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Issue 3 - November 2013




November 2013

Issue 3

Intelligent Tutoring for Lifelong Learning – I-TUTOR project

The Intelligent Tutoring for Lifelong Learning – I-TUTOR project aims at developing a multi-agent based, user-friendly intelligent tutoring system to support online teachers, trainers, tutors and learners. The system is to be applied in open source learning environments, and will monitor, track, analyze and give formative assessment and feedback to students within the learning environment while giving input to tutors and teachers involved in distance learning to enhance their role during the process of teaching.The project is implemented by 7 partners in 4 EU countries (Greece, Hungary, Italy, and the UK)


The developed plugin is applied and tested in Moodle but it is suitable in other open source learning environments as well. It monitors, tracks, analyzes and gives formative assessment and feedback to students within the learning environment while giving input to tutors and teachers involved in distance learning to enhance their role during the process of teaching.

The codes – thanks to colleagues from the University of Reading (UK) and the University of Palermo (IT) – are available.

The plugin consist of 4 elements:

  • Profiler
  • Moodle block for the chatbot
  • Timeline report view
  • Semantic maps and reporting

To download the plugin, please visit the I-TUTOR website!


User manuals are available in 4 languages: English, Italian, Greek and Hungarian. Download it from HERE.


To learn more about the plugin, please,
check out these overviews:

I-TUTOR Plugin: Presentation of the main features by Roberto Pirrone, University of Palermo, IT

I-TUTOR Maps: exploring the theoretical background by Roberto Pirrone, University of Palermo, IT

Clustering and chatbots in learning tools by Karsten Lundqvist, University of Reading, UK




About the I-TUTOR WORKSHOP Artificial Intelligence and Learning: an Evolving Relationship

The I-TUTOR consortium, in cooperation with SIREM – Società Italiana di Ricerca sull’Educazione Mediale held its final the I-TUTOR workshop at 13 November 2013 - University of Bari, Italy, In the frame of the SIREM conference

imageOnline learning can significantly be supported by intelligent components, agents and systems, and dialogue between experts of learning and technology domains should be promoted and pursued, to enhance mutual understanding and the development of joint solutions - was the main message of the event.


During the event attendees had a first hand recital of the features and uses of the I-TUTOR plugin as well as a chance to ask questions and exchange ideas with the plugin developers and representatives of the piloting institutions present. The presentations about the project and about the plugin are available to download.

The project also put out a call for paper for collecting experiences, cases, visions, approaches on artificial intelligence use in learning environments. The authors of the best papers were invited to present: an adaptive conversation-based learning approach was introduced as well as the relationship between learning environments and digital citizenship. The papers will be published by Italian e-Learning Association (SIe-L) in the Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, in the December issue.




The I-TUTOR project team would like to show you the creative process behind the project work. We conducted short interviews with various contributors to offer you a unique view on the I-TUTOR development. Our fourth interview is with Roberto Pirrone from University of Palermo, Italy.


What is your role in the I-TUTOR project?

I lead a research group, which joined the project to accomplish both research activity in Artificial Intelligence and HCI applications for VLEs, and to develop the software tool along with the University of Reading partner.

What was your main interest in the project?
We were mainly interested to intelligent support to the interaction between the user, and the system. In the I-TUTOR project there was a challenging mix of obstacles to be overcome: the interface should have had to dialogue with users in four languages, and many atomic data had to be taken into consideration to provide teachers and tutors with useful information for monitoring and/or profiling students. At the same time, students had to elicit their meta-cognitive abilities while using the system. We adopted an almost visual interface were the textual interaction is reduced to the minimum level, and information is conveyed graphically. At the same time, we used semantic computing to allow the teacher building a concept map for representing the course domain, and indexing the learning materials of the course. The teacher builds the map by providing a textual corpus where all the relevant concepts in the course domain are described and tagged with suitable keywords. The map is represented in a zooming user interface (ZUI) where the user sees clouds of keywords, and she can zoom into a single region discovering secondary keywords. At the maximum zoom level, the user can browse the course materials directly. Materials produced by the students, and social interactions (i.e. chats and forums) are projected into the map thus producing a visualization of their "activity" in the learning environment. Maps are running currently in four languages: English, Italian, Greek, and Hungarian.

What did you find suprising, more complicated or easier than expected?
As a software engineer I was challenged by the issues posed by system integration: Java based W3C standard components have been developed and coupled with Moodle that is a PHP based framework. We addressed this problems inserting our components into some Moodle plugins, and developing purposed PHP code for managing interaction and control passing. There were some security issues but we obtained a very scalable solution, which was replicated for all the components.

What new questions arise while working on the project?
New questions are related to the possibility of building a course domain representation, which should be able to elicit deep semantics and contextual relations between the relevant concepts better than the current result. A the same time, a minimum effort should be required to the teacher when she describes the domain.

What do you think about the future of the results, what would you like to see as a continuation of the project?
The whole partnership made a good job in the project, and I think there is room for deepening the research issues that are still open. I'd like to continue the project in the direction of intelligent support to the learning design. This aspect has been not developed in deep due to the project's time constraints. On the other hand, it is very interesting because it should be faced using the findings in the field knowledge discovery, and workflow management.

Other contributor interviews can be found on the website!



Diana Laurillard, Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology, 2012

Teaching is changing. It is no longer simply about passing on knowledge to the next generation. Teachers in the twenty-first century, in all educational sectors, have to cope with an ever-changing cultural and technological environment. Teaching is now a design science. Like other design professionals – architects, engineers, programmers – teachers have to work out creative and evidence-based ways of improving what they do. Yet teaching is not treated as a design profession. Every day, teachers design and test new ways of teaching, using learning technology to help their students. Sadly, their discoveries often remain local. By representing and communicating their best ideas as structured pedagogical patterns, teachers could develop this vital professional knowledge collectively.

Teacher professional development has not embedded in the teacher’s everyday role the idea that they could discover something worth communicating to other teachers, or build on each others’ ideas. Could the culture change? From this unique perspective on the nature of teaching, Diana Laurillard argues that a twenty-first century education system needs teachers who work collaboratively to design effective and innovative teaching.



Gigliola Paviotti





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