Learner Control in a Technology-Mediated Adaptive Learning Environment within a Constructivist Framework
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Over the past two decades, information technology with its capacity to offer greater flexibility and ease of use, has transformed the way conventional education is approached, delivered and evaluated. The trend for increased and enhanced technology-mediated learning environments is constantly progressing with new approaches and methods emerging every year. Constructivism is often proposed as one of the most appropriate learning theories for the implementation of technology-mediated learning environments. Learner control has the potential to enhance the learning experience by allowing learners to customise or personalise the learning environment to suit their personal learning style and preferences. This research was prompted by the observation that, in spite of the rapid proliferation of online courses in tertiary education, very few constructivist implementations ever reached mainstream education. This study investigates how a technology-mediated learning system, based on constructivism and including learner control capabilities, performs compared with an online teacher-controlled system in a first year university course. The aim is to offer an adaptive learning system that caters for different types of learners and learning styles with a special emphasis on learner control. Some adaptations require input from the learner, but some do not. If the learner does not take up the available options, the system will still function well. Forcing a learner to customise their personal learning environment may have a negative effect. Therefore this system offers the learners a choice as to whether to customise or not. This study also presents a detailed outline of the model implementation and its subsequent delivery as the Technology-mediated Adaptive Learning (TAL) system. This system was used to deliver a first year university course on HTML to two groups of learners. The treatment group was given the option of total control over the sequencing of the learning materials and no navigational restrictions were imposed on them. On the other hand, the control group had no control over the sequencing of the materials and the educator placed restrictions on their navigation. This study presents a complete outline of the system implementation and details the system usage and performance of the two learner groups. The results have been gathered by a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Analysis conducted on both quantitative and qualitative data returned some mixed findings. Through the statistical data analysis, it was established that the two approaches were comparable and that the TAL system is an excellent standalone method for e-learning environments. Learners in the treatment group consistently outperformed the learners in the control group even though it was by a small margin. An interesting outcome of this research was the effect that the use of learner control had on knowledge retention, particularly in the younger age group. Only the younger learners in the treatment group showed significant rates of knowledge retention, with the older learners performing at a comparable level to the control group. Qualitative analysis, conducted through focus groups, found that treatment group learners generally considered the full learner control approach appropriate and supportive.
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
School of Information and Communication Technology
Item Access Status
personal learning environment
Technology-mediated Adaptive Learning