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Knowledge-Based Virtual Education: User-Centred Paradigms

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Virtual learning plays an important role in providing academicians, educators and students alike, with advanced learning experiences. At the forefront of these current technologies are knowledge-based systems that assess the environment in which such learning will occur and are adaptive by nature to the individual needs of the user (Grossman et al., 2003). The extent that the learner will benefit from such technology will depend on the educational setting that this service is provided.

In a number of traditional school settings, the primary channel of knowledge is through the classroom teacher. Virtual learning then plays more the role of Supplemental Instruction (SI), helping the student further explore the material and/or review the concepts already covered in class (Taksa and Goldberg, 2004). Yet, even at this level of education, there are two alternative settings that would demand that the source of primary education be provided virtually: 1) in rural (Reed, 2004) or international (Couchman, 1999) settings where resources are not as plentiful and training for qualified educators is not readily available; 2) in home-schooling in the United States which is on a steady rise (Princiotta et al., 2004).

In conjunction with the 2000 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau conducted a Current Population Survey (CPS) of a sample population of families across America with regards to Home Computers and Internet Use. The results showed a marked increase from that of a similar 1997 survey. The data presented here is rounded off so that trends are more easily understood; for the precise numbers, consult the reference for detailed tables. Some highlights of this data include the following items: 90% of all elementary and secondary school children had access to a computer, although only 80% showed significant computer usage in school. At home, 51% of households reported owning a computer overall, but within economic groups, this statistic varied from 30% at school was equal across economic and ethnic groups, there was approximately 30% less access to computers at home for minority population groups. (Newburger, 2001).
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