A COMPETENCY ANALYSER AS A KNOWLEDGE-BASED APPROACH FOR MAKING E-LEARNING MORE FLEXIBLE AND PERSONALISED
Distance learning based on information and communication technologies (e-learning) is our latest source of hope in developing countries for providing education to marginalised sectors of our society and, in general, for broadening the coverage of our educational systems beyond the limitations imposed by our handicapped economies, our lack of physical infrastructure and our geographical settings. Unfortunately, e-learning has been approached with the same vision that has generally shaped our schools and classrooms, producing educational programmes slightly more elaborated than predefined sequences of courses; courses as predefined and mostly rigid sequences of units or lessons, and lessons as predefined and mostly rigid sequences of predefined activities. This is the menu for our students to choose from, irrespectively of their age (e.g. eighteen to seventy years old) and background (e.g. just leaving high school to just entering retirement).
Even educational programmes based on competencies have been made to meet this mold, as is the case for the programmes offered by the Virtual University System at the University of Guadalajara (UDGVirtual), even though we have implemented some ways of revalidating competencies as alternatives to courses. Despite that each educational programme, course, unit and activity is design from a competency perspective that discloses knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, behaviours and outcomes, their final presentation is very much in the shape dictated by traditional education, a condition that frequently misleads our teachers and learners to approach the educational process as homework making and marking.
Aware as we are of this situation, we have established a project that aims to bringing more flexibility and personalisation to our e-learning environment by exploiting the competency framework underlying our educational programmes. The initial phase of our project has consisted of defining a computational schema (a.k.a ontology) for representing the competencies, their categories, their components and their relationships. Following a "constructivist approach" to research and development, we started from scratch based what we had, our theoretical background and curricula design, to later comparing our results to what is available in the literature. A second phase in our project comprises encoding all our curricula design using the computational schema designed in the previous phase. A third phase of the project is devoted to capitalise from these efforts by developing tools for gathering evidence concerning competencies of learners, for integrating this evidence in computer representations of beliefs on the status of learner competencies (learner models), and using this knowledge to provide alternative approaches to learning that supplement our curricula, as a initial step to making e-learning in our context more flexible and personalised.
In our paper, we present the results from the first phase of our project, including a comparison to what is available in the literature. We present the current state of our effort on formalising the whole of our curricula, including a description of main outcomes and difficulties. Finally, we will sketch the tools we have envisioned to improve on learning in a knowledge-based e-learning environment.