The Role of Adaptation and Personalisation in Classroom-Based
Learning and in e-Learning1
(FH JOANNEUM, Department of Information Design, Graz, Austria
(FH JOANNEUM, Department of Information Design, Graz, Austria
Abstract: The paper focuses on adaptability, knowledge mediation
and knowledge flows in face-to-face classes compared to computer-based
or Internet-based classes. The paper gives an overview of features of on-line
learning systems that facilitate the learning process and gives some aspects
on adaptation and personalisation issues within those systems. Some recent
developments of intelligent tutors capable of expressing emotions are presented.
Application examples of adaptable multimedia e-learning solutions for different
user groups are described. An outlook on possible future developments and
constraints is provided. The paper starts an important discussion about
how to design effective human-computer interaction.
Key Words: Learning, Teaching, Personalisation
Categories: H.5.1, I.2.6
In one of the literature depictions of the synergy of people and computers,
the author [Pickover 1992] integrates people into
the electronic environments. People began to see with "the eyes of
the computer", they began to hear "with the ears of the computer"
and they applied computer to write letters. At that point the above described
was still science fiction. Nowadays, in the era of information and communication
technology (ICT) this science fiction vision is transformed into the social
fiction, as [Fassler 1999] calls this phenomenon. ICT makes it possible
to communicate and exchange ideas without the physical boundaries. The
application of ICT also spread rapidly. At the beginning ICT was available
only to the smaller group of privileged people working at governmental
research institutions and universities. For illustration, in 1975 an IBM
mainframe computer that could perform 10,000,000 instructions per second
cost around $10,000,000. In 1995 (only twenty years later), a computer
video game capable of performing 500,000,000 million instructions per second
was available for approximately $500 [Maxfield].
 A short version of this article was
presented at the IKNOW '03 (Graz, Austria, July 2-4, 2003).
Today ICT can be found in primary and secondary schools and in the majority
of average households, supporting a range of activities including work,
learning, teaching, or just communicating with people all over the world.
According to [Bangemann 1999] estimations were made
that already by the year 2000 there will be about 325 million Internet
users, receiving, retrieving, and exchanging information over electronic
In the first part of our contribution we present teaching and adaptation
processes in the real world, hence still the majority of teaching has been
carried out in face-to-face lectures or tries to replicate this method
in the virtual world. In the next chapter we outline the minimal features
necessary to support teaching within the virtual world. We also show that
technology provides numerous possibilities to support individual interactions
with knowledge that reach far beyond the possibilities provided within
face-to-face lectures, thus bringing innovative concepts into the field
of learning. Some application examples and their features that support
adaptation and personalisation are outlined. In the chapter One Step
Ahead we introduce recent issues of human-computer interactions that
also include emotions. We present several applications of virtual tutors
in areas such as individual e-lesson, help system and technical support.
2 Teaching and Adaptation Processes in the Real World
When we consider personalisation and adaptation (P&A) in computer-based
or computer-aided learning, let us first move back and consider the same
mechanisms in a classical, i.e. in a face-to-face learning situation. In
the situation of a classical lecture or seminar, adaptation and personalisation
can take place as well. It means that the teacher adapts his or her way
of teaching or adapts the content, based on feedback received by the students.
According to [Picard 1997], the way of thinking of
adults can be described as a combination of "assimilation" and
"adaptation", where assimilation means to use well-known insights
in a relatively effortless way, whereas adaptation means to create new
insights based on new circumstances by logical thinking, which costs more
In the classical situation there are two possibilities for this feedback
to be provided: explicit feedback and implicit feedback. Explicit feedback
means that the students communicate to the teacher what they have understood
from the learning content, what other content they would like to know,
what other kind of teaching they would like to have. This is sometimes
given during the lecture or seminar, maybe on request by the teacher, based
on a pre-test, or during an exam, or it happens by filling out a dedicated
feedback form, often also in an informal talk. Implicit feedback is information
that the teacher receives from the students via non-verbal signals during
or after the lecture or seminar, such as noise level or nodding with the
head. Implicit feedback can also be gathered by the teacher out of other
parameters, like the response time for student answers (time between question
by the teacher and answer by the student), or the number of attendees,
or the number of students working extra hours in a university lab.
In the design of e-learning solutions it may be difficult to determine
the right degree of P&A. Preliminary estimations on the effectiveness
of human-computer communication can be made if we take human-to-human communication
as a starting point. So we postulate that "the degree of P&A
desired or accepted by the users (students) will be close to the degree
of P&A offered to students by an experienced and successful human teacher".
What we mean by adaptation in a face-to-face teaching situation is basically
the sum of all reactions of the teacher on the explicit and implicit feedback
that he or she receives. The range of human adaptation is as broad as the
range of human personality, however limited by several factors.
Let us classify the adaptation of a human teacher based on student feedback
in short term, medium and long term loops. Short term adaptation
happens within the same lecture unit or seminar unit in which the feedback
happens. When receiving negative feedback, a teacher first may repeat content
more slowly or in other words, or add an example that illustrates the content.
He or she may use a blackboard drawing in order to illustrate the content,
use objects at hand or simply make gestures that underline the content.
The teacher may react on signals of lack of attention by an unforeseen
change in the way of talking, or by inserting an exercise that stimulates
attention and group interaction, and come back to the planned course of
the seminar after that. When receiving massive negative feedback, a discussion
on the value of the content or the level of complexity may take place,
but not all teachers would spontaneously deviate from the planned flow
of the seminar that much.
A medium term adaptation loop happens in time frames longer than
one seminar unit but shorter than the whole lecture or seminar (usually
from a few days or weeks up to four months). When receiving negative feedback,
a teacher may adapt the content of the next seminar unit by repeating content,
inserting examples or showing audiovisual material. He or she may add practical
experience to illustrate theoretical content that was provided in the seminar
Long term adaptation happens when a teacher modifies the content
or didactical approach of the whole lecture or seminar according to feedback
based on the previous seminar. Measures may range from adaptation in teaching
speed, giving examples and other measures mentioned above, and go up to
a complete change of the didactical approach on which the lecture is based.
Long term adaptation of lectures has resulted in the creation of new approaches
like problem-based learning or "Mengenlehre".
According to our postulate an ideal computer-based training (CBT) resource
would offer adaptation of the same degree and quality as human teachers
do. While the CBT features initially may not have the same behaviour
as humans due to the known limitations of artificial intelligence, the
adaptation offered by humans should always be the example and define the
limitations for desired CBT features.
Having said this, is it astonishing to add that human teachers offer
a very limited range of personalisation? Humans offer personality,
and students may have the opportunity to chose among several lectures or
among several teachers offering the same lecture. But as we all know, once
this decision has been made, we are not in a position to adjust the attitude
of the other human, or these possibilities are very limited in modern societies.
If according to our postulate the ideal learning situation is state-of-the-art
content illustrated by real-life situations and moderated by a skilled
human teacher, the basic personalisation features of the human-to-human
learning situation are the following: Students have the opportunity to
communicate with the teacher and with other students and discuss the content.
Furthermore students may take notes, sketches, photocopies, photographs,
video and audio recordings, use books and create their own sets of data
consisting of the said artefacts.
It is not our intention to negate technological progress by limiting
future developments to the achievements of the human brain, but our postulation
implies that, like in artificial intelligence, the human-to-human analogy
serves as an example for the ideal learning situation. This again implies
that extensive personalisation of the learning resource would be in the
way of efficient learning.
In analogy to the human example and besides the collection of implicit
and explicit feedback leading to adaptation, the desired personalisation
features of an e-learning resource include at least a student-to-student
communication facility and the possibility to collect personalised content
in form of notes, sketches, photocopies, photographs, video and audio recordings,
and books or rather e-books. These features are of course to be enhanced
by the opportunities of the digital age like the possibility of viewing
remote e-books, data bases, or remotely ordering books from diverse libraries,
communication with remote teachers or students, and self-testing by the
student at any time.
3 Supporting the Teaching and Adaptation Processes within the Virtual
From the didactical point of view there are numerous approaches to learning,
such as learning by observation, learning by enquiry and investigation,
learning by doing, individually, face-to-face and in groups, experimental
learning, learning by evaluation and reflection. As outlined in [Buckley
1999], learning environments that exploit interactive multimedia are
of special interest. The educational potential of this technology closely
parallels the pedagogical goals of the Learning Paradigm. According to
[Buckley 1999] a simple pedagogical set of features
that can foster transition to the Learning Paradigm is as follows: (1.)
Interactivity fosters active learning, (2.) The sensory-rich nature of
technology facilitates the engagement of additional powerful cognitive
processes, and (3.) Integration of assessment tools into the environment
can provide students with feedback, encouragement etc.
In the field of Web based training, learning is much more than reading
lessons by navigating through prepared multimedia courses and working out
exercises. Further elements like communication, collaboration, dynamic
and static background libraries and using a search engine on the Internet
and exploring material on WWW sites are needed [Lennon
1994, Maurer 1999, Dietinger
1999]. E-learning also has to support "life long learning",
"goal oriented learning", "learning on demand" [Gütl
1999, Dietinger 1999] as well as various kinds
of formal and informal education. Additional challenges to e-learning come
from economy, science and management where the quick and full access to
information - the information advantage - is also a quality and competitive
What is adaptation and what are adaptable systems? How do we experience
those systems from the user's perspective, i.e. from the usability point
of view? When we evaluate a product according to the principles of usability,
we apply the usability evaluation principles that are based on the ISO
DIS 9241-11 standard and also described e.g. in [Jordan
1998]: "Usability of a product is defined as a combination of
three separate aspects: effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Effectiveness
means the extent to which the user's goal, or task, is achieved.
Efficiency means the amount of effort that the user requires to accomplish
a goal or achieve a task. Satisfaction is the level of comfort that the
user feels when using a product and how acceptable the product is to users
as a vehicle for achieving their goals."
Let us have a look at a research area of adaptive hypermedia systems
(AHS) that is merging the fields of hypermedia, adaptive systems and intelligent
tutoring systems. The aim of AHS is to increase the functionality of hypermedia
and to improve the learning process. AHS can be applied for educational
purposes in the form of adapting the presented information to the current
knowledge level of the student, providing navigation support on various
levels and guiding the student in the learning process [Beaumont
1995]. One of the main features is the adaptation ability based on
user preferences and the knowledge level of the user [Hockemeyer
1997]. At the same time, another component of AHS are Hypermedia Systems.
Hypermedia Systems can be also applied as explorative systems that should
facilitate the learners to find the information needed. In almost unstructured
information space this task often proves to be too complicated and very
time consuming for the learner. AHS try to resolve this problem based on
adaptable communication with the user.
There are various technical solutions of adaptable systems. Shadowing
is a very simple approach where irrelevant links and material for a specific
user are dimmed [Hothi 1998]. Though the material
is accessible to the user it is clearly demonstrated that the material
is not appropriate. Much more restrictive is the solution of hiding
links or not allowing the user to access the visible but inappropriate
material [Brusilovsky 1998]. This approach could
lead to frustration of the user. Another interesting solution is called
stretchtext and is applied in the MetaDoc system [Boyle
1998]. When a stretch link is activated the original text is expanded
with additional material. With deactivation of the link the text shrinks
to the prior format. However, the temptation of following various links
offered remains whereas the probability to lose the focus on the learning
context arises. Interesting concepts of adaptable knowledge presentation,
e.g. adaptable book concept called Multibook and an application of the
concept MediBook that support life long learning, are described in [Seeberg
The challenge of next generation adaptable e-learning systems lies in
providing innovative and generally applicable new approaches to e-learning,
based on interface and content adaptation to the user knowledge and performance.
The adaptation can be based on the age of the user, preferences, user overall
performance and can, among others, result in a user interface with reduced
number of features or in contents presented on different ways. Such adaptable
e-learning systems can support a broad spectrum of different user groups
as well as different ways of learning. Therefore, the systems can be applied
for children education, corporate education and life-long learning. The
adaptation, content granulation and system interoperability can be carried
out with help of the international e-learning standards from the standardisation
groups and committees as follows: SCORM, IMS, IEEE LTSC, ISO SC36, etc.
3.1 Application Example 1: Arts Education Game for Children
In a User-Centred Design seminar led by Konrad Baumann and Peter Purgathofer
at FH Joanneum's Department of Information Design in Graz, Austria, the
seminar topic was to design and implement touch-screen based interactive
applications for a specific target group.
One team of students chose to design an arts education tool for young
children. The project was carried out in 2003 by Elvira Stein (concept,
design, user testing), Sigrid Thallinger (concept, design, programming,
user testing, video), and Tina Fleck (design, programming, user testing,
The application was developed following an iterative user-centred design
process which was introduced in earlier seminars, consisting of user observation
and user testing performed in museums and in a kindergarten, respectively.
In most museums, children fall short of experiences. It becomes soon boring
for them to watch exhibited items, while they are curious by nature and
want to touch things and find out how they feel and work. The target group
are four to seven year old children.
The screen of the final design is dominated by a tablet-like activity
area called stage and a title bar. No text is used and there is a navigation
system suited for children based on large coloured icons. There is an animated
agent named Mike, wearing a life belt. Mike is sitting in the title bar
when idle, and moving in front of the stage area when activated. The agent
explains the application and the games or game-like learning tasks that
run within it and are represented and activated by the title bar icons.
The tasks include: a drawing programme using seven colours and three pen
diameters, a game called Tangram where the children have to assemble a
complex form using basic shapes, the animation of artist's painting, drawing
with numbers, and a basic explanation of colour schemes - additive and
subtractive mixing of colours. When used in a museum of visual arts, this
application gives an introduction to the children on the topic of the museum
and so helps them to find easier access to some aspects of drawing, painting,
visual perception and art. It has been found that it is best to use the
touch screen in horizontal position built in to the surface of a low table.
There are also a language selection feature and an information button to
use for accompanying adults. When activating a game the stage adopts the
game button's colour.
Figure 1: Arts Education Game for Children [Fleck,
The field test showed that children with no or few computer experience
have no real problems using the game application. Children prefer a horizontal
screen surface, as they often move around the screen in order to draw lines.
The simplest way for children to draw a straight line is to do it radially
in direction to their own body, and not from left to right as adults would
do it. The position of icons and buttons should be near the top and left
screen corner in order to avoid accidental operation. Young children do
not strictly make a difference between real and virtual colour: It happened
that a child looked to his or her finger to see whether it still carried
the drawing colour he or she had just touched on the screen. Moving items
(shapes) on the touch screen often posed a problem. A consecutive grabbing
and placing operation seems more natural to children, so they usually lift
the finger from the screen surface when they try to drag a shape. Like
with the colour, the children's mental model of an item that is being operated
on seems to be that the item is associated to their pointing finger and
not to the screen any more.
The agent proved to be well suited for children regarding the functionality,
the spoken text and the talking speed. Currently the design of this application
is at a crucial point where the design team has to decide whether to include
more adaptability or not. It is the agent Mike that could be made adaptive
first of all. The question is still under discussion. Would adaptability
enhance the value and quality of this simple design or would it become
a disturbing factor?
The situation can be compared with an experience made by [Strommen,
1999] concerning the Microsoft barney interactive toy, which has a
strong educational aspect and is for the use by small children as well.
Barney was designed to play "peek-a-boo" when the child covers
Barney's eyes. However, Barney's eye sensor initiated the "peek-a-boo"
exclamation as well when somebody switched off the light or carried Barney
into a dark room. When the designers tested the toy, they found out that
for the children these errors did not result in a problem at all. Children
make mistakes all the time, why should Barney not do so? The children's
reaction was more like "Silly Barney, why should I like to play peek-a-boo
This example shows that when designing for children or when using agents,
our goal is probably not the highest possible perfection in the capacity
to adapt to different situations. To err is human, as the proverb says,
and after all our job is to design more human-like technology.
3.2 Application Example 2: E-Learning for Children 8-14
Next we would like to present two examples of E-Learning platforms for
children. The first platform is called YoungNet and is supported by the
EU [YoungNet]. The platform is designed as a virtual
meeting place for young people from 8 to 14 years. The platform supports
communication and collaboration between users, and provides a place where
young people can play educational games, work on joint projects and exchange
informal information on daily life across borders via text, audio and virtual
communication. Apart from design appearance suitable for the user group,
the platform also offers some personalisation features. Users can choose
the language for instructions and explanations (between German, Finnish
and English), publish personal information, create their own home space
and 3D avatars.
The second platform that we want to report on in more detail, is called
eScience and is designed for young people from 10 to 14 years [eScience].
The eScience platform goals are defined as follows:
- introductory platform for young people (10 to 14) with a learning objective
to learn to use Web applications - integration of the Internet into the
- pupils should be able to elaborate and publish the documentation related
to their experiments in the classroom and search for the relevant information
in the Web
- information exchange between pupils and teacher from different schools
- Web supported lectures e.g. submission and correction of seminar work
- feedback provided by other pupils and teacher about their published
Some difficulties when using the eScience platform were noticed. To
foster user-centered design by restructuring of the platform, a series
of user tests should be carried out to improve the usability of the platform.
The eScience project goals were to create and structure a new, user
friendly platform, where a pupil should be able to create and publish his/her
site based on three mouse clicks. The eScience project was carried out
at the University of Applied Sciences FH JOANNEUM's Department of Information
Design in two lectures: Educational Multimedia led by Maja Pivec, and Usability
of Appliances led by Martina Manhartsberger. The project was carried out
by students of the 5th semester in the major User Interface Design and
Web Engineering [Artinger et al. 2003].
Figure 2: eScience platform - new structure [Artinger
et al. 2003]
Within the project usability tests of the old platform and usability
tests of the new platform concept were carried out. There were many iterations
with pupils and teachers, where disadvantages and obstacles of the existing
platform and needs for new features have been defined. The proposed new
structure is based on user group definition (guest, students, teachers
and administrator), and consists of detailed description of platform functionality
i.e. how to start to work with the platform, navigation, integration of
interdisciplinary projects, edit/publish a site, correct students' work.
See Figure 2 for the depiction of the proposed new
platform structure. Guidelines for students and guidelines for teachers
have been elaborated to facilitate the work with the platform and for promotion
of the platform at other schools.
Strong personalisation features should enable every user to introduce
his/her ideas thus reducing the barrier towards technology. Personalisation
is fostered in the screen MyProfile, see Figure 3.
MyProfile enables users to create personal appearance in the platform and
to personalise the platform colour. Field tests showed that the possibility
to define personal colour settings was very important for the user group.
Every user also has the possibility to define the communication modus with
the choice between pop-up and frame messages.
Figure 3: MyProfile - eScience platform [Artinger
et al. 2003]
3.3 Application Example 3: Universities and Life Long Learning
Research described in this chapter tackles innovative solutions for
adaptation and personalization for formal and informal education. Eye-Tracking
Supported Adaptive E-Learning is a research project lead by Maja Pivec
and Christian Gütl. This project is a joint research of the University
of Applied Sciences FH JOANNEUM's Department of Information Design in Graz,
Austria, and the Graz University of Technology's Institute for Information
Processing and Computer Supported New Media (IICM). It is funded by the
FHplus impulse program of the Austrian ministries BMVIT and BMBWK.
Eye-Tracking Supported E-Learning represents a new and innovative approach
to adaptive e-learning methods. The main idea is to introduce an improved,
real-time-capable eye-tracking procedure for intelligent user profile deduction
on the one hand, and the use of a dynamic background library on the other
hand. By means of eye-tracking, the behaviour of the learner is recorded
in real-time and used for adaptive knowledge transfer. Among other benefits,
this information produces detailed user profiles through more targeted
identification of the actually consumed knowledge units. The dynamic background
library provides further information for the learning units, corresponding
to the needs and knowledge of the learner.
The basic idea of this new and innovative approach of merging the eye
tracking methods with the dynamic background library is to develop the
methods of how to individually impart knowledge to each single learner
by using a real-time eye-tracking system. Moreover, the predefined learning
content modules should be dynamically linked to a background library providing
additional and personalised information on the displayed learning content.
Innovative solutions and an improved and more profound understanding are
expected in various areas as follows:
- improved knowledge of the users' behaviour in the field of human-computer
interaction in general as well as related to the displayed learning contents
- improved and detailed course-progress tracking
- more detailed recording of the consumed learning content and cognitive
processes of the user
- novel possibilities for identifying the most suitable media and content
presentation within knowledge transfer environments
- identification of possible user problems and development of correction
and adaptation mechanisms
- identification of problematic areas in the content flow and/or content
- identification of the need for detailed additional information related
to the learning content, more specific to the paragraphs accessed by the
- use of collaborative filtering methods
- improved realization and presentation of the knowledge modules under
consideration of user behaviour
Based on the eye-tracking data an adaptable system will be created,
providing personalized course content and taking into consideration the
user's learning type, individual cognition, areas of interest and knowledge
level. With the application of the eye-tracking system parameters such
as attention, cognitive activities, search and orientation processes, distress
and lack of concentration or emotional reactions could be detected. Based
on the evaluated and interpreted user data a complex user-profile could
A detailed user-profile enables the automatic creation of information
and learning contents and personalized presentation within the adaptable
user-centered environment i.e. e-learning environments, knowledge management
solutions, commercial Web pages. Based on the real-time data fatigue, distraction
and distress could also be identified and different courses of action could
be suggested to the user, such as proposition of a little break, more efficient
learning paths, etc. Certain chunks of information could also be redundantly
displayed in other segments of the learning content thus supporting the
The proposed innovative user-centered compilation and presentation of
learning contents and lessons and related background information provided
from the static and dynamic background sources supports cognitive processes
and problem solving. Such adaptable systems could be applied to learning,
especially in the sensible areas where 100% knowledge acquisition is required.
Furthermore, the novel approach supports the identification of the level
of expertise and provides tailored knowledge transfer and personalized
knowledge management, being of value to corporate knowledge management
systems. Based on the generalization of user behavior related to the learning
content, information is collected and applied for improvement of the learning
content structuring, information flow, additional explanation, etc.
4 One Step Ahead
As we know, every artefact, especially computers and even more so agents,
are subject to "anthropomorphisation" by the user. This means
the user - to a certain extent - treats the machine like a human being.
This is an argument for providing features to virtual teaching agents that
are similar to the capabilities and "features" of human teachers.
Especially the guiding role that can be found even in the most participative
teaching styles, should be preserved for virtual teachers.
An expert system named Virtual Tutor (VT) was developed as an interactive
multimedia knowledge module with explanation features [Gütl
2002, Gütl 2003]. This application merges
qualities of an expert system with advantages of multimedia, thus creating
a variety of innovative ways of knowledge mediation. For students, the
individual dialogue based session with the VT provides the possibility
to apply the knowledge acquired in combination with indirect assessment.
The VT was further embedded in the Web-based on-line learning environment.
As already mentioned in the previous chapter, there are many benefits for
students within the on-line learning environment independent of course
content and style, like e.g. tools for asynchronous and synchronous communication
and collaboration, search facility within a background library, a progress
indicator monitoring the learning success etc. In addition, the application
of expert systems makes it possible to use a different knowledge representation
and explanation approach. The individual VT session also provides the chance
for students to apply the knowledge acquired in combination with indirect
assessment. With interactive VT sessions, various students' activities
could be enhanced as follows: raising the learning motivation, research
work, stimulating the creativity by carrying out analysis and synthesis,
searching for solutions, interdisciplinary learning.
Based on the reported evaluation results [Gütl
2002, Gütl 2003] the conclusion can be drawn
that dialogue based systems meet more accurately the requirements of students
when solving problems. The possibility of accessing additional information
related to the subject domain and explanation on request makes VT an interesting
and different tool for knowledge transfer that proved to be helpful for
the process of knowledge utilisation and knowledge anchoring. Interaction
with the VT could be seen as similar to a personal dialogue between student
With the intention to show the users' response to the VT system and
point out possible improvements of the system in the future, we provide
some evaluation details. For a complete report on evaluation, defined tasks
and results discussion see [Gütl 2003]. The
first VT evaluation was carried out by Christian Gütl, Maja Pivec
and Gerald Reif within the course Knowledge Processing, led by Christian
Gütl at the Graz University of Technology. Additional evaluation of
the VT was performed with 16 students of Information Design. The evaluation
was carried out by Maja Pivec in her course Learning with Multimedia, at
the FH JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences.
The results showed among others:
- Multimedia followed literature as the second most appreciated way of
- Dialogue/discussion ranked first place as the most appreciated way
to get information necessary to provide a solution for a particular problem,
followed again by multimedia.
These results indicate high potential for the application of hybrid
systems such as the combination of expert systems, multimedia, and Web-based
systems for just-in-time learning and just-in-time problem-solving [Gütl
2003]. Such systems provide task-oriented access to knowledge and represent
a different way of knowledge transfer, which is adapted to user requirements
and knowledge level.
Several students' comments listed below pointed out some usability problems
and suggestions for improvements:
- At the beginning I could not figure out how to use the program VT (I
did not understand the fundamentals of the program). But after a few attempts
it became easier and made sense (for me). Some usability improvements in
form of an avatar could prove helpful. A short description at the beginning
of the applet would also help.
- The VT interface could be improved.
- It is difficult to use the VT without previous explanation of the communication
with the program. Sometimes it is very slow.
- If one enters an incorrect response there is no possibility to correct
it (...) one has to go through the entire dialogue and then start the VT
Interaction with the VT systems is based on a dialogue i.e. asking and
answering questions. The evaluation showed that this way of communication
is quite unusual and unexpected for users. Based on everyday experience
when dealing with computers, we may state that many times users adopt their
behaviour to the computer. However, the still existing barrier of many
different user groups towards computer technology indicates a strong need
for user centred design of computer applications and hardware. Computer
technology evolved over the decades and significant improvements in human-computer
interaction have already been made.
As observed in [Norman 1998], when new technology
matures and has reached the transition point, the change from technology-driven
products to customer-driven, human-centered products could and should be
made. Some innovative integrated solutions in form of Information Appliances
are presented and discussed in [Norman 1998] Chapter
12: A World of Information Appliances, and in the Appendix. However, there
is also a new aspect of emotions that should be integrated into the next-generation
solutions, which is the topic of the forthcoming book by Donald Norman
Already early experiments like ELIZA [Weizenbaum 1966]
showed that people react emotionally to computers and also expect human
behaviour from the machines. Recently various applications, like virtual
tutors "Liza and Lili" [Bruns 2003], have
been developed that try to demonstrate emotions and also behave or respond
emotionally. Liza is able to provide appropriate reactions on the user's
emotional signals. Computer scientists and social scientists research various
applications and possible scenarios of Computer Supported Co-operative
Work (CSCW). Key questions of the research are: How do virtual environments
influence the relationship between users, appearances in the virtual world
and their influence on various interactions? What governs the formation
of virtual communities? How strong can the emotional involvement in the
virtual world be?
Hence Liza and Lili are still in "laboratory environment"
and there is no possibility to view the system prototype, I can only report
about my experience with them. I met them at the time4you exhibition stand
at the LearnTech 2003 in Karlsruhe, Germany. I was very curious how the
computer can react emotionally. So I decided to try it out and to play
a game with them. The goal of the game was to make Liza and Lili angry
and annoyed. Based on the dialogue she explored how the agent will emotionally
react on her input and how the facial expression i.e. expression of eyes
in combination with eyebrows' position will change. In a dialogue I tried
out which questions and responses make them angry or perhaps confused.
Based on the described experience my conclusions are that emotions introduce
a more personalised note in human-computer interaction and make possible
more experimental, playful and sensitive (perhaps more human-like) interaction
Recent research has shown that emotions are important for learning [Spitzer
2002]. Spitzer states that people memorise details, things and events
that are related to the "better than expected" sensation. In
her book Affective Computing [Picard 1997] discusses
emotions and computers and reflects upon building affective systems. Already
at present computers are able to recognise several facial expressions and
distinguish different vocal expressions. Research results of Picard's team
showed that with a success rate of about 81% eight emotional states can
be recognized. The technology also makes possible the gathering of physiological
signals and monitoring behavioural patterns of humans. One question of
concern for any new technology is "How will it impact people?"
[Picard 1997] Similar to adaptation regarding learning
styles, it could be the classification of users regarding their emotional
types, thus providing the adapted learning contents and interface with
information about the personal emotional state of the user.
In his book "The Inmates are Running the Asylum", [Cooper
1999] introduced the notion of personas to HCI. Originally a persona
is a virtual person appearing in a theatre play or in a movie. When designing
a UI, Alan Cooper suggests defining user personas, i.e. virtual persons
who represent typical people belonging to the product's target group(s).
Information about the target groups is collected before that via interviews,
focus groups, etc. One persona is selected, who for some reason is the
less skilled one because of age, knowledge or experience. This persona
will play the user's role in the UI design process. It is for him or her
that the User Interface is designed. The reason for using personas and
not real users in the design process is primarily that a persona does not
have individual properties and needs that any real person has. The persona
only has collective, average properties and needs instead. Also the persona
is always available and after a while will be well-known by the designers
At their i-Know '03 paper presentation, Pivec and Baumann transferred
the idea of personas to e-learning [Pivec 2003]. In
the real world university students usually can choose their teachers. In
today's e-learning tools, the tool may try to adapt to the student, or
the student can set various parameters in order to personalise the tool.
The persona concept will make this choice as easy as in an ideal real world
situation: Students can select one out of a set of teacher personas that
represent various tested and approved teaching and learning styles. This
leads both to better usability and to quicker and higher quality adaptation
than the other known methods.
Figure 4 shows examples of teacher personas developed
in K. Baumann's User-Centred Design seminar at FH Joanneum's Department
of Information Design. The rough description of the personas is as follows:
Hans, mathematics teacher, 47 years old, casual smoker, relaxed
attitude when teaching, prefers visual approach of explanation, examples
taken from real-world situations; marital status: divorced, one child;
driver of a convertible sports car; favourites: the Rolling Stones, sailing,
holidays in Greece.
Mary, biology teacher, 38 years old, well-structured approach
to teaching, prefers systematic and detailed explanation, examples from
other sciences like chemistry and physics; marital status: married, two
children; driver of a family van; favourites: reading works of D. Hofstadter,
hiking, holidays in Switzerland.
Susan, graphics design teacher, 29 years old, creative and modern
approach to teaching, prefers self-driven and self-responsible student
work; marital status: single; no car driver but bike and train rider; favourites:
hiphop music, visiting art galleries, painting, dancing, holidays in London,
Figure 4: Examples of teacher personas [Baumann
In the paper we intended to outline that in many cases technology makes
possible a much more personalised and adaptable approach than human teachers
do during face-to-face classes. Today's human-computer interaction still
lacks the emotional component thus providing the learner with the feeling
of being treated in an impersonal way. Starting with the book of Rosalind
Picard in 1997 a new emerging research field was introduced. For those
interested in the topic, various theories and cases are presented in [Paiva
2000], which show how to include an affective dimension into the interaction
between users and computer applications. However, further interdisciplinary
research is needed to better understand the role of affect in human-computer
interaction. Opinions and recent research on emotions and human-computer
interaction from scientists in the field of brain research, cognitive science,
philosophy and artificial intelligence is compiled in [Trappl
2003]. Possible application domains of user centred applications adaptable
to emotions are manifold, for example in many dimensions adaptable e-learning
systems, personalised counselling services, technical support, marketing
applications, adaptable help systems and many others.
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applications should also consider compliance with principles like visual
clarity, consistency, compatibility, feedback, explicitness, appropriateness,
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