Intelligent SQL Tutor

The paper presents S Q L T W e b, a Web-enabled intelligent tutoring system for the SQL database language. S Q L T W e b is a Web-enabled version of an earlier, standalone ITS. In this paper we describe how the components of the standalone system were reused to develop the Web-enabled system. The system observes studentsÕ actions and adapts to their knowledge and learning abilities. We describe the system’s architecture in comparison to the architectures of other existing Web-enabled tutors. All tutoring functions are performed on the server side, and we explain how SQLT-Web deals with multiple students. The system has been open to outside users since March 2000. SQLT-Web has been evaluated in the context of genuine teaching activities. We present the results of three evaluation studies with the University of Canterbury students taking database courses, which show that S Q L T W e b is an effective system. The students have found the system a valuable asset to their learning. Keywords. Web-based ITS, architectures for adaptive and intelligent Web-based educational systems, intelligent problem solving support via the Web, student modelling and student model servers in the Web context, empirical studies of Web-based adaptive and intelligent educational systems.

Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) offer the advantage of individualized instruction without the expense of one-to-one human tutoring. Although numerous ITSs have been developed to date, they are mostly used in research environments, and only a few have been used by large numbers of students in real classrooms. The main cause of such limited use of existing systems is the complexity of ITS development, and the difficulties with providing robust and flexible systems. Despi te the factthe area is not young,there are no wel l -establ ished methodologies or development tools. Furthermore, the hardware platforms available in most schools are not the ones developers prefer, and porting systems between platforms is in no way a straightforward task. Fortunately, Web-enabled versions of ITSs have the potential to reach a much wider audience as they face significantly fewer problems with hardware and software requirements. We have developed SQL-Tutor, a standalone system for teaching SQL (Structured Query Language) (Mitrovic, 1998a). The system has been used by senior Modern heuristic techniques for combinatorial problems. Advanced topics in computer science
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students at the University of Canterbury and has been found easy to use, effective and enjoyable (Mitrovic & Ohlsson, 1999). The system has been developed in Allegro Common Lisp (Allegro, 1998) and is available on MS Windows and Solaris. Besides local users, two thousand people worldwide172 A. Mitrovic/An Intelligent SQL Tutor on the Web have downloaded the Windows version of the system

in 20 months starting in May 1999. However, we wanted to open the system to a wider audience, and avoid problems with porting between various platforms. The goal of this paper is to present SQLT-Web, a Web-enabled version of SQL-Tutor that was developed by reusing the standalone version, and to show that the developed system is effective. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of commonly used archi tectures for Web-based educat ional systems f i rst ,fol lowed by a discussion ofthe architecture we adopted for S Q L T W e b . Then, we describe the features of the system that support studentsÕ learning and discuss how multiple students are handled simultaneously. We present our experiences with the system in section 4, and further research directions in the final section.
Web-enabled educational systems offer several advantages in comparison to standalone systems. T h e y m i n i m i z e t h e p r o b l e m s o f d i s t r i b u t i n g s o f t w a r e t o u s e r s a n d h a r d w a r e / s o f t w a r e compatibility. New releases of systems are immediately available to everyone. More importantly, students are not constrained to use specific machines in their schools, and can access Web- enabled tutors from any location and at any time. Several architectures for Web-enabled ITSs have emerged so far, all based on the client- server architecture. If we consider the location at which the teaching functions are performed, three types of architectures can be identified: centralized, replicated and distributed. In all systems that will be used to illustrate the three architectures, the student needs a Web browser, which is a common requirement today. Although one of the promises of Web is platform- independence, the differences between various browsers are not negligible, and often require substantial effort to ensure that a Web-enabled system can be used via any browser. In this section we present only the general features of the three architectures. More detailed surveys of various approaches and technologies used to build Web-enabled educational software can be found in (Brusilovsky, 1999; Alpert et al., 1999; Eliot, 1997; Stern et al., 1997). Centralized architecture In the centralized architecture, illustrated in Figure 1, the application server and the Web server run on the server side, while the student interface is displayed in a Web browser on the clientÕs machine. The application server performs all tutoring functions. The interface consists of a set of HTML entry forms. Information entered by the student is sent to the Web server, which passes the studentÕs requests and actions to the application server

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