INTELLIGENT AGENTS TO IMPROVE ADAPTIVITY IN A WEB-BASED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

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1 INTELLIGENT AGENTS TO IMPROVE ADAPTIVITY IN A WEB-BASED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT Clara Ines PEÑA DE CARRILLO ISBN: Dipòsit legal: GI ADVERTIMENT. L'accés als continguts d'aquesta tesi doctoral i la seva utilització ha de respectar els drets de la persona autora. Pot ser utilitzada per a consulta o estudi personal, així com en activitats o materials d'investigació i docència en els termes establerts a l'art. 32 del Text Refós de la Llei de Propietat Intel lectual (RDL 1/1996). Per altres utilitzacions es requereix l'autorització prèvia i expressa de la persona autora. En qualsevol cas, en la utilització dels seus continguts caldrà indicar de forma clara el nom i cognoms de la persona autora i el títol de la tesi doctoral. No s'autoritza la seva reproducció o altres formes d'explotació efectuades amb finalitats de lucre ni la seva comunicació pública des d'un lloc aliè al servei TDX. Tampoc s'autoritza la presentació del seu contingut en una finestra o marc aliè a TDX (framing). Aquesta reserva de drets afecta tant als continguts de la tesi com als seus resums i índexs. ADVERTENCIA. El acceso a los contenidos de esta tesis doctoral y su utilización debe respetar los derechos de la persona autora. Puede ser utilizada para consulta o estudio personal, así como en actividades o materiales de investigación y docencia en los términos establecidos en el art. 32 del Texto Refundido de la Ley de Propiedad Intelectual (RDL 1/1996). Para otros usos se requiere la autorización previa y expresa de la persona autora. En cualquier caso, en la utilización de sus contenidos se deberá indicar de forma clara el nombre y apellidos de la persona autora y el título de la tesis doctoral. No se autoriza su reproducción u otras formas de explotación efectuadas con fines lucrativos ni su comunicación pública desde un sitio ajeno al servicio TDR. Tampoco se autoriza la presentación de su contenido en una ventana o marco ajeno a TDR (framing). Esta reserva de derechos afecta tanto al contenido de la tesis como a sus resúmenes e índices. WARNING. Access to the contents of this doctoral thesis and its use must respect the rights of the author. It can be used for reference or private study, as well as research and learning activities or materials in the terms established by the 32nd article of the Spanish Consolidated Copyright Act (RDL 1/1996). Express and previous authorization of the author is required for any other uses. In any case, when using its content, full name of the author and title of the thesis must be clearly indicated. Reproduction or other forms of for profit use or public communication from outside TDX service is not allowed. Presentation of its content in a window or frame external to TDX (framing) is not authorized either. These rights affect both the content of the thesis and its abstracts and indexes.

2 DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRONICS, COMPUTER SCIENCE AND AUTOMATIC CONTROL UNIVERSITY OF GIRONA INTELLIGENT AGENTS TO IMPROVE ADAPTIVITY IN A WEB-BASED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT Clara Inés Peña de Carrillo

3 University of Girona PhD THESIS Doctoral program: Information Technologies Title: Intelligent agents to improve adaptivity in a webbased learning environment Author: Clara Inés Peña de Carrillo Supervisors: Dr. José Luis Marzo Lázaro Dr. Josep Lluís de la Rosa i Esteva Department of Electronics, Computer Science and Automatic Control

4 Acknowledgements At a moment like this, I find this to be the most difficult section to write. I cannot find the words to express my thanks to so many people who have offered unconditional help during this long road of suffering and joy I decided to follow to carry out this enthusiastic research project. First of all, thank you God since I would not have done anything without you. To Gilberto and my teenagers ( mis chinitos ) Paulo Nicolás y Paula Alejandra, because without their sacrifice and support in the good and in the bad, this project would never have begun. I am sorry for not being available for family plans since I was always doing research. To the CARRILLO CAICEDO and PEÑA GÓMEZ families, for their spirit and motivation toward me in the more difficult moments. To my supervisors, doctors José Luis Marzo and Peplluis de la Rosa, for believing in me and allowing me to develop with interest and dedication the topic of this thesis which has pleased me so much. To my boss, Andreu Pérez, for giving me time to finish the last chapters, and to my office partners, Mónica Cànovas, María Aguilar, Clarita Patricia, Eva Rienbau, and Xesc Gómez, for their support. To my fight partners in the research group BCDS, Antonio Bueno, Lluis Fábrega and Pere Vilà, for the pleasant atmosphere and friendship they offered. To doctors Ramón Fabregat and Teo Jové, also of the BCDS research group, for the opportunity to work on the Unitat de Suport a la Docència Virtual (USDV) of the UdG and to serve the university community through the USD (Unitats de Suport a la Docencia) platform, providing materials to support traditional instruction. To the members of the European projects GALECIA and AGENTCITIES, in which I had the opportunity to participate, and whose contribution was vital for the scientific support of my thesis.

5 To my friends, Maria Vivina Cárdenas and Nahyr López, for their unselfish friendship. To Teia Baus, for the beautiful readings and words that supported my spirit. To all my undergraduate students with whom I have had the opportunity to work and who in one or another way were architects of the creation and setting up of the prototype that implements the ideas proposed in this thesis. They are: from the Industrial University of Santander (Colombia), Edgar Guerrero and Edwin Ramirez; from the University of Girona, Carles Coll, Jordi Massager, Sònia Oliveras, Montse Vallès, Albert Johé, Albert Alemany and Pedro Garcia; Special thanks to María Aguilar (for always being there and willing to help me; María, I am very grateful to you!!!), Xavier Palencia and Quim Rivera, for their excellent work. Finally, in spite of not being a person but as if he were, thanks to Mateo (my dog) for his silent company during the long hours of writing.

6 TABLE OF CONTENTS List of Figures 1 List of Tables 9 GENERAL INTRODUCTION 11 PART 1. STATE OF THE ART: Education, Adaptive Hypermedia and Multiagent systems 17 Introduction Part Information, Knowledge and Education Society of Knowledge Knowledge Area Components Cognitive Theory in Education Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain Cognitive/learning Styles Intelligent Tutoring Systems Introduction ITS Performance ITS Components Necessity of Intelligent Tutoring Systems Limitations of Intelligent Tutoring Systems Constructionism, Instructionism and AI in education Conclusions Hypermedia 45

7 2.1. Hypertext and Hypermedia Hypermedia Structures Hypermedia Architectures Introduction Closed Hypermedia Architectures Open Hypermedia Architectures Hypermedia Reference Models Hypermedia in Education Advantages and Drawbacks of Hypermedia Advantages Drawbacks Adaptive Hypermedia Introduction Types of Adaptation Adaptive Systems Web-based Adaptive Educational Systems Conclusions Intelligent Agents in Education Introduction Agents Terminology Artificial Intelligence Methodologies for Customization and Personalization Agent Classification and Applications viii

8 3.4.1 Introduction User agents Multiagent Systems Introduction Definition and Characteristics MAS Technologies Conclusions Thesis proposal: Intelligent Agents to Improve Adaptivity in a Web-based Learning Environment Introduction General Features of the USD E-learning Environment Modular Architecture General Performance Advantages and Drawbacks A Solution to Avoid Drawbacks in the USD E-learning Environment Introduction Multiagent Architecture Agent Activities MASPLANG Features Concerning Adaptive Parameters and Learning Environment Tools Offered to Students Conclusions Conclusions Part ix

9 PART 2: MASPLANG E-LEARNING ENVIRONMENT: Adaptive Presentation, Adaptive Navigation and Affective Behavior in an E-Learning Hypermedia System with Intelligent Agents 153 Introduction Part MASPLANG Conceptual Model Introduction Domain Model Description Content Types Considering Learning Styles Domain Model Representation Student Model Description Student Modeling in MASPLANG Tuning the Student Learning Profile Conclusions MASPLANG Agent Design and Implementation Issues Introduction Client-Server Architecture Working scenario Analysis and Design of the Monitor Agent Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Analysis and Design of the Exercise Adapter Agent x

10 6.5.1 Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Analysis and Design of the User Agent Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Analysis and Design of the Pedagogic Agent Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Analysis and Design of the Browsing Agent Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Analysis and Design of the SONIA Agent Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Analysis and Design of the SMIT Agent Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Analysis and Design of the Controller Agent Introduction Requirements: Use Case Diagram Conclusions Experimentation and Evaluation of MASPLANG Introduction Course Evaluation xi

11 7.2.1 Teachers Survey (Questionnaire 1)n Students Survey (Questionnaire 2) USD Evaluation Teachers Survey Students Survey Students Actions MASPLANG Evaluation Students Learning Styles Teachers Survey Students Survey Students Actions Conclusions Conclusions Part GENERAL CONCLUSIONS 285 General Conclusions and Future Work 287 Bibliograhy 291 ANNEXES 323 Annex 1: ILS Questionnaire English Version Catalan Version Spanish Version Annex 2: Curriculum of the Computer Nertworks Course 343 Annex 3: Agent Behaviors Monitor Agent Exercise Adapter Agent xii

12 User Agent Pedagogic Agent Browsing Agent SONIA Agent SMIT Agent Controller Agent xiii

13 xiv

14 LIST OF FIGURES 1 Knowledge area workers ITS domain The necessary base for an effective teaching in ITS Hypermedia documents Conceptual architecture of a closed hypermedia system Conceptual architecture for an open hypermedia system The HAM reference model Trellis metamodel Dexter reference model Hypermedia problems a semantic network representation Spectrum of the adaptation in computer systems Global architecture of an adaptive system Elements to build a user model The interaction model architecture in adaptive systems Aspects concerning adaptive systems Summary of adaptation technologies from ITS area Summary of adaptation technologies from the adaptive hypermedia area Roots of intelligent agents Agent behavior Learning agent behavior World model and user model generation schema Software agents classification Performance of interface agents Basic elements of information agents ADELE agent environment The Persona instructs the user in operating a technical device COSMO and the Internet Advisor learning environment Facial expressions in CU ANIMATE agents Page 1

15 29 Multiagent environment Characteristics of a MAS MAS actions that increase research interest FIPA Agent Management Reference Model FIPA ACL message format The FIPA-query protocol The protocol diagram of the FIPA-query protocol USD conceptual architecture USD modular architecture Navigation structures (e-1, e-2, e-3) and learning contents (A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, etc.) representation in a USD teaching unit USD general performance MASPLANG basic infrastructure MASPLANG conceptual architecture MASPLANG two level agent architecture Generic aspect of the agent SMIT Conceptual map of the MASPLANG as an e-learning system Example of the MASPLANG domain model organization Nodes and links types in the semantic graph Exercise hierarchy organization Domain model data structure Semantic graph of a MASPLANG course Student modeling elements in MASPLANG MASPLANG two level agent architecture MASPLANG model of agency and personalization MASPLANG client-server architecture Aspect of the USD working space MASPLANG working scenario Agent communication flow for the Monitor agent Use case diagram of the Monitor agent Page 2

16 58 Agent communication flow for the Exercise Adapter agent Use case diagram of the Exercise Adapter agent Agent communication flow for the User agent Use case diagram of the User agent Agent communication flow of the Pedagogic agent Use case diagram of the Pedagogic agent Information flow and processes that allow the navigation tree and the concept state diagram to be built Agent communication flow for the Browsing agent Use case diagram of the Browsing agent Working space of the Browsing agent Agent communication flow for the SONIA agent Use case diagram of the SONIA agent Agent communication flow for the SMIT agent Use case diagram of the SMIT agent Some mimics of the SMIT agent when displaying a message programmed by the student Mimics of the SMIT agent when displaying a message programmed by the teacher t The SMIT agent icon in the navigation tool bar Agent communication flow of the Controller agent Use case diagram of the Controller agent Creation of the Information and assistant agents for the student X USD - content types USD case studies included in content USD - glossaries included in content USD - bibliographical references included in content USD - external web page links included in content USD - simulators available in content USD - animations included in content USD - exercises included in content Page 3

17 86 USD - graphics included in content USD - texts included in content USD - hypertext included in content USD - audio included in content USD - video included in content USD- slide shows included in content USD - programmed chat activities USD - programmed forum activities USD - activities programmed by using the USD ease of use Easiness for accessing the USD platform USD use of teaching tools USD - technological and administrative support USD system help tool USD teaching support USD - student follow up USD - teacher perception of student learning activities USD - teacher assistance for students USD degree of student motivation USD origin of connection USD how easily students connected USD - student motivation during the course USD - orientation instructions given to students USD - student satisfaction with the presentation of the material USD - material usefulness for students USD - type of materials preferred by the students USD USD use of navigation tools USD - degree of learning activities carried out USD - student perception of improvement in their exam results USD perceived benefit from the platform USD requests for teacher assistance USD - communication tools used by the students Page 4

18 118 USD - teachers willingness to assist students USD use of help tools USD use of forum USD student perception of technical performance USD effect of new technologies on making learning easier How the student processes the information How the student perceives the information How the student receives the information How the student understands the information MASPLANG - content types MASPLANG case studies included in content MASPLANG - glossaries included in content MASPLANG - bibliographical references included in content MASPLANG - external web page links included in content MASPLANG - simulators available in content MASPLANG - animations included in content MASPLANG - exercises included in content MASPLANG - graphics included in content MASPLANG - texts included in content MASPLANG - hypertext included in content MASPLANG - audio included in content MASPLANG - video included in content MASPLANG - slide shows included in content MASPLANG - programmed chat activities MASPLANG programmed forum activities MASPLANG - programmed activities MASPLANG ease of use Ease of access into the MASPLANG platform MASPLANG use of teaching tools MASPLANG system technological and administrative support MASPLANG system help tools MASPLANG teaching support Page 5

19 150 MASPLANG - student follow up MASPLANG - teachers perception of student enjoyment of activities MASPLANG - teacher assistance to students MASPLANG degree of student motivation MASPLANG origin of connection MASPLANG how easily students connected MASPLANG - student motivation during the course MASPLANG orientation given to students MASPLANG - student satisfaction with the presentation of material MASPLANG - material usefulness for students MASPLANG - type of materials preferred by the students MASPLANG use of navigation tools MASPLANG - degree to which learning activities were carried out MASPLANG student perception of improvement in their exam results MASPLANG perceived benefit from the platform MASPLANG requests for teacher assistance MASPLANG - communication tools used by the students MASPLANG - teacher willingness to assist the students MASPLANG use of help tools MASPLANG use of forum MASPLANG student perception of technical performance MASPLANG effect of new technologies on making learning easier Methods and techniques for MASPLANG development MASPLANG activity diagram Activity diagram of the CourseStartingAlert behavior Activity diagram of the CourseMonitoring behavior Activity diagram of the ExerciseMonitoring behavior Page 6

20 177 Activity diagram of the SessionMonitoring behavior Activity diagram of the ControllerReplies behavior Activity diagram of the FelderQuestionnaire behavior Protocol diagram of the Monitor agent behaviors (1) Protocol diagram of the Monitor agent behaviors (2) Activity diagram of the MountExercise behavior Activity diagram of the AdaptExercise behavior Activity diagram of the ConfigExercise behavior Protocol diagram of the Exercise Adapter agent Activity diagram of the LearningStyleAssignment behavior Activity diagram of the compound MonitorSends behavior Activity diagram of the RepliesToPedagogic behavior Protocol diagram of the User agent behaviors (1) Protocol diagram of the User agent behaviors (2) Activity diagram of the HandlesTheCourseBeginning behavior Activity diagram of the BuildsNavigationTree behavior Activity diagram of the BuildsConceptStateDiagram behavior Protocol diagram of the Pedagogic agent behaviors (1) Protocol diagram of the Pedagogic agent behaviors (2) Protocol diagram of the Pedagogic agent behaviors (3) Activity diagram of the AllowsAdaptiveNavigation behavior Activity diagram of the ShowConceptsDiagram behavior Activity diagram of the RequestsExercises behavior Activity diagram of the InformsAlerts behavior Activity diagram of the SendsMotivReinfor behavior Protocol diagram for the Browsing agent behaviors (1) Protocol diagram for the Browsing agent behaviors (2) Activity diagram of the SONIAProgramming behavior Protocol diagram of the SONIA agent communications Activity diagram of the MonitorSmit behavior Activity diagram of the SMITDisplays behavior Page 7

21 208 Protocol diagram of the SMIT agent behaviors Protocol diagram of the Controller agent behaviors Page 8

22 LIST OF TABLES 1 Bloom s taxonomy review Dichotomies for the four levels of Felder s learning styles Limitations of ITS AI and agent metadata filtering methodologies for intelligent, customized and personalized media selection Summary of agent properties Components of an Agent Communication Language The UML based modeling approaches vs. the agent modeling Protocol diagram elements to represent agent roles, agent lifelines and agent threads of interaction Protocol diagram elements to represent nested and interleaved, and communication protocols Hypermedia course components for MASPLANG considering Felder learning styles Attribute-value pair for MASPLANG groups of products The MASPLANG agents service Student activity data, collected by the Monitor agent Characteristics of the Monitor agent use case diagram elements (1) Characteristics of the Monitor agent use case diagram elements (2) Characteristics of the Exercise Adapter agent use case diagram elements (1) Information that builds and maintains the system s understanding of the student Characteristics of the User agent use case diagram elements (1) Characteristics of the User agent use case diagram elements (2) Characteristics of the Pedagogic agent use case diagram elements Page 9

23 21 Characteristics of the Browsing agent use case diagram elements (1) Characteristics of the Browsing agent use case diagram elements (2) Characteristics of the SONIA agent use case diagram elements Characteristics of the SMIT agent use case diagram elements Controller agent use case diagram elements Structure of the newunit object Structure of the Units object Structure of the objects concerning requests to SMIT agent Structure of the object beginexercise structure of the object Exercise Structure of the object Session Structure of the object Profile_rp Structure of the object MakeExercise Structure of the ExerciseInfo_rq object Structure of the ExerciseInfo_rp object Some objects used in the communication between the User and the Pedagogic agents (_rq means request and _rp means respond)(1) Objects used in the communication between the User and the Pedagogic agents (2) Objects involved in the communication between the Browsing and the Pedagogic agents Structure of the Concept objects Structure of the ontology objects used to warn the agent SONIA with the accomplishment of the alert messages Structure of the objects involved in the SONIAProgramming behavior Page 10

24 General Introduction

25 General Introduction General Introduction The potential of the Internet for creating online learning environments to support education has been amply demonstrated [Fet 1998, Har 1999 and Yaz 2002]. The web as a learning aid is bringing us closer than we ever thought possible to making tele-learning a practical reality. Learning via the web may enable every person to acquire knowledge of all kinds, at all levels, at any time and in any place, following their own pace. The need to link pedagogy to the prevailing technological infrastructure was highlighted by Mergendoller [Men 1996] and Roschelle [Ros 1999]. However, they emphasized the need for additional new frameworks for online learning. To meet this requirement, several researchers have offered different solutions. Bonk offered frameworks for learner-centered web instruction in [Bon 1998], and in [Bon 2001] he wrote about the integration of the web in instruction and the role of the online instructor, while Cummings in [Cum 2002] detailed the types and forms of interaction made possible by the growth of the web. Although web technology has allowed teachers to use multimedia in the presentation of teaching materials, most web-based learning environments are nothing more than a set of static electronic pages. Creating interactive (i.e., more interesting) online courses and tutorials means using a combination of hypertext and multimedia (hypermedia) while a number of aspects need to be dealt with before the true potential of web-based learning environments can be exploited [Nik 1999]. These aspects include adaptivity, a broader range of educational material and access to course material which, at present, remains slow. In a general sense, a web-based learning environment should interact with the students, adapt to their needs, assist the students during learning, support teacherstudent and student-student interaction and, finally, be user-friendly to the authors of the material. Adaptivity is the ability to be aware of a user s behavior, to take his or her level of knowledge into account, and so provide the user with the right kind of instructional material [Bar 1999]. As stated by Hoschka [Hos 1996], adaptation - Page 13 -

26 is an important issue in the research of learning environments, since it can lead to better learning in such systems. However, before an effective and efficient adaptation in learning systems is possible, many issues must be addressed [Mil 1996]. This means developing a student model which captures student interaction with the system in order to extract information about their competence level for various domain concepts and tasks. A promising technology that could be applied to web-based learning is Intelligent Software Agent environments. The development of Intelligent Software Agents is still in its early stages, however in this scenario, a web agent can be thought of as a software package that helps guide the user. Agents could be used to support online education, by assisting, tutoring and monitoring students throughout their learning process. The purpose of this work is to show that intelligent agents in web-based learning environments may be used to improve the guidance given to the user, while increasing user motivation and the adaptivity of course materials. The main goal, for which an approach and a methodology are suggested in this work, concerns two important aspects: (i) choosing the right instructional strategy based on learning styles and (ii) providing access to didactic materials adapted to learning styles and levels of knowledge. Within the context of this thesis, learning is defined as the process of internal change which under various conditions results in the acquisition of an internal representation of a notion (knowledge) or an attitude. This internal process cannot be measured directly, but it can be measured through the external observable demonstrations that constitute the behavior related to the object of knowledge. Finally, this change is a result of the experience or training by the web and has a durability which depends on factors such as motivation and compromise [Hui 1999]. The contribution of the new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to the construction of a new educational society is presented here. This text considers multimedia, hypertext, agent technology and adaptivity in building a learning environment that takes into account the following actors : - Page 14 -

27 General Introduction The teacher. The educator is more than a mere dispenser of knowledge; he/she is henceforth a «facilitator», a mediator between the knowledge and the learner. The construction of a differentiated pedagogy. This becomes a necessity through the convergence of the cognitive system of the educator and that of the learner in this new environment. The knowledge. The contents are not frozen, but in evolution. This means that the learning processes are not simple reproduction mechanisms; on the contrary, they use real approaches and training. This thesis assumes that the teacher should consider the cognitive styles of students in order to deliver adaptive education. In this sense, the system aims to construct a warehouse of courses in which each set of concepts, or ideas is affected by certain parameters chosen by the author's methodological criteria. These parameters can be classified into two groups: the first, which gives importance to the content (accumulation of knowledge rigid pedagogy); and the second, which cedes a place to the chosen processes (construction of the knowledge, mediation, etc. flexible pedagogy). The latter is considered the heart of the MASPLANG (MultiAgent System PLANG 1 ), an adaptive multiagent hypermedia system for education purposes, in particular ODL 2, which is proposed here. This thesis is divided into two main parts: the first describes, in four chapters, the current state of the art. That is, it provides a complete exploration of the fundamentals of Computer Mediated Education, Intelligent Tutoring Systems, Adaptive Hypermedia, Software Agent Technology and this thesis proposal. In Chapter 1, we describe the limits of teaching, knowledge, traditional teaching and the integration of the computer into teaching, with its advantages and disadvantages. In Chapter 2, we discuss hypermedia and adaptive hypermedia in education. 1 PLANG: project supported by the Spanish Research Council (CICYT) TEL C02-01 and TEL Its name belongs from the Spanish sentence PLAtaforma de Nueva Generación. 2 ODL: Open and Distance Learning - Page 15 -

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