AdaptWeb: an Adaptive Web-based Courseware 1[1]

 Veronice de Freitas 1,2 , Viviane P. Marçal 1,2 , Isabela Gasparini 1,2 , Marília Abrahão Amaral 1,2 , Mario Lemes Proença Jr.2 , Maria Angélica C. Brunetto 2 , Marcelo S. Pimenta 1 , Cora H. F. Pinto Ribeiro 1 , José Valdeni de Lima 1 , José Palazzo M. de Oliveira 1

1 Instituto de Informática – Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Av Bento Gonçalves, 9500, Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil
2 Departamento de Computação – Universidade Estadual de Londrina (UEL), Campus Universitário, Londrina, PR, Brazil

Abstract. This paper describes an in progress research and development project, AdaptWeb, planed to present an adaptive educational content personalized to a specific course and to a particular student profile. The project is based in PHP and MySQL and the first running version will be available in October 2002. Hypermedia teaching applications use learning procedures as guided or suggested navigation, hierarchical contents presentation, sequenced deterministic presentations among others educational tactics. Normally these techniques are used in a standard way for all the students. In contrast, different students have different cognitive learning styles, which implies in specific teaching tactics and they also have specific presentation preferences. This paper presents an adaptive environment application for Web-based learning, used in a Numerical Methods course. This course is offered in three different university programs: Mathematics, Engineering, and Computer Science. In each program, the complexity (e.g.: theorem demonstration or theorem presentation only), content sequence, examples, and supplementary material for the same course content present differences. In this version the student’s presentation preferences and the program adaptation are considered, in the next stage the cognitive learning style adaptation will be added.  Authoring software for syllabus generation is provided, and a run-time environment adapts this content, according to the student program and preferences.


In this paper, we focus on an application for Adaptive Web-based Programs. In this context, student’s preferences about learning contents, navigation resources, and interfaces are evaluated. For that purpose, we are working with a case study of a Numerical Methods course, which is included in three different university programs, with differences in each specific syllabus. According to the student’s enrolled program (Mathematics, Engineering or Computer Science), and preferences, different contents of the same course are presented.

Most of the available Web teaching systems applies the traditional paper-based learning resources presented as html pages, making no use of the new resources available in the Web. Among the underemployed resources, adaptation is a key feature for customized teaching in the Web. Many researchers have addressed the adaptive learning supported by student’s profiles [4, 5, 9, 10]. In the AdaptWeb research project, a unique syllabus may be adapted to different programs and to different student characteristics. The diversity of student’s preferences and skills requires adaptive techniques to fulfill the specific information required in web-based programs [4]. In this project, the student’s diversity is supported by the creation of a student profile, where information about the student’s background, objectives, hyperspace experience, and learning log files are stored and continuously updated. The AdaptWeb System is divided into an authoring environment and a run-time environment module. The authoring environment component helps the author to develop multiple presentation contents for a course, with alternatives for different programs. The course creation process is based on the construction of a topics hierarchy. The run-time environment provides the course sequence of contents, according to the student’s program, preferences, and characteristics. This project is a cooperative action of Federal University of RGS (UFRGS), and Londrina State University (UEL), supported by the ProTeM-CC Framework of the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq).

Authoring environment: adaptive syllabus creation

In the AdaptWeb environment, the authoring component allows the author to include different contents for a same topic, according to different programs and different student’s profiles. The proposed system allows the customization of contents from a generic course structure, according to different programs and student’s skills. The authoring process is composed of the following stages: (1) specification of the course purpose; (2) specification of the course contents outline; (3) specification of contents structure, components, and visualization; (4) classification of contents as concepts, examples, additional examples, exercises and complementary material (pictures, movies, simulations, and links to additional information); Also, the complexity level of exercises and examples are stated, as easy, medium, or complex, and (5) specification of course contents, according to each program , using an authoring tool as shown in figure 1.


Figure 1 - Authoring tool

Through the tool of authoring presented in Figure 1, the author will be able to create and to specify the structure of content organized during the authoring phase. Each topic specified in this tool, the author will have to supply to the name of the topic, summarized, prerequisite description, for which courses desires to make available the topic and to inform the archive associated with this topic. After the cadastre of the topic, the author will be able to relate other archives related to the topic, which is classified as examples, exercises and supplementary material.

Through Figure 1 topic 2,2,12 in maintenance can be visualized, that will only be to make available for the pupils of the Engineering, and Computer Science Computation. In the guides of Examples, Exercises and supplementary material, the author will be able to specify other contents related to topic 2,2,1, always informing for each associated archive the white public.

The AdaptWeb environment uses the Extensible Markup Language (XML) [11] for data storage. In the present project, the Numerical Methods course was selected and adapted to three different programs: Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science. For each university program, a different XML file is created, including the specific program course topics and information about topics presentation sequence.

Run-time environment

The run-time environment includes the student profile generation and maintenance and the adaptive presentation of contents. The educational contents must be dynamically adapted, according to the student’s evolution model. This model represents the current relationship between the student and the course, and how much the student knows about each application domain topic. The purpose of AdaptWeb training environment is to provide the necessary support to the learner’s style of interactions with a specific knowledge space represented by HTML pages with wide and rich didactic material. The AdaptWeb considers three aspects as relevant for the adaptation process: the student’s current knowledge, the student’s program, and the student’s navigation preferences. The adaptability techniques are supported by information stored in the student model [5]. Each student model is created in the first AdaptWeb login. Information about enrolled program and courses, as well as general student’s information, should be provided at this moment. Information about the student’s performance is captured from student’s monitoring.

Adaptive presentation of contents

At each login, the student must select one navigational option: tutorial or free. In the tutorial mode contents are accessed, according to a previously established sequence. Consequently, for each new section, the presentation is adapted to consider the previously accessed course components. In the free navigation mode, every course component is available and users may navigate through the course contents without restrictions.

The general environment interface has built-in strategies that help the student to navigate in the hyperspace, such as direct guidance (that suggests the best link to proceed), and global maps. The interface presentation of component pages is dependent of the navigation choice. For the free navigation option, all topics are available, but students may use a search tool, provided for global orientation support. In the tutorial navigation option, students are guided by the use of global conduction technique. Some adaptive hypermedia techniques proposed by [3] and [2] are also used in the AdaptWeb. The selected techniques are: link disabling: used for navigation sequence enforcement; links annotation: to identify disabled topics, topics already visited and topics not visited yet; history list: to place the student in the study environment; link removal: to adapt the links according to the program (Computer Science, Mathematics, and Engineering). for each course topic. In particular, in the free navigation mode, the adequate contents are indicated with as a dark colored link, the already accessed with a light blue colored link and the available but inadequate links, meaning that some previous prerequisite content have not being accessed, are denoted by a gray colored link. A DTD have been developed, and a XML parser has being implemented, for the XML files validation, in compliance with Document Object Model (DOM) [8].


This paper describes a current project for adaptive content presentation of Web-based courses, according to selected programs and student’s profile. The proposed solution is demonstrated with the application of the AdaptWeb in the development of the Numerical Computation course, where specifics and different contents of the same course are presented for students from three different programs (Mathematics, Engineering, or Computer Science). In the adaptive environment provided by the system, course contents are customized with different information complexity, sequence of contents access, examples application, and supplementary material access. Authoring software is provided for syllabus generation, supported by XML standard files. The AdaptWeb also provides support for student’s monitoring. As a result, the course contents is adapted and presented to students, according to each student’s program, current knowledge, and navigation preferences. Now the we are working for incorporate a new adaptation in the tool based in networking an the technology available in the student. The AdaptWeb project home page is available at http://www.dc.uel.br/adaptweb


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[1] This project is partially supported by CNPq