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Terry Stewart

 

CHALLENGE Player and Builder

Note: The CHALLENGE Suite (with the exception of CHALLENGE FRAP) has been discontinued.  This is an archive site which describes CHALLENGE as it was between 2002 and 2004 for historical purposes.  See this link for further information.  The PBL work now continues with this project (Terry Stewart - 23rd June, 2005)

Introduction

Presenting students with scenarios, and getting them to explore, analyse and comment on them is an effective way of learning.  The CHALLENGE Builder/Player combination is an authoring tool for constructing (in the Builder) and presenting (in the Player) problem-based scenarios.  No scripting is required and scenarios can be constructed almost as easily as using a word processor.

A CHALLENGE "session" (run in the Player) provides students with simulated observations of a some kind of reality, usually one where an assessment is required and/or there is a problem to be solved.  The system can aid the students in their assessment by providing clues and hyperlinks (or not) as the case may be.  It can also guide the student through the deductive process.

The CHALLENGE Player is not an expert system.  In a CHALLENGE scenario, it is the students, not the machine, which carry out the interpretation and gathering of information.  The software simply provides a sort of virtual reality they can work in, and may (or may not) guide them.  It uses the metaphor of the computer  "adventure game".  In such games players moved from room to room, inspecting objects and clues and drawing conclusions, which could then enable them to progress further.  A lot of thinking and deduction is involved.  These same mental tasks also occur in trying analyze a situation or solve a problem.  

The core of a CHALLENGE session is the teacher-constructed scenario.  It is the scenario that presents students with a problematic situation.  This scenario may be anything.  A political problem, a failing business, a sick animal (or crop), a grumbling volcano or falling kiwi numbers. The students are dropped into this problem, and given whatever resources (locations, objects people, tests, references sources) the tutors deem fit.

Once students feel they have enough information to draw some conclusions and provide recommendations, they would normally type this into the computer.  Students can then be given a model analysis and provided with immediate feedback, or (more commonly) the student input will be extracted later by the tutor, printed out and graded.  In the case of the latter, feedback is appended their input text.  Student activity is tracked, so feedback can be customized depending on whether or not students carried out particular tasks.

Tasks can be allocated a price tag.  This gives some incentive for the students to limit themselves to tasks and tests appropriate to the likely problem, rather than trying all the menu options.  It mirrors the real world, where such procedures do indeed cost real money.

Scenarios then, are the "data" used by the CHALLENGE program.  The software provides a "builder" where scenarios can be constructed or altered to suit.  A scenario "player" program presents the problems to students.

The Player program

The CHALLENGE Player would normally be installed on the machine the student will use, although it can be run directly from a CD-ROM.  Here is an example of a CHALLENGE scenario designed for 10-year olds in the Player.  A collapsible menu of places, objects, people and tasks are represented.  The information pertaining to these shown in the bottom left-hand pane.  Hyperlinks to the web, or other parts of the scenario can be added to the displayed text, and a "more info" icon can provide hints.

Alex's bedroom.  What a mess!

The Builder program

This allows scenarios to be constructed or amended.  Scenarios are built up using a series of "nodes".  Each node represents a place, object, action or test.  The scenario creator simply adds the required nodes and fills in the details of what the students will see. Nodes can be given different functionality by the application of pre-defined design templates.

Here is a screen shot of the scenario above, shown in the builder.

Alex's little brother in "builder" mode

The Builder comes with a built-in Player for testing scenarios.  Computers that have the Full Builder software installed can also read the decrypt log/report files produced in the stand-alone Player.

Students can also be construct scenarios in the Student Builder.