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Competence structures of the content and competence modelling of the learners provide well-suitable means for finding appropriate peer tutors in CSCL based on asynchronous messaging and annotations. Various criteria for the appropriateness of potential peer tutors can be discussed. An internet-based system used as a large scale Web experiment can then also deliver data for evaluating such criteria.
Applying Competence Structures for Peer Tutor Recommendations in CSCL
Jürgen Heller, Cord Hockemeyer, Dietrich Albert
University of Graz, Austria
Competence structures of the content and compe-
tence modelling of the learners provide well-suitable
means for finding appropriate peer tutors in CSCL
based on asynchronous messaging and annotations.
Various criteria for the appropriateness of potential
peer tutors can be discussed. An internet-based sys-
tem used as a large scale Web experiment can then
also deliver data for evaluating such criteria.
1: Introduction
An important issue in CSCL is the selection of peer
tutors or other co–learners for a student. In this paper, we
will focus on peer tutoring based on public annotations to
documents in an e–Learning course delivered through the
Web. This approach connects Hoppe’s [10] formalisation
of peer selection criteria and Inaba and Okamoto’s [11,
12] concept of utterance classification with the theory of
knowledge spaces which facilitates personalised e–
Learning through the application of prerequisite struc-
2: Theoretical background
2.1: Peer selection
Hoppe [10] has formally described the selection of
collaboration groups based on the student modelling
within an e–Learning system and on the system’s knowl-
edge about the problem to be solved within the group. In
case of peer tutoring, the tutor should be able to solve the
tasks whereas the tutored person has some difficulties. In
case of collaborative problem solving, all necessary
knowledge should be available in the group while no
member has all needed knowledge on their own.
2.2: Utterance classification
Inaba and Okamoto [11, 12] have presented an e–
Learning system which allows the learners to add their
utterances (questions, answers, comments, etc.) as classi-
fied, public annotations to an existing course. A learner
publishing such an utterance has to specify the type of it.
In case of comments, this includes also the specification
whether the comment is an agreement or a contradiction.
2.3: Knowledge space theory
The theory of knowledge spaces was developed by
Doignon and Falmagne [5,6] originally aiming at the
adaptive assessment of knowledge. In the meantime, how-
ever, its major application lies in the field of e–Learning.
If a domain of knowledge is described through a set
of test items, there will often exist prerequisite relation-
ships between these items, i.e. if a student is capable of
solving a certain item a, we can surmise that this student
is also capable of solving some other item b. Such prereq-
uisite structures can be used for inferences for adaptive
testing. If a prerequisite structure contains also lessons, we
can use the lessons and items together with the structure
for personalised e–Learning [2]. This approach has been
applied in the development of the RATH (Relational
Adaptive Tutoring Hypertext) system [9].
In an extension of knowledge space theory, the group
around Albert and Lukas [1, 3] introduced a clear distinc-
tion between concrete learning objects and abstract, latent
competencies (or skills). Such a distinction supports the
development of adaptive e–Learning systems with highly
reusable content including the structure information
through metadata usage [4,8].
3: The C²RATH concept
3.1: Collaborative RATH (CRATH)
Based on the experiences with RATH and on the re-
sults of Hoppe and of Inaba and Okamoto, the concept of
a collaborative RATH system was developed. In RATH,
the knowledge of a learner is modelled as the set of learn-
ing documents the learner has read and the set of items
s/he has solved [9].
In the collaborative RATH concept study [7], a learner
would be able to add public annotations to a document.
Such an annotation would be classified as described in
Section 2.2. In case of a question, the system would select
some other learners with an appropriate knowledge state
and ask for their willingness to answer the question. On
the other side, whenever some learner gives an annotation
to an existing annotation, the author of that original anno-
Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT’04)
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tation would be notified.
One factor in the selection of appropriate co–learners
would also be the online–status, i.e. a potential peer who
is currently online would be preferably selected in order to
ensure a rapid answer to a question.
The appropriateness of a peer may well have criteria
beyond those of Hoppe. One might, e.g., prefer peers who
share much knowledge with the asking learner. This
would allow for analogies drawn by the peer to be under-
stood by the asking student.
3.2: Collaborative, Competence–based RATH
One disadvantage of the RATH system is its docu-
ment-focused approach. Whenever the documents in a
course change (including the addition of new and the
elimination of existing documents), prerequisite informa-
tion for other, unchanged documents may also change.
This makes it quite difficult to maintain a RATH course
The APeLS system [4, 8] provides a solution for this
through the separation of learning objects and abstract
concepts or competencies. For a learning object in APeLS,
the prerequisite objects are specified indirectly through
prerequisite competencies.
Introducing the competence approach into the
CRATH idea would provide the same advantages as the
development from RATH to APeLS. The student model
includes the competencies acquired by the respective
learner. However, for selecting appropriate peers, the set
of documents read by both learners would still be impor-
tant: the peers selected do not necessarily have to have
read the very document under discussion. Actually, it will
often be helpful if a peer has (also) another access to the
competencies taught in that document.
4: Discussion
We have proposed an approach for peer selection in a
competency–based learning environment. This approach
has, of course, to be implemented and tested for its feasi-
bility in practice.
Once such a system exists and its feasibility has been
proven, it may furthermore be used to investigate different
criteria for peer selection. So far, there has been not much
research on which criteria are best for this selection, and a
system open for varying them can be an important re-
search tool into this direction.
Part of this work was supported by the European
Commission through a Marie Curie Fellowship to the
second author (Grant no. ERBFMBICT983377).
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Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (ICALT’04)
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