AONet ontology network
An ontology can be defined as “a formal, explicit specification of a shared conceptualization” (Studer, Benjamins, & Fensel, 1998). This means, ontologies are abstract models of specific domains represented by concepts, relationships between concepts and restrictions, defined and agreed by a group of people. In addition, they are understood not only by humans, but also by machines.
An ontology network is a group of ontologies related together through a variety of different relationships such as mapping, modularization, version and dependency. The elements of this group are called networked ontologies (Allocca, d’Aquin, & Motta, 2009). AONet has four domains: course topic, agent, educational resources and assessment. Figure 1 shows AONet’s ontologies and meta-relationships. An Assessment is an Educational Resource and has Metadata that describe it. A Portfolio is an Educational Resource too. In order to develop an Assessment, different Instruments can be used. An assessment evaluates topics or subjects that must be learned, which are conceptualizing in Course domain ontology. Agent domain represents the stakeholders involved in an educational process. This work focuses on Educational Resources, Learning Path and Portfolio ontologies, in order to provide terms and relationships to model and enable personalization and self-regulated learning. In previous works, the authors have described the other ontologies of the AONet network.
Portfolio is one of the tools available to evaluate learning. It has been originally used for staff training in workplaces, but today, it is evident the role it plays in educational contexts. Particularly, the use of portfolios in higher education has different purposes, such as: (i) introducing student or educator, (ii) planning personal development and (iii) continuous learning. Students collect and select materials from their university careers and create a body of work that represents their achievements throughout the training process.
Portfolios are useful tools to include in the learning process. When they are used mediated by ICT, they are called e-Portfolios. An e-Porfolio is a digitalized collection of artefacts that includes learning demonstrations, comments, educational resources, teacher feedback and assessment results that represent an individual, group or institution (Barrett & Garrett, 2009; Lorenzo & Ittelson, 2005). If its main purpose is the assessment of learning outcomes, it is referenced as e-portfolio assessment (Chang, Tseng, & Lou, 2012).
The e-portfolio, as an assessment tool, provides the possibility to evaluate the way in which each student learns (Mason, Pegler, & Weller, 2004). Teachers can include in it different assessments that allow them to measure progress in learning. These elements can be objective tests, essays and conceptual maps, among others. So, the e-Portfolio provides students authentic and reflective evidence, with interactive and individual characteristics. This constitutes an advance in ICT-based exams (Bolivar, 2011).
Each learner should have their own e-Portfolio and should feel committed to organize it in the best way, under the guidance of her/his teacher. In this way, this tool stimulates the student’s active work and helps to develop reflective thinking, contributing to self-regulation of learning. Thus, it is important to establish the criteria for building and completing portfolio. Considering specifically the evaluation process, teacher can propose a set of different types of exams that the student must solve, such as: self-assessment, hetero-assessment or peer-assessment (Chang et al., 2012). All the evaluations solved by learners will be contained in their portfolios available to the teacher. This has a double purpose: on the one hand, teacher estimates the learning level achieved by the student and, on the other hand, student is able to regulate her/his own learning. In this type of learning, students become proactive in their efforts to learn, know their strengths and limitations, establish personal goals and define strategies to achieve them, monitoring their progress and improving the methods they use to learn (Zimmerman, 2002).
The use of e-Porfolios has increased in the field of educational institutions as a valuable tool for continuous learning, not only for distance education but also for face-to-face careers. In recent years, a large number of e-Portfolio systems have been developed, as can be seen in EPAC: ePortfolio-related Tools and Technologies (2018). These tools must be integrated into learning management systems (LMS), offering different functionalities.
All those characteristics make e-portfolio a flexible tool that can support different purposes, contexts, resources and approaches or theories of teaching and learning. In addition, it can be implemented at different institutions and platforms. Semantic Web technologies, like ontologies are appropriated tools to achieve the goals of personalization and interoperability and that is why innovation through this way is necessary.
Figure 2 shows the e-Portfolio ontology proposed in this work.
Students need to do some activities or actions in order to achieve learning goals. The set of learning actions that guide the students are known as learning paths. There are different types of learning actions such as formal, semi-formal, and informal or a combination of these. In addition, they can have various complexity levels, from very simple activities; like watch a video, to very complex ones, such as following a complete curriculum (Janssen, Berlanga, Vogten, & Koper, 2008).
Online courses use the learning path concept, in order to guide students through sequentially related content. It helps students become proficient in a specific technology in a short time.
When teachers plan a course, they identify the curricula and objectives according with knowledge, skills and attitude that a student must achieved. Therefore, the learning content and the level of assimilation pursued must be consistent with course objectives. To achieve them, educator plans his classes selecting the most appropriate methodology (Jaramillo Roldán, 2004).
Teacher give students the appropriated learning objects (LO), with which students interact during a course. A LO is the scientific information that has concepts, activities and assessment used in a course. Each LO has a learning level associated that represents its difficulty level with a value. Therefore, in the way that students reach the satisfactory level of each LO, they meet a ranking into the assimilation knowledge level. In this paper authors consider the following levels that students can achieve (Jaramillo Roldán, 2004; Leyva Leyva et al., 2008): (i) first learning level: know, make sense, understand something. At this level, students learn by heart, it is to say, they keep concepts in mind and can reproduce the information. However, they cannot reason or exercise knowledge appropriately. (ii) Second learning level: cognitive learning, deep learning. This level involves mental processes in learning. Learners gain knowledge, skills and experiences to apply in both real life and to solve problems. Students at this level can observe, categorize and form generalization to make sense of the information provided. The learning results come from mental activities but not from externals stimulus. (iii) Third learning level: Create, evaluate and modify the knowledge to take into account new information. Students at this level can justify a decision or course of action, generate new ideas, design new things, construct, plan and make hypothesis, among others.
Each of these levels requires different learning activities: from simple ones such as lectures, commented readings or films, to more complex ones like debates, trials or case studies. The more complex is the activity, the higher level it will be reached.
In this way, educator must know the knowledge level students can reach with the learning material provided. For example, if teacher usually use expository classes as a learning method, student will only be handling the content in the first level of assimilation, that is, learning by heart (Nalda, 2002).
There are different indicators that give teacher the certainty that the highest level of assimilation was achieved. For instance, when student discovers new relationships and applies concepts learned to solve real problems with certainty and success.
Scores are usually used to obtain an overview of success or failure of learning and are useful to assess students. These are not homogeneous indicators as a measure of the learning process results. This is because they depend on the teacher’s criteria when he/she designs learning process or evaluates learners. In this sense, scores are a very weak indicator of the quality of learning process, so it should always be complemented with other types of indicators and criteria (Escudero Escorza, 2000).
Teachers frequently fail when evaluate the learning level achieved by students. They usually develop and apply rigid evaluations that require textual reproduction of concepts, which is irrelevant for professional life. They should use different learning objects that belong to different levels of assimilation. Then, they should consider different indicators and criteria to determine what level the student reached and what actions are necessary to continue learning.