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ELM-ART: an interactive and adaptive LISP textbook on WWW

Peter Brusilovsky
School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, USA
E-mail: plb@cs.cmu.edu

Elmar Schwarz and Gerhard Weber
Department of Psychology, University of Trier
Trier, Germany
E-mail: {schwarz | weber }@cogpsy.uni-trier.de

Abstract. This contribution presents the system ELM-ART which is an intelligent interactive textbook to support learning programming in LISP. ELM-ART demonstrates how interactivity and adaptivity can be implemented in WWW electronic textbooks. Since adaptivity is the most innovative feature of ELM-ART we center our presentation around adaptive features of ELM-ART and its implementation.

World Wide Web (WWW) opens new ways of learning for many people. Now, educational programs and learning materials installed and supported in one place can be used by thousands of students from all over the world. However, most of the existing educational WWW applications use the simplest solutions and are much more weak and restricted than existing 'on-site' educational systems and tools. For many designers, the ideal form of educational WWW material seems to be a static electronic copy of a regular textbook: chapter by chapter, page by page, picture by picture. Such "static electronic textbooks" have two major shortcomings. First, they are not interactive enough, i.e., students can only passively read the educational materials. Second, they are non-adaptive, i.e., students with different abilities, knowledge, and background get the same educational material in the same form. At the same time, interactivity is very important for any educational application as a prerequisite of active learning. Adaptivity is especially important for educational applications on WWW which are expected to be used by very different classes of users without assistance of a human teacher (who usually can provide adaptivity in a normal classroom).

This contribution presents the system ELM-ART (Brusilovsky, Schwarz & Weber, 1996) which is an intelligent interactive textbook to support learning programming in LISP. ELM-ART demonstrates how interactivity and adaptivity can be implemented in WWW electronic textbooks (ET). It is the first fully featured Intelligent Tutoring System available currently in WWW.

ELM-ART (ELM Adaptive Remote Tutor) is a WWW-based system to support learning programming in LISP. ELM-ART is based on ELM-PE (Weber & Möllenberg, 1995) an Intelligent Learning Environment that supports example-based programming, intelligent analysis of problem solutions, and advanced testing and debugging facilities. This system was designed (and used in real classroom) to support a class on Introductory Lisp programming in the University of Trier. ELM-ART provides all the course materials (presentations of new concepts, test, examples, and problems) in hypermedia form. It can be considered as an on-line adaptive ET with an integrated problem solving environment (we call it I3 textbook, or intelligent interactive integrated textbook). ELM-ART is available WWW by URL http://www.psychologie.uni-trier.de:8000/elmart.

ELM-ART differs from simple WWW ET in two major aspects. First, ELM-ART is interactive: all examples and problems (which are important components of any textbook) in ELM-ART are not just a static text as in other textbooks, but "live experience": students can play with examples and solve problems interactively using WWW fill-out forms. The fields of these forms are used to provide several kinds of input, such as the text of a problem solution, and the buttons are used to get several kinds of help and feedback from the system while examining an example or working at a problem:

Second, ELM-ART is adaptive. It "knows" the material it presents to a particular student and knows the current student level of knowledge about LISP. As a result, ELM-ART can help users to understand a particular section of learning material and supports them in learning and navigating the course material.

The WWW implementation of ELM-ART is based on the Common LISP Hypermedia Server CL-HTTP (Mallery, 1994). CL-HTTP is a fully featured HTTP server completely implemented in Common LISP. Since the original ELM-PE system was also implemented in Common LISP, CL-HTTP appears to be an optimal platform for our purposes. CL-HTTP is a very flexible and powerful tool for implementing intelligent applications on WWW. Since a LISP function is called to handle the request, any interactive or intelligent tool written in LISP can be connected to WWW with the help of CL-HTTP.


Brusilovsky, P., E. Schwarz, and G. Weber: 1996, 'ELM-ART: An intelligent tutoring system on World Wide Web'. In: C. Frasson, G. Gauthier and A. Lesgold (eds.): Intelligent Tutoring Systems. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 1086, Berlin: Springer Verlag, pp. 261-269.

Mallery, J. C.: 1994, 'A Common LISP hypermedia server'. the First International Conference on the World-Wide Web.

Weber, G. and A. Moellenberg: 1995, 'ELM-Programming-Environment: A Tutoring System for LISP Beginners'. In: K. F. Wender, F. Schmalhofer and H.-D. Böcker (eds.): Cognition and Computer Programming. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, pp. 373-408.