mission related to research and education, all levels. Collaborative learning is possible
using CSCW/L-oriented grid architecture (Li et al, 2006), communication with artificial
agents (Cerri, 2008; Cerri et al, 2008), by sharing artefacts based on OSCAR – the Open
Source Component Artefact Repository (Boldyreff et al, 2002), using the Shared Event
Model (Wang et al, 2005), developing semantic grids, as described by (Bachler et al,
2004) and (Page et al, 2005), using portals like Chiron (Bardeen et al, 2006), and other
models and tools for grid or non-grid infrastructures.
The Access Grid Toolkit (AGTk) was used to implement a multi-campus live lecture
environment, as described by (Arns et al, 2006). Group-to-group collaborations are
supported through the integration of various resources: large-format displays, multiple
camera views and audio systems, multicast functionality. AGTk is an open source
project, flexible software available for various platforms/hardware setups and operating
systems, including Linux and Windows.
Other learning grids were developed for science, libraries, or distance learning. The
five layer architecture described by (Tsai, 2006) supports multiple learning management
systems (ILIAS, Claroline, and Dokeos, installed on different locations) and GridPortlets
in order to use the Grid Portal. A similar architecture was reported by (Yang and Ho,
2005) being based on Globus and AGTk.
Supporting reusability, interoperability and shareability for virtual learning is
possible by using standards for resource addressing, learning object description, and
object sharing (ADL/SCORM). The EU project InteliGrid (Dolenc et al, 2007) is based
on OGSA, and is complied with WSRF, WS+I (Web Service Interoperability), RBAC
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 57

(Role Based Access Control model) and uses the Web Ontology Language for describing
web services. Also, semantic grids were used for the SELF project (Abbas et al, 2005),
and for Mobile Learning (Woukeu, 2005). Positive experience concerning the remote
access and programming of robots was reviewed by (Albeanu et al, 2008) proving that a
collaboration between engineering laboratories is possible.

4 Conclusions
Taking into account the interconnection of specialized laboratories to the grid
infrastructure, it is only a small step to create large scale virtual learning applications
supported by the grid infrastructure. The global university will use not only e-learning
platforms, but also virtual learning platforms integrating virtual reality laboratories.

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How to Model the Design Efficiency of the VLE?

Patrick Wessa

Catholic University of Leuven Association,


Lessius Dept. of Business Studies, BELGIUM
E-mail: patrick@wessa.net

Abstract
This article discusses the use of a predictive decision model about a new type of
statistical learning technology which is based on Reproducible Computing. The
model predicts discretized exam outcomes based on objectively measured learning
activities that are embedded within the pedagogical paradigm of social
constructivism. However, the main contribution of this study is based on a quasi-
experiment in which the pedagogical efficiency of two competing software design
models are compared. In the first system, all learning features are a function of the
classical Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). In contrast, the second system is
designed from the perspective that learning features are a function of the course's
core content (c.q. statistical results). The ceteris paribus effect of the design change
(from VLE-based to Content-based) is shown to substantially increase the efficiency
of constructivist, computer-assisted learning activities for all cohorts of the student
population under investigation. These results may, if confirmed in other
circumstances, have important repercussions for the design of future learning
environments.

Keywords: Reproducible Computing, VLE, Software Design, Communication

Introduction
Beyond any doubt, there has been a growing interest in Computer Assisted Learning
(CAL) in the academic community. Most pedagogical studies however take the system
design of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for granted. This is surprising because
the efficiency of CAL may be strongly influenced by the VLE's design which is typically
beyond the control of the educator.
This study aims to demonstrate that - within the context of undergraduate statistics
education - the design effect is measurable and potentially substantial. In order to achieve
this goal, a two-year quasi-experiment was setup within the context of an undergraduate
statistics course which is embedded in a socially constructivist setting.
The typical, modern VLE integrates a wide variety of general-purpose CAL
techniques which are clustered around a course. In this sense the VLE is supposed to be
of a generic and course-oriented nature. While there may exist many reasons why such a
design is beneficial, there are no guarantees that such VLEs are well-suited to build
effective and efficient learning environments in the field of statistics. One of the reasons
for this is the fact that most statistics courses involve statistical computing which is not
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 61

readily available in the VLE. As a consequence, educators often rely on external


statistical software products which are often hard - if not impossible - to “seamlessly
integrate” into the VLE. It is not surprising that many statisticians have found it necessary
to develop new statistical software for the purpose of building a specific-purpose
Statistical Learning Environment (SLE).
In this study the VLE design is represented by Moodle which is well-known in the
academic community, and has been designed within the pedagogical paradigm of social
constructivism (Wessa, 2009c). Within the context of this study the design effect that is
investigated relates exclusively on socially constructivist learning activities that are
supported by the VLE. A design change of the peer review module (and associated
communication feature) is the main component that is subjected to change and ex-post
analysis. The details of the design change will be explained in the section 2.
The inability of scientists to reproduce empirical research that is published in papers,
has received a great deal of attention within the academic community. Several solutions
have been proposed but have not been adopted in education because of the inherent
impracticalities therein (Wessa, 2009b). For this reason, a new Compendium Platform
(CP), which is hosted at http://www.freestatistics.org, was developed and allows us to
create constructivist learning environments which are based on reproducible computing
(hosted at http://www.wessa.net), and based on the R language) and with several
advantages that relate to the monitoring of actual learning processes and quality control
(Wessa, 2009b).
Henceforth, the term SLE refers to the computational system that comprises the actual
statistical software (R Framework), the Compendium Platform (and associated repository
of reproducible computations), and all interfaces that allow users and other software
systems to interact with the components that are contained therein.

Design
The investigation was based on an experimental, undergraduate statistics course for
business students with a strong emphasis on social constructivism. The course contained
a wide variety of statistical techniques and methods. For each technique, students had one
or several web-based software modules available which are based on the R Framework.
In order to implement this course within a setting of social constructivism for large
student populations, it was necessary to impose a strict assignment-review mechanism.
This is illustrated in figure 1 which shows a series of weekly events (lectures,
assignments, reviews) during a thirteen-week semester. The semester ended with a final
(open book) examination about a series of objective multiple choice questions. The
examination was intended to test understanding of statistical concepts rather than rote
memorization.
The main sections of the statistics course were built around a series of research-based
workshops (WS1, WS2, ...) that require students to reflect and communicate about a
variety of statistical problems, at various levels of difficulty. The workshops have been
carefully designed and tested over a period of six years. Each workshop contained
questions about “common datasets” and questions about individual data series - this dual
62 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

structure of the workshops promoted both, collaboration between students, and individual
work. The top (blue) puzzle pieces in figure 1 represent threaded communication
(between students) about each workshop.
Each week there was a lecture (L1, L2, ...) which was held in a large lecture hall that
was equipped with computer screen projection and internet facilities. During each week,
students were required to work on their workshop assignment and - at the same time -
perform peer reviews (Rev1, Rev2, ...) about six assignments that were submitted by
peers. Each review was based on a rubric of a minimum of three criteria and involved
students to submit a workshop score and an extended feedback message (yellow puzzle
pieces). The grades that were generated by the peer review process did not count towards
the final score of students. Instead, the educator graded the quality of the verbal feedback
messages that were submitted to other students. The grading was performed based on a
semi-random sampling technique which allowed the educator to grade the quality of a
relatively small - but fairly representative - number of submitted feedback messages from
each student.
This feedback-oriented process
is similar to the peer review
procedure of an article that is
submitted to a scientific journal.
The key idea behind this
constructivist environment is that
students are empowered to interact
with reproducible computations
from peers and the educator.
Students are required to play the Figure 1 Schedule of learning activities - Year 0
role of an active scientist who
investigates problems, presents solutions, and reviews the work of peers. Obviously,
Reproducible Computing is a conditio sine qua non that allows students to engage in such
peer review activities.

Original System Design - year 0


Figure 2 displays the VLE and SLE as it was used in year 0 (fall semester of 2007). It is
clearly seen that this design contained two core objects: the course (yellow) and the
computation (blue) which is represented by its snapshot. The course is the core object of
the VLE which implies that all features that allow students to engage in collaboration or
communication are bound to the course in which they reside. Several forums and instant
messaging facilities were available to ask questions or to collaborate in various ways. In
addition the Peer Review & Assessment procedure was available from within the VLE.
There are however, several pedagogical problems with this type of design because
students were unable to:
• engage in review activities when they view the meta information about a
computation - instead they need to login to the VLE and invoke the features of the
Peer Assessment module
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 63

• read review messages that are submitted by other students about their own work
unless they use the VLE and their own Compendium simultaneously
• compare review messages of computations that preceded the ones that are
currently under review
• discuss or review statistical analyses across courses or semesters - as soon as the
course is closed, all communications contained therein are lost forever
In addition, the collaborative communications about the workshops (blue puzzle
pieces in fig. 1) and the feedback messages of the peer reviews (yellow puzzle pieces)
were completely separated which implies that working on assignments and learning
through peer review were completely detached activities. Finally, and notwithstanding the
fact that sequential workshops were related in various ways, there was no structural
information about the dynamics of collaborative and review-based communications
across workshops. For instance, if students were required to test a certain statistical
assumption in an early workshop that was an essential condition to perform some type of
analysis in a subsequent workshop, then there was no link between the communications
of both. The only way that could have been used to solve this problem (within the current
design) was to repeat previous analyses in all related, subsequent workshops.
Unfortunately, such an approach would have been highly inefficient and unfeasible
because of many practical limitations.

Figure 2 VLE/SLE Design - Year 0 Figure 3 VLE/SLE Design - Year 1

Alternative System Design - year 1


Figure 3 displays the alternative design that was implemented in year 1 (fall semester of
2008). The most important design changes are as follows:
• there is only one core object: the computational snapshot
• all (threaded) collaborative communications about the workshops are available
within the computational snapshot (which becomes a dynamic webpage)
• all review messages are associated with the computational snapshot
The consequences of this design change had important consequences for the students
because all collaborative and review-related communications were available from within
the same source (the computation) which clearly highlights how they are related - as is
shown in figure 4, the blue and yellow puzzle pieces within each computation are
connected. This is not only true for a single computation - it also applies to
64 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

discussion/review communications that relate to different computations, irrespective of


the time frame, course, or workshop in which they originated. The reason for this is the
fact that the Compendium Platform automatically stores and maintains the parent-child
relationships that exist between computations. For instance, if the educator creates a
Compendium with a worked example that is based on an original computation C1 (see
figure 4) then a student may reuse this computations (with changed parameters or data)
for the purpose of working on an assignment task (C2). At a later stage, the same (or any
other) student may reproduce C2 (and create C3) in order to check the assumptions of a
statistical analysis that is embedded in a subsequent workshop. Other students (across
courses and years) may reuse C2 for similar purposes (computations C4-C6).
The bottom line is that
everyone who looks at C2 will
have all the information that is
available about computations C1-
C6, including the hierarchical
dependencies of computations and
communications associated with
them. This design change should
increase the efficiency by which
users can gain an understanding
of statistical concepts and the
dynamics of how computations
evolve (and improve) over time.
Unlike in the traditional setting
Figure 4 Hierarchical structure of computations - Year 1 (year 0) no information is ever
lost after the semester because the
communications are independent of the courses.
In general words, the fundamental principle that is applied in this VLE/SLE design is
that the educational system is subject-oriented instead of course-oriented. In statistics
education, it is the statistical computation that is subjected to study - the course is entirely
irrelevant. The traditional VLE is an educator-centered system that allows the educator to
manage students, and resources that belong to the course. The new SLE design is more
student-centered because it is focused on the learning content which implies that all
learning features (including communication, peer review, etc...) depend on the (subject-
oriented) core object.

Methodology

Measurements
The empirical data was collected through an experimental undergraduate statistics course
which was provided during two consecutive years. In each year, the conditions that are
under the control of the educator (and the institution) were kept equal except for the
system design. The (quasi) experiment is not under perfect control but given the fact that
the characteristics of the student population did not change, it is fair to assume that
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 65

conditions were equal in both years. Therefore it is fair to attribute any changes in
learning efficiency (ceteris paribus) to the change in system design.
The measurements were obtained from a Business Studies department in Belgium
during two consecutive years (labeled “year 0” and “year 1”). In each year there were two
cohorts: bachelor students, and students from the preparatory program which allows
graduates from a professional bachelor program to switch to an academic master. In
general, bachelor students have better prior understanding of mathematical concepts than
prep-students. However, prep-students tend to have a higher degree of maturity and self-
motivation than bachelor students.

Table 1 Student Population

Year 0 Year 1
Female Male Female Male
Bachelor 58 53 41 42
Prep. 53 76 45 74
Total 240 202

In order to be able to compare the dependencies of exam scores from exogenous


variables that are based on objective measurements of (constructivist) learning activities,
it is necessary to apply optimal exam score transformations for both years. The
methodology that allows us to do this is based on a mathematical model which is
described in (Wessa, 2009) and has been shown to yield models that improve the
predictability of learning outcomes substantially.
After the objective exam score transformation has been applied, it is possible to
proceed to the next step which involves the creation of predictive models (c.q. regression
trees) that allow us to discover the rules that determine whether students will pass or not.
In this study, the degree of predictability is maximized (through the transformation
methodology) but is otherwise irrelevant to answer the main research hypothesis: “does
the changed VLE/SLE design improve the efficiency of learning activities (such as peer
review) in the undergraduate statistics course?” In other words, we are mainly interested
in the (efficiency-related) parameters of the decision rules, not the original
(untransformed) exam scores (which are incomparable), nor the overall degree of
predictability.

Regression Trees
For the purpose of computing a rule-based regression tree, the endogenous variable must
be discretized. Therefore, three categories are defined which are called “guess”, “fail”,
and “pass” respectively. The “guess” category represents the lowest exam scores which
can be attributed to chance (or guessing). Exam scores in the “fail” category are lower
than what is needed to pass the exam but higher than what can be (reasonably) explained
by chance. The “pass” category contains scores that are sufficiently high to be considered
satisfactory even if the numerical value is below 50% of the maximum attainable score.
The reason for this is the fact that the exam questions had varying degrees of difficulty
66 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

and were (overall) designed to be much more difficult than what could be reasonably
expected from undergraduate students in business studies.
Introducing a high degree of difficulty in the exam questions is necessary in order to
ensure that:
• rote learners are not likely to pass the exam
• we are able to identify the maximum level of understanding
• students are unable to quickly find answers in printed resources that are allowed
during the exam
The exam in the second year was slightly more difficult than in the first year (the
transformed exam scores in year 1 were slightly lower than in year 0). Therefore it is not
possible to simply use identical threshold values for the categories in the transformed
exam scores from both years - an objective benchmark is need to generate fair and
comparable categories.
The threshold values that define the categories are not arbitrarily chosen but depend
on exam score statistics of the previous four years (with exams of similar difficulty). On
average the proportion of lowest scores (which fall in the “guess” category) was little less
than 10%. The proportion of “guess and fail” scores was approximately one third of all
exam scores. These proportions had been quite stable over the time frame of those four
years. Therefore it is fair to assume that they represent appropriate, “unconditional”
probabilities to pass or fail the exam. As a consequence the threshold values that define
the three categories (for each year) are computed as the 1/10 and 1/3 quantiles of the
(optimally weighted) exam scores in year 0 and 1.
Even if we wouldn't believe that the threshold values are adequate there is another
justification of using the same quantiles (rather than identical exam scores) to determine
the categories. The rationale is simply that we want to predict if students fall in the
“high”, “low”, or “extremely low” proportion of all students in the same year (who took
the same exam). The parameters in the rule-based regression trees quantify the amount of
learning efforts (number of peer review messages, and number of computations) that are
required to achieve an exam score that falls within the top 2/3 of all scores.
The rule-based regression trees were computed with the statistical engine called Weka
which is available from within the R Framework through the RWeka interface (Hornik et
al., 2009).

Empirical Results

Table 2 Nomenclature in rule-based regression trees

Variable name Description


nnzfg # of non-empty, meaningful feedback messages that were submitted
nnzfr # of non-empty, meaningful feedback massages that were received
Bcount # of reproducible computations that were generated
Gender binary gender variable (0 = females, 1 = males)
Pop binary cohort variable (0 = bachelor students, 1 = prep. students)
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 67

Table 2 shows the exogenous variables that were chosen to create rule-based
regression trees. The first three variables are positive, numeric integers. The last two
variables are binaries that indicate to which cohort the student belongs. Note that the
same exogenous variables were used in the objective exam score transformations based
on the three-stage regression approach and with all possible interaction effects included.

Figure 5 Regression Tree - Year 0 Figure 6 Regression Tree - Year 1

The first rule-based regression tree (fig. 5) displays the situation for year 0 in which
the traditional VLE design is used. The most important rule that determines success (c.q.
falling into the top 2/3 proportion of all students in year 0) is the number of submitted
feedback messages (related to peer review). It can be clearly seen that students pass if
nnzfg > 118 which means that they need to submit more than 118 feedback messages in
order to pass the exam. The other students (with nnzfg ≤ 118) fall into two categories,
depending on the number of reproducible computations they generated. Students with
nnzfg ≤ 118 and Bcount > 10 are predicted to pass the exam - in other words, students
who did not engage sufficiently in feedback activities could compensate this by
reproducing more than 10 archived computations. However, the accuracy of this
particular prediction is not very good because there where only 37 cases correctly
attributed to the “pass” category whereas 15 cases were incorrectly predicted (the number
of in/correctly classified cases can be seen in the gray boxes).
There are two specific rules in the regression tree that cause concern. The first one, is
the rule that states that male students who did not spend a sufficient amount of effort in
terms of feedback and reproducing computations (nnzfg ≤ 118 and Bcount ≤ 10 and
Gender = 1) either fall into the “guess” or “fail” category (depending on the Pop cohort
they belong to). The second rule that causes concern is the one that states that female
students may pass the exam, even if they have only between 52 and 118 submitted
feedback messages (nnzfg ≤ 118 and Bcount ≤ 10 and Gender = 0 and nnzfg > 51).
The bottom line is that both rules imply that the VLE/SLE system in year 0 favors
female students and discriminates against males. This may be surprising because it is
often believed that male students have “better” attitudes towards computing than females.
68 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

In this situation however, it is shown that female students are better able to cope with the
detached structure between collaborative and review-based communication on the one
hand, and reproducible computing on the other hand. This phenomenon may have
psychological causes that are related to the fact that there are gender differences in how
students use communication in learning. Within the context of this study, such an
explanation remains speculative and unanswered. However, and more importantly, it is
clear that the design of the VLE and SLE is not optimal - at least for an important part of
the student population.
Figure 6 shows the rule-based regression tree for year 1 (in which the new VLE/SLE
design was implemented). It can be easily observed that the structure is fundamentally
different from the previous situation. By far, the most important property of this
regression tree is the root rule which states that students pass if they submit more than 57
meaningful feedback messages. This is less than half the amount that was necessary with
the previous system design and demonstrates a spectacular increase in review-based
learning efficiency. More importantly, the discrimination effect has completely
disappeared which implies that males are now equally well able to make good use of the
learning environment. Students who did not submit a sufficient number of feedback
messages and only received 16 messages (or less) fall into the “guess” category. This
makes a lot of sense because students who don't submit workshop papers, don't get
reviews.
There is a striking resemblance between female prep-students and male bachelor
students (fig. 6): they both pass the exam when a sufficient number of computations have
been reproduced. In addition, the female bachelor students and male prep-students are
also similar with respect to the number of received feedback messages: if this number is
too high, then the student does not pass because it indicates that they are making too
many mistakes or are not making good use of inbound messages.
As explained before the overall predictability (of both rule-based regression trees) is
not an important aspect which determines if the design effect had any impact on learning
efficiency. Nevertheless, an overview of within and out-of-sample prediction
performance is provided in table 3 because it is important to show that the models do not
suffer from severe “over-fitting” which might invalidate all conclusions made on the
basis of the regression tree's parameters.

Table 3 Prediction Performance of Regression Trees


Statistic Year 0 Year 1
Within Cross Within Cross
Sample Validation Sample Validation
Correctly Classified 78.3% 72.5% 87.1% 74.8%
Incorrectly Classified 21.7% 27.5% 12.9% 25.2%
Number of Leaves 7 11
Size of Tree 13 21
Total Number of Cases 240 202

The results in table 3 clearly illustrate that the out-of-sample prediction quality is
adequate. In case of over-fitting, one would observe high percentages of correctly
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 69

classified instances within sample and a (very) low percentage out-of-sample. The out-of-
sample prediction quality is computed by applying a so-called Cross Validation technique
which randomly divides the data set into a large training subset and a testing subset. The
parameters are estimated, based on the training sample and the prediction is computed for
the testing subset. This procedure is repeated 10 times (10-fold Cross Validation) to
obtain an average measure of out-of-sample prediction quality.

Conclusions
The empirical analysis has clearly shown that the change in VLE/SLE design had a very
beneficial effect in terms of increasing the learning efficiency of submitting peer review
messages. More importantly, the design change has resulted in the elimination of a
discrimination effect which was embedded in the original design where communication
and computation was separated. In any case, the methodology that was outlined can be
used to test for any software-related or content-based aspect as long as it is controllable
by the educator or designer of the learning system. However, one should take care to take
into account that exam scores are properly treated in order to avoid the pitfalls that are
associated with exam questions.
Obviously, this study is limited to the case of our undergraduate statistics course for
business students. Also, there was a strong focus on one specific type of constructivist
learning activity (peer review) which implies that other pedagogical approaches might
have resulted to other conclusions.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to formulate a general conjecture about a fundamental
principle of good VLE design. The proposed conjecture states that good VLE design
requires the developer to define a single subject-based, core object instead of using the
traditional, educator-centered course object. In simple words, it is better to integrate
learning features (forums, messaging, peer review, etc...) into the software that treats the
subject under study than to build general-purpose VLEs. If this conjecture would turn out
to be true, it would have important repercussions for the design of VLEs in general and
specific-purpose software (such as: statistical software, wikis, CAD/CAM applications,
programming environments, etc...) in particular.

REFERENCES

HORNIK K., ZEILEIS A., HOTHORN T., BUCHTA C. (2009). RWeka: An R Interface to Weka. R package
version 0.3-16. URL http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=RWeka
ROMERO C., VENTURA S., GARCIA E. (2008), Data mining in course management systems: Moodle case
study and tutorial, Computers & Education, 51, 368-384
WESSA, P. (2009a), Quality Control of Statistical Learning Environments and Prediction of Learning
Outcomes through Reproducible Computing, International Journal of Computers, Communications &
Control 4(2)
WESSA, P. (2009b), Reproducible Computing: a new Technology for Statistics Education and Educational
Research, IAENG Transactions on Engineering Technologies, American Institute of Physics, Eds: Rieger,
Burghard, Amouzegar, Mahyar A., and Ao, Sio-Iong
WESSA, P. (2009c), How Reproducible Computing Leads to Non-Rote Learning Within Socially
Constructivist Statistics Education, Electronic Journal of e-Learning 7(2)
A model for the evaluation of learning styles design effectiveness
G. Bruno Ronsivalle1, Massimo Conte2
1
La Sapienza University of Rome, Italian Banking Association
E-mail: sprsricercasviluppo@abiformazione.it
2
Label Formazione
E-mail: mconte@labelformazione.it

Abstract
Assessing the customized system of a formative path, on the basis of cognitive styles,
needs two fundamental requirements:
a) the choice of a strong learning design model, built on conceptual maps, didactic
objective trees and observable behaviours taxonomies (Bloom, Anderson,
Romiszowski and Marzano);
b) the utilisation of the Kolb Learning Style Inventory to evaluate the preferences
individuals show in the learning context.
In the micro design phase each learning style is related to a different didactic strategy
to manage the cognitive dissonance:
- Diverging: the negative case;
- Assimilating: the Quaestio;
- Converging: the Reductio ad absurdum;
- Accommodating: the linear simulation.
The activities performed to evaluate a traditional class sample compared to an on line
course sample (WBT) are:
- the administration of the Kolb Learning Style Inventory to identify students learning
styles;
- the class delivery based on the learning styles (differentiated according to the
population sample of traditional and on line courses);
- the assessment of the I, II and III level learning effectiveness index in relation to the
two kinds of course and the four learning styles;
- the administration of a Satisfaction Questionnaire;
- the calculation of the learning time (in traditional class and on line course as well);
- the efficiency calculation;
- the comparison between effectiveness and efficiency.
The research goal is verifying how the customisation of formative paths, based on
students learning styles, can affect not only the formative effectiveness but also the
efficiency in the learning design and the cost impact.

Keywords: Learning Styles, Learning Effectiveness, Efficiency

1 Formative quality and micro design


Formative quality depends on many factors and involves different phases of the design
process: from general strategy formulation to specific choices in micro design phases.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 71

Just in relation with the micro design phase, an experimental hypothesis will be here
introduced: an applicative model has been designed to optimize and standardize
decisional processes in order to define single strategies for several courses didactic units.
Such model summarizes former design method – based on cognitive dissonance – and
learning styles Kolb theories. Main goal is defining a micro design method, a reference
theoretical frame and a precise procedure to assess the model itself and get the best
formative quality.

2 Micro design dimension: complexity, cognitive styles and learning styles


In micro design phase the most suitable strategy to single individuals has to motivate
them to accept new input and get the course didactic objectives. This choice, crucial for
creating storyboards and get satisfactory effectiveness levels, is based on three
fundamental principles:
1. The didactic path must be perceived as useful, functional and suitable for user
professional needs; which means formative contents must be calibrated on
different complexity levels to get. This implies classifying contents complexity
levels through a taxonomy allowing to interpret competencies features in five
specific factors: (1) Four levels of Knowledge: Atomic mental models, Logic
connection, Nomic relationships, Probabilistic connections; (2) Typology of
Perception: Attention, Perceptive analysis, Perceptive synthesis; (3) Mnemonic
process: Recognition, Recall; (4) Typology of Elaboration: Analysis, Synthesis,
Evaluation, Creation; (5) Typology of Behaviour: Reproduction with
support, Autonomous reproduction, Orientation to the objective, Strategic
behaviour, Automonitoring (Bloom, 1956; Romiszowski, 1999; Anderson and
Krathwohl, 2001; Marzano and Kendall, 2007).
2. The didactic path must generate a cognitive dissonance status in user’s mind
motivating him to research and select potentially consonant information, reduce
dissonance and/or avoid information potentially increasing dissonance (Ronsivalle
and Metus 2005). In 2004 a set of four plots has been designed to create
differentiated storyboards and effectively manage cognitive dissonance.
3. The didactic path must adopt a formal model coherent with user learning styles.
Such principles and their detailed definition in building didactic units are a strong
point in micro design phase.

3 Learning Styles Assessment


Let’s try to delve into the third principle.
Kolb distinguishes four different learning styles (or preferences) based on a four steps
learning cycle, in which concrete experiences are observed and integrated in abstract
concepts involving actions in order to create new experiences (Kolb 1984).
Ideally the process represents a learning cycle or a spiral where the subject tests,
thinks and acts. The above-mentioned steps are: (1) Concrete Experience – (CE); (2)
Reflective Observation – (RO); (3) Abstract Conceptualization – (AC); (4) Active
Experimentation – (AE).
72 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Experiential Learning is a process where constructing knowledge involves a creative


tension among the four learning modes responsive to contextual demands (Kolb et al
1999).
Because of our hereditary equipment, particular life experiences and present
environment demands, we develop preferred ways of choosing among the four learning
modes. Kolb Learning Style Inventory - Version 3.1 (Kolb 2005) is used to assess
individual learning styles. Each style is associated with a different learning approach
(Diverging, Assimilating, Converging and Accommodating).
LSI is a useful tool to recognize uniqueness, complexity and variability in learning
personal approaches. It can be used as a support to customise the learning design in
strength of users learning styles.
If personal preferences have a stable nature, it’s possible to hypothesize a formative
path still unique but including the four learning styles.

4 The path customisation


o Didactic strategies differentiation
In order to define motivation techniques with Kolb theory, four different didactic
strategies have been linked to the learning styles to customise a class (traditional or on
line as well):

Educ
ation
Learning Style Characteristics Strengths al Scheme Function
Strat
egy
Ability to take in information through Involving
Brainstorming
concrete experience and processing it Case Negative through
Diverging , feeling-
through observation. Imaginative ability study case dissonant
oriented
to generate many alternative ideas factors
Ability to abstractly take in new
Tutori Involving
information and process disparate Systematic
al/ through slightly
Assimilating observations into an integrated rational planning, goal Quaestio
induct dissonant
explanation. Good at inductive reasoning setting
ive factors
and the creation of models and theories
Ability to take in new information in the
Solving Tutori Reductio
abstract and process it into a concrete Defining the
problems and al/ ad
Converging solution. Hypothetical deductive theoretical
making deduc absurdu
reasoning get the best solution to a scenario
decisions tive m
question or problem
Simulating an
Carrying out interaction
Ability to concretely take in new tasks, learning Linear context, in
Simul
Accommodating information and actively transform it, through simulati order to get
ation
considering circumstances changes practical on operative tools
experience to reproduce
the real world
Table 4 Learning Style-Didactic strategies Matrix

In our research, after analysing learning styles features we defined different


educational strategies through Kolb Learning Styles Diagram, customizing the original
version.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 73

Figure 7 Educational strategies connected with Kolb Learning Styles Diagram

As subjects learn how to identify their personal learning styles, the hypothesis we
bring forward is the customisation of the cognitive dissonance management, considering
learning styles features.
Identifying learning styles can help manage cognitive dissonance and the resistance to
learning: specific algorithms can actually optimize the learning effectiveness.

o Flexible micro-design cognitive styles oriented


In order to define a first laboratory session to test the model here introduced, a didactic
unit has been micro designed about different effectiveness index levels (Ronsivalle et al,
2009; Ronsivalle and Donno 2009). The didactic unit, addressed to instructional
designers, was structured as on line or traditional class as well.
Following contents, written according to four different learning styles, here describe
the general formula to get the first level effectiveness index:

Figure 8 Micro design contents


74 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The underlying didactic objectives tree structure granted a unitary path, even if four
didactic strategies were used as design modalities to get storyboard variations in relation
with different learning styles. Following model principles every learning style can match
with a specific learning strategy. Final results are four different cases.

 Negative Case oriented storyboard


In reference to the model, Diverging style (Concrete Experience – Reflective
Observation) was associated to Negative Case and storyboard was structured as follows:
− page 1: general introduction of a negative case (in the given example building a
training course) very close to students reality;
− page 2: further information were given to illustrate how to manage the problem;
− page 3: new information become necessary; to correctly solve the problem a
formula to calculate the effectiveness index is described;
− page 4: interaction to allow student to identify Negative Case issues: resolution is
possible only after considering the explained Theory.

Figure 3 Negative Case oriented storyboard – Page 2

Student approaches the case in a concrete scenario. As external observer he can collect
information, analyse the problem, summarize the theory and answer the interaction.

5 Quaestio oriented storyboard


Assimilating Style (Abstract Conceptualization – Reflective Observation) was associated
to Quaestio strategy:
− page 1: the problem is introduced by some questions;
− page 2-3: a scheme defines elements to calculate effectiveness level;
− page 4: the index definition allows answering questions from page 1.
People learning by Assimilating Style understand and manage many information in a
logical way: they’re interested in abstract concepts and theoretical strength, more than
practical application of a theory. In our case the didactic strategy was illustrating, through
schemes and images, elements to define the effectiveness index.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 75

Figure 4 Quaestio oriented storyboard – Page3

6 Reductio ad absurdum oriented storyboard


Converging Style (Abstract Conceptualization – Active Experimentation) was associated
to Reductio ad Absurdum strategy:
− page 1: an hypothesis A is introduced;
− page 2: an absurd conclusion is given;
− page 3: a new, correct hypothesis B is introduced (tertium non datur).

Figure 5 Reductio ad Absurdum oriented storyboard – Page 3

This strategy is suitable to people inclined to solve problems and make decisions by
searching solutions. Reductio ad Absurdum consists of validating a theory/hypothesis
through the falsification of the wrong theory/hypothesis. Analysing many solutions is
more complicated but clearly suits such learning style the best.
76 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

7 Linear Simulation oriented storyboard


Accommodating Learning Style (Concrete Experience – Active Experimentation) is
associated to a linear simulation.
− page 1: scenario introduction (student in charge of designing learning courses);
− page 2: step 1 objective (to calculate the course effectiveness index);
− page 3: step 1 interaction (to individuate the correct formula).

Figure 6 Linear Simulation oriented storyboard – Page 3

A simulation reproduces a concrete situation. In this “laboratory”, protected from


external factors, user can test a “soft” version of his/her professional life, interacting with
actors, context and observing his/her actions effects. People learning by this style are
oriented to refer to their personal experience: the story is told in second-person narrative
mode, user is the protagonist and every step represents a decisional moment.

8 Conclusions: Framework to meta-evaluate micro design model


The experimental validity of the hypothesis here introduced is related to some quality
indicators, useful to evaluate the model suitability:
− 1° level index: the ratio between course added value and student formative need;
− 2° level index: allows pondering the general effectiveness taking into account the
expected increase of knowledge/competencies homogeneity level;
− 3° level index implies considering learning time and includes a further correction
factor in line with average and a priori expected learning time: higher the gap
between the expected and actual temporal values, lower the 3° level effectiveness
index;
− popularity rating consists of quantitatively composing a rank scale by analysing
values in relation with variables such as users subjective perception;
− efficiency level derives from the ratio between production costs (including or
corresponding to production time) and 3° effectiveness index level.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 77

The experimental framework validating the model foresees the following procedure:
(1) selecting among 100 people two isomorphic samples A and B, considering LSI
administration results; (2) delivering contents by different learning styles strategies to
users sample A; (3) randomly delivering contents to users sample B, not considering
learning styles; (4) calculating quality indicators for each sample; (5) comparing the
analysis of different results to establish best effectiveness and efficiency levels.
Verifying experimentally our model was a requirement to define a strong micro design
tool in order to reconcile cognitive dissonance management techniques with students
learning styles. The five dimensions taxonomy above introduced matches the model as
the micro design strategic option is transversal to complexity levels. In fact, there’s no
direct relation among complexity levels (knowledge, perception, memory, elaboration
and application), dissonance schemes and learning styles: the first ones are directly
related to contents, the second ones depend on external variables and the last ones
concern individual features.

REFERENCES

Anderson, L.W., Krathwohl D. R. (2001): A taxonomy of learning, teaching and assessment: a revision of
Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Longman, New York.
Bloom, B.S. (1956): Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Cognitive Domain. Giunti e Lisciani, David
McKay Co Inc New York.
Coffield F. et al. (2004): Learning styles and pedagogy in post 16 learning. Learning & Skills Research
Centre, London.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Prentice-
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directions. In Sternberg R. J., and Zhang L. F., (Eds.). Perspectives on cognitive, learning, and thinking
styles. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Marzano, R.J., Kendall, J.S., (2007): The New Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (2nd Edition). Corwin
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Romiszowski, A.J. (1999): Designing Instructional Systems. Kogan, Page, London.
Ronsivalle, G.B., Carta, S., Metus, V. (2009): L’arte della progettazione didattica. Franco Angeli, Milano.
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Proceedings of 4° Encontro Internacional Artibytes, Santarem.
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TACONET Conference Self regulated learning in Technology Enhanced Learning Environments, Lisbon,
28-42.
Metrics and requierements in Learning Management System
Ion Roceanu1, Virgil Popescu2
1
Advanced Distributed Learning Department, Bucharest, Panduri Street, 68-72, Romania,
iroceanu@adlunap.ro
2
Expert Trade Company, Lipscani Street, Bucharest,
virgil.popescu@expert.org.ro

Abstract
This papers in focused on the operational requirements in choosing the proper
Learning Management Systems to support the on-line educational services in the
academia. The general and specific requirements are compared with a set of
metrics settled by the stakeholders in the stage of prepare the decision of what kind
of LMS is fitted to the institutions educational objectives.

1. Introduction
This paper is based on the National Defence University of Romania experience in
developing a set of capabilities to create, to deliver and to manage the educational on-line
services. The NDU`s eLearning project started in autumn 2004 and became operational in
the spring of the 2006.
At the beginning of this project we aimed to create an integrated system in order to
make effectiveness the educational activity based on IT&C and generate, develop and
manage the distance learning curricula under the national educational laws and fully
according with the NATO ADL principles. It is not necessary to mention at that time we
did not have a strong support and of course no budget, from higher decision level, the
situation well known by the eLearning stakeholders in the world. Consequently, we made
the first step trying to buy-in support, and we considered that we can do this only by
demonstrating the utility, viability and performance of the results of our new educational
approach.
The LMS is considered being one of the most important things in eLearning and for
sure it is the only means to manage the content delivering inside the educational system.
For several reasons we had a very hard decision to take as to which LMS is proper for our
educational purposes. In this respect, at the beginning of our enterprise to develop an
eLearning system, we tested more LMS, both commercial and open-source. Finally, we
chose open-source one, not due to budget restrictions reasons but for its features offered
to the home developers and tutors facilities. In this way, we selected the ILIAS LMS to
be implemented at the National Defence University. This LMS is used in the others
military universities eLearning systems, as well.
Since 2005 we employ ILIAS and are very satisfied with the results of educational
services provided trough it and the feed-back from our students and tutors evaluation.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 79

2. Process of choosing the proper LMS


Choosing a LMS is not a very easy job, it has to be based very strictly on requirements,
metrics and standards. For this reason we created three different sets of requirements and
for each of them we generate a test bed.
1. Tools and capabilities to support the content and course management
2. Tools and capabilities to support students activity and learning tracking progress
3. Technical aspects regarding the installation, administration, update, customization
and others.
“A very good LMS is not the best of the market it is only perfectly fitted with your
needs”. To put in practice this motto, first of all, we defined very clearly what kind of on-
line educational services we want to deliver in the next few years. Practically, our
institution has three different categories of on-line educational services:
1. Full on-line courses. All kind of activities, from subscription to final evaluation
are carried out on-line. The course content is fully compliant with SCORM
standards. From this result that the LMS has to support SCORM content and all
features around SCORM development.
2. Blended learning. Parts of educational activities are made on-site and other, at
least 66 %, are supported on-line. Consequently, the LMS has to provide the
possibility to combine within one single curriculum SCORM content and other
formats of content, such as: html, word, excel, ppt. file, pdf, pictures, video and
so on.
3. Educational services support for master and doctoral studies. The LMS has to
provide a very good virtual collaborative space between teachers and students
and among them.
The table below contains an overview over the results of our evaluation broken down
by required functionality.

Functionality Requirement Range Score


Overview ILIAS – 4
General Low = 1
Content repository OOS* - 4
High = 5
Data export/import COTS** - 4
SCORM 1.2 Full both=5 ILIAS – 3
SCORM
SCORM 2004 Only one = 3 OOS* - 3
compliant
No one =0 COTS** - 3
Per student ILIAS – 5
Learning tracking Low = 1
Per course OOS* - 3
progress High = 5
Per item COTS** - 4
Text ILIAS – 4
Content formats Low = 1
Images OOS* - 4
High = 5
Video COTS** - 4
Friendly ILIAS – 3
User interface Low = 1
Intuitive OOS* - 3
High = 5
Help support COTS** - 4
Personalize ILIAS – 4
Low = 1
Customization Integration in the portal OOS* - 3
High = 5
Course management COTS** - 2
80 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Chat, Forum ILIAS – 4


Collaborative Low = 1
Sync collaborative OOS* - 4
tools High = 5
Mail COTS** - 5
Technical Different OS ILIAS – 4
Low = 1
administration Security OOS* - 4
High = 5
Backup auto COTS** - 3
Maintenance On-line support ILIAS - 4
Low = 1
and cost Experience OOS* - 4
High = 5
Others military institution COTS** - 2
ILIAS – 3,88
Average OOS* - 3,66
COTS** - 3,44
* OOS – Other Open Source LMS ** - Commercial On The Shelf

Form our perspective there are some strengths and weaknesses of ILIAS:
Good points:
1. The ILIAS is a scalable, highly configurable platform for creating and managing
classroom-based and e-learning activities, curriculum, and courseware.
2. Very good course, content, students and learning tracking progress management
tools.
3. Customizable interface (multilanguage and presentations) and course domains
4. Content multi-format supported
5. Multilingual
Need to be improved or added:
1. Context-senistive user help provided by the LMS
2. Synchronous module for collaborative space
3. SCORM sequencing capabilities
4. Virtual classroom is missing

3. ILIAS at the Romanian National Defence University


It is installed on LINUX machine and it is integrated in the eLearnig portal such as the
learner has a single gate of access to any kind of learning resources: courses, virtual
library, conference and so on, figure no1.
Using the course and content repository we provide varied curricula and courses
together with on-line educational services support: full on-line courses, military
professional courses, long-term curricula, doctoral and master studies, figure no.2.
Below, figure no.3, is presented the SCORM content managed by this LMS in order to
support full on-line course “Conflict Management and Negotiation”. The course has 13
items, each of them are divided in other small learning objects accompanied by specific
educational objectives.
As was mentioned in the selection criteria, the learning tracking progress tools offered
by the LMS were of utmost importance for us. In this sense, the ILIAS offers several
tools providing us with the possibility to the status of the learning progress for each
student, figure no. 4. Also, we have the possibility to have a number of other data
considered very important by our tutors: time spent for each learning objects, links
followed, how many collaborative tools used and so on. Based on this information, the
tutor can coordinate the learning activity of each student in a very personalized way.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 81

Figure no.1 – User registration

Figure no. 2 – Course and content repository

Figure no.3 – SCORM content on the ILIAS


82 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure no.4 – Learning tracking tools

Conclusions
We do not want to say that the LMS chosen by us is perfect but at this moment it offers
us the best solution for our needs. In the same time, for synchronous didactical activity
delivered inside our eLearning laboratory or on-line by Internet we use another LMS,
commercial one produced in Romania. It is AeL from SIVECO Romania. It is very
difficult to find a solution which covers at high parameters all educational on-line activity
and in many cases is recommended to use two or three LMSs.
As we mentioned, at the beginning of our eLearning project, we tested more LMSs,
both open source and commercial, but we cannot give a recommendation that one is
better than another. Open source comes with some positive aspects, such us: costs,
flexibility, community support and so on, but brings others negative points: requires more
technical skills from the stakeholders, no warranty about bugs or updates and so on. The
commercial LMS could be expensive or very expensive if some personalized features are
desired but in the same time offers technical support and assistance.
In according with those written above, and taking in consideration that the eLearning
market is very dynamic, we decided that is better for us to make permanent tests on
different LMS and probably in one or two years we will take a long term decision.

REFERENCES

Mircea Muresan, Ion Roceanu – Security Through Knowledge – Network Based Security Education, Berlin
EDUCA 2006, ISBN 3-9810562-3-x
Ion Roceanu, Citizens` security education based on e-learning technology, Berlin, EDUCA 2007, ISBN 3-
9810562-7-2
Ion Roceanu, Alexandra Toedt, Managing the information deliver the knowledge.
Steps in developing the digital content, eLSE Conference, Bucharest, 2008
Ion Roceanu, ADL master Plan Development, NATO ADL Forum, Norfolk, SUA 2006
Learning Management Systems: A Teacher's, Australia, 2003, at http://community.flexiblelearning.
net.au/TeachingTrainingLearners/content/
http://adl.unap.ro
http://www.ilias.de/
Mapping the Spaces of Virtual Learning Environments
Ioannis Paliokas

Democritus University of Thrace, Department of Primary Education


N. Chili, Alexandroupolis, GR-68100, GREECE
E-mail: ipalioka@eled.duth.gr

Abstract
Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are an expression of the post-modern school.
In this paper we discover how the functional requirements of the VLEs affect and
are being affected by the educational, ethnographic and social spaces. It is
supported that educational effectiveness of VLE is not proportional only to the
quality of learning material, but also to the general educational context of the VLE
regarding social characteristics that should be in line with the normal school life. In
order to eliminate certain negative issues related to empty and boring VLEs we
study the mapping of educational, mental and social spaces into modern virtual
environment’s philosophy of use.

Keywords: VLE, Blended Learning, Virtual Identities

1. Introduction
The increasing availability of communication technologies in all aspects of everyday life
has maximized the expectations from technology in general. The same thing happened to
VLEs when introduced to school environments: aalthough they started as experimental
projects, soon they became very popular. VLEs allow the multiple levels of engagement
and they are transforming the roles of teachers and students as well as their motivation
(Lennon and Maurer, 2003). Moreover, they propose a ‘socially constructed presence’
(Arminen et al, 2008) and thus they constitute an irreversible change in school
environments history, just like cell phones has changed the meaning of distant
communication.
Teaching with VLEs includes the use of a wide range of software tools, personal
computers and PDAs, curriculum design, management of student’s profiles, online help
and documentation to gain better learning outcomes. From a technological point of view,
VLEs could be seen as the evolution of educational software. It has been reported that
there are four generations of VLEs (Ivanova and Smrikarov, 2004):
1. First generation which mainly include databases of learning material, testing
systems and discussion forums.
2. Second generation which is based on integrated databases and organized learning
processes, administrating policies, statistics and metadata.
3. The cutting-edge third generation which supports audio and video conferences,
student collaboration over one project and integrated learning services.
84 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

4. For future development, the forth generation is about personalization, adaptation


to the needs of students using artificial intelligence, multi-agent technology, etc.
On the other hand, Blended learning appears today more realistic than pure online web
based learning according to students responses (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004). Based on
promising indications, this will continue to be true in the near future not only because it
broadens the learning environment and blurs the limits between virtual and physical
space, but mainly because it allows the continuation of pre-existing community ethics.
Blended Learning as term is not clearly defined because of contrasting definitions (Oliver
and Trigwell, 2005). In this paper the term is used to indicate the integrated combination
of face-to-face traditional with web based online teaching and learning activities.
Having discovered the recent VLE technologies and research findings about Blended
Learning published in the international literature, this paper aims to shed more light into
important aspects of virtual school life and blended learning experiences. In particular,
the main question is: which common spaces traditional and virtual learning environments
share? How student’s experiences are shaped when both environments are used
simultaneously?

2. From Locality to Diversity (and back)

2.1 Exploring the learning spaces


VLEs create learning spaces where distant students and teachers collaborate with each
other in order to reach goals. The geographical distance is not any more a factor that can
influence learner’s participation in a negative way. In VLEs, distances are measured in
number of clicks. On the other hand, the feeling of students being close to their instructor
is called transactional distance (Coopman, 2009). This distance can be eliminated in
VLEs because of the fact that participants adopt new identities which represent
themselves in a less socially structured or differently structured environment. For
example, while being very important as an organizer and having a high symbolic value,
the instructor is not the only source of information. Actually, the diversity of information
is such, that when someone says ‘I study at some fine university or school’, he/she
actually specifies the institution which will honour him/her with a diploma. There is no
doubt that educational institutions create other kind of qualities to separate themselves
from others. What is really mentioned here is that the actual learning environment for
each individual is not limited to a specific campus and nobody can tell exactly how many
teachers are involved in a course. A typical student normally spends more time searching
on the Internet than attending lectures. He/she also reads articles, forums and participates
in conversations with other students who share similar interests.
In the last generations of VLEs the diversity of information is maximized. Learning
resources from inside or outside of the VLE can be structured and delivered in such a way
that give to participants a sense of information continuation. Also, the learning resources
are enriched by the participant’s active enrolment. Finally, the content of a given VLE
include mixed textual, vocal and pictorial material where the distinction of the ‘formal’
educational material may not be the most important thing. Although technologically it is
easy to notate the official course material given by the instructor and the official libraries,
finally in a mixed information space this is not the primary purpose of learners. For
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 85

example, learners are highly interested in finding the other people’s explanations and
evaluations of a given set of learning material trying to figure out what to do with it.

2.2 The need for ‘localities’ in the information space


The effectiveness of VLEs is analogous to the frequency of their use. When rarely used,
they become frozen environments with low importance. Researchers propose the
structured information space, careful learning activities design and motivation as ways to
avoid the phenomenon of ‘Virtual Ghost Town’ (Kapp, 2009). Diverse users who share
the same information space prefer to create localities. Those localities can be social like a
virtual community or a small group of friends sharing the same forum or chat room. This
is typical to human behaviour. Actually, it has been reported that relationships among
members have the potentiality to grow faster than the absolute number of members
(Golbeck, 2007). These self-organizing communities create their own shared identities
(Lombardi and McCahill, 2004). Other type of localities in information space is personal
user profiles. Each learner creates his/her own user profile and provides, apart form
personal information, information about interests, courses, finished projects, communities
he/she belongs. It is a unique set of structured information and metadata describing a
person as a student and this is the first step to create a virtual identity. Virtual identities
help us to realize our existence into virtual spaces and probably it is the only way to start
socializing with others. Other localities are personalized digital libraries, where diverse
pieces of information have something in common: they belong to a specific user’s
preferences.
The diverse space of information looks like something infinite to users even if they
already have an identity and community membership. VLE designers do not always paid
much attention in creating to their users the feeling of ‘home’. In 3D immersive VLE a
home can be a virtual house or an apartment in a skyscraper. In non 3D environments
home can be the web page of user profile. In general, home can be a space what hosts
information that other users cannot access without our permission. To make an analogy to
physical life, home is a place where we have secrets. We see, use, own things and behave
away from other people’s attention. We can invite friends and share this special place
when we feel we trust someone. In most online social networks, when you are invited to
be a friend to someone you have access to (you are allowed to know) all other friends of
that person. Some users do not feel comfortable by this feature because these social
processes are not stepped enough and they are not always adaptive to different cultures.
Modern generations of VLEs create similar social networks, so the designers should take
into account that in personal spaces (homes) users need to have the control and need to be
the ones who create the rules. The same principles apply to any VLE in order to be
attractive to learners.

2.3 Reinforcing personal and group identities


As a conclusion to this section, when students and teachers share a common learning
virtual space, strategies need to be developed to eliminate the phenomenon of empty and
boring VLEs. Richardson & Turner came to conclusion that students feel less part of a
learning community and among other solutions they propose the more successful use of
the courserooms (Richardson and Turner, 2000). In addition to this, a courseroom can be
86 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

successful only if participants are getting involved with their personal identities and
information spaces and finally allow themselves to be part of the social context of the
VLE sharing the same group identity in virtual communities.
This personal way of participation is also influenced by the attitudes users create for
their own enrolment. For example, people who enter Second Life are referred to as
residents, not as users, players or visitors. Residents can socially express themselves by
transfering their own personalities to Second Life (Tashner, et al, 2005; Holmberg and
Huvila, 2008). This is a good example of reinforcing virtual identities. Matei et al.
support that virtual and real spaces are not mutually exclusive and the social life of all
virtual reality environments is a hybrid artifact (Matei et al, 2007). Similarly, students get
involved in traditional and virtual learning experiences using hybrid identities.

3. From Students to Participants

3.1 Online and offline life


We learn from whatever we do in our everyday life. Knowledge, abilities and personal
aesthetics are cultivated from our experiences (Korn-Bursztyn, 2002). In virtual
environments students may engage in roles totally different than in real life. But life also
has changed and includes virtual life and virtual identities too. Certain qualities of VLEs
create new places which have nothing in common with physical world. One of the most
interesting issues here is to study how online life is affecting offline life and vice versa.
For example, the architecture of schools is perceived as a meaning to students implying
that schools are important parts of our society and the school environment is a way to
construct a meaning about themselves (Williams, 1998). What meanings are created from
VLEs to imply that virtual learning is equally important as traditional learning? What
meanings students construct about themselves living a part of their school life into virtual
environments? Titman (1994) has shown that children have common reactions to specific
meanings because the receive messages from the learning environment which is
translated into a common cultural framework. In VLEs technology and culture are
affecting each other in a primitive way.
At the beginning, pparticipants are expected to spend an important part of their time to
knowing each other and trying to be self-organized in communities than spend time in
actual learning activities. Also students develop managing and promoting strategies to
make their user profiles famous among their communities. But why someone should
spend time and effort to create his/her user profile and share identity to others if he/she is
already known in a community of physical world? Personal identities and social structure
are the most difficult elements to be transferred in a VLE when Blended Learning is
applied. This could explain why although VLEs allow the creation of totally different
social structures, finally they are based around the traditional teacher-classroom model
(Weller, 2006).

3.2 User Models


VLEs are basically designed for distant participants (learners & teachers) but they are not
restricted to distance education (Dillenbourg, 2000). Even in cases users are not
geographically separated, the rules and processes remain the same. Moreover, educational
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 87

material is created by various and/or unknown authors and ‘the whole web ecosystem
produce wikidentities’ (Mallan and Giardina, 2009). Especially in Blended Learning, the
different levels of user geographical separation and the reversing roles between content
consumers and content creators indicate that current user models must be re-examined.
The recent history of various educational tools and the related teaching methods has
shown that any new ICT-based approach is closely related to user model evolution.
A comparison between the student model used in general educational software
development and participant model in VLE design can be seen in table1 as an example.
The plus sign (+) in the second column indicates what should be included over and above
the first column. Designers should answer questions like: ‘how official virtual learning
environments (those supported by the institution) indicate their differences in comparison
to other virtual environments?’, or ‘why student’s behaviour in VLE should be different
than in Second Life or Facebook?’. Answering those questions is beyond the scopes of
this paper, while the indication of which questions should be answered is the main
contribution.
Table 1. Comparison between models of ‘student’ and ‘participant’
General student model in Participant model in Virtual Learning
Educational Software Environment
Previous knowledge and abilities +Computer driving abilities
Age +Gender
Cultural background +Personal interests and preferences
Personal learning style + Perceptions and attitudes about
technology, videogames, communication
gadgets
Social and family environment + Friends he/she make within the learning
environment
Full time or part time student + Free time, other obligations
In-campus life Home computer availability and technical
characteristics, internet connection

4. From massive downloading to personalization


VLEs of the first generation were created around databases of learning material. Their
primary use was the massive downloading of educational resources and most of the
forum discussions were moving around technical issues regarding access difficulties,
identification processes and information exchange about ‘who is teaching what’.
Traditionally, students were treated as consumers of the educational material. Rules and
processes forced students to follow specific behavior routes and thus VLEs were
perceived as major downloaders.
Today VLEs are based on learning objects and metadata to deliver information and
integrated learning services in a structured way. Students have access to multiple learning
resources and under the support of the instructor they participate in content creation to
make possible independent learning (Graham, 2005). VLEs are no more simple
88 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

communication tools or major downloaders, they are ‘spaces for negotiation’


(Dillenbourg and Baker, 1996). Their design is involved with multiple institutional
strategies and finally with an open educational context. But behaviour routes are still
being affected by processes. For example students may have the expectation that
participation ‘here and there’ is enough to reach their goals. In a similar way teachers
may evaluate projects and not their students. Strict plagiarism checking (a lot of VLEs
include such tools and procedures) may deviate teachers from their initial role and create
insuperable emotional obstacles in relationship with their students.
There is not enough space for real personalization in content and processes as VLE
designers argue. Personalization is not restricted to personal profile settings, not to user
driven responses of the system based on database queries. The high degree of integration
of personalization into VLE should form learning services for specific personal goals.
The lack of personalization on learning services drives content creators to make
assumptions based only on curricula and teachers to recall their previous experience
before even meeting their students and know their needs. Most virtual courses are
introductory courses in IT skills because the learning content and activities are easier to
be addressed (Koskela et al, 2005).
There is also a lot of security issues arise regarding personalized learning services. At
first generations of VLEs security was limited to user authentication and access rights to
educational resources. Last generations have to deal with collecting information about
student’s actions, profiles, social networks and uploaded projects. User’s privacy issues
involve improper storage and information transfer of personal information without the
learner’s consent. To protect student privacy institutions that rely part of their educational
activities on VLEs must post their privacy practices.

5. Conclusions and Discussion


Virtual learning communities are about sharing experiences, not just information and
communication messages. Generally, we should not have over-expectations from the use
of VLE. Their effectiveness is maximized when Blended Learning principles and
practices are in use. But, to be perceived by participants as socializing environments
VLEs need to allow participants to express their feelings, wishes, level of satisfaction or
complains and apply personal rules in information management. Moreover, all those
issues must be seen as personal routes in school life. Comparing the traditional learning
environments and VLEs as they are used simultaneously, we can depict the following
contradictory pairs in cases of poor design and bad practices of sharing the information
space:
• From knowledge authority represented by the teacher we move to the information
managing authority represented by the administrator.
• From the social welfare and intellectualism of schools and academic communities
we move to the individual welfare and user hierarchies regarding access rights
and privileges.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 89

• From the behavioral ethics and the construction of ideas about the world and
ourselves we move to adoption of contradictory identities and the flat
representation of ourselves. In other worlds from conceptualism to formalism.
• From evaluation of student effort and the formulation of personal goals we move
to mechanistic file checking and the formulation of course goals.
• From living moments of social presence we move to spending time in reading
past discussions in virtual spaces searching for evidence of being there.
Based on the above, VLE design and the everyday use in Blended Learning must
allow participants to ‘image’ their school in a holistic way. Those mental images of the
mixed school environment will affect the future use of VLE in a positive way because
they will create personal memories. For example, if someone asks today students to show
their school, it is much more possible that students will show the school building, than
show its website. In future this may change as the physical environment and the virtual
one will be more blended. Virtual identities are something more than user profiles,
usernames and passwords. VLEs will be re-established as environments full of instinctive
action when learners will realize the potentiality of their presence and will use it to create
parts of school life history.

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On line environments to enhance entrepreneurial mindsets in
young students
Allegra Mario, Fulantelli Giovanni, Gentile Manuel,
La Guardia Dario, Taibi Davide

Italian National Research Council, Institute for Educational Technology, Palermo, Italy
E-mail: mario.allegra@itd.cnr.it, giovanni.fulantelli@itd.cnr.it, manuel.gentile@itd.cnr.it,
dario.laguardia@itd.cnr.it, davide.taibi@itd.cnr.it

Abstract
Setting up an enterprise requires enthusiasm, creativity and perseverance, while
afterwards the gradual expansion of a company calls instead for management skills
like efficiency, efficacy and reliability. Since both personality and management skills
are decisive factors in determining success, personal skills connected to an
entrepreneurial spirit should be taught early on and cultivated up to university level,
where it will be possible concentrating on the acquisition of management skills.
Recently, the European Commission has revealed that most member states are
involved in several ways in promoting the teaching of entrepreneurship within their
own educational systems. Our research starts from the Oslo conference and agenda
on "Entrepreneurship Education in Europe: Fostering Entrepreneurial Mindsets
through Education and Learning", highlighting the main experiences in Europe and
their outcomes regarding the promotion of entrepreneurship in education. The main
research objective is to define an educational model to support students in the
development both of personal qualities and attitudes and of formal knowledge and
skills. The model will adopt entrepreneurial environments based on social
educational games. Entrepreneurial networking is more than just collaboration
since it stimulates the ability to find and create new relationships, the ability and the
know how to identify the key competencies that can be useful in developing
entrepreneurial mindsets.

Keywords: Management Game, Business Game, Multi-learner Online Learning


Environment

1 Introduction
In the last few years, some activities have been carried out to introduce and promote
awareness in young people of the culture and methodologies used by global enterprises.
This awareness is fundamental to allow them to develop the competencies required in an
evolving labour market as it responds to the development of the ‘knowledge society’.
Many young people become disenchanted with their school experience as what they learn
at school is often of little relevance to their lives in the outside world and they seek to
develop a different range of competences from those offered in the traditional school
curriculum (Selandar 2008; Ziegler 2007; and Selwyn 2007). The main aim of our
research is designing a training model to stimulate an entrepreneurial mindset in young
92 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

people and to help them acquire the “modern skills” required by the knowledge society,
based on the findings of research in this area. The training model will be run in
collaboration with professional/entrepreneurial organizations rather than solely by
schools, and will also make use of new ICT tools defined to create innovative and
motivating learning activities. In fact, the model will include a new software platform,
defined to support students in developing the necessary skills and stimulating their ability
to find and create new relationships, the ability and the know how to identify the key
competencies and resources that can be useful in developing their ideas.
The professional qualities which are most highly considered today are those typical of
an entrepreneur, even in a context of subordinate work (Armbuster 2008). These qualities
are conceptualised for this study as: motivation to achieve results and take initiative,
tenacity, flexibility and creativity (based on various interpretations of the term
‘professional’ including Friedson 1994; Quinn et al 1996; Macdonald 1995; Moore 1970
and Abbott 1998). These will be achieved through the involvement of students by the
setting up of the training laboratories, making use of active and motivational learning
methodologies and technologies to raise young people’s level of competences. The
laboratories will allow them to acquire the skills required by the knowledge society, while
enabling them to take control of their learning processes and giving them the opportunity
of expressing their aptitudes and potentialities to make better informed choices.
Our research starts from the analysis of key elements of successful Enterprise
Education Programs in Secondary Schools in Europe and, in particular, from the projects
indicated in the Oslo agenda and the following experiences in other European countries.
The model we are going to define will include active learning experiences, and ICT based
environments, so providing pupils with a more rewarding way of acquiring knowledge. In
fact, ICT have always played a key role in managerial education, especially in the
creation of simulation environments. For this reason the model will include the use of a
software platform that will support students in developing the necessary skills identified
to foster entrepreneurial mindsets.
Education and professional training should contribute to encouraging an
entrepreneurial spirit, promoting a suitable mindset, awareness of the opportunities of
following an entrepreneurial career and professional skills.
The Eurobarometer survey (European Commission 2007) indicates that 37% of
Europeans would like or would have liked to follow an entrepreneurial career, but only
15% have achieved their ambition. The surveys show that being familiar with the
procedures for setting up an enterprise increases the probability of becoming an
entrepreneur. In the surveys carried out by Eurobarometer, the interviewees whose
parents were self employed were more inclined towards self employment than those
whose parents are employees. According to the GEM survey people who are confident
about their skills and their experience are from two to seven times more likely to be
involved in setting up or managing a new enterprise; for those who know a young
entrepreneur the probability is three or four times greater. On the basis of the British
Household Survey, people who have more contact with the business world (through
friends, relatives or education) are more likely to consider setting up an enterprise. The
educational system must help to promote an entrepreneurial spirit by providing
competences and contacts.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 93

An important experience in this field, was carried out in Greece, at the technical
school "Sivitanidios" in Athens, where virtual enterprises were used as educational tools.
The students divide their time between theoretical lessons and management of a virtual
enterprise. Since the results are extremely favourable the programme will be extended to
all technical schools and will include a new course on entrepreneurship that will consider
theoretical aspects and practical notions regarding the drawing up of business plans. Job
centres then guarantee students advice and support in choosing an entrepreneurial career.
In this paper we will focus on the ICT solution identified to support the development
of entrepreneurial mindsets. Firstly we will describe the general characteristics of some
effective on line educational environments and in particular of role playing games. Then
we will illustrate the solution identified in our research.

2 Role-playing games
Role-playing games originate as a particular kind of board game, in which players act as
characters of an adventure that often has a fantastic setting. Under the guidance of a game
master (Dungeon Master or DM), that has the task of interpreting not player character
roles, and describes for other players what they see and hear in this imaginary world
(Fine, A. 1983), players have to move in a theatre of epic fights and monstrous creatures
to conquer points and complete their missions.
The first one and the most known role-playing game is “Dungeon and Dragons”
(D&D), published in 1974 by authors Gary Gygax e Dave Arneson, fascinated more the
20 millions players.
The world of games, the development of personal computers and of the Internet, have
greatly increased the development of role-playing games, improving their expressivity
and user involvement. The result has been the creation of MUD (Multi User
Dungeons&Dragons, computer version of D&D) and after MMORPG (Massive
Multiplayer Online Role–Playing Game), evolution of MUD with massive use of graphic
and audio contents.
MMORPG belong to the category of MMOG (Massive Multi-player Online Game);
one of the most famous present-day MMORPG is World of Warcraft; in its virtual
environment every day millions of players interact to achieve personal or common goals
and develop their own character (Papagiannidis, S. 2008).
This phenomenon didn’t go unnoticed to training sector; role-play techniques focused
on the student and his learning process, originating from Moreno’s psychodrama and
spontaneous theatre (Moreno, J. L. 1946), have been used as methodologies which are
alternative to traditional teacher and content centered strategies. Serious games (those
with educational aims) developed from this technique include simulation and role-playing
environments facilitating emotive and experiential learning (such as “learning by doing”,
“learning by failing” and “discovery learning”) (Kebritchi, M. 2008)”. Besides, by using
simulated environments which are specifically created to achieve an educational goal,
students can learn in a secure context, where their mistakes do not have damaging
consequences (Dieleman H., 2006). As confirmation of the validity of this training
approach, nowadays serious games are widely adopted both in the field of business
training (Pannese L., 2007) and in military training (McDowell P., 2006), for the rapidity
with which competences and knowledge can be acquired.
94 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

3 Massively Multi-learner Online Learning Environment (MMOLE)


An MMOLE is a multiuser environment allowing spontaneous and enjoyable learning,
thanks to a serious MMOG (game with educational goals) (Foreman, J., 2007).
The social aspects of this kind of environment are extremely important; players can
collaborate with other players to reach a common objective. Multiuser environments are
preferable to single user ones because they can activate collaborative learning, or rather
the acquisition by individuals of knowledge, skills and attitudes resulting from group
interactions or individual learning as a result of a group process (Kaye A.R. 1992). The
social aspect of the games is therefore one of the most important elements to stimulate
since it promotes learning. Collaboration to achieve a common objective requires a
clearer and more careful clarification of one’s ideas in order to share them more easily
with other players; besides, confrontation with other people’s ideas produces critical
reflection and advanced reasoning, leading to more meaningful and permanent learning.
The opportunity to have heterogeneous groups, consisting of experts and beginners,
promotes what Lave (Lave J. 1991) defines as legitimate peripheral participation. The
presence of a beginner in the community of practice must be legitimized by the
possibility of having a role within the group, even if the role is peripheral; his wish to
become an active and central participant, will develop in a socio-cultural activity that will
lead him to interact with expert members, and will allow him to move from the periphery
to the center of the community of practice, in a process that enables him to become more
expert in an informal way.
An MMOLE has the following characteristics:
− An MMOG integrated with a Learning Management System
− Communication tools
− Progress tracking
− Tutor supervision
LMS integration provides links to traditional e-learning course and resources to
deepen game issues. Communication tools allow students to receive feedback both from
other students and tutors following the game evolution. An immediate feedback helps
students to reinforce desired behaviors. Tracking systems are useful to teachers to follow
students’ progress. Tutors supervise learning processes, manage the starting phase,
provide feedback to players and stimulate collaboration among them.

4 A new learning environment to enhance entrepreneurial mindsets


Nowadays, millions people in all the world play with MMORPG (A.Meredith, 2009);
Yee demonstrates that 22% of players are young students (N.Yee, 2006). Users are in
continuous growth and the market is a source of great economic interest (Papagiannidis,
S. 2008).
An MMOLE for entrepreneurial education can allow the so-called “virtual situated
learning”; in fact, this kind of setting, where the student is immersed in a simulated
environment as close as possible to the real world, promotes more rapid learning and
provides the necessary confidence for putting into practice in the real world what he has
learned in the virtual world (Jones, S. 2007).
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 95

For these reasons, the use of multiuser learning environments can support the creation
of motivating and attractive settings for enterprise education for young students.
Baldassin analyzed principal market management games and concluded that
MMORPG’s are their natural evolution, because they overcome limitations regarding the
flexibility of the model and the complexity of the business (Baldissin, N. 2007).
Considering the pedagogical and attraction potentialities of the MMORPG and
considering Baldassin’s studies results, we have decided to develop an MMOLE platform
based on a MMORPG to create an environment to enhance entrepreneurial mindsets in
young students.
The game will be designed to manage different levels of complexity, in relation to the
experience acquired by the players. Players start at a basic level in which they have a
simple role, and then, as they acquire more experience, they have new resources that can
be used to play at an advanced level where their role is more complex. In this way, at
different times a player can occupy a variety of roles and observe and simulate different
conditions.
Our solution also focuses on the creation of a networked entrepreneurial environment
combining aspects of social networking with relevant aspects from the use of business
games. Entrepreneurial networking is more than just collaboration since it stimulates the
ability to find and create new relationships, the ability and the know how to identify the
key competencies that can be useful in developing their ideas.
Entrepreneurship in education is broadly defined and includes economic, social and
cultural factors. Starting from the definition: “Entrepreneurship is a dynamic and social
process where individuals, alone or in collaboration, identify opportunities for innovation
and act upon these by transforming ideas into practical and targeted activities, whether
in a social cultural or economic context”, the educational environment, and the model in
which it is integrated, must support students in the development both of personal qualities
and attitudes and of formal knowledge and skills. These two main elements will give
pupils/students competence in entrepreneurship:
- Personal qualities and attitudes increase the probability of a person seeing
opportunities and acting on them,
- Knowledge and skills concerning what must be done to establish a new
enterprise, and how to be successful in developing an idea into a practical, goal-
oriented enterprise.
The MMORPG we are going to develop will be centered on operative enterprise
phases (supplying, production, sale, human resource management), but with a strong
orientation on the market. It will not be a zero-sum game, that is to say that the winning
of a player does not necessary corresponds to the other’s defeat; on the contrary, many
activities of the game will be studied to promote cooperation among players to reach a
common goal.
From a technical point of view we chose to develop a browser game MMORPG; in
fact, browser games provide a compromise between complexity of the development
(there are a great number of framework for the optimization of web based application
development) and pedagogical potentialities. Today’s browsers have the necessary
96 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

features to carry audio, video and textual contents that, according to Roden (Roden, S.
1991), if opportunely combined increase of the 30% the learning speed of the student.
Another important aspect, comparing our environment to other business games, is that
it is not only a simulation game but an on line world. In a simulation game only one
person is interacting with the software at a time; instead, in an on line world the user has
to interact and cooperate with other users, to improve their business, to make decisions, to
reach objectives that they cannot reach alone. The learners are inside a simulated
environment, interacting both with the software and other users; so their activities can
have effect both on their own enterprise and on the others.
The browser game we are going to develop will include some non-player characters
(NPC), designed to perform some tasks guiding students to understand some important
mechanisms of the market. For example, if there is an NPC creating obstacles to the
development of a company, the owner has to understand the best strategy to defeat it,
learning how to protect his/her business from that kind of problems. Besides, NPCs will
allow the simulation of important actors of the market. NPC are also useful tools for
instructors to facilitate learning events and activate/manage some interactions within the
environment.
It is important to notice that the learning environment we are going to develop will be
a game in which students will play autonomously, improving their skills and knowledge.
But in some phases or situations, instructors can activate managed learning events to
bring students to reflect on particular aspects, making the game more effective for
learing.

5 Conclusion and future work


Educational MMORPG are now beginning to emerge. In particular, games based on
browser MMORPG can allow the development of on line educational environments
reducing the cost of production, respect to the first experiences with this kind of games.
Considering that nowadays million of people in all the world play with MMORPG and an
increasing percentage of them are young students, we think that these environments can
have great prospective for learning purposes, especially in some contexts where the
simulation of the real world and the interactions with other subjects are crucial. For these
reasons we have thought to develop a new model for enterprise education, based on a
browser MMORPG, for young students, to make them acquire entrepreneurial mindsets.
Although we will develop a simplified model of the environment in which enterprises
work, it will be able to provide students the chance to:
− Learn, through learning by doing and learning by failing methodologies,
dynamics in an open market and the main factors influencing the start-up and
the success of an enterprise
− Learn cooperative work with other players, to reach common aims
− Develop inductive reasoning attitudes (what-if analysis), analysis, planning
and verifying capability and problem solving.
It is important to highlight that the new learning environment probably will be able to
involve students in the first phase and, if it is well structured and attractive, also in the
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 97

following levels of the game; the integration of the game in very well known social
networks will be another way of attracting and engaging young students. But to be an
effective learning environment it is crucial in the design phase to create the right “rules”
to interact in the virtual community, guiding students trough the key factors of the
complex world of the market. However, to make students acquire entrepreneurial
mindsets it will be important to involve them in all the activities of the educational model
we are designing with educational institutions and associations of enterprises.

REFERENCES

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Future of Virtual Learning Methods and User Expectations –
Can Present Methods Flourish Without Change?
Indika Perera

Department of Computer Science & Engineering,


University of Moratuwa, SRI LANKA
E-mail: indikaperera@uom.lk

Abstract
The ever changing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) add
enormous approaches of utilizing computing in to our lives, daily. Every aspect of
social needs have been touched with ICT, including Virtual Learning (VL). VL, with
life span of slightly above a decade, still looks for possible approaches to enhance
its functions with significant pressure from related disciplines for continual
improvements. Very recently with the introduction of Web 2.0, Semantic Web, and 3-
Dimensional Virtual Environments users expand their horizons of expectations.
Along with this technology advancement, there has been a noticeable social and
demographic transformation from recent years. Sociologist, refer these as new
generations of human kind with high intellect, Multitasking nature, and high
awareness of their environments. At the moment they are getting into the education
stream with high eager for creativity, flexibility and entertainment. Most of present
primary and secondary students show such characteristics and advance their
expectations frequently. On the other hand VL still not accommodating new social
networking and entertainment approaches as it confined to limitations from
traditional learning pedagogies and administrative rules. So far only successful step
it could step forward is the blended learning which now fading its novelty. The
simple yet foremost essential question is, how far could we retain our students
willingly with present Virtual Learning methods? Or will it becomes another
unimpressive rigid approach of learning to our future generations. This paper
discusses possible approaches to evolve Virtual Learning Methods and Models to
make the future learning enjoyable yet comprehensive task.

Keywords: Virtual Learning Methods, Learning Preferences, Generation Y and Z,


Social Networking, Learning Strategy Development

1 Introduction
Education is considered as a fundamental necessity for any human being. Most of the
developed societies consider it as the main qualification for being competitive among the
others. As a result, enormous efforts have been made, throughout our civilizations for
enhancing the education processes. ICT has shown a remarkable potential for making
educational activities more effective and efficient, when used along with educational
pedagogies. ICT affects many systematic disciplines to alter and revise their traditional
workflows to improve their productivity. Hence the e-Learning is a growing area where
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 99

many universities are focused on to gain the maximum benefits through ICT. During past
decades, there were significant works to improve the related technology (Perera, 2009). It
is not only the e-Learning that made things better, but many believe blended approach
would produce even better results. The term blended learning is used to describe a
learning situation that combines several delivery methods with the goal of providing the
most efficient and effective instruction experience by such combination (Williams, 2003).
Many Higher-Education institutions have adopted the use of virtual learning
environments and incorporate e-learning into their traditional teaching mechanisms as
part of a blended-learning approach (Evans, 2008). Blended learning combines multiple
delivery media that are designed to complement each other and promote learning
behaviour (Singh, 2003). In fact blended learning tries to provide a common platform for
traditional learning aspects with possible combinations from virtual learning
technologies.
“Potential for a greater learner autonomy where learners are more empowered through
control of tools and content development” (Field, 2007), can be seen with advanced
technological development, especially ICT related. So far the blended learning tried to
mix traditional aspects of learning with technology, but missing this vital concept of
learner autonomy. In fact the technological advancement is so rapid and it moves further
deviating from the learning approaches that we use today, making a more autonomous
and creative person. It is now indeed the time for the requirement of another paradigm
shift for learning activities to bridge the gap between our learning methods and today’s
technology offerings. Essentially, it is meaningless to focus on situational aspects from
time to time and find many different solutions as we could never able to develop
sustainable learning methods. “To effectively accommodate, support, and promote the
knowledge production process, instructors need to select appropriate learning models and
strategies” (Dabbagh, 2007). Therefore, the main motivation of this paper is to introduce
strategic guidance for future planning for learning approach improvements irrespective of
technological changes time to time, while offering education to new generations meeting
their behavioural preferences.
This paper is organized as follows. The section 2 discusses the present problem with
virtual learning from the view of socio-behavioural concerns. Then in the section 3, the
paper introduces a strategic model for analyze learning methods and their strategic
positions respect to key aspects of today’s virtual learning. Section 4 gives a brief
summary of possible technologies to move forward with virtual learning improvements,
where as the section 5 discuss the issues we are going to encounter with these learning
enhancements. Thereafter, the Conclusion summarizes the possible policy implications
and finally the references will complete the paper.

2 Problem
Due to the increasingly diverse population, education is changing toward a more global,
technology-rich environment designed to meet these diverse and changing needs of
students (Gunter, 2007). As a result, many isolated researchers try different methods for
incorporating new technological methods as they are, without following a proper
100 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

behavioural analysis on student preferences and technological suitability. In general any


system approach needs to convince its users through different methodologies with
sufficient amount of customizations to achieve the adaptability of the system.
Adaptability is one of the important factors which help to yield the acceptance of an e-
learning system. The issues of how to support adaptability in learning systems, and
provide students with personalized learning materials, can be partially solved by
providing student-centred, self-paced, interactive learning materials along with
introducing automatic and dynamically adaptive learning methods (Sun, 2005).
Recent studies have shown that “the successful implementation of educational
technologies depends largely on the attitudes of educators, who eventually determine how
they are used” (Albarini, 2006). This is another important issue as educators are going to
use the available new technologies with their preferred way, but student expect it
differently. This is where the socio-behavioural input is needed to train educators to work
with digitally oriented new generations.

2.1 New Generations’ Learning Tastes


Demographic and Socio-Behavioural analyses show, three major generation groups at
present; namely Generation X, Generation Y and Generation Z (still at the definition
level). In present context Generation X refers to people with age around and above 30
years born up to 1980. They expect more self esteem and flexibility of what they do in the
same time with less technology preference. Most of present learning methods are focused
with this group and pedagogical confinements aligned with their requirements.
Generation Y, usually defined as those between the ages of 11 and 25 or up to 30 at
present context. They care less about salaries, and more about flexible working, time to
travel and a better work-life balance. And employers have to meet their demands
(Asthana, 2008). Generation Y is described as self-confident, self-reliant, independent,
and goal oriented ... Perhaps the generation may put a bigger premium on having fun, and
is more relaxed and able to take uncertainty in stride. They are special, sheltered,
confident, team-oriented, achieving, pressured, and conventional (McIntosh-Elkins,
2007). Generation Y members have used computers since a young age and are e-learners
(Allerton, 2001). They live to be trained, enjoy the challenge of new opportunities, seek
work-life balance and like to be involved in decision making (Allerton, 2001). Present
high school and university students are in this category and show different interests than
what they have been offered in learning.
Generation Z, are the present youngest generation of human race who born after the
internet information and communication became the mainstream of our lives, i.e. after
mid 90’s. There are not much behavioural characteristics clearly identified with this
generation, as they are still around 12 – 13 years of age at most and many of them are in
the present primary education system. Palfrey & Gasser (2008, p.41) define this
generation as digitally born humans. They have digital identities from their birth, and
every activity of their lives, digitally related and will have heaps of digital records of their
life as grow. What we can anticipate is that they will be more autonomic, entertaining
themselves and create their own environment irrespective of what happens around them
and less tolerable with rigid, routinely, stereotypic activities.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 101

Both Y and Z generations are more extraverts with highly connected to social
networks. Extraversion refers to high activity, assertiveness, and a tendency towards
social behaviour (Furnham et al., 2007). Individuals high in extraversion enjoy human
interactions and take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings. Indeed,
work-life balance is one of the top priorities of students (Comeau-Kirschner and Wah,
1999). Proserpio and Gioia (2007) argued that we will no longer teaching a verbal, or
even just a visual, but a virtual generation of students with digitally oriented mindsets.
The clear differences between Generation X with Y and Z indicate it is highly essential to
alter present learning methods to accommodate new generations’ requirements.

2.2 Impact of Transitional Learning Activities


Whenever there is a new and affordable technology available, we tend to apply it for our
education system thinking that we could solve infrastructure and social issues affecting
education through that. However, we never foresee, what is the technological situation in
learning context as well as in near future. We could observe this situation with most of
the learning development activities as educators trying to introduce dozens of new
teaching approaches with different technological infrastructure to overcome learning
difficulties. This make students to confuse on technologies they use and ironically always
the technology they are using to learn lags with what available for them in the society.
This makes those students to lack their interest on the technologies used for teaching.
Unfortunately, with resource constraints, teachers could not afford the latest technology
either. But if we carefully examine, we could produce similar results to latest
technological approaches, using what we have, in most cases. For that we need to
examine student’s preferences without confining ourselves to rigid learning processes.
Having discussed the main problem area for this analysis, the next sections try to
provide a strategic solution with potential technical approaches for implementation.

3 Proposed Model for Analysis


It is really difficult to foresee the learner requirement in a situational manner, without a
strategic drive for analyzing. Trying to tailor-made learning methods as new technologies
emerge only give temporarily solutions and could be more probable to affect learners
negatively. As we saw in above, without considering appropriate factors with suitable
combinations, we would not able to get optimum learning methods to entertain students
with new technologies.
The model which is proposed here correlates the three prime aspects of virtual
learning. Most of the scholars have acknowledged the pedagogical aspects and
technological aspects, but not the socio-behavioural aspects. Here the model introduces
the socio-behavioural as a new paradigm to the learning methods analysis. Some may
think that this aspect was already there with the learning activities. Even if it was the case
it never used for thorough analysis at policy level. With this model, we could analyse
many possible outcomes when different aspects gets dominating, allowing us to design
our learning methods more appropriately and consistently, without getting affected from
frequent technological changes or pedagogical constraints.
102 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The model shown in the figure 1 below is the abstract view of how these three aspects
combine each other for a future virtual learning environment. According to the proposed
model, more overlapping of aspects altogether, gives ideal virtual learning environments.
If the combinations are not balanced with all aspects, prominent aspects will make the
learning activities less effective.

Figure 1: Conceptual model to analyze learning process improvements

3.1 Areas to Avoid


There are three sub areas according to the model shown as 1, 2, and 3 indicating possible
problem areas. For the best results in future learning methods we have to avoid these
situations and try to make them acceptable to all aspects.
Overlapping Area 1 - This indicates the combination of Pedagogical Aspects with
Socio-Behavioural Preferences, but no consideration with available advanced
technologies for improving learning methods. The course environments may somewhat
attractive to students and meet pedagogical requirements, but not operating productively
due to the overhead learning processes without technological support.
Overlapping Area 2 - This area represents the combination of Pedagogical Aspects
with Advanced Technological solutions, but no consideration for making the learning
process attractive to the audience. In fact, today’s typical virtual learning environments
have high vulnerability to fall into this category, and in future things would be worsen
with new generation’s preferences. Unfortunately, today what we are doing is, trying to
make virtual learning align with pedagogical constraints and including blended aspects to
widen the virtual learning scope, without taking into account on how students perceive
our methods.
Overlapping Area 3 – This indicates the combination of Advanced Technologies and
student preferences, without the Pedagogical Aspects of learning. Most of the latest
pervasive and social networking solutions come under this category. We cannot use them
as it is since they do not provide any formal learning methods.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 103

4 Possible Solutions
The greater ubiquity of open standards-based e-tools and services is prompting a range of
integrated and collaborative tools and functionality (de Freitas and Neumann, 2009).
Indeed these tools provide good platforms to link both pedagogical aspects with user
preferences.
Social networking solutions are very popular at the moment with younger generation.
Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and many similar social networking solutions have
penetrated into students’ lives, where most of them spent reasonable time with their
preferred systems. Not only that, but also students use these as informal methods to share
their opinions, plan group activities, participate in virtual events, sharing contents, etc.
Edirisingha and Salmon (2007) found that pod-casts contributed to informality and
engagement. Pod-casting can also make learning more appealing to a diversity of learners
and can generate greater inclusive nature (Cebeci and Tekdal, 2006). Rich media content
through pod-casting and mobile sharing is another possible solution to make learning
activities more attractive to users while making their learning more autonomous.
3-D virtual learning environments are another possibility to incorporate game flavour
with learning activities. The "digital classroom” provided by 2D tools does not resemble
the reality of the conventional classroom (de Lucia et al. 2009). There are many
successful implementations of 3-D virtual learning environments available from
universities and trend will move to the school education in near future.
Finally, moving further Mixed Realities would generate extraordinary results with
combining all possible virtual and real technologies for comprehensive learning. “Mixed
Reality is a new technology to edutainment, with potential to revolutionise learning and
teaching with more engagement” (Liu et al., 2007).
However, we also have to consider the relative cost of introducing new technologies to
the learning arena for better results. Any Technology that students are widely using
already for their entertainment would be a great option.

5 Issues to Overcome
Introducing, social networking, user generated content and heterogeneous technologies,
results dozens of issues to emerge with present learning methods, indeed it would make
the most of educators worry too. Some of the most prominent potential issues and
possible remedial actions are discussed briefly, here.
“Many studies have specifically examined how an instructor’s feedback impacted on
student–student interactions and satisfaction and Wize and others have found that a
moderated online discussion community by an instructor can elicit greater participation
among students than an un-moderated one” (Heejung et al., 2009). As the educational
activities should be formal in nature, it may be not possible to use new entertaining
technologies without moderation. For an example, the way social networking forum
postings (language, spellings, short words, abusive words etc.) made by students among
their friends may not suitable for proper learning. A moderator must be present to ensure
appropriate learning mix with formal learning.
104 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

“In education, there is a growing concern with the Internet triggered dishonesty
sparked by the massive use of the Internet” (Akbulut et al., 2008). The Internet can
facilitate many kinds of unethical behaviours such as plagiarism, piracy, fraudulence,
falsification, misuse, etc. (Ross, 2005). With the social networking and rich content
sharing methods, students could easily alter available content and claim the ownership for
assessments. Also, it would be really difficult to access control on student activities to
ensure proper assessment based learning activities. Future research is essential to
implement technological solutions to overcome these issues.
Yet again, it is the educator who governs the methods and models used in learning
process, and therefore they have to be convinced with the new approaches. They have to
be trained and provided with sufficient guidance on how to work with new generational
students and new technologies. There are one or two generational gaps with present
educators and students, making the delivery of education happen according to the
educators’ mindsets even the methods accommodate all aspects in balanced nature.
Therefore, to achieve, effective results from these improvements, present academia must
be openly convinced on the benefits of changes.

6 Conclusion
This paper has very briefly, yet comprehensively, rationalized the problems that existing
virtual learning methods and models, would experience in near future with new student
generations, if they do not accommodate necessary improvements. Since the situational
approaches for analysing these issues would not yield sustainable solutions, paper has
introduced a strategic model to analyze virtual learning methods with prime aspects and
their combinations. The technologies and potential issues discussed here would only
guide the pathway, but essentially need further research on possible avenues of
improvements with suitable technical customization. There are enormous untapped
potential researches relating to future learning methods improvements. Unfortunately, so
far researches focusing more on isolated technical approaches without considering the
broad spectrum to provide sustainable solutions to next generations. Whether we evolve
the present learning methods or not would decide their acceptance from future students.

REFERENCES

Albarini A., (2006), Cultural perceptions: The missing element in the implementation of ICT in developing
countries, International Journal of Education and Development using ICT , 2(1):49–65
Akbulut Y., Sendag S., Birinci G., Kilicer K., Sahin M.C. and Odabasi H.F., (2008) Exploring the types and
reasons of Internet-triggered academic dishonesty among Turkish undergraduate students: Development
of Internet-Triggered Academic Dishonesty Scale (ITADS), Computers & Education 51(1):463–473.
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[accessed on 02.06.2008] [available at] http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2008/
may/25/workandcareers.worklifebalance,
Cebeci, Z. and Tekdal, M. (2006) Using Pod casts as Audio Learning Objects, Interdisciplinary Journal of
Knowledge and Learning Objects, 2: 7-57
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 105

Comeau-Kirschner, C., & Wah, L. (1999) Holistic management. Management Review, 88(11):26-32.
Dabbagh N., (2007), The online learner: Characteristics and pedagogical implications, Contemporary Issues
in Technology and Teacher Education 7(3), online [available at]
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de Freitas S., Neumann T., (2009), The use of ‘exploratory learning’ for supporting immersive learning in
virtual environments Computers & Education 52(2), 343-352
De Lucia A., Francese R., Passero I., Tortora G. (2009), Development and evaluation of a virtual campus on
Second Life: The case of SecondDMI, Computers & Education, 52(1):220–233
Edirisingha, P., & Salmon, G. (2007) Pedagogical models for pod-casts in higher education [online]
[available at] http://hdl.handle.net/2381/405 [Accessed 14.05.2009]
Evans C. (2008), The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of pod-cast revision lectures in higher
education, Computers & Education, 50(2):491-498
Field J., (2007), Looking outwards, not inwards, ELT Journal 61(1):30–38
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people: A Study of two personalities and two intelligence measures, Journal of Business Psychology,
(22): 99–109.
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Online Classes, International Journal of Social Science, 2(3):196-202
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interactions during asynchronous online discussions, Computers & Education, 53(3):749-760
Liu, W., Cheok, A. D., Mei-Ling, C. L., Theng, Y., (2007), Mixed reality classroom: learning from
entertainment. In Proc. of the 2nd international Conference on Digital interactive Media in Entertainment
and Arts, DIMEA '07, ACM, 274:65-72
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and z: strategies for managing the generation mix, In Proc. of the 35th Annual ACM SIGUCCS
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Blended Learning End-User Experience”, In Proc. of IEEE International Advance Computing
Conference, IACC’09, 2379-2384
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Education, 6(1): 69–80
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35(1): 22–25
Learn of the Network Concepts Using Project Based Learning
Costel Aldea, Ion Florea

University Transilvania of Brasov


50, Iuliu Maniu, Brasov, 500091, ROMANIA
costel.aldea@unitbv.ro
ilflorea@gmail.com

Abstract
The paper presents an application used by the students in the learning of networks
communication and configuration functions. Based on the idea that only by
interrogating and displaying of the network properties the student does not perceive
the basics of networks and due to the fact that the number of possibilities in
networks are large a skeleton project is proposed where the student contribute to a
team implementation of a network resource management project and better
understand basic principles of networking. Such that using project based learning
aspects the student are further developing the skeleton project as a team.

Keywords: Computer Networks, Project based learning, network

1 Introduction
E-learning contains modern methods and technics based on information tachnology
components like: multimedia, synchron and asynchron communication (Sangeorzan,
2003). All this components help user to obtain new knowledges in different domains.
Through the rapid access to the knowledges the educational software is an alternative
to the classical learning methods. In a simple approach, the educational software divides in:
- Simple interactive presentations and tools which are making more efficient and
attractive the teaching of the same knowledge that can be told in the classic
mode too;
- Computer simulators which are reproducing a bounce of real process from all the
domains, including those related to computer networks. These simulators offer
the user the possibility to simulate critical processes and to better understand
their business logic without producing any damage to the real system; in this
class are also included certain themes about the administration of a computer
network, when the students don’t have the administration rights (Florea, 2003;
Aldea, 2006).
In (Florea, 2003) is presented the simulation of some basic network administration
operations, such the the installing of the network operating system, Microsoft Windows
Xp, the IP adress alocation, the administration of account settings.
The XP firewall is a simple application which doesn’t contain a tremendous menu
with options for its own configuration. The user can only filter the ports, addresses and to
establish the status for the log operations.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 107

In the current paper a skeleton project is proposed where the student contribute to a
team implementation of a network resource management project and better understand
basic principles of networking.
It has to mention that the skeleton project is written in the programing language C#.
The project offers samples of some basic API’s and the users must extend the
functionalities. For example in the proposesd verison are implemented function for
managing user and groups with a minimal number of parametrs and the user should
further extend the implementation to establish the propertie for the new created user (for
example it must set the logon script). The user can also see the functionalities offered by
the operating system itself by accessing the administrative tools components which are
started directly from the menu of the program.

2 Network Resource Management Project (NRMan)


In this section is presented the project on which the students collaborate to learn network
aspects. The students have to deal with knowledge’s about devices, computers, and
protocols, programming in networks and team working to solve network problems. So
that the learners have to understands concepts and principles related to networks (Florea,
2004).

2.1 User requirements


It is required to implement/extend an application for network resource management.
Using the application one has the following possibilities:
- list local services;
- star/stop local services;
- list open port for a workstation;
- read the networked station;
- list the remote processes;
- ping any station;
- manage local users and groups;
- manage network user and groups;
- resolve hosts (using DNS queries);
- see installed software;
- save the list with the installed software in xml files;
- compare lists with installed software;
- remotely install software;
- remotely upgrade software;
- trace route to other hosts – see the route for the packets form current station to a
destination work station, etc.
While the project is a learning project the students have to specify other functionalities
for the project and to collaborate to implement the new proposed requirements

2.2 Implementation
The project is implemented using C#. The user has to add new menu items with new
functionalities or has to extend the existing functionalities. Some of the implemented
functionalities are presented in the figure 1 and figure 2.
108 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 1. Application main menu

In the figure 1 it can see the application main menu. By using the main menu the user
has access to the most of the implemented operations. Some important operations are
those from the menu Operatii – using this operation the user start external processes and
use external tools like: remote desktop connection, TCP Viewer, Windows user manager,
Windows server manager, etc.
In the figure 2 are presented possible
operations after selecting a workstation. As
shown in the figure the user can do the
following: see details about the work station,
see running services, installed network
interfaces, TCP connections, ping other
station or the selected station, see the open
ports, user account and groups, see the
operating system version and see Win32 API
functions parameters. While important
functionalities are based on the Win32 API’s
the application offers a list with their
parameter so that the user can consult them
when it wants to add a new functionality to
the project which is based on the API
function call.

2.3 Project structure Figure 2. Workstation operations


The project is organized using the methodology and the schema proposed by the Visual
Studio IDE (figure 3).
One can see in the figure 3 that the user can easily add new function in the project and
also extend the existing ones.
In the logic directory of the project is implemented the logic of the application.
It contains the classes that are doing the network operation.
The view classes (the forms) are in the main directory of the projects.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 109

So that when a user implement a new


functionality it adds the API calls and his
implementation in a class in the directory
login and then it adds also a view class to
present graphically his implemented
functionalities.
It can also add new resources to the
project like images or external tools. The
external tools are stored in the directory
other.
While the project is collaborative the
developer must respect some minimal
editing rules which are already used in the
other classes of the implemented
solutions.
While in the .NET framework only
some of the network API functions are
defined in the namespaces, the user can
use the network API calls like in the
figure 4 to add different network
functionalities.
To have the possibility to make the
detection of vulnerabilities it has to save
images with different lists (processes,
connection, applications, etc). These lists
can be saved in XML format or can be
saved in database for further compares.

Figure 3. NRMan structure

Figure 4. Network API call

2.4 Application functioning


The user can run other tools or system tools to interrogate the workstation status and then
can compare the results with the NRMan results. For example in the figure 5 are
presented the local user accounts and some information about account, on the station
INSTITUTBV, obtained using the NRMan functionalities.
110 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 5. NRMan Workstation user accounts

The common implementation and work to the project build the community of students
around the network principles and issues. Team work allows the integration into the
project of different point of view and modes of understating of concept. Any user has
access to the information put by the other student. Also the students can concurrently
work in developing of bigger functionalities.

3 Project based learning


A project based learning method is a comprehensive approach to instruction. The students
participate in projects and practice an array of skills from basic concepts, protocols,
programming primitives and devices.
The collaborative nature of the investigation enhances the student’s implication.
The Project Based Learning techniques imply in this situation that a skeleton project
for administering the network was created. The skeleton covers a bounce of operations,
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 111

administration issues, commands, etc. The user which has basic knowledge’s cannot
conceive such a project with all the interrelations between the task and operations. So that
the project permits to the student to acquire knowledge’s about the whole administrated
network not only one specific operation.
The students collaborate to solve the tasks. The interaction with other people which
have other type of knowledge’s give the student to possibility to express itself and to
discuss and better understand the studied aspects.
One of the main teacher concerns is to equilibrate the assignments and to make clear
and general accepted difference between given and proposed functionalities of the
implemented application (NRMan) so that the grade system keeps his characteristics.

4 Conclusion
Using the project based learning principles the teacher is able to incorporate numerous
teaching and learning strategies into project planning and implementation. By offering the
students the possibility to develop their own assignment and to write their own tasks, they
are deeply implied in the learning process. The students are part of the teaching process
and they don’t feel that the tasks are external task while they are included into the
process.
Between other advantages is also the fact that the written code in reviewed by other
coders implied directly in the project so that the students functionalities must have a high
quality level to satisfy all the implied members into the project.

REFERENCES

L. Sangeorzan, C. Aldea (2003): Tehnologii Internet, University Transilvania Publishing House, Braşov.
Florea I. (2004): ReŃele de calculatoare - concepte fundamentale, University Transilvania Publishing House,
Braşov.
C. Aldea, Bobancu A. (2006): IT Security Tutorial with Animated Examples, Proceedings of the
International Conference on Virtual Learning - ICVL2006, ISBN 973737218-2, Bucuresti, 275-282.
Florea I., Aldea C. (2003): Soft multimedia pentru pregătirea materialelor de curs, Proceedings of the
“ConferinŃa NaŃională de ÎnvăŃământ Virtual”, EdiŃia I, Universitatea din Bucureşti, Facultatea de
Matematică, 189-196.
http://www.4teachers.org/: Project Based Learning and evaluation (2009)
Computational Physics with Python
Rubin H. Landau1, Cristian C. Bordeianu2* , Manuel J. Paez3

Oregon State University, Physics Department, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA


University of Bucharest, Faculty of Physics, Bucharest-Măgurele, P.O. Box MG 11,
077125, Romania
University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia
*E-mail: cristian.bordeianu@brahms.fizica.unibuc.ro

Abstract
A coherent set of material for upper-division university education in computational
physics/science has been developed at Oregon State University, USA. It contains an
introductory course in scientific computing, a course in Computational Physics, and
a coordinated collection of multimedia interactive animations which enhance the
book and the courses. Computational Physics programs using Python programming
language are presented and displayed. It is proposed that presentation using Python
is a more effective and efficient way to teach physics than the traditional one.

1 The Need for Computational Education


We start by looking at the results of a survey of physics bachelors conducted by the
American Institute of Physics that determined which aspects of their education are most
valuable in their current employment five years after graduation (AIP, 1995). The results,
shown in Figure 1, indicate that for graduates whose primary field of employment is
engineering, mathematics and science, the three most important skills are scientific
problem solving, synthesizing information, and mathematical skills. These skills are also
highly important for graduates who find employment related to software. While it is to be
expected that knowledge of software and programming are most important for graduates
in software development, notice how, otherwise, synthesizing information is the most
important skill for both groups, and that knowledge of physics is essentially the least
important.

2 Framework for Teaching Physics with Computation


Figure 2 illustrates the scientific problem - solving paradigm that is at the core of
computational research. Although such diagrams have been shown often enough to
become visual clichés, they remain relevant to the focus of this paper since they provide
the general structure for computational education. In fact, we believe that the
commonality of tools across the computational sciences combined with the common
problem-solving mindset is a truly liberating and attractive aspect of computational
science because it permits its practitioners to understand and participate in a much wider
set of problems than occurs otherwise in the sub specialization of science.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 113

Figure 1. Importance of knowledge areas for physics bachelors 5 - 7 years


after graduation.

In general, we recommend that computational educational materials be structured


around the scientific problem-solving paradigm in Figure 2. This demonstrates where the
multiples disciplines are relevant, provides concrete examples that assist in understanding
the abstract concepts, and stresses the importance of assessment of the various
components through visualization. From a pedagogical perspective, we believe that a
Computational Physics education following the problem-solving paradigm is a more
efficient approach to undergraduate education than a pure Physics education. Although
students may take fewer Physics classes, they tend to learn Physics, Computer Science,
and math better when placed in context, and thus get more out of their courses. So even if
the number of Physics courses needs to be reduced to make room for teaching
computation, this is compensated for by the increased efficiency of the pedagogy.
Furthermore, this approach has been shown to be appealing to a more diverse group than
those presently attracted to computer science or physics.
The materials and classes we’ve built along the way reflect our own rules of
education, which are personal observations gleaned from decades of teaching:
• Most of education is learning what the words mean; the concepts are usually simple
if only you can understand what is being said.
• Confusion is the first step to understanding.
• Traumatic experiences tend to be educational.
• Scholarly and pedagogical presentations are often designed to either impress the
audience with the presenter’s brilliance and depth or to make the materials appear simple
and logical (we opt for the latter).
114 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 2. The scientific


problem-solving paradigm. A
problem is set, the tools from
multiple disciplines are
employed within context, and
the continual assessment aides
debugging and steering.

A key component of many computational programs is having students get actively


engaged with projects as if each were an original scientific investigation, and having
projects in a large number of areas. In this way students experience the excitement of
their personal research, get familiar with a large number of approaches, acquire
confidence in making a complex system work for them, and continually build upon their
accomplishments. We have found the project approach to be flexible and to encourage
students to take pride in their work and their creativity. It also works well for independent
study or distant learning. In order to teach a Projects-based course, we employ a
combination of lectures and “over the shoulder” labs. The students work on and discuss
their projects with an instructor, and then write them up as an “executive summary”
containing sections for
• Problem • Algorithm • Visualization• Equations employed • Code • Discussion &
Critique
The emphasis is professional, much like reporting to manager in a workplace.
Visualizations are important for all the classes, and we teach the use of Maple/
Mathematica, PtPlot, gnuplot, AceGr, and OpenDX (Figure 3) for 2D, 3D, and animated
plots. Taken together, this approach produces significant learning, even though we may
be “teaching with our mouths shut''. Also we teach modern digital signal processing
techniques as wavelet analyses (Bordeianu, 2009).
Figure 3. Example
visualizations
produced with
OpenDX. (a) The 3D
state of hydrogen, (b)
an equipotential
surface for a toroidal
capacitor with the
resulting electric field,
and (c) the visual
program that
produced the
hydrogen
visualization.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 115

3 What to teach
In Figure 4 we present a concept map for our Computational Physics course and text
(Landau et al, 2008). After two years in administrative processing, in October 2001 the
Oregon State Board of Higher Education approved a Bachelor degree in Computational
Physics (Landau, 2004). The first students entered in fall 2002, the first graduate left in
June 2003, and 3-5 students typically graduate each year. Although these numbers are
small, the classes are well attended by physics majors, graduate students, and engineering
students. A sample of the Computational Physics curriculum is given in Table 1. It is an
example of how a complete package of computation classes can be fit into a four-year
curriculum that is still strong in its mother discipline.

Table 1. A sample Computational Physics for Undergraduates (CPUG) curriculum

This curriculum has been built up course by course since 1989 as we proposed,
developed, taught, and modified new courses. The computer classes (bold) are seen to be
116 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

distributed throughout all years of study. In total, the curriculum is a mix of existing
applied math and CS classes, with the new computation classes acting as the glue that
holds it together.
There is another way to answer the questions “What to teach?” and “How to teach it?”
That way is to provide computation-based textbooks that help define which topics
constitute proper computational education, and provide a coherent presentation of the
subject. The OSU Computational Physics Education group has been trying to do that for
the last 15 years. Lists of more than 50 texts and other resources are to be found in a
recent resource letter (Landau, 2008). Although most of those resources and most of this
paper focus on more specialized computational topics, there is still very much an open
question on what and how to teach computation to beginning college science students,
and who should be doing the teaching. Our attempt takes the form of an Introductory
Scientific Computing course designed to provide first and second year students with the
computational tools needed throughout their undergraduate careers, and its associated
text, A First Course in Scientific Computing (Landau, 2005). In recognition of the
widespread disagreement over which computing tools lower division college students
should learn, the paper text covers Maple and Java, while the accompanying CD
contained essentially identical texts in Mathematica and Fortran90, as well as the
associated notebooks, worksheets, programs, and data sets. The combination of A First
Course in Scientific Computing and A Survey of Computational Physics (Landau et al,
2008) pave a continuous computational path throughout the undergraduate curriculum.

Figure 4. Concept map. Shows hardware and software components from computer
science, applied mathematics algorithms, and physics applications.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 117

4 Online Courses and Digital Books


In addition to publishing text books, another way of encouraging the inclusion of more
computation into curricula is to make at least the basic elements of computation courses
available to faculty. As part of a demonstration project for establishing a national
repository of computational science courses (EPIC), we have produced video based
modules for our Introductory Computational Science course (Video, 2008). We already
used them with good results in our teaching, while we are told that faculty and students at
other schools are also finding them useful. In light of the previously documented large
overlap among different computational classes, the plan is to have modules cover
individual topics which then can be assembled and used in a variety of classes and in a
variety of schools. (A full course would require problem sets, quizzes, assessment
exercises, and possibly supplementary materials in a specific discipline.) Although we do
not view the web as a good teaching medium for general education, or for students with
weak self discipline or limited motivation, it is appropriate for computational science
where the best way to learn it is while sitting at a computer in a trial and error mode.
Actually, the web is essentially ideal for computational science (it was invented for
particle physics analysis): projects are always in a centralized place for students and
faculty to observe, codes and data are there to run or modify, and interactive
visualizations can be striking with 3D, color, sound, and animation.

5 Using Python
Python is a popular programming language used for both standalone programs and
scripting applications in a wide variety of domains. It is free, portable, powerful, and
remarkably easy to use.
One of the reasons why we decided to migrate to Python in our CP books and courses
is that it provides a really nice balance between the practical and the conceptual (Downey
et al, 2008). Since Python is interpreted, beginners can pick up the language and start
doing neat things almost immediately without getting lost in the problems of compilation
and linking. Furthermore, Python comes with a large library of modules that can be used
to do all sorts of tasks ranging from web-programming to graphics. Having such a
practical focus is a great way to engage students and it allows them to complete
significant projects. However, Python can also serve as an excellent foundation for
introducing important computer science concepts. Since Python fully supports procedures
and classes, students can be gradually introduced to topics such as procedural abstraction,
data structures, and object-oriented programming.
Another reason is the fact that Python is freely available for download. Versions are
available for almost every operating system, including UNIX, Windows, Macintosh, and
Java. In addition, the Python website includes links to documentation, how-to guides, and
a wide assortment of third-party software.
The tools we have used in preparing the visualizations are:
Matplotlib: Matplotlib is a very powerful library of plotting functions callable from
within Python that is capable of producing publication quality figures in a number of
output formats. It is, by design, similar to the plotting packages with Matlab, and is made
118 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

more powerful by its use of the numpy package for numerical work. In addition to 2-D
plots, Matplotlib can also create interactive, 3-D visualizations of data.
Visual (VPython): The programming language “Python” is so often employed with
the Visual graphics module and the IDLE interface that the combination is often referred
to as Vpython. Much of the use of the Visual extension has been to create 3-D
demonstrations and animations for education, which are surprisingly easy to make and
useful.
Tkinter: Python also contains a graphical user interface (GUI) programming module
called Tkinter or Tk.

6 Conclusions
We think that only time will judge the viability of computational physics programs such
as ours. However they do appear to attract new students and to provide them with broad
preparation for future career choices. Also the use of Python programming language
seems to be a good choice judging by the feedback of the students.

REFERENCES

AIP (1995): Skills Used Frequently by Physics Bachelors in Selected Employment


Sectors. Technical report: American Institute of Physics Education and Employment Statistics Division.
BORDEIANU, C. C., LANDAU, R. H. and PAEZ, M. J. (2009): Wavelet analyses and applications.
European Journal of Physics 30, 1049-1062.
DOWNEY, A., ELKNER, J and MEYERS, C. (2008): How to Think Like a Computer Scientist.Learning with
Python. Green Tea Press.
http://www.greenteapress.com/thinkpython/thinkCSpy/thinkCSpy.pdf
EPIC: Engaging People in Cyberinfrastructure,
www.eotepic.org
LANDAU, R. H. (2004): Computational Physics for Undergraduates, the CPUG Degree Program at Oregon
State University. Computing in Science and Engineering. 6.
LANDAU, R.H. (2005): A First Course in Scientific Computing. Princeton University
Press, www.physics.oregonstate.edu/~rubin/IntroBook/.
LANDAU, R. H., PAEZ, M. J. and BORDEIANU, C. C. (2007): Computational Physics. Problem Solving
with Computers, 2nd, Wiley VCH.
LANDAU, R. H., PAEZ, M. J. and BORDEIANU, C. C. (2008): A Survey of Computational Physics.
Introductory Computational Science. Princeton University Press.
LANDAU, R. H. (2008), Resource Letter CP-2: Computational Physics, American Journal of Physics 76,
296-306.
VIDEO (2008): Video Lectures in Intro Computational Science,
www.physics.oregonstate.edu/~rubin/COURSES/VideoLecs/
SRoL - Web-based Resources and Tools used for e-Learning of
Languages and Language Technology
Silvia Monica Feraru1, Horia-Nicolai Teodorescu1,2

(1) Institute for Computer Science, Romanian Academy, Bd. Carol I nr. 8, Iaşi, România
(2) Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iaşi, Iaşi, România
E-mail: mferaru@etc.tuiasi.ro

Abstract
The SRoL Web-based spoken language repository and tool collection was developed
during several years by the collaboration of groups from the Institute for Computer
Science of the Romanian Academy, CERFS Excellence Center in "Gheorghe Asachi"
Technical University of Iasi and staff of the discipline of Language Technology,
Computer Science Faculty, "Al.I. Cuza" University. The web site includes thousands
of voice recordings grouped on sections like "Basic sounds of the Romanian
language", "Emotional voices", "Specific language processes", "Pathological
voices", "Comparison of natural and synthetic speech", "Gnathophonics and
Gnathosonics". The recordings are annotated and documented according to
proprietary methodology and protocols. Moreover, we included on the site extended
documentation on the Romanian language, speech technology, and tools produced
by us, for voice analysis. The resources are a part of the CLARIN European
Network for Language Resources. The resources and tools are useful in virtual
learning for phonetics of the Romanian language, speech technology and medical
subjects related to voice. We report on several applications in language learning
and voice technology classes.

Keywords: spoken language resources, voice education, speech and language,


“dictionary of sounds", educational and research purposes

1 Introduction
In a world where the Web / Internet communication is pervasive, computer is more than a
study topic for everyone, it is a ubiquitous tool. Computers serve for more than doing
computations, they are now one of most used means of communication and interaction –
the very basis of any educational system. As a consequence, computer-based education is
an obvious choice whenever a distance separates the learner and the learning person. In a
general sense, computer-based education and virtual education based on Internet is today
an undeniable fact of life in every academic campus. While computers and the network
are the means, the spoken language represents the prevalent support of communication in
the teaching-learning process. Hence the natural need to address e-learning and virtual
learning of languages, voice and phonetics, voice pathology, and other aspects related to
voice and spoken language.
In view of the above, we built during a timeframe of about five years a web site that
offers the possibility of teaching and learning various aspects on the Romanian language
120 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

based on an annotated corpus freely accessible on the Internet. The corpus is


complemented with in-depth phonetic and linguistic analyses, moreover with specific
tools accessible by users from everywhere through the web (Zbancioc, M., 2006),
(Teodorescu et al., 2006), (Teodorescu et al., 2007b), (Teodorescu H.N., Feraru M.,
2007), (Teodorescu H.N., Feraru M., 2008). This instrument has a high level of
dimensionality and aims to numerous aspects of the language that are not typical features
in language corpora. This makes this “corpus-tool” the unique instrument of its kind
existing today in the domain (Teodorescu et al., 2007a).
Since the second author initiated, five years ago, the Project “The Sounds of
Romanian Language” (SRoL), the team increased to 8 researches. During the recent
years, we studied different emotional speech database which can help in education and re-
education of speech, in diagnosis and treatment, in learning a language aided by
computer; examples of results published are (Teodorescu H.N. et al., 2007a), (Feraru M.,
Teodorescu H.N., 2008) etc.
Voice and language e-education is a topic addressed by many research and educational
groups. Solomon studied the possibilities and issues of learning with and about computers
in schools or in any other learning environment (Solomon C., 1988). The Eric Education
Resources Page shows the importance of computer assisted education of speech and
voice (Wise, B.W., Olson, R.K, 1994). On the other side, web-based educational
resources and training have received attention during the last decade. Åke Olofsson offers
a simple method of compensation for word decoding problems, by having the micro-
computer which pronounces the words which can not be read. Olofsson uses a program
developed for the IBM-PC/AT and a Scandinavian multilingual text-to-speech unit, and
children can read a textfile on the monitor, and use a mouse to request the immediate
pronunciation of a word (Olofsson Å., 1992).
The computer-assisted learning language software helps the interaction between
student and computer by speech, by sound effects, by animation, by video, not only text.
On the other hand, these are restricted by the mouse and keyboard, hence it is necessary
an active interaction by spoken language through computer (Cameron K., 1999). Speech
recognition offers the possibilities to computer-assisted learning language to have an
active participation by oral reading and conversation. CALL system has recordings
spelling by the native speaker. The user compares the quality of her pronunciation with
model recordings.
In another direction of research, Warschaue observes the uses of online
communications for language teaching. He determined that the interest in this domain
grows day by day. He proposed a conceptual framework for understanding the role of the
interaction assisted by computer (Warschaue M., 1997). Lundberg considers the
computer a tool of remediation in the education of students with reading disabilities as
dyslexic students which can benefit by computer training in correct reading and spelling
the words (Lundberg I., 1995).
A speech database is a collection of files with sounds, structured after its own purpose.
The SRoL resource (corpus) is located at the address (http://www.etc.tuiasi.ro/sibm/
romanian_spoken_language/index.htm). The initiator conceived SRoL as an Internet-
based "dictionary of sounds and words" for the Romanian language supplemented with
specific manifestations of voice (including pathologies) and various tools. The SRoL
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 121

database includes files with vowels, consonants, diphthongs, sentences with emotional
states, linguistic particularities for the Romanian language, dialectal voices, and
gnathosonic and gnathophonic sounds. It is the first Internet based annotated database of
emotional speech for the Romanian language which contains more than 1500 recordings
in different coding formats (wav, ogg, txt / 22 kHz/ 24bit/ 16 bits). The phonetic
recordings which refer to an annotated emotional speech corpus (database) are registered
to ORDA. Figure 1 illustrates the home page of the SRoL speech database, which has
English and French versions as well.

Figure 1. The frontpage of


the SRoL project on the
web, at
http://www.etc.tuiasi.ro/sib
m/romanian_spoken_langua
ge/index.htm.

In this paper, we provide details about the applications of this database and about the
SRoL-web database, available to the address http://www.etc.tuiasi.ro/sibm/
romanian_spoken_language/index.htm.

2 Applications for learning Romanian language


One of the goals of SRoL the web site is to provide a free Romanian database for students
and researchers, for linguists, for teachers, in view of teaching, learning and analysis the
Romanian language sounds. The database includes the pronunciation corpus and related
documentation. The database contains among others, sections with:
- recordings of syllables and words pronounced in various contexts, like accentuated
word, interrogative sentences, exclamations, various emotions conveyed by the speaker,
etc. This part of the database is aimed as a source for concatenative synthesizers and as
benchmark for the voice recognition systems – isolated words;
- files of sounds, syllables and words pronounced by persons with various pathologies;
this section may be useful in medical and phonological researches;
- files with professional voices (“perfect” pronunciations), as well as non-professional
voices, the “voices of the people in the street”. For the moment, we concentrate on voices
from the Iaşi region (East Romania) and middle area of Moldova.
Learning and teaching languages require well documented audio-visual tools that
exemplify and fully explain spelling for a large variety of voices and contextual and
emotional states. While former methods, like tape recordings and audio disks have been
122 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

helpful, the multimedia Internet-based tools offer tremendously increased capabilities.


SRoL represents such a tool for the Romanian language. Not only it is the first for the
Romanian language, but its multidimensionality makes it somewhat unique and novel in
concept for language learning and teaching in general.
Consider the case of a foreign student who wants to improve her Romanian
pronunciation by comparing the prosody of her voice with the prosody of native speakers.
The student utters a sentence (from those included in the site), then opens Wasp or
another similar tool and displays the energy and fundamental frequency in her voice. She
then compares these prosodic features to the ones of native speakers and tries to improve
her prosody until she produces correct prosodic patterns. Also, the student can compare
formant values and try improving the formants of the vowels she pronounces.
This instrument is useful for learning to improve communication, moreover for
human-computer speech interaction, for security, for medical applications, for video-
games and interactive TV, for teachers, in the study of the Romanian language, etc.

3 Applications in medical education and re-education of speech


Voice education is needed whenever a voice pathology including some neurologic and
psychiatric disorders or pathology of the vocal tract occurs. Several groups have
addressed the voice re-education topic (Lundberg I., 1995), (Olofsson Å., 1992).
Till now, we included in SRoL words pronounced by persons with minor pathologies
as trembling voice. We have demonstrated in our research that splitting the signal in
frequency bands that correspond to the peak of F0 – F1 formants and respectively to the
peak of F2 – F3 formants helps improving the discrimination process in a significant way.
The use of fractal dimensions in assessing the jitter or shimmer in voice produce mixed
results. Adding other fractal dimension, the rate of recognition of the tremor segments in
voice improves, but it still low (Teodorescu H.N. et al, 2005). This section of the database
is useful in medical and phonological researches. Also for medical education use, the site
comprises a gnathosonic and gnathophonic corpus. It offers opportunities for diagnosis
and treating of speech by hearing the correct pronunciation of the words. In figure 2, we
exemplify a gnathophonic (a) and gnathosonic (b) recording sounds (of the speaker
19743m). In figure 2(a), we exemplified recordings of the words: “vata”, “fata”, “var”.

a b
Figure 2. Gnathophonic (a) and gnathosonic (b) recording with details, tool
GoldWaveTM. By analyzing such recordings available at SRoL, students can learn how
to differentiate the normal and pathological states
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 123

Figure 2(b) illustrates a double occlusive sound. These two occlusive sounds are
separated in time and denote two contact points. This is a type of occlusive sound which
can produce in time a deficiency in the mandibulary movement and erosion of teeth. The
educators and students can use many the statistical studies regarding the pathological
sounds in the Romanian language and recordings of persons with different pathologies
(see section: Gnathosonic and Gnathophonic Archive) that the site includes.
Emotions rending in voice and emotion analysis is increasingly addressed in recent
years, including for medical and psychiatric diagnosis and treatment (Lundberg I., 1995),
(Olofsson Å., 1992). The recordings from the emotional database at Max-Planck-Institute
of Cognitive Neuroscience are made by a female fluent speaker; they made an
electroencephalogram (EEG); the validation commission has twenty persons; they didn’t
offer information about the listeners; they judged the semantic content and the prosodic
feature on five-point scale; the goal was to relate the emotions and to recognize a location
in the human brain (Polzin, T.S., Waibel, A.H., 1998). We have addressed the topic in
SRoL. The SRoL database contains feminine and masculine emotional voices; the
speakers are aged between 25-35 years and they have no manifested pathologies. We
analyzed only the audio voice signal. We did not make analyses like EEG, EMG,
electroglottogram, etc., as those contained in other databases, like the Magdeburger
Prosodie Korpus (Wendt B., Scheich H., 2002).
Every recording from the SRoL database is accompanied by the speaker profile and by
the questionnaire concerning vocal pathology and objective factors for every speaker
(Feraru, M., Teodorescu, H.N., 2008). The speaker’s profile offers linguistic, ethnic,
medical, educational, professional information about the speaker. The questionnaire
presents details regarding the health state of the speaker
(http://www.etc.tuiasi.ro/sibm/romanian_spoken_language/ro/protocol_nou.htm).

4 Applications in teaching the voice signal technology classes


Signal technology classes are taught around the world. For examples, the Center for
Spoken Language Understanding (CSLU) offers available language database from speech
area and hearing science. These resources are important for analyzing the speech, for
diagnosing and treating speech and language problems, for training students and so on.
The tools and the corpora are distributed to over 2000 sites in 65 countries (Cole R.A.,
1999). In education these tools help students learn about speech, learn a new language,
learn through interactive media systems, or to become accustomed to hearing the normal
and abnormal voice signal.
The SRoL team developed instruments for vocal signal processing regarding the
extraction of patterns from this signal, and the computing of the fundamental frequency
trace, respectively the traces of formants F1, F2, F3. The site offers, beside executables
programs, descriptions for each of these tools. Those descriptions are intended for a
“medium user”, offering elementary explications and relevant references for a deeper
understanding (Teodorescu H.N. et al., 2007), (Cristea D. et al, 2004).
The second author currently uses the SRoL corpus in teaching and laboratory activities
in the class “Speech Technology” given for the master degree in “Computational
124 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Linguistics” at the Faculty of Computer Science, “Al.I. Cuza” University of Iaşi. Details
on the use in Voice Technology classes of some topics from SRoL are described in
(Cristea D. et al, 2004). At the international EUROLAN 2007 summer school, the second
author used the SRoL site to present “Traces of emotion, intentions and meaning in
spoken Romanian” (http://eurolan.info.uaic.ro/html/ profs/HNTeodorescu.html). The
second author taught the specific methodology aspects, results obtained on the
characterization of emotions in speech, possibilities of recognition of emotions and
intentions in speech, and the relationship between specific meanings and the prosody in
specific constructions in the Romanian language. The lesson exemplified applications of
analysis of the speech emotional prosody to social, psycho-social, educational and
psycho-medical topics.

5 Discussion and conclusions


Our team has a long standing experience with using novel technologies in teaching,
hosting for three decades (Teodorescu H.N., Sofron E., 1987), (De Coulon et al., 1996),
(Teodorescu H.N., 1998), (Teodorescu H.N. et al, 2000a,b), (Teodorescu H.N., 2001).
We applied that experience to the SRoL e-teaching and e-learning resource.
The SRoL resource is a vast annotated corpus of speech files complemented by
tutorials, papers and additional files, moreover with tools for speech processing. If used
by an experimented student or teacher, it may become a powerful tool for instruction and
learning the Romanian language pronunciation, speech technology, and voice pathology
and re-education. The SRoL sound voice resource is useful in many domains, including
phonology, applied computer science, and medicine. Students and researchers have the
opportunity to have a freely accessible site, for learning the pronunciation of Romanian
language, for making comparative study between Romanian and other language, for
development of synthetic systems, for other linguistic, phonetic, socio-linguistic or
medicine applications.
This database is structured corresponding to precise criteria, documented and
annotated according to a well defined methodology. The site has more then 1500
recordings of syllable, word, sentence with different tonalities and pronounced with
different emotional states. The database contains recordings of professional and normal
voice, from the Nord – East region of Romania, without dialectal accent.
The SRoL resources have been recognized by several bodies, beyond the scientific
publications that included our papers on SRoL. CLARIN European Network of Language
Resources accepted SRoL as a member; ORDA (the Romanian Office for Authorship
Rights) registered the original recordings, and the SRoL received a gold medal and media
attention at the INVENTICA 2009 fair for inventions and creativity. Also, the website of
Ambassade de France in Romania briefly described in its Bulletin the SRoL site and its
use in education (http://www.bulletins-electroniques.com/actualites/58811.htm).
Technical University „Gheorghe Asachi” of Iasi, Faculty of Electronics,
Telecommunications and Information Technology) intends to use SRoL in helping
foreign students enrolled at this university learn Romanian pronunciation.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 125

We hope the SRoL resources will be used in all the universities in Romania by foreign
students who learn the Romanian language, moreover in other academic media and as an
online tool by foreign students and teachers. We welcome any request for help and
educational advice from all those who wish to use our SRoL language-related web
resources in virtual e-teaching and learning.
Acknowledgments. Research partly performed for the Romanian Academy “priority
research” theme “Cognitive Systems” and to CEEX grant nr 46/2005. We thank those
who contributed to SRoL, primarily D. TrandabăŃ, M. Zbancioc, R. Luca, and L. Pistol.

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Virtual Learning, Blended Learning and Modern Foreign
Languages: Let’s listen to the students!

Nathalie Ticheler

London Metropolitan University, Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Languages and


Education, LC110, 236-250 Holloway Road, London N7 6PP (UK)
n.ticheler@londonmet.ac.uk
http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/olp

Abstract
The Open Language Programme (OLP) at London Metropolitan University is an
Institution-Wide Language Programme which offers credit-bearing modules to
undergraduates and post-graduates of all subjects, staff from the university, as well
as members of the general public. The programme is available in eight languages
(General and Business English, Arabic, French, Italian, Japanese, German,
Mandarin Chinese and Spanish) at up to ten different levels. All modules are based
on a blended learning formula, a package of face-to-face group tuition and self-
study. Since October 2008, all OLP students have had access to Weblearn, our
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which provides essential course information,
together with specially-tailored blended learning materials. A study was conducted
among students of Japanese for beginners and post-beginners in spring 2009 and
sought to evaluate their experience of Weblearn in the context of blended learning,
using largely their own reported accounts and a mixed method approach to
research. This paper presents initial findings, with a particular focus on
collaborative learning.

Keywords: VLE, blended learning, collaborative learning, students’ experience

1 Background of the study


The precarious situation of Modern Foreign Languages in the United Kingdom, with
issues such as the decreasing number of students on specialist language degree courses
and the closure of university departments, is reported by numerous organisations such as
the National Centre for Languages (CILT) and the Higher Education Funding Council
for England (HEFCE).
CILT with support from the Association for Language Learning and the Independent
Schools’ Modern Language Association conducted a survey based on a questionnaire
sent to a representative sample of 2,000 schools in England, with a response rate of 43%.
The survey has been carried out annually since 2002 to track developments in language
provision and take-up in secondary schools. The 2008 survey indicates that
The declines of the past few years have been halted, although not yet reversed, but the
picture is one of turbulence rather than stability. There are signs of shifts and
upheavals, both positive and negative, as schools adjust to having to “make the case”
for languages to students. (CILT, 2008)
128 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Regarding Higher Education, the CILT analysis (2008) of HESA data, based on
annual enrolment figures, reveals a decline of 5.3% overall on first degree language
students in Higher Education between 2002-2003 and 2006-2007. In contrast, enrolments
for first degrees increased by 29.9% for Japanese. Enrolments on Japanese language
modules as part of non-language specific degrees increased by 37.8% between 2002-2003
and 2006-2007. Kelly (2008) explains that

languages remain vulnerable, despite being strategically important for the future of the
country. But there are signs that government initiatives and the efforts of language
educators are beginning to have an effect, at least in slowing the decline.

In this context, various initiatives have been launched at national level. For example,
the DFES National Languages Strategy (2002) has implications at all stages of the
education system and extends beyond the classroom, including at international level
In the knowledge society of the 21st century, language competence and intercultural
understanding are not optional extras, they are an essential part of being a citizen.
(Ashton 2002)

HEFCE has agreed to fund Routes into Languages to encourage the take-up of
language courses in England. The programme, led by the Subject Centre for Languages,
Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), in a partnership with the University Council of
Modern Languages (UCML) and CILT, is scheduled to run until 2009/2010.
The study is firmly anchored in a context of promotion of e-learning and evaluation of
the student experience at governmental and institutional levels. Following the publication
in March 2005 of the HEFCE ten-year e-learning strategy, the Higher Education
Academy was invited to lead a benchmarking exercise and related Pathfinder programme
in partnership with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). The benchmarking
exercise was intended to help institutions establish where they were in regard to
embedding e-learning. The Pathfinder programme, by contrast, was specifically designed
to help selected institutions, on behalf of the sector, identify, implement and evaluate
different approaches to the embedding of technology-enhanced learning in ways that
result in positive institutional change. In a context of widening participation within
Higher Education Institutions, coupled with budgetary constraints, e-learning is
frequently presented in educational circles as of clear benefit, at governmental level, at
institutional level and at student level. Indeed, Hurd (2002) comments
Increasing diversity in the student population, through widening participation, new
technologies and new, more cost-efficient practices in course production are forcing a
re-think of current activity and providing a challenge to all those involved in the design
and delivery of learning constantly seek out ways of ensuring that the needs of our
language learners are met.

At London Metropolitan University, OLP students are presented with a blended


learning package of three hours per week of face-to-face group tuition over twelve weeks,
supplemented with specially-tailored e-learning materials (online packs) available on
Weblearn, the university’s VLE, together with other course documentation.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 129

The study seeks to evaluate students’ experience of Weblearn among students of


Japanese, with a particular focus on the transition from beginners to post-beginners, in the
context of blended learning, using largely students’ own reported accounts and a mixed
method approach to research, heavily based on theories of collaborative learning.

2 Key concepts in context


Learning is linked intrinsically to life and happens both consciously and unconsciously,
in formal and informal settings. It varies according to the individuals, their intended
outcome, is influenced by factors both internal and external to the learners and fluctuates
over time. Here, learning focuses on students’ interaction with technologies, in a semi-
formal setting and draws on self-study skills, language learning skills, computer skills and
use of technologies.
All OLP students are presented with a blended learning package of 3 hours of lessons
per week over 12 weeks, supplemented with self-study materials based on Weblearn.
MacDonald (2006:2) defines blended learning as 'associated with the introduction of
online media into a course or programme whilst recognising merit in retaining face-to-
face contact. ' Here, I will define blended learning more precisely as the combination of
face-to-face scheduled lessons taking place at the university, supplemented by tailored e-
learning activities based on the VLE.
In addition, I take the view that collaborative learning is essential to students’
progress. I will define collaborative learning as the possibility for the learners to learn
from one another, and for the learners to learn from the tutor using communication tools
available on the VLE (which includes training of students by tutors in the use of VLEs).
In agreement with socio-constructivist models of learning, I believe that the human factor
plays a major part in the students’ learning experience. Beale (2004) highlights the
importance of communication tools and collaborative learning as forms of support to
maximise students’ learning
'For many people, what is required is the digital equivalent of the street corner-where
people can come and go; requiring little knowledge to participate in; and where people
can learn and gain support and advice from their colleagues. '

For Naismith et al (2006), the potential of learning technologies can only be


considered either embedded in classroom practice or as part of a learning experience
outside the classroom. In addition, they recognise their capabilities for social interactions
and foresee that
Learning will move more and more outside of the classroom and into the learner’s
environments, both real and virtual, thus becoming more situated, personal,
collaborative and lifelong. (Naismith et al 2006)

3 Methodology
The objective was to collect data on students’ lived experiences and to identify the
meanings behind their reported behaviours and attitudes. Therefore, I followed a
130 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

perspective based on hermeneutical phenomenology, which focuses on interpretive


structures of experience, how we understand and engage in our human world.

Phenomenological research, in which the researcher identifies the 'essence' of human


experiences concerning a phenomenon, as described by participants in a study.
Understanding the lived experiences marks phenomenology as a philosophy as well as a
method. (Creswell 2003)

This was reinforced by a combined positivist and interpretative approach, coupled


with a qualitative and quantitative treatment of data, using student self-completion
questionnaires, learning diaries and the tracking function on the VLE.

Positivism is an approach to social research which seeks to apply the natural science
model of research to investigations of the social world. It is based on the assumption
that there are patterns and regularities, causes, and consequences in the social world,
just as there are in the natural world. (Denscombe 2003)

In line with a positivist framework, quantitative data was obtained from the closed
questions included in the questionnaire and the tracking function. Open questions related
to students’ experience of Weblearn and data from the learning diaries lent themselves to
a qualitative treatment, in agreement with an interpretative approach.
The sample population included 34 students, 21 beginners and 13 post-beginners,
studying Japanese on the OLP in spring semester 2009, with significant proportions of
part-time and external students (members of the general public enrolled on OLP
modules). Most post-beginners had previous experience of Weblearn. Overall, 67% of
participants completed the self-study component of their Japanese module from home,
away from their peers, tutors and university facilities.

4 Experience of Weblearn
Approximately 50% of participants thought Weblearn contributed to their progress. 27%
of beginners were satisfied or very satisfied with the provision and 36% thought 'it was
ok'. Figures reached 60% and 25% respectively, among post-beginners.
Participants admitted to spend only a limited amount of time on Weblearn, less than
one hour per week for 52% of beginners and 77% of post-beginners. Reasons for the
limited use of Weblearn deserve further investigation and may include personal or
professional commitments, the possibility to use the online packs without logging to
Weblearn, negative views towards the VLE, lack of integration of Weblearn into the
taught component or simply different learning preferences.
Weblearn contains Japanese learning materials and course documentation, such as
module handbooks, weekly course syllabi and details of assessment. Both beginners
(76%) and post-beginners (92%) declared referring to the module handbook. Regarding
the weekly syllabi, figures reached 39% and 60% respectively. Online announcements
appeared to be neglected by students, as beginners (52%) and post-beginners (46%) only
read them 'once in a while'.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 131

5 Experience of the online packs


Online packs are specially-tailored e-learning materials which students should use for
self-study and homework, once they have attended their weekly class. They contain a
variety of exercises with answers included (listening, reading, writing, vocabulary,
grammar, practice of the Japanese script) and additional web links. Online packs are
available as a link on Weblearn and students access them as web pages with usernames
and passwords.
65% of beginners (against 27% of post-beginners) declared being satisfied or very
satisfied with the online packs. The study focused on specific aspects of these materials
such as their user-friendliness, visual aspect, choice of topics and variety. In all these
areas, the proportion of students who were satisfied or very satisfied declined as they
progressed to post-beginners’ level. 72% of beginners (against 55% of post-beginners)
thought the online packs were user-friendly or very user-friendly. 50% of beginners and
20% of post-beginners were happy or very happy with the presentation of the online
packs. For the choice of topics, figures go down from 67% to 38% and finally there is a
decline from 56% to 45% regarding the variety of tasks.
Few students (15% of beginners and 20% of post-beginners) submitted to their tutors
written tasks included in the online packs. In addition, 50% of beginners and 70% of
post-beginners were rarely or never taking notes as part of their 'homework'. Students as a
whole preferred to use their own lecture notes and set coursebook, as a source of help.
Beginners also referred to other coursebooks while post-beginners started showing an
interest in dictionaries. Students’ preferences for the use of the set coursebook and own
lecture notes may be explained by the fact that classes are scheduled in the evenings only
and most students (67%) admittedly complete their Weblearn work off-site, as opposed to
using the university’s self-access facility (Language Centre).

6 Interpretation
Decisions were made at institutional and departmental levels to use a VLE. Indeed,
London Metropolitan University has launched a blended learning strategy through
Weblearn. Both teaching staff and students have received some introductory training in
this area. Participants have expressed the following views regarding Weblearn

Weblearn is excellent and gives very good opportunities for extra practice
Exercises on weblearn are very useful; I like the section on Manga
Weblearn contains all the material needed to help language learners
Weblearn is very useful to improve my Japanese. It has everything I want to learn, is
fun and interesting Weblearn is very interesting and fun. It makes me enjoy the course.
Everything we learn is shown on weblearn

However, figures regarding the frequency of use, the submission of written tasks and
the consultation of online announcements show a fairly limited use of Weblearn. Bearing
in mind constraints faced by both staff and students, data indicates some possible reasons
for these findings such a perceived lack of connection between taught contents and the
self-study component by the students, coupled with tutors’ choice to distribute additional
132 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

materials which follow more closely actual lesson contents. Indeed, 5 students would
have liked Weblearn to match up more closely with lessons and another 2 students were
satisfied with handouts only. In addition, 9 students stated a preference for using
alternative materials such as books they purchased themselves (in addition to their set
coursebook) or other printed materials of their choice.
As part of the qualitative treatment of data, 6 students reported technical difficulties
such as the inability to login, dead links in the online packs and problems to download
materials or display the Japanese script properly. Another 6 students commented on the
difficulty to navigate and find materials.
Finally, quantitative data on students’ experience of the online packs indicates that
updating the materials may be beneficial in various areas, as indicated in an earlier
section.
Students appeared to respond more positively to web links available on Weblearn. In
this area, beginners had a preference for the links towards the online packs (26%),
flashcards (15%), and sites such as Kids Web Japan (14%), as well as Hiragana charts
and Web Japan Culture (12%). Post-beginners used the Hiragana charts (23%) and online
packs, flashcards and Web Japan were of equal interest (17%). Here again, figures seem
to indicate a shift away from the online packs towards a greater variety of web-based
materials.

7 Recommendations
Beginners (85%) and post-beginners (54%) would like to use online packs in pdf and
mp3 format, which would resolve difficulties related to the display of the Japanese
characters.
Participants would generally welcome additional materials to download from
Weblearn (such as helpsheets with key vocabulary and grammar, or Hiragana/Katakana
tables and practice sheets). In this study, figures ranged from 14 to 16% among beginners
for each of the extra materials listed above; and 12 to 17% among post-beginners.
Communication tools only attracted 5% of the cohort. These issues would benefit from
further investigation, as they have implications regarding material development,
collaborative learning and both staff and student training.
Regular updates, following students’ feedback, is likely to assist in maintaining
students’ motivation and satisfaction. Indeed, students who are active participants of their
own learning, in terms of what, when and how they learn, are more likely to keep
motivated. The Flexi-pack project launched at SOAS-UCL CETL Languages of the
Wider World is of particular interest here (Ticheler & Sachdev 2008).
Ideally, authors of materials, including updates, should be tutors with current or
previous experience of the modules, to ensure a greater compatibility of materials with
taught sessions. Principles of teacher empowerment and theories of collaborative learning
indicate that a greater involvement of tutors at the production stage is likely to boost the
normalisation of materials among students.
Indeed, I would suggest taking direct action to foster a greater normalisation of the
VLE among teaching staff and students, both in and out of the lessons. I take the view
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 133

that teaching staff need to guide and motivate students to make regular use of the
Weblearn provision presented to them by giving them a demo early in the course,
together with regular learning tips in class and adding materials and information to be
consulted both in and out of class. In short, the key is to embed e-learning in regular
learning and teaching activities, to seek feedback from stakeholders at regular intervals
and to ensure flexibility of the provision, in hand with careful training.

8 Conclusion
This study focused on students’ experience of Weblearn in connection with their Japanese
module on the OLP at London Metropolitan University. A mixed method research
strategy combining a qualitative and quantitative treatment of data pointed out difficulties
in areas such as e-learning design and learning preferences and a case was made for the
benefits of collaborative learning. In particular, the normalisation of Weblearn is of
significant importance for blended learning to succeed. Another necessity is to integrate
regular feedback from staff and students to practice-based research projects.

REFERENCES
Beale, R. (2004): Wireless Learning Community Hub. In Conference Proceedings of M-Learn 2004, M-
Learn, Rome, 23-24.
CILT. (2008): Language Trends 2008. CILT, London.
CILT. (2008): First Degree Student Enrolments in the United Kingdom, 2002-2003 to 2006-2007 Including
Language Analysis. CILT, London. http://www.cilt.org.uk/research/statistics/education/higher. htm#higher1
Canning, J. (2008): Five Years on: The Language Landscape in 2007.Subject Centre for Languages,
Linguistics and Area Studies, Southampton.
Creswell, J. (2003): Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches (2nd
edition). Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.
Denscombe, M. (2003): The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects (2nd edition).
Open University Press, Maidenhead. Department for Education and Science. (2002): Languages for All:
Languages for Life. A Strategy for England, http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/_doc/11879/
LanguagesForAll.pdf
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Academy. (2005): E-Learning Strategy. http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2005/05_12/05_12.pdf
Higher Education Funding Council for England. (2009): Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use
of Technology. A Revised Approach to HEFCE’s Strategy for E-Learning. HEFCE, Bristol.
Hurd, S. (2002): Learner Difference in Independent Language Learning Contexts. Good Practice Guide.
Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, Southampton. http://www.llas.ac.uk/
resources/gpg/1573
Joint Information Systems Committee. (2008): E-Learning Benchmarking and Pathfinder Programme 2005-
2008: An Overview. The Higher Education Academy, York.
Macdonald, J. (2006): Blended Learning and Online Tutoring. A Good Practice Guide.Gower Publishing, USA.
Naismith, L. (2006): Literature Review. In Mobile Technologies and Learning. Futurelab, Birmingham.
Routes into Languages http://www.routesintolanguages.ac.uk
Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies http://www.llas.ac.uk
The National Centre for Languages http://www.cilt.org.uk
Ticheler, N & Sachdev, I. (2008): Mobile Learning, Collaborative Learning and World Languages. The Flexi-
Pack Project at SOAS-UCL CETL Languages of the Wider World http://www.llas.ac.uk/
resources/paper/3128
The eLiTA (e-Learning in Textiles & Apparel) Project
Mirela Blaga1, Simon Harlock2

(1) Assoc. Prof., Ph. D, CText ATI, Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iasi,
Romania, E-mail: mblaga@tex.tuiasi.ro
(2) B.Sc. Ph.D., Media Innovations Ltd, UK,
E-mail: s.c.harlock@media-innovations.ltd.uk

Abstract
This paper will present the eLiTA (e-Learning in Textiles & Apparel) Project to
develop elearning modules in textiles and apparel for use in education and training
in Europe. The project is being undertaken by a consortium of academic
organisations in Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia, a training
organisation and a company in the UK and is supported with funding from the
Leonardo da Vinci programme in the European Union. The aim of the project is to
build on the earlier work of two previous Leonardo da Vinci funded projects which
developed elearning materials on apparel technology, carpet technology, hosiery
technology and dyeing printing and finishing in Czech, English, French, Lithuanian
and Turkish. The eLiTA project will update the content and produce the elearning
materials in English, Greek, Latvian, Portuguese, Romanian and Slovenian. The
project will provide a new Internet-Based European wide learning tool to provide a
user friendly way of learning at a place, pace and time to suit the needs of the
individual and extend the opportunity to study in this way to more companies and
organisations throughout Europe.

Keywords: e-Learning, Textiles & Apparel, Leonardo da Vinci programme

1 Introduction
This paper will present the eLiTA (e-Learning in Textiles & Apparel) Project to develop
elearning modules in textiles and apparel for use in education and training in Europe. The
project is being undertaken by a consortium of the following academic and training
organisations and companies in Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and the UK.

TEI OF PIRAEUS, Department of Textiles University Greece


Riga Technical University University Latvia
Institute of Textile Materials Technology and Design
University of Minho University Portugal
Gheorghe Asachi Technical University of Iasi University Romania
Faculty of Textiles and Leather Engineering
University of Maribor, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering University Slovenia
(UMFS)
KLITRA Limited Training UK
Organisation
Media Innovations Ltd Private Company UK
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 135

The project is supported with funding from the Leonardo da Vinci programme in the
European Union.

2. Aims and objectives of the project


The European Economic Community has established a Lifelong Learning Programme
(LLP) to “enable individuals at all stages of their lives to pursue stimulating learning
opportunities across Europe”.
The LLP comprises several sub-programmes, of which the Leonardo da Vinci
programme address vocational education and training.
The eLiTA project aims to address the following objectives within the Leonardo da
Vinci programme:
• General Objective - “To support improvements in quality and innovation in
vocational education and training systems, institutions and practices”.
• Operational Objective - “To support the development of innovative ICT-based
content, services, pedagogies and practice for lifelong learning.”
• In addition, the project addresses the Call Priority 4 “Skills development of adults
in the labor market”.
• The project will primarily address the National Priority 4 “Applications which
demonstrate close links and relevance to national VET systems.”
• In addition the project will address one secondary National Priority (Priority 1)
• “Applications which promote the transfer and recognition of qualifications and
competences in the UK and across Europe.”
The eLiTA project will address these by updating innovative interactive ICT-based
learning tools developed in previous Leonardo da Vinci projects. In addition the project
will adapt the tools so that they can be used in new partner countries compared to those in
previous projects. This in turn will support lifelong learning within the partner countries
to help overcome gaps in provision. The tools will provide a user friendly way of learning
at a place, pace and time to suit the needs of the individual and extend the opportunity to
study in this way to more companies and organisations throughout Europe.
The breadth and depth of content will make the modules suitable for study at both
fundamental and more advanced levels and are intended for use by employees within
organisations involved in the design, manufacturing and retailing sectors as well as
students at school and further and higher educational institutions. In addition, the tools
will help to improve the recognition and validation of work-based learning which will in
turn support career development and lifelong learning within the European Textiles
sector.

3. The need for the project


There is much published data to show the need for this project. The importance of the
textile sector to the European Union is underlined by the report European Technology
Platform for the future of textiles and clothing - A vision for 2020 p.4 states “the
European Textiles and Clothing industry … continues to represent one of Europe’s major
136 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

industrial sectors with an annual turnover of 215 billion Euro and a total workforce of
2.6 million”.
The need for the Project to produce Internet based training tools is highlighted in the
Final Evaluation Report (March 2006) for the “European Textiles Learning Tools”
Project as evaluated by Glendevon Associates. The report p.4 states “Perhaps more
importantly is the potential of the product design and any future on-line versions;
evaluation suggests that they will be capable of supporting the development of a range of
vocational competences throughout the industry in Europe”.
In addition, the report by Advottex Network (Investigating Strategic
Needs For Advanced Vocational Training In The European Textile And Clothing
(T&C) Industry) found that the types of training tools preferred were …Internet (31%)
based products. (Page 25). These findings have helped to reaffirm the design of the
project in confirming that the use of Internet based training materials is effective in
helping SMEs in the textile industry to improve competitiveness.
The project targets workers in the European textile sector at operative level. In the
Textile sector although there have been a number of job losses, there is a significant
demand for new workers due to the age of the workforce. This replacement demand is
highlighted in the Skills for Business Working Futures 2004-2014: National Report
p.130 “the largest level of replacement demand will arise amongst machine and transport
operatives … on average around a third of the current workforce will need to be replaced
over the next 10 years”.

4. Background to the project


The learning tools to be used and updated in the eLiTA project have their origins in a
suite of computer based learning modules developed in 1995 in the Department of Textile
Industries at the University of Leeds, UK for undergraduate and postgraduate students to
study the fundamental principles of textile technology. This “Introduction to Textiles”
suite of modules provided an estimated 80 hours of learning material covering:
Yarn Manufacture
Knitting Technology
Weaving Technology
Woven Structures
Non- Woven Fabric Manufacture
Dyeing, Printing and Finishing Technology
Clothing Technology

Textile Testing and Quality Assurance


In 1996 further modules were developed including:
Clothing Technology 2
Weft Knitted Fabric Analysis
Textile Material Identification
Fashion Technology - a version of Introduction to Textiles tailored for students
studying fashion design.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 137

Subsequently in 2000 The Knitting and Lace Industries Training Association


(KLITRA) in the U.K. piloted Introduction to Textiles within companies who
manufacture, mostly cashmere, knitwear in the Borders region of England and Scotland
to evaluate it as a means to provide the fundamental textile education for their employees
studying for National Vocational Qualifications. They also collaborated in the
development of a Knitwear Technology module component specifically for this group of
companies.
In 2002, the Confederation of British Wool Textiles commissioned the development of
a more advanced Weaving Technology module for the woven fabric sector of the industry.
This was followed by a more advanced module on Nonwoven Technology and a module
on Textile Testing.
In 2004, in response to a call for proposals within the Leonardo da Vinci programme,
KLITRA led a consortium of European educational and training organisations and
companies to develop two modules on Carpet Technology and Hosiery Technology.
These were the first modules developed in languages other than English. The consortium
included Euratex, The Technical Universities of Liberec and Kaunas, KLITRA and
Media Innovations Ltd (a spin-out company from the University of Leeds). Incorporating
some content from previously developed modules and new content with contributions
from industrial experts, these learning tools had to be produced in a completely new
format requiring the development of new delivery technology to allow the content to be
offered in Czech, French, Lithuanian and English.
Up to this stage, all the modules had been made available for study only through CD
Roms. This was because the modules contained a substantial amount of video content and
it is essential, to retain the learners interest, that the learner has almost instant access to
the video without needing to wait lengthy periods for it to be downloaded. However, with
the advent of increasing broadband speeds to 4 and subsequently 8 Mb/second, test
showed that the content could be delivered via the internet with acceptable download
times and performance levels. Therefore, in 2006, the same consortium, with the addition
of Suleyman Demirel University and subsequently Namak Kemal University in Turkey
commenced a project to develop two modules in Apparel Technology and Dyeing,
Printing and Finishing Technology in the same languages and Turkish.
It is these four modules, Apparel Technology, Carpet Technology, Dyeing, Printing
and Finishing and Hosiery Technology that are being updated, converted for internet
delivery (Carpet and Hosiery Technology) and translated into Greek, Latvian,
Portuguese, Romanian and Slovenian to provide the interactive learning tools within the
eLiTA project.

5. The anticipated outcomes for the project


The anticipated outcomes for the project are:
- A research report into ICT tools currently available to support textile
qualifications in partner countries;
- A new learning module in Dyeing & Finishing – English, Greek, Latvian,
Portuguese, Romanian & Slovenian;
- A new learning module in Garment Technologies – languages as above;
138 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

- A new learning module in Hosiery Production – languages as above;


- A new learning module in Carpet Manufacture – languages as above.

6. Format of the learning tools


Throughout the development of the learning tools, the objective has always been to
provide both a structured learning environment and a browse able resource.
Consequently the content had to be presented in a pedagogically logical sequence to
lead the learner along a knowledge path. However, once the learner became familiar with
the content, it should also be easy to locate and access information needed to refresh the
user’s knowledge. Furthermore the learner should be able to evaluate their learning
through challenging and stimulating questions which would also serve to focus on
important points.
In addition, the content should not only provide information it should describe and
explain concepts and encourage the learner to think and apply the knowledge gained.
Where possible, the objective has also been to present and structure the information in
sufficient breadth and depth to cover both basic and more advanced concepts. With the
opportunity for internet delivery, the aim has now become for each module to be an
online learning portal with direct links to other sources of information, notably companies
who provide the technology. This enables the earner to familiarise themselves with
applications of the technology and also to get information about the latest developments
which also helps to keep the content up to date.
In summary therefore the features of the system are:
- It has dual functionality: it provides both an exclusive structured learning
environment and a reference resource browser;
- It assumes no prior knowledge of Textiles or Apparel;
- It assumes no prior knowledge of computers;
- It is simple to use with interactive features;
- It enables learners to evaluate their learning and provides feedback to reinforce
their learning;
- It has quick response - a minimum download time;
- It has links to further information;

7. Structure of the learning tools


The modules will be delivered through the learning portal www.elearning-textiles.co.uk
(Figure 1).
Each module has an opening page with links to credits which presents an overview of
the module (Figure 2) Access to the module content and other features is via clickable
buttons and selectable text using a computer mouse.
To satisfy the requirements of being both a structured learning environment and a
browse able reference resource the delivery of the content is menu driven as shown in
Figure 3. Each subject is divided into topics that are ordered into as logical and sensible
pedagogical order as possible. Likewise, within each topic there are pages compiled in a
sequence that presents the information on each topic in a pedagogical sequence.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 139

Where appropriate, hypertext links (Figure 4) on specific text are included to take the
learner to related pages in the same or other topics to provide them with further
information.

Figure 1 elearning portal

Figure 2 – Opening page of Hosiery technology module


140 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 3 – Module menu

Figure 4 - Video
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 141

8. Future provision for textile and apparel education


There is no doubt that elearning offers many benefits in terms of providing cost-effective
education and training that suits both the time conscious needs of the learner and the
employer when used to support training in the workplace. However it is also clear that,
whilst it is very good in presenting factual and visual descriptive information and, as a
learning portal, can provide ready access to other sources of information, it needs to be
complemented by other modes of delivery. Therefore a blended learning approach is
advocated incorporating: E-learning, Video delivery, Classroom, Books, Synchronous
and asynchronous communication e.g. Internet chat rooms, email, In-company practical
training.
The aim of such an approach is to utilise the most appropriate learning tool for the
type of knowledge and information to be imparted.

9. Summary and conclusion


This paper has presented an overview of the eLiTA project.
The aim of the project is “To support improvements in quality and innovation in
vocational education and training systems, institutions and practices” through the further
development of elearning modules in textiles and apparel.
“The European Textiles and Clothing industry … continues to represent one of
Europe’s major industrial sectors with an annual turnover of 215 billion Euro and a total
workforce of 2.6 million”. However, despite job losses in the Eurozone Textile sector,
there is a significant demand for new workers due to the age of the workforce. This
replacement demand is highlighted in the Skills for Business Working Futures 2004-
2014: National Report p.130 “the largest level of replacement demand will arise
amongst machine and transport operatives … on average around a third of the current
workforce will need to be replaced over the next 10 years”.
It is essential therefore, that elearning tools, such as those in the eLiTA suite of
modules, are developed if the workforce is to be recruited, educated and trained to the
level required to enable companies within the EU compete globally.

REFERENCES

[1] “TEXTAG” Final Evaluation Report for KLITRA Ltd, February 2009 – Glendevon Associates
[2] www.elearning-textiles.co.uk
Recommender Systems for Smart Lifelong
Learning

Ahmad A. Kardan, Omid R. B. Speily, Somayyeh Modaberi

Department of Computer Engineering and Information Technology


Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
Email:{aakardan, speily, Modaberi}@aut.ac.ir

Abstract
The majority of current web-based learning systems are closed learning
environments where courses and learning materials are fixed and the only dynamic
aspect is the organization of the material that can be adapted to allow a relatively
individualized learning environment. In this paper, we propose an evolving web-
based learning system which can adapt itself to its users. More specifically, the
novelty with respect to the system lies in its ability to find relevant content on the
web, and its ability to personalize and adapt this content based on the system's
observation of its learners and the accumulated ratings given by the learners.
Hence, although learners do not have direct interaction with the open Web, the
system can retrieve relevant information related to them and their situated learning
characteristics. Lifelong learning scenarios have particular differences in their need
for personalized recommendations that make not possible reusing existing general
approaches of recommender systems. The paper describes those challenges and
presents a hybrid proposal that combines different recommendation techniques to
navigate learner in learning process and make lifelong learning system
personalized.

Keywords: lifelong learning, recommender systems, personalization

1 Introduction
Research on e-learning has gained more and more attention thanks to the recent explosive
use of the Internet. The Lifelong Learning (LLL) paradigm supports the idea that learning
should occur throughout a person’s lifetime (Santos and Boticario, 2008). This paradigm
promotes a user-centered approach that removes social, physical and cognitive barriers,
where dynamic support may foster attitudes and skills to improve the effectiveness of the
learning process. In mediating this process, technology is playing an important role. In
this sense, a dynamic support that recommends learners what to do to achieve their
learning goals is desirable. Traditionally, Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) intend to
provide direct customized instruction to students by finding the mismatches between the
knowledge of the expert and the actions that reflect the assimilation of that knowledge by
the student (Santos and Boticario, 2008). Their main limitations are: 1) ITS are specific of
the domain for which they have been designed (since they have to be provided with the
expert knowledge) and 2) it is unrealistic to think that it is possible to code in a system all
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 143

the possible responses to cover the specific needs of each student at any situation of the
course.
However, the majority of current web-based learning systems are closed learning
environments, where courses and materials are fixed and the only dynamic aspect is the
organization of the material that can be adapted to allow a relatively individualized
learning environment. In this paper, we will propose an evolving web-based learning
system which can adapt itself not only to its users, but also to the open Web in response
to the usage of its learning materials. Our system is open in the sense that learning items
related to the course could be added, adapted, or deleted. Our proposed e-learning system
adapts both to learners and the open Web. In a traditional adaptive e-learning system, the
delivery of learning material is personalized according to the learner model. However, the
materials inside the system are a priori determined by the system designer/tutor. In open
lifelong system, learning materials are automatically found on the web and integrated into
the system based on users' interactions with the system. Therefore, although users do not
have direct interaction with the open Web, new or different learning materials in the open
Web can enrich their learning experiences through personalized paper recommendations(
Tang and Mccalla, 2004). Other ability of our systems is working powerful in critical
fields and high tolerance in unknown situation like new generation of science with related
information shortage or new user with no specification of his interests. Another
superiority of our systems is suitable architecture for social networks like facebook1.
There is similarity between social networks and lifelong learning therefore we think we
can use social networks in learning. We propose combination of different adapted
recommendation algorithms to address lifelong systems requirements.
The organization of the paper is as follows: in section 2 we overview the related work
done in recommender systems in lifelong learning (LLL), focusing more on recent
systems. We introduce our solution including high level architecture and required details
in section 3. The conclusion of the paper comes in section 4 along with some
recommendations for future work.

2 Related work:
Work on LLL systems is in initial stage, but improve quickly. In (Santos and Boticario,
2008) introduce inclusive scenarios of recommender systems and LLL and propose
recommending strategies for LLL. In (Derachesler and Hummel and koper, 2007)
propose a combination of memory-based recommendation techniques that appear suitable
to realize personalized recommendation on learning activities in context of e-learning. As
described earlier, our proposed e-learning system makes individualized recommendations
of materials for learners chosen from a dynamically evolving paper repository. There are
several related works concerning tracking and recommending technical papers. Basu
(Basu et al,2001) define the paper recommendation problem as: "Given a representation
of my interests, find me relevant papers." They studied this issue in the context of
assigning conference paper submissions to reviewing committee members. Reviewers do
1
www.facebook.com
144 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

not need to key in their research interests as they usually do; instead, a novel autonomous
procedure is incorporated in order to collect reviewer interest information from the web.
Bollacker (Bollacker et al, 1999)refine CiteSeer, through an automatic personalized paper
tracking module which retrieves each user's interests from well-maintained heterogeneous
user profiles. Woodruff (Woodruff et al, 2000) discuss an enhanced digital book with a
spreading-activation mechanism to make customized recommendations for readers with
different types of background and knowledge. McNee (McNee et al, 2002) investigate the
adoption of collaborative filtering techniques to recommend papers for researchers. They
do not address the issue of how to recommend a research paper; but rather, how to
recommend additional references for a target research paper. In the context of an e-
learning system, additional readings in an area cannot be recommended purely through an
analysis of the citation matrix of the target paper, because the system should not only
recommend papers according to learners' interests, but also pick up those not-so-
interesting-yet pedagogically suitable papers for them (McNee et al, 2002). In some cases,
pedagogically valuable papers might not normally be of interest to learners and papers
with significant influence on the research community might not be pedagogically suitable
for learners. Therefore, we cannot simply present all highly relevant papers to learners;
instead, a significantly modified recommending mechanism is needed( Tang and Mccalla,
2004).

3 Proposed Approach
We describe our system in four phases(figure 1) : 1)Input 2)Process 3)Output 4)Feedback
Processing. There are three type of inputs, Actors that described later include four type of
role. Candidate items are contents that recommender systems select N number of them for
recommendation. Other one is input information such as user models, friend weights,
learning map and so on that explain perfectly in section 3.1. All inputs process in process
phase to make recommendation. Recommended items present to user and collect his/her
feedbacks in output phase. Finally, by processing feedbacks system can update itself to
predict and recommend better. Feedback processing phase provide restoration by reform
user modeling, friends weight and other related essential information to increase system
accuracy. Our proposed approach summarized in Fig. 2 with more details.
In figure 2 the generic view of our proposed approach is illustrated. According to
figure four main phases is recognizable. Each of these phases will explain completely at
following subsections.

3.1 Input phase


In this phase four roles exist including: user, friends, group member and teacher. Friends
are users that directly interact with targeted user. Interests and opinions of friends
according to their similarity to targeted user have different weights. These weights are
applied in producing recommendation. The other role is group member that indirectly
interacts with targeted user and system uses them to give more accurate
recommendations. If group member interests and opinions are similar to targeted user,
system will recommend targeted user to add this member as his/her friend. By increasing
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 145

number of friends and updating their weight a better clustering is made and consequently
system gives a more accurate recommendation. Also this method works well when user
has few friends. The other role is teachers who have enough knowledge about the
discussed topics in learning group and they can be an intelligent agent. System can make
a learning group without a teacher. This is a notable attribute of system especially when
learning group topic is very update and advanced, so an adequate teacher can’t be found.
Most important teacher works in this system listed as follows:
INPUT PROCESS OUTPUT

Candidate
Items

Recommendation
Actors Processing
unit

Feedback
Input info

Updating
unit

FEEDBACK
PROCESSING
Fig. 1. Concept model of our Proposal

• Learning contents recommendations.


• Submission of recommendation when the system recommendation value is
bellow 2 (Recommendation value is a parameter from 0 to 5 and calculates at the
time of proposing it.).
• Submission of users’ annotation or summarization after they study learning
content.
One of the important elements in lifelong learning system is learner modeling.
Because of accuracy and efficiency of two part user modeling approaches (Kardan and
Einavypour, 2008) we use a modified version of it. Figure 3 shows an overall view of
proposed learner modeling approach. At first system hasn’t any idea about learner, so to
accomplish this problem uses questionnaire and inviter learner model. For joining
learning group each learner should at least have tow invitation from tow learning group
members. Also he/she can alternatively answer the questionnaire includes questions about
learner individual information such as: age, geographical location, religion, educations
and more, as well as questions about the relation between learner and members who
146 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

invite him/her such as: how much he/she knows inviters, how he/she be familiar with
them and more. TLM0 shows learner temporary model at first stage (Burke,2000). After
learner interaction with system, system validates TLM0 considering learner feedbacks,
how much is the learner model close to real learner? , then TLM0 is updated to TLM1. This
process repeats n time, the value of n relates to system efficiency, then TLMn convert to
permanent learner model.

Fig. 2. Proposal for combining recommending techniques in


LLL
User Model
Temporary

TUM Validation TUM Validation TUM Validation TUMi+

validatio

PUM
User Model
Permanent

Valid Information
Figure 3: learner modeling
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 147

The other input phase features are friends and group members learner model
repository that is saved distinctively r. The amount of similarity between a learner and
his/her friends is saved in weight unit. Last two features of this phase are learning map
and pedagogic rules. Pedagogic rules define what and when a learning content should
use. For example a difficult technical paper isn’t appropriate for a beginner. We propose
ranking and tagging paper based on paper publication time, paper level according to
learner (beginner, average, and expert) and teaching ways of teacher. Learning map has
meaning relation with pedagogical rules. This map is saved for every learner and helps
them to see their learning process. System using this map finds which content has been
learned.

3.2 Process phase


All processes and recommendation is done at this phase. We propose a mixture approach
for making recommendation in lifelong learning systems. In contrast to common
approaches that work with limited amount of content, our proposed approach let learner
contact universal web and search needed content through web at time of learning process.
As mentioned before CF isn’t proper approach for lifelong learning system because the
lifelong learning system nature is working with varied and very detailed information. So
using CF for lifelong learning system much information with no learner comment or
enough comment will be made. To accomplish this weakness we mix it by an efficient
approach that doesn’t need learner feedback very. Like (Joachims and Freitag and
Mitchell, 1997) reinforcement learning is used for filtering presented documents and
information to learner. In this system the WAIR (Web Argent for Information Retrieval)
is used.

Content detail
such as title,
Publishing date,
user’s
annotation, set
of comments,
summery …
Date of
reading

Figure 4: learning map indicate records about user’s activities

This architecture includes user interface agent, information filtering agent and
information retrieval agent and with using search engines and learner profiles receives
documents for learners. The main point of this system is constructing and updating
learner profile. The profile at first is made of some key words learner inputs system and
general learner characteristic likes language, educations, intelligence and other things is
gotten by him/herself or by his/her friend. These key words during learner and system
interaction and by receiving learner feedbacks are updated. Updating includes add new
words to profile, omit some key words and change learner profile key words weight.
Formally learner profile is a vector of weight like the fowling vector:
148 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

w p =< w p ,1 , w p , 2 ,..., w p ,n > (1)

is equal to weight of word k and wp = 1


According to the profile WAIR sends a query to search engines that every word
existence probability is related to its weight in profile after receiving documents. Rank of
each document likes i for profile p calculates according to two vector cosine. For system
learning implicit and explicit feedbacks is received. Implicit feedback RE(i) that is
received at beginning of system work is the points learners give to documents. Explicit
feedbacks RI(i) includes learner study time, and links is followed by learner. Reward for
each document is made of the combination all this rewards:
ri = δRE (i ) + (1 − δ ) RI (i ) (2)
Based on this reward learner profile updates as follow:
w (pi,+k1) = w (pi,)k + βri I ( xi ,k ) (3)
In above formula I(Xi,k) is a threshold function that its output is 0, 1 and -1. After
results are gained, contents are revised from the point of LLL rules. If any content
contravenes LLL rules, they will be omitted. LLL rules made of learning rules and
teaching ways is proposed by teacher according to learning map. Some sample of LLL
rules come as follows.
LLL rule validation (user profile, content profile){
If (level of content i=A) & (intelligence of user = 40) then reject content.
If (language of content i=”English”) & (language of user = “Farsi”) then reject
content
If(mastery level of user=A) & (Date of publishing content = 1990) then reject content.
…}
In addition to recommendations are gained from learner search, by investigating
friend uses and finding similarity between learner and their friends so recommendations
produced based on CF. An important point in CF is used in our approach is the way of
weighting to friends recommend. As mentioned before learner weights are kept in one
place and at time of using CF these weights are used for assigning similarity. Like
previous way the results of this approach are checked by LLL rules. Another list belongs
to teacher recommendations. The teacher according to his content and learner recognition
recommend to learner. These recommendations are checked by LLL rules to minimize
human errors. Relations with them recommendations are checked are as follows:
Search Items={Ii,Ij,…,Im} Input
Professor Proposal= { Ii,Ij,…}
freinds Popular Items={ Ia,Ir, Io,Ij,Ic,…,Is}
Ufiltering=SI filtering results = LLL rule validation{ Filtering(Ufiltering,User Profile )}
CF results= LLL rule validation {Collaborative filtering( friends Popular Items, friends Process
Weight) = CF(FPI, FW)}
Professor Proposal result = LLL rule validation{ Professor Proposal}

Output
Rec results = (filtering results U CF results U Professor Proposal results}={ IN,IN-1,IN-2,…,I0}
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 149

3.3 Output phase


In this phase if the value of recommendation is bellow 2 the teacher should assign that a
learning content is proper or not. But if the value of recommendation is more than 2
validation isn’t necessary. The value 2 is an empirical quantity and has been assigned for
system efficiency.

Search
Results

Previous reader of this


content (one or more)
Content Catalog

CF Rec
Results

User can visit when


his/her friend read this
content by accessing
Teacher’s ChatChat
with friend about his/her learning map
Recs
with
freinds
Recommendation

Figure 5: recommendation results

3.4 Feedback Processing phase


This phase happens when a learner has studied learning content. System can update itself,
improve its recommendations by gathering learner feedback and analyzing it, updating
learner model if it is necessary and design new learning map for learner. Feedbacks
include information such as: paper level (from A to Z), edition type (weak 0, excellent
100), recommendation precise (from 0 to 100), usefulness percentage (from 0 to 100) and
other things are mentioned by learner. Also learner can annotate or summarize the content
has been studied. Every annotation saved with its author name and is useful for other
learner wants to study those papers. Learner feedbacks make it possible to update weight
of his/her friends. As friends have an important role in quality of system recommendation
and modeling, by comparing learner model and other members system recommend most
similar members to learner as a friend.

4 Conclusion and Future work


Current LLL systems have been focusing on the interrelations between users and the
system. Hence, the system, if deemed intelligent, must be capable of detecting users'
150 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

needs, following their footsteps, and finally adapting to their needs. We argue that this is
not enough. We have been ignoring the dynamics of the open Web. As such, we believe
that two kinds of collaborations should be considered here: one is the collaboration
between the system and its users; another is the collaboration between the system and the
open Web in response to the changing needs of the users. A system, which can fulfill
especially the second type of collaboration, would indeed help its users to keep up-to date
to the dynamics of information on the Web. Currently, we focused on developing

REFERENCES

1 Journal Articles:
[1] Basu, C, Hirsh, H., Cohen, W. and Nevill-Manning,C. (2001) Technical paper recommendations: a
study in combining multiple information sources. Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, 1, 231-252.
[2] Bobadilla, J. Serradilla, F. Hernando, A. MovieLens (2009). Collaborative filtering adapted to
recommender systems of e-learning, Knowledge-Based Systems. 10.1016.
[3] Zhang, B., Seo, Y (2001). Personalized web-document filtering using reinforcement learning. Applied
Artificial Intelligence, 15(7):665-685.

2 Conference Proceedings:
[1] Bollacker, K.D., Lawrence, S. and Giles, C.L. (1999). A system for automatic personalized tracking of
scientific literature on the web. In Proc. ACM Conference on Digital Libraries (DL 1999), 105-113.
[2] Herlocker, J., Konstan, J., Brochers, A., Riedel, J(2000). An Algorithmic Framework for Performing
Collaborative Filtering. Proceedings of Conference on Research and development in Information
Retrieval.
[3] Joachims, T., Freitag, D., Mitchell, T. M(1997). WebWatcher: A tour guide for the world wide web.
Proceedings of International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence.
[4] Kardan, AA., Einavypour, Y( 2008). Eliminating Anomalies in Learner Modeling Using Two-Partial
Learner Model. ICEIT'08, IAENG.
[5] Olga C. Santos and Jesus G. Boticario (2008). Recommender Systems for Lifelong Learning inclusive
scenarios. ECAI 2008 - Workshop on Recommender Systems, Patras, Greece.
[6] McNee, S.M., Albert, I., Cosley, D., Gopalkrishnan, P., Lam, S.K., Rashid, A.M., Konstan, J.A and Riedl,
J. (2002) On the recommending of citations for research papers. In Proceedings of ACM International
Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW’02), 116-125.
[7] TANG,T. Mccalla, G.(2007). Smart Recommendation for an Evolving E-Learning System. Dept. of
Computer Science, University of Saskatchewan 57 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5A9, CANADA.
[8] Woodruff, A., Gossweiler, R., Pitkow, J., Chi, E. and Card, S.K. (2000) Enhancing a digital book with a
reading recommender. In Proc. ACM CHI.153-160.
A Proposed Structure for Learning Objects Using Ontology for
Effective Content Discovery
Ahmad A. Kardan1, Shima Zahmatkesh1

(1) Advanced E-Learning Technology Laboratory, Department of Computer Engineering


and Information Technology, Amirkabir University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
E-mail: sh.zahmatkesh@aut.ac.ir

Abstract
One of the major challenges in e-learning development is search and discovery of
an appropriate learning object among the distributed content repositories. Although
SCORM presents some approaches for content reusability, but efficient searching
process is a significant problem yet. We need an effective searching mechanism for
discovery and access to the required learning resources, to utilize them in our
courses. But resource discovery within a heterogeneous collection of resources is a
challenging problem. Semantic web has been proposed for resolving problems.
Some approaches like ontology were proposed to overcome heterogeneity. Ontology
represents a set of concepts within a domain, and also the relationships between
those concepts. Therefore, by using ontology for metadata of learning objects, we
can enrich the information content of the learning objects, and develop a better
search methodology.
In this work, according to our proposed ontology, we consider the structure of the
learning materials in three levels: Learning Object, Content Object, and Content
Fragment. Content Fragment is a content unit in a most basic form. Navigational
elements enable the sequencing of content fragments in a content object. Therefore,
the Learning Objects aggregate Content Objects to cover a learning objective. By
focus on the structure of the learning materials, different kinds of learning materials
were created. By using ontology, for these learning materials a rich metadata were
shaped. By means of this kind of learning materials our ontology could be evaluated
for effective searching.

Keywords: E-Learning, Ontology, Metadata, Learning Object, Sharable Content


Objects (SCO)

1 Introduction
Using new learning methods is one of the main challenges. One of the methods having
more emphasis on the speed of learning process and its customization is E-Learning. For
facilitating the construction of knowledge and skills in the learner, learning activities
should be aimed (Allison et al, 2005). One of the E-Learning goals is wide access to
learning resources with higher quality and lower cost. Information technology has an
important role to achieve E-Learning objectives.
In order to improve access methods to educational information, different standards
were created such as LOM and Dublin Core. The SCORM standard was created for
152 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

reusability of learning contents and better management of learning resources. The


existing deficiencies of these standards lead to use semantic web and its technologies for
effective learning. Semantic web mainly focuses on giving a well-defined meaning to
resources, services, and information. It provides tools for knowledge representation and
management, annotation of data and resources, discovery of services and resources based
on their meaning and function, automatic composition of services, and inference over
metadata and ontologies (Allison et al, 2005). For applying semantic web it is necessary
to use ontology to describe resources and applications on the web. Therefore, rich
metadata could be available by using ontology.
Using ontology, different projects have been developed in E-Learning domain. The
CoAKTinG project (Page, 2005) was developed to advance the state of the art in
collaborative mediated spaces for distributed e-Science through the novel application of
advanced knowledge technologies. The OntoEdue project (Guangzuo et al, 2004) puts its
emphasis on adaptability and personalization in learning by means of ontology. The
EUME Onto (Amorim et al, 2004) is an educational ontology that contains concepts of
learning design, learning contents and learning resources. Weihong proposed an
Integrated Semantic E-Learning Platform. This platform is an approach to integrate
content provision, learning process, and learner personality (Weihong et al, 2006). The
other paper presented a domain ontology which is used for sharing content and services
between repositories (Xin-juan et al, 2007).
The rest of this paper is organized as follows: first, we show the overview of SCORM
standard, and Semantic Web, to establish necessary fundamental for the rest of the paper.
In section 4, we describe ontology and introduce some parts of our ontology in detail.
Section 5 shows the process of creating learning objects which could be used with the
proposed ontology. In section 6 we sketch out future works. Finally, in the last section the
conclusion is provided.

2 SCORM Standard
Learning object is a small single unit of information that at least covers a single learning
objective. Learning objects are sharable and could be reused in different courses. Each
learning object contains a variety of information, but they need a standard interface for
communication and combination with other learning objects to compose an e-course.
SCORM presents a mechanism for share-ability and reusability of learning objects,
known as Sharable Content Objects (SCO's) (Ostyn, 2007). Therefore, SCO's could be
used to make different courses, reducing time and cost of content development, and could
be delivered by different LMS's (Yang and Ho, 2005).
“The SCORM was created by the Advanced Distributed Learning initiative (ADL),
and considers six key requirements: Accessibility, Adaptability, Affordability, Durability,
Interoperability, and Reusability” (Mackenzie and Baeini, 2004). The SCORM is actually
a set of related documents. There are three main SCORM documents: Content
Aggregation Model, Run-Time Environment, and Sequencing and Navigation:
The SCORM Content Aggregation Model (CAM) document deals with the assembly,
labelling and packaging of Web-based learning contents. The CAM explains the rules and
mechanisms by which individual files can be combined into Sharable Content Objects
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 153

(SCOs) and how SCOs can be combined to form Organizations. A Content Package is
comprised of two main components: the Manifest file and the physical files. The manifest
is an XML file that contains metadata about the package, organization structures that
describe the structure of the content, and an inventory of the content resources in the
package (Mackenzie and Baeini, 2004).

3 Semantic Web
The semantic web is an extension of the World Wide Web in which content can be
expressed semantically, and can be read and used by software agents. By getting semantic
to the contents, they could be found, shared and integrated more easily. At its core, the
semantic web comprises a philosophy, a set of design principles, and a variety of enabling
technologies. Semantic web help us to analyze different types of data including the
content, links, and also transactions between people and computers.
The semantic web architecture supports content with formal semantics. Thus, the
contents on the web can be discovered and used by automated agents. This will enable
them to reason about the web content, and produce an intelligent response to unforeseen
situations (Stojanovic et al, 2001). Semantic web consist of different layers and use
variety of tools and technologies like XML, RDF, RDF Schema, and OWL (Wikipedia,
2008).
Learning contents beside the main content have some semantic annotation and
metadata. Thus using semantic web, finding a desired content could be facilitated.
Metadata is structured data which describes the characteristics of the other data. it is used
for data management and searching content resources. Metadata provides a common set
of tags that can be applied to any content resource. Therefore, contents can be describe,
indexed, and searched, as a reusable content (Stojanovic et al, 2001). Therefore, contents
can be described, indexed, and searched, as a reusable content.
In the E-Learning community different metadata standards are emerging to describe
content resources like RDF, Dublin Core, and LOM (Hodgins and Duval, 2002). Also
different communities have developed their own metadata. Because of the variation and
heterogeneity, different metadata can not interact with each other. “For creating a
common understanding between terms in various metadata, vocabularies can be helpful.
From the learner point of view, the most important issues for searching learning materials
are” (Stojanovic et al, 2001):
Content: What the learning materials are about.
Context: In which form learning material is presented.
Structure: How a set of learning materials merge and create a learning course.
Therefore, by using ontology in each of the above mentioned issues, both instructors
and learners can get efficient results with regard to designing and accessing courses,
respectively. Consequently, semantic web can provide suitable platform for searching the
desired learning contents. References

4 Ontology
Ontology is a data model that represents a set of concepts within a domain and the
relationships between those concepts for representing and describing knowledge.
154 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Ontology suggests a formal description and common understanding of a specific domain,


and Ontology generally describes (Wikipedia, 2008):
Individuals: the basic or "ground level" objects
Classes: sets, collections, or types of objects
Attributes: properties, features, or characteristics, or parameters that objects can have
and share
Relations: ways that objects can be related to one another
Events: the changing of attributes or relations
For coding ontology, different languages have been created and the most important
one is OWL. It is a widespread, expressive language that in terms of the ontology allows
the use of external reasoning to compute the consistency of the model, classifying the
ontology, query the model and retrieving individuals (Vega-Gorgojo et al, 2006).We use
Protégé editor (Protégé website, 2009) to show our ontology (Kardan, 2009). This editor
provides a graphical view of classes, and a primary class called "Thing" is the root class
of all classes.
“The structure of learning objects was specified in the proposed ontology. In this
structure, three elements were identified: Content Fragment, Content Object, and
Learning Object. A Content Fragment is a content unit in its most basic form, such as
text, image, audio, video, animation, table, chart, and so on. Navigational elements enable
the sequencing of content fragments in a content object. Content Objects consist of some
Learning Objects which cover a learning objective. These elements appear as classes in
the proposed ontology” (Kardan, 2009).
As mentioned in section 2, SCORM presents a mechanism for share-ability and
reusability of learning objects, known as Sharable Content Objects (SCO's). For
implementation and evaluation of our ontology, Sharable Content Objects (SCO) was
used as learning objects to attain reusability.
In Figure 1 subclasses of Content Fragment could be seen. A Content Fragment could
be text, image, audio, video, animation, table, chart, and so on.

Figure 1. Different Content Fragment


The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 155

A Content Object represents the content of Learning Object. The contents of an e-


course could use examples, questions and answers, exercises, descriptions, lectures,
simulations, and so on. As being illustrated in Figure 2, subclasses of Content Object
introduce different types of learning resources which are presented in learning e-content.
The Learning contents could be delivered to learners in different manners such as
Description, Explanation, Example, Exam, Exercise, and Question and Answer.

Figure 2. Content Objects

5 Implementation of the Learning Objects


For implementing the proposed ontology, a collection of e-learning contents is necessary.
Different concepts of e-learning content domain have been introduced in the proposed
ontology. These concepts are used for a set of e-learning contents. Rich metadata for the
e-learning contents was created by using these concepts. User can use these concepts and
an interface to search variety of e-learning contents on the web.
SCORM standard is an acceptable standard in e-learning contents domain. Most of the
learning management systems use SCORM standard to manage e-courses. On the other
hand, content designers prefer to create e-learning contents according to SCORM
standard. According to the aim of our proposed ontology which is searching the existed
contents to reuse them in other course, a set of reusable contents was necessary.
Reusability can be guarantied by using SCORM standard and creating a set of SCO’s.
The usage of this standard has other advantages. The test and evaluation of the proposed
ontology become possible in different learning management systems which are SCORM
compatible. Under SCORM definition a learning content could be packed as a Sharable
156 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Content Object (SCO) if it has at least one learning objective. It is mentionable that each
SCO includes different files.
To test our proposed ontology, the topic of E-Business and E-Commerce was selected
to create an appropriate e-content. In this topic, different issues like E-Commerce
Mechanisms, E-Commerce Transactions, Market Research and Online Advertising, and
E-Commerce Support Services were introduced.
After selecting a suitable resource for the content, different types of content based on
different multimedia capabilities, and according to our ontology were designed and
created. The format of the files that being used in the SCO's is not limited by SCORM; so
based on unrestricted file's format, a collection of learning contents was produced in
Flash and html format.
The structure of learning objects was introduced in our ontology. In this structure,
three elements are being identified: Content Fragment, Content Object, and Learning Object.
In this work, a set of Content Objects was created. For the chosen topic we created
different types of Content Object like Description, Explanation, Question, Self-
assessment, Exercise, Description, Example and Exam. For creating these Content
Objects, different kinds of Content Fragments were utilized. Based on our ontology a
Content Object is being made of some Content Fragments such as Text, Animation,
Table, Video, Image, Audio, and Graph.
We used Flash and html format, because they are capable to support different kinds of
Content Fragments. Each of the Flash or html files represent as a Content Object. They
include some Content Fragments. The chosen topic is represented in different scenarios.
For example in a scenario it is represented in text format and in addition with sound or
image. Some of the contents have tree structure for interaction with learner. Video and
animation are also used to create parts of the content required for the selected topic. Drag
and drop technique also used in questions, exams, and self assessments.
In this work, about 200 files composed as Content Objects were created. They were
designed according to the structure of the Learning Objects which are described in our
ontology. In next step metadata was created for these files. All of the files and their
metadata were put in a content repository. Evaluation of the proposed ontology was done
by implementing a semantic search on different repositories

6 Future work
In this paper, considering the proposed structure of learning objects, we recommended a
process to create a set of learning objects which can use our ontology to creating
metadata. In the next step, using ontology concepts, we create metadata for learning
resources. Evaluation of the effect of using this metadata will be done at AELT Group, in
Amirkabir University of Technology, by putting these resources in different repositories
around the campus, and conducting professors to search for desirable learning objects.

7 Conclusion
The access to the desired content in a collection of them is one of the important
challenges in E-Learning domain. Regarding distributed resources, heterogeneity and
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 157

lack of universal standard are the main problems. To tackle these problems different
solutions have been presented such as creating standards for content development, and
semantic web for semantic search.
In this study, the structure of the Learning Object is used for creating Content Objects.
This structure was introduced in our previous work (Kardan, 2009). Creating a set of
Content Objects is necessary to evaluate the proposed ontology. Therefore, in this work
different types of Content Objects including variety of Content Fragments were designed
and produced. In the next step it will be shown that metadata could be attached to these
Content Objects according to the proposed ontology for implementing a semantic search.

8 Acknowledgement
Hereby we would like to express our thanks to Iran Telecommunication Research Centre
for the dedicated grant to this work under the contraction numbered T/500/20616, and
dated on 18.March.2008.

REFERENCES

Allison C., et al, (2005): Services, Semantics, and Standards: Element of Learning Grid Infrastructure.
Applied Artificial Intelligence, 19, 861–879.
Amorim R., et al, (2004): An Educational Ontology based on Metadata Standards.
Guangzuo C., et al, (2004): OntoEdu: A Case Study of Ontology-based Education Grid System for E-
Learning. Journal of Global Chinese Society FOR Computers in Education.
Hodgins W., and Duval E. (2002): Draft Standard for Learning Object Metadata. Technical Report: Learning
Technology Standards Committee of the IEEE.
Kardan A. A., Zahmatkesh S.(2009): A Proposed Ontology for Effective Searching of Sharable Content
Objects Emphasizing on Learning Objectives. In 6th International Conference on Information
Technology : New Generations, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Mackenzie G. and Baeini M. (2004): A (Mostly) Painless Introduction to SCORM.
Ostyn C. (2007): In the Eye of the SCORM, An introduction to SCORM 2004 for Content Developers.
Page K. R. (2005): Collaboration in the Semantic Grid: a Basis for e-Learning. Applied Artificial
Intelligence, 19, 881-904.
protégé web site (2009): http://protege.stanford.edu/
Stojanovic L., at al, (2001): E-Learning Based on the Semantic Web. In World Conference on the WWW and
Internet, Orlando, Florida, USA.
Vega-Gorgojo G., et al, (2006): A Semantic Approach to Discovering Learning Services in Grid-based
Collaborative Systems. Future Generation Computer Systems, 22, 709-719.
Weihong H., et al, (2006): An Intelligent Semantic E-Learning Framework Using Context-Aware Semantic
Web Technologies. British Journal of Educational Technology, 37, 351-373.
Wikipedia (2008): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontology_computer_science
Wikipedia (2008): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_web
Xin-juan Z., et al, (2007): Ontology Based Sharing and Services in E-Learning Repository. In International
Conference on Network and Parallel Computing.
Yang C. T. and Ho H. C. (2005): An e-Learning Platform Based on Grid Architecture. Journal of information
science and engineering, 21, 911-928.
Interdisciplinary and Specialized
Programmers Used in the Practical Part of Teaching
a Technical Course

Irina-Isabella Savin1, Ioana Pristavu2

(1) College teacher, Eng., 1st teaching rank, PhD candidate, “Ioan C. Ştefănescu”
Technical College, Str. Socola nr. 51-53, Iaşi, Romania
E-mail: savinisabella@yahoo.com

(2) International relations officer, „Alex. I. Cuza” University, B-dul Carol I, Nr.11 Iaşi,
Romania, E-mail: ioanapristavu@yahoo.com

Abstract
This paper deals with a concept of the present pedagogy which combines scientific
and technical information with students’ practical applications.
An interdisciplinary education means that information taught to students is the
result of a mixture of different disciplines: physics, chemistry and textile finishing.
Being a computerized didactical-scientific-technical „filter” of these disciplines
and their practical applications in the laboratory, this paper becomes a useful,
attractive and stimulating teaching instrument both for the students and the
teachers. Combining formal and non-formal education, students are able to achieve
necessary skills and abilities for their future work in a computerized technical
environment.
Keywords: AeL lessons, Spectrophotometer, Dye, Diagrams

1. Introduction
Starting from the idea that lessons have to be attractive and bring new information to
students, this paper focuses on a practical application for the textile finishing discipline.
This course is taught in the 12th form of the technical high schools specialized in textile-
leather and it combines practical and theoretical information from other fields – physics,
chemistry – with the specialized ones.
AeL lessons are a precious help, as through animation students get a better glimpse of
the chemical, physical and technical phenomena they are taught. Interdisciplinary helps
students achieve general and specific abilities, as well as practical skills related to
working with technical equipment.
AeL lessons in the field of chemistry (for instance natural and synthetic coloring
agents, water) (http://advancedelearning.com/materiale/new/chi/) and physics (light
dispersion) (http://advancedelearning.com/materiale/new/fiz), combined with specialized
ones on the coloring of textile materials (dyeing and printing operations) offer students
the chance to learn how to interpret the diagrams which result from the analysis of dyeing
agent concentration in different situations, using the Spectrophotometer Kontron.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 159

As AeL lessons in the fields of chemistry and physics are well-known, this paper
deals with the specialized practical application – coloring cellulose textile materials with
specific dyeing agents.
When dyeing textile materials, we need to take into account various factors which
may have an influence upon the finished material – the Microner index, dyeing agent
concentration, work parameters, etc. (Bucurenci and Bucurenci, 1994).
The case study presented here deals with the dyeing operation of materials made of
100% cotton. Different dyeing samples were prepared and tested with the help of the
spectrophotometer Kontron.
The paper consists of the following parts:
• Introduction
• Part I presents a history of the spectrophotometer and some notions on the dyeing
of different cellulose textile materials with various specific dyeing agents;
• Part II describes the practical application which uses the Spectrophotometer
Kontron – variations in the concentration of the one dyeing agent (the tub dye) used in the
experiment, depending on the wave length, time, number of determinations, initial dyeing
concentration, etc.
• Conclusions;
• Bibliography.
Experimental data interpretation leads to a correct choice for the work parameter
values and to obtaining textile materials which prove to have good and very good
technological resistance.

Part I
Modern equipment used in the instrumental measurement of color

In the 50s only 10 spectrophotometers measuring the dyeing concentration were in


use. In the 60s, the most per formant one needed at least 10-15 minutes to read the textile
sample reflexion values at 16 points, values which were then used in more complex
calculations. During the 70s, the measuring time was reduced to less than a minute and
then to only a few seconds.
The prices one had to pay for these devices were very high:
• In the 70s, it was the equivalent of 30 Volkswagen cars;
• In the 90s, it was the equivalent of 3-4 Hyundai cars.
Colorimetry is nowadays represented by a large variety of spectrophotometers and
colorimeters connected to a computer and having an internal memory unit. Newer results
show a significant growth of the measuring speed, precision, reproducibility and
application flexibility. An important optical change is the extension of the wavelength to
the infrared area (which is important for the measurement of the camouflage materials) as
well as the ultraviolet area (important for the measurement of the fluorescent bleaching
agents).
The features of the spectrophotometer are the following:
• Double spot measurements every 10 nm;
• Using slots with a good reproducibility rate;
160 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

• A range of the reflex ion values of 0-200%;


• The existence of some light source;
• Manual or automatic calibration.
The big brands in the field (Data color International, Macbeth, Minolta, Tree Point)
modify and upgrade their programmer packages in order to continuously improve the
answers that the equipment offers the beneficiaries. An important characteristic of the
software used is that Windows now provides us with great graphical operational
features. The continuous upgrade of the measurement equipment leads to an improvement
of the existing solutions, but as far as the dyeing recipes are concerned, the final decision
is always taken by the professional colorist.

Figure 1. Spectrophotometer Figure 2. Spectrophotometer


Keyboard and monitor area for the analysis of the bath solutions

1.1 Dyeing with direct dyes


Direct dye molecules contain:
• Chromospheres groups which can be di or poliazoic;
• Aminic or hydroxylic auxochrome groups;
• Soluble sulphonic groups.
Direct dyes are a fine dust with a high water solubility value and they come in
various colors and shades. The factors which influence dyeing are: coloring agent and
auxiliary substance concentration, temperature, ph of the dye bath, time length of the
dyeing process (Mureşan, 2000, Butnaru and Bertea, 1998).
The dyeing procedures are the following:
a) The discontinuous procedure – when the dye bath is low alkali nous or neutral;
either dark or light shades can be achieved through this procedure.
b) The semi-continuous procedure – for cotton and viscose materials.
c) The continuous procedure – which is more difficult to use because of its complex
technology.
The dyeing substances are: NaOH, Na silicate, industrial salt, and direct coloring
agent.
The dyed material is treated again with the aim of improving the dye resistance.

1.2 Dyeing with tub dyes


Tub dyes have been used for a long time now, beginning with the time when they were
extracted from plants and cockles.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 161

After synthesizing indigo in 1897, the first anthrachinonic dye was synthesized in
1901. This type of dyes can be used in order to achieve all shades. They need to be
diluted in order to be used for dyeing.
The factors which influence dyeing are: coloring agent and auxiliary substance
concentration, temperature, time length of the dyeing process, ph of the dye bath.
Dyeing procedures are: discontinuous, semi-continuous and continuous.
The dye resistance is good and very good (Butnaru and Bertea, 1997).

Part II
Determining dye solutions concentration in the dye bath

The method is based on determining the concentration depending on the wavelength,


as it is well-known that every color matches a certain wave-length in the UV spectrum.
The dye concentration is determined with the help of a measuring curve. The tables
with the concentration values for the one dye can be found below, together with the
experimental data – tables and curves of the dye concentration – determined through
experiments using the Spectrophotometer Kontron (Butnaru and Bucur, 1996).

Table 1. Determining the concentration of the tub dye in the dye bath before the dyeing
operation, on the Spectrophotometer Kontron
Wavel No. Value_S Value_S
350.0 1 0.9348_1 0.9340_2
450.0 2 1.1468_1 1.1474_2
550.0 3 1.1994_1 1.1983_2
650.0 4 1.2028_1 1.2024_2
700.0 5 1.2026_1 1.2020_2
750.0 6 1.1020_1 1.1020_2
850.0 7 1.1200_1 1.1223_2
900.0 8 0.6466_1 0.6471_2

Table 2. Determining the concentration of the tub dye in the dye bath after the dyeing
operation, on the Spectrophotometer Kontron
Wavel No. Value_S Value_S
350.0 1 0.6785_1 0.6815_2
450.0 2 0.4608_1 0.4619_2
550.0 3 0.6570_1 0.6600_2
650.0 4 0.8078_1 0.8099_2
700.0 5 0.0339_1 0.0349_2
750.0 6 0.1549_1 0.1543_2
162 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 3. Determining the concentrated


solution of the tub dye on the
Spectrophotometer Kontron

Figure 4. Determining the diluted


solution of the tub dye on the
Spectrophotometer Kontron
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 163

Conclusions

• based on these diagrams and tables, when dyeing cellulose materials, one can
calculate the optimum values of the coloring agents used, depending on various
parameters – wave length in order to determine color intensity, time length in order to
obtain a uniform dyeing, degree of recovery of the dye from the dyeing bath in order to
use it for further dyeing operations;
• cellulose textile materials will be better quality ones as flaws will thus be removed
(Bertea, Bertea and Butnaru, 2000);
• students will be better trained in using specialized technical equipment;
• students will acquire various skills in different fields – chemistry, physics, textiles –
thanks to the interdisciplinary character of the lessons and the practical applications.

REFERENCES

Bertea, A., Bertea, A. and Butnaru, R. (2000): Textile fibers – chemistry and structure, A 92 Publishing
House, Iaşi
Bucurenci, E., Bucurenci, I. (1994): Equipment and technology for finishing textile products, vol. II,
Didactical and Pedagogical Publishing House, Bucureşti
Butnaru, R. and Bertea, A. (1998): Finishing textile products, Rotaprint Publishing House, Iaşi
Butnaru, R. and Bucur, M. S. (1996 ): Physico-mechanical analysis in cellulose textile finishing, Dosoftei
Publishing House, Iaşi
Butnaru R. and Bertea A., (1997), Ecological and Toxicological Aspects of the Chemical Textile Finishing,
Dosoftei Publishing House, Iaşi
Mureşan, A. (2000): Processes and equipment for finishing textile products, Gh. Asachi Publishing House,
Iaşi
PătruŃ, B. and Miloşescu, M. (1999): Informatics, Teora Publishing House, Bucureşti
The Romanian Standards Institute (1980): A collection of standard values connected to the textile industry,
Bucureşti
http://advancedelearning.com/materiale/new/chi/85_coloranti_naturali_sintetici/M3/index.html
http://advancedelearning.com/materiale/new/fiz/71_Prisma_optica_Dispersia_luminii/M6/index.html
http://advancedelearning.com/materiale/new/fiz/71_Prisma_optica_Dispersia_luminii/M7/index.html
Research Project on Implementation of Open Distance Learning
Method in University Education
Tudor Bragaru1, Ion Craciun1

(1) State University of Moldova


60 Mateevici str., Chisinau, Republic of Moldova
E-mail: tbragaru@usm.md, ioncraciunn@yahoo.com

Abstract
This paper outlines the findings of the research project in relation to implementation
of e-Learning (computer assisted teaching, including distance learning) and its
conceptual, terminological, technological, methodological and pedagogical aspects
The paper also outlines the results of the experimental testing of the two integrated
software platforms designed specifically for supporting e-Learning that are in use at
the State University of Moldova (SUM): AeL (Advanced eLearning) and Moodle
(Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment).

Keywords: AeL, Moodle, e-Learning, Open Distance Learning (ODL), e-Testing,


Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

1. Introduction
The increasing importance of Open Distance Learning (ODL) in the modern society
driven by “knowledge” is emphasized in a number of electronic and paper sources. ODL
is acknowledged as an area of priority in numerous countries developmental strategies.
The role of ODL in modern society increases as the requirement to quality of knowledge
increases and the importance of teaching quality continues to grow. The requirements to
qualification of specialists in various areas are more stringent, which calls upon the
improvement in quality of education and is reflected in society’s need for the reform of
the educational system.
Digital, electronic and multimedia educational materials become a credible source of
bibliography and imaging for various subjects and professors become better acquainted
with the specific ways of preparation to educational activities using Information and
Communication Technology (ICT). There are more and more educational institutions
around the world operating exclusively through the Internet, delivering either a full cycle
of subjects for a degree or offering specialized courses for a wider range of users “(Brut,
2006)”.
In the Republic of Moldova, the following project was implemented in order to
promote the reform of the educational system:
Project 08.815.08.04A “Development and application of innovative methods in
distance learning" runs as part of the larger National Program “Development of the
Scientific and Technological support for the growing informational needs of the society of
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 165

Republic of Moldova (RM)". The project commenced in 2008 and is planned to be


finalised in 2009. During the project a number of research activities and experimental
tests have been performed with the aim of integrating the innovative methods and modern
information technology, including ODL, with University education. “(08.815.08.04A
project, 2008)”.
At the start of the project the research team included 10 members: 2 university
professors, 2 PhD students, 3 competitors, 2 masters in informatics and 1 student. In 2009
the team expansion has been separately financed. This resulted in engaging of 4
additional university professors and 5 future tutors, who will participate in elaboration,
implementation and testing of the digital contents of the project.
Objects of research activities related to various aspects of implementation and delivery
of ODL, including methodological, technological, pedagogical and infrastructural issues.
The starting point of ODL’s implementation is a pilot program offering the Masters
Degree at the State University of Moldova (SUM), Faculty of Mathematics and
Information Technology during the academic year of 2009-2010.
The following can be considered amongst the most significant results of the project’s
research activities:
1. Adoption of local distance education concept “Distance Learning: Concept and
Terminology. Initiation Guide", authors Bragaru Tudor, Gheorghe Capatana, Ion
Craciun, Chisinau, SUM, 2008;
2. Adoption of local Regulations of ODL for State University of Moldova, Ion
Craciun, T.Bragaru, Gh. Capatana;
3. Development of the information resources for distance education, authors T.
Bragaru, Vs. Arnaut, I. Craciun;
4. Development of methodological aspects (Bragaru T., Cirhana V., Craciun I.
Development of the information resources for distance education , Chisinau,
State University of Moldova, 2009; Bragaru T., Cirhana V., Craciun I. Computer
assisted testing. Methodology. Chisinau, State University of Moldova, 2009; and
other user guides).
5. Research, testing and adoption of hardware and of the software platform
necessary for carrying out of the formal distance learning education that consists
of 2 components: Moodle (main platform) and AeL SIVECO (second platform).
6. Development and maintenance of the Web page designated to ODL, creation of a
virtual community with the interest in the relevant topics, further advertising of
ODL and of the innovations in delivering traditional education (http://idd.usm.md).
Successful implementation and continued development of ODL at the State University
of Moldova and in Republic of Moldova in general requires a large scale preparation of
teaching professionals (including professors, authors of study units’ contents, tutors and
managers) through systematic training courses, seminars, conferences, etc.

2. Research Project’s Terminology and Concept


Research with respect to terminology promotes a dialogue between different users of the
modern types of ODL and serves the purpose of standardisation of the terminology in the
166 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

area, exchange of information and free access to information. The guidance developed
within the project’s framework “(Bragaru and Capatana and Craciun, 2008)” can be
accessed by general public on http://idd.usm.md.
Electronic education, e-Learning, distance learning are examples of the extension
without limitations of the traditional form of education, carried out with the assistance of
ICT “(Bragaru and Capatana and Craciun, 2008)”, and as such electronic education
method is fundamental to modern learning.
This form of learning has emerged as a necessity of a continuously changing society
and currently represents a real challenge for educational system. Electronic education is a
generic term covering numerous educational scenarios where there is a significant use of
the ICT. Some of the terms that one can come across include: e-Teaching, e-testing, e-
Training, e-Education. Semantic representation of the concept of e-Learning also includes
terms Online, Virtual, Web based, Internet based learning, computer-assisted learning,
Internet-based education, learning through digital television and satellite media, etc.
(Figure 1).

Figure 1. Semantic representation of the e-Learning concept


(adapted based on ”(Rosca I. Gh. and Zamfir G., 2002)”)

Thus, e-Learning is a wide term meaning a variety of educational situations, which


rely significantly on the utilisation of information technology and communications.
Definition wise, the semantic interpretation of e-Learning links with the assisted training,
multimedia training, online training (online learning), virtual training, flexible training
etc.
In a more narrow sense e-Learning represents one type of distance education that is
offered by an institution, which provides study materials in sequential and logical manner
that allows utilisation of these materials by students in their individual ways. Carrying out
of this form of education is done via the Internet. Internet thus represents the environment
for distribution of materials as well as a communication channel between the participants
of the educational process. (http://elearning-forum.ro/resurse/a1-elearning.html).

3. e-Learning Environment
In essence, e-Learning environment consists of a number of components and dimensions
and is defined in a number of ways, such as organisational, technical, technological,
operational, pedagogical, with the specific features determined by the supporting digital
technology that covers a wide range of applications and educational processes.
From a pedagogical point of view, e-Learning environment offers a modern method
of studies, teaching and learning based on digital technology, networking and multimedia
resources. This method allows the accelerated exchange of information and knowledge,
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 167

including ways of understanding or interpretation, between the teacher and the student
anywhere, at any time as well as on demand. The result is the fast and efficient education
process.
From a technological point of view, e-Learning environment represents a technology
for maintenance of the processes of teaching, studying and learning which comprises
authorisation, distribution, evaluation and administration of the courses’ content and other
materials of didactical nature. This maintenance of the teaching process is realised
through utilisation of digital, communication and multimedia technologies.
From the contents point of view, e-Learning environment includes the following:
• databases and knowledge bases formed by links to all materials placed within
Web-sites (courses, study guides, syntheses, etc), accompanied by explanations and
interactive directions as to finding and identifying the subjects of interest. It represents a
virtual library, which is easily accessible and makes available to students and others
participants of the process the information that theoretically can not be limited by volume
of knowledge and can be from any area of activity. Information can be accessed
individually or within any established training programs, free of charge or at cost;
• on-line support represented by forums, discussion groups (chat rooms), on-line
news bulletins, emails or messenger applications (Microsoft and Yahoo Messenger).
These are interactive tools that offer interested parties a possibility of asking questions
and receiving quick or immediate answers;
• means of teaching assisted by digital technology
From a functional point of view, e-Learning environment includes the following
components:
• e-Learning platform, which represents software and hardware support of the
electronic teaching, studying and learning processes;
• e-Learning resources, which include all data of interest in e-Learning environment,
and consist of the following:
 knowledge, represented by all knowledge resources that are available for students
in all areas during the whole educational process;
 information that defines user identity and roles in relation to any resources in e-
Learning environment. Depending on the role the user might be a student
(beneficiary of knowledge), a professor (provider of knowledge addressed to
student and creator of teaching strategy), or an administrator (the one who
ensures normal functioning of the e-Learning system and is not directly linked
with the teaching process)
 strategy that define methods of teaching, learning and efficient assessment,
tailored to the complexity of the educational objectives (e.g. for business or
general interest) and to specific features of each type of education (full time and
part time training or open distance learning). Strategies are also tailored to
behavioral differences of students based on age and possibilities of direct
communication (through classrooms) or indirect communication (through the use
of digital technologies of communication) with the professor. Strategies are
further tailored to modern forms of education (teaching, learning and assessment)
which may include virtual classes, Web-based training, etc.
168 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

An e-Learning platform is a software environment available through the internet and


which restricts the access to its internal operations. This is achieved through assigning of
usernames and passwords, where every user has access to different functionality features
of the system depending on the rights assigned by the administrator.
An e-Learning platform can be better or less functional depending on its component
hardware and software (servers, networks, internet connections, operational systems,
administration of databases, web applications, etc.). In this context it is a software
product designed for ultimate user (student, tutor, didactic stuff or program
administrator).

3.1 AeL Platform for University Distance Learning


The Well-known system of e-Learning AeL developed by SIVECO Romania
“(http://www.advancedelearning.com, http://www.siveco.ro)” that is accessible on the
corporate site of SUM at http://siveco.usm.md:81 is used in all schools and lyceums in
Romania, in over 60 schools in Republic of Moldova and in some other countries. This
system allows the electronic synchronous, asynchronous and open distance teaching and
instruction and includes knowledge assessment system. This product can be applied at
any level (undergraduate, graduate and post-university degrees) and is suitable for all
forms of instruction (full time or part time university studies, distance learning). AeL can
quickly and objectively assess students’ knowledge, provide feedback to students on their
performance, it offers corrective activities, guides and assists in better absorption of the
studied materials.
It should be noted however that while AeL operates sufficiently well within the local
networks, it is not so effective for distance learning operating through the Internet, even
at the speed of 100 Mbps, sustained by the network. This is possibly due to the weakness
in settlings or weaknesses of design, etc. The supplier from who SUM acquired the AeL
platform could not satisfactorily resolve this problem during the one year duration of the
pilot project. As a result of our experimental test runs we came to an assumption that the
problem arises due to the design issues, however this is a separate discussion altogether.
Among the other shortcomings that limit the efficient use of the AeL platform for
carrying out higher education e-Learning is the system’s poor documentation and
insufficient support by the developer and distributor of the product, who is mainly
concerned with different issues and does not have enough interest in the successful
implementation of this product for graduate and post-graduate university education
processes. Another issue was unsatisfactory test runs of the system in the distance
learning mode through the Internet. AeL's success for schools and colleges is rather
supported by the teaching content offered within the product, as opposed to the
functionality of the platform.
Several universities in Romania and SUM, have not been successful in implementing
this system for their formal distance learning programs, abandoning the system after few
years of pilot operation. This situation might change in the future.

3.2 Moodle platform for university distance learning.


From the performance point of view Moodle “(http://www.docs.moodle.org/)” is one of
the most powerful and most commonly used open platforms for e-Learning. This
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 169

platform is being currently implemented at SUM, including being tailored in order to suit
the processes of teaching and assessments of students for both distance learning and
traditional methods of full-time graduate degree studies. (please refer to
http://moodle.usm.md for more details).
Moodle platform is a software of the ‘open-source’ category, which constitutes a
considerable advantage. Based on delivery, development, access, etc this system is
considered to be substantially different from that of the AeL platform. The teacher creates
all processes necessary for studying a subject (study unit contents, practical exercises,
lectures, tests, supporting materials for student’s information, etc). Students can then take
over the whole educational activity and work through the materials in the independent
mode, including going through lectures, practicing the exercises at the agreed timing
(activities can be planned for particular calendar days), then the feedback is provided to
the student as to how well he/she scored in a particular activity.
This system does not include libraries of lectures or tests, unlike AeL, however, it has
a powerful engine for generating the assessment tests with numerous types of questions.
The lack of lecture and test libraries is compensated by the fact that in the present market
one can find educational materials of the content that’s more diversified and tailored than
that available through AeL libraries, the content of which is predominantly oriented
towards college study subjects.
The Import-export functionality of the digital educational resources in Moodle is of a
higher quality and ensures compatibility with different formats (GIFT, TXT, XML) as
well as with isolated systems for e-testing. These features ultimately allow significant
time savings for the professors – authors of study units contents or questions for tests.
Tests can be built in a very flexible manner. The same test might include different
categories of questions with different degrees of difficulty. Access to study units may be
restricted by passwords and keys.
After registration and enrollment students gain access to methodological and
didactical materials recommended by the responsible course administrator, which can all
be downloaded and studied at their own pace at home, or at their work place, or at other
places with the access to the Internet, as well as in the specially organised computer
rooms at the educational institution. Students have the opportunity to link to or make an
appointment for a consultation with a particular tutor, and tutors have the possibility of
inviting students for tutorials and individual consultations, or group discussions in the
form of forums, chat rooms, etc. Consultations and tutorials can be organised in groups or
individually, online or offline in accordance with the adopted decisions, solutions and
schedules. After obtaining the materials, students have the opportunity to sign up for the
final examinations, individual work, training and practice work based on the approved
timetable schedule.

4. Web-site http://idd.usm.md
As part of the project the web-site has been created with the main purpose of it being to
meet the growing needs of our society in efficient education by simplifying and extending
the access to educational distance learning resources.
170 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The objectives of this web-site are as follows:


1. Simplification and extension of access to university graduate and post graduate
degrees delivered through ODL;
2. Advertising and promotion of ODL in Republic of Moldova;
3. Creating a virtual community for reflecting the best practices and for exchange of
experience with respect to organizing and carrying out of ODL, including benchmark
conditions, methodical and teaching recommendations, methodological support for
authors creating digital educational resources aimed at supporting the ODL process,
supporting managers and students participating in ODL;
Generally the site audience includes people who are older than 17 -18 years who have
graduated from high school or lyceum: students, trainees, workers who are looking for
self-education or wish to obtain a second degree, etc.

5. Conclusions
Presently one can evidence a steady development of educational systems based on ICT.
There exist numerous solutions and copyrighted platforms (such as AeL, Prometheus,
Hipermethod etc.) as well as the open platforms, of which Moodle is used the most.
The following questions generally require to be addressed when selecting a platform.
What is the best way to select the most efficient solution for a specific utilization mode?
What should be the principal criteria for selection? What are the risks?
Some of the relevant aspects that have been compared between the two e-Learning
platforms tested as part of the the pilot project at the SUM and where Moodle scored
better than Ael were as follows: platform is open source, it allows operations export /
import for the tests of different formats, allows to plan actions (lectures) which students
can access on particular dates, allows project work as a team, allows discussions,
meetings and consultations in real time in through ‘chat’ tool.
Experimental test runs have been performed by a group of professors-authors of study
units content and tutors for a period of one year for AeL platform and a several months
for Moodle platform. As a result of test runs SUM decided to utilize Moodle. The
decision was made by reference to the following features of Moodle:
1. Scalability. Allows easy expansion of infrastructure in proportion to increasing
subdivisions, participants and educational resources, similar to AeL.
2. Robustness. Stability, availability and security are better ensured in Moodle
compared to AeL. In exceptional cases or refusals Moodle, unlike AeL does not require
the intervention of the author.
3. Ease of use/operation. Both platforms incorporate new technology and are
multifunctional, have a simple and user-friendly interface, which practically does not
require additional training for users who are already using Windows or Linux, with
support of the Wizard type for the complex functions with contextual help incorporated.
But after surveys of teachers and students participating in the test runs of both platforms
the majority of the survey respondents preferred Moodle.
4. The time needed to implement. Moodle allows for fast implementation of the
computer aided teaching, including distance learning. It allows to for easier recoupment
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 171

of the invested funds, which boils down to the development of educational resources and
operating the system. AeL has an additional high cost of acquisition and maintenance,
compared to Moodle, which is free.
5. Reliability. Moodle has better reliability and operational speed that is constant with
the number of users simultaneously working in the system. Moodle has a better quality
support services that are cheaper compared to that of AeL. Dead / idle time occurred
while testing AeL diminishing its effective use, this implied additional costs for
launching the back up versions of programmed evaluations. No such occurrences
happened during test runs of Moodle. That said, the As the number of tests performed on
AeL was significantly higher.
6. Security. In addition to limiting unauthorized access and unauthorized copying, and
securing against intentional or non-intentional destruction, both systems prevent access to
items and tests, or populations of items from which self-testing and other testing exercises
may be generated. However, Moodle has an advantage of allowing automatic mixing of
order of the responses in multiple choice questions, which makes unauthorized copying
or memorizing the answers in order to transfer information outside the test environment
more difficult.
7. Administration and configuration. Both platforms allow centralised
administration and configuration from the distance without administrators, managers or
system engineers needing to move between each personal computer user. Other
administration features are similar in both platforms. However, AeL charges additional
fees on top of costs of supplier of the platform as well as additional fees for assistance.
8. Access to support. Ease and speed of installation and easy access to support for
Moodle platform are internationally recognised. Being widely used platform Moodle
develops much faster than AeL with operational costs being much lower. Forum on
Moodle allows exchanging the experience and resolving problems quite efficiently. There
are a larger number of Moodle users and specialists, which are available for the exchange
of experience and developed resources, than that of the AeL platform..
AeL platform was found to be better utilized for computer-assisted teaching in local
virtual classes, which are based on local performance networks.

REFERENCES

Books:
Bragaru T. and Capatana Gh. and Craciun I. (2008): Distance Learning: Concept and Terminology. Initiation
Guide. SUM, Chisinau.
Brut M. (2006): Tools for e-Learning. Guide the modern teacher. Polirom (Eds).
Rosca I. Gh. and, Zamfir G. (2002): Informatics Training. Bucuresti (Eds).

Scientific Reports:
08.815.08.04A project (2008). Development and application of innovative methods in distance learning.
SUM, Chisinau.

Web-resources:
AeL, official documentation http://www.advancedelearning.com; http://www.siveco.ro
Moodle, official documentation, http://docs.moodle.org/
Knowledge Communication Programs Design
Ioan Maxim1, Tiberiu Socaciu-Lendvai 2

Teacher Training Department


„Ştefan cel Mare” University Suceava, Universitatii, 13, ROMANIA
e-mail: maximioan@yahoo.com
(2) Economics and Public Administration Faculty
„Ştefan cel Mare” University Suceava, Universitatii, 13, ROMANIA
e-mail: socaciu@seap.usv.ro

Abstract
The design of knowledge communication programs presume one strategy of
knowledge presentation, succeeded by a scenario for developing interactive
learning. Many didactic use products in informatics often neglect one of the two
aspects. A conceptual and projective clarification is necessary for doing logical
projects for assisted learning programming, programs that satisfy the defining
characteristics of educational software: correspondence with the programmatic
documents, accuracy and completeness of the content discussed, interactivity,
correspondence with the target population, the feed-back and the formative
assessment, pointing out achieving the objectives and so on.
An attempt to transform into algorithms the learning programs design is late and
harmful; success lies precisely in diversity. Moreover, specific procedural
particularities of different disciplines, the diversity of learning methods and
procedures implemented in the educational software, non-uniformity of contents,
specificity of target population or its samples, impose some very important
projection rules in the design of learning programs practice.

Keywords: Assisted learning, Logic project, Educational software, Learning scenario

1. Introduction
Constant communication deficit between the segments involved in the learning programs
design, psycho-pedagogy and informatics segments, is being concretized in learning
informatics products for educational use of questionable value and utility.
Undeclared dissensions between the two areas work together with conservatism of the
educational system, sluggish and obsolete, which has facilitated and benefited from the
lack of constructive dialogue between the two segments involved in logical and effective
design of learning programs.
The system reform requires a sinuous way, long and costly, which supposes the
removal step by step of invoked obstructionist elements by the three parts; informatics
and psycho-pedagogy segment, and educational system, which should validate the
efficiency of informatics product for training.
Certification of the final product of the education system is a condition for quality and
efficiency for the informatics product in educational use. Therefore, the design of
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 173

learning programs can not be disengaged any time from the evolution, from the changes
which regard permanently the national education system and it must be every time
subject of laws which govern the system.

2. Results and argumentations


The computerized educational system, as designed by the Promoting Informatics
Technology Group, in spring 2001, doesn’t fit and does not meet the requirements of
assisted learning Romanian education system (Siveco, 2009).
Declared as being the system for the educational reform, based on the education
reform objectives proclaimed by e-Europe strategy developed by the European
Community and integral part of the initiative European e-Learning, the SEI program
although using numerous human and material resources, has failed.
Designing learning programs should be based on defining characteristics of
educational software (Maxim, 2008):
- conformity with the curriculum;
- accuracy and completeness of onset contents;
- interactivity;
- compliance with the characteristics of target population;
- feedback and the formative evaluation;
- marking the objectives achievement and so on.
The content diversity and peculiarities of procedural features, specific for different
disciplines, arsenal of methods and procedures implemented in the training programs,
specificity of target population, exclude any attempt to algorithm the design of training
programs. At the same time, the unity is in the diversity and the rules absence or
methodological settlements would maintain the system in the craft area, in the moment
inspiration area, situation categorically excluded from learning theory and practice. For
this reason, the settlement of the design rules, which lead to quality informatics product,
interactive, attractive, bearing appropriate scientific content, producing skills and
competences proclaim through the specific objectives for each discipline, is a necessity.
A learning program is for students, book and teacher at the same time and must
include educational valences of the book, informative and formative task of this, as and
the procedural part included in the methodological and didactic task of the teacher and to
impose the relationship with the student, to achieve operational objectives.
Starting from requirement that the manual should achieve the consistence with the
curriculum and have the complexity degree in agreement with the particularity of the
target population, the educational software should fulfil the same requirements:
- to submit same elements of scientific content, but by means that are specific for it;
- to achieve the same level of difficulty as a book;
- to ensure equally, scientific accuracy of the transmitted content.
Unlike the book, the educational software has one virtually unlimited space that can
back up and complement elements of scientific content by images, audio and video
recordings, to present the processes and phenomena described by the text of the manual,
on the dynamic processing of theses.
174 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

This way of transmitting informatics by text supported and complemented by audio


and video records, represents an important advantage for the learning programs, but at the
same time an element that must be judiciously controlled. Students are not used to "learn
watching", and therefore, the illustrated scientific content must be supplemented with
comments or appropriate subtitles, which will highlight the essential elements of
transmitted content, will emphasize the students into the essential and will protect from
harmful elements of the image or video recording.
Scientific content can be presented in the three forms:
- image or video recording;
- audio recording;
- custom text, activated by elements associated with the two previous modes of
representation, explanatory tools, links to pages or windows for thoroughgoing study or
extension, starter, processing of feed-back in learning situations.
The presentation and representation manner of scientific content must be in
conformity with the particularity of the target population:
- in preschool and primary cycle content is transmitted primarily by image, less
codified forms of representation of informatics, stick up by audio records;
- learning tasks is transmitted by audio records and they must be short, clear, concise,
without ambiguities or possibilities of interpretation;
- learning tasks should be illustrated by demonstrative elements;
- the difficulty degree to grow progressively, to avoid bottlenecks, situation of
difficulty to be asseverate by help elements, which enable the student to solve the
problem by fragmentation and a return to the original problem by defragmentation
(Maxim and Moroşanu, 2008).
A strong point of a learning program is interactivity. Even if the program is primarily
for communication of new knowledge and through learning scenarios most situations
where the student may be in difficulty are forecast and obviously there are set and applied
some learning methods and processes which help the student to overcome these moments,
no scenario can intuit and implement in a program all these situations. For this reason it is
desirable to identify some dialogue techniques that allow students to question the
software, in a manner familiar to them, in cases of student’s doubt of communication.
It is widely known the passivity and un availability of the student for dialogue in
communication in knowledge situations, but it can be reasoned by the volume of new
information and the absence of cognitive structuring or reorganization of information,
which occurs only after one prior assessment, a renewal of initial synthesis resulted by
strengthening retention and by operating of the content.
Therefore feed-back must be done after the presentation of a relatively low volume of
knowledge, usually at the end of a paragraph or a sequence of paragraphs that address a
common, dominant element of scientific content. Identifying sequences of content, after
which is the feedback done and the learning situations that start the feedback, are
important elements in designing the learning scenario. The feedback is for the student the
most important occasion to highlight and clarify communication errors, understand and
maintain the transmitted scientific content; and is the first step towards the activation of
the contented elements. Moreover, it is an opportunity for the student to accommodate
with exercise techniques.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 175

The transit through the last communication knowledge sequences and getting to the
afferent feedback moment marks the beginning of the exercise sequence, for a systematic
summary and the contents activation moment. A side effect of this sequence is to obtain a
measure of the degree of achieving operational objectives and training skills derived and
which can be expressed by the mark.
This way the possibility to have a measure of the efficiency of its work and to build up
a plan for improvement is offered to the students (and teachers), even if only by going
over of the learning program, where the acquired outcome is not satisfactory.
Although there is a very rich literature in this domain, which contains definitions of
these key concepts, none manifested a tendency to unify those different meanings.
This inconvenient has not been an obstacle to rapid progress, theoretically and in
particular, in its application. The accumulated knowledge and the newly introduced
paradigms require, from time to time, reassessment of key terms by the resumption of the
effort to redefine and clarify the concepts.
The comprehensive bibliography makes possible the formulation of a concrete
response to the question: „What is an learning program?”. The notion of educational
software allows the definition of the concept of computer-assisted learning and today is
increasingly felt the need for assimilation of results from artificial intelligence domain,
result which will gradually lead to intelligent systems training.
Intelligence of such training systems is linked to their ability to teach and to adapt to the
requirements, capabilities and to the peculiarity of the student, although it is possible that
soon we can talk about training programs which infer with the own persuasions and with
student’s emotions and which are able to express, in turn, emotions and feelings alike
humans.
The concept of intelligent agent its felt more often usefulness in the design of teaching
programs (Maxim, 2008).
With no unitary concept regarding the definition of the agents, research advance so
rapidly that it can be said that an unitary point of view and an unifying concept is already
shaping, so we appreciate that the domain is heading towards an inevitable international
standardization.
In training programs designing, the agent is often treated as the "attribution and
effect", alternately, according to the learning situation for teacher and student. However,
the concept is substituted to a kernel of informatics product, which manages besides the
elements of scientific content or learning situations, attitudes, behaviors, responsiveness,
experience, feelings of students, action expressed during the process of learning
subordinated by educational software.
The agent defined in this case, as „an entity that guides the process of instruction
directing it to achieve operational objectives”, indicates that it meets one task of training,
causing a change in attitude and behavior for student. In terms of targets, educational
agent exceeds the register act, considered a defining characteristic of the agent’s concept
(„pursuing an action, changes something in the environment” or „Agents act: that is why
they are called agents”) (Maxim, 2008), involved in shaping the student‘s personality,
acting on the attitudinal and emotional register, intrinsic of training.
176 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Educational agents implemented in learning programs are based on their models of


action upon learning procedures and methods; this makes them affect the "environment"
and themselves at the same time.
If an efficient educational process requires a proper approach, achieved through a
systematic manner of activity and a correct decision regarding the selection and
application of training methods, the methods represent specific organization forms of the
relationship between agents and between agent and the environment. The “educational
environment” includes a suite of elements that concerns also the knowledge, training, and
at same time, the agent-student personality shaping.
The learning procedure is the way of expressing the method, is the practical way of
achieving it and is the fact that imposes an operating model to the agent-teacher and
conditions the operating model of the agent-student. Relationship method-procedure is
dynamic, so one method can become a procedure in the other methods and vice versa.
Rationality presupposes student’s initiation of an action in the intention of maximizing
their performance in relation with the evaluating function (Shardlow, 1990).
The rational autonomous action, as defined, is too large for a criterion, which extends
too much this object’s category. An acceptable "specific difference" is made by the
definition of the Jennings (Jennings, Sycara and Wooldridge, 1998) for which “an agent
is a computing system situated in a certain environment, which is capable of flexible
autonomous action to achieve its designed objectives”.
It is remarked that three key concepts are used to define an agent: positioning in
relation to the environment, autonomy and flexibility. Positioning, in this context, means
that the agent receives input from its environment (scientific contents) and it is capable of
actions that change the environment (expand contents by student's action) in a manner
specific for the environmental knowledge (science) addressed.
The environment is a stage characteristic, positioning is a temporal property and
autonomy and flexibility are dimension actions (Jennings, Sycara and Wooldridge, 1998).
These defining features make the difference between the agents based system and the
expert systems, which don’t interact directly with the environment, but receive
information and knowledge through the knowledge engineer, which is a human "agent".
The expert system does not act directly on the environment, but through the human
factor.
The tend to approach the learning programs to expert systems is more conspicuous,
expert systems where the human intervention is essential in knowledge environment
changing, investigated by the student. It’s the case of socio-human sciences, languages
and literature, philosophy and so on, sciences for which the use of subjective items is a
current practice in achieving the process of feedback and formative assessment. The trend
is accentuated by the difficulty of subjective items algorithm implementation in the
design of learning programs (Maxim and Moroşanu, 2008).
Autonomy is understood as the absence of human intervention, but does not exclude
the intervention of other agents, because learning occurs in a social environment,
perceived as a competitive environment and therefore, the rationality of an agent’s
actions is conditioned or is situated in the context of the environment and action of other
agents.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 177

An agent can completely control its own actions and its internal status, but the
influence of other agents on his action is achieved by prior changes that they produce on
the environment. Sometimes autonomy is understood in a strict sense, an ability that the
agent has to learn from his experience (Russell and Norvig, 1995).
Educational agent is by definition responsive - perceives and responds to the timely
and appropriately to changes that occur therein, which allows learning programs to make
sequential feedback, is proactive – his actions are not simple reactions to the
environment, but the expression of the ability to exercise behavior orientated towards a
specific purpose, expressed through the action that approaches it to the goal, of achieving
operational objectives that it has established, having in this meaning, its own initiative,
and social – the agent is able to interact with other agents to solve its own problems and
help others in their work, which gives educational software the interaction attribute.
Luck, M. and others define the agents very synthetically, but comprehensively:
"Agents can be defined as computational entities problems solver, autonomous, able to
execute operations in dynamic and open environments" Luck, Mcbumey and Preist,
2001).
If the first part of this definition is compatible with other definitions discussed above,
the second part shows that the interest has moved from the individual systems, stationary,
seen more as tools able to help the man in his activities, towards the situation in which the
power of these computing systems is used to operate in distributed environments,
unpredictable, open and dynamic.

3. Conclusions
Such a system is an educational software, that must interact, must overpass the
organizational predictability limits through the lesson’s project, they must operate
efficiently, in terms of problem-situations that change quickly and dramatically, to attain
operational objectives common to different types of educational agents integrated in the
program of instruction.

REFERENCES

Jennings, N.R., Sycara, K., Wooldridge, M., (1998), A Roadmap of Agent Research and Development,
AAMAS, 1, 7-38.
Luck, M., Mcbumey, P., Preist, C., (2001), Agent Technology: Enabling Next Generation Computing. A
Roadmap for Agent Based Computing, Agent Link II, AAMAS
Maxim, I., Moroşanu, C., (2008), Didactica specialităŃii Informatică, Editura UniversităŃii „Al. I. Cuza”, Iaşi,
2008, pp. 47-49
Maxim, I., (2008), Instruire asistată de calculator, - Working Paper – Teacher Training Department, „Ştefan
cel Mare” University Suceava, www.eed.usv.ro/~maximioan/
Russell, S.J., Norvig, P., (1995), Artificial intelligence: a modern Approach, Prentice-Hall Inc., Upper Saddle
River, NJ.
Shardlow, W.J., (1990), Action and agency in cognitive science, Working paper.
http://www.siveco.ro/press_release_details.jsp?ID=211
Section

TECHNOLOGIES

Technologies (TECH):
• Innovative Web-based Teaching and Learning Technologies
• Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) technologies
• Web, Virtual Reality/AR and mixed technologies
• Web-based Education (WBE), Web-based Training (WBT)
• New technologies for e-Learning, e-Training and e-Skills
• Educational Technology, Web-Lecturing Technology
• Mobile E-Learning, Communication Technology Applications
• Computer Graphics and Computational Geometry
• Intelligent Virtual Environment
Java in Scientific Computation
An educational approach

Ernest Scheiber

Transilvania University of Braşov, ROMANIA


E-mail: scheiber@unitbv.ro

Abstract
The aim of this paper is to emphasize some specific aspects when numerical methods
are implemented in Java like involved programming problems, available resources
and the possibility to extend the application usage in a distribute environment, like
Internet.

Keywords: Scientific computation, Java programming.

1. Introduction
The fifteen years old development programming language Java is used in many projects,
frameworks and products for high performance computing and parallel distribute
computing. The Java technology is improving continuously. Java was designed to meet
the real world requirements of creating interactive, networked programs. It’s interesting
to consult the TIOBE Programming Community index of the popularity of programming
languages (IS1). The index is updated monthly.
Among the present tendencies there are:
• Software as a Service (SaaS) – an application is offered to a client as a collection
of services;
• Platform as a Service (PaaS) – The services are available through some software
and hardware resources, offering scalability. This is known as Cloud computing
and it is a new form of evaluation and of usage of software.
Taking into account these facts, the purpose of this paper is to give a snapshot of the
most relevant tools, frameworks, programming technologies involved in scientific
computing: mathematical resources, java numerical packages, math parsers, graphical
interfaces, web applications, file upload, web services, from the Java perspective.
Mathematical aspects of the numerical methods are presented in Kincaid (1991), Press
(2007), Stancu (2001) but here we are interested in their Java implementation (Landau,
2005, Ritkey, 2000).
Implementing a numerical method, to benefit of the object oriented paradigm it is
preferred to define an interface and implementing classes. We point out two ways to
transfer the input and output data between the user / client and the computing method:
• The input data are formal parameters of a method (as in the Fortran style). When
the data is a user defined function it raised a problem – in Java a method can not
182 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

be a formal parameter. Usually the function is implemented as a method of a


class, and an instance of that class is set as parameter.
• Using wrapper classes, Java beans. This seems to be a better solution.
The case when the function is defined by a string introduced dynamically by the client
will be presented in the math parser section.

2. Useful Programming Tools


The following Java programming tools are very useful in the development of
applications:
• apache-log4j – allows to register messages with the evolution of computation;
• junit – allows to perform automated testing;
• apache-ant – a build tool, independent of platform, it automates the operating
tasks.
We must mention the OSGi (Open Source Gateway initiative, 1999) component
model, too. The OSGi model requires constructing components denoted bundle for
deployment, programmed on the base of a specific API (Application Programming
Interface). Many of such bundles may be installed, even as services into such
frameworks. There are well known three OSGi frameworks:
• equinox - used by Eclipse;
• apache-felix;
• Knopflerfish – it offers a graphical interface to perform the specific OSGi
operations.
The common operations relative to a bundle are installing, start, stop and uninstalling.

3. Java and other Mathematical Resources


An evidence of the available numerical software and some comparisons are given at (IS2)
and respectively, (IS3). The functions of the main products may by call from Java. Thus
Mathematica, Maple, Matlab and Scilab have components that allow a Java program to
interact with them.
Using Java Native Interface (JNI), it is possible to call a C function defined in GNU
Scientific Library (GSL).
The rJava software contains a component denoted jri that allows calling an R
function. R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics, a GNU
product.
There is a Python community of scientific computing (Langtangen, 2008). A reference
Python package for scientific computation is scipy. Using the Jepp package it is possible
to use from Java the resources of scipy. We remember the sagemath project having the
target to gather and to assure the maintenance of open and free of charge mathematical
software. The link is Python. Under the MS Windows operating system, sagemath is
given as an appliance for VMware Player. The starting point of this project is the fact that
while the costs to maintain the mathematical publications are negligible, the costs to
maintain the mathematical software are considerable.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 183

A consequence of these facts is that Java is a working environment that connects all
the above mentioned products.

4. Java Numerical Packages


There are several Java packages with classes that solve numerical problems. An overview
of such packages may be found at (IS4). Here we mention only two such packages:
• apache-commons-math - a library of lightweight, self-contained mathematics and
statistics components addressing the most common problems not available in the
Java programming language. It contains solvers for systems of linear equations,
nonlinear algebraic equation, ordinary differential equations, interpolation,
numeric integration formulas, fast Fourier transform, etc.
• Jama – implements the common numerical linear algebra methods.

5. Math Parsers
A math parser tool allows interpreting a string as a computing expression. Such Java tools
are:
• Java Expression Parser (JEP) – Until the version 2.4.1 this tool was free of
charge. The usual notation of the functions is used. The recognized function
family may be extended dynamically.
• MathEclipse Parser – The package may be used as a Google Web Toolkit (GWT)
module, too. It uses the Mathematica notation of the functions.

6. Graphical Interfaces

The existence of a graphical interface helps the usage of an application. There are
several ways to program a graphical interface, using:
• The java.swing classes from JDK (Java Development Kit – Sun Microsystems);
• The SWT – Standard Widget Toolkit package, developed by I.B.M.;
• The JavaFX declarative language, developed in recent years, by Sun
Microsystems.
An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) simplifies the programming work.
Such free of charge IDE are:
• Netbeans supported by Sun Microsystems.
• Eclipse supported by I.B.M.

7. Graphical Representations
PtPlot and jfreechart are tools whose classes may be easily used to obtain a 2D graphical
image. To represent a function f it is enough to provide the set of coordinates
( xi , f ( xi )) i . VisAD, a more sophisticated package, allows 2D, 3D representations and
animations. These products are open source and free.
184 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

8. Web Applications
We emphasize two models of distribute applications
• Client-server – The server executes the requests of the clients. Between the client
and the server, with the communications based on the http protocol we
distinguish :
o Web application or site – the client is a human. The request is launch
through a browser (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet
Explorer, Opera, Apple Safari, etc).
o Web service – the client is a program.
• Dispatcher-worker (master-slave) – The dispatcher program distributes the
computation tasks to the workers and coordinates their activities.
Limiting to the Web applications we enumerate the following technologies:
• Servlet – this is the most basic Java program from the server side (Boian, 2004).
• Java Web Start - based on the Java Network Launching Protocol (JNLP) allows a
desktop application to be used remotely.
• Java Server Pages (JSP) – combines html and Java codes.
For all the above technologies, the server is installed in a servlet container Web server
(apache-tomcat, jetty, Sun Java System Application Server – used by Glassfish, JBoss,
etc.).
A servlet may be included into an OSGi bundle and used through the modulefusion
middleware, that contains the jetty Web server.
If the Web application has a more complex structure then there are a lot of
frameworks that simplifies the management of the components of the application, as well
as the programming: Struts, Java Server Faces, Wicket, Google Web Toolkit (GWT), etc.
GWT uses the Java programming language, but the framework translates the classes into
JavaScript.

9. File Upload
Sometimes the client has to supply a large amount of data to the server (like the elements
of a matrix). The upload problem means to send a file of data to the server. At the server
side the apache-fileupload tool facilitates the programming task to receive the sent file.
At the client side, the file selection and the sending are easily solved by html forms,
apache commons-httpclient package or GWT.

10. Web Services


There are known two kinds of Web services:
• Based on the Remote Procedure Call (RPC). The service is described by a wsdl
(Web Service Description Language) file. The JSR (Java Specification Request)
109 defines two way to implement RPC service:
o Based on a servlet;
o As an Enterprise Java Bean (EJB) session.
• RESTfull service (REpresentational State Transfer) – the service is identified by
an URL.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 185

Metro is a framework allows developing a RPC service, both the server side as the
client side. Sun Microsystems and Microsoft jointly test Metro against Windows
Communication Foundation (WCF) in .NET to ensure that Sun web service clients
(consumers) and web services (producers) do in fact interoperate with WCF web services
applications and vice versa. This ensures the interoperability between the Java and the
.NET platforms.
The Jersey project is the reference implementation of JSR 311 (The Java API for
RESTful Web Services). There are two ways to program a client: using the
java.net.HttpURLConnection class from the JDK distribution or the Jersey-Client classes.
The above distribute applications can be installed into the cloud. There are well known
the following Cloud Computing platforms:
• Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) - reference product but commercial;
• Google App Engine (GAE);
• Microsoft Azure.
We have used GAE. For now GAE has two versions – for Java and Python - and each
contain a local simulator. The product is also free.

11. A Case Study


Let us implement the tangent method to solve an algebraic equation. This will belong to a
larger library called mathlib

mathlib
| |-->client
| | |--> ecalg
| | | |--> impl
| | | | | TangentMethod.java // The implementing class
| | | | ITangentMethod.java // The interface
| | | | DataIn.java
| | | | DataOut.java

The interface declares the method public DataOut tangentMethod(DataIn


din). DataIn and DataOut are wrapper classes of the input and output data. The left
side of the equation is defined in DataIn through public abstract double
fct(double x) while its derivative is computed numerically using the Richardson
extrapolation. To be used as a GWT module it was intercalated the client folder.
The implementation may be own or it may call an external resource.
To test, it is defined a derivate class SimpleEcAlgDataIn extends DataIn,
fixing the fct method. A test code is

import org.junit.*;
import static org.junit.Assert.*;
import mathlib.client.ecalg.*;
import mathlib.client.ecalg.impl.*;

public class AppEcAlg{


// the known result of the equation
186 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

public double result=-0.7666647;


@Test
public void test(){
DataIn din=new SimpleEcAlgDataIn();
ITangentMethod obj=new TangentMethod();
DataOut dout=obj.tangentMethod(din);
assertEquals(result,dout.getX(),din.getEps());
}
public static void main(String[] args){
org.junit.runner.JUnitCore.main("AppEcAlg");
}
}

For an OSGi bundle, the corresponding Activator class is


import mathlib.client.ecalg.*;
import mathlib.client.ecalg.impl.*;
import org.osgi.framework.*;
public class Activator implements BundleActivator{
public void start(BundleContext context){
DataIn din=new SimpleEcAlgDataIn();
ITangentMethod obj=new TangentMethod();
DataOut dout=obj.metodaTangentei(din);
// print the results
}
public void stop(BundleContext context) {}
}

To simplify the tangentMethod usage a graphical interface may be attached, but in


this case it is necessary to derive an appropriate class of DataIn

package mathlib.client.ecalg;
import org.nfunk.jep.*;
public class JepDataIn extends DataIn{
private JEP parser=null;
private String var;
public JepDataIn(String var,String expr){
this.var=var;
parser=new JEP();
parser.addStandardFunctions();
parser.addStandardConstants();
parser.addVariable(var,0);
parser.parseExpression(expr);
}

public double fct(double x){


parser.addVariable(var,x);
return parser.getValue();
}
}
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 187

A servlet, RPC or RESTful type service may be built to call the tangentMethod.
The Java code for metro RPC service is

package ecalg.server;
import javax.jws.WebMethod;
import javax.jws.WebParam;
import javax.jws.WebService;
import mathlib.client.ecalg.*;
import mathlib.client.ecalg.impl.MetodaTangenteiWeb;

@WebService()
public class TangentMethodWS {

@WebMethod(operationName = "solve")
public DataOut solve(@WebParam(name = "x") String x,
@WebParam(name = "svar") String svar,
@WebParam(name = "expr") String expr,
@WebParam(name = "eps") String eps,
@WebParam(name = "nmi") String nmi) {
JepDataIn din=new JepDataIn(svar,expr);
din.setX((new Double(x)).doubleValue());
din.setEps(Double.parseDouble(eps));
din.setNmi(Integer.parseInt(nmi));
ITangentMethod obj=new TangentMethod();
DataOut dout=obj.tangentMethod(din);
return dout;
}
}
Trying to find the negative solution of the equation 2 x = x 2 , starting with x = −0.5
we obtain
188 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

REFERENCES

Books
Anisiu V. (2006): Calcul simbolic cu Maple. Ed. Presa Universitară Clujeană. Cluj-Napoca.
Boian F.M., Boian R. F. (2004): Tehnologii fundamentale Java pentru aplicaŃii Web. Ed. Albastră, Cluj-
Napoca.
Kincaid D., Cheney W. (1991): Numerical Analysis.Mathematics of scientific computing. Brooks/Cole,
Pacific Grove, California.
Landau H. R. (2005): A First Course in Scientific Computing. Symbolic, Graphic, and Numeric Modeling
Using Maple, Java, Mathematica, and Fortran90. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton.
Langtangen H. P. (2008): Python Scripting for Computational Science. Springer, Berlin.
Petcu D. (2000): Matematică asistată de calculator. Ed. Eubeea, Timişoara.
Press W. H., Teukolski S. A., Vettering W. T., Flannery B. P. (2007): Numerical Recipies 3rd Edition: The
Art of Scientific Computation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Stancu D. D., Coman G. (Ed) (2001): Analiză numerică şi teoria aproximării. Vol. I, II, III, Ed. Presa
Universitară Clujeană, Cluj-Napoca.
Tocci C., Adams S. (1996): Applied Maple for Engineers and Scientist. Artech House, Boston, London.

Internet Sources
Ritkey K. (2000): Java as a Scientific Programming Language (Part1).
www.developer.com/tech/article.php/631151.
Ritkey K. (2000): Scientific Computing in Java (Part2). www.developer.com/java/other/article.php/631281.
(IS1) http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html
(IS2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_numerical_analysis_software
(IS3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_numerical_analysis_software
(IS4) http://math.nist.gov/javanumerics
New ways of transforming Drupal from CMS to LCMS

Liviu Beldiman1, Dorin Canepa1

(1) AltFactor, Galati


23, Portului Street, 800025, ROMANIA
E-mail: liviu.beldiman@altfactor.ro

Abstract
There is a constant global effort to improve the e-learning experience. This includes
several aspects, like: new ways of elaborating the educational materials, improving
the new applied pedagogies, but also new paths of assuring and delivering the
educational process.
The present paper is describing a new e-learning tool developed by AltFactor that
plays the role of a Learning Management System. Together with Drupal, the well -
known Content Management System, the result is a complex LCSM that can be used
as an integrated e-learning solution. The solution has been successfully tested on a
group of 40 students, that have studied a two - module Project Management course.

Keywords: LCMS, SCORM, e-learning

1. Introduction
Even if the paradigm of e-learning has remained unchanged to the same levels since
ancient times, the way the information that should ensure the educational process is
passed from one teacher to his pupils is changing every day.
The mechanism of learning is, of course, the same, but the race to deliver wide –
impact, high – quality, cost – effective training has raised the tools offered by ICT to new
levels that have imposed themselves in the activity of trainers and content developers.
Nowadays, there are at least four main types of actors in the field of e-learning:
e-trainers, e-pupils, content developers and content management system developers, each
of them playing a very clear role.
AltFactor has earned the reputation of content developer, proving a solid experience in
elaborating educational materials for students of different ages: from 6 to 65 years old.
The present paper is revealing the efforts AltFactor has done recently in designing a
complete e-learning solution: developing a LCMS.

2. A Content Management System


A content management system, usually known as CMS, is an application used to control
and manage any workflow needed to collaboratively create, edit, review, index, search,
publish any type of Web content or digital resources. A CMS can be successfully used to
implement a large range of applications, from simple websites to complex corporate
190 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

applications. It is used all over the world to power government portals, corporate intranets
and extranets, ecommerce sites, nonprofit outreach, schools, church, and community sites.
AltFactor’s solution is based on Drupal, a free and open source CMS written in PHP
that is used for many types of web applications, ranging from small personal blogs to
large corporate and political sites and even front end for some other web application like
CRMs (Client Relations Management), ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning) or LMSs
(Learning Management System) systems.
One of its main advantages is the modularity that is accomplished by the simplicity of
developing or installing third party or in-house custom - built plug-ins (modules). The
standard release (Drupal core) contains basic features common to most CMSs. These
include the ability to register and maintain individual user accounts, administration
menus, RSS-feeds, customizable layout, flexible account privileges, logging, a blogging
system, an Internet forum, and options to create a classic brochureware website or an
interactive community website.
Because of its modularity, Drupal is also referred to as being a CMF (Content
Management Framework). Although Drupal offers a sophisticated programming interface
for developers, no programming skills are required for basic website installation and
administration.
Drupal can run on any computing platform that supports both a web server capable of
running PHP version 4.3.5+ (including Apache, IIS, Lighttpd, and nginx) and a database
(such as MySQL or PostgreSQL) to store content and settings.

2.1 LMS vs LCMS


The primary objective of a learning management system (LMS) is to manage learners,
keeping track of their progress and performance across all types of training activities. By
contrast, a learning content management system (LCMS) manages content or learning
objects that are served up to the right learner at the right time.
AltFactor’s platform is a LCMS as, in addition to managing the administrative
functions of online learning (the LMS functions), it provides tools to deliver and manage
instructor-led synchronous and asynchronous online training based on reusable learning
object methodology.
Simply explained, the primary educational problems an LCMS solves are
• centralized management of an organization's learning content for efficient
searching and retrieval;
• productivity gains around rapid and condensed development timelines;
• productivity gains around assembly, maintenance and publishing / branding /
delivery of learning content.

3. AltFactor’s LCMS
AltFactor’s educational platform is based on the Drupal CMS (Figure 1). The starting
point of view was very simple: to be as friendly and lightweight as possible for both user
categories: teachers and students.
The platform is structured in order to ensure a smooth educational process. A teacher
can upload his own courses, monitor the students progress – activity on the platform and
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 191

grades obtained on the on-line tests, upload bibliographical materials for off-line study,
post messages in the News section or on the Calendar section, send personal messages to
his students and, of course, moderate discussions in the Forum.
A student on the platform can study the courses he is assigned to, view his grades and
his progress, send personal messages and post messages in the Forum.
Other roles are course secretary – for monitoring the educational process, course
administrator and platform administrator – key roles for managing the educational and the
technical aspects of a LCMS.
Only an administrator can create a new course and upload its content to the platform.
After courser creation at least one teacher must be assigned to that particular course. Of
course, it is possible to have more than one teacher assigned to one course.
The next step is to assign the students to the course and to a specific trainer. In this
moment an e-mail is automatically sent to the student with details concerning the course.
If the student ignore this e-mail, or after a period of inactivity on the platform, other e-
mails are sent to the student in order to remind him about his duties.
A teacher, a secretary or an administrator can observe some general statistics and
personal statistics. In the general statistics section reports about a course can be
monitored, like: number of users, SCOs finished, SCOs started, total time spent on the
course.
In the personal statistics section, reports about students can be monitored, like: what
SCOs are finished or not, how many times a SCO has been accessed, the SCORM status
of the SCO, the total time spent inside each SCO and total time spent studying the course.

Figure 1. AltFactor’s LCMS Home Page

3.1 The Educational Component


What we usually name the educational component is in fact the SCORM 2004 player
which plays the content packed in SCORM 2004 zip packages. This component is built
using Action Scrip 3.0 technology, using Adobe Flex SDK and javascript that links the
part written in Flash (the SCORM tree) with the Drupal, written in php technology. The
192 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

data is sent both ways in order to record and show the user progress. The Drupal is able to
store data received from the flash to its own database and then send it back when it is
needed (e.g. the student is able to continue the course at the exact SCO when he pushed
the Suspend button and left the training session).
The whole application is encapsulated in a module that can be easily installed – it is
only one click away. At this moment the module is designed only for Drupal version 5,
but it can easily be rewritten for Drupal version 6 if anyone should need it or from
technical reasons. In order to define the whole educational process, this module has to be
installed with another one that defines the notions of class, tutor and student, assessment
reporting & tracking.
The access to the educational content is granted upon the rights granted by the
administrators to certain courses. The user has to enter his unique username and password
only one time, when he is logging on the LCMS. Every user has a unique id, so the
platform is able to report to Drupal different statistics about one user, regarding his
progress: time spent on the platform, time spent on a certain educational material, SCOs
finished, grades or other reports that one tutor may need.
The navigation between the course’s SCOs is ensured by using the SCORM tree or the
previous and continue buttons – if the SCORM package does not hide them, using the
hideLMSUI function. The SCORM is not responsible for the navigation inside the SCO,
only the programmer being in charge to resolve this small scale navigation. Of course,
one solution is to use only one SCO screen.
In order to briefly sum up the functions of the player, we have to mention that the
application is designed to:
• import course packed SCORM 2004;
• upload SCORM packages on the server;
• unzip SCORM packages;
• verify the manifest.xml file;
• save the SCORM objectives values in the Drupal database;
• save the lom (the key words) in the Drupal database.
By choosing Courses from the menu, the user will choose from a list with the courses
he is assigned to, the one he wants to study (Figure 2):

Figure 2. List of courses available on the LCMS


The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 193

After choosing the course, the user will be able to access the player on another
browser page, where he will be able to study the educational materials available for the
selected course.
If the course has been previously accessed, but not finished, besides the Start button a
Continue button appears so that the student can continue the study from the exact point
where he suspended his training session.
According to SCORM 2004 standard, the player interface is divided into two parts
(Figure 3): the navigational tree on the left and the educational content on the right. The
graphical layout of the player can be easily changed according to the beneficiary visual
identity, while the content interface and graphical layout can be very easy designed and
implemented so they fit the beneficiary needs. For example, for the applications
elaborated in flash, the .swf file that contains the educational application is accompanied
by another .swf file, that defines the graphical user interface. This later file can be easily
modified.

Figure 3. The SCORM 2004 player

4. Conclusions
This long - distance educational solution is used by AltFactor together with one partner
(an authorized long - life learning provider from the local market) in order to provide
on-line courses for Project Management. Even if the economic crisis has a great impact
on economy and on people’s will to spend money for studying, the clear advantages of e-
learning seem to determine many students to choose this form of instruction that provides
them the much needed diplomas.
194 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Also the funds provided by the European Union through different kinds of structural
financial programs are helping e-learning to develop by providing opportunities to
purchase the necessary hardware infrastructure, to connect to high speed Internet lines,
and then to develop an integrated e-learning solution, with an electronic curricula that
covers the society present and future needs.
For the future, two main actions are planned: to improve the features of our LCMS in
order to provide better services for our partners and clients and to develop more on-line
courses with high impact on the national market in order to improve the educational offer.

REFERENCES

Conference Proceedings:
Beldiman L., Ifrim V. (2007): Coordonate de design pentru conŃinut în instruirea asistată de calculator. In The
South-East European Space In The Context of Globalisation, Bucharest, pp. 397-404, ISBN: 987-973-
663- 535-9
Beldiman L., Comănescu A. (2007): Centru de instruire în sistem e-learning pentru personalul angajat. In A
V-a ConferinŃă NaŃională de ÎnvăŃământ Virtual, ConstanŃa, pp. 65-70, ISSN: 1842-4708

Internet Sources:
http://cursuri.trainingimm.ro
http://drupal.org
http://opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/flexsdk/Flex+SDK
Management of Knowledge –Base Systems in
Desktop and Mobile Learning Environments

Veronica Ştefan1, Ion Roceanu2, Cătălin Radu2,


Ioana Stănescu3, Antoniu Ştefan3

(1) Valahia University of Târgovişte, E-mail: veronica.stefan@ats.com.ro


(2) “Carol I” National Defence University in Bucharest
(3) Advanced Technology Systems - ATS, Târgovişte

Abstract
The authors present a comparative approach between the user interfaces of
knowledge databases developed for desktop and mobile access, underlying the main
similarities and differences, with the purpose of sustaining sound practices and
increase transfer and accessibility to the mobile arena.
Collaboration is a key element in providing improved performance and quality of
activities both in educational and business settings. As result of the work for
MOBNET-Learning research project, this article explores the dimensions of
building collaborative systems based on mobile technologies as a tool for sustaining
interactive environments that comprises wireless communication technologies and
mobile terminal devices for the real time access to knowledge database.

Keywords: Knowledge creation and dissemination, Mobile Knowledge


Management Systems, Mobile user interface design

1 Introduction
Knowledge management (KM) emerged from the world of academia and became a
burning issue for business and technology leaders in the last decade. Although a factor of
improvement, knowledge management has not been largely embraced by organisations.
This paper explores the importance of creating a dynamic management system, not just a
storage capacity for accumulated knowledge, although at times useful. KM enables taking
informed action in previously unencountered/ unknown circumstances. MOBNET-
Learning is a research project developed by “Carol I” National Defence University in
Bucharest in partnership with Advanced Technology Systems, the Research Institute for
Artificial Intelligence of the Romanian Academy and other 2 private companies.
MOBNET-Learning Project explores the potential of knowledge in the mobile learning
environment. In this paper the authors examine the shift to mobile knowledge. In recent
years there has been a major transformation in how formal and informal communication
is disseminated by electronic means and the mobile learning environment is already based
on standards (O’Connel and Smith, 2007).
MOBNET-Learning Project comprises a learning management system and a
knowledge management system (Roceanu et al, 2009).
196 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 1. The Web site of MOBNET-Learning Project

2 The potential of Mobile Environment for Knowledge Organisations


Knowledge management has slowly matured mainly within global organisations,
sometimes as executive information portals, content management or intellectual capital.
Successful KM practices came to include portals, e-learning, e-analyses and content
management (Guy, 2009). In the current economic climate, organisations are realizing
that leveraging the already accumulated corporate intellectual property is by far the
lowest-cost way available to increase their efficiency and competitive stature, in the case
of companies. In a knowledge-based society and economy, knowledge management is the
critical element in the strategy of organisations that will allow them to accelerate the rate
at which it handles new challenges and opportunities, and they do so by leveraging the
most precious of resources, collective know-how, talent and experience – intellectual
capital.
Organizations are no longer valued solely for what they have done – but the potential
of what they might be able to do. The promise and interest in knowledge management is
not in knowing, but in being able to act creatively based on what you know and you are
able to access. Innovation results from knowledge that it why it is important to consider
the infrastructure behind knowledge management. The raw goods of intellectual property
– experience and know-how – must be channelled and made available. This is a very real
problem for many organisations.
Consider the issue that NASA faces. Virtually the people involved with the Apollo
projects are not active anymore. With them went the know-how on how to land a man on
the moon. While the planned approaches were captured, the dynamically acquired
knowledge base that emerged through facing the challenges that each Apollo mission
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 197

presented were not captured anywhere (Frappaolo, 2006). Knowledge management


systems answer to the need to capture and monitor ever-developing bodies of intellectual
capital, and to promote its leverage by communities of practice. The advent of Internet as
a worldwide common interface is making this vision possible, but it also raises the bar on
the scope of success and failure. Knowledge has become the key economic resource and
the dominant and perhaps the only source of competitive advantage in a developing
knowledge society (Toma et al, 2009). At the same time, the practices in accessing
knowledge and information have changed, particularly in the use of search engines,
digitized resources and mobile environments. The authors consider that the simple growth
and proliferation of outputs does not lead straightforwardly to a richer and more diverse
information and knowledge environment. This paper defines the settings for the
implementation of the knowledge and the considerations for achieving a comprehensible
knowledge infrastructure.

3 The Development of the Mobile Knowledge Management System


Information and communication technologies provide tools to optimize the use and to
increase the value of captured knowledge. Contextual learning requires specific, timely
knowledge and, at the same time, generates valuable input data. Most of the times this
contextual knowledge cannot be accessed or is lost due to the lack of adequate
access/collection systems available in the mobile environment (Stănescu and Ştefan,
2008). One of the goals of the MOBNET-Learning Project is the development of a
knowledge acquisition and retrieval system that operates as a mobile learning assistant,
allowing users to access mobile knowledge when and where they need it, filling the
present gap in the access chain. Learners will use the mobile knowledge management
system in order to be able to fulfil their tasks quickly and more efficiently, as the system
filters information by various criteria, facilitating access to specific knowledge.

3.1 Mobile Knowledge Management Systems Architecture


The system uses a common database for
both the knowledge management system
and the learning management system. This
improves the results of the search and
allows an easy administration of
knowledge and learning objects and a
unified access from the users’ standpoint.
The knowledge is accessed via a mobile
Graphical User Interface built according to
best practices issued by the World Wide
Web Consortium (W3C). The mobile
website is developed based on the
Microsoft .NET Framework using
ASP.NET and C#. For the backend, the
developers have used Microsoft SQL Figure 2. Mobile Knowledge Management
Server 2008 as the database engine. System for MOBNET-Learning Project
198 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

3.2 Mobile Knowledge Management Systems Main Functionalities


The Mobile Knowledge Management System (m-KMS) provides access to information
via a Web-based Graphical User Interface available in desktop and mobile environments.
Access rights were considered as follows:
- A private section: in order to be able to benefit of the full potential of the KMS,
users need to create an account; thus, the uploaded content and the related added
comments can be user-related and reader rated as competency in concerned; users
and content can be rated; this increase the trust level for the accessed knowledge.
- A public section: the application manages a public section that comprises general
information of public interest (news, articles, etc.) and access to certain bodies of
knowledge, declared as public by the issuing party; the information can be
accessed directly, without being logged into the system.
Management of knowledge includes management of users, management of data
classified by domain, author, date, relevance, management of knowledge acquisition.
The m-KMS provides advanced searching options: by keyword, full text search, by
topic and by similar articles, to target the preferences of a larger group of mobile users.
To improve the user experience, the systems allows refining of search results by applying
search criteria progressively, against the current result set.
While reading an article, users are provided with links for terms on which the system
can provide further information. This feature is valuable especially for mobile users
which are constrained with regards to the input methods that their device provides. At the
end of an article, users are also provided with links to other related articles and
information on where to obtain further data. Over time, users are likely to refer to the
same articles multiple times. This is particularly valid for articles that include mathematic
formulae and large tables that are impractical or hard to memorize. To speed up access
for these articles, users are provided with a complete history of previously visited articles
as well as with the possibility of creating multiple article favourite lists based on topics of
interest.
The m-KMS also allows learners to capture new information by providing different
forms of input such as text, sketches, recording of messages or photos. To use the
potential of this data collection process, the system allows the user attach feedback to
existing articles and also to create new articles. The user also has the option to
automatically attach relevant information such as localisation, or a history of the most
recently accessed articles.

3.3 Mobile Knowledge Management Systems Technologies


These are a few of the key features of the mobile knowledge management system that is
developed by the MOBNET-Learning Project. The system aims to build adaptive learning
resources reconfigurable based on the device attributes and users’ preferences and to
provide mobile learners with knowledge in the Romanian language, becoming a start-up
project in this domain.
The m-KMS is developed using Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE). Unlike native
applications that access the operating systems and the hardware resources directly, Java
applications are executed by a virtual machine (JVM - Java Virtual Machine). Thus, they
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 199

are isolated from native access and they can access only Java libraries or the functions of
the virtual machine. The virtual machine contains the Java Runtime Environment that
represents all the standard functions and libraries provided by Java.
Java desktop applications (Java SE) are executed
directly and function similar to any desktop application,
while Java EE Application require an application Server
(JBoss) than acts as a Web server.

4 Building Mobile Graphical User Interface


The research within the MOBNET-Learning Project
focuses in the area of mobile learning environments.
Regardless of the settings they operate, users constantly
want new features on their mobile phone, such as
texting, voice memos, browsing, cameras, music and
television, because they would like these things in their Figure 3. Development
pocket and the phone is already there. MOBNET- platform for m-KMS
Learning Project aims to improve the experience of the
mobile learner by identifying a flexible blend of devices, technologies and skills required
for a better performance.

4.1 Capabilities and Restrictions of Mobile Devices


Mobile devices represent a key performance factor for accessing mobile knowledge. In
the last years, the mobile market provides a wide range of devices from mobile phones,
smart phones, XDAs, PDAs, Media Players, notebooks and laptops. The MOBNET
Project aims to provide access to specific content and develop optimised knowledge
delivery for devices that present significant restrictions in terms of screen size, keyboard
access and processing power (Shearer, 2007; Ştefan and Stănescu, 2009).
In order to obtain an enriched user experience when accessing mobile knowledge, the
users need to understand the capabilities and the technology that their mobile device
provides. The large range of mobile devices available on the market today implies that it
is basically impossible for developers to target each and every one of them (Lindholm
and Keinonen, 2003). This requires future mobile users to consider certain features when
purchasing a mobile device. When users intend to access web content on their mobile
device, they will benefit most if they choose a device with a web browser based on the
same libraries as a desktop browser.
For example, iPhone OS uses Mobile Safari, which is based on the same WebKit
libraries as Safari and Google Chrome. The same applies to the Series 60 3rd Edition web
browser, which is also based on WebKit.
Mobile devices have such a precious screen estate, and developers need to follow the
best practices recommended by the W3C and avoid adding extra user interface elements.
Given the same URL, one can easily observe the difference between:
1. Mobile browser configured in mobile view mode;
2. Mobile browser configured in desktop view mode;
200 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

3. Mobile browser configured in one column mobile view mode with full screen.

Figure 4. Comparison between different view modes ATS

For example we present this figure from a demo knowledge-based decision support
system that Advanced Technology Systems has recently developed.
The best experience can be obtained by removing the application’s title bars and
adapting the content to just one column to allow users to scroll in just one direction.

4.2 Particularities of Mobile Content Delivery


The particularities of mobile devices require solid customization of delivery in
comparison to the desktop computers in order to encourage users to become mobile. This
is even more to be considered in the learning environment from the perspective of setting
course to good practice and implementations of mobile developments.
This section comprises a set of best practices (Rabin and McCathieNevile, 2008;
Lumsden, 2008; Shneiderman et al, 2007), that base the design and development of the
m-KMS:
-“Content provided by accessing a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) should yield a
thematically coherent experience when accessed from different devices”.
The content should remain the same, regardless of the means used to access it. At
most, parts of the content may be missing, if they cannot be made compatible with the
client devices.
-“Device capabilities should be exploited to provide an enhanced user experience”.
Different devices provide different functions, and these should be exploited to a
maximum in order to provide the best possible experience for the mobile user. Adapting
the system and/or the content to support specific functions of a device or group of devices
allows the user to obtain a better experience.
-“Tests on actual device”s. Because of the vast number of differences between mobile
devices, it is best to test the website of as many different phone models as possible.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 201

Sometimes the browser implementation can differ greatly for the same phone model,
depending of the firmware version installed.
-“Keep the URIs of site entry points short”. The web site should be designed with
quick URIs that can take the user to a specific page based on content ID. For example, the
user can access the address http://news.mobi/40652 and be automatically taken to the
article with ID 40652.
-“Provide minimal navigation at the top of the page”. The navigation menu should be
designed in such a way to occupy little space but at the same time provide links to the
most important pages. It is probably best if content is structured hierarchically to provide
the content hierarchy leading to the current page.
-Provide a balance structure between having a large number of navigation links on a
page and the need to navigate multiple links to reach content. Mobile web pages should
include as much content as possible without requiring the user to switch between multiple
pages to find the rest of the information.
-“Provide consistent navigation mechanisms”. Use the same navigation mechanism
across a service to allow users to identify them easier.
-“Assign access keys to links in navigational menus and frequently accessed
functionality”. This would improve the mobile experience and will allow users to enjoy it
with the help of a single key acting as a single click.
-“Limit scrolling to one direction”. This allows the user to experience all the content
of a web page without having to switch in all directions.
-“Avoid large or high resolution images”. If used, images should be resized at the
server. Mobile devices have limited capacities and waiting for a web page to load it is not
a welcomed experience.
-“Do not use frames”. As many mobile devices do not support frames, the web site
becomes inaccessible and the target group is severely and uselessly restricted.
-“Provide informative error messages and a means of navigating away from an error
message back to useful information”. It is always helpful to know that something went
wrong, then to simply get stuck without an obvious reason.
-“Avoid free text entry where possible, and provide pre-selected default values where
possible”. When referring to online mobile tests or evaluations, free text can be replaces
with access keys that point to the correct answer. Also, in designing for small devices,
speech input is a viable alternative for devices too small for extra buttons.
When designing for multiple and dynamic contexts the developer needs to consider
the environmental conditions where the learner activates, to provide enriched user
experience.

5 Conclusions
MOBNET-Learning Project promotes the values and the opportunities that the mobile
technologies can bring to the learning environment and the knowledge communities. The
Project represents an innovative practice-driven approach for the Romanian research area
and aims to become a significant contribution to the implementation of mobile knowledge
management. MOBNET Project develops mobile content and systems that teachers,
202 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

trainers and students can use to complement or as an alternative to course activities


whether they occur or not in traditional classroom environments. This paper examines the
implications of the transition of knowledge to the mobile environment in terms of
graphical user interface and mobile devices restrictions. A demo version of the m-KMS
shall be available online at the completion of the project and users shall be able to provide
feedback on their mobile experience.

REFERENCES

Frappaolo, C. (2006): Knowledge Management, Capstone, Mankato.


Guy, R. (2009). The Evolution of Mobile Teaching and Learning, Informing Science, Santa Rosa.
Lindholm, C.; Keinonen, T. (2003): Mobile Usability: How Nokia Changed the Face of the Mobile Phone,
McGraw-Hill Professional, New York.
Lumsden, J. (2008). Handbook of Research on User Interface Design and Evaluation for Mobile Technology,
Information Science Reference.
Hope, P.; Walther, B. (2008): Web Security Testing Cookbook: Systematic Techniques to Find Problems
Fast, O’Reilly Media, Sebastopol.
MacGregor, R. S.; Aresi, A.; Siegert, A. (1996): WWW Security: How to Build a Secure World Wide Web
Connection, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.
O’Connel, M.; Smith, J. (2007): A Guide to working with m-Learning Standards, Department of Education,
Science and Training, Australian Government, Sydney.
Rabin, J.; McCathieNevile, C. (2008): „Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0”, http://www.w3.org/TR/mobile-bp/,
retrieval date: October, 1th 2008.
Roceanu, I.; Stefan, V.; Popescu, V.; Popescu, M.; Gramatovici, L.; Lazo, F. (2009): “Knowledge anywhere,
anytime based on the wireless devices”, The 5th Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for
Education, Bucharest, April 2009
Shearer F. (2007): Power Management in Mobile Device, Newnes, Oxford.
Shneiderman, B.; Plaisant, C. (2004): Designing the User Interface – Strategies for Effective Human-
Computer Interaction, Addison Wesley, Harlow.
Shneiderman, B.; Plaisant, C. & Cohen, M. (2009): Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective
Human-Computer Interaction, Addison Wesley, Harlow.
Smith S. (2007: “Mobile Learning”, http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/e_article000729140.cfm
Stănescu, I.; Ştefan, A. (2008:. “Analyses on the Current State of Development of Web Services on Mobile
Device”, unpublished research, Code2Mob Project, ATS
Ştefan, V.; Stănescu, I. (2009): “Capabilities and Restrictions of Mobile Devices”, unpublished research,
MOBNET Project, Advanced Technology Systems - ATS
Toma, S.; Gabureanu, S.; Fat, S. (2009): “Teaching in the Kowledge Society: The Impact of the INTEL TECH
Program in Romania”, Agata Publishing H., Bucharest.
e-Tutor - An Approach for Integrated e-Learning Solution

Pradipta Biswas1 and S. K. Ghosh2

(1) Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0FD, England


pb400@cam.ac.uk
(2) School of Information Technology, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur-
721302, India
skg@sit.iitkgp.ernet.in

Abstract
With substantial growth in multimedia technology and increasing availability of
computer systems, there is thrust towards computer-based training, which uses
interactive text, audio, visuals and animation, in a self-paced mode. End-users’ (i.e.,
students’) satisfaction levels have seen a marked improvement with the use of these
modern methods of education technology. The present paper proposes a framework
for integrated e-learning environment. Our system will have advanced e-learning
features like provision for integrating multiple simulators for different subjects,
integrated student performance evaluation system etc. The novelty of our system lies
in the creation of an integrated framework that will cover all the aspects of teaching
activities starting from classroom lecture, laboratory work and final evaluation. An
operational prototype of the system is used in a limited way in a premier
engineering institute and the result is quite encouraging to use the system of
evaluation for a longer duration.
Keywords: e-Learning, Computer based Teaching Tool, Education Technology, Simulator,
Data Warehouse

1 Introduction
There is an increasing use of computer as a teaching tool, especially due to availability of
a plethora of interactive computer based teaching packages that can supplement
classroom lectures. However, for some subjects, laboratory work is an integral part of
classroom lectures – the subject cannot be assimilated without the laboratory work.
Realizing the importance of the hand on experiments as part of a course, recent researches
have focused on integrating simulator or software tool with traditional one-dimensional
computer based teaching tool. Statutor software [1] is an attempt that is designed to
simplify the learning and teaching of statistical concepts, especially those related to
sampling distributions based on sampling from a population. Another such initiative is
Pegasus [2]. This software helps students to visualize laboratory work with a 3-phase
induction motor. Besides the education technology departments of Universities, some
commercial products are also available to facilitate learning of basic principles.
DENFORD Machines & Systems Company has developed CNC Desk-Top Tutor for
understanding the basic principles and developing practical skills in Computer Numerical
Control (CNC) [3]. Network for Inclusive Distance Education [4] has developed some
204 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

interesting interactive learning product like Digital Frog International, Snowbird software
etc. They have taken a novel approach to spread the learning in an interactive way to
disabled students also. One such software is “A Digital Field Trip to the Rainforest”
which offers self-voicing for users who have visual disabilities. In [5] some Interactive
Learning Modules are discussed for Electrical Engineering students which provide
interactive and animated simulations, problem sessions and also online guidance. The
concepts of Virtual Reality are used to design a collaborative environment for easy
understanding of molecular biology, DNA structure etc. for secondary standard students
[6]. In [7] some technical details of providing interactivity (about use of Flash Animation
or JAVA Applets) and some conceptual details of building a learning tool has been given.
In [8] a web based virtual laboratory system is being proposed that pioneers an approach
of using VRML and XML in the building of simulation and animation. An intelligent
multimedia tutoring system has been proposed in [9] for Cardiac Diseases.
Most of the existing e-learning systems are targeted towards very specific and
specialized areas (e.g. 3-Phase induction motor or Computer Numerical Control etc).
The term ‘Virtual Laboratory’ has been used at [8]. The high level aim of our project is
same as [8] but our approach is a more generic one. The present work aims at developing
a framework that consists of simulators for more than one subject (the subjects may vary
from Communication Engineering to basic subjects, like Physics, Chemistry etc) and on-
line teaching and evaluation modules. The simulators are so designed that they will help
students to understand the basic principles of a subject through multimedia aids. Most of
the multimedia tools used in e-learning or web learning packages are high end animations
(JAVA Applet or Flash files) rather than a simulator in true sense. Our simulators provide
more freedom to the user in terms of designing an experiment. The novelty of our
approach lies in its integration and interaction features - a single package enables users to
upload and read lecture slides, to simulate practical demonstrations for different subjects
and to take evaluation using an interactive evaluation system.
The paper is organized as follows. In section 2 an operational overview of our system
is presented. Following the operational overview the system is designed in section 3.
Section 4 states the present status of the system. We pointed out the novelty of the system
in section 5. Finally we concluded in section 6.

2 Operational Overview
Our system operates in three phases to construct and properly use a student model. These
phases are
1. Initialization Phase
2. Running Phase
3. Assessment Phase
These system phases conform to the regular course calendar. The initialization phase
takes place before start of a course. The running phase runs with the course. After the end
of the course, the students’ and teachers’ performances are evaluated in the assessment
phase. The whole operation can be visualized through the activity diagram shown in
Figure 1.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 205

The initialization phase mainly concerns with database fill up with curriculum details
and demographic information. A course is broken up into a number of subjects. Each
subject is further classified into chapters or topics and a topic is broken up into some
concepts. As for example a secondary level science course can be divided into subjects
like physics, chemistry, biological sciences and mathematics. Physics can be
disintegrated into topics like optics, magnetism, mechanics etc. The topic ‘mechanics’
includes concepts like free body diagram, inclined plane, momentum etc. The ontology
of a course is defined as shown in Fig. 2. When this ontology will be defined for several
subjects, we can define surmise relationships among the concepts and develop a
knowledge space for a student easily [10]. As shown in Fig. 2 each topic, concept and
question is given a difficulty index. Questions are associated with an expected answer
time also. These difficulty indices are used for assessment of the student. Initially when
the system is installed for the first time, the difficulty indices is assigned a value based on
an assessment made by experienced teachers’.

Fig. 1 Main Activity Diagram of the system


206 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

In the running phase, the teacher can periodically evaluate


the class performance by designing online examinations or
quiz sessions. These examinations or quiz can be designed
using the existing question-answers within the database or by
inserting new questions and answers. Even the course
instructor can add new topics or concepts also during this
running phase. Short-term assessment can also be carried out
by manually analyzing the points scored by the students
during an examination. After the end of the course, the final
assessment can be carried out. The final assessment will not
only consider the immediate performance of a student in a
single course, but also takes care of historical data available
about the students, teachers and subjects.

3 Design of the system


The system is designed according to its operational life cycle.
The front end of the system will consist of three modules
Fig. 2 Ontology of the  Upload Module: Using this module a teacher can
course upload the lecture slides/video within the system.
This module will also help the instructor to upload a set of question and sample
answers to the system. This question answers will be used in the evaluation
process.
 Use Simulator: Simulator module of this project can be used to simulate
different laboratory experiments in different subjects.
 Evaluate: The evaluate module can be used to evaluate students (replacing
traditional classroom examination). A student can also use this function for self-
evaluation.
The backend will consist of an online database and a data warehouse. The details of
the backend and the point calculation technique using it are discussed in a separate paper [11].

4 Present Status of the System


Currently an operational prototype of the system is implemented on a multimedia-enabled
based Pentium-IV system (with standard configuration and Windows operating system).
The successful implementation of the system largely depends on the proper planning of
the course in terms of lecture modules, experiment sets and evaluation plan for the
particular domain. Present implementation includes development of a virtual classroom
module, online examination module and two simulators for communication engineering
and system programming. In the following sections a brief outline of the system will be
presented.

4.1 Virtual Classroom Module


The virtual classroom module aims to simulate basic classroom activities within a
computer screen. In the virtual classroom of our system, there will be provision to present
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 207

a video lecture and (or) a slideshow synchronously. The upload module can be used to
upload lecture slide or video lecture. There will be a writing pad in the screen where
students can take notes and can store for future reference.

4.2 Simulator Modules


The system is designed in a way that third party simulators can also be easily integrated
with the system. Currently the system is integrated with two simulators-one for
communication engineering and the other for systems programming. Both of these two
simulators aimed to visualize complex operations to students. The next two sections will
present an overview of the simulators with examples of their usage.

4.2.1 Simulator for Communication Engineering


The simulator for Communication Engineering can be used to simulate basic signal
processing operations like addition, subtraction, integration etc. It can also simulate
modulation techniques like Amplitude Modulation, Frequency Modulation, Delta
Modulation, QPSK, GMSK etc. Each of these signal operations can be demonstrated with
all intermediate steps for easy assimilation of students. As an example of its usage, a
modulation operation viz. Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) is demonstrated in the next
section
Demonstration of Pulse-Width Modulation
The process starts by drawing a Baseband signal. Fig. 3 shows a Sine wave and its
frequency response. In Fig. 4 the PWM Waveform (in blue color) is shown. Fig. 5 gives
the frequency response of the PWM waveform (in gray color). Then the PWM waveform
is demodulated. The Baseband signal, the demodulated signal (in yellow color) and their
correlation are shown in Fig. 6. Fig. 7 shows the modulating, modulated and demodulated
waveforms simultaneously. Finally the frequency responses are drawn again in Fig. 8. It
has been shown the frequency response of the modulating and demodulated waves
overlap, as expected.

Fig 3. Baseband signal and its frequency Fig 4. Baseband signal and PWM
Response used in the demonstration Waveform
of PWM
208 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Fig 5. PWM Waveform and its Frequency Fig 6. Baseband Signal, Demodulated
Response Signal and their Correlation

Fig 7. Baseband Signal, PWM Waveform Fig 8. Baseband Signal, PWM Waveform,
and Demodulated Wave Demodulated Wave and their Frequency
Responses
4.2.2. Simulator for Systems Programming
The simulator for system programming is developed to illustrate students the sequence of
actions occurred inside a computer for executing a program. Most of the practical courses
on system programming generally start with 8085-microprocessor programming. The
simulator presents a step-by-step analysis of an 8085 assembly language program
execution. It consists of four modules viz. Editor, Assembler, Loader and Debugger.
Screenshots of each module are shown from fig. 9 to fig. 12.

Fig. 9. Screenshot of Editor Fig. 10. Screenshot of Assembler


The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 209

Fig. 11. Screenshot of Loader Fig. 12. Screenshot of Debugger

The editor instructs the user to write an assembly language program or importing a
previously written program. The assembler takes a starting memory address and run a
two-pass assembler program. The user can see Symbol Table or the Error Table from the
assembler. The loader simply loads the object code. Optionally, the user can also relocate
the object code using the Loader. Finally the debugger executes the object code. The user
can also step over through the object code. After execution, the debugger allows the user
to see any memory location, register or system flags. In the next section, the system is
explained with an 8085 Multiplication program.
The 8085multiplication program is shown in Fig. 13. The assembler produces the
object code shown in Fig. 14. Fig. 15 shows the relocation operation by the Loader after
relocating the program from address E000 to 9000. The red circles in Fig. 15 show the
code modifications due to relocation. Finally the Debugger executes the program. The
register values and Flag Values at each step of execution are shown in Fig. 16.

Fig. 13. Source Code of a Multiplication Program


210 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Fig. 14 Object Code of the Multiplication Program

Fig. 15 Object Code after Relocation from E000 to 9000 address

Fig. 16 Register Content and Flag contents at each step of execution and
Memory Content after execution
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 211

4.3 Online Examination Module


The online examination module takes a set of questions and answers as input. Optionally
the question set can be divided into 2 two 8 sections. The questions in each question set
are presented sequentially (Fig. 17). There is a mechanism to store response time and
given answer of each question. At any stage of examination, a student is free to see his
status (Fig. 18). In the status window, all of the questions of the present section with the
given answers and number of unanswered questions will be shown.

Fig 17. Screenshot of Online Examination Module

Fig. 18. Screenshot of the status window of Online Examination Module

5 Novelty of the System


Integrated Approach: Our system is not merely an e-learning package for a particular
subject, rather it can be served as a virtual college where course instructors can upload
lectures, monitor the progress of students and evaluate them. Besides going through the
lecture slides, students can also run simulations of laboratory works. The system will be
212 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

particularly useful for students of under-developed areas where it is not always possible
to construct a high-end laboratory with skilled instructors.

Modular Design: We developed the system in a modular fashion such as any module
of the system can be used independently from the others. So during deployment, any
module of the system can be replaced by a more customized one or new modules (e.g.
simulators for different subjects) can be easily integrated into the system.

Intelligent Evaluation: The evaluation module of the system [11] is particularly


important. It consists of a database as well as a data warehouse for storing information
about teaching and learning at a very detailed level. The data warehouse can be used to
calculate performance metrics for any possible groups of students, teachers and subjects.
As for example, we can calculate metrics very efficiently indicating performance of mid-
worker student in Optics, performance improvement of students during first half of a
course etc. In a decision-making scenario, these metrics may help in providing enough
insight into the assimilation capability of students and teaching capability of teachers.
Once measured properly for adequate length of time, these metrics can also be
customized to provide other useful utilities like developing a student model, measuring
utility of a course modification, quantifying institutional performance etc.

6 Conclusions
The present paper aims at merging “e-teaching” with “e-laboratory” – thus making “e-
learning” more effective. The teaching tool will be an interactive audiovisual system,
which will break up the course in a series of lectures, computerized practice sessions and
assignments. The integrated simulator can be used to visualize the operational
environment without a practical laboratory set up. The framework is accompanied by a
personalized student evaluation module that can provide many other useful information
like utility of a course modification, institutional performance etc. An operational
prototype of the system is used in a limited way in a premier engineering institute and we
hope the system will be particularly useful for students of under-developed areas where it
is not always possible to construct a high-end laboratory with skilled instructors.

REFERENCES

Wolfe Robert A. (1991), “Statutor Version1.23 A computer-based teaching tool for statistical concepts”.Available:
http://archives.math.utk.edu/software/msdos/statistics/ statutor/statu123.readme, Accessed on: 29th
March 2006
Avouris N.M. et. al.(2000), “Development and evaluation of a computer-based laboratory teaching tool”
Available:www.ee.upatras.gr/hci/papers/j21_avouris-tselios-tatakis-00.pdf, Accessed on: 29th March
2006
Morozov E(1996), “Implementation of computer based teaching Systems for professional training in
Computer aided engineering” In Proceedings of the ICDED’96
Interactive Learning Tools; Network for Inclusive Distance Education(2006); Available:http://nide.snow.
utoronto.ca/Interactiveindex.html, , Accessed on: 31st March 2006
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 213

Millard, D.L.(2000), “Interactive Learning Module for Electrical Engineering Education”, In Proceedings of
the Electronic Components and Technology Conference, 2000. 2000 Proceedings. 50th , 21-24 May 2000
Pages:1042 – 1047
Halvorsrud R. et. al. (2004),” Designing a Collaborative Virtual Environment for Introducing Pupils to
Complex Subject Matter” In Proceedings of the third Nordic conference on Human-computer interaction
October 2004
Woolf B. P.(1996), Intelligent Multimedia Tutoring System; Communication of the ACM, April 1996 Vol.
39, No. 4
Shin D., Yoon E., Lee K., Lee E.(2002), A Web based interactive virtual laboratory system for unit
opeartions and process systems engineering education: issues, design and implementation, Computers &
Chemical Engineering, Volume 26, Issue 2, 15 February 2002, Pages 319-330
Chen C., Lee,H. Chen Y.(2005), Personalized e-learning system using Item Response Theory, Computers &
Education, Volume 44, Issue 3, April 2005, Pages 237-255
Dietrich A. et. al., (2006) Current Trends in eLearning based on Knowledge Space Theory and Cognitive
Psychology Available at: www.research-it.at/ ~ac18008a182527705af0348c10147878d887feb,, Accessed
on: 15th July 2006
Biswas P., Ghosh S.K. , An Universal Assessment Methodology for Evaluating Students' and Teachers'
Performance in an Academic Institute, Proceedings of International Conference on Cognitive Systems
(ICCS ’05), Available at : http://www.niitcrcs.com/iccs/papers/2005_73.pdf , Accessed on 24th July 2007.
A Multilingual Virtual Environment for Shoe Design Training

M. Sahin1, A. Mihai2, S. Yaldiz1, M. Pastina2

(1) Technical Science College of Selcuk University (Turkey)


(2) Gh Asachi Technical University (Romania)
mesahin@selcuk.edu.tr

Abstract
The objective of this paper is to present a virtual environment developed for shoe
design training in English, Romanian, Turkish and Greek. http://www.
vtcforshoedesign.com is a virtual training tool as a product of LdV projects under
LLP program. The virtual training centre is a good example of the development of
innovative practices in the field of vocational education and training, which is One
of Leonardo da Vinci General Objectives. The virtual training tool aims to improve
the Quality of VET systems and practices by contributing to “Learning to learn”,
which is one of Lisbon Key Competences. The paper displays how the developed
content has been transferred to the virtual environment with visual aids. The paper
focuses on the multilingual aspect of the modules within the virtual environment.

Key words: Virtual Environment, Shoe Design, Virtual Training

1. Introduction
Virtual reality can be defined as a technology allowing a user to interact with a computer-
based environment which may consist of a simulation of the real world or an imaginary
world. Many of such virtual environments are based on audio and visual experiences
reflected on computer screens. These environments can have additional properties with
simulations. These simulated environments can be very similar to the real world. Myron
Krueger used "artificial reality" as term in the 1970s, but the origin of the term "virtual
reality" can be traced back to the French playwright, poet, actor and director Antonin
Artaud. Artaud described theatre as "la réalite virtuelle", a virtual reality "in which
characters, objects, and images take on the phantasmagorical force of alchemy's visionary
internal dramas" [1]. The earliest use cited by the Oxford English Dictionary is in a 1987
article entitled "Virtual reality" [2]. Michael Heim [3] identifies seven different concepts
of Virtual Reality: simulation, interaction, artificiality, immersion, tele-presence, full-
body immersion, and network communication. To Heim, virtual reality already exists and
he deigns to communicate to us via the dead tree medium of books. So strap on your
virtual eye phones and open the covers and prepare yourself for a roller coaster ride
through the labyrinths of hypertext and cyberspace. Heim also identifies the main points
that distinguish our external reality from virtual reality? His answer is 1) natality (we are
born), 2) mortality (we die), and 3) temporality (we remember past happenings). These
limits, he says, "impose existential parameters on reality, providing us with a sense of
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 215

rootedness in the earth (a finite planet with fragile ecosystems)." I would agree with him,
except I consider the earth to have a robust ecosystem, to be a robust planet, not a fragile
one.

2. The Aim of the Paper


This paper aims to introduce VTC-SHOE, Virtual Training Centre for Shoe Design, as a
model of multilingual virtual training environment used in vocational education and
training. The Virtual Training Centre for Shoe Design is a virtual environment for
training for all those with an interest in shoe design field of vocational education and
training. Experts in the field can share and exchange knowledge and experience with
associates within and outside the European Union through this centre. The project’s
scientific and pedagogic objectives are in tune with the main priority in Lifelong
Learning Programme. Through the various research and development projects, partners
have developed training materials for shoe design. These materials have been transformed
into the native languages of the partners. This indicates that the innovative e-content,
developed within the VTC-Shoe project can easily be translated to various languages too.
This virtual training centre formed in this field and its application constitutes the first and
good example for virtual learning in national vocational training systems. It helps to
improve and upgrade competences and skills of staff and exchange experiences over the
virtual training centre. It also increases the work opportunity by helping young generation
to use Information Technologies. Virtual Reality is an efficient tool in education and
training as education people tend to comprehend images faster than the text lines.
Learners can actively participate in the learning process and are attracted by the visual
information rather than boring texts. Simulations help them to have the training that
would otherwise be too costly. This kind of training is preferred mostly in aviation to
train pilots that would be too expensive and dangerous. When we use this training tool in
the class rooms, it is certain that it will increase student participation and Classroom
activities will use VR tools for hands-on learning, group projects and discussions, field
trips, and concept visualization [4].

3. Importance of Virtual Training in Vocational Education and Training


During the 60's and 70's, teaching and learning tools were nothing but a piece of chalk
and a blackboard eraser, teachers and students who met each other face to face inside the
classroom during class. In the 80's, videotape programs were used as teaching aids. In the
90's, one-way teaching by computer arrived. And finally today's advanced computer and
information network technology has revolutionized our teaching and learning methods. In
accord with the development, learning environment has also changed. Students can listen
to their teacher or trainers in distant classrooms through PCs and get a simultaneous view
of their teachers and texts as well. They can ask questions and record the "class" for
repeated viewing. Training organizations can conduct professional training directly via
the computer network. These learning environments are not so different from a teacher-
guided class with discussions and tests as well [5, 6].
216 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

In the report “Studies in the Context of the E-learning Initiative: Virtual Models of
European Universities”, a key concern was how virtual mobility is being supported in
European universities through ICT integration and e-learning [7]. The study found that
the majority of universities face major challenges in promoting ICT integration. ICT
strategy is very important and those universities that have an ICT strategy are
significantly ahead in integration of ICT in administration and organisation and
networking. Integration of ICT and e-learning is politically important in the EU in terms
of internationalisation and globalisation of education, student demand and interest in
increasing the quality of education through ICT. At the national level, integration of ICT
should become a key priority with national and regional institutions making a
commitment to ITC and the development of networks. There must be increased national
flexibility with a commitment to support common standards of quality and assessment
and to develop national and international metadata standards.

4. VTC-Shoe as a Training Tool


The virtual training centre (http://www.vtcforshoedesign.com) is a portal which has the
following sections:

VTC-Shoe is the title of the product, which is the main training tool developed. The
product is financed by the Executive Agency (EACEA) in Brussels under LdV
Development of Innovation program. The product has been produced in English and then
transformed into the native language of each partner. Each flag in this part represents the
language version of the tool. The tool is accessible only through membership by getting a
user name and password. The buttons of the content are for Address Database, which is
the list of the addresses of the footwear related companies in each country. Lessons have
been formed according to the common curriculum developed before the start of lessons.
This section consists of four parts as well as the Introduction to VTC, Approach and
Methodology used in the development of the content.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 217

Part I covers the lessons related with foot focusing on the knowledge on foot anatomy
and biomechanics applied to footwear design and pattern making. Part II is about
footwear. It covers the lessons about materials used for footwear products, footwear
structure, functions and classification criteria, lasts for footwear industry, footwear
technology and technological allowances for pattern making. Part III consists of the
lessons related with measurements and tools used in footwear design. The main topics are
foot anthropometrics, measurement systems and tools for pattern making. Part IV covers
the lessons related with design and pattern making:

The button Tests includes the tests developed for the assessment of each lesson based
on an interactive approach. Animations and Videos are the section that includes movies
and animations classified according to the lessons:
218 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Design Collection includes the designs made by the trainers and trainees. Press News
is the section to serve the dissemination activities of the product through printed or visual
media. The trainee can be in contact with the trainer or the product developer by using the
contact form and can have access to useful links.

5. Pattern Making Loafers: Sample Lesson


The sample lesson chosen from Part IV of the training centre is lesson 8: Pattern Making
for Loafers. The following slides are presented just to demonstrate the multilingual aspect
of the product rather than the content details.

Figure 1: English version of Unit Descriptor, Topics and Content


The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 219

Figure 2: Romanian version of Unit Descriptor, Topics and Content

Figure 3: Turkish version of Unit Descriptor, Topics and Content

Figure 4: Greek version of Unit Descriptor, Topics and Content


220 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 5: English version for Step 1: Mark the ball points


(3D Modeling of the Loafers)

Figure 6: Romanian version for Step 2: Draw the girth’s reference line
(3D Modeling of the Loafers)
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 221

Figure 7: Turkish version for Step 3: Mark the height of the quarter
(3D Modeling of the Loafers)

Figure 8: Greek version for Step 4: Draw the auxiliary line for back part of the quarter
(3D Modeling of the Loafers)

6. Conclusion
VTC-SHOE is a multi-lingual virtual environment in which the shoe design training is
served in English, Romanian, Turkish and Greek according to the curriculum developed
for this purpose up to intermediate level. As a training tool, the curriculum is in accord
with the approach, methodology and techniques required for virtual training. As it is
accessible by anyone who has membership or permission, anyone who is interested in
222 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

shoe design training can benefit from this training tool. The audio and other visual aids
contribute to its attractiveness for a trainee or trainer in this field. In addition, the
animations, quizzes and design collection can further contribute this tool to become more
attractive and effective in training.
Since this training tool is in English, Romanian, Turkish and Greek version, it can
help its scope and effect as a training tool internationally. In this way, it can be
transferred to similar fields such as furniture, textile, air conditioning etc. The approach,
methodology and techniques used in this training centre can be used as a model in
developing and improving other training programmes in particular in the area of new
information technology applications in related sectors.
The VTC-SHOE will establish networks of people who are engaged in footwear
business and training. Thus, it will support the entrepreneurial community, including
small and medium businesses, through collaboration and community support. The
mission of the VTC-SHOE should be to support economic development by facilitating
footwear design training that empowers socially and economically diverse people to
strengthen and sustain growth opportunities in existing businesses or in the planning and
marketing of a start-up business.

REFERENCES

[1] Erik Davis, Techgnosis: myth, magic and mysticism in the information age, 1998
[2] Garb, Yaakov (Winter 1987), "Virtual reality", Whole Earth Review (57): 118ff.
[3] Michael Heim The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Published by Oxford University Press, 1993.
[4] Bricken, M., "Virtual Reality Learning Environments: Potentials and Challenges." Human Interface
Technology Laboratory, University of Washington, Seattle, WA: 1991.
[5] Şahin M., Bilalis N., Yaldız S., Antoniadis A., Ünsaçar F., Maravelakis E., (2007): Revisiting CNC
Training–A Virtual Training Centre for CNC. EPVET 2007: International Conference on E-Portfolio
Process in Vocational Education, Present and Future, 2-3 May 2007, Bucharest, Romania
[6] Şahin M., Yaldiz S., Ünsaçar F., Yaldiz B., Bilalis N., Maravelakis E., Antoniadis A. (2007), Virtual
Training Centre for CNC: A Sample Virtual Training Environment, ICVL 2007: The 2nd International
Conference on Virtual Learning, 26-28 October, 2007, Constanta, Romania
[7] Ramboll, PLS, (2004): Studies in the Context of the E-Learning Initiative: Virtual Models of European
Universities (Lot1). Draft Final Report to the European Commission, DG Education and Culture.
Available At Http://Elearningeuropa.Info
Educational software for the simulation of virtual dynamical
systems

Puşcaşu Gheorghe – gpuscasu@ugal.ro


Codreş Alexandru – codres_ali@yahoo.com
Codreş Bogdan – bcodres@ugal.ro
Stancu Alexandru – astancu@ugal.ro
Universitatea Dunărea de Jos, GalaŃi

Abstract
In this paper some aspects regarding the implementation of the control algorithms
for virtual processes are presented. Virtual reality represents an easy approach to
study the behaviour of the process. Using virtual reality one can achieve knowledge
about the influence of the input and the output signals on the dynamical systems.
Along the implementation of the virtual system it is necessary to do a solid
modelling of all essential aspects of the real process. However, the virtual system is
included into a control loop. Also, the actuator of the control loop is a virtual system
and it can be servomotor, DC motor or step by step motor. The behaviour of the
virtual actuator is based on the mathematical models or the static characteristic. To
achieve compatibility between virtual systems and real systems it is required a card
acquisition for the signal’s adaptation. This educational software has two
advantages. Firstly, when using the card acquisition, the virtual approach is very
similar to the real one. In the virtual approach the control of the virtual system is
made with electrical signals. Secondly, it is possible to analyze the system when
reaching its limits.

Keywords: Educational software, virtual process, virtual reality, modelling

1. Introduction
Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to
the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment.
The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3D image that can be explored interactively at a
personal computer, usually by manipulating hardware interfaces (Kovach, 1997;
Peterson, 2001).
A VR application is made of different components (Burdea and Coiffet, 2003; Vince,
2004) which can be described as:
a) The scene and the objects. The scene corresponds to the world in which the
objects are located. VR contains lights, viewpoints and cameras. The objects have a
visual representation with colour and material properties.
b) Behaviours. The objects may have behaviours (Willans, 2001). For instance, they
can move, rotate, change size and so on.
c) Interaction. The user must be able to interact with the virtual world and its objects.
For instance, a user can pick up some objects or he can drag an object. This may be
224 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

achieved by means of a regular mouse and keyboard or through special hardware such as
a 3D mouse or data gloves (Vince, 2004).
d) Communication. Nowadays, more and more VR applications are also collaborative
environments in which remote users can interact with each other. To achieve this,
network communications is important.
e) Sound. VR applications also involve sound. Some research has been done over the
last 20 years in order to simulate sound in VR application. In this paper, the modelling of
the sound will not be addressed.
The developing of the different components of a VR application is not an easy task
and during the last twenty years, a number of software tools have been created to ease the
developer's task. These tools can be classified into authoring tools and software
programming libraries. Virtual reality can be used for the simulation of a real
environment in training and education and for the development of an imaginary
environment in a game or interactive story.
The most important applications of the virtual systems are those used for training
flight pilots, drivers and ship commanders (Wolffelaar and Winsum, 1995). Besides the
basic training, the simulators can be used for training in risky situations that cannot be
exercised in real life. This paper contains educational virtual processes used for system
analysis and synthesis of the command. The connection between the virtual process and
the control computer is done using a hardware interface. In this way system analysis and
system control are identical with the real system from the user’s point of view.

2. The components of a virtual system used in the analysis of dynamic


systems
The virtual systems (Willans and Harrison, 2001) used in this educational software allow
the analysis of the dynamic systems using the same input/output sizes of a real system. In
this way the control software for the virtual system is 100% compatible with the control
software for the real system. Besides other advantages, the virtual process allows the user
to train in limit conditions without affecting or damaging the system.
The structure of a virtual process used in the educational software is shown in figure
no. 1.

Figure 1 The structure of a virtual process


The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 225

Software and hardware components of the process are shown below:


The virtual process corresponding to a real system allows observation of the system
components behaviour during analysis. Besides standard components the system also
contains limiters and transducers. Also, the virtual system allows observation from
different angles and distances. In this way it is possible to watch and observe different
system components during the analysis. The system shown above consists of a
suspension which contains a spring and a hydraulic shock absorber.
The mathematical model of the process is used as an interface between analysis
procedures and the virtual system. The model must catch all important aspects of system
dynamics. On the other hand, the mathematical model of the process is subjected to
restrictions, taking into consideration that the sizes of the process must belong to well-
defined intervals. Numerical integration of the mathematical model is done using Runge-
Kutta methods. This method was chosen because it allows nonlinear dynamic system
integration using variable integration step.
Virtual actuators are used to illustrate the fact that in order to act on the process you
need to convert and amplify the control signal using dedicated components. In many
cases the actuators consist of a dynamic system with an associated mathematical model.
In the case that the process is much slower than the actuator, the actuator is approximated
with a linear transfer characteristic.
The adaptation interface is a hardware component with the following characteristics:
• It converts the control signals received from the process computer, from electrical
values to numerical values used as inputs in the mathematical model;
• It converts the mathematical model numerical outputs to electrical signals.
This interface creates a perfect compatibility between a real system and a virtual
system from the user’s point of view. The control signals used for the virtual actuators are
similar to those used with real actuators. In this way, in order to analyse and control the
virtual system any hardware configuration can be used: PC with data acquisition card,
microcontroller, PLC etc.

3. Mathematical modelling of the dynamical components of a virtual process


For a better understanding of the process, an accurate modelling of all dynamical
components of a virtual process and actuators is necessary (Conninx et all, 2006). In this
paper, a mathematical model of a car’s suspension and also of the actuators is presented.
Suspension Modelling
Oscillation analysis of car’s suspension in vertical plan represents one of the most
complicated problems of the car’s dynamics. The complexity derives from the coupling
elements and nonlinearities of the car’s suspension. In virtual reality the simulation of
road humps is made with the help of an actuator (DC motor or servomotor).
The model used to study the suspension’s behaviour on different road humps is
presented in figure no.2. Car’s suspension is made with one elastic and one hydraulic
damper defined by k and C constants. The car with constant weight m, during the
movement on the road, encounters a hump of height u which causes a displacing y of the
car’s body on vertical.
226 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

In this case, the equation of the vertical


motion uses D'Alembert principle:
m&y&+ k ( y − u ) + C ( y&− u&) = 0 (1)
or
m&y&+ k ⋅ y + C ⋅ y&= C ⋅ u&+ k ⋅ u . (2)
where :
m – the body weight;
k – the elastic damper constant;
C – the hydraulic damper constant;
Because equation (2) contains 2-nd order
derivative, in order to integrate it must be brought
Figure 2 Suspension model it to a input-state-output form. After a series of
transformations the following set of equations is
obtained:

 C C
 x&1 = − m ⋅ x1 + x 2 + m ⋅ u

 x& = − k ⋅ x + k ⋅ u
 2 m
1
m (3)
y = x1 ,
Where x1, x2 represent the state variables, u – the command, y – the output, and m,k, C
- the same meaning as in equations (1) and (2).

Actuator modelling
The actuator amplifies the power of the control signal. In many situations actuators are
dynamical systems. The most known actuator is the DC motor. If the process is described
by time constants greater than the DC motor ones than these are approximated with the
help of input-output static characteristic.
In this paper the following types of actuators are used:
• the DC motor;
• the real servomotor;
• the ideal servomotor.
The DC motor has the mathematical model [13] described by the following set of
differential equations:
& R K1 1
i = − L ⋅ i − L ⋅ ω − L ⋅ u

ω&= K 2 ⋅ i − Fa ⋅ ω − 1 ⋅ m
 J J J (4)
where:
ω – the rotor speed [rad/s];
i – the intensity of rotor current [A];
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 227

m –the load torque;


R – the rotor resistance [ohmi];
L – the rotor impedance [mH];
Fa – the friction coefficient [N*m/rad/s];
J – the moment of inertia [Kg*m2]
K1, K2 – the DC motor’s constructive constants [N*m*s]

The real servomotor is a device that has a linear transfer characteristic but with a finite
rise time. This means that the output follows the input, but with a delay. If the input
varies, the output will have a linear evolution until it reaches the size of the input (figure
no.3).

Figure3 Figure 4

The ideal servomotor is the particular case of the real one, where the rise time is
infinite. In this case the output is equal to the input applied to the actuator: ue(t)=ui(t).
This ideal servomotor is used because the transfer function of the process can be
identified directly from data set obtained from the virtual system.

4. Case study. Frequency analysis of the virtual system – car suspension


In this application the amplitude-frequency and phase-frequency characteristics will be
determined. These characteristics will be obtained experimentally using deterministic and
periodical signals.
Before starting the experiment it is necessary to obtain some a priori information
about:
• the domain in which the input signal frequency must vary;
• number of values in frequency domain for which the transfer locus will be
determined;
• the cutting frequency ω t ( A(ω ) |ω =ωt = 0 );
• the frequency for which ϕ (ω ) = −180 0 .
The car suspension (the virtual process), figure no 5, will be used in this paragraph in
order to determine its frequency characteristics.
228 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 5 The car suspension: the virtual process


where:
1. actuator – can be DC motor, real or ideal servomotor.
2. damping spring – damping out of oscillation
3. viscous damper
4. motion transmission from the actuator
5. guide element
6. elevating stops
7. mass

Data processing
The methods of automat data processing resulted from conducting the experiment will
determine the real and the imaginary part of the transfer locus. Using the nonparametric
representation of the system (transfer locus) the amplitude A(ω)= |G(jω)| and the phase
ϕ(ω)=arg(G(j)) can be determined.
The function of partial polar correlation [4] defined for [0 T] will be used as the
method for determining the transfer locus.
T
1
T ∫0
R yu (τ ) = ⋅ yt ) ⋅ u (t + τ )dt (5)

where u(t) and y(t) are the virtual system (car suspension) input and output respectively.
If the input signal u(t) is a sinusoidal one, the partial polar correlation function will
T
1
⋅ Ai sin [ω (t + τ )] ⋅ Ae sin(ωt + ϕ ) dt
T ∫0
be: R yu (τ ) = (6)

The real and the imaginary parts will be computed for the following values of the τ :
For τ =0 the equation (6) will be
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 229

Ai2
R yu (0) = ⋅ Re G ( jω ) , (7)
2
And for τ =T/4 the equation (6) will be
Ai2
R yu (T / 4) = ⋅ Im G ( jω ) . (8)
2

Figure 6 The hodograph and the amplitude-frequency characteristic

System identification
In the following, the steps used for computing the real (equation 7) and imaginary
(equation 8) parts of the hodograph will be presented:
• generating the sinusoidal input signal with the frequency chosen from the
frequency vector
• computing the output corresponding to the sinusoidal input signal
• using equation (7) the correlation function will be computed in order to obtain
the real part and using equation (9) the correlation function will be computed in
order to obtain the imaginary part.
The hodograph and the amplitude-frequency characteristic obtained using the
educational software for dynamical systems analysis will be presented in figure 6.
230 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

5. Conclusions
In this paper a virtual process connected with an embedded computer through an
acquisition card was presented. The virtual reality offers many advantages for system
analysing and for the control low synthesis. In order to approximate the real process, the
models for the car suspension and for the DC motor were also obtained. In the end of the
paper a case study is presented. This case study consists in frequency analysis of the car
suspension system.

REFERENCES

Burdea, G.C., Coiffet, P. (2003): Virtual Reality Technology, Wiley-IEEE Press ISBN: 0471360899.
Coninx, K., De Troyer, O., Raymaekers, C, Kleinermann, F. (2006): VR-DeMo: a Tool-supported Approach
Facilitating Flexible Development of Virtual Environments using Conceptual Modelling, Proc. of Virtual
Concept 2006 Cancun, Mexico, Springer-Verlag, ISBN 2-287-48363-2.
Kovach, P. J. (1997): The Awesome Power of Direct3D/DirectX, Softbound.
Peterson M. T. (2001): 3D Studio MAX FUNDAMENTE, Ed. Teora.
Puscasu Gh., Stancu Al. (2001): "TEHNICI DE IDENTIFICARE A SISTEMELOR. Teorie si aplicatii",
Bucuresti, MATRIX ROM; 260 pag. ISBN 973-685-159-1
Vince, J. (2004): Introduction to Virtual Reality. Springer, ISBN 1852337397.
Voicu M. (1986): Tehnici de analiză a stabilităŃii sistemelor automate, Editura Tehnică, Bucureşti.
Willans J. and Harrison M. (2001): A toolset supported approach for designing and testing virtual
environment interaction techniques. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 55(2): 145-165.
Willans, J. (2001): Integrating behavioural design into the virtual environment development process. PhD
thesis. University of York, York, UK.
Wolffelaar PC, Winsum V. (1995): Traffic simulation and driving simulation – an integrated approach, In
Proceedings of the Driving Simulation Conference (DSC’95), Toulouse, France.
Development Interactive Courses of Education in Microbiology
Based on E-Learning System Applying
in Technical College of Yambol

Dineva S.1, Nedeva V. 1

(1) Technical College of Yambol, Gr.Ignatiev str. 38, Yambol, Bulgaria


sbdineva@abv.bg, vnedeva@tk.uni-sz.bg

Abstract
The purpose of the article is to represent the results of the development interactive
courses of education in Microbiology based on virtual learning environment. The
virtual learning environment has been created using Moodle software platform
and has been implemented in many different disciplines in Technical College of
Yambol. The advantages of this way of education is the unlimited access of the
training materials in convenient of the learner time, as well as the interactive
method of acquiring the knowledge’s in form of test or by creation of multimedia
presentations.
The performance of virtual study environment allows improving the efficiency of
the learning.

Keywords: e-learning, Moodle, course organization, lessons, quiz, new feature in


Moodle

1. Introduction
The rapid development of information and communication technologies (ICT), especially
the recent explosive growth of Internet capacities, offers tremendous educational
opportunities. The future growth and development of e-learning technologies is, perhaps,
the most important of these trends in the realm of education. In fact, e-learning in
particular is slowly being accepted as one of the criteria of a progressive, innovative, and
leading higher educational institution. The Internet has created a new paradigm of
learning which can allow teachers and students to teach and learn collaboratively via web-
designed courses (Al-Fadhli, 2009).
The development of information technologies has contributed to growth in online
training as an important education method (Fazlollahtabar and Yousefpoor, 2009). New
developments in information and communication technologies (ICT) to support learning
have brought about increasing interest by both academic and non-academic institutions in
e-learning. These developments in ICT are principally multimedia and the Internet with
its World Wide Web. Interest in ICT supported learning is also fuelled by the associated
(expected) cost reduction and easy expansion of education to the increasing and flexible
market that is difficult to reach by traditional delivery (Abel Usoro & Bridget Abiagam,
2009).
232 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

2. Material and Methods


Moodle is a Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management
System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It is a free web application that
educators can use to create effective online learning sites. Moodle is a course
management system designed to help educators who want to create quality online courses.
The software is used all over the world by universities, schools, companies and
independent teachers. Moodle is open source and completely free to use
(http://moodle.com/?moodlead=moodle.general).
Moodle is the leading open-source virtual learning environment with over 50,000
installations world-wide. Moodle is a free and open source e-learning platform designed
to assist educators in creating online courses and resources (http://www.synergy-
learning.com/?moodlead=synergyie.courseware). The word MOODLE is an acronym for
Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. It is handy for an online
course that has students all over the world. Moodle has many capabilities including
forums, journals (private between student and teacher), quizzes, resources, and a section
for displaying assignments. Currently there are 6429 sites from 137 countries, which have
registered by using Moodle. Currently there are language packs for over 60 languages
(Williams, 2005).

3. Results and Discussion


The architecture of Moodle is compatible with the hardware and software of Technical
College – Yambol (Nedeva, 2005). The incorporation of LMS will be done during the
building and use in Intranet network. We created Microbiology courses, according to the
international requirements for e-learning – SCORM and IMS, and the recommendation of
the administrator of Moodle (Figure 1).

Figure 1. The screen shot of the Microbiology resources – topic units


There are three different formats for the class (course) – Weekly, Topic, and Social.
The weekly format organizes the class into weeks, with assignments, discussion boards,
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 233

tests, etc, all residing in a week-by-week block. The Social format is built around a forum
(bulletin board), which is good for announcements and discussions. The Topic format
organizes everything by topics (or units); regardless of how long they take. Our courses
are in topic format. They are used for e-learning by our students, who use the resources of
their home PCs by logging into http://tk.uni-sz.bg/e (Nedeva, 2005). The online training
environment enables learners to undertake ‘any time, any place’ customized training.
Moreover, information technology allows both trainers and learners to be decoupled in
terms of time, place, and space (Fazlollahtabar and Yousefpoor, 2009).
The Lessons module is exactly that – lessons you develop and post online for your
students to navigate. Questions at the end of each page in a lesson can be multiple choice,
true/false, short answer, numerical, matching, and essay. As an example, to create a
question page you would decide on the type of question, give the page a title, add page
contents (for example, ask the question), provide the answer(s), include feedback to be
displayed depending on the student's answer, and also supply a "jump," to where the
student should go next depending on the answer given (Branzburg, 2005).
The lessons of Microbiology are separated by topics (Figure 1.). After every new topic
the quiz took place. Each quiz includes materials of one or several themes. Questions are
stored in categories for easy access, and these categories are "published" that make them
accessible. Quizzes are automatically graded, and can be re-graded if questions are
modified. Quizzes can have a limited time window outside of which they are not
available. Quizzes can be attempted multiple times, and can show feedback and also the
correct answers, if they are in adaptive mood. Quiz questions and quiz answers are
shuffled (randomized) and that option reduces cheating. Questions allow HTML and
images to be included. Full activity reports for each student are available with graphs and
details about each module. A database of questions has been created and can be used and
re-use in different quizzes (Figure 2.).

Figure 2. The screen shot of the Microbiology resources – available quizzes, created
after each topic
234 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Quizzes can be attempted multiple times, if desired, or restricted. Multiple-choice


questions supporting single or multiple answers include: Short Answer questions (words
or phrases); True-False questions; Matching questions; Random questions; Numerical
questions (with allowable ranges); Embedded-answer questions (cloze style) with
answers within passages of text; embedded descriptive text and graphics (Figure 3.).

Figure 3. The screen shot of the Microbiology resources – question from the quiz,
adaptive mood with the correct answer, after submission of student choice.

Moodle has revolutionized the learning process, by offering an advanced and user-
friendly solution for encouraging the collaborative work of students and teachers. It
comes with a toolbox full of online teaching techniques that facilitate and enhance the
proven teaching principles and traditional classroom activities. The philosophy behind
Moodle states that through an accent on collaborative learning, students get better
motivated to engage themselves in the training process (http://www.ntchosting.com/
elearning-web-hosting.htm).
Moodle allow reader and student to have full view of complete report activity of the
student for each of the items. The reader can use many new techniques and web-resources
(images, links, videos and etc.) to make the unit lessons more attractive to the students
and enough visual, demonstrative, to give illustrative examples, where is considered
necessary (Figure 4).
The student’s attending the course of Microbiology also have the possibilities to make
their own presentations that are published in the e-learning virtual environment and in
that way to take feedback from the reader and their collegians.
The new features that we implement in this course are described bellow (Marcais,
2009).
One of the major changes is that Moodle now uses a set of Roles throughout its
system. Roles are mostly managed and maintained by your system administrator, but as a
teacher, you do need to know the basic concept of the roles. A role is basically a
collection of permissions defined for the whole site that you can assign to specific users
in specific contexts.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 235

Figure 4. The screen shot of the Microbiology course – student view

For example, you may have a Role called "Teacher" that is set up to allow teachers to
do certain things (and not others). Once this role exists, you can assign it to someone in a
course to make them a "Teacher" for that course. You could also assign the role to a user
in the course category to make them a "Teacher" for all the courses under that category,
or assign the role to a user just in a single forum, giving that user those capabilities just in
that forum. Roles can only be added to activities by editing the activity after it has been
created.
One of the nice new enhancements to Moodle, is that you can now see exactly
what your students see when they log into your course! To do this, look at the top right
corner of your course. Using the choices from the drop-down menu, you can switch
temporarily to another role.
The roles available are the same as the roles that you are allowed to assign to people.
Your Moodle administrator can make additional roles as needs arise on your Moodle
system. Any of the permissions given to users in the Moodle system can be added or
removed from these custom roles. For example, in our system… we have created a role
called “Student – No Time Limit on Quizzes” or “student_notimelimit” for short. This
role is identical in every way to a normal student role… EXCEPT… it has been set to
ignore any time limits placed on quizzes. This means that if you have any students with
learning disabilities who need extended time on their quizzes, you can simply set their
role in your class as a “student_notimelimit” rather than as a “student”. Then, every time
they take one of your quizzes… they won’t be timed, even if you have a time limit set for
the other students. The possibilities for custom roles are extensive, and certainly add a
huge level of flexibility to the Moodle system.
236 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The Backup section now allows you to choose not only the type of activity you want
to backup but you can also choose between individual activities as well. All you have to
do is choose the individual activity you want, decide if you want to include the user data,
and then you can back up your course as usual. The great thing about this enhancement is
that now you know exactly what is being archived! Likewise, when you restore a course,
you will have the option of exactly which activities you wish to restore to your course.
When you use the Import Course Data link, you will also have the option to import
items on an activity-by-activity basis. This makes it much less confusing when you’re
trying to transfer information between two classes.
This page allows you to remove user data from your course, while retaining any
activities and other settings you may have implemented in your course. Types of user
data you can remove include: Students, teachers, course events, logs, and/or groups. You
can also reset the course start date. Also, you have the option to remove posts and/or
subscriptions from any forums created in your course. USE CAUTION when using this
feature, because once you click the “reset course” button, your user data from the course
is gone for good!
The link in the Administration block that was previously named “logs” has changed its
name to “Reports”. There are now additional features available in this section. The
reports page is divided into four boxes, or sections.
The top section entitled “Choose which logs you want to see:” is almost identical to
the previous version. However, you can now also narrow your results from the “all
actions” dropdown menu by type of action (view, add, update, delete all changes). You
can also choose how your results will be displayed (Display on page, download in text
format, download in ODS format, or download in Excel format).
The second section has a link for “Activity Report”. When you click on this link,
you’ll see a summation of all the activity in your course. The third section lets you run a
participation report. Here, you can choose an Activity Module, a period of time to
“Look back”, which users to show, and which actions to show.
The final section has a link for “Statistics” (if this is replaced by the phrase “Statistics
is not currently enabled” this means that your administrator hasn’t activated this feature).
When you click on the “Statistics” link, you will see graphs and tables which show how
many hits there have been on various parts of your site during various time frames.
In Moodle 1.8, the concept of Groupings is introduced: a way of organizing various
groups in a hierarchical structure. While this approach may prove to be more powerful,
using groups is no longer as intuitive. For example, a teacher teaches four sections of the
same class. The teacher could have 4 groupings (i.e. one for each section). Within those
sections the teacher could assign various students to various groups within the groupings.
Another great advancement is that students may now belong to multiple groups.
To add students to a group, the teacher must follow these steps: Create a grouping;
Create a group in the grouping; Assign users to the group.
After you’ve created your groups, you’ll be able to edit them by using the various
buttons.
One of the huge enhancements to Moodle is that it now supports blogs. Blogs allow
students, teachers and administrators to have a public web log. This online journal has
various settings to control who can read them. Every user can create their own blog by
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 237

going to their profile page (by clicking on their name, anytime it appears on a Moodle
page as a hyperlink). Once you are at your profile, notice that there is a tab called “Blogs”
at the top.
If you made your blog entry only visible to yourself… no one else will be able to see
it. If you made it visible just to anyone on the site… people will only be able to view your
blog if they’re already in the Moodle system. However, most people want to find a way to
share their blog with people outside of their Moodle system. To do this, your entries must
be set to be available to “Anyone in the world”. world”. Once that is done, you can
generate RSS feeds for your blogs. There are basically three types of blogs you can view
in Moodle... a user blog, a course blog and a site blog.
The Database activity allows the teacher and/or students to build, display and search
a bank of record entries about any conceivable topic. The format and structure of these
entries can be almost unlimited, including images, files, URLs, numbers and text amongst
other things. You may be familiar with similar technology from building Microsoft
Access or Filemaker databases. One useful way to use activity in a classroom would be to
use it as a student portfolio area, where students could share their work.

4. Conclusion
Moodle is a Course management system (CMS) - a software package designed to help
educators easily create quality online courses. Such e-learning systems are sometimes
also called Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environments
(VLE). It has been designed with pedagogy in mind and fully supports different learning
styles (face-to-face, blended and e-learning). It has a comprehensive feature set covering
all types of content ranging from basic documents, RSS feeds and videos via different
types of assessments (formative and summative) to forums, questionnaires and blogs.
Moodle fully supports student management, course and curriculum management
(http://www.synergy-learning.com/moodle/).
Creation the virtual learning environment in the College has positive influence on the
prosperity of the students, due to the more interesting and useful materials that are
offered. E-learning encourages the collaborative work of students and teachers and
overcomes the shortcomings of the traditional forms of learning. The online teaching
techniques facilitate and enhance the proven teaching principles and traditional classroom
activities. Students are more satisfy from the evaluation of their knowledge’s, because the
factor of subjectivism is missing. It has been registered that students get better motivated
to engage themselves in the training process.

REFERENCES

Abel Usoro & Bridget Abiagam University Of The West Of Scotland, Paisley, United Kingdom, Providing
Operational Definitions to Quality Constructs for E-learning in Higher Education, е-Learning Volume 6
Number 2 2009 ISSN 1741-8887 http://www.wwwords.co.uk/elea/content/pdfs/6/issue6_2.asp#1
Al-Fadhli, Salah Kuwait University, Kuwait Instructor Perceptions of E-learning in an Arab Country: Kuwait
University as a case study, е-Learning Volume 6 Number 2 2009 ISSN 1741-8887,
http://www.wwwords.co.uk/elea/content/pdfs/6/issue6_2.asp#1
238 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Branzburg, Jeffrey, (Aug 15, 2005), How To: Use the Moodle Course Management System,
http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=168600961.
Fazlollahtabar Hamed, Yousefpoor Narges, Cost Optimization in E-learning-Based Education Systems:
implementation and learning sequence, Mazandaran University Of Science & Technology, Babol, Iran,
е-Learning Volume 6 Number 2 2009 ISSN 1741-8887,
http://www.wwwords.co.uk/elea/content/pdfs/6/issue6_2.asp#1
http://moodle.com/?moodlead=moodle.general
http://www.synergy-learning.com/?moodlead=synergyie.courseware
http://www.synergy-learning.com/moodle/
http://www.ntchosting.com/elearning-web-hosting.htm
Marcais, Tom Moodle – Upgrading from version 1.5.3 to 1.8 Important Changes for Teachers,
https://moodle.sbc.edu/mod/resource/view.php?id=8088
Nedeva V., The Possibilities of e-learning, Based on Moodle Software Platform, Trakia Journal of Sciences,
Vol. 3, No.7, pp 12-19, 2005.
Nedeva V., P. Prodanov, Zl. Ducheva, D. Nedev, Moodle Lesson Activity In Measuring The Hardness Of
Materials, Trakia Journal of Sciences, Vol. 4, No. 4, pp 20-27, 2006, pp.20-27
Nedeva V., E-learning – a condition to increase the quality of education, International Scientific Conference
The Educational Policies Of European Union, Yambol, 18.05.2006, стр.94-102
Williams, Bryan, (Sep 1, 2005) Moodle 1.4.3 For Teachers &
Trainers,http://moodle.org/file.php/29/English_Manuals/Moodle_1.4.3_For_Teachers_and_Trainers.pdf
Advantages of the Web-Based Training for the Increasing Quality
of Preparation and Self-Preparation of Students from the
Specialty “Food Technology”

Margarita Pehlivanova1, Zlatoeli Ducheva1, Snejana Dineva1

(1) Technical College of Yambol, Gr.Ignatiev str. 38, Yambol, Bulgaria


margopehlivanova@abv.bg, zl.ducheva@abv.bg
sbdineva@abv.bg

Abstract
The report represents the results of implementation e-learning based lessons and
quizzes in the education of students in Technical College of Yambol, Bulgaria. The
e-learning is a way to use networking technologies that allow to access the training
materials at any possible time, permit interacting with the training environment in
convenient for the user time, that lead to improving self motivation and the
effectiveness of acquiring knowledge’s. The area of e-learning study in Technical
College of Yambol included courses in Informatics, Programming languages,
Information technology, Common and General Chemistry, Biochemistry,
Microbiology, Ecology. The results of our investigation show that the performance
of e-learning system is the reason for improving the effectiveness of the education,
as well as improving the motivation among students and teachers have been
registered.

Keywords: e-learning, effectiveness of the education, motivation

1. Introduction
The education and possibility of acquiring different competences must be available, not
only in the range of the compulsory education, but also after the beginning of an active
social life, if possible, without taking too much time from the professional, social and
personal activities. These educational tendencies, in particular for University education,
are imposed, because of the need of active involvement of the educational institutions in
the development of the European educational and scientific space; the demographic
characteristics of the students; the expanding globalization and stronger competition in
the area of educational services, especially with the introducing of the electronic and
distant learning. The implementation of Bologna strategy the EU's efforts should be
directed to unification in 2010 to educational programs in all EU member states (short
training courses, BA, MA, MD ect.). That means to develop and coordinate flexible,
modernized curricula in all areas, which to correspond to the requirements of the labour
market, and quality assurance systems (Furtunova, 2009). This demands the integration of
classic and modern educational models and establishment of new ones that can give
opportunity not only of acquiring knowledge and skills in a modern environment, but also
to develop intellect and social skills to the students, alter the accent of the education,
240 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

applying interactive methods, modification the roles of teachers and students.


Simultaneously it is necessary the education to be hold during a convenient for the
student’s time, place, way and rate.
In the management of the university education changes, regarding the integration of
information and communication technologies (IT), is necessary the Boards of the
educational facilities to make their choice on the market section of education services,
they want to place theirs offers on and for the options for suitable and modern
pedagogical technologies. For the realization of the educational policy of the university is
of big importance the understanding, the adoption and exploitation of the ideas of the
pedagogical stuff. Still, the modern educational technologies are only partially
implemented, most of the time from particular lecturers or disciplines, not like a
consistent policy and specific measures for realization (Pehlivanova and Ducheva, 2008).

2. Materials and Methods


The concept of the E-learning in Technical College –Yambol, is based on the idea of
using elements of electronic leaning (e-learning) and the relevant technologies. We
accept the idea, that e-learning is a type of learning, which preparation, implementation
and management requires using modern information and communication technologies,
including Internet.

Figure 1. The Topic format of organizing, compulsory subject Microbiology, the lessons
and test are organized by topics (or units), regardless of how long they will take
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 241

It is an attribute of the global information society - born by the necessity of the


modern student for more flexible and open education and becomes possible thanks to the
progress of the education, information and communication technologies. The goal of the
project activities is not only to enrich the traditional systems and approaches for learning,
but also to develop and integrate new pedagogical technologies in an interactive
environment.
During the theoretical validation of the development and integration of e-learning
system in the college, we accept that the web – based learning concept is inseverable part
of the Information Society concept, which technologic platform is based on digital
multimedia and global communications. Education, during which www is used as a
virtual environment, for introduction of the subjects and realization of the learning
process.
Based on traditions and cultural mission, in the Technical College -Yambol, are placed
the foundations of the e-learning. We could say that, the model, on which the learning is
based, has five main components (external environment and conditions; policy;
integration; practice; experience and effects) is suitable for our work. In the College
activity, e-learning is base on MOODLE. As a result of our work the foundations of a
technical and informational data for future distant learning took placed: virtual library
with materials - lectures and exercises on some of the subjects; tests; glossaries with the
terminology for the different subjects.

Figure 2. Sample list of questions in quiz module, compulsory subject Ecology,


developed in the Virtual Learning Environment eDuTK
242 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The e-learning materials are base for raising the quality of learning; it forms a
permanent interest in the students towards the studied subjects. The study materials in
the self-training modules are developed and approbated (Figure 1). Tests and glossaries
are also created in the college system of e-learning for the following subjects: General
and Inorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Ecology.
There are three different formats for the class (course) – Weekly, Topic, and Social
(Nedeva, 2005). The weekly format organizes the class into weeks, with assignments,
discussion boards, tests, etc, all residing in a week-by-week block. The Social format is
built around a forum (bulletin board), which is good for announcements and discussions.
The Topic format organizes everything by topics (or units), regardless of how long they
take (Figure 1.). Our courses are in topic format. They are used for e-learning by our
students, who use the resources of their home PCs by logging into http://tk.uni-sz.bg/e-
learning/.

Figure 3. The Glossary, compulsory subject Ecology, developed in the Virtual


Learning Environment eDuTK

Quiz module allows the teacher to design and set quiz tests (Figure 2). Each question
has a category. When you create a new question, it is stored in the category you select. To
create a new question, you must select the type of question you want from the pull-down
menu. You have the option of adding, which includes: Multiple choice questions;
True/False questions; A short answer question; A numerical question; Matching question;
Description question; Random set; Random short answer; A special embedded question
(Cloze). These questions are kept in a categorized database, and can be re-used within
courses and even between courses. Quiz module includes grading facilities (Nedeva,
2005).
The Glossary offers the opportunity to create and maintain a list of definitions and
terms that are specific to the content of the given area of study. The Glossary can be
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 243

separately for each lesson or thematic to the all area of the study subject. The students can
be searched or browsed in many different formats (Figure.3). It is possible to
automatically create links to these entries throughout the course.
Our considerations to choose the MOODLE are based on:
• First, this is Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic e- Learning Environment.
• Second, it includes large community of programmers and users;
• Licensed under GPL;
• Translated into 60 languages (incl. – Bulgarian).
Its build up by 9 modules, which could be extended and enlarged; compatible with
large number of browsers; it has integrated HTML editor; secure and safe; gives options
for interface setting. Our opinion is that the main advantage, from pedagogical point of
view, is that it is based on implementing the theory of the social construction, the
discussing problems and individual adaptation in the process of learning.

3. Research and Results


The main ideas of the theory of e-learning in the College are based on the following
principles:
• Student’s knowledge is built up more actively by interaction and communication
with the surrounding environment and became significant, when it is used in a
wide social context;
• The acquiring of new knowledge must be effective and students to be not only
subject of training but able to interact and take experience;
• During the process of e-learning in the given environment, the students are
affiliating in a small group, with its own characteristics and culture, with common
values and in the process of join activity they become part of that group
(Pehlivanova and Ducheva, 2008).
• There are conditions created for effective communication, feed back,
individualization and creativity.
The feed back of e-learning is taken and developed into two main aspects:
• Feed back “student – lecturer” as an ability of the student to contact his teacher for
different issues, which came out in the process of learning.
• Feed back “education effectiveness” - ability of the student to evaluate the level of
results, the gaps in the introduction of the study material, the effectiveness of the
learning.
According to the analysis of the data, this type of feed back gives a chance to the
lecturer to correct the gaps and to adapt the content, according to the specifics of the
targeted group, the current state of the scientific field and the labour market requirements.
In order to evaluate the qualities and the effectiveness of incorporated e-learning, the
inquiry research with the participation of 61 students has been made (Figure 4). The
students were from the specialties “Automatics, informational and controlling technique”
(37 students) and “Food technology” (24 students); from the 1st and 2nd year during 2006
year (Pehlivanova and Ducheva, 2008).
244 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

They were divided into three age groups:


 first group – 19 years old (23 people);
 second group 20-21 years old (26 people) and
 third group – 22-26 years old (12 people).
From the participants of the inquiry 53 of 61 were first year students and 8 students
from the second year of study; 35 with male sex and 26 female. In order to improve e-
learning and carry out monitoring, in 2009 has been conducted a new survey
questionnaire with 64 students (51 women and 13 - men) from the specialty «Food
Technology», the first, second and third course: “General and Inorganic Chemistry”,
“Biochemistry”, “Microbiology” and “Ecology”.
The data from the survey for the qualities of the e-learning shows, that 67% of the
inquired students prefer combined learning. This means that they accept the e-learning
not as a new model, but as an opportunity for improving and to overcome of the
shortcomings of the traditional forms of learning. The fact that 24,5% of the students,
most of them from the third age group, with more social experience and partly occupied,
prefer the e-learning, confirms the standpoint about the meaning of the new educational
technologies for increasing the equal social possibilities for education and qualification
during the entire life.
The aim of the investigation was:
1. to evaluate how the electronic courses influence on the effectiveness of student’s
self-preparation and are they improve the quality of obtained knowledge’s;
2. to estimate whether educational content meets the requirements for accessibility,
usefulness, applicability of the proposed information and whether it is appropriate
and understandable for the students;
3. to discover the connections between student’s skills in the field of information
technologies and e-training in the specific subjects;
4. to analyze the opinion of students about the importance of e-learning form of
education and their preferences to the way of acquiring new knowledge’s as well
as their self-motivation for learning through electronic tests.
5. the level of student’s motivation is done by indirect indicators like interest,
usefulness and necessity of e-learning and their perception for difficulty.

80% 78,13%
75%
70% 66,67%
60%
50%
neutral
40%
33,33% very much
30% absolutly yes
20% 15% 15,63%
10% 5% 6,25%
0
0%
first second third

Figure 4.The effectiveness of the developed electronic material for improving


the quality of self-preparation
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 245

40%
37,50%
35% 35%

30% 30%

25% 25%
25%

20% f irst
18,75%
16,67% second
15% 15% 15%
third
10% 8,33% 8,33%
5% 5%

0% 0%0% 0
absolutly not neutral very absolutly
no much yes

Figure 5. Preferences of the students for e-learning.

The diagram from the investigation shows that during these years students change
their opinions and preferences about the e-learning (Figure 5). Most of the investigated
students (60, 94%) have very good skills with computer technologies that support their
prosperity in other educational courses and self-preparation in a virtual environment.
Only 9% haven’t the necessary skills to work with computers.
About half of students evaluated the electronic form of training as a very interesting
and useful (Figure 6). This fact is confirmed by the results for the practical relevance of
content and form of training. This is an indirect indicator that speaks to increased
motivation for learning. Only 37% of students find that teaching content is easy for
assimilation.
The development of content in different disciplines is characterized by modules,
multiple and varied use, interactivity, flexibility about learning strategies and take into
account of student’s individual skills, time and place of usage and opportunity for
development.

0,5 50%
48,44%

0,4

0,3 26,66%
interesting
0,2 17,79% 15,63%
practical
0,1 7,81%

0 0 0 1,56%
0
absolutly neutral absolutly
no yes

Figure 6. Assessment of interest and usefulness of е-learning


246 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The advantages of assessing the preparation of students by electronic tests are that:
• they are automated;
• individualized;
• with repeated use;
• easy processing of results;
• opportunity for self-evaluation;
• data retention and production of portfolio performance of students.
According to the database 17 % of the students under investigation access as very well
the possibilities to use the electronic tests; 34 % - responded as absolute. That means that
half of the inquired students appreciated the advantages, objectiveness and impartiality of
evaluating their knowledge’s by electronic tests.

4. Conclusion
The analysis of the results and the database of our investigation enable us to make the
following conclusions:
• there are increase interest and preferences of the students from specialty “Food
Technology” to the introduction e-learning in the main compulsory disciplines;
• practicalness, usefulness and interesting way of presentation the content are the
main reasons for the increasing the motivation and the interest of the students;
• increasing the preferences to the educational materials, published on the web-
page, has been mentioned, as well as the rising the level of self-preparation of the
students;
• students reported that electronic tests overcome a large part of the effects of
subjectivism in the evaluation of their knowledge’s;
• the development of educational information in accordance to the pedagogical
criteria and indicators for quality, facilitating the adoption by students and
increased their activity.

REFERENCES

Branzburg, Jeffrey, (Aug 15, 2005), How To: Use the Moodle Course Management System,
http://www.techlearning.com/story/sho wArticle.jhtml?articleID=168600961.
Furtunova, 2009 – За модернезиране на висшето образование, Trakia Journal of Sciences, Vol. 7, Suppl. 2,
pp i -ix, 2009.
Margarita Pehlivanova, Zlatoeli Ducheva Quality of e-learning in Technical Colleage - Yambol , Bulgaria,
Technikal College – Yambol, Fourh International Bulgarian - Greek Scientific Conference, COMPUTER
SCIENCE’2008, 1-6.
Nedeva V. The Possibilities Of E-Learning, Based On Moodle Software Platform, Trakia Journal of Sciences,
Vol. 3, No. 7, 2005, 12-19.
Dynamics in the meaning negotiation: can online participation
and reification be correlated in informal settings?

Nicolò Antonio Piave

PhD student in e-Learning & Knowledge Management


University of Macerata (Italy)
E-mail: npiave@gmail.com

Abstract
According to Wenger’s theory of Communities of Practice, the learning process is a
fruit of complex dynamics that involves participation and reification processes,
which are dual and essential for the meaning negotiation. So, given that both the
processes are complementary and each cannot exclude the other, through the use of
ICT toolset within a virtual learning environment, it is possible to explore the
dynamics of the respective processes in order to trace and individuate eventual
correlation between them. Owing to the intangible nature of informal learning, a
part of reification and participation phenomena will be untraceable, because they
can happen also outside the e-learning platform, but, inviting e-learners to use a
common forum within the VLE, it is possible to have a great part of traceable data
about meaning negotiation. This paper deals with a sample of teachers invited to
create individually some multimedia artifacts in a free context, using Moodle™
environment as common communicative preferred system. Through the use of an
Sociomatrix Finder software, it was possible to extrapolate the sociometric matrix of
the teachers’ social reticle in order to esteem the individual participation level;
besides, an independent judge assessed all artifacts giving a vote to each reification.
Comparing participative and reificative data it is possible to verify the existence of a
correlations. The experience was repeated with some of teachers’ students at the
same conditions.

Keywords: informal learning, SNA, participation, reification

1. Learning as social practice and the role of educator in creating the conditions
to grant its existence and development
This paper assumes the Wenger’s Community of Practice theory (1998) as reference
according to which learning is conceived as a social activity that stands in practice of
social exchanges and in particular in the fusion between participative and reificative
processes among people. That fusion takes the name of meaning negotiation. Owing to
the complex nature of learning and the empirical evidences of the importance of informal
learning within individual and social learning processes, it is necessary for educators to
stimulate learners in participating and producing something tangible that could be
representative of meaning negotiation’s dynamics.
248 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The nature of informal learning processes, which is spontaneous, natural and free
(Cross, 2007) and the non-traditional places in which it happens (usually outside schools,
universities and other institutional places: see Lave, & Wenger, 1991), it is very difficult
for an educator to engage his/her students in informal activities, for many reasons: first,
can happen inside school’s boundaries, the major part of it is probable activated by
contacts outside school; second, assigning a precise task to learners means to impose a
precise operative strategy which is in total contradiction with the informal nature of the
processes that the educator wants to activate; third, if the educator wants to leave free his
students, he has the necessity to evaluate their activities, but, monitoring them, he in
practice would contradict the informal nature of the context in which informal learning
should happen (Piave, 2008).

2. Relationship between Participation and Reification processes


Wenger highlights how participative process represents a sort of reciprocal
acknowledgement among learners (but it can imply also a level of common engagement
among people, within the community of practice): it means that a mere measure of
participation level can be insignificant for educators who want to evaluate informal
learning. In practice, everyone can be involved at an high level without producing
nothing or can be involved a little but producing many contributions to overall activity.
Participation itself is not a measure of informal learning. In the same way, reification
process, taken alone, is not a measure of informal learning, because it represents only a
part of the whole production of an individual/community, but it does not communicate us
anything about the way in which people were being led to that point of production, and
makes difficult to individuate the individual contribution to the communitarian whole.
When participation and reification determine a meaning negotiation, they produce
informal learning: they are a duality and are complementary. Owing to the evanescent
nature of meaning negotiation, it is impossible to have a precise measure of informal
learning, but it could be possible to have an esteem, taking in count of the complementary
nature of both the processes and the possible correlation among them. The concept of
complementarity is not considered here in mathematical terms, but as an ideal approach,
in which in every single production of informal learning, there has to be both the
participation and the reification, even if a part of them could result invisible for the
observer. It implies that participation and reification can be correlated positively when
informal learning happens: in other terms, it is probably that when the participation level
is high and the reification level is also high, there could be a great informal learning
production; besides, it implies also the contrary. More difficult is to investigate the
correlation when a process is more present than the other and a possible process of
estimation could be wrong. But, in general we could assume that a low level of reification
(with an high level of participation) can be representative of a scarce (or invisible)
production of informal learning. When, instead, the reificative evidences are strong while
the participative level is scarce, it is difficult to make an esteem, because people can
produce something significant and tangible both in the cases of scarce presence and of
high involvement.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 249

This paper deals with the possibility of verifying a correlation between participation
and reification levels in informal settings which corresponds to a proof of effective
learning activity. In order to do this, the ICT toolset was implemented within a VLE (that
is MoodleTM), in which people were called to collaborate in producing a personal artefact
about a theme of own interest, giving help to own colleagues in difficulty. The individual
task was very simple, without a precise structure and granted the possibility to have a
specific proof of reification not only through the common forum’s posts but also through
the evaluation of personal production.

3. The sample and the results


The sample consists of 27 teachers, chosen from a population of 127, who showed
enough competence in the use of some web 2 applications1. The sample was divided into
two groups: A group, which represented the traditional group of peers involved in a
structured task under the monitoring activity of a tutor; B group which – instead -
operated in informal context, without the supervision of a tutor and without precise
instruction about the tools and the process of production. Both the groups were engaged
in individual task consistent in the production of a multimedia artefact about a specific
discipline. The activities made by both the groups were recorded online by VLE toolset
and then analyzed under two different viewpoints:
- in the social network analysis (SNA) perspective, in order to obtain precise data
about participation’s levels;
- by an independent judge in order to obtain a vote about personal final production
(with a number between 0 and 10), according to a fixed evaluation rubric (Arter &
McTighe, 2001; Mertler, 2001)
Given that our hypothesis is about the informal context, B group represents our
reference in this study. B group was observed in four distinct periods and the table below
synthesizes the results with help of SNA’s parameters (table 1).
The sociometric matrix was calculated by Sociomatrix Finder software, on the basis of
precise conventions applied to the tree-structure of VLE’s internal forum.
Sociometric status represents the sum of in-degree and out-degree parameters and
expresses the role that each member had within the group (Knoke & Yang, 2008). We
adopted that convention according to which it is necessary firstly to verify the presence of
a roles’ distribution in order to understand the nature of the observed group. The tutor’s
data are ignored because he was not influent on the whole process (the fact is
demonstrated by the presence of a scarce variance of sociometric status for all the other
members, who are allocated substantially on the same level).
1
This paper regards a part of a bigger experience which involved several Italian teachers in various aspect of
formal/informal learning relationship [see more in Piave (2009). Social Network Analysis for e-assessment:
reliability of formal and informal social reticles, in Proceedings of ICVL – International Conference on
Virtual Learning, Jassy (Romania)], regarding a Master Course titled “La professionalità del docente e del
dirigente scolastico”. Please make reference to that work for more clarifications about parameters and
mathematic conditions applied here and in the following paragraphs.
250 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

High level of SS for the tutor are justified because in both the groups the tutor opened
a thread to present the activity and, according to the convention of Sociomatrix Finder
software we used, the first who opens a thread in the forum, is considered as a member
who sends a message to all the group.

INFORMAL CONTEXT’S GROUP OF TEACHERS


SOCIOMETRIC STATUS DATA OBSERVED IN FOUR PERIODS
(n=13, without the influence of the tutor)
I II III IV Other data
Reification
Node SS(i) SS(i) SS(i) SS(i) SS(i) average
R(i)
Bea 1,46154 0,76923 0 0 0,5576923 10
Nifio 0,38462 0,76923 0,5385 0 0,423076943 9
papillon 0 0,07692 0 0 0,01923077 6
archimede 2,30769 2,15385 1,7692 0 1,557692325 6
morgana 0,15385 1,07692 0 0 0,307692315 5
mortisia 0,23077 0,30769 0 0 0,134615388 0
delfina 0,30769 0,07692 0 0 0,09615385 3
Ribe 1,46154 2,07692 0,1538 0 0,923076915 7
Alice 1 0,61538 0 0 0,40384616 4
Kaka 0,38462 2 0,6923 0 0,769230775 7
Prof 0,07692 0,07692 1,3077 0 0,365384615 3
Milka 0,30769 0,46154 0 0 0,192307695 10
Bros 0 1 1 0 0,5 5
TUTOR 3 3 1,9231 0 1,980769225 //
existing
No No No No
leadership

Table 1

In practice, the roles’ distribution is granted by the following mathematic condition:

0,319283 < 1,175824


Otherwise the group is formed by peers without roles’ distinctions.
Collected data (see table 1) demonstrated the informal nature of the B group: so it is a
group of peers. Even including the sociometric status of the tutor, data confim the
informal nature of the group and consequently the insignificant role of the tutor during
the whole activity, according to the informal structure of the task. There is not properly a
leader (although the tutor has constantly the highest level of participation in the group). B
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 251

group operated in an intensive way, reaching substantially the same level of participation,
with scarce differentiation.
Making reference to the votes attributed by judge about the personal artifacts made by
teachers, we can observe more differentiation.
Calculating Pearson’s coefficient between average of SS(i) and R(i) for each member,
we obtain:
0,247630411
Data show that SS(i) and R(i) are correlated positively. This measure can be
considered reasonable because of the scarce variance of SS(i) values, so that the average
of SS(i) levels seems to be significant and representative of the effective “weight” that
each member had during the production in the group. A roles’ distribution would avoid
this kind of choice.

4. Searching for further proof of correlation


In order to have a further proof of correlation, we repeated a similar experience with
some students of the previous teachers. The proposed activity was similar: in fact, it
consisted in making a personal multimedia artefact as answer to the previous artefact
made by teachers. In this case, each teacher chose five students and engaged them in the
activity( with the exception of Flox’s group which has only three members). It were
formed seven groups of students. There were 32 subjects in total, only a part of the whole
sample which will include all teachers’ students involved in this research.
Students belonging to informal groups, without the control of a tutor and in absence of
precise instructions about their task, confirmed sufficiently the data observed in the
previous stage of the experience. In particular, all students’ groups confirmed that nature
of informal group, having no significant roles’ distribution.
In this stage of the experience, we called teachers to evaluate the general learning
activity as result of their students’esperience through an interrogation in classroom. Then
we also asked independent judge to evaluate only the individual production. So here R(i)
represents the vote given by the judge to the reification process (according to the same
evaluation rubric used in the previous stage), while J(i) represent the measure, made by
teachers, of the whole students’ learning experience.
We found that (see table 2), with the exception of a one case, in all groups there is a
correlation between R(i) and J(i): in other terms, a good reification process leads to a
good level of learning, evaluable by teachers. Besides:
– in some cases the correlation between SS(i) and R(i) was inverse (Mortisia and
Nigipa), but in the major part of them was direct (all the other groups);

– in some cases the correlation between SS(i) and J(i) was inverse or absent
(Mortisia, Papillon, Kikka), while in the major part of them was direct;

Calculating the average among correlation results, we obtained that R(i) e J(i) are in
general correlated and that R(i) e SS(i) are in general correlated. The same correlation
exists in general also between SS(i) and J(i).
252 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

So, it is possible to affirm that a great level of participation (represented by SS)


implies in general a good level of reification (represented by R) and, consequently, it
leads to a better evaluation of the whole learning activity.

It is obvious that more data are necessary to obtain more significant conclusions.

INFORMAL CONTEXT’S GROUPS OF STUDENTS


ANOTHER PROOF OF EXISTING CORRELATION (N=32)
correlation correlation
correlation
SS(i) SS(i) between SS(i) and between R(i) and
Group of between
average variance external judgement external
SS(i) and R(i)
J(i) judgement J(i)
Mortisia 3,8 6,3875 -0,868158887 -0,078081003 0,441261304

Papillon 19,6 31,45625 0,650977182 -0,133909115 0,134839972

Linam 6,5 10,6875 0,166794364 0,886310304 0,01805657

Kikka 7 3,59375 0,153684188 0 0,24469154

Nigipa 2,6 0,3625 -0,890765201 0,355930691 -0,662122192

Stef 5,7 2,54375 0,461103483 0,36802481 0,431331093

Flox 8,666667 2,333333 0,928571429 0,5 0,785714286

No Existing leadership, because SS(i) variance not is = or higher than double SS(i) average

average of p results
0,086029508
between SS(i) and R(i)
average of p
results
0,271182241
between SS(i) and
J(i)
average of p results
between R(i) and 0,199110367
J(i)
Table 2

5. Discussion of findings
After the data presented in the previous paragraph, it is necessary to put some questions
for a further analysis about the observed processes:
a) why R(i) and SS(i) are not always correlated, and when they are correlated the
nature of correlation is weak (p=0,08)?
b) what are the possible reasons of the inverse correlation (p=-0,86 and p=-0,89)
happened in some cases between R(i) and SS(i)?
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 253

c) Although R(i) and J(i) represented different kinds of judgement (the former about
the multimedia and completeness of the artifact and latter the general evaluation
about the interrogation of the author’s artifact), they are correlated. Why?
d) When R(i) and J(i) are not correlated and why?
5.1 About correlation between reification and sociometric status
About a) e b) questions, it is the Wenger’s theory itself which can offer a possible
explanation: given that participation and reification are dual processes and each of them
cannot be representative of the whole meaning negotiation activity, it implies that
reification includes a part of participation activity and vice versa; so, in presence of
significant meaning negotiation activity, the correlation between SS(i) and R(i) is
probable, but it is not a certainty, because even if SS(i) is high or vice versa, the other
process can also be not productive owing to the quality of collaboration and the
exchanges within the group/community. When SS(i) or R(i) taken alone are high, it is not
equivalent to affirm the existence and the effectiveness of underlying meaning
negotiation activity. In some cases SS(i) and R(i) can be inversely correlated for the same
reason: an high level of participation does not imply, taken alone, that the learner will
produce good reification. It is also true the inverse observation: a good reification can not
imply an high level of participation automatically.
The weakness of the positive correlation, which is recorded in the major part of the
cases, is justified by the evanescent nature of the dual processes: we cannot observe all
the processes within the community, because part of them are intangible and can even
happen outside the VLE itself among learners; so it is possible to affirm that, in general,
the role in social reticle and the reification are correlated, with some exceptions.
About correlation between reification and the external general evaluation
About the c) and d) questions it is necessary to specify the nature of both the parameters.
R(i) is the subjective judgement about several aspects of the multimedia artifacts made by
teachers/students, according to a specific evaluation rubric that was known for all the
authors before the beginning of the activity. J(i) instead represents a sort of complete and
general evaluation of the results deriving from the activity: so, it includes the evaluation
about informal production and exchanges among learners, but it is calibrated on the
visible and complex results that each leaner can show through an interrogation about the
chosen theme. R(i) and J(i) are not the same thing, but J(i), in a certain sense, includes
R(i). So, it is obvious that R(i) and J(i) can be correlated in probabilistic terms.
In some cases this correlation does not happen: in other terms, what happens between
R(i) and J(i) is a direct consequence of the relationship between SS(i) and R(i). Although
an high level of participation can imply an higher level of R(i), it can also be wrong when
something within the meaning negotiation process goes wrong; so, even between R(i) and
J(i) is highly probable a correlation, but it can happen that the reification (which is not
alone a proof of the negotiation effectiveness) is not representative of a good learning.

6. Conclusion
The paper presented a brief analysis of the behaviour of two different informal groups,
working in a free way without the supervision of a tutor, in order to investigate the
possible correlation between participation and reification processes.
254 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The informal contexts and the analysis of both the processes involved in meaning
negotiation confirmed that, in general, participation and reification are correlated
positively. Besides, in general, the more a learner participates online, better he will
produces appreciated reifications and, in probabilistic terms, in presence of high levels of
participation (and therefore of reification) his/her total learning (that is formal and
informal learning, at the end of the experience) will be of better quality than in other
conditions of participation or reification. The Wenger’s theory of community of practice
seem to be confirmed by this empirical study, but it is necessary to make more researches
about this theme, with an higher number of subjects and monitoring the finality of
learning through the introduction of an e-portfolio, in order to have more data correlated
with the development of reification processes in the time.
The paper opens possible scenarios for further researches in formal settings and in the
knowledge of meaning negotiation dynamics’ related to various kind of assigned tasks
(for example collective or individual task) and time spent in the productions (for
example: will the informal group’ structure remain the same for a longer period of
observation or not?).

7. Acknowledgments
The author thanks Prof. Giuseppe Refrigeri, Full Professor of Didactics in University of
Cassino (Italy) for his disposability in putting him in condition to operate within the
Master Course “La Professionalità del docente e del dirigente” from which illustrated
data were collected. The author also thanks all teachers of Master Course (and their
students), as members of the samples, who gave their availability for this study.

REFERENCES

All trademarks belong to their legitimate owners.


Arter, J. & McTighe, J. (2001). Scoring rubrics in the classroom: Using performance criteria for assessing and
improving student performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press/Sage Publications.
Cross J. (2007). Informal learning, San Francisco: CA, Pfeiffer
Knoke D., Yang S. (2008), Social Network Analysis, Thousand Oaks: CA, Sage Publications
Lave J., Wenger E. (1991). Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Press Syndicate of the
University of Cambridge
Mertler, C.A. (2001). Designing Scoring Rubrics for Your Classroom Practical Assessment Research and
Evaluation 2(2). Retrieved from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=25.
Piave (2009). Social Network Analysis for e-assessment: reliability of formal and informal social reticles, in
Proceedings of ICVL – International Conference on Virtual Learning, Jassy (Romania)
Piave N.A. (2008). Educare all'apprendimento informale online: la scuola 2.0 fra paradosso e opportunità, in
iGel - Il giornale dell'e-Learning, II, n.5, Ancona, Wbt srl, on line at
http://www.wbt.it/index.php?pagina=669 (verified on 09.08.09)
Piave N.A. (2007), (ed.). La classe virtuale, Manduria (TA), Barbieri
Wenger E. (1998). Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, Identità. Cambridge University Press
Sociomatrix Finder is a software in the property of Nicolò A. Piave, released under Creative Commons
License.
Section

SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS

Software Solutions (SOFT):


• New software environments for education & training
• Software and management for education
• Virtual Reality Applications in Web-based Education
• Computer Graphics, Web, VR/AR and mixed-based applications for
education & training, business, medicine, industry and other
sciences
• Multi-agent Technology Applications in WBE and WBT
• Streaming Multimedia Applications in Learning
• Scientific Web-based Laboratories and Virtual Labs
• Software Computing in Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence
• Avatars and Intelligent Agents
Open learning resources as an opportunity for
the teachers of the Net Generation
Fulantelli Giovanni, Gentile Manuel, Taibi Davide, Allegra Mario

Italian National Research Council,


Institute for Educational Technology
Via Ugo La Malfa 153, Palermo, ITALY
{giovanni.fulantelli, manuel.gentile, davide.taibi, mario.allegra}@itd.cnr.it

Abstract
In this paper we illustrate a solution to reduce the gap between teachers and the Net
Generation. In the framework of an European funded project called Tenegen, based
on a former project called Sloop, we encourage teachers to produce, share,
comment, tag and modify Open Learning Objects, as their students are used to do on
the Net with different types of information. In such a way, teachers are involved in
network social activities, use Web 2.0 tools, and their learning objects are the
examples of application of collective intelligence. To sum up, teachers emulate their
students’ learning behavior.

Keywords: Open Learning Objects, Open Educational Resource, Net Generation,


Connectivism, Web 2.0

1 Introduction
During the last 5 years, the number of repositories of digital educational contents has
rapidly increased, as a consequence of the diffusion of e-learning methodologies and
solutions in schools. Despite this, the number of teachers using, producing and sharing
digital contents is still low. The adoption of the Learning Object (LO) paradigm as the
main model for the content in most of the Learning Management Systems set up in
schools has not facilitated the use of digital contents by teachers. Actually, the technical
standards behind the LO model (e.g. SCORM) represents one of the main obstacles to the
adoption of the LO model by teachers, together with the initial lack of software packages
that could simplify the creation of SCORM compliant LOs. Consequently, for many years
the production of educational materials for e-learning has been demanded to the digital
content providers and developers, usually cooperating with traditional editors, thus
compromising one of the principles of e-learning 2.0: the possibility for a community of
teachers to produce and share their own materials.
In order to support teachers in the production and sharing of their educational material,
in 2005 we started a European funded project called SLOOP: Sharing Learning Object in
an Open Perspective (Masseroni and Ravotto 2005). Two of the main results of the
project were an extension of the Learning Object model, called OpenLO, and the concept
of a new category of software tools called Learning Object Management Systems
258 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

(LOMS), which extends the typical functionalities of a Learning Object Repository,


providing users with tools to collaboratively produce learning resources. In Sloop, we
developed a first example of LOMS, called FreeLOms; by hiding technical aspects and
guaranteeing compatibility with standards in a transparent way, FreeLOms allows
teachers to concentrate on the content to be developed.
During the 2 years of the project, some important concepts emerged in the Educational
Technologies field: a different use and interpretation of the Web, called the Web 2.0
paradigm (O’Reilly, 2005); the existence of a new generation of students, referred to as
Digital Natives (Prensky, 2001) and Generation Y (McCrindle,2006), or generally
defined as Net Generation; the need and opportunity of Open Educational Resource
(OER) models (Atkins et al., 2007; OECD, 2007; OLCOS, 2007). Some of these concepts
had been defined some years earlier, but during the last 3-4 years they have become
argument of discussion in the schools.
The Sloop project coped with most of these concepts: the OpenLO model as an
application of the more general OER paradigm; the social ties amongst teachers as
fundamental elements to elaborate educational materials in a cooperative way; the
produced LOs as the result of collective intelligence. The involvement of the Net
Generation, even if not part of the project activities, was one of the future activities that
emerged during the project: “A future development - SLOOP 2.0 and freeLOms 2.0 –
could directly involve young people, the digital natives [....] a student instead of tagging
only photos and videos and downloading music would tag didactic resources adding
her/his personal tag to those of the teacher; that a student would access resources not
because of the teacher’s instructions but because other students has tagged them as
useful.” (Ravotto, Fulantelli, 2007).
In 2008 we have had the opportunity to cooperate to a new European funded project
called Tenegen: Connect the TEachers to reach and teach the NEt GENeration, explicitly
aimed at reducing the gap between teachers and the Net Generation. The OpenLO
concept is being transferred to the Tenegen project with the objective to encourage
teachers to participate in the production of a shared resource, which will be commented,
tagged and modified by other users of the Net. In other words, teachers will behave as the
Net Generation usually does. Specifically to the Tenegen project, the shared resources
will be Open Learning Objects, and FreeLOms will be part of the platform that will
support the social network learning activities.

2 The Sloop project and its main results


The 2-year Sloop project, run from September 2005 till September 2007, involved 10
partners from 5 countries (Italy, Ireland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain), and was promoted
and coordinated by ITSOS Marie Curie, Italy. Following the successful stories of the free
software/opensource movement, the main objective of the project was the development of
free educational resources accessible from everyone and open to external contributions.
The Learning Object model was adopted as the paradigm for the digital contents to be
produced by teachers. Even though there were several reasons to follow the wiki-way
solution, specific considerations convinced us to adopt a more formal model:
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 259

– the standards behind the Learning Object model guarantee accessibility,


reusability and interoperability that are central concepts in the SLOOP project.
– an approach based on LOs does not limit the digital formats used to develop
content, this is different to Wiki where there are some limitations; a solution
which does not preclude the possibility to transform any digital content into
didactic material fits better with the fundamental ideas of the SLOOP project, i.e.
the sharing of digital content which exists already on thousands of computers all
over the world. For example, a power-point presentation need a re-engineering
work to be adapted to the wiki environment, while the same presentation can
easily fit into the LO model and maintain its main characteristics.
– the methods used to search for didactic resources based on the wiki model, up
until recently, are usually based on free text search. This places considerable
limitations on the identification of didactic resources made up of more wiki pages
with hypertextual links. The LO model overcomes this problem by an ad hoc
standard which allows all the resources to be described in a formal way, such as
the IEEE LOM (IEEE, 2002);
– finally compliance with the SCORM standard (ADL 2004), which is widespread
in the LO world, is mandatory in Italy for organisations supplying distance
learning courses at a university level.
Nevertheless, we also took into account the main criticisms that had put in doubt the
pedagogical value of LOs: the difficulty to practically guarantee re-usability and the
technical difficulties connected to standards in the production of LOs. In order to
overcome these limitations, we have defined the Open Learning Object model (OpenLO):
Starting from Wiley’s definition of learning object (Wiley 2000) we define open learning
object as “any open digital resource that can be reused to support learning”. In this
definition the term open indicates open content, namely content developed in open format
(e.g. Open Document) or content in closed format whose source files are also available
(e.g. Adobe Flash). In addition it refers to open licenses (e.g. Creative Commons) thus
allowing users to freely modify and reuse learning objects. (Fulantelli et al., 2007)
Our vision of reusability is not simply based on combining LOs but goes beyond this
towards a pedagogical concept of reusability in which a LO can evolve to meet specific
educational requirements. The OpenLO model allows users to edit LOs created by
different authors, and customize the LOs according to their own pedagogical needs; in
addition, communities of educational professionals can work on the same LO and
contribute to its collaborative evolution at content level. Finally, the replication of this
process of adaptation of LOs at content level over time is a mechanism that can provide
pedagogical sustainability of the LOs.
In the implementation of the OpenLO model, and in the definition of educational
methodologies based on this model, it is relevant to focus on three main aspects: 1)
changing the life cycle of Learning Objects and consequently the methodologies for
producing these resources; 2) assigning a dynamic role to metadata, which should evolve
in parallel with the life of the learning object. 3) moving from current Learning Object
Repositories (LOR) to innovative Learning Object Management Systems (LOMS). To the
aim of this paper, we focus on the third aspect. In-depth discussions on the other aspects
can be found in (Fulantelli et al., 2008).
260 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

According to the report on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for Open
Educational Resources (VV.AA., 2006), the traditional tools to manage the elaboration of
LOs can be divided into: authoring tools, tools to implement learning technology
standards, learning object repositories, learning management systems, collaborative
environments for sharing LOs. A teacher wishing to develop a LO needs to have all the
skills required for using different tools to handle the LOs in the different phases. This
represents a major obstacle for teachers in adopting the LO paradigm. In addition, these
tools are not suitable for managing the evolution of LOs and controlling the dynamics
introduced by the new OpenLO model.
For this reason it is essential to design a new kind of environment which can manage
LOs throughout their entire lifecycle. This kind of platform, that we call Learning Object
Management System (Gentile et al., 2006), allows teachers and experts to create a
network where they can participate collaboratively in the processes of design,
development, sharing, reusing and evaluation of open learning resources through a typical
Web 2.0 approach. In our vision, a LOMS is a Rich Internet Application; at the same time
a LOMS can be seen as a set of services accessible through the Web from different
applications. The goal is to make it easy to use the services provided by a LOMS, and not
to impose specific software, but rather to propose a philosophy that makes the creation,
management and reuse of digital educational resources efficient and effective.
In the framework of the Sloop project, we have developed a specific LOMS, called
FreeLOms. In order to manage learning objects created in a variety of digital formats and
provide users with tools to support collaborative activities, FreeLOms has been designed
by means of an abstract model of the contents which is able to manage different formats
of learning materials, thus facilitating sharing, retrieving and reusing of LOs. FreeLOms
includes functionalities for:
− uploading digital educational resources into a repository (LOs in SCORM
terminology: Assets, SCOs or Content Aggregations);
− editing LO IEEE Metadata (IEEE 2002); editing of metadata can occur at any stage
of the LO lifecycle, and not only when it is uploaded into the platform;
− searching LOs shared by the users; specialized and personalized searches can also
be defined (these features meet the needs of authors who usually apply the same
search criteria, e.g. to search some specific topics for their discipline);
− managing existing LOs in SCORM vision, by allowing users to edit Assets, SCOs
and Content Aggregations (CAs);
− creating Content Aggregations by using the resources available in the repository;
− managing the changes made to the didactic contents through versioning and
differencing, both at metadata and content levels (more precisely, these features
will make it possible to handle the contributions supplied by each user on the same
LO, thus guaranteeing the “collaborative evolution” of LOs);
− transforming digital contents developed in technical formats unsuitable for learning
platforms, into contents compliant with the SCORM standards; this functions is
limited to some formats
− communicating asynchronously and/or synchronously with other users in order to
support group processes; this reflects the typical functionalities available in a Computer
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 261

Supported Collaborative Work system, providing an efficient environment for the


collaborative management of didactic resources.
The Sloop project and the FreeLOms platform have been successfully evaluated both
by the community of teachers grown around the project, and from the official evaluator of
the EC Agency (grade: 9/10).

3 The Tenegen project: main objectives


Tenegen is a 2 year project, involving 11 partners from five countries (Hungary,
Germany, Italy, Turkey, United Kingdom), promoted and coordinated by Prompt-G
Educational Centre for Informatics, Hungary.
The project will valorize the results of two earlier LdV projects: SLOOP and NETIS
(http://www.ittk.hu/netis/index.html). NETIS provides the philosophical, sociological,
and pedagogical basis to support new paradigms of teaching and learning in the
Information Society. The aim of Tenegen project is to establish an European environment
of connectivism (Siemens, 2005) for VET teachers and trainers, to show the significant
advantages of being connected to the Net generation instead of simply delivering
knowledge through virtual classrooms and Learning Management Systems
(www.tenegen.eu).
The main objectives of the project are:
− to elaborate a pedagogical model of network learning and connectivism;
− to develop an online repository of Open Learning Objects;
− to develop a TENEGEN network learning environment based on open source LMS;
− to elaborate and implement five training modules in three languages (HU, EN, TR);
− to establish pilot training courses for teachers and trainers;
− to validate and verify the results in VET schools;
− to disseminate the results all over Europe.
The project intends to deliver the new paradigm of network learning to the teachers
and trainers in the vocational education, to help them “to reach and teach the Net
Generation”.

4 The OpenLO model and FreeLOMS in the Tenegen context


One of the most interesting challenges we have to face in the Tenegen project is how to
train teachers from traditional schools on new pedagogies for the Net Generation, by
using a distance course. In fact, we are talking of 3 different educational models to be
handled: learning in traditional schools, that have their roots in the first decades of the
XX century, mainly teacher-driven learning; informal and self-directed learning, typical
of young people who were born almost 1 century after traditional schools; and distance
learning, which is not organized and managed as a school course, either as a strongly
informal and social space where learning is self-organized and directly controlled by the
learners.
Accordingly, the original challenge becomes: how to make transitions amongst the 3
models smooth. The answer is through the distance course that will be organized in
262 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Tenegen. Most of the attempts worldwide to reduce the gap between teachers and the Net
Generation focus on the learning needs and attitudes of young students, and tend to train
teachers on the pedagogical models that best suit young students and on the ICT tools
used by them.
This is an extremely important part of the whole process, and it is one of the main
goals of the Tenegen project as well. However, very few experiences focus on the
learning needs of the teachers, which are as important as the teaching skills targeted by
most of the research projects. How can we support teachers to speak the same language -
in Prensky’s vision (Prensky, 2001) - as their students? We could organize a traditional
course, maybe in the school lab; or we could invite teachers to join a social network, and
try to stimulate learning through dialogue and personal interests. Both these methods will
encourage learning and produce some knowledge. But do these methods suit learning
needs and attitudes of teachers used to teach in a traditional classroom?
The solution adopted in Tenegen is to introduce VET teachers and trainers to the new
pedagogies and tools gradually, through a distance course based on Moodle and
FreeLOms, where they can still find their cultural and social references (teachers,
educational resources, learning objectives to achieve, learning outcomes to produce, and
so on), and at the same time to make them to experience the new pedagogical models, to
use the new ICT tools and to establish social ties aimed at developing Open Learning
Objects. In such a way, transitions between the different pedagogical models will be
smooth enough to allow teachers to get closer to the Net Generation learning behaviors.
Specifically to the transfer of the FreeLOms platform, the new version reviewed
according to the Tenegen needs, will be called the TenLOs system. As mentioned before,
the TenLOs system aims at two distinct aspect: providing the Tenegen partners and the
teachers involved in the project with a respository of digital learning resources; secondly,
providing teachers with a tool that can allow them to cooperatively develop learning
objects. The second aspect represents one of the strategic aims of the Tenegen project,
consisting in the fostering of significant collaboration processes between the teachers
through the Net. Online social networking mechanisms amongst students are usual: quite
often, students activate informal learning processes and develop knowledge implicitly
through these networks. By using the TenLOs system to cooperatively develop and share
open learning objects, we provide teachers and trainers in Tenegen with an example of
net-tool that can be used to develop knowledge (as digital learning resources) in a
network. In this case, knowledge is produced in an explicit way.

5 Conclusions
Last June, Italian students at their final year of high school were asked to write an essay
concerning Social Networks, Internet and New Media, based on some excerpts from
different authors, including Castells and De Kerckhove. This topic received a very
positive feedback by the students. However, this raised an interesting debate in Italy,
around the question if Italian teachers, and in general teachers in traditional schools
worldwide, can properly evaluate and assess the thoughts expressed by the students. The
debate reflects a real problem in the traditional educational system: teacher competences
need to be renewed in order to reduce the gap between them and their students.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 263

Teacher education and training is at the top of the European policy agenda (European
Commission, 2008), and similar interest can be found worldwide. Nevertheless, each
initiative aimed at improving teacher competences should take into account teacher
resistance to change: informal and non-formal learning; self-directed learning; collective
intelligence are examples of concepts which are popular in the web 2.0 conception,
typical of the Net Generation, but hardly accepted by teachers working in traditional
contexts.
In this paper we have illustrated a solution to reduce the gap between teachers and
their students, In the framework of an European funded project called Tenegen, based on
a former project called Sloop, we encourage teachers to produce, share, comment, tag and
modify Open Learning Objects, as their students are used to do on the Net with different
types of information. In such a way, teachers are involved in network social activities,
use Web 2.0 tools, and their learning objects are the examples of application of collective
intelligence. To sum up, teachers emulate their students’ learning behaviour.

REFERENCES

ADL - Advanced Distributed Learning (2006), SCORM 2004 3rd Edition, Content Aggregation Model
(CAM), Available at ADLNet.gov, November, 2006
Atkins, D. E., Brown, J. S. & Hammond, A. L. (2007). A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER)
Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities. (online): OERderves. Retrieved July 1,
2009 from http://www.oerderves.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/a-review-of-the-open-
educationalresources-o
Cardinaels, K., Meire, M. and Duval, E. (2005): Automating Metadata Generation: the Simple Indexing
Interface, In Proceedings of ACM 1-59593-046-9/05/0005 International World Wide Web Conference
Committee (WWW 2005), Chiba, Japan.
Collis, B. and Strijker, A. (2004) Technology and Human Issues in Reusing Learning Objects, Journal of
Interactive Media in Education, 4. Special Issue on the Educational Semantic Web. ISSN:1365-893X
[www-jime.open.ac.uk/2004/4]
European Commission (2008). Draft 2008 joint progress report of the Council and the Commission on the
implementation of the 'Education & Training 2010' work programme "Delivering lifelong learning for
knowledge, creativity and innovation" - Adoption
Fulantelli, G., Gentile, M., Taibi, D. and Allegra, M. (2007): The Open Learning Object model for the
effective reuse of digital educational resources. In Proceedings of the Openlearn 2007: Researching open
content in education, Milton Keynes, UK.
Fulantelli, G., Gentile, M., Taibi, D., and Allegra, M. (2008). The Open Learning Object model to promote
Open Educational Resources. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. http://jime.open.ac.uk/2008/09/
Gentile, M., Taibi, D., Allegra, M. and Fulantelli, G. (2006) A collaborative “open Learning Objects”
managements system. WSEAS Transactions on Advances in Engineering Education 6, 3, ISSN:1790-
1979, 586-592.
Han, P., Kortemeyer, G., Krämer, B. J., von Prümmer, C. (2008) Exposure and support of latent social
networks among learning object repository users. Journal of the Universal Computer Science 14,10,
1717-1738.
IEEE 2002, IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee : IEEE Standard for Learning Object Metadata
1484.12.1.
Masseroni, M. and Ravotto, P. (2005): SLOOP: un progetto europeo per un archivio condiviso di Free
Learning Object. In Proceedings of the EXPO eLearning Conference, Ferrara.
McCrindle, M. (2006). New Generations at Work: Attracting, Recruiting, Retraining & TrainingGeneration
Y: McCrindle Research
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O’Reilly, T. (2005) What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of
Software. http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).
OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Centre for Educational Research and
Innovation (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources,
SourceOECD Education & Skills, Vol. 2007, No. 3, May 2007
OLCOS (2007). Open Educational Practices and Resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012. (online): OERderves.
Retrieved Oct 30, 2007 from http://www.olcos.org/cms/upload/docs/olcos_roadmap.pdf
Ravotto P., Fulantelli G., (2007). The Sloop idea: sharing free/open learning objects. In Sloop – Sharing
Learning Objects in an Open Perspective, 2007.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, Retrieved Sept 15, 2008 from
http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
VV.AA. (2006). Report of the discussion on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for Open Educational
Resources (2006). Retrieved Jan. 2008 from: http://oerwiki.iiepunesco.org/images/
1/17/FOSS_for_OER_final_report.pdf
Wiley, D.A. (2000): Connecting learning objects to instructional design theory: A definition, a metaphor, and
a taxonomy. The instructional use of learning objects, D. A. Wiley Editor.
Applying Agent-Based Technology to
University Knowledge Management

Mihaela Oprea1, Elia Petre2

(1) University Petroleum-Gas of Ploiesti, Department of Informatics


Bd. Bucuresti Nr. 39, Ploiesti, RO-100680, ROMANIA
E-mail: mihaela@upg-ploiesti.ro
(2) University Petroleum-Gas of Ploiesti, Department of Informatics
Bd. Bucuresti Nr. 39, Ploiesti, RO-100680, ROMANIA
E-mail: elia_petre@yahoo.com

Abstract
A university knowledge management system is composed by three components: the
educational management, the research management, and the institutional
management. The high complexity of the whole university knowledge management
system, that is also a distributed system, can be handled by using a multi-agent
system. Through communication and cooperation the agents are solving different
problems specific to knowledge management in a real or virtual university. The
agents are associated to the humans involved in all processes (e.g. educational,
research, institutional) that are running in a university, such as professors,
assistants, students, researchers, technical staff, management staff, administrative
staff etc. The paper presents an university knowledge management system based on
agents technology. Two case studies are described in detail, one for the university
research management, and the other for the educational management. The
implementation of the agent-based system was done in ZEUS, a toolkit for multi-
agent systems development.
Keywords: University knowledge management, Multi-agent systems

1 Introduction
Knowledge management (KM) became an important research area in the last decade, with
applications in most of the domains (e.g. industrial, governmental, medical, economical,
educational) [1], [7], [9]. It deals with knowledge and collaboration management in a
specific organization. The purpose of KM is the management of activities related to
knowledge creation, preservation, distribution and also, the management of the
collaboration between people [8]. A strategic domain that uses and provides knowledge is
the educational domain [3], [4]. In this paper, we focus on the higher education domain,
and we propose an agent-based model for the university knowledge management system.
Other agent-based solutions that can be adopted for the management of some university
activities are presented in [2] and [6].
The university knowledge management system, that is a distributed system, can be
modeled as a multi-agent system, associating agents to all humans involved in the
266 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

processes that run in the university (educational, research, institutional etc). Thus, we
have personal agents for professors, assistants, students, researchers, technical staff,
management staff, administrative staff. The paper presents an university knowledge
management system based on agents technology. The implementation of the agent-based
system was done in ZEUS, a toolkit for multi-agent systems development. Two case
studies are described in detail, one for the university research management, and the other
for the educational management.

2 University knowledge management


Knowledge management provides a systematic and holistic approach for the
improvement of knowledge handling at all levels of an organization in order to fulfill the
organization’s business goal. In the particular case of a university, knowledge
management refers to the three main activities: teaching, research, and university
(institutional) management. Figure 1 presents the organizational structure of a university.
The basic organizational units of a university are the department and the faculty.

UNIVERSITY
MANAGEMENT

FACULTIES

DEPARTMENTS

Figure 1. The organizational structure of a university

Usually, a university is composed by a number of faculties, and some independent


departments (e.g. administrative, distance learning, pedagogical training, research), and
has students and employees (teaching / research staff, technical / administrative staff etc).
A faculty is composed by a number of departments, and a number of specializations for
students (undergraduate, postgraduate, master, PhD), has students enrolled in different
study programmes, and has a secretariat and a management team. Each department has
teaching, research and technical staff, plus a secretariat, and a head of department, and is
directly involved in the teaching and research activities. Each administrative department
(e.g. accounting, personnel) has administrative staff (e.g. accountants, personnel staff),
and is directly involved only in the institutional processes.
The management of a university is provided by a university management team that is
composed by a rector, a number of vice-rectors, and a scientific secretary. Each faculty
has a faculty management team composed by a dean, a number of vice-deans and a
scientific secretary.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 267

Figure 2 shows the modular structure of the University KM system.

UNIVERSITY
MANAGEMENT

INSTITUTIONAL TEACHING RESEARCH


KNOWLEDGE KNOWLEDGE KNOWLEDGE
MANAGEMENT MANAGEMENT MANAGEMENT

UNIVERSITY Knowledge Management System

Figure 2. The modular structure of a University KM System

The teaching knowledge management module is dealing with all the didactical
activities done in the university (e.g. teaching courses, training in laboratories, student’s
examinations, and so on) for different forms of study programmes. Related to the
didactical activities there are some auxiliary tasks such as admission exams (in July and
September), student’s enrollment (in September), university courses and laboratories
scheduling (at the beginning of each semester). The teaching knowledge sources are
specific to each study programme. Examples of teaching knowledge sources and products
are hard copy and electronic courses and laboratories materials, manuals, textbooks,
software tools, computer networks.
The research knowledge management module is dealing with all the research activities
done in the academic departments or in the independent research departments (research
centers, research laboratories). The research activities are done under national and
international research projects. Examples of knowledge sources and products are research
papers, research reports, Master and PhD theses, computer software, inventions (e.g. new
devices).
The institutional knowledge management module is dealing with all the activities done
for the good functioning of the university so that its main goal is reached, i.e. a high
quality educational system based on training and research, according to the current needs
on the national and international employment markets. Some institutional activities are
the management of all faculties and departments (i.e. including students, and all
university personnel), university budget planning, management of projects for the
university development (e.g. university infrastructure development projects). Examples of
institutional knowledge sources and products are the university charta, university
management quality guide, different university management guides and methodologies,
laws and norms.
268 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

3 An agent-based system for university knowledge management


Starting from the considerations made in section 2, we have designed the generic
architecture of a multi-agent system for university knowledge management, UnivKM,
that is shown in Figure 3.

Legenda:
Agent University
Management
MAS

Faculty MAS Faculty MAS

Department Department
MAS … MAS

Figure 3. The generic architecture of the UnivKM multi-agent system

UnivKM multi-agent system is organized modular and hierarchically, and is


composed by agent-based modules (i.e. multi-agent systems – MAS, of less complexity)
corresponding to the university management team, to each faculty and to each
department. The agents (i.e. personal agents) are corresponding to students, professors,
assistants, researchers, technical staff, administrative staff, and management staff. Each
MAS module (university management, faculty and department) has a manager agent of it
(corresponding to rector, dean, head of department, chief accountant etc), and the agents
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 269

that collaborates between them and with the manager agent for university specific
activities. The system UnivKM can be viewed in different ways depending on the
activities that are followed, teaching, research, and institutional. Thus, particular
architectures, specific to different applications, can be generated.

4 Case studies
We have implemented the agent-based university knowledge management system for two
applications of university research management, and educational management. The
development of the UnivKM multi-agent system was done in Zeus, a Java-based toolkit
for intelligent agents.

4.1 University research management


The first application consists in the analysis of the university research activity quantified
in the production of articles published in ISI journals, and the participation in national
and international research projects. All the required information are collected by agents
from databases with data about the research activity done by the teaching and research
staff of each academic department. Figure 4 presents the architecture of the multi-agent
system UnivKM specific to this first application.

University_resp Agent

Faculty_resp Agent

Mathematics_resp Agent Informatics_resp Agent

Research_Mathematics_resp Agent Research_Informatics_resp Agent

Figure 4. Specific architecture of UnivKM multi-agent system for


university research management application
270 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Each person involved in this application has a personal agent. The involved persons
are the persons responsible with research at the university level, at each faculty level, and
at each department level. In our case study we have considered the Faculty of Science and
Letters from the University Petroleum-Gas of Ploiesti, and two departments from this
faculty, Department of Mathematics and Department of Informatics.
The University_resp agent initializes the agents’ communication asking the
Faculty_resp agent to provide the faculty research report for a certain academic year
(selected from the interface). To achieve this goal, the Faculty_resp agent asks the needed
information furthermore to the Mathematics and Informatics departments. The two
research responsibles from these departments extract the information from a MySQL
database, where all the needed data are stored from the academic year 1990-1991. Once
extracted from the database, the information are presented in a special report to the
department responsible, and furthermore to the faculty responsible, which centralize
them, and send the final report to the university responsible for analysis of the university
research activity. The ontology of the multi-agent system includes terms specific to this
application (e.g. ISI_article, International_project, National_project,
Informatics_research, Mathematics_research), that are used by the agents during
communication. Figure 5 shows the interface of the system during a run for the academic
year 2008-2009.

Figure 5. System interface during a run


The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 271

Figure 6 presents a screenshot of the UnivKM multi-agent system run, with the DOS
windows, corresponding to each task agent. Figure 7 presents the agents society for this
application.

Figure 6. Screenshot of the UnivKM multi-agent system run

Figure 7. The agents society for UnivKM multi-agent system run


272 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 8 presents the Zeus task graph for the application.

Figure 8. The task graph for UnivKM multi-agent system

4.2 Educational management


The second application consists in an agent-assisted students examination for online
examinations that provides the test score by taking into account the number of the correct
answers given by the student and the total duration of the test answering. As a case study
we have considered an agent-based system that simulates an Object Oriented
Programming test taken by a student and revised by the teacher. Figure 9 shows the
specific architecture of UnivKM for the educational management application.

TeacherAgent

Take_the_test Give_the_results

StudentAgent

Figure 9. The specific architecture of UnivKM multi-agent system for


the educational management application
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 273

Once the student starts the application, he will be explained the test’ rules and the
conditions in which the examination will take place. The 10 multiple choice questions test
window appears after pressing a button. This event will trigger the timer which will be
stopped only when the test is ready. The test finish is confirmed by pressing the Submit
button. The responses will be sent to the TeacherAgent for revision and the test’ results
are displayed in the Test Results window.

Figure 10 presents a screenshot of the system run.

Figure 10. Screenshot of the UnivKM multi-agent system run for the educational
management application

Figure 11 and 12 show the user interface of the test system, and the Object Oriented
Programming test.
274 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

Figure 11. User interface of the test system

Submit

Figure 12. The Object Oriented Programming test


The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 275

5 Conclusion
The paper presented a generic architecture of an agent-based system for knowledge
management in a university. Also, we have described two experimental systems
developed for an application from the university research management (research activity
analysis), and for an application from the educational management (online students
examination). For simplicity, we have developed a specific ontology for each application.
Another solution would be to use the general university management ontology presented
in [5] and to add the application specific terms.
Intelligent agents can improve the benefits obtained in the implementation of an
university agent-based knowledge management system, due to their characteristics of
autonomy, flexibility, pro-activity and sociality [10], [11]. The collaboration and implicit,
the communication involved in a knowledge management system can be modeled in a
natural way in multi-agent knowledge management systems.

REFERENCES

[1] Bodea C., Andone, I. (2007): Knowledge management in the modern university, in Romanian, ASE
Printing House, Bucharest.
[2] Dignum, V., Dignum F. (2003): Agent-Mediated Knowledge Sharing. In Proceedings of CEEMAS 2003,
Springer, 168-179.
[3] Luan, J. (2002): Data Mining and Knowledge Management in Higher Education – Potential Applications.
AIR Forum, Toronto, Canada, 2002.
[4] Mikulecká, J., and Mikulecký, P. (2000): University Knowledge Management – Issues and Prospects.
Research report. University of Hradec Králové. Czech Republic.
[5] Oprea, M. (2009): An Ontology for Knowledge Management in Universities, In Proceedings of the 9th
International Conference on Informatics in Economy. ASE Printing House, Bucharest, 560-565.
[6] Oprea, M. (2006): Multi-Agent System for University Course Timetable Scheduling. Proceedings of
ICVL 2006, Bucharest University Press, 231-238.
[7] Smith, R.G., and Farquhar, A. (2000): The road ahead for knowledge management. AI Magazine, Winter,
17-40.
[8] Valente, G. (2004): Artificial Intelligence Methods in Operational Knowledge Management. PhD Thesis.
Università degli Studi di Torino.
[9] Weber, R., and Kaplan, R. (2003): Knowledge-based Knowledge Management. In Innovation in
Knowledge Engineering, 4:151-172.
[10] Weiss, G. (1999): Multiagent systems, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
[11] Wooldridge, M., and Jennings, N.R. (1995): Intelligent agents: theory and practice. The Knowledge
Engineering Review, 10(2):115-152.
Differential Geometry of Surfaces with Mathcad:
A Virtual Learning Approach
Nicolae DăneŃ

Technical University of Civil Engineering of Bucharest


124, Lacul Tei Blvd., Bucharest, RO-020396, ROMANIA
E-mail: ndanet@cfdp.utcb.ro

Abstract
In this paper we propose an alternative to traditional teaching techniques of
Differential Geometry. The new concept is to create a virtual learning environment
by using modern software with good capabilities for plotting curves and surfaces.
For this purpose we used Mathcad because this software has a user friendly
interface in which it is easy to combine math equations, plots and texts.

Keywords: Differential Geometry, surfaces, tangent plane, Mathcad.

1. Introduction
Teaching Differential Geometry of surfaces for students in engineering is a difficult task
for every teacher, because this topic requires not only that the students have solid
knowledge of geometry, calculus and linear algebra but they must also have a good 3D
imagination. The Differential Geometry requires the use of visual tools for better
understanding, because it is three–dimensional geometry with high complexity degree.
Traditionally, for the study of a surface the teacher draws on the blackboard the surface,
the tangent planes and normal lines at some point of the surface, some curves on surface
and the angles between them etc.
In this paper we propose an alternative to traditional teaching techniques of
Differential Geometry. The new concept is to create a virtual learning environment by
using modern software with good capabilities for plotting curves and surfaces. For this
purpose we used Mathcad because it has a user friendly interface in which it is easy to
combine math equations, plots and texts. The models initially created by teacher for his
lectures can be later used by students for the visualization of new surfaces or for
computation of some numerical characteristic associated to the surfaces. All these facts
are possible because the environment is an interactive Mathcad e-book in which the
students can make their own changes and can see immediately the answer to these
modifications.
Section 2 contains some theoretical background about the surfaces. This section is
necessary especially for recalling the formulas used in the rest of the paper. Section 3
contains an example. To show the possibility offered by the techniques base on Mathcad
for teaching Differential Geometry of surfaces we choose to study a simple surface: the
elliptic paraboloid. In Section 4 there are some short conclusions.
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 277

2. Surfaces in Space: A Theoretical Background


A set D ⊂ R 2 is called a domain if it is open and connected. The domain D is called an
elementary domain if it is homeomorphic to an open disk. (A homeomorphism from a
geometric figure to another is a one-to-one map that is continuous and has continuous
inverse.)
A set S in space is called an elementary surface if it is the image of a planar
ρ
elementary domain D under a homeomorphism r : D → R 3 . If we fix in R 3 the
σρ ρ
canonical orthogonal basis { i , j, k} then the surface S has the parametric vector
equation
ρ ρ ρ ρ
[1] r ( u, v ) = x ( u, v ) i + y ( u, v ) j + z ( u, v ) k , ( u, v ) ∈ D .
The pair of the real numbers (u, v ) is called the curvilinear coordinates of the point
P( x , y , z ) on the surface. In what follows we assume that the functions x ( u, v ), y ( u, v )
and z ( u, v ) are of class C 1 on D . Such a surface is called smooth.
If in equation [1] we take v = v0 as a constant and let u varying, then we obtain a
space curve on the surface S ,
ρ ρ ρ ρ ρ
[2] Γu ( v = v0 ) : ρ1 (u ) = r(u, v0 ) = x (u, v0 ) i + y (u, v0 ) j + z (u, v0 ) k ,
called the coordinate u – curve. The derivate vector
ρ ρ
dρ1 ∂r ρ
[3] ( u0 ) = ( u0 , v0 ) = ru ( u0 , v0 )
du ∂u
is the tangent vector at the curve Γu at the point P0 ( x0 y 0 , z 0 ) , where
x 0 = x ( u0 , v0 ) , y 0 = y ( u0 , v0 ) , y 0 = y ( u0 , v0 ) . Similarly, for u = u0 and v
varying, we obtain the coordinate v – curve on S ,
ρ ρ ρ ρ ρ
[4] Γv ( u = u0 ) : ρ 2 ( v ) = r ( u0 , v ) = x ( u0 , v ) i + y ( u0 , v ) j + z( u0 , v ) k ,
and the tangent vector at the curve Γv at the point P0 ( x 0 y0 , z 0 )
ρ ρ
dρ 2 ∂r ρ
[5] ( v0 ) = (u0 , v0 ) = rv (u0 , v0 ) .
dv ∂v
ρ ρ
We assume that the tangent vectors ru ( u, v ) and rv ( u, v ) are linearly independent at
every point (u, v ) belonging to D . This is equivalent with the fact that the cross product
ρ ρ ρ
N = ru × rv is nonzero at every point (u, v ) ∈ D .
ρ
The plane through point P0 ( x0 y 0 , z 0 ) parallel to vectors ru ( u0 , v0 ) and
ρ
rv ( u0 , v0 ) is called the tangent plane to the surface S at P0 . This plane is denoted by
TP0 ( S ) and has the vector equation
ρ ρ ρ ρ
[6] T( a, b) = r (u0 , v0 ) + a ru (u0 , v0 ) + b rv (u0 , v0 ) , a, b ∈ R .
278 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

The vector
ρ ρ ρ
[7] N(u, v ) = ru (u, v ) × rv (u, v ) , (u, v ) ∈ D ,
is called the normal vector to the surface S at the point P( u, v ). The straight line
through the point P0 ( x 0 y0 , z 0 ) of the surface S orthogonal to the tangent plane
TP0 ( S ) is called the normal line to the surface S at point P0 . The vector equation of
the normal line is
ρ ρ ρ
[8] L(t ) = r (u0 , v0 ) + t N( u0 , v0 ) , t ∈ R .
An arbitrary curve Γ on the surface S is locally defined by equations for the
curvilinear coordinates u = u(t ) , v = v(t ) , with t in a real interval I . The vector
equation of the curve Γ is
ρ ρ
[9] ρ(t ) = r (u(t ), v(t )) , t ∈ I .
ρ
The length of the curvilinear segment situated on the curve ρ(t ) between the points
M 1 (t = t1 ) and M 2 (t = t 2 ) is computed with the formula
t ρ
[10] L( M1M 2 ) = ∫ 2 ρ' (t ) dt .
t1
For unexplained notions about surfaces see (Rovenski, 2000) and (Lipschutz, 1969).

3. A Case Study: The Elliptic paraboloid


The elliptic paraboloid of semi-axis a and b has the equation
1  x 2 y 2 
z=  + .
2  a 2 b 2 
A simple way to obtain parametric equations for this surface is to put x = u , y = v and
1  u 2 v 2 
z= + ,
2  a 2 b 2 
or, x = 2 a u , y = 2 b v and z = u 2 + v 2 . Thus the vector equation of the elliptic
paraboloid is
ρ ρ ρ ρ
[11] r ( u, v ) = 2 a u i + 2 b v j + ( u 2 + v 2 ) k , u, v ∈ R .
The plot of this surface using this parameterization is shown in Figure 1. (For all the
plot of the elliptic paraboloid we will use the values a = 1 and b = 1 for semi-axis.)
A better parameterization for plotting this surface is given by
ρ ρ ρ ρ
[12] r (u, v ) = 2 a cos( v ) i + 2 b sin( v ) j + u 2 k , u ∈ R, v ∈ [0, 2 π ) .
See Figure 2 for an elliptic paraboloid plotted using this equation.
The equation of the elliptic paraboloid must be defined in Mathcad in the form:
The 4th International Conference on Virtual Learning ICVL 2009 279

We now define a point P0 on the surface. To plot this point we use the Mathcad
function “CreateSpace” defined for a constant vector function P(t ) .

The coordinate curves which pass through the point P0 are defined by formulas [2]
and [4]. They are plotted by using “CreateSpace” function.

Attention! First plot the point and the coordinate curves and then the surface. For the
first three plots use the option “3D Scatter Plot” and for the last plot use the option
“Surface Plot” from Graph menu. Figure 2 shows the two coordinates curves on the
surface.

r P0 , Γu , Γv , r
Figure 1 Figure 2
280 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

To plot the tangent plane and normal line we first define the derivatives of the vector
ρ ρ ρ
function r (u, v ) , that is, the vectors ru ( u, v ) and rv (u, v) , and compute their values by
using symbolic computation.

Now we can define the normal vector at the surface

The tangent plane and the normal line to the surface at the given point P0 have the
equations given by the formulas [6] and [8], respectively.

Figures 3 and 4 show the tangent plane and the normal line to the surface at the given
point.

P0 , Γu , Γv , r , T P0 , Γu , Γv , L , r , T
Figure 3 Figure 4
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Let us now consider the following two curves which pass through the point ( u0 , v0 )
in the planar domain of definition of the surface. Figure 5 shows the graphs of these
curves.

5
u0
3
v1 ( t )
v0
1
v2 ( t )
0 2 4 6
1

u1 ( t ) , u2 ( t )
P0 , Γ1 , Γ2 , t1 , t2 , r
Figure 5 Figure 6

Then we define the two corresponding spatial curves situated on the elliptic paraboloid.

For plotting these curves we use the Mathcad function “CreateSpace”.

In order to plot and to compute the angle between these two curves we define the
derivative vectors of the curves,
282 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

and then the tangent lines to curves at the point ( u0 , v0 ) ,

The curves on the surface and the angle between them are shown in Figure 6.
This picture suggests that the angle between these two curves at the given point is
equal with π / 2 . A simple computation confirms this observation.

We can also easily calculate the lengths of these two curves.

Now we consider the following three curves on the elliptic paraboloid

These curves determine a curvilinear triangle on the paraboloid as we can view in


Figure 7.
To compute the perimeter of this curvilinear triangle we define the derivative vectors
of every curve.

Then the perimeter is


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Finally, we define the tangent lines to the fist two curves at origin, which is their
common point, and represent these lines. (See Figure 8.)

The angle between these curves at origin is

C1 , C2 , C3 , r C1 , C2 , C3 , t1 , t2 , r
Figure 7 Figure 8

4. Conclusions
Differential Geometry is considered a difficult topic by the students in engineering
because using it requires good skills in geometry, calculus and linear algebra. But the first
difficulty for them is to “see” the surfaces and the curves in space.
The paper shows that using modern software like Mathcad the teacher can help the
students to really see the surfaces and all the other elements related to them (coordinate
curves, tangent planes, normal lines, arbitrary curves on surfaces etc.). By using Mathcad
the teacher has a huge advantage: the equations are written in Mathcad similar to the
blackboard. The students can easily see the connections between surfaces and their equations.

REFERENCES

Lipschutz, M. M. (1969): Differential Geometry. Schaum’s Outline Series, McGraw-Hill, New York, San
Francisco.
Lorczak, P.R. (2001): 3D Plotting from the Mathcad Treasury. Updated to Mathcad 2001. MathSoft
Engineering and Education, Inc.
Rovenski, V. (2000): Geometry of Curves and Surfaces with MAPLE. Birlhäuser, Boston, Basel, Berlin.
Restructuring the Easy Learning On-line Platform

Radu Rădescu, Radu VelŃan, Raul Tudor

Polytechnic University of Bucharest,


Applied Electronics and Information Engineering Dept.
1-3, Iuliu Maniu Blvd., Sector 6, ROMANIA
E-mail: rradescu@atm.neuro.pub.ro

Abstract
The present paper deals with the methodology used to reinvent the Easy Learning
platform, in order to facilitate the overall control of this e-learning system. The
main goal was to increase the coherence in writing the code and in designing the
database. Therefore, the programming errors are easy to detect and the flexibility of
the platform modules is increased. The best solution was to use the Symfony
architecture, for its independence on the database. The restructuring of the platform
has two purposes: unification of the existing database components and
standardization of the basic rules for programming.

Keywords: eLearning platform, Symfony architecture, Modules design

1 Introduction: Implementing Problems


The need to restructure the learning process without influencing the quality of
information passed on to the student is the very first problem we encounter when trying
to migrate from a classic education system to eLearning. As long as the tutor who creates
the course bears in mind the end result, which is the current level of the student and the
goal level he should reach, the teaching process’s quality will not suffer.
The eLearning term is starting to be interpreted in various ways and even if
standardization is applied, it will not be able to fit the term in strict boundaries, as this
term has become generic. The passing to the virtual teaching methods must be done in
such a manner so that the human model will not diminish in any way its methodic and
didactic skills. From this perspective, the virtualization must be done based on pragmatic,
humanizes methods with applicability in real life.
This section identifies some issues that might occur and stifle the transition process
and the inherent risks any change creates.
The additional work that the tutor is supposed to put into in order to modify the
didactic material as well as restructuring the presentation form of that material is the first
problem we encounter. Even if the manual used in the classic system contains the right
information, if it is just transferred in an electronic environment the result will be far from
the desired one if the material is not properly adjusted [2].
In addition, the additional work will need more advanced skills in computer science
and maybe the second problem is more pressing than the first for many tutors who are
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experts in their fields, but have limited knowledge in IT. A solution to this problem could
be a prior course in computer use before the actual undertaking of an eLearning course,
so that tasks such as manipulating web texts and e-mail correspondence become trivial.
When a tutor is forced to work, only with eLearning tools without any background
training the chance of dismissal of the entire web-based system rise dramatically.
eLearning is much more than a simple web page creation for a certain course; it must
also involve the constant communication between the tutor and the students of the virtual
class. Only in this way, the human factor can intervene in the students forming process.
The simple posting of an electronic content and password-protected access is without a
doubt insufficient for the implementation of an eLearning system.
The mentioned problems generate a third one: additional funding is needed, as
expenses rise (due to overtime, or the further training of already employed staff or even
creating new jobs) because the finished product is directly linked to the quality of the
human resource. Besides these expenses, more are generated by the need to upgrade the
infrastructure (both hardware and software) of the institution.
The funding issue is therefore a serious one, even if software is purchased (such as
Blackboard, WebCT, etc.) or the platform is produced in-house (such as the Easy-
Learning platform). Again, the same problem pops up: the training needed for the staff
that will manage the hard and soft components of the eLearning system.
This section presents the risks that might occur when the mentioned problems are
treated superficially, as well as the ones generated by the unsuited handling of teaching
methods and course development. The major risk involved in an eLearning system is the
students loss of interest in both this kind of teaching method and the courses included by
the system. An on-line course can never substitute for a tutor’s charisma and his ability to
adapt to a certain situation through a subtle humor or changing the pedagogic strategies at
the right time. Therefore, it is a real possibility that the rupture created by a virtual
environment will cause a student to become estranged from the community. Although
creating virtual communities is a priority in an eLearning system, nothing can really
substitute for human interaction.
Although there are many on-line communication methods, both synchronous (chat
rooms) and asynchronous (e-mail, forums), the loss of communication between the
student and tutor, as well as between the students themselves is a real danger. Many times
a student seeks in the education process a right of passage into the real world.
That is why the introduction of active mediators in forums and appointing a percent of
the grade to the student’s involvement in the on-line discussions are suggestions that
could maintain an acceptable communication level [2].
In addition, this dependency on technology for the complete teaching process is a risk
in itself. Any problems that appear in the infrastructure hide the students’ access to
information. That is why every precaution must be taken in order to avoid situations like
the above. Although there are many risks involved, the migration to an eLearning system
is strictly necessary. Society is evolving and the learning process seems to become never-
ending, and this implicitly will lead to the creating of more-and-more on-line teaching
systems. The key is to make the transition with at little risks as possible and always adapt
the transition process to the society’s needs. This is why illustrating and describing the
problems that might occur is the first step in solving them.
286 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

2 The Structural Model of the Database


The structural model of the Easy-Learning platform is centered around the relational
database. It stores in well-defined tables the entire structure of the software application. It
is the main component of a learning platform, and a good design is imperative for the
smooth functioning of such a project.

Fig. 1. The Easy-Learning Database Diagram


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Figure 1 illustrates the database structure and its tables. As the database was
implemented, the main factors that were taken into account were:
• Logic;
• Homogeneity;
• Simple links between tables;
• Uniform structure;
• Maintaining a buffer zone for further additions of tables and fields.
If these simple conditions are met, the project will have a solid foundation, extremely
easy to handle.
At a first glance, it may look crowded and hard to follow. Actually, we tried to create
very simple table relations, with as few link tables as possible. This was achieved by
limiting the number of fields a table can have. This led to a higher table count, but it was
a small price to pay considering the logic and control it offers.
We should note the fact that even the most complex query does not link more than
three tables simultaneously, which dramatically reduces the query’s execution time to a
few ms, a big improvement considering the old platforms results.

3 The Administrator, Tutors, and Students Modules


These three modules should be analyzed and presented together because of the close
relationship that exists between them. A student or a tutor, even if they will exist
separately in the „students” or „tutor” table, they both will have an associated user,
through which they can access the platform.
The users module is extremely important, because this module manages all
permissions and access rights in the Easy-Learning platform. It must be said that this
module is a plug-in for the existing platform, and it should be explained a bit first. The
entire plug-in comes with 8 separate tables in the database, and it will store every user in
the database, as well as the user groups, and the permission of every user profile.
The Easy-Learning platform has three types of user groups: Administrator, Student
and Tutor. Each group can access just one interface of the platform. The groups and the
group’s permission can be managed through the sfGuardGroup and the
sfGuardPermission modules in the administrator interface. These three groups have been
deemed sufficient for the current platform, and although this type of segmentation can
seem stifling (as an example it can be argued that the administrator should access all the
interfaces) there are strong arguments to indicate otherwise.

4 The Administrator Interface


The administrator interface can be considered as the backbone of the entire application.
Within this interface, users as well as their permissions are managed, as well as the
school years, which are used in the new database structure as the essential separator
between students and courses. As every course and student group are linked to a school
year, a better management of the class book was tried, as the old platform had problems
in that sense. As an example, there can now exist two student groups with the tag
288 University of Bucharest and “Gh. Asachi” Tehnical University of Iasi

„443A”, which can have very different students, or even common ones, if a student failed
a year and was obliged to retake it, but each group situation is stored and interpreted
differently. In addition, because a similar link exists between any course and a school
year, it means we can keep a clear statistic for every year.
As we can see from the database diagram, the „course” table is in the center of the
database, because of the multiple direct or indirect links it has. As data consistency it is a
must in every database, an automated generator was used to create the modules which
manage every table linked to the „course” and „users” tables. The current platform allows
just configuring a „generator.yml” file and a completely functional module is auto-
generated by the Symfony framework.
Thus, the advantages Symfony offers were used to their full potential, and the actual
work was lessened, once the manipulation process of such a generator was fully
understood. Although this type of generator offers more than enough advantages, there
were some moments when it was not enough and certain custom actions were necessary
to maintain the logical way of introducing information into the database.
Each module is secured through the pre Execute () function, which is present in every
module. The Symfony framework will execute this function before anything else in each
module, and in this function, the logged user’s permission rights are verified. If he does
not have the right credentials, access will be denied. This check may seem redundant, but
it comes to prevent a Symfony spec saying that a logged user can access any interface.
Therefore, a logged student could have access to the tutor and administrator interfaces,
but this preliminary check removes any doubts regarding the platform’s security.

5 The Tutors Interface


In this interface much of the actions undertaken by the administrator in the „course”,
„notice” and „time table” modules have been kept, as it also a tutor’s job to create and
manage the above modules, as the information he can have access to is limited.
As every tutor must log in order to access the interface, a major problem had to be
overcome: how to display and manage only the information directly linked to the logged
tutor. This issue had to be resolved, because the whole point of an authenticated interface
is to limit the displayed information for the tutor, but also provide total control over that
particular information.
Thus, the „course” module will only show the courses that are directly linked to the
logged tutor, and the tutor will have full control over this data. The same criterion is
applied to the „notice” and „time table” modules, because they are closely linked to the
„course” module. This way we ensure the fact that tutor X will have full control over his
information, but can’t access any of tutor Y’s information, leaving the administrator the
only type of user who can access all the information, avoiding abuse and false data entries.
Besides the mentioned modules, which have also been automatically generated, just
like every module in the administrator interface, the first custom build modules have
appeared. These modules were harder to create, because the code had to be written from
scratch.
It should be mentioned that even the custom modules have the same 4 base actions as
the automatically generated ones, which are adding, editing, listing and deleting, for the
following reasons:
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The automatically generated code is extremely robust, but also very flexible, thus the
same conduct of writing code was attempted.
The php files from the view layer could be copied from the automatically generated
ones to keep coherence at a visual level throughout the application
Thus two more modules have been added, „personal data” and „documents”.

6 The Students Interface


The logic behind all that management in the administrator and tutor interfaces is to
inform the students. Although in this particular interface the student will be able to
manage just one thing, its personal data, and the real important fact is the information
quantity displayed by the platform to each student.
He will have access only to the information he is interested in: which courses he is
undertaking, what are his grades for each course, his colleagues, tutors and time tables for
every course.
As we can see the courses are in the center of this information web, and it is
represented, to be more specific, by the links created between a course and a student in
the database through the administrator and tutor interface
In fact, all the work undertaken to create courses, student groups, faculties and so on
was done so that the student can accumulate knowledge from only a click away, which is
the end result of the Easy-Learning platform. Alongside this central goal, the tutors now
have a more elegant and transparent way to manage their students and courses.

7 Conclusions
The Easy-Learning platform started out as a simple project, but, as the years passed, it
became, though extremely useful from the student’s point of view, a very hard to control
teaching instrument. Because every year somebody else appended new code to the
existing one, because every programmer has a specific style, and mostly because the
database had become incoherent, any bugs that had to be handled or improving an
existing segment became daunting tasks.
It became clear that a ground restructuring was needed, and it had the following
guidelines:
Joining all the existing databases that served the same platform into a single one, a
database that could offer data cohesion and the flexibility of adding new tables as the
platform grows.
Standardization of the code written and laying some ground rules as to how the code
will be written and commented, so that any programmer can easily understand and debug
old code, as well as writing new one in the same manner.
The Symfony platform was a