Work in progress - Development of an environment for diverse learners and accessible learning

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Work in progress - Development of an environment for diverse learners and accessible learning
  Session M1G 978-1-4244-4714-5/09/$25.00 ©2009 IEEE October 18 - 21, 2009, San Antonio, TX 39 th  ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference M1G-1 Work In Progress - Development of an Environment for Diverse Learners and Accessible Learning Shohreh Hadian, and Bill Wadge ,  Abstract - The objective of the current study is to research, design, implement and test a tool that provides a repository of learning objects and records a profile of the learners, in order to deliver a customized version of the learning object to the learners taking into account their optimal learning profile and inclusive design in mind. The intention is to package and deliver content taking into account the diversity in learning subjects and materials encountered by teachers and learners. To this end, Intensional logic and programming is introduced to address learner diversity in a web-based teaching and learning environment. Intensional Programming is used to make adaptations on the server as it transforms web pages “on the fly” without requiring web content to be re-written for each specific user.   This project has been supported with a grant from the Canadian Council on Learning and CanAssist at the University of Victoria.  Index Terms  - Computer-assisted instruction, Accessibility, Diversity, Distance learning.  B ACKGROUND AND M OTIVATION   A few studies in the nineties revealed that the available Web-based teaching tools fail to properly consider accessibility [1], and that web accessibility is about three times better for sighted users than for users with visual impairments [2]. In 2000, Storey et al [3] conducted a study on the usability of web-based learning tools. The study revealed that tools seem to enhance learning when they are  perceived as being invisible. Also instructors, as the designer of course web sites, play an important role in using web- based learning tools. Furthermore, the study also recommends that the development of web-based learning tools with accessibility in mind is crucial to facilitate the learning process. A more recent study by Hadian [4]  proposed a definition for accessibility in the context of software engineering; a rationale based on the ESSI-SCOPE software design guideline, was adopted [5]. The subsets of these characteristics that impact accessibility are depicted in Figure 1. Figure 1  – Proposed Definition of Accessibility In this study, Hadian raised fundamental new issues in web  based education: “In the quest for universal access and design for all-inclusive virtual classrooms, are we inadvertently creating barriers to other user groups that may also need to have access to the same virtual information? “The study revealed that changeability is one design characteristic that is important in the definition of accessibility. In a virtual classroom, the author has to deal with different types of learners that require varying types and levels of accessibility and they have different style of learning. The fundamental question that the current research  project attempts to address is: “How do we foster the development of learning and teaching tools that accommodate “diversity” in a virtual classroom while ensuring “optimal" experience for all learners?” I NTRODUCTION   The current research takes a small step towards understanding how web-based educational technology can help and enhance teaching and learning taking into account the diversity in learning outcomes. In order to optimize the learning experience, documents can, for example, be  produced in different variants or versions, corresponding to different languages, different level of expertise, different dates or different target audience. To this end, a new framework has been designed and implemented that facilitates multi-versioned web content authoring, content delivery, and web operation and navigation in order to aid teachers with content and  pedagogical development and help learners access information in an optimal way with respect to the particular ability or disability.  P ROJECT O VERVIEW   This project consists of three inter-connected and integrated sub-projects as illustrated in Figure 2. The three issues at  Session M1G 978-1-4244-4714-5/09/$25.00 ©2009 IEEE October 18 - 21, 2009, San Antonio, TX 39 th  ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference M1G-2 hand include tje versioning issues, learning and teaching styles, and content issues.   Figure 2 – The comprehensive framework for addressing diversity in web-based education   The core effort presented in this paper is the multi-versioning issue. The need to create a profile of learners’ style and ability and the concerns around storage and retrieval of the multi-versioned components are not discussed in this WIP paper.   In theory, web pages can be updated frequently to provide customized versions on demand. In practice, however, rarely can authors provide multi-versioned web content to accommodate different levels of requirements by learners. Also, the ability to maintain such sites is not feasible as HTML provides marginal support for the design and maintenance of multi-versioned sites. The current available technologies attempt to deal with customizing the content for the learner, but they provide “a version” of the page that is not the “best fit” of the content that meets the learner’s need. Also, the development environment is only suitable for advanced programmers Thus, in order to provide the user-centric optimal content, this project proposes the use of Intensional Programming srcinally proposed by Plaice and Wadge [6]. Programming in a language based on Intensional logic is called Intensional Programming [7,8]. An intensional   program contains a number of versioned entities, each of which has a single valid instance under a particular global context. The set of (versioned entity, current context)  pairs are termed an intension , whereas a specific, resolved version of the entity is termed an extension . As the program executes, intensional entities are resolved to single versions against the global context. The Markup Macro Processor (MMP) language was used to enable multiversioning of web  based content, as illustrated in Figure 3. MMP language is  based on the Intensional Markup Language (IML). Figure 3 – The Intensional Markup Language (IML) R  EFERENCES   [1]. L. Harrison, 2000 ,“Inclusion in an Electronic Classroom - 2000: the Role of the Courseware Authoring Tool Developer”, Adaptive Tech. Resource Centre, U. of Toronto,\_study/ATrec.html [2]. N. Nielsen, 2001,“Beyond ALT Text: Making the Web Easy to Use for Users with Disabilities”, Nielsen Norman Group, [3]. M-A. D. Storey, J. Bavelas, M. Wang and B. Phillips, 2002, “The Importance of Usability Testing for Web-based Learning Tools”, Educational Technology Conference Series, May 4-5, U. of Victoria, Canada. [4]. S. Hadian, 2004,“Accessibility Issues in Web-Based Education: a Case Study for the Visually Impaired”, M.Sc. Thesis, University of Victoria, Canada. [5]. ESSI-SCOPE software design guideline , 2009, [6]. Plaice J. and Wadge W., 1993,“A New Approach to Version Control”, IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 368– 276. [7]. W. Wadge, G. Brown, M. Schraefel and T. Yildirim, “Intensional HTML”, Proceedings of the 4th Inter. Workshop on Principles of Digital Document Processing, 1996. [8] Swoboda P., 1999, Practical languages for intensional Programming Intensional Programming, MSc. Thesis, University of Victoria, Canada A UTHOR I NFORMATION   Shohreh Hadian, Instructor, Camosun College, Victoria, B.C., Canada, Bill Wadge, Professor, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada,  
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