Open learning LO29181

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 09/16/02

Replying to LO29175 --

Dear Organlearners,

Juan Carlos Gutierrez <> writes

>Hi, I am imformatic Engineering student and so interested on
>modelling and simulation. I want to work on a project related
>to opening learning university sudent and the effects of the
>differents factors that could be involded in his learning process,
>for example, the self-study, self evaluation, share experiences
>with classmate, goverment policies and others. All of the
>variable are qualitative, from my point of view. The question
>is: Could I simulate conditions taking into account this kind of
>model( no measurable variables)? Have you worked on a
>similar project?. I really appreciate your help on this.

Greetings Juan,

Open learning is also known as "distance learning" and recently as
"telematic learning". I have picked with Google's advance search
engine three sites which will give you enough information to think
< >
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< >

I was self involved for 4 years in distance learning as a lecturer in a
college of education for further training (CEFT). It was in the days
before Internet. I was very fortunate in having had two kinds of students.
The one kind were teachers all over our province who studied by
corresponce the courses for the diplomas we offered at CEFT. The other
kind were teachers who were seconded to live at the campus and to be
instructed in person by lecturers on courses offered by a university for
distance learning! I often learned from instructing that univeristy's
courses how distance learning SHOULD NOT BE DONE.

You are right, there are many facets in distance learning which would be
very difficult to quantify. I am thinking of facets like self-evaluation
of tasks, feedback between lecturer and students, motivation and
maintaining a fast enough learning pace. Thus i think that it will be very
difficult to model an organisation for distance learning and simulate how
it reacts when changing the variables.

But there is something else which you can do. While working at CEFT, i
came deeply under the impression of the need for CAE (Computer Assisted
Education). But that was in the days of the Apple before the IBM PC. One
had to have access to a mainframe computer to do the complex programming
needed to guide a learner with a computer. I did not have any such access.
So i studied all literature on CAE and especially the programming part,
even though of a theoretical nature.

Many years later, our university bought a CDC CYBER mainfrain with the
PLATO CBT (Computer Based Training) system on it. There were thousands of
CBT lessons on it. The chemistry lessons by Stanley Smith were superb. I
had the opportunity to make use of this system for several years as well
as programming my own interactive CAE lessons with it and observe how the
students fared with them.

What intrigued me was to ask questions without formatted answers from
which the students had to select the correct answer. They are called open
questions. It means that the student can give any answer and the lesson
program should give a sensible feedback based upon that answer. This is
only possible with a deep knowledge of the very act of learning -- what
thinking drives it and what thinking regulates it. (The present topic
"Treble Loop Learning" comes to my mind.)

As PCs and programming languages for them became more powerful, i began to
build a system far more powerful than the PLATO system running on a CYBER.
In it all the things presently discussed in the dialogue (Instructional
Design and Learning) between Terje Tonsberg and me and many more figure in
it. I call this authoring system CACTAL (Computer Assisted Creative
Teaching And Learning). It is in some sense a simulation of the act of
learning as closely as possible.

I hope that the following still works to get the source code of CACTAL.
It runs of Visual Basic as prgramming system. All its files are available
by FTP from the server
Make sure that you change the path to the directory
All the files are available in 4 subdirectories, namely
Retain these subdirectories and their files in your copying procedure.

[Host's Note: No.. those directories are no longer on that server. ..Rick]

The directory "/cpsvorm" contains the very heart of the system for guiding
the learner through any creative learning task, whether it be emergent or
digestive. The "cps" stands for "creative processing structure" and the
"vorm" is Afrikaans for form. It is here where the 7Es (seven
essentialities of creativity) play a crucial role in giving the student
the correct feedback on an immature answer.

Some people think that the 7Es are just a mere taxonomy like so many
other, for example De Bono's Six Thinking Hats. They are not. Without
using the 7Es in the "cps" consistent feedback is just not possible. They
are used to search for every possible "error" (i hate using this word)
which the student can make when answering a question. The search is done
by a series of "directive commands". For each question its own series of
"directive commands" has to be developed. Perhaps the most strinking of it
all is that these series of commands have to be arranged from the most
complex to the least complex to render a consistent feedback for all
possible answers.

Juan, as a student in information engineering, you might just consider
authoring yourself a CAE lesson with CACTAL. I can assure you that with
one good lesson behind your back, you will have learned a lot about
creativity, learning, information presentation, complexity and how to
render it all in a program.

Dear fellow learners, the need for education is immense. Billions of
people want to learn and millions of teachers are needed. Have you ever
considered that CAE (Computer Assisted Education) might be the answer. I
did and CACTAL is my own contribution. However, i also know that CACTAL is
worthless when people do not realise that knowledge and information are
not the same thing as well as that the act of learning which results in
knowledge has to be creative.

One of the other on-going topics in our LO dialogue is "Knowledge
Management". I think of it as "information management". Real "knowledge
management" is for me knowing what feedback to give to a learner when
creating answers to any open question until a correct answer is created.
Doing it in person-to-person is one thing. Doing it by means of a
computerised lesson is another thing because all one's failures glare at
one when that lesson is run by someone who can make all the "errors".

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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