UniServe Science News Volume 10 July 1998


Learning by Solving Examples through Data Driven Internet Based Intelligent Tutoring Systems

Ashok Patel
De Montfort University, UK

This article is reprinted, with permission, from the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme Newsletter, No. 10, Autumn, 1997.

The Byzantium project has successfully produced four Management Accounting and one Financial Accounting tutoring applications for introductory level accounting, along with a Marker software. Blackwell Publishers publish the software and accompanying text (ISBN 0-631-20750-3). The tutoring software was designed under a model of Computer Integrated Learning Environments (CILE) that recognises that the level at which a discipline is taught and learnt is a vital context for designing a tutoring software package. In this model, the learning of a subject discipline is divided into three distinct knowledge levels:

  1. At the introductory application level, a student forms mental maps of various conceptual objects, each consisting of a small network of interrelated conceptual atoms, and learns how to use the basic tools of the discipline.
  2. At the advanced application level, the integration of conceptual objects takes place. Vertical integration involves a comparison of the results of multiple use of the same tool whereas horizontal integration employs multiple tools to solve a given problem.
  3. The actual application approximation level attempts to simulate a simplification of the real world problems. Students learn how to account for behavioural and environmental factors.

The research and implementation output to date has focused on the development of the first level packages. However, it is recognised that on-going developments in the Internet and related fields can greatly assist the next stage of development by providing an infrastructure for distributing development efforts and also for linking the outputs of such distributed efforts.

Extension of Intelligent Tutoring to the Internet

Byzantium's experience of developing diverse tutoring applications has provided the information necessary to formulate a methodology to construct an authoring tool. Due to advances in programming languages (e.g. Java) a generic tutoring application builder for use in producing Intelligent Tutoring Applications (ITA) on the Internet, and maintaining an indexing mechanism for all the ITAs so developed, is now conceivable. An ITA builder would interactively facilitate rapid development of the ITAs by subject teachers of any numeric discipline, at minimal investment. Figure 1 shows a possible workbench for the development of such ITAs. The approach also enables teachers to share and build on each other's work, allowing them to incrementally build more extensive Internet Based Intelligent Tutoring Systems (IBITS), using the ITA building blocks. It also enables teachers to structurally tailor any existing ITA and produce a variation to suit the sequence in which they might wish to introduce the concepts.

Figure 1.

Figure 1. ITA Workbench

There is a vast number of potential applications for numeric topics across a wide range of subject disciplines. With the appropriate design tools the Internet provides a very productive platform for collaborative and co-operative efforts by teachers who can rapidly and cost-effectively build up the diverse range of software tutors necessary to cover the large area of the numeric techniques and their applications. The Internet also provides platform independence and enables sharing of design tools between, say, the PC users and the Unix or Macintosh users.

An expanded article on this project appears in the CTI Engineering Newsletter Issue 12, Winter 1997/98.
or link from publications to

Research papers:

Ashok Patel
Software Director, TLTP Byzantium
CAL Research and Software Engineering Centre
De Montfort University, UK

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UniServe Science News Volume 10 July 1998

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