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JEDAN KONCEPCIJSKI PRISTUP PERSONALIZOVANOM E-UČENJU

A CONCEPTUAL APPROACH TO PERSONILIZED E-LEARNING
Dragan Domazet
Fakultet informacionih tehnologija u Beogradu


Sadržaj – Rad izlaže koncepcijski pristup adaptivnom i
personalizovanom e-učenju zasnovanog na analizi
zahteva za školovanje tokom životnog veka. Koncept se
zasniva na praćenju napretka korisnika sistema u toku
procesa učenja. Sistem može da meri njegovo trenutno
znanje i da ga poredi sa ciljevima učenja i ciljnim nivoom
znanja, i da saglasno tome, konfiguriše i isporuči nova
potrebna znanja. Ovakva iteracija se može ponoviti
mnogo puta, sve dog se ne dostignu postavljeni ciljevi
učenja. U radu se diskutuju i otvorena istraživačka
pitanja i predlaže se koncepcijsko rešenje jednog
adaptivnog i personalizovanog sistema za e-učenje koji je
posebno pogodan za učenje tokom životnog veka.
Abstract – In the paper, a conceptual approach to
adaptive and personalized e-learning is proposed, based
on the analysis of requirements of life-long learning. The
concept is based on tracking the progress of a learner
during the learning process. The learning system can
measure his current knowledge, compare it with learning
goals and target knowledge levels, and to configure and
deliver new piece of knowledge. The iterative loop can be
repeated many times, or continuously, until the specified
learning goals are achieved. The paper discusses open
research issues to be addressed and suggests a
conceptual solution for an adaptive and personalized e-
learning system that is particularly suited for life-long
learning.
1. INTRODUCTION
In this paper we show that this traditional e-learning
methodology needs to be replaced with a more flexible
and personalized e-learning methodology. We do not cite
the references that provide arguments for this paradigm
shift, as a very good overview of references and
discussion is found in [1]. In this paper we try
to give our reasons for supporting adaptive and
personalized e-learning,
to specify requirements for personalized e-learning
systems,
to describe our concept of a new personalized e-
learning system that meets specified requirements, and
to highlight the most important open research issues
that need to be addressed and solved before a such
operational personalized e-learning system can be
developed
2. WHY PERSONALIZED E-LEARNING?
The classical problem in learning is how to overcome the
difficulties related with diversity of learners’ abilities,
knowledge levels, motivation, learning styles, etc. An
ideal solution is to provide a face-to-face educational
relationship between an instructor and learner.
Unfortunately, it can not be a general solution, not only
because it can not be feasible, but it would be a very
expensive solution. E-learning has potentials to provide a
solution to the problem. The body of knowledge in a
particular area of interest can be decomposed to atomic
components, called learning objects. Learning Objects
(LO) are defined as any entity, digital or non-digital,
which can be used, re-used or referenced during
technology supported learning.
Figure 1 depicts a typical procedure for preparing of
learning material for e-learning. It can be noticed that all
learners of a course get the same learning material,
regardless of their current or initial knowledge, learning
styles or preferences, different level of motivation,
different attitudes about teaching and learning, and
different responses to specific instructional practices.
To demonstrate these differences, in Figure 2 we show a
hypothetical outcome of an e-learning course in case of
five learners. The course material of a traditional e-
learning course provides the knowledge defined as the
difference between the target knowledge (defined
Finding of document sources
Finding of document sources
Selecting specific parts of
documents that could be
reused and creating new
material
Selecting specific parts of
documents that could be
reused and creating new
material
Defining the sequence of
documents and fragments
Defining the sequence of
documents and fragments
Location A
Server 1
Location A
Server 1
Learning objects
Defining the curriculum
planning that would fit with
the pedagogic approaches
Defining the curriculum
planning that would fit with
the pedagogic approaches
Preparation of
learning material
Preparation of
learning material
Developer of
Learning
Components
Learner
Course Developer
Learning
Components

Figure 1 The process of preparing and delivering of
learning materials to learners in a traditional e-learning
system
according to the specified learning objectives) and the
expected initial knowledge of learners. Obviously, this
assumption is never true, as learners always have different
knowledge and skill levels at the beginning of a course.
Similarly, at the end of the course, learners achieved
different knowledge levels. The learner No.2 succeeded to
learn more then the learning material provided, as he or
she searched for additional learning materials and
knowledge sources. On the other hand, learner No. 3, No.
4, and No. 5 did not reach the target knowledge level. As
their initial knowledge levels were below the expected
one, they had to look for additional learning material to
first fill their knowledge gaps. Due to this, they had
difficulties to acquire new knowledge provided by the
received learning material.
Besides providing these four groups of knowledge,
personalized e-learning systems need to implement an
adequate level of structure of on-line courses, according
to different types of learners (Fig. 3). Learners who have
difficulties with learning, may easier learn by using a
more structured on-line course in order to guide them (or
push them) towards the RK level. On the other hand,
more motivated, capable and interested learners may need
more freedom of choice when choosing the learning
content to acquire, i.e. they usually need non- structured
on-line courses. Figure 3 also shows that courses required
for higher degrees usually may be less structured. It is
logical to expect that master and PhD students need to
search and use different knowledge areas and sources. So,
an e-learning system has to provide them such a
flexibility and therefore, PhD courses, and at the certain
degree, master courses, should be non-structured. On the
other hand, introductory courses can be very structured, as
the knowledge that they should provide is usually
precisely defined and the learning paths are well explored,
allowing development of a very structured on-line
courses.
Learners are engaged in learning with different intentions
and motives. Our practice at the Faculty of Information
Technology
1
shows a wide variety of students. Some are
very motivated and fast learners, and others are far less
motivated and need more time to acquire the needed
knowledge. They need different “learning speeds” and
different delivery modes of learning materials. Based on
students’ requirements and needs, we concluded that
learning should be enhanced by implementing an
instructional process that accommodates various learning
styles of students and different learning modes. Learners
come from different backgrounds and have a great variety

1
The Faculty of Information Technology (FIT) offers
both on-line and in-class courses to its students in seven
academic programmes (five at the bachelor level and two
at the master level). More then 70% of students are on-
line students.
Transforming
Learner
Performing
Learner
Conforming
Learner
Resistant
Learner
Resistant
Learner
Lack a fundamental belief that academic learning and
achievement can help them to achieve personal goals or initiate
positive change.
Conforming
Learner
Less successful on/line learners since they prefer highly
structured learning environments
Performing
Learner
Sophisticated learners who are typically self-motivated and self-
directed only in areas that they value. Otherwise, the rely on
external support, e.g. instructors
Transforming
Learner
Likely successful on/line learners with sophisticated on-line
learning skills. They are highly self-motivated, self-accessed and
directed
Introductory
BS courses
Intermediate
BS courses
Advanced
BS courses
MS level
courses
PhD level
courses
Structured
on-line courses
Semi-structured
on-line courses
Non-structured
on-line courses

Figure 3 Dependency of the level of the course structure
and learning styles and types of courses
a) Knowledge learnt by a course
b) Knowledge to be provided by the e-learning system
Expected
Initial
Knowledge
Target
Knowledge
Level
Learner
Knowledge
Level
Minimum
Knowledge
Level
1 2 3 4 5
TK
EIK
Expected
Initial
Knowledge
Target
Knowledge
Level
Learner
Knowledge
Level
Minimum
Knowledge
Level
1 2 3 4 5
TK
EIK
Expected
Initial
Knowledge
Target
Knowledge
Level
Learner
Knowledge
Level
Minimum
Knowledge
Level
1 2 3 4 5
TK
EIK
Expected
Initial
Knowledge
Target
Knowledge
Level
Learner
Knowledge
Level
Minimum
Knowledge
Level
1 2 3 4 5
TK
EIK

Knowledge not taught
but learnt by learners
Knowledge taught
but not learnt
Knowledge taught
and learnt
Knowledge not taught
but need to be learnt
Initial knowledge
of learners
Context Annotation 1: Context Annotation 2:
Additional knowledge
to be offer to transforming
learners
Knowledge that should be
provided again to resistant
Learners
Knowledge learnt
Additional knowledge that
must be provided to
learners
without appropriate initial
knowledge
Knowledge not taught
but learnt by learners
Knowledge taught
but not learnt
Knowledge taught
and learnt
Knowledge not taught
but need to be learnt
Initial knowledge
of learners
Context Annotation 1: Context Annotation 2:
Additional knowledge
to be offer to transforming
learners
Knowledge that should be
provided again to resistant
Learners
Knowledge learnt
Additional knowledge that
must be provided to
learners
without appropriate initial
knowledge

Figure 2 Different knowledge levels reached by five
types of learners
of differing profiles, learning style, preferences and
knowledge acquiring paths [2,3]. We concluded that a
“one size fits all” approach is not effective enough and
that learning should be as personalized as possible,
especially for advanced bachelor and master courses. It is
also very true for learners in our life-long learning
programs. Their backgrounds and experiences are very
different. Their job requirements, learning objectives and
target knowledge are also very different. Therefore,
courses created for life-long learners need to be very
personalized. Such a personalization is economical only
in case of e-learning, if an appropriate personalized e-
learning environment is created.
3. REQUIREMENTS FOR PERSONILIZED E-
LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
Personalization is defined as tailoring web content to an
individual learner. A Personalized Learning Environment
(PLE) is an electronic learning environment which
essentially consists of a learner and the Instructional
System [4]. An instructional system is a system that can
effectively deliver pedagogical-based material to the
learner [4]. Instructional design is the systematic process
of developing instructional systems. Instructional
development is the process of implementing the system or
plan.
Most of the Learning Environments claim to offer
personalized learning. However, the effectiveness of such
programs for individual learners is limited for a variety of
reasons and as such, these elements have not fully
attained their potential to create effective and efficient
personalized learning. No effective and efficient
personalized learning occurs when
1. information rather than instruction being delivered
(i.e. the course material is thus pedagogically
ineffective);
2. the lack of exchangeability and reusability between
learning materials;
3. ineffective implementation strategies; and
4. the mechanistic utilization of technology, rather than
technology being utilized as an informatics driver
[4].
The PLE should support different learning styles of
learners. A learning style is essentially how the learner
receives and interprets instructional material. A learning
style describes the attitudes and behaviours that determine
an individual’s preferred way of learning. If an
instructional experience or environment does not include
the instructional strategies required for the acquisition of
the desired knowledge or skill, then effective, efficient
and appealing learning of the desired outcome will not
occur
The PLE should ideally be a robust and flexible
Instructional System-based learning environment which
can provide cost-effective learning based on the personal
needs and background of the learner. It should be capable
of delivering individual, adapted and personalized
training matched to the individual needs and learning
style. The usability of a personalized e-Learning
environment is typically designed towards a specific end
delivery system or a specific set of standards [5].
In order to be cost-effective, personalized e-learning
environments need to use learning objects (LO). A
learning object is any resource or content object that is
supplied to a learner by a provider with the intention of
meeting the learner's learning objective(s), and is used by
the learner to meet that learning objective(s) [6]
According to [7], the key notions behind learning objects,
are that they can be used and reused in different (and
multiple) learning contexts. A learning object is
something tangible produced by bringing together subject
knowledge and pedagogical expertise. The reusability of
an electronic learning resource depends on its fit with the
language, culture, curriculum, computer use-practices,
and the pedagogical approaches of the potential learners
and their instructors. Making this fit has proven to be
very difficult [8]. Although intended to be reusable, the
learning objects do not carry with them the instructional
structure in which they should or could be used.
As learning objects should not be redesigned or modified
when used in different learning materials and used in
different contexts, and reused by placing them seamlessly
into a new knowledge structure to form a new course as
desired, they significantly contribute to cost-effectiveness
of learning materials based on learning objects. They
should be used as building blocks of personalized e-
learning systems. Learning object taxonomy or a set of
such taxonomies should be developed to identify different
kinds of learning objects and their components. The
taxonomy facilitates inter-object comparison, and does
not provide independent metrics for classifying learning
objects out of context [1].
Content models identify different kind of learning objects
and their components. They provide a more precise
definition of what learning objects are and allow us to
identify learning object components and repurpose them.
There exists a number of learning object content models,
for example: the SCORM Content Aggregation
Model, the CISCO RLO/RIO Model, Learnativity
Content Model, etc. LOs are created by selecting
content/information objects from a repository. These LOs
can then be assembled into a new LO - this can be
referred to as authoring-by-aggregation. This kind of
"glue" is dealt with by sequencing specifications that
enable the definition of learning paths.
How big should a learning object be? There is a trade-off
between reusability and added value of LOs in terms of
granularity: smaller LOs are more easily reusable, but
their added value is lower. That is why we need to
accommodate both larger (because adding more value)
and smaller (because more easily reusable) LOs.
Innovative approaches to learning object structuring
should include dynamically generated components, based
on some processing of (semi-)structured data. Access
information is about the role of the learner in the
organization, his personal goals and those of the
organization, his agenda, etc. to generate a highly
customized learning object that would be relevant for the
task at hand, and that would take into account the
constraints that influence the particular context in which
the learning is to take place.
Learning objects use their
metadata to enable instructors to
find them and integrate them into
their learning materials. In order to
support searches across
heterogeneous repositories of
content, metadata, learning paths
and presentation or style
information, learning objects
should be compliant with
standards that supports different
types of interoperability problems,
such as interoperability of learning
objects, such as SCORM [9], their
metadata schemas, Learning
Management Systems (LMS) that
are using LOs, and interoperability
between LO repositories. In the
Learning Object Metadata
standard, a hierarchical structure is
defined of 9 categories [10]. An
alternative mechanism to adapt LOM is that of application
profiles that enable increased semantic interoperability in
one community; in a way that preserves full compatibility
with the larger LOM context.
The principal benefit of learning objects comes from their
reusability. As discrete units, they can be incorporated
into a wide range of courses or learning scenarios. Their
standards-based structure makes them available for use in
many different learning management systems and other
applications. Learners using LO-based PLE can access
individualized learning paths, and competency-based
rather than course-based learning events. A LO-based
PLE can provide effective learning with object-based,
personalized training programs to a number of learners
with different orientations and learning styles.
A personalized e-learning system, as each system, may be
represented by its inputs, outputs, requirements and
resources, as shown in Fig.4 that summarizes most of
requirements for personalized e-learning systems. A
personalized e-learning system deals with the knowledge
to be produced, stored, managed, personalized,
transmitted, preserved and used reliably, efficiently, and
at low cost. It should provide new ways to acquire,
contribute and exploit knowledge and support use of
effective technologies for intelligent content creation and
management.
A personalized e-learning system should provide learners
with mechanisms to search, find and visualize learning
objects of interests. This can be done by learner, or done
automatically, if the system is intelligent enough to
configure the learning material according to specified
learning objectives and current knowledge level of the
learner. The system should measure the achieved learning
progress and create the learning material according to the
learning results from the previous learning step. This
“measure learning progress-provide new knowledge
content” cycles should be repeated many times during a
course (Fig. 5), until the specified target knowledge level
is reached.
For personalized e-learning to be successful, several core
areas needs to be addressed and barriers overcome,
namely: pedagogical approaches, personalization,
learning resources, staff awareness and competence
PERSONALIZED E-LEARNING SYSTEM
PERSONALIZED E-LEARNING SYSTEM
Knowledge 1
Skill 1
Competences 1
Requirements
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Skill 2
Competences 2
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INPUT
OUTPUT
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Abilities 2
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Performance 2
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Knowledge
& Skill Level
Initial Knowledge & Skill Level
Learned Knowledge
Target Knowledge and Skill level

Figure 5 Learning with a personalised e-learning
system
4. A CONCEPT FOR A PERSONILIZED E-
LEARNING SYSTEM
A high level description of an adaptive and personalized
e-learning system is given in Figure 6. After identifying
learning objectives for each individual learner, as well as
his current knowledge and skill level in a specific
knowledge area, the personalized e-learning system can
find, choose, and configure, in an ad-hoc manner, a
personalized knowledge content and find the most
appropriate way to deliver it to the learner by using an
appropriate video, audio and textual learning material.
Tracking the progress of a learner during the learning
process, the learning system can measure his or her
current knowledge, compare it with learning objectives
and target knowledge levels, and configure and deliver
new piece of knowledge. The iterative loop can be
repeated many times, or continuously, until the specified
learning goals are achieved. This process is called
adaptive and personalized e-learning. Before specifying
the knowledge content for the next lesson, the system first
measure learner’s knowledge level and learning progress
by testing him or her, and by analyzing his results of
assignments and projects. Based on this assessment of his
learning progress, the system configure the content of the
learning material for the next lesson.
In order to configure the content for one lesson, the
system executes internal an external searches of LO
repositories. All candidate learning objects are searched
and analyzed based on specified selection criteria. When
specifying selection criteria, an instructor needs to specify
LO requirements regarding not only the content of LOs,
but also of their knowledge levels. It is necessary to have
a choice of LOs with the same content, but with different
levels of details and knowledge levels.
Figure 7 shows the Content Aggregation Model (CAM)
used to define and package learning components. CAM
structure consists of three parts: Content Model, Metadata
and Content Packaging.The Content Model supports a
SCORM-compatible adaptive and personalized learning
content. Content Model provides a reference model to
organize the learning materials including: the
decomposition of learning materials, relation of learning
components, and recomposing a course page. CAM
contains three components: Sharable Content Object
(SCO), Asset and content aggregation. Asset is the basic
and single-formed learning material, such as text, audio,
etc. SCO is a meaningful sharable component composed
by single or multiple assets. SCO is a basic learning
object of the system. Content aggregation defines the
learning content structure. Through the structure defined
in content aggregation, the system easily build up a larger
learning resource.
Metadata is used to describe the features of SCO, Asset
and content aggregation so as to speed-up search, reuse
and share of learning objects. Content packaging provides
a standard mechanism to combine content model and
metadata. In addition, it also supports sharing and
exchange of digital resources among different systems.
The system should use a XML file –Manifest to pack the
courseware. The information content has to be tailored
into different kinds of presentation versions depending on
the variety of computing devices. Hence, content
delivery module is like a translator between the learning
resources and the presentation devices.
The adaptive and personalized e-learning system uses
iterative “measure learning progress-configure learning
content-deliver needed knowledge” loops before
generation of each lesson for a learner.
5. OPEN RESEARCH ISSUES
To develop and implement an adaptive and personalized
e-learning system is a challenge as there are many
research issues to be addressed. There is a need for more
research on novel access paradigms that enable an end-
user to zoom-in on relevant LOs without using complex
search criteria, to evaluate some of the results, refine the
search criteria, etc [1]. Another approach to access LOs is
to use an intelligent learning system that will advise and
coach a learner to choose LOs or will choose for him/her,
configure and deliver him/her a needed set of LOs. For
users that prefer that the system automatically configure
their lessons, an intelligent configuration module needs to
be developed. It has to use learning objectives, LO search
E-LEARNING PROCESS
E-LEARNING PROCESS
Learner staring
knowledge
& abilities
Learner final
knowledge
& abilities
Deliver
needed
knowledge
Deliver
needed
knowledge
Measure
learning
progress
Measure
learning
progress
Learner
knowledge Knowledge
Learning
goals
Learning
goals
Adaptive &
personalized
learning
Adaptive &
personalized
learning
Configure Content
(select &
sequence)
Configure Content
(select &
sequence)
Personalized
Knowledge
Content
Knowledge
Sources
Requirements
Efficiency &
cost-
effectiveness
Efficiency &
cost-
effectiveness
Learning
Objects
(LO)
Continuous iterative loop
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Figure 6 A conceptual approach to a personalized e-
learning system
Lesson
SCO
SCO
SCO
Asset
Asset
Asset
Asset
Asset

Figure 7 Contend aggregation model
criteria, and configuration rules in order to automatically
generate a tailored lesson for a learner.
Another research issue is related to application profiles.
Application profiles enable increased semantic
interoperability in one community, in a way that preserves
full compatibility with the larger LOM context.
Translation of one such profile to another one is a
research issue, as well as to associate characteristics of a
community and an application profile.
Design, development and generation of learning objects
offer another set of research issues. How to aggregate
learning objects according to specified the learning paths?
How to assemble LOs without including any more context
than absolutely necessary in the content itself? What
granularity of LOs to use? How to automatically
decompose LOs to extract the components of a LO that
was originally produced as an aggregate?
Very important research issues related to personalized e-
learning are: How to include dynamically generated
components, based on some processing of (semi-)
structured data? How to access information about the role
of the learner in the organization (this is relevant for life-
long learners), his personal goals and those of the
organization, his agenda, etc.? How to generate a highly
customized learning object that would be relevant for the
task at hand and that would take into account the
constraints that influence the particular context in which
the learning is to take place?
As the system has to evaluate the learning progress in
every loop, an interesting research issue is: How to assess
learning outputs after a lesson, i.e. how to find out what
learner really learned, at what knowledge and detail level,
and what are eventual knowledge gaps (knowledge taught
but not acquired by learner) that need to be addressed
again using alternative learning paths and learning
objects, that are probably easier to adopt by a learner.
6. CONCLUSIONS
At the current, very early stage of research of
personalized e-learning at the Faculty of Information
Technology, we are doing preliminary research activities
aiming to select the most promising concept for a
personalized e-learning system. In this paper we gave a
high level description of the overall concept of the
personalized e-learning process that is under investigation
and exploration. This conceptual approach to personalized
e-learning, when implemented, will provide the following
benefits:
Learning path for each learner will be specific to its
individual capabilities and needs. Learner can access
individualized learning paths, using competency-
based rather than course-based learning events, thus
resulting a pedagogically more effective learning
Reusable SCORM-compliant learning objects will be
cost-effective, efficient alternative to traditional
course construction and materials
The personalized e-learning system based on the
given concept is expected to provide an effective,
efficient and cost-effective learning to a number of
learners with different orientations and learning
styles.
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