Kai Warendorf
School of Applied Science, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore 639798

1. Introduction

Over the past years, the development of Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) and multimedia courseware has been rapidly expanding. High level multimedia courseware packages for certain topics in the domain of teaching are widely available, e.g. in mathematics, physics, chemistry. Even with all these sophisticated multimedia features added these programs still remain on the same level as a text book since they are not able to adapt to the students' ability to understand and learn. The problem with these packages is that they lack intelligent features. The student may only be guided through the course and has only limited possibilities to interact with the program. Questions can be answered and even hints might be given if the solution is wrong, but the program is not able to monitor the students progress or interfere if the student is on the wrong track.

The main goal of this IMTS is to illustrate to the students the behaviour of algorithms applied to complex data structures and to give them the possibility to manipulate these data structures interactively. The performance of the students will be monitored and guidance towards the correct solution will be given using methods of inquiry teaching. The IMTS supplements lectures, tutorials and laboratory exercises and is always available for them when qualified lecturers are not in reach.

2. Design of the ITS

Current courseware is generally not able to adapt to an individual student's capability. With an ITS it is possible to overcome some of these problems. The system can monitor the students' answers during the teaching session and upon encountering problems it is able guide the student towards the right answer [Looi et al. 1991, Wong et al. 1995]. The method of guidance depends on the inquiry teaching method chosen, e.g. , Socratic dialogue, Piagetian learning, coaching [Collins and Stevens 1991]. The system might prompt the students on the prerequisites required in order to answer the question or show a different way to approach the question. The system also has the possibility to move back to an earlier topic if it discovers the students' knowledge is not sufficient. In order to make the teaching more efficient it will be studied how these methods can be combined and whether it is advisable to change the teaching method if the student does not progress with the current one used.

3. Advantages of Multimedia Support

Understanding data structures depends a lot on visualising the problem, e.g. binary trees, graphs. These are difficult to teach given the limitations of the lecture format. Demonstrations using computers or videos can be made but it is not possible to pay attention to the individual students needs during the lecture. Further some weaker students might have difficulties understanding concepts that cannot be reviewed in the lecture because of time constraints; further, a textual explanation might not be sufficient for them to understand the concept. An alternative display of the problem using intelligent and interactive multimedia might increase the understanding of the student. Reasons to add multimedia to an Intelligent Tutoring System include the following :


[Collins and Stevens 1991]Collins A., & Stevens A.L. (1991). A Cognitive Theory of Inquiry Teaching in P. Goodyear (Ed), Teaching Knowledge and Intelligent Tutoring, Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 203-230
[Looi et al. 1991] Looi C.K., Sim W.C., Ang E.H. (1991). On the design of intelligent computer tutors for school mathematics, Proceedings of the South East Asia Regional Computer Confederation (SEARCC 91), Pt 18, 4-11
[Wong et al. 1995] Wong L.H., Looi C.K., Quek H.C. (1995). An ITS to plan inquiry dialogue, Proceedings of AI-ED 95