1. UNESCO Chair on Personalized and Adaptive Distance Education
The UNESCO Chair carries out research into the effectiveness of adaptive learning processes and the didactic details involved. The technological possibilities for the implementation and integration conditions for the various course regulations and curriculums are also analysed.
There are two main focal points to the research: the first is the development of personalised and adaptive designs and instruction models to promote subject-specific knowledge/competence. The second is the development of innovative measurement methods for emotions relevant to learning so as to integrate these into adaptive learning systems in the form of sensors and intervene according to these emotions.
During the first four years, the Chair’s activities concentrate on partnerships in Europe and Africa. Cultural and economic differences, both at an organisational and regional level, serve as research catalysts. In this respect, the Chair will involve the establishment and continued development of an international competence pool in the field of technology-based, personalised and adaptive learning.
Technology-based, personalised and adaptive learning
When it comes to personalised and adaptive learning, the focus is on the individuality of the learners rather than employing a one-size-fits-all approach. Individual factors which can form a basis for adaptation include the stable or situation-specific characteristics of the learners (gender, culture, learning strategies, knowledge, emotions, awareness etc.) Based on the measurement of these characteristics by a sensor and subject to certain threshold values, an adapted presentation of the following is made:
- Learning content (e.g. topic, difficulty, level of detail, task type)
- Instructions (e.g. suggestions to consider, learning tips) and
- Form of presentation (e.g. type of media, colours, integration of tools).
The sensor which documents the individual learner characteristics before/during learning can include objective data in the form of (knowledge) tests, facial muscle recognition, eye movements, heart rate etc. in addition to the voluntary disclosure of information. Essentially, the adaptation of the components included in the learning system can be controlled by two different mechanisms (sets of rules):
- Rule-based (based on strict rules/heuristics specified by the instructor)
- Independent learning (automatically optimises the algorithm based on the acquired data, cf. machine learning)
The learning process is adapted in the optimal way to suit the individual requirements of each learner. The various elements and fundamental underlying process can be presented in a diagram as follows:
An exchange programme for researchers will be launched to promote international networking and research competence. It involves short stays at partner institutions by FFHS employees to identify situation-specific research requirements, half-year research stays by exchange researchers at the FFHS to conduct lab experiments and one to one-and-a-half year field studies at partner institutions to put experimental findings to the test and create practical applications.
The research results will be used to develop an international further education offer – the ‘International Executive Master’s for Adaptive Learning’. All activities will be documented in the form of websites, publications, workshops and guidelines. They will be made available to the public as an open source. As such, the Chair will help to establish and further develop awareness and competence in personalised and adaptive learning systems, at both a national and international level.
Various partners from Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Rwanda and Tanzania), Eastern Europe (Ukraine and Russia) and Western Europe (Spain) have documented their interest as part of the preparations for the UNESCO Chair. Two forms of partnerships have been established: research cooperation and network cooperation.
The research partners take part in the research activities and exchange programme for researchers. These partners also play an active role in the development and implementation of the further education offer – the ‘International Executive Master’s in Adaptive Learning’.
Cooperation with the network partners focuses on developing and implementing the Executive Master’s and transferring knowledge to the regional domain of the partners.
So-called UNESCO Chairs have been established since 1992 as part of the UNESCO UNITWIN (University Twinning and Networking) programme. The aim of these chairs is to promote international and interuniversity collaboration and to establish networks for knowledge transfer and collaboration in UNESCO-related disciplines such as education, the natural and social sciences and communication.
The Chair activities should contribute to achieving the United Nations objectives on Sustainable Development Goals 2030. The aim for the education sector is specifically to develop high quality education and a fair educational landscape which is inclusive of all people across the world. This also includes an assurance of life-long learning. To promote this, modern ICT can be applied at education institutions and in distance learning. The UNESCO Chairs form an important tool in the UNITWIN programme and their role includes undertaking relevant research activities and knowledge transfer work. They serve as think tanks and bridge builders between the academic world, civil society, the local communities, research and politics. The programme seeks in particular to promote capacity building at universities and research institutions through knowledge exchange and international solidarity in a north-south and/or south-south direction and thereby to support excellence and innovation across all regions of the world.
For more information on the UNESCO chairs:
- International: http://en.unesco.org/unitwin-unesco-chairs-programme
- Switzerland: http://www.unesco.ch/category/reseaux/chaires-unesco/