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E-learning agents

Learning support systems and agents

ActiveMathsystem is a complex web-based adaptive learning environment with a number of
components and interactive learning tools (Melis et al., 2006). Another system designed for
higher education courses allows students to conduct searches of external materials (the ACM
digital library) from within the learning environment (Gasevic and Hatala, 2006). Finally,
the Virtual Mentor system is a complete multi-media-based e-learning environment that
enables well-structured, synchronized, and interactive virtual instruction. Testing of a
prototype Virtual Mentor system indicates that learners that used the Virtual Mentor system
had better learning outcomes than learners in traditional classroom settings. Learning support
systems have also been implemented in organizational settings. One system that has been
successfully implemented is the inter-organizational learning network implemented in the
North Carolina wet-processing industry. The system links multiple stakeholders involved in
North Carolinas Toxicity Program and successfully allowed them to collaborate and learn
from shared publications, trade associations, and consultants (Manring and Moore, 2006).
Other e-learning systems have been successfully implemented in organizations to perform
ongoing sales force training related to new product releases (Chelan, 2006) and to perform
skill-based or job-based training (Whitney, 2004). These e-learning systems have
demonstrated measurable business results to the organizations in which they were
implemented. Agents are not being used in existing e-learning applications (Woolfand Eliot,
2005). Some researchers have proposed agent-based e-learning systems (e.g. Huang et
al.2006a, b); however, the agent-based systems currently being proposed donot support all
aspects of e-learning. Unlike previous e-learning support systems, the e-learning agents
presented in the next sections support instruction design, learning object reuse,personalization
and collaboration. They should allow learning objects to be assembled more quickly, while
supporting the mass customization of learning materials to meet individual needs.

E-learning agents
Ongoing research into effective learning support systems suggests that in order to support
ubiquitous, collaborative, experiential, and contextualized learning in dynamic virtual
communities, an e-learning environment should provide the following features for learners:
(Allison et al., 2005):
. Experiential active learning. Learning resources should be interactive, engaging ,and
responsive, with active learning and knowledge formation emphasized above simple
information transfer.
. Personalized. The learning environment should be customized to the individual learners
learning styles and educational needs with the quality of the learning experience continually
validated and evaluated. This includes customizing accessibility to meet unique learner needs
(e.g. to support screen readers, language translation or alternative devices automatically), and
dynamically creating appropriate learning contexts.
. Collaboration socio-constructivist. Both solitary and group work should be supported

Quality enhancement on e-learning

Benchmarking e-learning

Today, universities are facing new challenges as well as in the years ahead in the twenty-first
century, to take action to be competitive not just in educational, social, managerial and
technological aspects, but also to work in global perspectives, as well as to be a driver for
innovation and contribute to sustainable development (Ehlers and Pawlowski, 2006; Ehlers
and Schneckenberg, 2010; Ossiannilsson, 2010a, 2011; Ossiannilsson and Landgren, 2011).
Issues such as demonstrating respect for the individual student and their learning processes,
accountability for the use of funding, both public and private, quality of education and
research, and contributing to economic growth and sustainability have thus become more
important (Ehlers and Pawlowski, 2006; Ehlers and Schneckenberg, 2010; Ubachs, 2009).
Higher education institutions have to face the fact of increased demands on enhanced
learning through new technology: digital skills in education, learning for the future in a
global context within sustainable dimensions and integrating technology into all aspects of
their strategic planning to ensure their survival in the years to come. E-learning is not very
easy to define either. Most often the concept of e-learning covers both technical and digital
means, but covers also e-learning as learning, and learning through e-learning (Ossiannilsson,
2010b). The concept is used to cover a wide set of applications and pedagogical processes
and learning supported by information and communication technology, such as web-based
learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms and digital collaboration, with an added
value of increased accessibility, flexibility and interactivity. McLoughlin and Lee (2008)
stress the three Ps of pedagogy for the networked society, personalisation, participation
and productivity. Bonk (2009) shows how technology has transformed educational
opportunities for learners, as well as those of innovators from the worlds of technology and
education that reveal the power of opening up the world of learning. Newconceptualisations
of e-learning in the twenty-first century will change the scene 314 CWIS29,4(Ehlers and
Pawlowski, 2006; Ehlers and Schneckenberg, 2010; Ossiannilsson and Landgren, 2011) and
may have an impact on how benchmarking e-learning in higher education in the future will
be conducted, and what kind of quality issues will matter.

In a comprehensive literature review by Ossiannilsson (2010a), the context of benchmarking

e-learning in higher education was explored. Conversely, as the literature showed, the trend
today is that e-learning is more and more embedded in strategies of learning and teaching at
universities (Ehlers and Pawlowski, 2006; Ehlers and Schneckenberg, 2010; NAHE, 2008;
Ossiannilsson and Landgren, 2011; Ubachs,2009). Enhancing learning, teaching and
assessment by the use of technology is one of a number of ways in which institutions can
address their own strategic missions. Conversely, as the literature showed, the trend today is
that e-learning is more and more embedded in strategies of learning and teaching at
universities (Ehlers and Pawlowski, 2006; Ehlers and Schneckenberg, 2010; NAHE, 2008;
Ossiannilsson and Landgren, 2011; Ubachs, 2009). Enhancing learning, teaching and
assessment by the use of technology is one of a number of ways in which institutions can
address their own strategic missions.

E-learning as an alternative strategy for tourism higher education in Egypt Galal M.H.
A Faculty of Tourism and Hotels, Helwan University, Helwan, Egypt

Distance education has been with us for more than 160 years (Rumble, 2001, p. 223).
However, some researchers believe it may even be more than that. In their inclusive
historical article entitled From correspondence to cyberspace, Bower and Hardy
(2004, p. 5) claim:
Until the twentieth century, print was the only medium available for distance
education .Correspondence study was the rst form of distance education. The earliest
record ...comes from an advertisement in the Boston Gazette on March 20, 1728, in which a
shorthand teacher by the name of Caleb Phillipps offered to send weekly lessons [via postal
mail] to prospective students.Then, the rst evidence of an institution of higher education
offering distance education came in 1833 in an advertisement from a Swedish university
extending the opportunity to study composition via postal mail (Holmberg, 2002). In 1874,
Illinois E-learning for tourism HE 359 Wesleyan University offered bachelors degrees by
correspondence. Then in 1915, the National University Extension Association was founded to
provide accreditation for distance learning programs. With the invention of educational radio
in the 1920s and the advent of television in the 1940s (Constantinou, 2008), more methods
of distance learning became available including recorded audio and video tapes, as well as
live broadcasting (Mahajan and Sonone, 2005)For much of that time, distance education has
been seen as a poor substitute for classroom-based forms of education (Rumble, 2001, p.
223), as it has been frequently blamed for being unable to provide an appropriate tool for
establishing rapid and easy dialogue between educators and learners, and among learners
themselves (Moore,2007). Thus, the emergence of the internet during the 1960s and its
development into an effective mass communication tool during the 1990s (Leiner et al.,
2009) formed a dening moment in the distance education approach especially due to its
enhanced interactivity, connectivity and convergence, which enabled distance education to
overcome the lack of interactivity inherent in its earlier forms (Rumble, 2001).

However, despite the relatively long history of distance learning, related terminologies are
still generally ambiguous. Terms such as distance learning, computer-based learning, on-line
learning, virtual learning, open learning, exible learning, blended earning, contiguous
learning, distributed learning (Moore, 2007), and web-based learning exist frequently and
even used incorrectly as synonyms but the term e-learning actually dominates (Welsh et al.,
2003). E-learning emerged rst and foremost as a promising solution for lifelong learning and
on-the-job training (Zhang et al., 2004). Thus, it is common to locate numerous literatures
linking e-learning and workforce development and training (e.g. Ismail, 2002; Strother, 2002;
Welsh et al., 2003), or to recognize a few texts identifying e-learning as a training tool (e.g.
Clementino and Otero, 2002). Afterwards, this aim expanded to include offering
opportunities for individuals who were unable to enroll and attend conventional class-based
higher education. Currently, e-learning is widely utilized as either supplementary or
alternative pedagogy for conventional class-based education, which makes it more applicable
for regular scholars.

Thus, several researchers (e.g. Rumble, 2001; Roffe, 2002; Fung, 2004) deem that it is not a
surprise to recognize that demand for e-learning has increased radically over the last two
decades, which has created a new market in the education industry. In this context, many
universities have already introduced e-learning programs depending mainly on internet as a
delivery medium. For instance, by 2005, almost every higher education institution in USA
was planning to use one or more of the distance learning methods, for one reason or another
(Dickson, 2004; Garrett and Jokivirta, 2004), and almost every higher education entity in UK
was attempting to do so whether for distance or blended learning (Calvert, 2005; cited in
Salmon, 2005). Entrants into this market include traditional colleges and universities, purely
virtual institutions and large commercial employers (Chan and Welebir, 2003). Accordingly,
an escalating volume of literature has been published to discuss the evolving role of -learning
(e.g. Beaudoin, 1990; Sherry, 1995; Clarck, 2001; Chan and Welebir, 2003; Nichols, 2008),
and to raise questions concerning the probability of facing a massive increase in e-learning
enrolment, and how will this contribute to the future of educational schemes? Such a scenario
is not unexpected.

Melis, E., Goguadze, G., Homik, M., Libbrecht, P., Ullrich, C. and Winterstein, S.
(2006),Semantic-aware components and services of ActiveMath, British Journal of
EducationalTechnology, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 405-23.
Gasevic, D. and Hatala, M. (2006), Ontology mappings to improve learning resource
search,British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 375-89
Manring, S.L. and Moore, S.B. (2006), Creating and managing a virtual inter-organizational
learning network for greener production: a conceptual model and case study, Journal of
Cleaner Production, Vol. 14 Nos 9-11, pp. 891-9.
Chelan, D. (2006), Revving up elearning to drive sales, EContent, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 28-32.

Ossiannilsson, E. (2010a), Benchmarking on e-learning in universities: impact and value,

European perspectives, International Journal of Management in Education, Special Issue on
Virtual University, accepted
Ossiannilsson, E. and Landgren, L. (2011), Quality in e-learning a conceptual
frameworkbased on experiences from three international benchmarking projects at Lund
University,Sweden, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Special Issue on Quality in eLearning,Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 42-51.
Ossiannilsson, E. (2010a), Benchmarking on e-learning in universities: impact and value,
European perspectives, International Journal of Management in Education, Special Issue on
Virtual University, accepted

Bower, B. and Hardy, K. (2004), From correspondence to cyberspace: changes and
challenges in distance, New Directions for Community Colleges, Vol. 128, Winter, pp.

Constantinou, C. (2008), Open and distance learning, School of Computer Science, the
University of Manchester, available at:

Calvert, J. (2005), Distance education at the crossroad, Distance Education, Vol. 26 , No. 2,
pp. 227-38.

Chan, P. and Welebir, B. (2003), Strategies for e-education,Industrial and Commercial

Training,Vol. 35 No. 5, pp. 196-202

Clementino, N. and Otero, D. (2002), E-learning as a teleworking training tool,

Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare,
and Higher Education, 2002, Montreal, pp. 1342-1345

Dickson, T. (2004), Things to come, conference opening address at When worlds collide,
paper presented at the JISC info Net Conference, York, February

Fung, Y. (2004), Collaborative online learning: interaction patterns and limiting factors,
Open Learning, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 135-49

Garrett, R. and Jokivirta, L. (2004), Online Learning in Commonwealth Universities:

Selected Data from the 2004 Observatory Survey, Part 1, Report 20, October, The
Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, London

Holmberg, B. (2002), The evolution of the character and practice of distance education,
in Foster, L., Bower, B.L. and Watson, L.W. (Eds), ASHE Reader-Distance