Actively Supporting Collaboration in Virtual Learning Environments

Adrian Gordon and Lynne Hall, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK

Collaboration between peers is an important aspect of the learning process and can considerably augment learning in studying complex domains. To ensure that peer collaboration occurs within unfamiliar situations such as those provided by Virtual Learning Environments, support for collaborative activities needs to be offered to learners. This support can be provided using intelligent agents that actively support the formation of collaborative relationships and mediate collaboration between learners in Virtual Learning Environments. This paper describes intelligent agents developed to provide support for proctoring, a form of collaborative learning where learners adopt the role of tutor or tutee. This collaborative activity is described within the context of an environment constructed for the learning of Entity Relationship Modelling. The intelligent agents determine effective collaboration partners, based on the monitoring of learner behaviour and initiate the collaborative activity between these partners. Using this approach, learners interact as both tutor and tutee and experience different types of collaboration. Learners have identified positive learning experiences and can be seen to have an increased understanding of Entity Relationship Modelling as a result of these collaborative activities.

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