EUROCALL 2014

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Seamless integration of desktop and mobile learning experience through an ontology-based adaptation engine. Report of a pilot-project.

The spread of mobile devices has fostered a growing body of research reporting on practice and experimentation in the use of such technologies for language learning. Up-to-date literature illustrates a number of positive effects arising from the use of mobile devices, but it also outlines some possible drawbacks (Stockwell, 2013) that could hinder effective employ of such technology. Among these weaknesses, usability issues play a crucial role (Shneiderman e Plaisant, 2005). Exploiting adaptation techniques from Artificial Intelligence might help in this respect.
The paper describes a module within a distance language learning environment developed at the Language Centre of Genoa University which adapts, through an ontology, learning activities to the device in use. Adaptation, in this case, means not simply resizing content to fit a page but also the ability to transform the nature of a technique so that it is suited for a given device with the smallest effectiveness loss with respect to the ability the activity is designed to develop.
In our environment, activities are tagged with a series of metadata (e.g. ability, technique) which allow the system to transform them: for instance, a gap-filling exercise, which would not be usable on a given mobile device, might be transformed into a multiple choice exercise if it is a grammar activity or in a sentence chunks match if it is a reading comprehension exercise.
Following previous analyses (Mercurio, Torre e Torsani, 2011) of the most technical features of the engine, this paper will focus on linguistic and pedagogical issues. It will present a pilot project describing the design and testing of an English course whose activities are transformable thanks to reasoning mechanisms based on the ontology. Our analysis will concentrate on the most important issues that have arisen during the development of the course, namely:
- Has the ontology proved capable of handling all the facets of a real and complete language course?
- Do all the transformations succeed in maintaining both usability and adherence to the ability?
- How do learners perceive the transformations as regards usability?

Author(s):

Marco Mercurio    
DIBRIS
University of Genoa
Italy

Ilaria Torre    
DIBRIS
University of Genoa
Italy

Simone Torsani    
DILCUM
University of Genoa
Italy

 

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