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Technology-assisted Adaptive Learning

Student web publishing

The development of the ICT infrastructures may facilitate several methods of course support. It would seem that a significant benefit for the student is in the area of assessment. Assessment can not only promote or inhibit a student's learning, but it essentially defines the nature of such learning throughout the course. If the students are in some way given a direct (or at least improved) insight into the culture and criteria for assessment then all course content could be studied with a more direct relationship to the purpose of the course.

The clearest way of opening up the learning process is to allow students access to peers' work, either in progress or completed, along with the relevant assessment feedback. Through this approach, students can appreciate more the subject assessment concepts since they will have many examples of expression of those concepts to consider. They may therefore gain an appreciation of the subject concepts, and importantly the assessment concepts and criteria, across many contexts. This open process can also lead to support via comments from fellow students.

The motivational aspects of students publishing their own work have been apparent throughout the TELRI Project implementation work. The publishing of students’ work and assessment comments has the benefit of providing the students with an insight into the assessment criteria of the course and the nature of high quality work in the course. Such an insight provides the students with guidance, orientation and motivation, in an area often difficult to define or convey.

Discussion boards

The value of discussion boards is dependent upon many factors, not withstanding the ease of use, access, training, and so forth.  In general, however, discussion forums seem to work best when associated with assignments that are clearly an integrated part of the course with explicit assessment requirements and realistic learning expectations. This avoids a majority of the messages generated by students at the onset of a course or assignment being primarily concerned with how to go about a task – mostly aimed at the tutor and not cost-effective, even if conducted through technology.

General discussions on academic issues tend to prosper when there is a very clear advantage to the student in terms of assessment gains. Such discussions are best supported by the sharing of assigned work, such as through student web publishing.

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism is an ever-present problem in academia. It emphasises the two forms of learning outlined here, adoptive and adaptive learning, and leads us to ask whether the student’s response was an adaptive, intellectual response or merely an adoptive response without due credit. Although publishing students’ work would appear to accentuate such problems, it is relatively straightforward to overcome the incentive or tendency to plagiarise by three main methods (Evans, 2000):

  1. Use dated deadlines for submissions of work that will be assessed before publishing that work. Students may learn through the work of other students and the different ideas and the approaches taken, whilst only being credited for their own contribution.
  2. Use slightly differing contexts for each student submission (e.g. different books to review) so that students are required to adapt any previous work in order to apply their own assignment context. This makes their personal understanding more explicit.
  3. Since the work is all published, students will be most vigilant about identifying plagiarised work, particularly if it is theirs!

Using the distinction of adoptive and adaptive learning to make explicit statements about intended outcomes, technology solutions may be categorised in a new way. From this, new systems can be designed to enhance specifically the desired learning processes that the course aims to develop in students.