eLearning, Interactive Hypermedia, Neuroscience and Digital Learning Module Creation

Javed Alam Civil/Environmental and Chemical Engineering Department Youngstown State University Youngstown, Ohio, USA 44555 jalam@cc.ysu.edu
This paper explores the possibilities of using the recent findings within the area of Neuroscience for developing effective instructional material in the digital form using the interactive hypermedia components that can be used for effective delivery of eLearning. The different components of eLearning, eLearning infrastructure, Interactive Hypermedia are described. A review of findings from Neuroscience for the brain functions that are deemed relevant for learning process is also provided. scope of the existing learning theories to accommodate the different characteristics of the new media. The additional variables that are prominent in the newer media are, a visual nonlinear narrative, and the introduction of interaction with the content that changes its behavior upon the response from the user. It is anticipated that a properly designed multimedia content should lead to better retention of attention and learning experience for the learner. This could also be helpful in providing immediate feedback to the learner leading to a rapid learning experience.

2. eLearning Basics
The convergence of print, radio, TV and interactive media in the form of interactive hypermedia opens up many new possibilities and also challenges in designing effective instructional material for eLearning on the sound learning design principles. However, at the present time these principles are constantly evolving due the rapid changes in the capabilities of the media itself. eLearning follows the traditional instructional design model as described in the reference[2] • • • • • Analyze - analyze learner characteristics, task to be learned, etc. Design - develop learning objectives, choose an instructional approach Develop - create instructional or training materials Implement - deliver or distribute the instructional materials Evaluate - make sure the materials achieved the desired goals.

1. Introduction
The Information and Communication technology (ICT) provides an infrastructure that allows creation and dissemination of the information in digital form. It facilitates the creation of digital content that could be used for communication and collaboration purposes. The eLearning is an emerging application that is built upon the infrastructure supported by ICT. The eLearning methodology [1] differs significantly from the traditional teaching and learning approach. Its effectiveness depends on the implementation of the pedagogical approaches that are based upon the “Learner Centered” design that encourages “Active Cooperative Learning” style of the learners. The introduction of the hypermedia based digital content helps in drawing the attention of the younger generations who are more tuned into the current “Visual Culture”. The existing learning theories that are used to design the instruction material are based upon the use of traditional media such as text books that are linear in the presentation and highly text oriented. These theories use Cognitive Psychology as their theoretical foundation. They have been successfully used in the past in developing effective pedagogical approaches and the supporting material for learning. With the introduction of digital content based upon the interactive hypermedia there is a need to expand the

The eLearning is modeled as mapping of the traditional teaching and learning practices to the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It consists of the following: 1. The wired or wirelessly connected desktop, laptop computers and small form factor



computing devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) to the Internet. The computers running the web server and application server software including the Learning Management Software (LMS) and Learning Content Management Software (LCMS). The implementation of Learning Design (LD) is accomplished through the LD software tools that are add on to the application server software. The eLearning content that can further be subdivided into the following categories:

• • • • •

eContent, that deals with the subject matter, similar to a traditional text book. eLecture, that simulates the traditional lectures eAssessment, that simulates the traditional tests and surveys eSimulation, that simulates the traditional laboratory and learning experiments Standalone and web based Symbolic and Numeric Mathematical Compute engines.

The four hypermedia components that are used in creating eLearning content are: • • • • Hypertext (includes hyperlinks) Graphics (Images, Photographs and Vector-based Drawings) Digital Sound Animation/Digital Video

The interactivity can be added through the use of scripting languages. The existing ICT infrastructure allows creating and disseminating the digital content at a lower cost. The multiple copies of the digital content can be made with an ease without any additional cost. This provides a competitive edge for the use ICT in eLearning when compared with the traditional approach of teaching and learning. Traditional print media provides a higher resolution when compared with the screen resolution of the computer monitor, 1400dpi vs. 75-125 dpi. There is a need for better design principles to overcome this drawback to make eLearning model more effective. The animation and video content can seamlessly be integrated within the same interactive digital document. The design and creation process of an effective interactive

hypermedia document at the present time is similar to creating an artwork. There is a strong need to develop sound design principles for creating this type of documents that can be used for eLearning for enhanced learner experience. There has been a debate within eLearning community about “No Significant Difference” phenomenon [3, 4]. This relates to the comparison between classroom teaching and online learning. It shows that there is no significant difference in the outcomes of learning between two modes of learning. However, it is difficult to evaluate the subjective experience, emotional and motivational drive of the learners during the learning process. The traditional approach of teaching and learning appeals to the cerebral part of the brain that produces a cold feeling, requiring learner to be self motivated to achieve desired learning outcomes. It is possible to design learning modules using interactive hypermedia that also have emotional and motivational appeal providing an engaging experience for the learners. However, this area is still in its infancy and needs further research and development. The ideas within the newly emerging areas of “User Interface Design” and “User Interaction Design” [5, 6, and 7] emphasizing user experience and the new findings within Neuroscience about the working of the brain, together form a body of knowledge that can be used as a basis for developing effective eLearning content. That enhances the learning experience also making accelerated learning possible.

3. Neuroscience and Learning
The field of Cognitive Psychology itself is moving in the direction of more empirically grounded Cognitive Neuroscience. The researchers in the area of Neuroscience are studying the functions of different parts of the brain [8, 9, 10, and 11] of humans and animals as it relates to the sensations, perceptions and the motor responses including the basic emotions. The behavioral and cognitive processes are also studied within Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience. The mappings of different neural correlates to the actual stimuli and responses are accomplished through the use of noninvasive techniques such as PET and FMRI scans of the brain. These findings hold a strong potential for developing sound learning design principles that can be

utilized for creating hypermedia based digital content for learning. The researchers in the area of Cognitive Neuroscience have been successful in identifying the neural correlates responsible for many well known cognitive tasks performed by the human brain. In some cases the findings revalidate the existing theories of Cognitive psychology and provide a more empirical grounding to the theories of behavior modification. They are also discovering new information about the functioning of the human brain and how it responds to novel stimulus and changes. There is a need to further explore the use these recent findings in brain based research for developing effective learning schemas. The Organization of Economic-Development and Development (OECD) published a report entitled “Understanding the Brain: Towards a New Learning Science”. This report [12] explores the potential use of findings within Cognitive Neuroscience on learning design. The book by Zull [13] also explores these parameters based upon the theories and findings of Brain Science.

4. Neural processing in Learning
The learning in its simplest form can be characterized as behavior modification caused by the learning process. Therefore, the theories from Neuroscience in this area become relevant for learning design. The role of the following brain processes is essential in learning process: • • • • • Visual/Aural stimulus processing Memory sub systems Emotion/Motivation processing Neural-plasticity Attention processing

The brain contains special cells known as Neurons that communicate with each other through the synaptic connections by the use of neurotransmitters. Different parts of the brain are specialized in performing different tasks and it utilizes these units in parallel to carry out several different tasks to complete a project. A typical learning session will involve many activities; therefore, it will utilize many distinct parts of the brain dynamically and the mental processes described above. In the first step, the learner is presented with the multimedia learning module requiring the use of Visual and aural processing units [14] of the brain to create an internal mental representation of the learning material. The visual and aural stimulus is processed by the visual and aural cortex of the brain. This step may also require the mental faculties of inductive and deductive reasoning

located in the left and right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex. The relevant information is at first stored in the small working memory [15, 16, and 17] and the long term memories of the learning material are created in the hippocampus region [18] of the brain. The process of long term memory formation is dependent upon the emotional arousal of the learner’s brain through the release of neurotransmitter in the part of the brain that processes the emotions such as Amygdala, Hypothlamus, and brainstem [19, 20, 21, 22]. Ulate [23] discusses the importance of emotional arousal on learning in virtual environments. The high motivational factor to direct the actions towards a desired task is dependent upon the Brain’s reward circuits. These are well defined circuits within the brain and require the release of neurotransmitter Dopamine in the Nucleus Accumbens and Ventral Tegmental area of the midbrain. The effect of Dopamine on arousal and goal seeking are well documented in the area of drug addiction, gambling etc [24]. It is anticipated that the same rewards circuits can be used for developing high motivation for learning if the learning material is designed appropriately to excite this part of learner’s brain. The use of video games for entertainment purposes most likely utilize these brain circuits leading to a highly rewarding activity. It is possible to use concepts that are used to design video games for creating engaging and entertaining digital content for eLearning. A memory reconstruction process is used to recall the learned material during the evaluation phase of the eLearning. Neural-plasticity [25] is defined as the reconfiguration of synaptic connections and formation of new synaptic connections between neurons during learning activity. This is the core process that makes learning a possibility. Recently, it was found that this process remains active in the elderly [26] providing a basis for life long learning for the adult population. All of these brain processes are mediated by the learner’s attention and the neural circuitry that is involved in the process of attention [27]. A simplified model of the brain can be built by dividing it into three parts namely, reptilian, mammalian and cerebral cortex respectively. The symbolic, linear, text based older media is more likely to create a neural excitation in the cerebral cortex part of the brain. However, attention, long term memory formation, emotional, and motivation related to drives of goal seeking are found to be highly dependent on the excitation of the reptilian and mammalian part of the brain. These findings partly explain the persuasive nature of the TV as a visual medium because it produces activation within the reptilian and mammalian part of the brain that is considered older part of brain from evolutionary perspective.

The Interactive Hypermedia content is viewed through a video screen that is the same as a TV screen with a higher resolution, therefore, it is quite possible to design Interactive Hypermedia content to activate these brain centers to accomplish the desired purpose of enhanced learning. The interactive Hypermedia is a combination of print and video with interactivity and it provides several additional options that are not available for traditional media such as print. This observation makes it possible to tailor the digital content based upon the interactive hypermedia to enhance these responses of the brain leading to a productive learning experience. Studies [28, 29, and 30] are based upon this idea and they test some promising concepts. However, this conjecture needs more future work to establish the framework that connects the findings of Neuroscience, User interface and Interaction design and digital content creation based upon the interactive hypermedia to create effective learning modules that can be used for eLearning.

[11] Synaptic Self: How Our Brains become who we are by Joseph LeDoux [12] Understanding Brain: Towards a New Science of Learning, OECD Publication, 2002 http://www.eng.ysu.edu/~jalam/FIL0405/resources/oecdlearnin gbrain.pdf [13] The Art of Changing the Brain:Enriching the Practice of Teaching Exploring the Biology of Learning, Dr. James Zull [14] “Functional Brain Mapping During Free Viewing of Natural Scenes” Andreas Bartels* and Semir Zeki, Human Brain Mapping 21:75– 83(2004) [15] Parallel Distributed Processing: Explorations in the Microstructure of Cognition : Foundations (Parallel Distributed Processing) by David E. Rumelhart, et. al [16] Video Lecture http://ftp.prmediacast.speedera.net/ftp.prmediacast/sideshow/I HF/asx/Dr_McGaugh_62202_High.asx [17] A Summary of General Memory Processes http://neuro.psyc.memphis.edu/NeuroPsyc/np-ugpmemoryx.htm [18] Eichenbaum, H., Otto, T., Cohen, N.J. (1994). Two functional components of the hippocampal memory system. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 17 (3): 449-517. [19] The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux (Simon and Schuster, 1996). [20] “Emotion, memory and the brain,” by Joseph LeDoux , Scientific American, June 1994, p. 50–57 [21] Affective neuroscience: the foundations of human and animal emotions by Jaak Panksepp [22] “The neurobiology of positive emotions” Jeffrey Burgdorfa, Jaak Panksepp a,b,* Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 30 (2006) 173–187 [23]“The Impact of Emotional Arousal On Learning in Virtual Environments”, by Stephen O. Ulate, M.S. Thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, September 2002. [24] “The neurobiology of pleasure, reward processes, addiction and their health implications”, Tobias Esch 1,3 & George B. Stefano 2,3, Neuroendocrinology Letters No.4 August Vol.25, 2004 [25] The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force by Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Sharon Begley [26] “Training benefits brains in older people, counters aging factors”, http://www.news.uiuc.edu/news/06/0216brain.html [27] “The brain circuitry of attention”, Stewart Shipp, TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.8 No.5 May 2004 [28] “Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design” John Sweller,1,4 Jeroen J. G. van Merrienboer,2 and Fred G. W. C. Paas3, Educational Psychology Review, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1998 [29] “A Paradigm Shift in Interactive Computing: Deriving Multimodal Design Principles from Behavioral and Neurological Foundations”, Kay Stanney et. al., International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 17(2), 229–257 [30] “The Multimedia Mind: Optimizing Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning”, Robert Whelan, Program in Educational Communication and Technology, Submitted in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy , the School of Education, New York University, November 10th 2002

5. Conclusions and Recommendations
The study of the functioning of the Brain within the discipline of Neuroscience as described will help in developing a new form of learning science. The digital learning content in the form of hypermedia presents new challenges and it is suggested that the design of effective learning content will require a whole new set of learning design strategies. Future activities will pursue the integration of these two disciplines to establish eLearning strategies for Engineering Learning Information Systems.

[1] Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Editors: Terry Anderson and Fathi Ellourni, Athabasca University, 2004 [2] Instructional Design, from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructional_design [3] Elearning vs Classroom http://www.elearnspace.org/starting/elearningvsclassroom.htm [4] No Significant Difference Phenomenon http://www.nosignificantdifference.org/ [5] “The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web” by James Garrett, New Riders Publishing, http://www.jjg.net/elements/pdf/elements_ch02.pdf [6] The Professional Association for Design, http://www.aiga.org/ [7] Interaction Modeling http://www.boxesandarrows.com/ [8] Know Your Brain, NIH Publication No. 01-344Oa, April 2001 [9] Brain facts: A Primer and on The Brain and Nervous System, Society of Neuroscience, 5th Edition, 2005 [10] How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker.

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