GRUB.htmlertisAIAAI!^IAAAPI!^I TEXTttxt;᭓|mHypermedia and Communication for Active Learning

Paul Johannesson

Magnus Boman

Department of Computer and Systems Sciences

Stockholm University

Electrum 230

S - 164 40 Kista


email: pajo,


An important goal in any education is to encourage the students to actively search for knowledge through self studies. Self studies provide many advantages in comparison to traditional forms of teaching. In particular, the students become more actively involved in their studies, which means that they gain a deeper understanding of the subject. Furthermore, self studies make it possible for the students to choose the time and location for their studies.

In spite of these advantages of self studies, almost all of the education at Swedish Universities is still given in the traditional form with students spending much of their time attending lectures in large groups. One reason for this state of affairs is that self studies put a heavy burden on the individual student, who has to work with limited contact and support from teachers and other students. It is our belief that this problem can be solved by adequate pedagogy that utilizes modern information technology (IT).


The goal of the proposed project is to investigate how modern IT, in particular hypermedia and electronic communication, can be used to support active learning and self studies.

Relevance for Higher Education in Sweden

The project will contribute to the knowledge of how IT could be used for self studies. Improved forms of self studies are important in most traditional higher education, but they are especially relevant in distance education where teachers and students are separated in time and space. It can be envisaged that distance education will become more common in the future as new groups of students require access to higher education, e.g., part-time working students and students living outside the university regions. Distance education will also become increasingly important on an international level.

Related Work

The most wide-spread means to combine hypermedia and communication is the World Wide Web. The Web can be used in four different roles for education:

- The Web as tutor

- The Web as publishing house

- The Web as forum

- The Web as navigator

The Web can be used to design tutorials and on-line lessons for a variety of subjects. For example, Roger Blumberg of the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems at Brown University has created an on-line tutorial on basic genetics known as MendelWeb. One of the most established examples of using the Web as a teaching device is Engines for Education, a hyperbook written by Roger Schank and Chip Cleary of the Institute of the Learning Sciences. This hyperbook contains a discussion of the poor state of education today and how high technology could be used to solve many of its problems. As a tutor, a Web site can provide much more than a set of hypertext links, it can include question and answer sessions, quizzes, tools for evaluation, interactive help routines, other forms of interaction, audio and video clips, etc.

Using the Web as a publishing house, students have the opportunity not only to create their own complex learning environments - they have the ability to present that environment to other interested parties, in the classroom or around the world. The notion of the student as publisher has traditionally been seen in more conventional forms, such as book reports or class presentations. The Web, however, provides new possibilities: instead of presenting information in a conventional, linear format, a student can use the Web as a publishing tool to create in-depth "hyper-reports", on-line multimedia projects with links leading to numerous subtopics and network connections.

As a forum, the Web can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, a teacher may organize a Web site which includes all class lectures with a slide show, frequently asked questions, and multimedia presentations of experiments which may utilize text, graphics, audio, and video. Students may automatically add information to that site, moderated or unmoderated, whether it be additional questions, project reports, essays, etc. This material can then be discussed and critiqued by teachers and other students. Experiences of using the Web as a forum are reported upon in CTI:s special issue on Internet (Active Learning, No 2, July 1995).

As the Web expands, it will begin to appear as a World-Wide Library Catalogue, but unlike a traditional library, the books that are available have been created by students, teachers, and anyone else who has something to say. Being able to navigate, and filter, in this vast information space will be a fundamental form of literacy in the future.

In Sweden, there are only a few projects addressing hypermedia and communication for higher education. The following projects are supported by the Council for the Renewal of Undergraduate Education:

- "Multimedia-supported teaching/examination in manufacturing automation" managed by professor Nils Mårtensson at Chalmers University of Technology

- "Interactive MultiMedia Computer Module in the Training of Aeronautical Engineers" managed by professor Arthur Rizzi at Royal Institute of Technology.

- "SISYPHUS - Computer Aided Hypermedia for Learning and Self Studies in Physics" managed by Dr. Bengt Kjöllerström at University of Lund.

Previous Work at DSV

At the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences (Stockholm University and Royal Institute of Technology), we have for several years tried to teach in forms that encourage self studies. One technique we have used is quizzes. A quiz is a set of questions and simple exercises that help the student to start studying a new section of a course. The idea is that the students use the quizzes to prepare themselves before they attend the lectures. In this way the lecturers need not present basic definitions and simple results; instead they can spend more of the lecture time on analysis and discussions. Solving quizzes have been a mandatory part of the examination.

The students and lecturers have been very positive toward the quizzes, and the use of quizzes has also made it possible to reduce the total lecture time. However, some problems still remain. First, it is difficult to give the students quick and sufficient feed-back on their solutions to the quizzes. Secondly, many students experience that they would need more support during their work with the quizzes. We envisage that these problems can be solved through the use of IT.

The project participants have previously used IT, in particular the Web, in their teaching. In Boman's and Johannesson's courses on programming language theory and information systems, respectively, large parts of supervision, administration, and examination are handled through the Web. The home pages of the courses are and


The project will develop interactive, hypertext based study material based on two textbooks:

- M. Boman, J. Bubenko, P. Johannesson, and B. Wangler: Conceptual Modelling (to be published by Prentice-Hall in 1996)

- M. Boman and J. Karlgren: Formella språk och abstrakta maskiner (to be published by Studentlitteratur in 1996)

The project will consist of the following three parts:

1. Design and implementation of hypertext structures and interactive IT-tools

Parts of the text in the textbooks and additional material will be organized in a hypertext structure. This structure will be complemented with self study material, including quizzes. The self study material will provide interactive support and automatic correction, which will give the students fast and adequate feed-back on their work. Internet, in particular the Web, will be used for the implementation. An advantage of the WWW-service is that it provides a hypertext tool as well as communication, which enables students to choose the time and location of their studies.

2. Methodology for utilizing IT and self studies in traditional courses and distance education

In order to make IT-based tools effective in a course, it does not suffice only to make them accessible to the students. It is required to integrate the use of the tools in the course so that they become a natural part of the studies, which entails that traditional forms of teaching in the classroom have to be adapted. The total amount of lecturing from the cathedra should be reduced, and instead the students should spend more of their time on self studies, including assignments and case studies. The teachers should support the students in their course work by engaging in dialogues and constructive criticism. The communication between students and teachers will to a large extent take place in small groups with, say, two to four students at a time. A part of the communication may also be computer mediated, for example electronic mail and Newsgroups; this form is particularly appropriate when students need fast responses on simple questions. The project will develop a methodology for combining different forms of teaching, where the basic components are traditional class-room teaching, interactive IT-tools, computer mediated communication, and dialogues in small groups. We believe that an important part of this methodology is to use examination to encourage the students to work actively and continuously with larger problems and case studies during the entire course.

3. Empirical Work

The IT-tools developed in the project will be used in several courses at DSV, traditional courses as well as distance education courses. Approximately 500 students will participate in these courses during the academic years 96/97 and 97/98.

Most of the work on the first two parts of the project will be carried out in the academic year 96/97. The IT-tools will be further developed also in 97/98. Some empirical work (part 3) will be initiated in 96/97, but the bulk of this work will take place in 97/98.

Evaluation and Documentation

The evaluation of the project will focus on two aspects. First, we will evaluate the students' subjective experiences of the new teaching forms. We will do this through long (one hour) interviews with a selected number of students and through questionnaires to all students. Secondly, we will evaluate the quality of the knowledge acquired by the students by comparing their results with those obtained by students in similar courses without IT-based tool support. Finally, we will collect objective facts such as through-put, average study time, teacher costs, etc.

The results of the project will be documented in the Web pages that constitute the IT-tools. Furthermore, we will produce a report describing the methodology for integrating IT-tools in the education (part 2 under Approach). This report will also include our experiences based on the evaluation.

External cooperation

We will cooperate with the publishers mentioned above, Prentice-Hall and Studentlitteratur. Support letters are included as appendixes of the proposal.

Student cooperation

The project will be carried out in cooperation with representatives for the students. We have initiated contacts with "Ämnesrådet" at DSV. A support letter is included as an appendix of the proposal.


Paul Johannesson, docent, tf. prof. at DSV

Magnus Boman, Ph.D., vik. högskolelektor at DSV


The budget is based on the assumption that Paul Johannesson works 25% in the project and Magnus Boman 30%. The budget includes "förvaltningsavgift" of 12%.

CV for Paul Johannesson

Paul Johannesson received his B.Sc. in Mathematics and Computer Science, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stockholm University in 1983 and 1993, respectively. He got "docentkompetens" in 1995. He holds a position as lecturer at Stockholm University, where he lectures in information systems and databases. He is presently "tillförordnad professor". He has lectured on a large number of courses at DSV since 1987. He has developed a language for conceptual modelling that is used in several courses. He is the project leader of a NUTEK-supported project, Coordination of Information in Cooperating Information Systems. Johannesson is responsible for the Information Systems Program of The Computer and Systems Sciences Education (Data- och Systemvetenskaplig linje) at DSV.

CV for Magnus Boman

I have been teaching at DSV since 1986, from July 1st, 1988 as temporary "adjunkt", and since July 1st, 1993 as temporary "lektor". In my nine-year career in teaching, I have taught the equivalent of eight full years as a "lektor". I have also carried out my research in this period, producing a Ph.D. thesis and several articles. I have taught all grades: first, second, and third year students at SU, fourth year students at KTH, master students, and graduate students. I have arranged and planned lectures, lessons, seminars, and symposia. Some of these have included guests, and even foreign speakers. I have examined students by means of written examination, mandatory exercises, and papers (including bachelor and master students). I have also taught two different logic courses at the Department of Philosophy at SU.

My own pedagogical training includes pedagogical seminars at DSV, a course on voice and speech training, and a full semester course in Psychology. Before my DSV employment, I trained computer operators for the SWIFT system used in electronic banking, for two years.

I have developed 15 new courses at DSV. Those that I have been (in a few cases jointly) responsible for include (p=weeks full time):

* First order logic and automated reasoning, 6p

* Abstract machines and formal languages, 4p

* Normative decision analysis, 4p

* Logic and conceptual modelling, 6p

* Models for logic, 6p

* Theory of programming languages, 7p/10p

* Decision theory, 5p

* Analysis of algorithms, 5p

* The foundations of logic programming, 5p

* Negation in logic programming, 3p

* Agent-oriented programming, 3p

* Deductive databases, 5p

* Recursion theory, 5p

I have also developed the course "Current Research Topics at DSV" in which all senior researchers at DSV presented their research interests. It has been decided that this shall become a yearly event at DSV.

In 95/96 I am personally responsible for four courses. I have co-written two different textbooks, both due in 1996. Draft versions have been used in courses at DSV for a total of more than 4000 students over the last seven years. Finally, one of my research papers has been used as literature for a course on provability logic at Imperial College, London.