An innovative approach for developing and employing electronic libraries to support context‐aware ubiquitous learning

Date16 November 2010
Publication Date16 November 2010
AuthorHui‐Chun Chu,Gwo‐Jen Hwang,Judy C.R. Tseng
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
An innovative approach for
developing and employing
electronic libraries to support
context-aware ubiquitous learning
Hui-Chun Chu
Department of Computer Science and Information Management,
Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan
Gwo-Jen Hwang
Graduate Institute of Digital Learning and Education,
National University of Tainan, Tainan City, Taiwan, and
Judy C.R. Tseng
Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering,
Chung-Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
Purpose – This paper aims to propose an innovative approach to assist teachers in using electronic
libraries to develop learning activities for context-aware ubiquitous learning, in which the learning
system can detect students’ behaviors and guide them to learn in the real world with personalized
support from the digital world.
Design/methodology/approach – An electronic library with context-awareness metadata for
supporting learning activities conducted in real-world environments is presented. Furthermore, a
systematic procedure for guiding teachers in employing the electronic library to develop learning
activities is proposed based on an innovative approach.
Findings – From a practical application conducted on an elementary school, it is found that, with
this innovative approach, electronic libraries not only have the potential in supporting traditional
in-class or online learning activities, but also can assist teachers and digital content workers in
developing high quality learning activities and related digital learning materials to support outdoor
Research limitations/implications The findings of this paper imply that, to promote the
utilization rate of electronic libraries for more specified purposes, more features of the application
domains need to be considered while designing the database schemas of the electronic libraries.
Practical implications – From the feedback of teachers and digital content workers, it is found
electronic libraries have high potential for supporting outdoor learning activities for “Science” and
“Social science” courses with proper database schema design and the provision of user guidance.
Originality/value – An electronic library for supporting context-aware ubiquitous-learning is
presented and an innovative approach for guiding teachers to design learning activities is proposed.
Keywords Artificial intelligence, Learning,Knowledge engineering, Digital libraries
Paper type Research paper
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
This study is supported in part by the National Science Council of the Republic of China under
contract numbers NSC 98-2511-S-024-007-MY3 and NSC 98-2631-S-024-001.
An innovative
approach to
support learning
The Electronic Library
Vol. 28 No. 6, 2010
pp. 873-890
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/02640471011093552
1. Background and motivation
In the past decade, digital resources, including texts, videos, images and other types of
data, have grown exponentially. This has encouraged the development of digital
archives for various purposes. While many researchers have put their efforts into
creating and digitizing resources, many others have focused on system development
and maintenance of digital archives (Chu et al., 2008; Sreekumar and Sunitha, 2005;
Uzoka and Ijatuyi, 2005).
In the meantime, the popularity of computers and networks technologies has
encouraged new attempts of using digital materials to support learning activities (Barrett
and Lally, 1999). Recent advances in wireless communications and sensor technologies
further lead the way of technology-enhanced learning into a new era, in which students
can work with problems from the real world with support from the digital world. That is,
students are placed in a series of designed lessons that combine both real-world and
digital learning resources (Morikawa, 2003; Minami et al., 2004). With the help of these
new technologies, individual students are able to learn in a real situation with support or
instructions from the computer system by using a mobile device to access the digital
content via wireless communications. Such a new technology-enhanced learning model is
called context-aware ubiquitous learning (u-learning), which not only supports learners
with an alternative way to deal with problems in the real world, but also enables the
learning system to more actively interact with the learners (Hwang et al., 2008; Ogata and
Yano, 2004; Yang et al., 2008). This great innovation has changed the concept of applying
digital contents and information technologies in instructions, not only in the teaching
process itself but also in the methodology applied.
One of the major difficulties of digital technology-applied instructions is the lack of
an easy-to-follow procedure for those inexperienced teachers to design subject contents
such that suitable digital archives or technologies can be properly applied to the
tutoring process (Chu et al., 2008). Therefore, it has become an important but
challenging issue to develop a systematic approach for restoring the content of
electronic libraries and guiding the teachers to select and use proper materials for the
design of context-aware u-learning activities.
To cope with these problems, in this paper, an electronic library for supporting
context-aware u-learning is presented and an innovative approach for guiding teachers
to systematically and efficiently design u-learning activities by selecting and using
proper materials from the electronic library is proposed. Moreover, a context-aware
ubiquitous learning environment has been implemented and a learning activity was
conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of the novel approach.
2. Literature review
An electronic library is not only a digitized collection with information management
tools, it is also a series of activities that include collections, services, and people in
support of the full life cycle of creation, dissemination, use, and preservation of data,
information, and knowledge (Saeed, 2006). In recent years, owing to the popularity of
computers and networks technologies, electronic library has become a main stream of
library service.
Mourad et al. (2005) indicated that the availability of digital content has created
opportunities for universities and publishers to improve the marketplace. Various
powerful search engines enable users to search a world of information in few seconds;

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