E-BUDDY: COLLABORATIVE LEARNING WITH ELECTRONIC DOCUMENTS AND EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL
The advent of Web 2.0 technologies fostered the development and widespread use of different kinds of social platforms and applications which in turn strongly influence the way people use the internet to communicate with each other. In this regard e-Learning 2.0 can possibly be understood as an education concept that incorporates web 2.0 technologies in a way that enables learners to recognize their potential and develop this potential to benefit both students and lecturers.
In this paper we propose E-Buddy, an e-Learning system that is currently developed at the Ferdinand Porsche Distance University of Applied Sciences in Austria. The aim of this project is to offer students and lecturers an innovative web-based e-Learning system that offers Web 2.0 technologies in a way such that collaborative learning in terms of e-Learning 2.0 becomes possible.
We identified some important criteria that are decisive for the success and adaption of an e-Learning system. One such criterium is the initial training effort. As a consequence, the implementation of the graphical representation is mainly based on software technologies that allow for an easy to understand and intuitive handling of tasks and features. Thus, the chosen technologies and the representation of the design elements are based on Web 2.0 technologies. Furthermore, the underlying system architecture was designed to allow for an easy integration of future means to support other designs, WebRTC for real-time communications as well as the integration of mobile devices such as tablets or mobile phones.
E-Buddy is a document-oriented e-Learning management system which in our opinion has several advantages. Each course offers or consists of at least one or several electronic documents. The number of documents in each course may change over time. All participants can upload pdf-documents or create new documents. In each case, the owner of a document may invite others to collaboratively edit, write and work with.
Each document allows to select text or previously added selections which are graphically highlighted. An editor allows to add a further annotation which may contain text, pictures, links or videos.
The creator of an annotation is always in charge of whether it shall be visible (public) to others or not (private). Whereas private annotations can be referred to as private bookmarks, public annotations are visible to other participants. Thus, through text selection one may initiate a discussion among students and the lecturer. Compared to threads in a discussion forum, however, this kind of discussion is tied to a certain point of information within a document which facilitates searching for answers to particular questions within the document.
Furthermore, the system offers the capability to upload answers to assignments that are directly embedded into documents. Students may receive immediately an answer whether the result is correct or not from the system or with a time lag by the lecturer. Similarly, students may give constant feedback to the lecturer via feedback-forms that are also directly embedded into documents. Feedback may relate to different subjects such as chapters, documents and the whole course.
Future integration of semantic technologies will enable textual analysis to improve the quality of documents, better measure the level of understanding amongst students and to facilitate the student's learning experience.