ONLINE & Criteria, Strategies and Research Issues of Context-Aware Ubiquitous Learning

by Hwang, G.-J., Tsai, C.-C., & Yang, S. J. H. (2008). Criteria, Strategies and Research Issues of Context-Aware Ubiquitous Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 11 (2), 81-91.

ABSTRACT: Recent progress in wireless and sensor technologies has lead to a new development of learning environments, called context-aware ubiquitous learning environment, which is able to sense the situation of learners and provide adaptive supports. Many researchers have been investigating the development of such new learning environments; nevertheless, the criteria of establishing a context-aware ubiquitous learning environment have not yet been clearly defined, not to mention the strategies of conducting effective learning activities. To resolve these problems, this paper presents the basic criteria, strategies, and research issues of context-aware ubiquitous learning, and identifies the necessary check items as well for the development of such learning environment. Illustrative examples of conducting context-aware ubiquitous learning activities and the requirements of setting up such learning environment are also presented at the end of this paper.

1. Introduction

In past decade, the rapid advance of broadband and wireless Internet technologies has promoted the utilization of wireless applications in our daily lives. A variety of invisible embedded devices and corresponding software components have also been developed and connected to the Internet. Ubiquitous computing is referred to a new technology which enables people to seamlessly utilize huge amounts and various kinds of “functional objects” anytime and anywhere through network connections (Rodríguez & Favela, 2003; Minami et al., 2004). Another feature of ubiquitous computing is the use of wireless communication objects embedded with sensors to detect users and environment information for the provision of personalized services (e.g., RFID, Radio-Frequency Identification).

In recent years, e-learning researchers noticed that the progress of wireless communication and sensor technologies have evolved the research issues of e-learning to mobile learning (m-learning), and now is evolving from m-learning to ubiquitous learning (u-learning). Several significant characteristics of u-learning, which make it different from conventional e-learning, have been discussed, including seamless services, context-aware services, and adaptive services (Bomsdorf, 2005; Hwang, 2006; Yang et al., 2006; Yang et al., 2007). In an ideal u-learning environment, computing, communication, and sensor devices are embedded and integrated into learners’ daily life to make learning immersive. Based on this concept, Yang (2006) proposed a learning environment facilitated with context aware peer to peer search to empower learning resource finding and sharing. Nevertheless, as learning environments change so quickly, u-learning has not yet been clearly defined, not to mention the strategies for conducting learning activities in such an environment. To cope with these problems, we attempt to propose the criteria for establishing a u-learning environment in this paper; moreover, the characteristics of m-learning and u-learning are compared in order to more clearly identify the features and potentials of u-learning.

2. Characteristics of a Ubiquitous Computing Environment

To develop context-aware and seamlessly integrated Internet environments, a variety of new techniques and products concerning ubiquitous computing have been developed in recent years, such as sensors and actuators, RFID tags and cards, wireless communication, mobile phones, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) and wearable computers.

From the system designer’s point of view, physical integration and spontaneous interoperation are the two main characteristics of ubiquitous computing systems (Kindberg & Fox, 2002). Physical integration means that a ubiquitous computing system involves some integration between computing nodes and the physical world. For example, … The room contains digital furniture such as chairs with sensors, whiteboards that record what is written on them, and projectors that can be activated from anywhere in the room, using a PDA.

In the meantime, a ubiquitous system must spontaneously interoperate in changing environments. A component interoperates spontaneously if it interacts with a set of communicating components that can change both identity and functionality over time as its circumstances change (Kindberg & Fox, 2002). A spontaneously interacting component changes partners during its normal operation, as it moves or as other components enter its environment; it changes partners without needing new software or parameters (Feeney et al., 2001). For example, to seamlessly hold a video conference, the system needs to immediately locate the nearest functional objects, such as a CCD camera and display equipment, for each attendee. If the attendee moves toward another room, the system will change devices according to the user’s context, so that the video conference can be seamlessly continued. If the attendee switches his or her device from a notebook with a 100 Mbps local area network to a PDA with a lower-speed wireless network, the system will locate additional translation coders or drivers accordingly.

From the user’s point of view, in a ubiquitous computing environment, anyone can make use of computers that are embedded everywhere in a public environment, at any time. A user equipped with a mobile device can connect to any of them, and access the network by using wireless communication technologies (Uemukai et al., 2004). Moreover, not only can a user access the network actively, but computers around the user can recognize the user’s behavior and offer various services according to the user’s situation, the mobile terminal’s facility, the network bandwidth, and so on (Cheng & Marsic, 2002). User assistance via ubiquitous computing technologies is realized by providing users with proper decisions or decision alternatives. That is, a ubiquitous computing technology-equipped system supplies users with timely information and relevant services by automatically sensing users’ various context data, and smartly generating proper results (Kwon et al., 2005). Therefore, by employing this new technology in education, the learning system is not only adapted to the individual’s needs, but is also actively involved in his or her learning activity…

Read more about uLearning here: Hwang, G.-J., Tsai, C.-C., & Yang, S. J. H. (2008). Criteria, Strategies and Research Issues of Context-Aware Ubiquitous Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 11 (2), 81-91.