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A data-assisted approach to supporting instructional interventions in technology enhanced learning environments



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The design of intelligent learning environments requires significant up-front resources and expertise. These environments generally maintain complex and comprehensive knowledge bases describing pedagogical approaches, learner traits, and content models. This has limited the influence of these technologies in higher education, which instead largely uses learning content management systems in order to deliver non-classroom instruction to learners. This dissertation puts forth a data-assisted approach to embedding intelligence within learning environments. In this approach, instructional experts are provided with summaries of the activities of learners who interact with technology enhanced learning tools. These experts, which may include instructors, instructional designers, educational technologists, and others, use this data to gain insight into the activities of their learners. These insights lead experts to form instructional interventions which can be used to enhance the learning experience. The novel aspect of this approach is that the actions of the intelligent learning environment are now not just those of the learners and software constructs, but also those of the educational experts who may be supporting the learning process. The kinds of insights and interventions that come from application of the data-assisted approach vary with the domain being taught, the epistemology and pedagogical techniques being employed, and the particulars of the cohort being instructed. In this dissertation, three investigations using the data-assisted approach are described. The first of these demonstrates the effects of making available to instructors novel sociogram-based visualizations of online asynchronous discourse. By making instructors aware of the discussion habits of both themselves and learners, the instructors are better able to measure the effect of their teaching practice. This enables them to change their activities in response to the social networks that form between their learners, allowing them to react to deficiencies in the learning environment. Through these visualizations it is demonstrated that instructors can effectively change their pedagogy based on seeing data of their students’ interactions. The second investigation described in this dissertation is the application of unsupervised machine learning to the viewing habits of learners using lecture capture facilities. By clustering learners into groups based on behaviour and correlating groups with academic outcome, a model of positive learning activity can be described. This is particularly useful for instructional designers who are evaluating the role of learning technologies in programs as it contextualizes how technologies enable success in learners. Through this investigation it is demonstrated that the viewership data of learners can be used to assist designers in building higher level models of learning that can be used for evaluating the use of specific tools in blended learning situations. Finally, the results of applying supervised machine learning to the indexing of lecture video is described. Usage data collected from software is increasingly being used by software engineers to make technologies that are more customizable and adaptable. In this dissertation, it is demonstrated that supervised machine learning can provide human-like indexing of lecture videos that is more accurate than current techniques. Further, these indices can be customized for groups of learners, increasing the level of personalization in the learning environment. This investigation demonstrates that the data-assisted approach can also be used by application developers who are building software features for personalization into intelligent learning environments. Through this work, it is shown that a data-assisted approach to supporting instructional interventions in technology enhanced learning environments is both possible and can positively impact the teaching and learning process. By making available to instructional experts the online activities of learners, experts can better understand and react to patterns of use that develop, making for a more effective and personalized learning environment. This approach differs from traditional methods of building intelligent learning environments, which apply learning theories a priori to instructional design, and do not leverage the in situ data collected about learners.



e-learning, educational technology, technology enhanced learning, tel, supervised machine learning, information visualization, data-assisted approach



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Computer Science


Computer Science


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