Towards a Methodology for Semantic and Context-Aware Mobile Learning

Towards a Methodology for Semantic and Context-Aware Mobile Learning

Fayrouz Soualah-Alila (University of Burgundy, France), Christophe Nicolle (University of Burgundy, France), and Florence Mendes (University of Burgundy, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch578
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Before any discussion on m-learning, we need to look at the main steps of evolution in the learning domain.

As a first step, learning became distant and moves away from the traditional teacher-led classroom. In the mid-to late 1800's, home study became a legitimate form of education with the development of inexpensive postal services in Europe and across the United States. In 1840, Isaac Pitman used the new postal services to provide a correspondence course, which was in fact the first distance education program. The University of London claimed to be the first university to offer d-learning degrees, providing its external program in 1858. Since 1920, educational programs including academics have been broadcasting in Europe. In 1995, Keegan defines distant learning (d-learning) as education and training resulting from the technological separation of teacher and learner, which frees the learner from the necessity of traveling to a fixed place, at a fixed time (Keegan, 1995).

Then with the emergence of computers and the World Wide Web, distance learning evolved and became a critical part of modern education. These new technologies have made d-learning distribution easier and faster. In 1999, during a CBT Systems seminar in Los Angeles, a new word was used for the first time in a professional environment “e-learning.” Associated with such expressions as online learning or virtual learning, this word was meant to qualify a way to learn based on the use of new technologies allowing access to online training through the Internet or other electronic media (intranet, extranet, interactive TV, CD-ROM, etc.), so as to develop competencies while the process of learning is independent from time and place. Early e-learning systems, based on computer-based learning, often tried to copy autocratic teaching styles whereby the role of the e-learning system was assumed to be for just transferring knowledge. This is opposed to systems developed later, based on CSCL (Computer Supported Collaborative Learning), which encouraged the shared development of knowledge and collaborative work. So in 2001, the Commission of the European Communities defined e-learning as “the use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning by facilitating access to resources and services as well as remote exchanges and collaboration.”

We cannot separate e-learning from the technology that enables it, which is the Learning Management system (LMS). A LMS is a software application in which training programs are assembled and made available for the learner. Typically, a LMS provides the trainer with a way to create and deliver content, learner participation, and assess learner performance. A LMS may also provide learners the ability to use interactive features such as threaded discussions, video conferencing and forums. Hundreds of LMSs platforms have been developed, the most known are Moodle and Blackboard.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Learning Object (LO): This is the smallest element of meaningful instruction, independent of other pieces of instruction and correlated with a specific learning objective. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) defines a learning object as any entity, digital or non-digital, that may be used for learning, education or training.

Ontology: An explicit formal specification of how to represent the objects, concepts, and entities existing in an area of interest, and the relationships among them.

Web 2.0: This is a concept where Internet is viewed as a medium in which interactive experience, in the form of blogs, wikis and forums, plays a more important role than simply accessing information.

Context-Awareness: This is the ability of a system to be aware of its context.

Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM): This is a collection of standards and specifications for web-based e-learning. It defines communications between client side content and a host system called the run-time environment, which is commonly supported by a learning management system.

Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL): This is a pedagogical approach where learning takes place via social interaction using a computer or through Internet. It is characterized by the sharing and construction of knowledge among participants, using technology as their primary means of communication or as a common resource.

Moodle: Abbreviation for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. It is a free source e-learning software platform, also known as Learning Management System. Moodle helps learners create online courses with a focus on interaction and collaborative construction of content, and is in continual evolution.

Blackboard: This is an enterprise software company with its corporate headquarters in Washington, and is primarily known as a developer of education software, in particular learning management systems. The company provides education, mobile, communication, and commerce software and related services to clients, including education providers, corporations and government organizations.

Learning Object Metadata (LOM): This is a data model, usually encoded in XML, used to describe a learning object and similar digital resources used to support learning. The purpose of learning object metadata is to support the reusability of learning objects, to aid discoverability, and to facilitate their interoperability, usually in the context of online learning management systems.

Semantic Web: The term was coined by Tim Berners-Lee who defines the semantic Web as a web of data that can be processed directly and indirectly by machines. In other words, semantic Web is a mesh of information linked up in such a way so as to be easily processable by machines, on a global scale.

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