THE JITOL PROJECT AND MODEL (Just In Time Open Learning): presentation of the JITOL-MEDICAL field trial and the JITOL evaluation scheme

C. Gardiol (a), A. Boder (b) and D. Peraya

(a) JITOL Project, CP 172, CH-1211 Geneve 3, Switzerland

(b) Neurope Lab, IBP, Le Forum, F-74166 Archamps, France

Abstract

The JITOL project consists in experimenting and evaluating a distance, open training environment using information technologies (CMC, knowledge base) for the professional and personal development of individuals. JITOL set up networks of users belonging to different communities of practice. It is based on interactions between people (by opposition to interactions between users and material objects as data bases). Users are both learners and "producers" of knowledge, indeed, the interactions between the users build the different JITOL knowledge bases. These knowledge bases feed and are fed by users; they are thus dynamic and constantly evolving; indeed, knowledge acquisition is dynamic and permanent. Another major feature is to focus on and to allow for the explicitation of expertise and experiences of professionals, a type of knowledge not much accounted for in most training programs. The presentation covers the experimentation and the evaluation of JITOL-MEDICAL, JITOL experimentation with the medical field.

1. Introduction

Knowledge is complex, growing and changing. These are frequent observations one makes when examining the needs and requirements of learning in professional environments.

To respond to these needs, new ways have to be found.

  1. One is to focus on the processes of organizing, formalizing and transferring knowledge.
  2. Another is to bring together the context of learning and the one of application.
  3. Another is to focus on know-how and practical experiences so central to the professional practices and to allow for their explicitation.
  4. Another is to make the constructive process of knowledge acquisition explicit.
  5. Another is to consider knowledge hoards as flexible and open to negotiation (by opposition to books which are fixed and static).
  6. Another is to favour a collaborative construction of the training system (users may be either experts or learners depending on their field of expertise).
All of these strategies are at the basis of the JITOL project (Just In Time Open Learning).

2. Background of the JITOL project

The JITOL project is a distance learning project from the DELTA program of the European Community. 12 partners from 8 countries are involved. It started beginning of 1992 and will end at the end of 1994. The JITOL is coordinated by Neurope Lab, a research center at Archamps (on the French-Geneva border).

The JITOL project consists in experimenting and evaluating a distance, open training environment using information technologies (CMC, knowledge base) for the professional and personal development of individuals. The most salient characteristics of JITOL are the following. JITOL is setting up networks of users belonging to different communities of practice. It is based on interactions between people (by opposition to interactions between users and material objects as data bases). Users are both learners and "producers" of knowledge, indeed, the interactions between the users build the different JITOL knowledge bases. These knowledge bases feed and are fed by users; they are thus dynamic and constantly evolving; indeed, knowledge acquisition is dynamic and permanent. Another major feature is to focus and to allow for the explicitation of expertise and experiences of professionals, a type of knowledge not much accounted for in most training programs.

The JITOL model is experimented through three field trials. They are:

  1. training of trainers and teachers,
  2. training of health professionals responsible for patients suffering from chronic diseases as diabetes,
  3. training of people working in banks and computer companies.
Apart from these three field trials, JITOL is much concerned by evaluation and quality control, as well as by the dissemination of the JITOL model, in other words, the production of concrete tools as outcomes of JITOL (tools to be used for other domains). To be more concrete, let us look carefully at one of the field trials: the medical one (JITOL-MEDICAL) and then at the evaluation and quality control scheme.

3. JITOL-MEDICAL, one of the field trials of JITOL

The network of users in JITOL-MEDICAL involves 5 medical units which share a high level of expertise in the treatment and education of diabetic patients; one is Spanish-Catalan (Barcelona), one is Italian (Firenze), two are French (Nancy and Paris), the last is Swiss (Geneva). Each medical unit is provided with a high performance PC, a modem connected through a server which is at Neurope Lab (Archamps-French Swiss border) and the JITOL-MEDICAL multimedia environment.

3.1. The JITOL-MEDICAL "4 windows" interface

The JITOL-MEDICAL multimedia environment is based on the "4 windows" interface. Each window has a specific function:

Fig. 1: the JITOL-MEDICAL "4 windows" interface

In the North-West window is the EKB, the Evolving Knowledge Base.

In the North-East window, electronic debates (conferences) take place.

In the South-West window, users are provided with a note-book.

In the South-East window, e-mail is available to them.

The North sections are public (public knowledge - public debates), the South ones private (private knowledge - private debate).

The West sections are for knowledge (public knowledge - private knowledge), the East sections for communications (public debates - private debates).

3.2. The E-Mail window

This is a traditional electronic mail; it allows the users to communicate personally with someone else.

3.3. The Note-Book window

This is a space where users may make and build their own knowledge, thanks to cut and paste anything from the three other windows. They may also take some notes.

3.4. The Evolving Knowledge Base window

1. This is a knowledge base made up of texts, figures, scanned images and soon video-clips. Its main principles are:
  1. the relevance (in relation with the professional needs of the users) rather than exhaustiveness,
  2. a modular approach,
  3. the progressive construction of this knowledge base thanks to the "reification" of the interactions which take place in the electronic debates window,
  4. an evolving principle: the knowledge is not fixed once for all, on the contrary it is open to discussion,
  5. a training tool but also a professional tool to be used in the everyday professional practice (especially, thanks to the implementation of a computerized medical file about patients and to the presence of sixty typical images of diabetic foot to be used as references for the medical practice).

The unit in the knowledge base is the "topic". Each topic is approached through a certain number of modules (which are the same for each topic). These modules are the following:

  1. Presentation of the topic: brief description of the topic;
  2. Points of View: a variety of points of view on the topic (scientifically validated or not), from different authors and experts. The goal is to present different opinions on the topic so as to provide material to discuss the topic in the electronic debates window;
  3. Cases and Situations: examples of practical situations and patient cases which illustrate the topic. The idea is to give concrete and practical material to better understand the topic;
  4. Glossary: critical terms with the equivalent in the different languages of the partners, and with a definition of these terms;
  5. References: bibliographical references with abstract;
  6. Critical issues and practical solutions: most problematic issues raised by the participants in the electronic debates, along with different solutions to solve them
  7. Debate summary: synthesised presentation of the debate in progress within the topic. Analysis giving emphasis to the claim and the different people's arguments, counter-arguments and supporting evidences.
Apart from these different modules which offer different entry points in the topics, the Evolving Knowledge Base provides a "Semantic Search Network" which offers the users a semantic representation of a concept and which allows an inter-topic navigation (across the different modules of the topics in the Evolving Knowledge Base). The Semantic Search Network is based on the idea that many points of view, provided by cross-references in a hypertext-like environment provide a better representation. This is similar to semantic networks which help construct an overall representation of a problem or a situation.

Its basic mechanism is to allow users to "button-click" on words, which then generate a graphical representation of possible links with other modules or other concepts. The links are provided with semantic value. So one can access any related node by finding support or evidence for the given word, or an alternative view or yet an example.

3.5. Electronic Debates window

Each topic in the debate corresponds to a topic in the Evolving Knowledge base. The relation between the knowledge base and the debates is thus very close, the first is a support for the second and vice versa. Some debates are launched thanks to some reflective activities about typical situations. A synthetic version of the debates is available in the Evolving Knowledge Base.

Regularly, the interactions in the debates are "reified", in other words, they are analyzed, organized and put in the Evolving Knowledge Base. These information do not acquire however a fixed and final status; as a principle, they are open to re-discussion. This strategy allows to be as close as possible to the constant evolution occurring in professional practices. JITOL-MEDICAL aims at helping professionals to debate ideas, issues and original practices not yet scientifically validated. The status of the knowledge transiting in JITOL-MEDICAL is temporary.

4. JITOL Evaluation and Quality Control scheme

The evaluation of the JITOL project is in the hand of an international team of approx. 20 people. Together, the team set a common framework which then was adapted to the evaluation of each field trial. For the medical field trial, a careful identification of its characteristics, limits and constraints was first carried out. They are rather characteristic of any professional settings:Consequently the evaluators chose for JITOL-MEDICAL to perform an evaluation:
  1. as unobtrusive as possible, in other words, long questionnaires, interviews, are to be used with moderation because the danger is to have the users quit the evaluation project as well as JITOL itself;
  2. as close as possible to the training system itself, in other words, the evaluation should be partly immersed into the development and the management of the training system itself;
  3. the evaluation results should first of all be of benefit to the managers and users of the training system.
In other words, the functions of the evaluation of JITOL-MEDICAL are twofold:
  1. to ensure that JITOL-MEDICAL complies with the needs and characteristics of the users: evaluation as operational support and concomitant;
  2. to test the relevance of the JITOL hypothesis in relation with the needs of the users: more traditional function of the evaluation.

4.1. Evaluation as operational support and concomitant

As such, the evaluation tends to provide to the managers of the medical field trial a tool to help them to manage the experiment. Thanks to their more exterior and neutral approach, the evaluators-supporters participate to a more precise definition of:

4.2. More traditional evaluation

As such, the evaluators have selected seven aspects which will be closely investigated. They are:
  1. JITOL-MEDICAL as open learning (freedom and reality of access; variety of actors; horizontal communication)
  2. JITOL-MEDICAL as a collaborative learning system (sharing of knowledge; desire to participate and share ones' knowledge; valorisation of the efforts)
  3. JITOL-MEDICAL as a strategy of explicitation of experiential knowledge and of evolving knowledge basis (setting up of the knowledge basis and its evolving nature)
  4. JITOL-MEDICAL based on the principle of the dynamic reification of knowledge (management of the reification; its dynamic and recursive nature)
  5. JITOL-MEDICAL as a vector of change in the professional practices (behavioral modifications; will to learn)
  6. JITOL-MEDICAL as a vector of change in the running and the organisation of the different medical units (types of communication among the different members of the units; internal, regional diffusion of JITOL)
  7. JITOL-MEDICAL as an appropriate system rather than a "just in time" system.

5. Conclusion

Thanks to the simultaneous development of the field trials and the evaluation scheme, the JITOL project hopes to provide its users an environment as close as possible to the expectations and needs of the users, for a training as embedded as possible in their professional practice and with a special stress on the collaborative process of building up a knowledge hoard.

References

  1. Boder, A. (1992), The process of knowledge reification in human-human interaction. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Vol.8, Nr.3, Sept 1992, pp. 177-85.
  2. Boder, A. & Gardiol, C. (1992), Multimédia pour l'éducation et la formation en Europe: quelles méthodologies de production? (Résultats du projet Start-up). Supplément 54, Politique de la Science, OFES Berne.
  3. McConnell, D. (1990), Case Study: the educational use of computer conferencing. Educational and Training Technology International, 27, 2.
  4. Saunders, M. (1992), Coherence & autonomy: issues in the evaluation of an open learning project. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Vol.8, Nr.3, Sept 1992, pp. 151-62.
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