Enabling the reuse of World Wide Web documents in tutorials
Johnson, David (David B.), 1957-
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The World Wide Web is a rich source of material that could be used for educational purposes. Advantages of reusing these existing materials are avoiding the duplicated effort of creating new versions of material that is already in existence, using up-to-date information, and letting the student see the original source materials. This thesis identifies and describes some of the problems that arise when reusing existing materials in tutorials. The thesis then describes Wtutor (Web Tutor), a prototype system for exploring solutions to these problems. Wtutor allows a tutorial author to create a tutorial as a set of paths through the network of documents on the Web and to include assessment points along the trail. Wtutor monitors the student's progress through the tutorial and provides navigational guidance to the student as well as feedback regarding the student's performance on the assessment points. Because the retrieval of Web documents can be slow and unreliable, Wtutor implements a variation of just-in-time prefetching, which allows Wtutor to retrieve most Web documents within tutorials before the student is ready to begin the documents, so student-experienced delays are greatly reduced and frequently completely eliminated. Reusing documents that are owned by authors other than the tutorial author means that the tutorial author does not have control over the content of the included documents. The owners of the documents may make changes to those documents that may or may not affect the appropriateness of the documents for inclusion in the tutorial. In Wtutor, document signatures have been designed and used to confirm that documents have not changed in ways that make them no longer appropriate for inclusion in the tutorials. Wtutor provides an environment for both authoring and taking World Wide Web-based tutorials. Future work in this area will focus on providing an enhanced authoring interface and on developing a more portable implementation of the functionality that Wtutor provides.