Posted on 12th December 2014
Project Partner Introduction: Natasha Stash at TU/e
Hi, I am Natalia Stash from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the Netherlands. I am a lecturer, researcher and developer at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. I am also a student counsellor for students following the Web Science undergraduate degree course at the TU/e.
TU/e is the technical partner in the project, primarily responsible for delivering the technology to support students with autism. We are planning to build this technology on the basis of existing research, conducted by our Web Engineering group.
One of the areas in which our group specialises is automatic creation of personalised Web experiences. In the past few years we have developed several tools for providing personalised access to online information. We have designed tools both for information in general and online educational courses in particular.
My PhD research was based on a first generation tool of this type. In my thesis, I presented examples of adapting online learning environments to different cognitive/learning styles (CS/LS). To identify CS/LS that can be applied in pedagogy, and more specifically in online learning environments, I did a thorough review of the literature on cognitive psychology.
Using our tool I implemented scenarios for three dimensions of CS/LS:
- visual versus verbal,
- global versus analytic (or sequential), and
- active versus reflective.
I showed types of adaptation that could be used to accommodate for variation within these three dimensions. For the cases in which the learner does not know what his/her CS/LS are, I also implemented scenarios for identifying those. In the latter scenarios, the tool monitors how the learner interacts with the application:
- which media types (s)he prefers to choose over the others when several types (e.g. images, text, audio) are available,
- how (s)he navigates through the application (e.g. bottom-up versus top-down), and
- in which sequence (s)he performs various learning activities (e.g. studying the theory, looking through examples and additional explanations, working on an assignment).
Based on the inferred patterns in learner behaviour, the tool chooses an appropriate type of further adaptation.
The tools developed by our group can be reused in the Autism&Uni project, as it moves to the next stage. These tools can provide adaptation, comparable to the way we have adapted online environments to learning styles – only in this scenario, we will consider the specific needs of people with autism.
We have the technology; what we need for the next stage of the project is knowledge about the teaching/learning strategies that work best for people with autism. This knowledge should be translated into exact instructions on how the interactive application should behave, allowing us to incorporate this specific behaviour into our system.
For further information, see my PhD thesis on Incorporating Cognitive/Learning Styles in a General-Purpose Adaptive Hypermedia System