UNESCO-Chair on Personalised and Adaptive Distance Education
The UNESCO Chair at IRODeL conducts research into adaptive learning concepts, conditions of integration into various study regulations and curricula, technological applications and their useful application in concrete learning concepts.
The research will focus on two areas in the context of technology-based learning environments. The development of personalised and adaptive designs and instruction models for the promotion of subject-specific knowledge/competence on the one hand and the measurement and promotion of learning-related emotions on the other.
During the first four years, activities will concentrate on partnerships in Europe and Africa. Cultural and economic differences at an organisational and regional level will serve as research catalysts. In this respect, the Chair will be further developed to form an internationally active competence pool in the field of technology-based and personalised and adaptive learning.
Technology-based, personalised and adaptive learning
When it comes to technology-based, personalised and adaptive learning, the focus is on individuality rather than the ‘one size fits all’ approach. Individual factors which could serve as criteria for this adaptation include stable or situation-related characteristics of learning (gender, culture, learning styles, knowledge, emotions, attention etc.) or context variables (subject, learning task, learning environment etc.) Based on the measurement of selected adaptation criteria using a sensor and subject to specific values, the following adapted presentation emerges:
- Presentation of the learning materials (e.g. difficulty, level of detail, task type),
- Presentation of the learning system (e.g. colours, integration of tools) and
- Presentation of the flow of learning (e.g. sequence or repetition of exercises, presentation rhythm, transfer tasks).
The sensor which records the individual learning characteristics before/during the learning process can include objective data in the form of (knowledge) tests, facial muscle recognition, eye movements, heart rate etc. in addition to self-reporting. Essentially, the adaptation of the components included in the learning system can be controlled by two mechanisms (sets of rules):
- Rule-based (based on strict rules/ heuristics specified by the instructor),
- Self-learning (automatically optimises the algorithm based on the data acquired).
The adaptation process itself enables optimal adaptation of the learning process to individual requirements. The various elements and fundamental underlying process can be presented as follows in diagram form:
An exchange programme for researchers will be launched to promote international networking and research expertise. This will involve SDUAS employees undertaking short trips to partner institutions to identify situation-specific research requirements. The researchers taking part in the exchange will also complete 6-monthly visits to SDUAS to carry out lab experiments as well as 1 to 1.5 year field studies at partner institutions to check the results of experiments and set up practical applications.
The resulting research results will be used to develop an international further education offer – the «International Executive Master for Adaptive Learning». All activities in the form of websites, publications, workshops and guidelines will be documented and made available to the public as open source documents. The Chair will therefore help to establish and further develop the appropriate level of awareness and expertise in the field of personalised and adaptive learning systems at both a national and international level.
As part of the preliminary work for the UNESCO Chair, various partners from Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Rwanda and Tanzania), Eastern Europe (Ukraine and Russia) and Western Europe (Spain) have made their interest known. Two forms of partnership have been established: research cooperation and network cooperation.
The research partners will take part in research activities and in the exchange programme for researchers. The partners will also play an active part in the development and implementation of the further education offer – «International Executive Master Adaptive Learning».
The focus of the cooperation between network partners will initially be on the development and implementation of the Executive Master and on knowledge transfer between partners at a regional level. The form of partnership may be changed at any time. The network is also open to other partnerships.
So-called UNESCO Chairs have been recognised since 1992 as part of the UNESCO UNITWIN programme (University Twinning and Networking). The aim of these chairs is to promote international and inter-university collaboration and to establish networks for knowledge transfer and collaboration in UNESCO-related disciplines such as education, natural and social sciences and communication.
The activities of the respective chairs should help to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2013 (Sustainable Development Goals 2030). The specific aim for the education sector is to develop high quality education and establish fair education infrastructure across the world which is inclusive of everyone. This includes a guarantee of life-long learning. The inclusion of modern ICT in educational institutes and distance learning is being considered as one of these options. The UNESCO chairs are a key tool of the UNITWIN programme and one of their roles is to undertake relevant research activities and knowledge transfer activities. They serve as think tanks and bridge builders between the academic world, civil society, the local communities and worlds of research and politics. Above all, the programme seeks to promote capacity building at universities and research institutions through knowledge exchange and international solidarity in a north-south and/or south-southern direction and thereby to support excellence and innovation across all the 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/mit-wem/lehrstuehle/