We have implemented the collaborative and interactive reader panta rhei, which displays semantically enriched XHTML material generated from the OMDoc source. The system offers service such as the rating and annotation of the course content to allow student to contextualize learning objects. The first case study was based on the General Computer Science lecture (GenCS) at the Jacobs University Bremen and was funded by the JEM network (JEM case study).
Panta rhei offers students an additional opportunity to discuss their assignments and exams next to the face-2-face lecture and the tutorials. Instead of setting up an ordinary forum, panta rhei facilitates the annotation of course content. Annotations are stored in a forum-like structure, allowing students to reply and link between postings. Moreover, the system integrates a rating option, allowing students to indicate which lecture material they found to hard and/ or where they would like to receive additional examples and exercises.
By November 10th 2007, 70 students have been registered for the GenCS course: 68 students have signed up for the system, from which 27 posted in the forum. From 297 overall-postings, 136 have been created by the students and 158 by the 7 teaching assistants and the professor. Moreover, 30 postings were referencing slides and assignments, i.e. they have been created using panta rhei’s annotation feature. 46 postings were initialized in the panta rhei forum. 221 postings were replies. Students were also typing their postings with the available types: 13 advices, 51 answers, 14 changes, 34 comments, 1 example, 29 explanations, and 114 questions were posted. 5 threads were posted in the scope “slides”, 45 threads in the scope “assignment” and 47 in the scope “news”, where as the latter also subsumes postings from “slides” and “assignments” with the type: “news”.
By December 3rd 2007, 70 students have been registered for the GenCS course: 69 students have signed up for the system, from which 34 posted in the forum. From 446 overall-postings, 226 have been created by the students and 208 by the 7 teaching assistants and the professor. Moreover, 63 postings were referencing slides and assignments, i.e. they have been created using panta rhei’s annotation feature. 44 postings were initialized in the panta rhei forum. 339 postings were replies. Students were also typing their postings with the available types: 20 advices, 89 answers, 14 changes, 51 comments, 1 example, 32 explanations, and 189 questions were posted. 5 threads were posted in the scope “slides”, 72 threads in the scope “assignment” and 56 in the scope “news”, where as the latter also subsumes postings from “slides” and “assignments” with the type: “news”.
The increase of postings from 297 to 446 at the end of the semester can be explained with the increasing difficulty of assignment as well as questions concerning the midterm and ﬁnal exam. Moreover, the integration of the HTML editor TinyMCE as well as the eMail notification feature, tremendously increase the usability and acceptance of the system by our students. Looking at the statistics, students ﬁrst primarily used the forum, but lately also made us of the annotation feature. The rating feature of the slides was not used at all. Moreover, students mainly posted questions and answers, but also commented on the lecture material. Examples were not posted. The superior number of question is most likely a consequence of making “question” the default type. In particular, students were interested in discussing the assignments, only 5 forum threads were referencing the lecture notes. This can be explained by the rather poor quality of the automatically generated slides, which still needs to be improved. In consequence, although students prefer the online material, they are still referring to the PDFs to prepare for the exams.
In the next semester, panta rhei will be extended with a sophisticated math editor, which allows students to enter math in a LATEX like syntax. In addition, we are currently preparing the course material to be used in the mmlkit conversion. This will allow us to publish much more readable and consistent slides next semester and hopefully increase the student’s interaction with the online material. The latter will also be promoted by our work on an improved annotation and rating paradigm.
I would like to thank Alen Stojanov for his efforts in improving the panta rhei implementation. Moreover, I want to thank all GenCS1 students for their patience and feedback on the system. I also like to thank the GenCS TAs, especially Ankur Modi and Christoph Lange, for their numerous postings that made the system more attractive. Last but not least, I would like to thank Prof. Michael Kohlhase for providing the semantically enriched GenCS content as well as for his support during the development and deployment of the system.
I am looking forward to improving panta rhei for the next case study, which will be launched in February 2008. I am especially happy that Alen Stojanov and I will be supported by Jakob Uecker, who recently joint the development team!!!