How Simulation can Illuminate Pedagogical and System Design Issues in Dynamic Open Ended Learning Environments
A Dynamic Open-Ended Learning Environment (DOELE) is a collection of learners and learning objects (LOs) that could be constantly changing. In DOELEs, learners need the support of Advanced Learning Technology (ALT), but most ALT is not designed to run in such environments. An architecture for designing advanced learning technology that is compatible with DOELEs is the ecological approach (EA). This thesis looks at how to test and develop ALT based on the EA, and argues that this process would benefit from the use of simulation. The essential components of an EA-based simulation are: simulated learners, simulated LOs, and their simulated interactions. In this thesis the value of simulation is demonstrated with two experiments. The first experiment focuses on the pedagogical issue of peer impact, how learning is impacted by the performance of peers. By systematically varying the number and type of learners and LOs in a DOELE, the simulation uncovers behaviours that would otherwise go unseen. The second experiment shows how to validate and tune a new instructional planner built on the EA, the Collaborative Filtering based on Learning Sequences planner (CFLS). When the CFLS planner is configured appropriately, simulated learners achieve higher performance measurements that those learners using the baseline planners. Simulation results lead to predictions that ultimately need to be proven in the real world, but even without real world validation such predictions can be useful to researchers to inform the ALT system design process. This thesis work shows that it is not necessary to model all the details of the real world to come to a better understanding of a pedagogical issue such as peer impact. And, simulation allowed for the design of the first known instructional planner to be based on usage data, the CFLS planner. The use of simulation for the design of EA-based systems opens new possibilities for instructional planning without knowledge engineering. Such systems can find niche learning paths that may have never been thought of by a human designer. By exploring pedagogical and ALT system design issues for DOELEs, this thesis shows that simulation is a valuable addition to the toolkit for ALT researchers.
advanced learning technology, artificial intelligence, collaborative filtering, dynamic open-ended learning environment, ecological approach, education, instructional planning, learning object, simulation
Master of Science (M.Sc.)