Learning Science and Technologies Roadmaps

The FAS Learning Science and Technologies R&D Roadmaps describe a unifying research agenda to stimulate the development and dissemination of next-generation learning tools.

Working with leading experts from corporations, universities, government, and other organizations, FAS has produced a series of roadmaps to address critical focus areas for learning science and technology.

The five Learning Science and Technology (LS&T) R&D Roadmaps, first published in 2003, identify key research and development needs and detail an R&D chronology and goals for an ambitious research program for advanced technologies for education and training.

For a summary of all the LS&T R&D Roadmaps, please click here.

  1. Instructional Design
  2. Question Generation and Answering
  3. Learner Modeling and Assessment
  4. Building Simulations
  5. Integration Tools

Other Roadmaps

Learning Science and Technology (LS&T) R&D Roadmaps

LS & T Component Roadmap 1

Instructional Design Roadmap

This document presents a research and development plan, or “roadmap,” designed to improve the scientific understanding of how technology-enabled learning systems (TELS) should be designed, with particular emphasis on instructional design.1

Two aspects of technology-enabled learning system design are of particular interest here:

  • the use of simulation(s) in learning and
  • the application of gaming techniques for learning.

These two topics hold particular promise as viable alternatives to more traditional forms of instruction. However, since neither represents an instructional strategy per se (both can really be considered “backdrops” for learning), the treatment of them in the roadmap is not consolidated in one place. Rather, the vast majority of the questions represented here will have implications for the design of simulation(s) and educational games (for example, the level of fidelity required; the nature of examples provided; the use of challenges).

This approach is necessary to understand the various aspects of simulation and game design in learning, but runs the risk of leading to a set of fragmented conclusions about design.

This roadmap includes a final set of tasks at the conclusion to ensure that guidelines and tools for the design of simulation(s) and games are explicit and integrated.

1 For the purposes of this document, we define TELS broadly to include any system that employs technology as a means to impart instruction or enhance learning.

LS & T Component Roadmap 2

Question Generation and Answering Roadmap

This document is a research roadmap for developing technologies that can facilitate question asking and answering in learning environments.

Learning often improves when students are stimulated to ask questions and when there are facilities for receiving relevant, correct, and informative answers. However, there is a need to identify:

(a) the conditions in which question-based learning is effective,
(b) the landscape of questions that learners ask and should ask,
(c) the alternative facilities for having good answers delivered or collaboratively constructed,
(d) the technologies that must be developed to support question-based learning, and
(e) what a “good answer” is for whom and under what circumstances.

A broad range of learning environments must be considered: classrooms, laboratories, electronic textbooks, one-on-one tutoring, collaborative work, helpdesks, and job aids.

New technologies can make learning more productive, compelling, personal and accessible. The big question is how to structure the field of learning and education from the standpoint of question generation and answering. How can we move to the next level?

A plan needs to be developed to integrate technological advances in learning. This roadmap provides such a plan and suggests a research agenda for the next 3, 5, and 10 years.

LS & T Component Roadmap 3

Learner Modeling and Assessment

This Roadmap identifies five key R&D research topics that will significantly increase the validity, efficiency, utility, effectiveness, and widespread use of learner modeling and technology-enabled assessment:

1. Performance Modeling: Mapping and reconciliation of disparate models of domain expertise, competency, and pedagogy into a metatheory of competence.
2. Assessment Object Strategy: Automated modular assessment design, development, delivery, and analysis to support performance models.
3. Learner Models and Methods: Defining multidimensional learner models and measurement
methods to drive specification of automated modular assessment object strategies.
4. Reporting and Data Mining: Reporting, warehousing, mining, and using assessment data to
validate learner models and inferences.
5. Web Services Infrastructure: Web services infrastructure for integration of software applications and services to support learning consumption and production.

In all areas, the emphasis is on developing scalable, integrated, cost-effective software tools and
systems that embody and automate practices and processes supported by theory and research. Those theories, practices and processes must first be articulated precisely enough to support their automation.

The articulated processes can exist first as guidelines, prescriptions, and decision aids, which can be
turned into functional specifications for tools and systems. Once tools and systems are built, studies
can be done to validate the theories, practices and processes they embody.

This R&D roadmap will produce the research results to provide guidelines, tools, and systems that directly relate to both user modeling and assessment in a holistic fashion, so the distinction between understanding the learning process and understanding the learning outcomes are seamlessly integrated.This agenda should enable the learning technology standardsgroups to generate both technical standards and quality standards to create a continuous process improvement model for user modeling and assessment.

New technologies can make learning more productive, compelling, personal and accessible. The big
question is how to structure the field of learning and education from the standpoint of learning
modeling and assessment. How can we move to the next level?

A plan needs to be developed to integrate technological advances in learning. The roadmap is focused on education and training at the level of postsecondary education for science, mathematics, engineering and technology. This includes courses at 2-year and 4-year universities and colleges, as well as lifelong learning
experiences in business, industry, and the government.

This roadmap provides such a plan and recommends a research agenda for the next 3, 5, and 10 years. 

LS & T Component Roadmap 4

Building Simulations

This document is a research roadmap for developing technologies that can facilitate the use of computer-based simulation in learning.

Research has demonstrated that simulation environments are powerful learning tools that encourage exploration by allowing learners to manipulate parameters and visualize results. Simulations used in academic settings, can enhance lectures, supplement labs, and engage students. In the workplace, simulations are a cost-effective way to train personnel.

Synthetic or virtual environments are capable of supporting games, exploration, and assignments with clear goals or challenges. If they’re well designed, learners will be highly motivated to meet the goal, and eager for help to build the needed skills.

This Roadmap reviews supportive evidence on why simulations are important  and pprovides practical application in domains such as aviation training, including theories of constructivism in educational psychology, context-dependent learning in cognitive science and transfer-of-training studies in flight, military and medical simulation.

It then cites a few current domains where simulations have already been successfully applied, including medicine, the military, industry, and a variety of educational contexts.

The roadmap identifies four key areas for further research based on the limitations of those current applications:

  • interoperability for integrating simulation (including issues of ontology, geometry, and message passing);
  • the reuse, updating, and maintenance (including issues of open architectures and certification and management techniques);
  • adapting simulation to learning environments (including issues of user modeling and assessment, fidelity, distance learning, and collaboration); and
  • developing navigation techniques in virtual environments (including issues of presence, viewing, manipulation, movement, and haptics).

The roadmap focuses on post-secondary (two-year and four-year colleges and universities and industry training functions) and lifelong science, math, engineering and technology education, directly addressing workforce development needs. The insights gained will, however, be useful in all learning—for children, adolescents, and adults.

This roadmap helps to ensure that technology based solutions for learning are developed systematically with scientifically validated principles.

LS & T Component Roadmap 5

Integration Tools

The ultimate goal is to harness the power of Internet and Web technologies to automate and integrate best practices in education into technology-enabled learning systems.

This Roapmap presents a 10-year plan for research and development on technology-enabled learner modeling and assessment.

Other Roadmaps

Virtual Patient Roadmap

The Virtual Patient

This document presents a research and development plan, or “Roadmap,” designed to improve the integration of learning technologies into simulation-based trainers in medicine. The goal is to form an effective bridge between textbook and patient, while reducing errors associated with the acquisition of patient care skills. This research road map fills a critical need to raise awareness of research challenges and R&D priorities for next-generation medical simulators.

Stakeholders need to have a coordinated understanding of the relevant research results, computational tools, on-going programs and projects across research disciplines, industry efforts, and government funding organizations. This Roadmap will hopefully encourage dialog and partnerships to leverage gains from one field to other fields. The Roadmap will provide the non-medical learning technologies community background in the past, current and future of patient simulation. It will also serve as a central resource on medical simulation for the community of practitioners, educators and technology developers.

The Roadmap incorporates the results of a workshop held June 27-28, 2005 at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, attended by 50 participants, representing the fields of allied health and medical education and training, information technology, and the learning sciences. The workshop identified three key focus research topics and tasks, milestones, and performance measures for each of the research topics. These were further refined via digital collaborative tools.

This Roapmap, created by many of the workshop participants,  is truly the product of the community of clinicians, technologists, and learning scientists who participated in the workshop.

NASA eEducation Roadmap

NASA eEducation Roadmap

Massive multiplayer online gaming and persistent synthetic worlds, initially popularized in the entertainment world, are now finding growing interest in education and training environments. There is increasing recognition that these synthetic environments and games can serve as powerful “hands-on” tools for teaching a range of complex subjects.

Virtual worlds with scientifically accurate simulations could permit learners to tinker with chemical reactions in living cells, practice operating and repairing expensive equipment, and experience microgravity, making it easier to grasp complex concepts and transfer this understanding quickly to practical problems. Massively multi-player online games, or MMOGs, help players develop and exercise a skill set closely matching the thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills increasingly in demand by employers. These skills include strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, team-building and cooperation, and adaptation to rapid change. In addition, today’s students who have grownup with digital technology and video games are especially poised to take advantage of the MMOG communications and community building tools to collaborate on complex projects and ask for help from teachers and experts from around the world.

NASA’s eEducation program has committed to develop a commercial quality MMOG based on NASA’s vision and mission. The MMOG will be based on game technology with accurate physics rendering. NASA’s goal is to provide a sciberspace where students and teachers, engineers and scientists, researchers and designers can immerse themselves in accurate representations of NASA facilities, missions, careers and data (Laughlin, 2007).

NASA is not alone in its interest in MMOGs and persistent synthetic worlds as learning environments. Educational MMOGs have been discussed at several meetings and conferences including the Serious Games Summit 2005 and 2006, the Federation of American Scientists’ Summit on Educational Games 2005, and the National Academies Game-based Learning Workshop, 2005. The Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have funded development of educational games.

To date, however, there has been no coherent strategy employed to guide the development and assessment of an educational MMOG. There is a general consensus that educational games are not the same as today’s commercial video games. Educational games represent a new type of product — where the knowledge of pedagogy is integrated with the features of games that are so motivating, engaging, and rewarding to users (FAS, 2006). This requires expertise beyond the specialists that design commercial entertainment games. There is a pressing need for a research road map to guide developmental efforts.

To address this need, NASA eEducation and the Federation of American Scientists collaborated to develop this road map to raise awareness of key research challenges, and to encourage dialogue and partnerships in carrying out activities needed to support the development and design of educational MMOGs and massively multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs).

The research strategy identified in this road map will guide NASA’s eEducation effort to build upon a collaborative framework. By developing an MMOG with specific research questions identified in an advance, research consideration can be factored into development.

This Roapmap provides strong opportunities to establish a collaborative research base between government agencies, private foundations, universities, educational institutions and commercial entities.

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