PERVASIVE E-EDUCATION SUPPORTS
LIFE LONG LEARNING: SOME EXAMPLES OF
X-MEDIA LEARNING OBJECTS (XLO)
Andreas Holzinger1, Alexander K. Nischelwitzer2 , Michael D. Kickmeier-Rust3
1Institute of Software Technology and Interactive Systems (IFS)
Vienna University of Technology, Vienna, Austria
2Digital Media Lab, Department of Information Management
FH JOANNEUM, University of Applied Sciences, Graz, Austria
3Department of Psychology
Graz University, Graz, Austria
In our e-Society the concept of Life Long Learning (LLL) is not merely a buzz word but a
necessity. Pervasive e-Education is a challenging way to assist both Life Long Learning and
Continuing Engineering Education (CEE). However, research in these areas must bridge the
gap between Psychology and Computer Science. Furthermore, research and development must
be carried out together. Whichever perspective you take into account, pervasive e-Education
requires a complete independence of location – which is more than just being mobile. Text,
image, audio, video via Desktop, Television, Pocket-PC, iPod, Mobile Phone – each and every
medium and terminal has individual advantages and disadvantages. However, this purely
technological perspective is not yet enough. Every Learning Object (LO) must be adjusted to
the needs and requirements of the learners and, most of all, it must correspond to a model of
psychological learning and motivation including cognitive style, learning strategy and preliminary
knowledge. In this paper, we concentrate on our first experiences with X-Media Learning
Objects (XLOs) and on how the standard Learning Management System Moodle delivers the X-
Media content and which psychological concepts we consider suitable for the use with XLOs.
Within our e-Society, it is clear that knowledge acquired at schools and universities – whilst being a
necessary basis – may be insufficient for the whole life span. Working and learning are parallel
processes, consequently, Life-Long Learning (LLL) cannot be considered a mere buzz-word. LLL
is an undisputed necessity within our society (eEurope, 2005). Today, we are facing a tremendous
increase in educational technologies and although the influence of these new technologies is
enormous, we must never forget that learning is both a basic cognitive and social process
(Holzinger, 2000a). Education cannot be replaced through technology (Salomon, 1984), (Kozma,
1993), (Clark, 1994). However, the complete independence of both location and time is often
emphasized as the main advantage of e-Learning (Collis, 1997), (Maurer, 1998), (Holzinger,
2000b). Nevertheless, traditional e-Learning is generally designed for desktop computers. Even
the use of notebooks cannot completely fulfill the aim of learning “wherever and whenever a
learner wants to”. Mobile learning (M-Learning), based on mobile devices (Sharples, 2000), (Tatar
et al., 2003), (Holzinger et al., 2005a), can address the above mentioned criteria. One advantage
is the high availability of such devices, e.g. mobile phones. According to the 5th Telekom report of
the European Commission, the market penetration of mobile phones in Austria is currently at a
level of 99% (although not all of these are suitable for M-Learning). It can be emphasized that the
majority of the population have a mobile at hand most of the time. The application of such
technologies in conjunction with appropriate Learning Objects (Holzinger et al., 2005b), enable
constructivist learning approaches (Papert and Harel, 1991). Such approaches include for example
Situational Learning (Schank, 1993) or Just-in-Time Learning (JIT) or Learning on Demand (LoD)
combined with person-centered approaches (Motschnig-Pitrik and Holzinger, 2002). Successful
LLL requires both technological and psychological concepts to enable learners of all age groups to
access Learning Objects, which are adapted to their needs, knowledge, abilities, and the learning
contexts and environments (Holzinger and Nischelwitzer, 2005), (Holzinger et al., 2005a),
(Holzinger and Motschnik-Pitrik, 2005).
From traditional e-Learning to pervasive e-Education
The landscape of modern e-Learning is dominated by Learning Management Systems (LMS)
whether open systems such as Moodle (Chavan and Pavri, 2004) or commercial systems such as
WebCT (Garrett, 2004). These are widely used amongst universities and continuing education
institutions. Successful pervasive e-Education must include solutions for the interoperation with
these systems in order to bring available content to every end-device and to assist with the aim of
maximum benefit for the learners. In this paper, we expand M-Learning to X-Learning and present
working examples of X-Media Learning Objects (XLO) for five target media, i.e.: Personal
Computers; Television; PDA’s; Audio devices (MP3 players), and Java-enabled mobile phones.
The iXmedia Learning Engine
The vision of the iXmedia Project (www.ixmedia.biz) was the creation platform for almost every
type of learning technology and learning methods in order to address various types of learners
(e.g. audio; visual; night; day; situational etc.). The central administration and content management
was done with Moodle.
For each medium the focus of the presentation must be carefully chosen:
• WWW: text, pictures, movies, MP3 files;
• MEDIA CENTER: pictures, movies, MP3 files, little text;
• PDA: text, pictures;
• MP3: MP3 audio files;
• MOBILE: text, pictures; animations
For the experiments the following Hardware was used:
• WWW: Standard Desktop-PC (with internet access), resolution ranging from 768 × 1024 px
to 1200 × 1600 px
• Microsoft® MEDIA CENTER and a standard television set, resolution 640 × 480 px
• PDA: Pocket PC with Windows Mobile (with WLAN and USB connection to the PC),
resolution 320 × 240 px
• MP3: Apple iPod Audiodevice
• MOBILE: Mobile Phone (with GPRS and Java capability), resolution from 160 × 132 px to
176 × 208 px, minimum display size: 150 × 130 px; In order to use audio and video: MIDP
2.0 or MMAPI 1.0, or a higher version of this Java APIs;
Besides a functioning Moodle Server for the experiments the following Software was necessary:
• MCL File for the Windows Media Center (in order to directly open the learning engine);
• AvantGo-Client for the PDA;
• Microsoft Active Synch (in order to synchronize PDA with PC)
• Podcast for MP3-Players
• Remote Display Control for the PDA (in order to access the PDA via PC or notebook and
work on it by using the display and keyboard).
• Mobile Learning Engine (MLE, www.elibera.com) for the mobile phone (in order to connect
to the server to download contents)
Technologically, PHP was used as basic technology for all media. PHP is a script language, which
is mainly used in the development of dynamic web applications. One advantage of PHP is that the
generated directly on the server and pure HTML files are forwarded to the client. The content of
the iXmedia Engine is stored in a MySQL database on a central server. The different devices are
connected to this database and the content is downloaded and presented on each end-device.
Due to the central storage of the data in a well-designed database confirming to the normal forms,
redundant data can be avoided and the content can be updated quickly.
The MP3 player is the only exception: It does not connect directly to this database. A PHP script
provides the content loading feature via pod cast directly to iTunes and afterwards to the MP3
player. Pod casting is the distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music
videos, over the Web using either RSS or Atom Syndication for listening on mobile devices.
The Creation of X-Media Learning Objects
The central administration is done with Moodle (http://dmt.fh-joanneum.at/upm/xlearning/Moodle).
The teacher creates a WWW course by creating a new category. This is the main course (standard
Moodle Web course) and can be specified using any name. Within this course, four sub-courses
can be created, each corresponding to one of the four supported media types and which must
therefore be named: TV, PDA, MP3 or MOBILE. These are hidden, only the main course is visible
to the end-user and can contain any files.
• In the WWW course, teachers can create HTML or text sites and can upload all the data
they want to or they can link this content to other websites.
• In the TV sub-course directory, teachers can create HTML or text sites or they can upload
pictures, videos or Flash files. These data can be optimally displayed on the Media Center.
• To achieve a learning success on the PDA, teachers can create HTML or text sites.
• MP3 files are created through Text-To-Speech conversion but it is also possible to use any
self-recorded audio files.
To enable access of content via a mobile phone, teachers can create Learning Objects directly in
Moodle within the MOBILE sub-course directory, where the MLE-Editor is automatically launched
(see figure 1). This is a WSIWYG-Editor, where the dimension of the created Learning Objects on
the target device can be adjusted. After completion this content is automatically converted into
XML-format, which can be displayed on a mobile phone.
Figure 1: The content creator shows how the content will look within the target environment
The use of the iX-Media Learning Engine: Technological Aspects
After registration in Moodle, the end-users receive all relevant access information and are able to
choose between different courses. After downloading the software required for different end-
devices the end-users are able to use the content on the selected end-devices. It is also possible
to inform users about news via E-mail or RSS-Feeds. Of course, the use of other standard
modules, which are included in Moodle, including chat, forum, glossary, tests, Wiki and workshops,
is possible. The application is also compliant with SCORM (Holzinger, 2002).
Figure 2: From left to right: Examples on Moodle, TV, PDA and Mobile phone
The use of the iX-Media Engine: Psychological Aspects
The ability to access XLOs with a variety of different end-devices in different situations, contexts
and environments is a major challenge for both Computer Science and Psychology.
Situated Learning, which can be seen as a combination of both cognitivistic and constructivistic
approaches (Brown et al., 1989), (Billett, 1996) permits the acquisition of knowledge in an
everyday situation; this means that learning can be seen as a socio-cultural phenomenon (Kirshner
and Whitson, 1997). Situated Learning places the learner in the center of an instructional process
consisting of content, environment, community and participation. This supports the argument that
learning is both a cognitive and social process (Holzinger, 2000a).
This is similar to the idea of Collaborative Learning, which refers to an instructional method in
which students at various performance levels work together in small groups towards a common
goal. The students are responsible for one another's learning as well as their own and the success
of one student helps other students to be successful. Evidence for positive effects of such
approaches were found early by Vygotsky, who discovered that students are capable of performing
at higher intellectual levels when asked to work in collaborative situations (Vygotsky, 1978).
Meanwhile, many researchers proved that such methods improve problem solving strategies and
even if collaborative learning does not necessarily lead to better factual learning, there is a large
body of evidence that the environment in which the learning material is presented (independent of
social interactions) significantly affects the recall of learned information.
In an old but extraordinarily interesting experiment, (Godden and Baddeley, 1975) compared the
learning performance of scuba divers 20 feet under water and onshore. The results of this
experiment showed that the recall rate of learned material was significantly higher when the recall
was required in the same context (under water versus onshore) as in the context the material was
learned. Similar effects were found for emotional and physical states (Teasdale and Russel, 1983).
Moreover, there is some evidence that the depth of interaction with learning material significantly
affects the learning performance and also the preferences towards certain learning modalities.
For example (Mannes, 1988) found, that students who were required to memorize content,
preferred text objects, whilst students required to solve problems preferred graphical objects;
additionally, problem-solving settings depended more on prior knowledge than memorizing
settings. Applying all those theories to LLL, X-Media Learning Objects used in a multitude of
contexts and accessed with a multitude of devices enables collaborative learning. In our
experiments, learners got certain XLOs via mobile phones just-in-time; parallel they were able to
start collaboration and discussions. This possibility is definitely not provided to such an extent by
traditional E-Learning solutions.
Our first experiences with X-Media Learning Objects (XLOs) showed that these have enormous
potential for future pervasive e-Education and are thus ideally suited for LLL and CEE. However,
since the first step is always technological developement, the inclusion of psychological
considerations as early as possible is a necessity in order to adequately develop user-centered
technology, consequently applying Usability Engineering Methods (Holzinger, 2005). Our first
experiences with XLOs suggest that situation learning and collaborative learning by means of
these can be a valuable contribution to e-Education. It is essential, that by combination of real-life
problems, parallel to adequate information, thinking processes of learners are activated. Hence,
we are optimistic that X-Media will be a substantial part of future (continuing) education. Future
research must address questions as to both acceptance and learning success with XLOs
accessed with different end-devices.
Many thanks to the students who worked on this project: Andrea Pirker, Lisa Pump, Sandra
Schadenbauer and Stephan Setscheny.
Andreas Holzinger: Currently Visiting Professor at Vienna University of Technology, Associate
Professor of Information Processing at the Institute of Medical Informatics, Statistics and
Documentation, Med. University Graz, Head of HCI&UE Group of the Austrian Computer Society.
Alexander Nischelwitzer: Professor at the University of Applied Sciences FH JOANNEUM in
Graz in the field of Information Management; Head of the Digital Media Technology Laboratory;
executive member of several research programs (FH Plus, EU IST, FFF).
Michael D. Kickmeier-Rust: Postgraduate researcher and software developer at the Cognitive
Science Section, Department of Psychology, University of Graz, member of the ACM, and vice-
chair of the Austrian Aviation Psychology Association.
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