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Student-Centered Collaborative Learning Using Q&A on Web

Ana Hadiana
Department of Information Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Shinshu University
cana [at] softeng-mail [dot] cs [dot] [dot] jp
Elan Djaelani
Research Center for Informatics, Indonesian Institute of Science
elan [at] informatika [dot] lipi [dot] go [dot]id


We propose in this paper an educational learning environment named as Asynchronous collaborative learning environment on Web (ActiveWeb). This system provides collaboration functions among students, in order to make students more active and interactive in learning process based on Web technology without any restriction of time and place, and in order to decrease teacher’s load. In this system, students collaborate each other for constructing shared knowledge as much as possible according to their level of knowledge. Students can collaborate with each other through questions-answer to acquire further knowledge. In this paper we describe the development of a prototype system of ActiveWeb.
Keywords: Collaboration, Asynchronous, Distance Learning, Web, Q&A

Kami mengajukan dalam makalah ini sebuah lingkungan pembelajaran pendidikan yang dinamakan sebagai Asynchronous collaborative learning environment on Web (ActiveWeb). Sistem ini menyediakan fungsi-fungsi kolaborasi di antara pelajar, dalam rangka membuat para pelajar lebih aktif dan interaktif dalam proses pembelajaran berbasis teknologi Web tanpa kendala ruang dan waktu, serta dalam rangka meringankan beban guru. Dalam sistem ini, para pelajar berkolaborasi satu sama lainnya untuk mengembangkan pengetahuan secara tersebar sebanyak mungkin sesuai dengan tingkat pengetahuan mereka. Para pelajar dapat berkolaborasi satu sama lain melalui tanya-jawab untuk meraih pengetahuan lebih lanjut. Dalam makalah ini kami memaparkan pembangunan dari sistem prototipe Active Web.
Kata Kunci : Kolaborasi, Asinkron, Distance Learning, Web, Q&A

1. Introduction
Recently, there are many network technologies including Web, which can be used for implementing educational support systems, so it becomes possible that learning can be performed in distance without any restriction of time and place. In general, the application of distance learning systems is divided into two types; the one is synchronous and the other is asynchronous. In this paper, we are focusing on asynchronous learning systems and their collaboration functions.

In many learning systems [3][4], the teacher has to answer many questions from students who do not comprehend the contents of teaching-materials, and there is a tendency that teacher’s load becomes large, because teacher directly has to answer the questions. On the other hand, collaboration among students plays important role in learning to increase knowledge [2][5], and also could reduce the teachers’ load. So that in ActiveWeb [1], we provide collaboration tools to motivate students to be more active in learning by teaching each other about some materials related to their comprehension. We propose asynchronous collaboration tools using question-answer (Q&A) suited for students’ level of knowledge concerning to teaching-materials. In ActiveWeb, if students have questions regarding teaching-materials, they can collaborate with each other settling the problem according to their pace of learning. In such collaboration learning, the teacher’s role is just to supervise the learning process, and to give advices indirectly to students in order to help the collaboration process.

2. Learning Sequence
In ActiveWeb, users (students and teachers) access the remote learning resources asynchronously through a web browser. Students progress their learning by reading the teaching-materials step by step according to a semi-ordered learning sequence. On the other hand, teachers supervise students’ learning progress, and according to each situation teachers give some hints or advices to students using a suitable tool. Students can follow teaching-materials according to their paces, and if they have any questions, they can get a suitable answer from other students. In principle, ActiveWeb allows students collaboratively perform learning together to increase knowledge as much as possible.

Students start and finish the learning process as shown in figure 1. Firstly, students have to be registered in order to participate in this system. Only the registered students can login to the system. After login, the system will load learning materials related to the students’ status or progress. During learning, students not only read or explore the materials, but also can collaborate with each other asynchronously to get more knowledge. Collaboration will give great influence on the final result of learning. The system will ask students to do tests at the end of every level of materials in order to recognize the degree of comprehension.

Fig. 1. Learning Process

If students fail in the test, they are forced to learn again the current or previous material until their comprehension become enough to learn the next material. Students continue their learning when they pass the tests, and ActiveWeb will guide them according to the semi-ordered learning sequence so that the students can follow the materials according to their pace and their interest to materials. Students can stop and logout from system every time.

3. Collaborative Q&A
During the learning process, students not only read the materials, but also are required to participate in many collaboration groups talking about some problems, because the collaboration plays important role on asynchronous learning systems. Collaboration gives many chances to find the solution of problems, and makes it impossible for students to acquire more knowledge that is not contained in the materials.
In ActiveWeb, students are not allowed to ask a question directly to teachers, and they are required to make collaboration with other students who have the knowledge to answer the question. Through Q&A subsystem, ActiveWeb will assist students to find qualified students who may know the answer, and also will assist students who act as respondents to answer one question from the list of unanswered questions. Collaboration using Q&A provides many opportunities to find the solution of problems in learning, and make students acquire more knowledge than just reading the material. Collaboration also gives students motivation of learning through knowing other students’ activity, and rechecks each other.

3. 1. Flow of Questioners
When students have some questions regarding the material, they need to ask some questions. In this system, students are not allowed to ask some questions directly to teachers, but they are required to make collaboration with other students who have enough knowledge to give an appropriate answer for questions. Our system assists students who act as questioners to find knowledgeable students and to find an expected answers, and also assists students who act as respondents to select and to answer the question from list of unanswered questions.

Fig. 2 shows a summary of the flow of questioners. Questioners write a question, and then the system attempts to search the similar questions from Q&A database according to this incoming question text. The incoming question will be accepted as a new question in one of the following cases occurs:
1. The system is not able to find similar questions.
2. The questioners can not find an intended questions from the similar question searched by the system.

In above two cases, question will be stored in to the system as a new question. Then, the system will notify appropriate respondents who have enough knowledge to answer it later. The respondents are selected by the system according to student model. On the other hand, when the intended question is found from the list of unanswered questions, the questioner will be registered into the system as an additional questioner of this question. Other way, if the system finds the intended question and it has answers, the questioner is allowed to evaluate these answers. This result of evaluation will be sent to the system to update the student model of respondent. According to the result of evaluation, the system can be notified that the intended question has been answered completely, or still needs more appropriate answers.

Flow of Questioner
Fig. 2. Flow of Questioner

In current development, only the first questioner evaluates the answers. The evaluation uses three ranks of value: not enough, enough and perfect. If there are answers from different students, the questioners evaluate each answer. The questioners will evaluate all these answers whether collectively meet the question or not. This result will determine the completeness of a question and its answers.

3. 2. Flow of Respondents
The respondents browse and check the list of unanswered questions as shown in Fig. 3. The respondents browse the questions, and choose one of them to answer. However, according to the difficulty of question, the respondents are allowed to reject answering the question.

The system will also assist the respondents to select one question effectively according to the question’s attribute. We consider the question’s attributes as parameter of priority. There are three parameters:
– Waiting time of question
The elapsed time of question, since it is accepted as new question by the system until it is answered.
– Number of Questioner
This parameter shows the number of students who ask the same question, and the importance of question.
– Access time
This parameter shows the accessing the system. The more active students learn using the system, the higher value of priority of question to be selected firstly.

Flow of  Respondent

Fig. 3. Flow of Respondent

Using combination of these parameters as priority, the respondents can consider and choice one question more detail and answer it adequately. The system supports selecting question using priority, but the final decision of selecting question depends on the respondents according to the difficulty of questions.

3. 3. Searching Similar Question
Searching the similar questions plays important role to prevent duplication of questions that have similar content, and to make students easier to find the intended question.

Searching Question

Fig. 4. Searching Question

In ActiveWeb, we use the conventional searching method using keywords. Every question will be compared with questions stored in Q&A database. If a similar question having answer exists in the database, students can find its appropriate answer automatically. So that, in Q&A system the preventing duplication of questions is inevitable.

Fig. 4 shows the mechanism of our searching method. At the current position of learning material, students write a question, and then the system will extract keywords from this new question. The noun within the question will be the candidate to be selected as keywords. According to these extracted keywords and the current position of learning material, the system will search the similar question from the Q&A database according to the position of question in learning material. In this paper, in order to find the similar questions, we do not use OR logic, but we use AND logic to compare extracted keywords with the keywords of questions from database. If a number of similar questions exist, the system let the questioners check and choose the intended one. We can use ChaSen [6] for Japanese and WordNet [7] for English to extract and select the noun as keyword.

4. Implementation
We use WWW as the platform of ActiveWeb for implementing an asynchronous learning system as shown in figure 5. ActiveWeb consists of five subsystems as follows:

– Presenter subsystem
It is the most fundamental part that arranges and shows the teaching-materials prepared by this system to students according to their level of learning. We use Web browsers as user interface for students and teachers.
– Student Model subsystem
Basically we use an overlay student model that decides the knowledge level of students to participate in collaboration, so that students can join the collaboration according to their pace of learning.
– Monitor subsystem
All students will be analyzed using a learning history from database. Teacher can supervise the learning performance of all students and collaboration condition. If necessary, teacher can give advices using suitable function.

Block Diagram of ActiveWeb

Fig. 5. Block Diagram of ActiveWeb

– Test subsystem
Teaching-materials consist of some modules that include tests for checking the degree of comprehension of students. The result of tests will be stored in a database and will be reused as learning data of tests for the analyzing learning performance of students. The result of tests at each material will determine how learning to be continued. If a student fails in the test, the system will force the student to learn again the current material, but if a student passes the test, the student can proceed to the next teaching-material.
– Collaboration subsystem
A collaboration function is used in order to acquire more satisfactory knowledge in addition to the knowledge acquired by reading teaching-materials. The main collaboration tools provided by the system are discussion and question & answer (Q&A) tools. Collaboration activity will give a big affection on result of learning, so the students’ participation in it is really required to acquire more knowledge.

5. Conclusion
In this paper we proposed the learning support system based on Web called ActiveWeb that has the characteristics of supporting students to do learning in collaboration with others in order to solve many problems during the learning. There are two main collaboration tools prepared by ActiveWeb; discussion and Q&A. In this system teachers do not participate in collaboration directly. Teachers mainly supervise the situation of collaboration, and if necessary, teachers can give some hints for directing learning process. Students can construct knowledge not only by reading the teaching-materials but also by collaborating each other, so that the final outcome of learning would be better.

Finally, during we have developed ActiveWeb as tool of distance learning, but we still have to make it better for supporting collaborative learning on Web. We also need to do experiment of this system in large scale in order to evaluate the performance and the effectiveness of it.

[1] Ana Hadiana, Kenji Kaijiri, “The Construction of Asynchronous Q&A Support System based on Collaboration�?, Information Technology Letters Forum on Information Technology, 2002, pp.249-250.
[2] Fumiaki Obayashi, et al, “Construction and Evaluation of a CAI System Based on Learning by Teaching to Virtual Student�?, Information Processing Seminar Journal, Vol.41 No.12, 2000, pp.3386-3393.
[3] Kenji Matsuura et al, “Agent-based Asynchronous Virtual Classroom�?, Advanced Research in Computers and Communications in Education, IOS Press, 1999, pp.133-140
[4] Osami Kagawa et al, “Selecting Essential Questions Using Question Support Facilities in a Distance Education System�?, IEICE Journal, Vol.J80-D-II, 1997, pp.1878-1886
[5] Yutaka Matsusita, Collaboration and Communication, Kyoritsu Publisher, 1995, pp.10-15.
[6] Computational Linguistics Laboratory, Nara Institute of Science and Technology University, “ChaSen�?,
[7] Cognitive Science Laboratory, Princeton University, “WordNet�?,

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