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A case study of agent programmability in an online learning environment



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Software agents are well-suited to assisting users with routine, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks in various educational environments. In order to achieve complex tasks effectively, humans and agents sometimes need to work together. However, some issues in human agent interaction have not been solved properly, such as delegation, trust and privacy. The agent research community has focused on technologies for constructing autonomous agents and techniques for collaboration among agents. Little attention has been paid to supporting interactions between humans and agents. p* The objectives of this research are to investigate how easy it might be for a user to program his/her agent, how users behave when given the ability to program their agents, whether access to necessary help resources can be improved, and whether such a system can facilitate collaborative learning. Studying users’ concerns about their privacy and how an online learning environment can be built to protect users’ privacy are also interesting issues to us. In this thesis two alternative systems were developed for programmable agents in which a human user can define a set of rules to direct an agent’s activities at execution time. The systems were built on top of a multi-agent collaborative learning environment that enables a user to program his or her agent to communicate with other agents and to monitor the activities of other users and their agents. These systems for end user programmable agents were evaluated and compared. The result demonstrated that an end-user programming environment is able to meet users’ individual needs on awareness information, facilitate the information exchange among the users, and enhance the communication between users within a virtual learning environment. This research provides a platform for investigating concerns over user privacy caused by agent programmability.



awareness customization, agent in learning environment, agent programmability



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Computer Science


Computer Science


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