UniServe Science News Volume 10 July 1998


Active Learning with COSE (Creation of Study Environments)

Mark Stiles
Staffordshire University, UK

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

COSE is a WWW-based system enabling creation and delivery of active, collaborative learning environments. It is based on a pedagogy which recognises that learning is most effective in the context of some task or problem. However, it also recognises that many undergraduates lack the learning skills required to undertake learning based on real-world problems, particularly as the skills needed to deconstruct such problems into component activities are usually missing.

Therefore, the learner is presented with a hierarchy of "learning opportunities" ranging from simple, bounded, tasks through to "real world" projects, enabling learning skills to be acquired gradually.

The COSE Learner Interface, presents the learner with a list of "learning opportunities" which have been assigned to them (or their collaborative group) by tutors. Each consists of a Pageset describing the task in question. Attached to each of these pages are pages of "theory" (notes, relevant information), "hints" (advice, pointers to approach, procedural guidance) and an index to related learning opportunities in COSE, external WWW sources, and paper sources. A page can contain any WWW compatible content, but can also have attached up to two standalone "media objects", separately catalogued in the system and displayable via a button.

Figure 1.

Figure 1. The COSE Learner Browser

An email button provides links to a learner's group(s) and tutors managing the learning opportunities assigned. Learners can create work in any desired format, share it with other learners, and label work completed as viewable by a tutor, who is informed of the fact by email. If desired, learners can create work in COSE format, which can subsequently be published (by a tutor) into the system as a resource.

Search facilities allow learners to search the entire system by keyword for resources, and gather them in a "basket" for later use. This cross-discipline searching encourages synthesis in learning.

Additional communications tools and cognitive aids are planned.

Tutors are provided with an interface which facilitates either individual or collaborative creation and management of content, and the publication of finished material for use by learners. The publication mechanisms can be used as a quality control. Pagesets, pages and media objects are described using keywords on creation, and tutors can search the system for relevant published work, save it in their basket and incorporate it (even an individual page or media object) into their own material. Published material cannot be changed, only re-published in a new edition, ensuring that content remains stable.

Figure 2.

Figure 2. The COSE Tutor Vista

Other facilities provide the creation and management of individual and collaborative groups of tutors and learners, and the assignment of learning opportunities to learners and groups. The system tracks learner behaviour with a view to assisting assessment of the value of particular content, and possibly learner profiling.

COSE, written in Java and CGI, runs on any standard WWW server. It requires Netscape or MIE 3 or 4 on the client, which should be a PC running Windows 95/NT, or a Power Macintosh.

The COSE project is funded under the JISC Technology Applications Programme.

The COSE team are seeking colleagues interested in evaluating the system.

The COSE URL is:

COSE logo

Mark Stiles
Academic Development Manager
IT Services
Staffordshire University, UK

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UniServe Science News Volume 10 July 1998

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