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Conversational information systems: extending educational informatics support for the web-based learner

Ford, N. (2005) Conversational information systems: extending educational informatics support for the web-based learner. Journal of Documentation, 61 (3). pp. 362-384. ISSN 0022-0418

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review recent developments in educational informatics relating to the provision by information systems of pedagogical support to web-based learners, and to propose further investigation of the feasibility and potential value of web-based “conversational” information systems to complement adaptive hypermedia and information retrieval systems.

Design/methodology/approach – The potential of Pask's conversation theory is considered as a potentially useful framework for the development of information systems capable of providing pedagogical support for web-based learners, complementary to that provided by existing computer-assisted learning and adaptive hypermedia systems. The potential role and application of entailment meshes are reviewed in relation to other forms of knowledge representation including classifications, semantic networks, ontologies and representations based on knowledge space theory.

Findings – Concludes that conversation theory could be a useful framework to support the development of web-based “conversational” information that would complement aspects of computer-assisted learning, adaptive hypermedia and information retrieval systems. The entailment mesh knowledge representation associated with conversation theory provides the potential for providing particularly rich pedagogical support by virtue of its properties of cyclicity, consistency and connectivity, designed to support deep and enduring levels of understanding.

Research limitations/implications – Although based on a considerable body of theoretical and empirical work relating to conversation theory, the paper remains speculative in that the gap is still great between, on the one hand, what has so far been achieved and, on the other, the practical realisation of its potential to enhance web-based learning. Much work remains to be done in terms of exploring the extent to which procedures developed and benefits found in relatively small-scale experimental contexts can effectively be scaled to yield enhanced support for “real world” learning-related information behaviour.

Originality/value – The ideas of Pask, discussed in this paper, are capable of guiding the structuring of information according to parameters designed to facilitate deep and enduring understanding via interactive “conversational” engagement between the conceptual structures of information source authors and learners. If one can scale Pask's work to “real world” learning-related information behaviour, one can increase the range of web-based information systems and services capable of providing pedagogical support to web-based learners.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Information School (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Information Studies
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2009 12:49
Last Modified: 13 May 2009 16:39
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220410510598535
Status: Published
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1108/00220410510598535
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8131

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