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High tech learning the Edunomics way

While the proliferation of distance learning courses might hail a learning revolution, one company claims to alter the essence of learning itself. Edunomics produces software aimed at helping students learn faster -- 5.4 times faster, to be precise. If successful, such an accelerated learning speed would have far-reaching implications for students, teachers and companies.

Roger Cassidy, executive consultant at Edunomics, explains that Edunomics' self-adjusting, customized software programs allow learners to cover more ground in less time. The driving principle behind Edunomics is "rapid knowledge acquisition" (RKA), which capitalizes on the brain's natural ability to learn by association. Edunomics' artificial intelligence (AI) engine complements this process by determining weak or missing links, and automatically creates a study course to strengthen them. To illustrate, Cassidy says, "I just have a regular phone line for my Internet connection. But imagine the difference in information transfer speed if I change that to ISDN."

James Chen, Edunomics' chief engineer and leader of Edunomics' research and development team in Taiwan, says that in addition to utilizing a powerful AI engine, Edunomics' software employs "statistics, data warehousing, and data mining. The basic principle is that the system will monitor users' learning activities. Detailed information will be included in the user profile which the system updates as it adjusts its actions or responses to users. The system is automatically self-adjusting."

RKA is made possible through association-based learning and the fact that an AI engine efficiently guides, or "steers" the learner toward the goal of lasting, but accelerated learning. Edunomics' software aims to optimize learning rates by customizing the ways in which information is presented. Unfamiliar information is displayed more frequently, in simple contexts, and for longer periods of time (for example, 5 seconds). Familiar information is displayed less frequently, in increasingly difficult contexts, and for shorter periods (e.g. 2 seconds). "The response in Japan has been very enthusiastic because no one has ever seen a learning tool like this before -- a total integrated solution," says Cassidy. The 3 components of the software allow customization from a knowledge profile: EduMaster5 is a tool for students enabling thorough, rapid learning. EduVisor5 is for administration (professors, teachers, and corporate training managers). Content developed using EduDev5, the development tool, can be plugged into the system and learned using EduMaster5.

Cassidy cites a movement to develop corporate intelligence and make greater investment in human resources and corporate training as the appeal of Edunomics' software programs. A visit to the Edunomics website reveals a wide variety of available topics. "The learning system is content independent, providing the means to learn a range of different content using one learning tool. Edunomics develops content with publishers, and directly with universities and companies according to their specific needs," says Cassidy. Examples include everything from bank loan review procedures to factory floor manufacturing processes to troubleshooting and computer programming. Edunomics can also offer study modules in English, Chinese, Japanese, or any other language, on demand.

Edunomics' software applies to education as well as business. In a typical classroom, the teacher is faced with the time-consuming task of evaluating the progress of twenty or more students. That process can be automated. "At any time, a student, teacher, or instructor, can view a real-time, in-depth evaluation of each student, or of an entire class. A teacher could use this information to customize lectures to focus on the areas that a class may be having difficulty with, and spend less time on the areas the students are strong in," says Cassidy. He points out the advantage of customized deadlines for each student. "Once a learning rate has been determined, long term projections for each student are possible. For companies, this feature enables them to predict training costs more accurately."

Shell-shocked students' faces bathed in the blue glow of the computer screens might seem like a chilling vision. But EduMaster5 is meant to enhance, rather than replace, regular classroom lessons. Students pick up the information faster, using programs that cater specifically to their individual needs. "We're trying to facilitate learning and make the lives of teachers easier. It is clear that some content requires the guidance of an instructor, and some does not," says Cassidy. With students' time freed up, that leaves more time to hone skills and participate in discussions. Similarly, any corporate training effort would have be complemented by face to face contact, and by using Edunomics' offerings, trainees can pick up the required information faster, improving efficiency.

Current projects include an international research initiative in which the top universities around the world will conduct learning experiments using Edunomics' research tools. Research at the universities will involve measuring the learning rates of some of the best traditional methods with computer-based training. Cassidy says," We are now sponsoring independent research with our learning tools. We believe that since the results are all measurable, this will provide international credibility to rapid knowledge acquisition." This research deals primarily with language learning at three major universities in Japan.

Although Edunomics' products do not require an Internet connection, they emphasize the role of the Internet in the knowledge acquisition revolution. "The Internet is a critical part of our system," says Cassidy. He feels that as a delivery system, the Internet is not being used to its fullest potential. "How can technology be used in ways that actually improve education over the best that is presently available? Instead of using the Internet to make up for non-ideal situations, how can technology be used to improve learning even in an ideal situation where people and information are immediately accessible? Given perfect access to people and information, how can learning be accelerated? This is the crux of our endeavors."

Edunomics' software is available on CD-ROM for Windows machines or can be installed on a corporation's or university's intranet. There is no Macintosh version yet. A single student pays about JPY54,000 per year for the Learning OS and about one years' worth of content (average cost in a corporate or university structure). Prices for corporate clients and universities vary depending upon the project. Edunomics offers customized pricing based on training program duration, content requirements, and whether the client requires a standalone or network configuration.


Tel: +81-3-3393-6677
Fax: +81-3-3393-6679
by Sara Galer

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