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An agent system to support student teams working online

Whatley, J 2004, 'An agent system to support student teams working online' , Journal of Information Technology Education, 3 , pp. 53-63.

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    Abstract

    Online learning is now a reality, with distributed learning and blended learning becoming more widely used in Higher Education. Novel ways in which undergraduate and postgraduate learning material can be presented are being developed, and methods for helping students to learn online are needed, especially if we require them to collaborate with each other on learning activities. Agents to provide a supporting role for students have evolved from Artificial Intelligence research, and their strength lies in their ease of operation over networks as well as their ability to act in response to stimuli. In this paper an application of a software agent is described, aimed at supporting students working on team projects in the online learning environment. Online teamwork is problematical for a number of reasons, such as getting acquainted with team members, finding out about other team members’ abilities, agreeing who should do which tasks, communications between team members and keeping up to date with progress that has been made on the project. Software agents have the ability to monitor progress and to offer advice by operating in the background, acting autonomously when the need arises. An agent prototype has been developed in Prolog to perform a limited set of functions to support students. Team projects have a planning, doing and completing stage, all of which require them to have some sort of agent support. This agent at present supports part of the planning stage, by prompting the students to input their likes, dislikes and abilities for a selection of task areas defined for the project. The agent then allocates the various tasks to the students according to predetermined rules. The results of a trial carried out using teams working on projects, on campus, indicate that students like the idea of using this agent to help with allocating tasks. They also agreed that agent support of this type would probably be helpful to both students working on team projects with face to face contact, as well as for teams working solely online. Work is ongoing to add more functionality to the agent and to evaluate the agent more widely.

    Item Type: Article
    Themes: Subjects / Themes > L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
    Subjects / Themes > L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
    Subjects / Themes > Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA075 Electronic computers. Computer science > QA076 Computer software
    Subjects outside of the University Themes
    Schools: Colleges and Schools > College of Business & Law > Salford Business School > Centre for Digital Business
    Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Information Technology Education
    Publisher: Informing Science Institute
    Refereed: Yes
    ISSN: 15479714
    Related URLs:
    Depositing User: H Kenna
    Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2009 10:57
    Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013 16:53
    URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/1216

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