About - Project Description

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have spurred considerable interest, with several researchers from the fields of education and ICT working actively on producing high quality products and a highly improved learning experience for students of these courses. Yet, a pedagogy and set of learning outcomes designed for students in one setting (e.g., country, level, subject), are often not appropriate for students in different settings, mainly due to differences in culture, language and terminology, and educational backgrounds. Moreover, even for students sharing the above characteristics, differences in their personal learning styles, strengths and weaknesses, result in static MOOCs not being able to attain the same level of rapport with the student as a teacher. The e-learning community has long strived to tackle these issues through personalisation, with some promising results. However, an extensive literature survey has led us to the conclusion that so far said personalisation focuses mostly either on the look and feel of the learning environment (e.g., layout of user interface, colour scheme, etc.), or on employing human “experts” to provide personalised assessment and recommendations to students. Some of the largest MOOC providers (Coursersa, edX) have recently started looking into incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to automate the production of personalised recommendations to students; however, none of them is available as open-source software, and none of them provides internationalisation and recommendations at the granularity targeted by our project.

Moreover, in order to address the needs of teenagers, emphasis should be given in the creation of well-organized learning supporting structures. It would be highly beneficial for all stakeholders (students, teachers, schools, local authorities) if these structures could be deployed on an online information system, such as a MOOC, in order to reduce operating costs but without losing the personalisation feature. However, what works for adults and students of academic institutions, will seldom match the needs of a younger audience, as evidenced through past experience of using MOOCs in the schools participating in PRIMES and elsewhere. Teenagers need more guidance and monitoring, more active involvement in learning, and more experience based learning. They also find attractive to collaborate with people of the same age. A survey of current MOOC providers led us to the conclusion that all of these aspects are currently missing from mainstream MOOCs. Utterly, the only proper answer to our plight would be a smart, adaptive MOOC designed from the ground up based on the educational needs and interests of teenagers.

PRIMES proposes a framework that utilizes e-learning systems, artificial intelligence and student-teacher collaboration for boosting learning in secondary education. To this end, our objectives are to deliver: (a) a platform allowing for automatic multi-level personalisation of MOOCs, (b) a set of courses (natural sciences, computer science, history) to be used in a pilot setting in the participating schools, and (c) a set of online communicative activities, to be deployed and used by students and teachers in tandem with the MOOC. PRIMES will engage heavily with the schools where the system will be in pilot use to inform design and implementation details from the feedback and suggestions of students and teachers. The PRIMES platform will further be used in the following ways:

  • As a tool for student self-study.
  • As supporting material for classes under a teacher’s guidance.
  • As a student preparation tool for the class, so that the teacher can focus on exercises, discussion etc.
  • As research and thinking material in problem based learning.