Modeling, Design and Implementation of a Web-based Personalized E-learning System

ABSTRACT

This thesis presents a formal description of personalized e-learning system, a pedagogically sound approach to adaptively composing and personalizing the access of learning contents in tertiary institutions. A mathematical model for the profiling of learners to determine their learning style based on the Honey and Mumford Learning Style Questionnaire (LSQ) was developed. Based on the mathematical model, the software for the Web-based Personalized e-Learning System was designed using the three tier client-server systems architecture. This thesis presents the main components which perform the functions of personalized learning materials to meet individual learner’s learning requirements based on their learning style.

Furthermore, related literatures in the areas of learning theories, learning styles, e-learning were reviewed. The thesis also presented the model, system design and formal description of personalized e-learning system. Subsequently, the architectural design was implemented using the Apache WAMP Server, MySQL and PHP web technology tools.

Lastly, the work recommended among other things the provision of a well maintained computer network infrastructure that will allow tutors and learners to easily compose and access learning contents, while also suggesting that further research be carried out on how to integrate the technology of Ontology and Semantic web into the system to
improve its automation.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
over Page……………………………………………………………………..i
Title Page………………………………………………………………………ii
Declaration……………………………………………………………………..iii
Certification……………………………………………………………………iv
Dedication………………………………………………………………………v
Acknowledgement……………………………………………………………..vi
Abstract………………………………………………………………………….vii
Table of Content……………………………………………………………….viii
List of Tables…………………………………………………………………..xi
List of Figures………………………………………………………………….xii
Glossary ……………………………………………………………………….xiii
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1 Background of the Study………………………………………………..1
1.2 Motivation…………………………………………………….…………3
1.3 Objectives………………………………………………………..………4
1.4 Methodology…………………………………………………..…………5
1.5 Contribution of the study to knowledge…………………………………………….5
1.6 Organization of the thesis ………………………………………………..6
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.0 Introduction……………………………………………………………….7
2.1 Learning Theories…………………………………………………………7
2.2 Learning Styles Definition and Concepts…………………………………9
2.3 Review of Learning Styles Models……………………………………….17
2.3.1 Flexibly stable learning preferences…………………………………18
2.3.2 Honey and Mumford’s learning styles………………………………23
2.4 Trends in the Use of Computers in Education…………………………….25
2.5 Electronic Learning (E-Learning)…………………………………………27
2.6 Mobile Learning (M-Learning)……………………………………………28
2.7 Personalized E-Learning Systems…………………………………………30
CHAPTER THREE: SYSTEM MODELING, ANALYSIS AND DESIGN
3.1 Design considerations…………………………………………………….. 33
3.2 Mathematical model of the web-based personalized e-learning system….. 36
3.3 Content Development Model …………………………………………….. 38
3.4 Modeling and Design Architecture of the System………………………… 42
3.4.1 The software architecture for the web-based
Personalized e-learning system……………………………………. 43
3.4.1.1 Presentation Layer………………………………………… 43
3.4.1.2 Middleware…………………………………………………44
3.4.1.3 Data Layer…………………………………………………. 44
3.4.2 Component Communication and Data Flow Model………………. 46
3.5 Database Model…………………………………………………………… 49
CHAPTER FOUR: SYSTEM REQUIREMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION
4.1 System Requirement………………………………………………………….. 52
4.2 System Technology…………………………………………………………… 53
4.3 System Implementation………………………………………………………. 54
4.3.1 Home Page……………………………………………………………. 54
4.3.2 Tutor login……………………………………………………………. 55
4.3.3 Tutor Registration…………………………………………………….. 55
4.3.4 Student login………………………………………………………….. 56
4.3.5 Student Registration…………………………………………………… 56
4.3.6 Pre-Test……………………………………………………………….. 56
4.3.7 Add Learning Materials………………………………………………. 56
4.3.8 Edit Learning Material…………………………………………………60
CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
5.1 Summary………………………………………………………………………61
5.2 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………….61
5.3 Recommendations……………………………………………………………..62
5.4 Further Research……………………………………………………………….62
Reference………………………………………………………………………63
Appendix A…………………………………………………………………….67

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

Higher education history in Nigeria is amazing as the country now has more than one hundred and fifty tertiary institutions made up of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education (federal, state and privately owned). As students’ enrollment into these institutions increases and government base funding for education decreases, the use of technology becomes more attractive to both administrators and instructors.

In addition, a large percentage of courses (if not all) offered at the post-secondary institutions are in traditional, face-to-face lecture format. However, a new model of instruction follows the client-centred philosophy of business. This emphasizes a student-centred approach to instruction. Active, Collaborative and Personalized learning are central principles to this instructional paradigm.

Within this model, the traditional role of the lecturer changes significantly. The nature of the traditional student-teacher relationship is also transformed. The lecturer becomes the guide on the side or a facilitator of learning with the primary goal of meeting students’ needs while providing instruction flexibly.

This student-centred model promotes the use of technology, particularly the development of a distributed e-learning environment and the creation of web-based courses or programmes. Information and communication technologies enable
information sharing among academics globally, that is, information that can be used to benefit both teaching practices and research. It is believed that harnessing the effective use of instructional technologies in education will improve student learning and therefore, secure a competitive edge in the global economy.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that student’s active involvement in the learning process enhances learning; a process often referred to as active learning Benek-Rivera and Matthews (2004), Sarason and Banbury (2004). Simply stated, active learning has to do with “instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing” Bonwell and Eisen (1991). Interactive instruction or “learning by doing” has been found to result in positive learning, Picciano (2002), Watkins (2005). In view of the fact that many new technologies and web-based activities are interactive, online coursework has the potential to create environments where students actively engage with material and learn by refining their understanding as they build new knowledge, Johnston, Killion and Omomen (2005), Pallof and Pratt (2003).

In addition to their active involvement, students better understand and apply material when problems and situations reflect real-life contexts, issues and experiences, Eble (1988). The use of real-world situations has the potential to promote deep learning through the development of critical thinking skills. Critical thinking involves the active and skillful analysis, synthesis, and application of information to unique situations, Scriven and Paul (2004). Learning retention and performance improve as students are required to apply what they have learned and then reflect upon the learning processes, Bereiter and Scardamalia (1989), Bransford et al. (2000).

Again, online instruction has the potential to provide opportunities to promote reflective thought and deep learning through realistically integrating and applying principles learned. Online instruction, such as a simulation, thrusts learners into a learning experience, increasing engagement and providing activities that actively engage learners to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information while constructing knowledge, Driscoll and Carliner (2005).

Personalized e-learning offers an important alternative to the one size fits all approach of online learning, Brusilovsky (2001). More specifically it offers the potential to uniquely address the specific learning goals, Kaplan et al. (1993), prior knowledge, Milosavljevic (1997) and context of a learner so as to improve that learner’s satisfaction with the course and motivation to complete that course.

1.2 Motivation

There are several motivating factors that led to the commencement of this thesis; among which are the fact that materials posted on the computer networks are increasing tremendously in volume and they are mostly unedited. This causes learners to waste precious study times searching for materials that at the end may not suit their study needs.

However, with a web-based personalized e-learning system, learners can easily manage these web contents and in so doing efficiently utilize their study time.

In addition, a large percentage of courses offered at the higher institutions are in traditional, face-to-face lecture format. However, a new model of instruction follows the client-centered philosophy of business. This emphasizes a student-centered approach to instruction. Active, collaborative and personalized learning are central principles to this instructional paradigm shift. Within this model, the traditional role of the lecturer changes significantly and the nature of the traditional student-teacher relationship is also transformed.

1.3 Objectives

The objectives of this project are to:

a. Develop a model for a web-based personalized e-learning system that will allow teachers and students to efficiently utilize the power of computer networks to deliver and access educational services in a personalized manner.

b. Design the prototype web-based personalized e-learning application that allow teachers to author learning objects in a standardized uniform format and that allows students study those materials in a style most convenient to them, using standard software design techniques hence creating a blueprint that can easily be replicated or improved upon by other researchers as technology dictates.

c. Implement the automatic profiling of students to determine their preferred learning style based on Honey and Mumford Learning Style Questionnaire (LSQ).

1.4 Methodology

A review of related literature and contemporary issues in e-Learning, learning theories and learning styles was carried out. Mathematical models and artifacts of the Unified Modeling Language (UML) were used to illustrate the logic and concept of the application. Then a web based personalized e-learning application was developed based on the three tier client – server architecture; using the following technologies:

a. Macromedia Dreamweaver was used to develop the front-end, which comprises of web interfaces.

b. PHP and Apache Web server were used for developing the back-end and coding of system logic.

c. MySQL was used for the database development.

d. Internet Explorer and Mozilla Fire fox were browsers used for testing and debugging the application.

1.5 Contribution of the study to knowledge

The research established a model and a formal description of personalized e-learning system, a pedagogically sound approach to adaptively composing learning activities in tertiary institutions which allows teachers and students to efficiently utilize the power of computer networks to deliver and access educational services in a personalized manner. The research further established means to help learners discover and optimize there’s a personal study habits and time.

1.6 Organization of the thesis

The thesis was organized in five chapters. Chapter one covers the background of the study, research motivation, research objectives, research methodology and contribution of the study to knowledge. In chapter two, some existing literatures on learning theories, learning styles definition and concepts, learning style models, trends in the use of computer in education, e-learning and personalized e-learning systems were reviewed.

Chapter three presented and discussed the systems design considerations, mathematical model of the web-based personalized e-learning system, content development model, modeling and design of the new systems architecture and the database model of the system. Chapter four focused on the requirement, technology and implementation of the new system. Finally, chapter five presented the summary, conclusion, recommendations and further research.