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Keynote Speakers

Jim Greer

University of Saskatchewan, Canada

Greer's primary research interest is in Artificial Intelligence, especially the area of intelligent tutoring systems (ITS). His research has focused on granularity-based reasoning to recognize student strategies and on Collaborative Learning in peer help.

He is the current Head of the Department of Computer Science and Director of the ARIES Laboratory (the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Intelligent Educational Systems)

Major research activities include the I-Help project funded through the TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence.

He serves on the editorial board of the journal "Artificial Intelligence in Education" and "User Modelling and User Adapted Interaction". He has served on program committees of 10 international conferences in the past 4 years.


Learner Support: Convergence of Technology and Divergence of Thinking

Jim Greer
ARIES Laboratory Department of Computer Science University of Saskatchewan
[email protected]

In this era of the Wikipedia and the Podcast, it seems that our approaches to supporting both formal and informal lifelong learning are once again being rev­olutionized. Yet disappointingly e-learning remains dominated by rigid learning management systems that deliver content in much the same way as CBT systems did thirty years ago. Attempts to bring intelligent technologies into mainstream e-learning have been slowly and steadily infiltrating the thinking of the education establishment -but unfortunately the ”slowly” has outweighed the ”steadily”.

At the thirty-year mark in my career as an educator, and after having per­sonally engaged in formal teaching at all levels from pre-school to grad-school, I find that learner support and active learning are the two priorities of greatest concern to me -and perhaps not coincidentally these are two areas where I think intelligent systems have a significant role to play in facilitating learning.
Making learning an active process and engaging learners in that process de­pends on more than good pedagogy and interesting content. It involves making the content relevant to the context of individual learners and helping learners feel a sense of excitement and connectedness in a learning environment. Excep­tional teachers stimulate learner interest. They show learners the relevance of the content to their lives and life goals and extend an invitation to engage that few learners can refuse. Good teaching is often about motivating -motivating the content by showing its relevance and motivating the learners to put in the necessary effort to learn. In the world of e-learning, how do we achieve these kinds of motivation? Those few learners who come to an e-learning setting with suffcient motivation to read independently every page of text in a ”Black/CT” course are in that tiny minority of people who will learn despite the environment. We must do better.

Making a learning environment more learner-friendly, more inviting, and more supportive involves:
–      putting effort into explicitly preparing learners to embark upon a learning session,
–      adapting and customizing the learning content to be suitable for each specific individual learner,
–      wrapping around the content a learning community of others who can col­laborate, compete or otherwise impart enthusiasm, and
–      providing learning support just in time and just in case

Our research in the ARIES Laboratory has been focused on supporting co­horts of learners with the iHelp suite of learner support tools. We are working on ways to more easily create communities in which an instructional team con­sisting of many kinds of helpers including peer helpers and even artificial helpers can support learning needs of students. We are implementing systems that cre­ate and sustain a learning community. We are working on ways to use semantic web technologies to prepare packages of learning content for individual learners based on their needs and goals. We are developing approaches for closely moni­toring activity during learning in order to try to anticipate learners’ needs while respecting learner privacy.

Research by many people in the AIEd/ITS community (and elsewhere) on the topics of learner motivation and using collaboration and community to in­crease motivation has not yet made sufficient impact on the design of mainstream e-learning technologies or standards. Moving the good ideas from adaptive in­teractive education systems into the e-learning mainstream is a way to make a difference to millions of learners and perhaps this should be our community’s next imperative.


Research Center for Science and Technology for Learning
National Central University