Construction of an adaptive e-learning environment to address learning styles and an investigation of the effect of media choice

Wolf, C 2007, Construction of an adaptive e-learning environment to address learning styles and an investigation of the effect of media choice, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Education, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Construction of an adaptive e-learning environment to address learning styles and an investigation of the effect of media choice
Author(s) Wolf, C
Year 2007
Abstract This study attempted to combine the benefits of multimedia learning, adaptive interfaces, and learning style theory by constructing a novel e-learning environment. The environment was designed to accommodate individual learning styles while students progressed through a computer programming course.

Despite the benefits of individualised instruction and a growing worldwide e-learning market, there is a paucity of guidance on how to effectively accommodate learning styles in an online environment. Several existing learning-style adaptive environments base their behaviour on an initial assessment of the learner's profile, which is then assumed to remain stable. Consequently, these environments rarely offer the learner choices between different versions of content. However, these choices could cater for flexible learning styles, promote cognitive flexibility, and increase learner control.

The first research question underlying the project asked how learning styles could be accommodated in an adaptive e-learning environment. The second question asked whether a dynamically adaptive environment that provides the learner with a choice of media experiences is more beneficial than a statically adapted environment.

To answer these questions, an adaptive e-learning environment named iWeaver was created and experimentally evaluated. iWeaver was based on an introductory course in Java programming and offered learning content as style-specific media experiences, assisted by additional learning tools. These experiences and tools were based on the perceptual and information processing dimension of an adapted version of the Dunn and Dunn learning styles model.

An experimental evaluation of iWeaver was conducted with 63 multimedia students. The analysis investigated the effect of having a choice of multiple media experiences (compared to having just one static media experience) on learning gain, enjoyment, perceived progress, and motivation. In addition to these quantitative measurements, learners provided qualitative feedback at the end of each lesson.

Data from 27 participants were sufficiently complete to be analysed. For the data analysis, participants were divided into two groups of high and low interest in programming and Java, then into two groups of high and low experience with computers and the Internet. Both group comparisons revealed statistically significant differences for the effect of choice. Having a choice of media experiences proved beneficial for learners with low experience but detrimental for learners with high experience or interest. These findings suggest that the effect of choice appears to be strongly influenced by the learner's background. It is hypothesised that encouraging a more active learner role in educational systems would expand the positive influence of choice to a wider range of learners.

The study has contributed some weight to the argument that for certain groups of learners, it is more beneficial to view learning style as a flexible, rather than a stable construct. As a practical implication, it seems advisable to collect data on prior experience, interest, and the initial learning style distribution of the target audience before developing environments comparable to iWeaver.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Education
Keyword(s) learning styles
learning preferences
multimedia learning
e-learning
adaptive environment
adaptive educational hypermedia
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Created: Thu, 17 Feb 2011, 10:16:16 EST
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