Projects at UNSW



The AeRG work at UNSW involved developing Interactive Adaptive Tutorials and associated technology in 10 different schools in 5 Faculties:

Faculty of Medicine


The Adaptive eLearning Research Group (AeRG) are actively working with the Dept. of Pathology within the Faculty of Medicine at UNSW to create highly interactive and adaptive tutorials for both practical classes and assessment. Building on the Faculty's Virtual Slide technology, and using the Adaptive eLearning Platform, teachers were able to develop guided activities that focus on specific regions of microscopic sections of diseased tissue. The Adaptive Tutorials provided students with immediate feedback based on their interactions with the Virtual Slides. Teachers were able to monitor student performance in real-time, and modify tutorials appropriately.

It is planned to expand the use of Adaptive Tutorials to cover most of the Pathology curriculum for Medicine and Science students.

Academic: Dr Gary Velan, in Pathology
Educational Developer: Richard Heck

School of Mechanical Engineering


With a large number of students enrolled in Engineering Mechanics and Solid Mechanics courses at the first and second year of Mechanical Engineering discipline, academics face a challenging task in managing large class teaching while maintaining and managing the course delivery in an interesting and convincing way. The normal allocation of 5-6 contact hours per week in the form of conventional lecture and tutorial system often fail to reach the student individually by attempting his/her queries in a lucid and impressive approach.

A user friendly, graphically impressive adaptive eLearning tool is developed to attempt the commonly experienced fundamental doubts by the students of first and second year engineering in Mechanics related courses. The developed tutorials attempts to track and recognize the common mistake of each student and be able to provide with appropriate feedback to overcome them. The tutorials developed based on the real world examples are highly interactive and visually appealing to improve the new generation students’ learning experience very productive.

A total of 4 Adaptive Tutorials were created:

  • A Bridge example to experience free body diagrams and equilibrium equations
  • Torsion module to get used to the relationship for power and torque
  • A multi-span beam with different loading and support conditions to draw SFD and BMD
  • Understanding the stress transformations using Mohr’s Circle

The developed tutorials were available to the students as learning and assessed tools during S2 2008 and S1, 2009 with an average of 300 students participating.

To-date, two UG mechanical engineering students have completed their honors degree on projects relating to Adaptive Tutorials for Mechanical Engineering and another two are currently developing new modules.

There is an increasing demand by the students for such adaptive tutorials in such course at UG curriculum.

Academic: Dr. Gangadhara Prusty
Educational Developer: Shaowei Ho

School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science, Faculty of Science

This project involved developing a virtual experiment that replaced a existing wet-lab exercise that was no longer offered to students because of the high cost of maintaining the apparatus.

The original experiment involved exploring oxygen consumption in cellular mitochondria using an Oxygen Electrode that was connected to a chart-recorder. Students explore the effects of different agents (e.g., glutamate, succinate, ADP and more) on oxygen levels in a reaction mix with suspended mitochondria, by analysing the graph produced by the Chart-Recorder.

We developed an Adaptive Tutorial based on Virtual Apparatus that simulated the real-world experiment. As in the wet-lab, students used a virtual pipette to add different amount of agents into a simulated oxygen electrode, that was connected to a virtual chart recorder.

By monitoring student's interaction in real time, the AeLP's adaptive Engine was able to offer students remediation that is based on their specific individual interaction. In that sense it mimicked the real-world teacher, who walks around in a lab, offering students help that is specific to their own work, and help them with their specific misconceptions.

Academics: Dr Louise Lutze-Man, A/Prof. Mike Edwards
Educational Developer: Dror Ben-Naim

Australian School of Business

Business2 Business2

The Adaptive eLearning Research Group, in collaboration with the Australian School of Business, has designed and deployed a number of adaptive tutorials this semester focused on problem interpretation and graphing skills. The tutorials were released in the context of a Commerce programme core course ‘Quantitative Methods for Business’, which aims to enhance the students ability to analyze data to assist in making business decisions.

During previous years, it was observed that many students were finding it difficult to translate word-based problems to their algebraic form correctly. Moreover, a large number of students were not capable of graphing linear equations, inequalities and feasible regions in a meaningful manner.

These skills are fundamental for Commerce students who are working in quantitative areas. Lacking them could become a liability for Masters students who originate from various streams of study, who commonly either do not exhibit strong mathematical skills or simply have not been required to represent business data graphically in their professional or academic life.

A comprehensive and modular graphing tool was developed to cater for the needs of business students. This includes a resizable graph area, complemented with a set of tools which enable the graphing of points, lines or curves, regions, polygons, circles and more. In the tutorials, the graphing tools were contextualized in such a way that made it possible for students to relate mathematical data (or a given textual problem) to a graph. The second tutorial, a linear programming exercise, was built on graphical skills developed in the first.

The unique strength of the project lies in the fact it is interactive - students were drawing their own solutions using the graphic tool, and adaptive - students got feedback, specific to their mistakes. It is to be noted that the graphing tool was developed in a generic fashion, enabling incorporation in different contexts such as Economics, Finance, Accounting and more.

We aim to further develop related services, enabling teachers to author their own graphs for the purpose of delivery in class or an online exercise.

Academic: Mrs Judith Watson
Educational Developer: Zack Belinson

School of Physics, Faculty of Science

The School of Physics was the first school to work with the AeRG for the development of advanced, adaptive content. A number of tutorials were developed for teaching first year physics students the fundamental concepts of Faraday's Law, and the success of these tutorials paved the way for the development of Adaptive Tutorials across many schools within the university.

Another series of tutorials was developed for the School of Physics and they target the syllabus of first year physics students.
The topics covered by the tutorials are:
- Circular Motion
- Simple Harmonic Motion
- Mass on Spring

Further work is being done on a new ‘Physics world’, which will include highly interactive tutorials based on a powerful physics engine which will further enhance the students’ learning experience.

Acadmic: Prof. Richard Newbury, Dr Michael Burton
Educational Developer: Shaowei Ho, Jer-Ming Chen

School of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering

Karnaugh Maps and Circuit Minimization
Students in the Digital Circuit Design course at the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications study the fundamental concepts of Boolean Algebra, applied for the purpose of circuit minimization. Circuit minimization is the problem of obtaining the smallest logic circuit that represents a given Boolean function or Truth Table.

The Karnaugh map is a tool that facilitates this process and it is extremely important that students grasp these fundamental concepts early on in the course.

An Adaptive Tutorial was developed to improve students understanding of this critical subject matter. The tutorial covered the following topics:
  • Filling in Truth Tables
  • Filling in Karnaugh Maps from Boolean expressions and Truth Tables
  • Identifying Prime Implicants and Essentential Prime Implicants
Academic:Nonie Politi
Educational Developer: Richard Heck

Department of Music Education at the School of English Media and Performing Arts


What is the best way to deliver theoretical content? What about developing better listening skills? How would you make a student better at designing sounds and understanding modular synthesis?

We have been working closely with the School of English Media and Performing Arts, along with a number of leading music education providers, to develop advanced web-based adaptive activities. These make use of a number of tools such as a streaming audio player, MIDI-enabled notation tool and an advanced sound design engine, among others.

Music Theory:

A series of tutorials focused on construction, providing the students with an interactive notation tool which can be used to construct scales, intervals or chords. The activities can be adapted to enable MIDI interactivity, aural identification or both.


Music Literature:

We have designed and deployed tutorials that cover both classical and contemporary work, improving students listening skills and comprehension of theory, rhythm and other genre-related characteristics.

For performance students at UNSW, tutorials covered work by composers such as Debussy & Mozart while for Audio Engineering students at other education providers, we have published tutorials covering 20th century topics such as genres progression from Blues to Rock & Roll.

The interactive nature of the tutorials enables the students to spend more time on topics they struggle with while spending less time on aspects they understand very well. The system identifies weak areas and provides adaptive feedback as required.

For example, a student may be asked to identify a specific number of significant bars (reflecting a change of time signature or introducing a certain compositional technique). The student can then use the players’ playback slider to identify these bars position. The system can identify a correct response or a mistake, therefore offering an appropriate feedback.


Sound Design

Focusing on Electronic Music Production and Audio Engineering streams, we have converted sound synthesis principles into an interactive activity, aiming to improve students sound design capabilities using a modular synthesis framework including oscillators, filters and envelope generators.

Students get to design sound electronically while the system monitors their performance and intelligently offer assistance and adaptation.

The AeLP platform and the tools we developed make it possible for the teachers to:

  • Author and modify content of activities, adding annotations and comments
  • Upload and change audio tracks, targeting specific audio sections to be used in tutorial
  • Create their own notation exercises and examples
  • Monitor students progress in real time, reflecting on content and delivery, and adapting activity when necessary
Academic: Dr. Emery Schubert, Prof. Dorottya Fabian
Read more... Educational Developer: Zack Belinson

School of Chemical Science and Engineering, Faculty of Engineering


The AeRG is collaborating with the Food Science and Technology group from Chemical Science and Engineering to develop content for teaching kids the principles of personal hygiene and safe food handling practices.

Academic: A/Prof. Julian Cox
Educational Developer: Dror Ben-Naim, Shaowei Ho, Beatrice Tang

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