|Fle2 Project Plan
Leinonen T.; Muukkonen H.; Cheesman R. 2000 Copyright
Fle2 - A WEB-BASED ENVIRONMENT FOR ASYNCHRONOUS AND SYNCHRONOUS PROBLEM-BASED INQUIRY LEARNING
Course 1: Hypertext theory, narration and aesthetics in multimedia
UIAH Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki
Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) is one of the most promising innovations to increase quality of learning and instruction with the help of modern information and communication technology. Research on collaborative learning emphasises importance of engaging students and teachers in co-ordinated efforts to build new knowledge and to solve problems together with the help of advanced technology-enriched learning environments. Many cognitive problems that cannot be solved individually can be addressed by combining limited knowledge and skills of several students. A fundamental aspect of designing CSCL environments is to give users tools for sharing their process of solving problems and the knowledge they produce; as well, network tools for communication among themselves.
From the standpoint of collaborative learning, diversity of cognitive styles, heterogeneity of developing competencies, differences in experiences and knowledge, and multiplicity of interests are strengths rather than weaknesses; advancement of the whole learning community may be fostered by capitalising on cognitive diversity through joint problem solving. It is advantageous if members of a group contribute different competence, pre-understanding, and opinions about the subject under study, possibly based on different cultural or ethical backgrounds. Research on collaborative learning indicates that in-depth learning is significantly facilitated if members of a group work on a common product, for instance, on a joint paper or publication about the subject domain under study. This process may be significantly enhanced by designing new collaborative technology that supports teamwork and shared problem solving of the students.
The introduction of new information and communication technologies of today in universities does not, on its own, facilitate in-depth learning or advancement of the students conceptual understanding. Many current applications of ICT support only low-level processing of knowledge, such as simple transfer or copying of knowledge. Frequently, for instance, students use the Internet only for the passive download of information rather than for in-depth processing of knowledge. Studies indicate that surfing the Internet (web) frequently encourages a student to bounce from one link to another without any specific learning goal.
Existing commercial collaborative learning products can be expensive, complex or demanding to install, difficult to set up and administer and are often very limited in terms of their capacity to support learning with genuinely multimedia objects. For example, popular products include Softarc's First Class, which is designed as an intranet server with conferencing and messaging capabilities, which can be accessed via a Web browser. In this case, special client software is required and multimedia learning facilities are very limited. The system is also relatively expensive. The Fle2 system described in this proposal is free for education and requires no client software while also supporting multimedia learning objects. Another example is Blackboard CourseInfo, which includes communication, assessment and reporting functions and provides administrative options for customising multimedia course content. At a cost of $5000 per server however, this US-developed monolingual system is out of reach for most Nordic universities. The same can be said of the education-specific Dialogue system: it's pricing makes it inaccessible for universities and schools. Even better known and widely distributed products include Lotus Notes and Domino, but this system is also expensive and based on proprietary client software.
Furthermore, many of the current applications (e.g., conference systems or on-line chat) that allow students to co-operate with each other, do not support collaborative building of knowledge or guided inquiry learning. Rather, it is frequently observed that students (and other users) use these platforms only to engage in social contacts and occasionally for the management of documents. In order to achieve real progress, tools are required that help students to work efficiently with knowledge and ideas (rather than with data and documents), together with their peers in an environment that provides support, guidance, and exposure to models of knowledge advancement.
We also know currently very little about how teachers and students with varying pedagogical experience and expertise are able to act in CSCL environments and how the roles of teachers and students are sufficiently reflected in such environments. It is considered very important to distinguish between the roles of teachers and students and to design tools, which are appropriate for their respective roles.
It is probably beyond question that, in general, future CSCL environments have to be based on Internet and WWW technology. At present, however, suitable learning and working environments, based on pedagogical and didactic knowledge, are not widely available. In particular, those environments which are available do not provide sufficient functionality for promoting "meta communication", that is, enabling reflection on mutual communication and production processes. Furthermore, tools based on current Internet technology do not provide sufficiently user-friendly environments. Inexperienced or less experienced users often have to spend a great deal of time and effort with the handling of the underlying technology and are not able to concentrate primarily on their didactical goals and subject matter under study.
The development of the Fle v1 - server software and the pedagogical testing and evaluation has started in 1998 with collaboration of developing partners (universities) together with industrial partners and Finnish national funding (http://fle.uiah.fi). The development has produced a first Fle v1 prototype in 1998, which has been tested by close to 2000 users taking part in over 60 courses extending from secondary education to higher education and professional development programs during the first testing year.
The Fle v1 server application is a WWW-based service for computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL). The Fle software provides shared multi-user environment to carry out CSCL. The tools of the Fle environment are:
Virtual WebTops (with folders and wastebasket) to store and share digital materials with fellow users. Every WebTop has direct links to those of the other members of the study group, enabling all to share their materials.
The Knowledge Building module facilitates between-user interaction and provides means for conducting multiple discussions simultaneously within a course. Messages posted to the database are labelled with a Category of Inquiry reflecting a step in inquiry process.
The Jam Session module encourages free flow of ideas and allows experimentation with different ways of representing knowledge. The Jam Session is a shared environment for collaborative construction of digital artifacts.
The Library to store, publish and browse learning materials and student's works
The Fle v1 system is accessed through the Internet (TCP/IP) with any HTTP/HTML compliant browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator so that users normally do not have to install any software locally.
High pedagogical quality of Fle v1 -system has been acknowledged both nationally (the Fle v1 environment was granted the first place in the Educational Technology Competition of the University of Helsinki, December 1999) and internationally (the system has been introduced in various international conferences starting from ENABLE to the Third Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, University of Stanford 1999).
The proposed project focuses on developing and testing a second-generation Fle, called Fle2. The first prototype (Fle v1) was developed to act as a test bed for the conceptual and pedagogical research. The Fle2 will be developed and distributed as server software to anyone interested in to carry on CSCL learning practices. The Fle2 project has two aspects:
These activities will be carried out in a closely interrelated manner; e.g., the findings from the pedagogical testing and evaluation tasks will inform the open source community developing the Fle2 software.
As the R&D is carried out as an open source development for public domain, anyone interested in may join the development work (system development) by downloading the source code of the Fle2 from the Media Lab's WWW/ftp-server. New participants may develop new versions of the Fle2 by innovating and creating new modules and tools to the system. Moreover, all new code developed must be redelivered as an open source code (GPL-general public licence) through Internet.
An important aspect of the project is to develop and test innovative ways of applying Fle2 environment for improving current practices of education in university level. Associated to the development of Fle2, we shall carry out multidisciplinary (education, communication, cognitive science, psychology, new media) research into what pedagogical models are appropriate for CSCL in the Fle2 context. Towards this end, the present investigators will (1) search and describe advanced and good pedagogical practices and models for CSCL, (2) extend and implement these practices and models in authentic educational environments, and (3) analyse condition and constraints of successful application of CSCL. In advanced pedagogical practices, the use of CSCL becomes an integrated part of the whole learning environment and the culture of learning. As such, technology is used for building up social structures that encourage collaborative learning, for supporting reflective discourse and for helping students and teachers build knowledge as well as to deepen their understanding of the deep principles of different domains.
A particularly important question is what kind of guidance does students and teachers need to use productively new networked learning environments. The software development and pedagogical testing will naturally influence each other. With the design and the development of the Fle2 software the project will generate and improve existing teaching and learning methods of computer-supported collaborative learning in education.
Fle2 project is divided into three phases. The first phase is focusing on to system development of the Fle2 v1. In the second phase the Fle2 v1 will be used and tested in several inter-Nordic academic courses. In the beginning of the third phase a new version of the Fle2 will be released. The new version is naturally based on the study results of the testing and evaluation period carried out in the first phase. In the third phase the new Fle version will be tested widely in inter-Nordic courses carried out by the Fle2 project partners and the Nordic Interactive Network (http://www.nordic-interactive.org/). Furthermore, in the end of the third phase another version of the Fle2 will be released.
The UIAH Media Lab has already carried out most of the requirement specification and user interface design of the Fle2 (WebTop, Knowledge Building, Jam Session and Library). The specification and user interface design is based on Fle project carried out in 1998-2000. The concept and user interface has also been tested in real educational setting and evaluated by the Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki.
The Fle2 system will be accessed through the Internet (TCP/IP) with any HTTP/HTML compliant browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. In this way, access to the system is platform independent and usable across Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, Unix, Linux, TV Set-Top Box (Internet on TV), and palmtops, e.g., Nokia Communicator or Windows CE systems. (The system functionality is implemented through extensions to servers, primarily Web servers.) Thereby, the Fle2 provide seamlessly support for co-operation in heterogeneous computer/ device environments which is normally a pre-requisite for the collaboration of open groups.
The Fle2 server contains the following software components:
Fle2 - client/server architecture
BSCW and Fle2 server application contains server software for CSCL and a persistent storage (e.g. database). The server software is programmed in an object-oriented language called Python (http://www.python.org). The server is scalable to a large number of concurrent users and transactions. The BSCW/Fle server software is freely available for non-commercial educational use (commercial use licenses available for a fee). Also the source code is available for modifications.
For the development of the various components of the Fle2 strong emphasis will be put on modularity, so that it is possible to compile individual components for the various application scenarios to be used for testing and evaluation.
The tools of the current Fle concept are primarily targeted for asynchronous modes of collaborative inquiry learning. Tools for synchronous collaborative learning will be designed in the third phase of the project. Usable synchronous tools can be avatar-worlds for online teamwork and virtual laboratory work. The avatar-worlds may contain such tools for real-time collaboration as voice-chat, videoconference, shared whiteboards and application sharing. For instance, the Virtual Room Videoconferencing System (http://vrvs.cern.ch) developed in CERN can be embedded to the real time collaboration environment.
The testing of the Fle2 v1 will begin in October 2000. There are two integrated goals for the evaluation of the Fle2. Both of these tasks are performed in two stages, first preliminary reporting in the second phase, which is intended to serve the software developers and project management. The second evaluation phase will provide an overview of the project, software development, software use, pedagogical development and in depth-analysis of technology integration and scalability to teaching in higher education based on the project experiences.
The testing takes place in all the three universities (UIAH, UH, UR), each university providing a course that is intended for a limited number of students form each department. In the third phase the Fle2 testing will be carried out with the members of the Nordic Interactive Network (http://www.nordic-interactive.org/). This will create a truly multidisciplinary environment but with a well-focused authentic learning goal, which requires sharing of expertise among students with different backgrounds. A preliminary outline of the courses is provided in appendix A.
A generic validation and evaluation methodology is going to be based on the following usability criteria and pedagogical criteria to be further elaborated by in the project. The main criteria for the verification of the software/interface and pedagogy will be the users evaluation of the following issues:
In addition, of course, the usual criteria for software products such as required resources for installation and maintenance, robustness, performance, and quality of documentation will be evaluated, primarily from the users point of view.
Further, the pedagogical outcomes such as the general mediation of skills and knowledge among the members of the learning community will be evaluated. A central goal of the evaluation task will be the use of tools for searching information, representing ideas and modelling expert-like interaction with new and often excessive amounts of information. Further, the evaluation will examine the tutors ability to provide guidance and support, which in general depends critically on how they are able to monitor the progress of individual learners or groups. Experiences with the Fle prototype (1998-99) suggest that the use of asynchronous learning environments provides the tutors material on each individual taking part in the process which is significantly different from a classroom situation, where usually only very few students are actively expressing their ideas. However, the development of the inquiry process within an asynchronous environment is generally rather slow and the learning community would benefit form real-time collaboration. This is visible especially at moments of defining new goals, allocating tasks and negotiating aspects of collaboration.
The main deliverable of the project is the non-commercial Fle2 software. The participants intend to provide the Fle2 software, developed within the frames of the project, available free of charge for Scandinavian schools and universities and other educational institutions. The software will be based on open source so as to encourage Nordic and European software developers to participate in developing the network environment. The Fle2 system will be inexpensive to use and maintain, easy to install, run on local servers and yet be versatile enough to provide comprehensive collaborative learning facilities for very large numbers of users across the world. While the Fle2 environment is designed to facilitate computer-supported collaborative learning within educational institutions, the system may, simultaneously, be used as a new collaborative tool for distance education and virtual schools/universities.
In addition to software, the proposed project will produce new information about innovative pedagogical models of using computer-supported collaborative learning to facilitate progressive inquiry and other forms of in-depth network learning in education. Further, the project provides new know-how about designing and implementing advanced synchronous technology for educational purposes. The exploitation and dissemination of the results of the project will be accomplished through national, Nordic and international workshops, conferences and publications.
The testing takes place in all the three universities (UIAH, UH, UR), each university providing courses that are intended for a limited number of students form each department.
In the third phase the Fle2 project, the testing courses will be provided also by the members of the Nordic Interactive Network (http://www.nordic-interactive.org/).
The intention of the course is for participants to achieve a basic knowledge of:
The course will be introduced at a 2-day workshop meeting, to be continued on the net, using the Fle2 environment. Participants work individually and in groups with assignments. Required reading: 300 pages. Evaluation is individual, and participants will be asked to write a hypertext essay.
Natural language interaction requires skills and knowledge related to several levels of language and communication: information on the domain, both structure and content in single phrases and over conversation, ambiguities and subjectivity.
The 5-day workshop introduces the basic concepts and some methods and tools for the specification or development of systems for natural language interaction. Two questions are considered in detail: how to take into account the variation among the users and how to create a conversation memory. The final day of the workshop is used in specifying topics for each participant to be handled during the Fle course. Each student is participating a collaborative learning process during which the selected themes are elaborated as conceptual developments, initial design solutions, linguistic or software experiments, or as tests of existing systems.
The course will introduce the main theoretical background of inquiry learning and the use of collaborative tools for knowledge building and sharing of expertise. During the course the students take part in a progressive inquiry process, which includes active collaboration with content experts around authentic problems of developing software and pedagogics in higher education.
The course is carried out using the collaborative tools of the Fle2 modules, providing insight to the integration of the software attributes and pedagogical methods.
Course duration: November-December 2000, intensive period of four weeks. Evaluation criteria: active participation and demonstration of good command of reading materials.
The intention of the course is to give participants a basic knowledge of:
Participants will be required to produce a prototype interface for a multimedia product. Starting with and introductory workshop, participants continue work in a net environment (Fle2), actively participating in the production of a prototype interface. Required reading: 300 pages. Evaluation criteria: active participation.
Course and net-seminar 24 August to 28 September 2001.
The intention of the course is to qualify students to reflect on the role of (new) media in culture and society through:
Lectures are followed by collective treatment of relevant problems in a net environment. Required reading: 300 pages. Evaluation criteria: active participation.
UIAH Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki
The University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH gives education and pursues research in the fields of design, audio-visual communication, interactive media design and production, art education and arts. There are eleven departments and seventeen fields of education and research. UIAH is the largest art and design school in Scandinavia: there are nearly 1600 students, 15% of which come from abroad, and 400 teachers. Furthermore, 1500 students participate in professional education and training annually and 1000 students in the studies at the open university.
Nearly 3000 persons apply to UIAH annually, and an average of 9% are accepted as students. A B.A. degree (Arts and Design) takes three years and a M.A. degree (Arts and Design) takes five years. It is also possible to defend a doctoral dissertation: so far ten doctors have taken their degrees.
Relevant for this project is the experience in several research and development projects carried out in the Media Lab UIAH. Media Labs research and development topics include:
The Media Lab was formed in 1993 as a separate department within UIAH. Supported initially with a development grant from the Finnish Ministry of Education the lab has grown to become the leading department of its kind in Finland focussing on design and production for the New Media. In August 1998 the Lab was granted full faculty status and currently employs over 20 full-time staff.
The mission of the Media Lab is to explore, discover and comprehend the new digital technology and its impact in society; to find and exploit the possibilities it opens to communication, interaction, education and expression and to evaluate, understand and deal with the challenges it poses to design.
The information society with its converging media is a complex environment that requires an interdisciplinary approach to design. This is reflected in the co-operative education and research projects of the Media Lab. Within UIAH the Media Lab plays an active role in strategic planning and integration of matters relating to interactive media.
The Media Lab aims at providing education which will result in producing graduates who are capable of taking leading roles, as designers, producers, consultants, teachers, researchers and entrepreneurs within the broad field of New Media. In order to reach these aims it is necessary to conduct our education within an inter-disciplinary and international context, taking into account and reacting to, changes in the field within industry, associated technologies, arts and culture and society in general. Similarly the research of the Media Lab aims at supporting the development of the European New Media Industry by the initiation of and involvement in inter-disciplinary research projects and programmes which attempt to facilitate the role of artists and designers within research and development practice. The Media Lab is designed to provide a practical working, technical environment in which also persons with a strong technical background can find possibilities for innovative development work which aims at finding new areas of application and integration for leading edge technologies. Central to the research philosophy of the Media Lab is the notion of the importance of user-centred design and an understanding of the user. The research and development work of the Media Lab aims strongly at finding user-friendly solutions and involves the development of future scenarios as a method of understanding the needs of the user in future times.
Media Lab UIAH participates in several European collaborative projects relevant to this application:
The interdisciplinary Department of Communication, Journalism and Computer Science has a staff equalling some 40 full-time researchers/teachers. In addition to normal administrative staff, a wide range of technical staff is also employed at the department, from computer programmers to photographers and video technicians. The department is responsible also for the general computer network, mail services and audio-visual services for Roskilde University.
Research and teaching in the Communication division consists of both theoretical and applied research. In the area of Communication there is a permanent interaction between media production and a theoretical reflection on the processes of media production and consumption. Also the organisational aspects of communication is in focus, both as regards the communication processes in organisations and the organisational influence on communication activities.
The overall focus of research is on 'scholarly communication' or 'science communication', i.e. communication of content emerging from other scientific disciplines.
The concept of 'target audiences' is central, and communication activities are thus supposed to have to be designed specifically to intended audiences. This focus has inspired to many theoretical and methodological considerations, and to the development of new qualitative research methods, refinement of interview techniques, development of a variety of dialogue based methods.
Both traditional and modern media play important roles in the communication of science, and the research at the department covers all media from oral and literal media to various forms of electronic media, including interactive digital multimedia.
Since 1995 the full Communication Studies programme has been offered also as a net-based distance education programme (called InterKomm+). The success of the distance education programme has led to the development of a new specialised programme for the Master of Computer-Mediated Communication (MCMC) degree, to be started in August 2000. It is in the context of InterKomm+ and MCMC that the Fle2 project is especially relevant.
However, all department divisions (Communication, Journalism and Computer Science) are in a process of technical and pedagogical development, and net-based learning will no longer remain limited to specific groups of (distance) students, but is becoming part of the general pedagogical toolbox for all study and teaching activities. In this context, it is most important that we extent the functionality and usability of existing tools.
During recent years, we have used and evaluated a number of tools for Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning. These experiences have been reported in a variety of documents, from extensive reports to a series of conference papers.
In the search for a useful environment for problem-based learning we have discarded several commercial products, and have mainly used a proprietary UNIX-based (pearl) scripted conferencing system. With the continued development of BSCW system, we have found this to be closer to our functionality needs, but without the ease of use and needed adaptation to an educational setting. We are therefore eager to co-operate with the original developers of Fle in order to approach a system that can be integrated into the pedagogical model of Roskilde University.
Centre for Research in Networked Learning and Knowledge Building (in short Centre for Networked Learning Research) is founded by the ICT Learning Centre, Vantaa Institute for Continuing Education and the Department of Psychology at the University of Helsinki, Finland. The Centre for Networked Learning Research has been established to promote the fluent integration of theoretical and practical knowledge in developing educational use of ICT. Close integration between theory and practice enables research of rapidly regenerating technological innovations to ensure dissemination of good practices. Further, it ties cognitive research to issues with high validity and applicability to various fields.
The comprehensive aims of the Centre for Networked Learning Research are to
The Centre for Networked Learning Research joins together two outstanding units in the field of education and research.
ICT Learning Centre is a specialised unit of the Vantaa Institute for Continuing Education, University of Helsinki. ICT Learning Centre has a staff of about 10 experts in information and communication technologies . Its main field of expertise is in-service training of teachers and ICT related school improvement projects. It has played a major role in training software and multimedia designers in Finland, as well as in Nordic and Baltic countries.
The Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, is the leading research unit in cognitive psychology in Finland. Researchers of the Department are actively participating in intensive research projects concerning ICTs cognitive and pedagogical effects. In recent years, a new focus of developing and evaluating educational and commercial applications of ICT has emerged.
The head of the Centre is Dr. Kai Hakkarainen, PhD. The research group of the Centre for Networked Learning Research consists of about 10 researches representing different sciences and expertise: psychology, education, philosophy and cognitive science. The group has done research work over five years carrying out research projects concerning theoretical modelling and developing of good practices for technology-based collaborative knowledge building. Members of the group have published many articles and books in national and international forums during last few years. Two of the largest projects have been with the Schools of Helsinki 2001 Project (starting from 1997) and the Future Learning Environment research and development project with the Media Lab at the University of Art and Design (starting from 1998).
Projects now under the umbrella of Centre for Networked Learning Research have been supported in research and development initiatives by Tekes (The National Technology Agency and The European Union (TSER), the latter in connection with the European collaborative learning networks, (CL-Net 1998-1999) and NetD@ys Europe in 1999. Currently the research is supported by The Academy of Finland, Sitra (The Finnish National Fund for Research and Development) and Helsinki City Educational Department among others.