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Creating Adaptive Course Texts with Aha!

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Definition: AHA! is an adaptive hypermedia architecture used to create and manage the course content.

The Adaptive Hypermedia Architecture or AHA!was initially developed to create an adaptive version of a course on Hypermedia, taught at the Eindhoven University of Technology, and offered on-line to students of several Dutch and Belgian universities. Through a grant of the NLnet Foundation the adaptation engine has been extended to make it very general-purpose, and authoring tools have been developed to help course developers in the design of the conceptual structure of a course and in the management of the course content. Key characteristics of AHA! are:

  • The structure of every course consists of concepts, concept relationships and pages . For every page there is a corresponding concept. When a student reads a page the system will register knowledge about the concept corresponding to that page. Through knowledge propagation relationships the page access also leads to knowledge about higher level concepts (e.g. corresponding to a section and/or chapter). AHA! can give students advice on which concepts to study now and which to leave for later through the use of prerequisite relationships . The AHA! engine has many more possibilities but the ones mentioned here are sufficient for most adaptive course texts.
  • Concepts and concept relationships are created using a graphical tool: the graph author . It makes authoring as easy as clicking and drawing, and it translates the conceptual structure into event-condition-action rules used by the AHA! engine. Through a second tool, the concept editor these rules can be inspected, and modified if desired.
  • Special tools exist to create multiple choice tests and also to create arbitrary forms to allow students to inspect (and perhaps modify) their student model.
  • An application management tool is available for authors to up- and download pages and to activate the different authoring tools. All the tools have a user interface that consists of Java Applets, so an author need not install any software (other than a Java-enabled Web browser) in order to create a course.
  • inclusion of information and of link annotation or link hiding . Through conditional fragments on a page or the conditional inclusion of objects an author can add extra explanations or details that are only shown to students when they have (or lack) some specific knowledge. The link adaptation consists of changes in the link color. There are three colors: good, neutral and bad . To indicate the status of a link. The defaults (which can be changed) for these colors are blue, purple and black, and result in hiding of the bad links.
  • The presentation of a course is highly customizable, through a layout model . As a result different courses served by AHA! can have a very different look and feel.
  • The AHA! runtime environment consists of Java Servlets. The AHA! distribution contains these servlets, the authoring applets and all the source code as well. AHA! is an Open Source project, and works with other freely available tools like the Tomcat Web server, and optionally also the mySQL database system. It runs on Windows and Linux.

Examples of AHA! applications, and AHA! documentation and tutorials are all available from the project’s website, aha.win.tue.nl. Stable releases are also available through SourceForge. The authoring and delivery platforms can also be used independently. An author can for instance use the annotated MS Word format used for Interbook, and a compiler translates the course to the AHA! authoring format in order for AHA! to serve the course . AHA! can also emulate the Interbook layout completely, making the online course virtually indistinguishable from a course served through the Interbook server. Likewise we have been working on compilers for other authoring formats and tools, including MOT (My Online Teacher).

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