Vicarious learning through capturing taskdirected discussions
The research programme on vicarious learning, part of which we report in this paper, has been aimed at exploring the idea that learning can be facilitated by providing learners with access to the experiences of other learners. We use Bandura's term vicarious learning to describe this (Bandura, 1986), and we believe it to be a paradigm that offers particular promise when seen as an innovative way of exploiting recent technical advances in multimedia and distance learning technologies. It offers the prospect of a real alternative to the building of intelligent tutors (which directly address the problem of allowing learners access to dialogue, but which have proved largely intractable in practice) or to the direct support of live dialogues (which do not offer a solution to the problem of providing 'live' tutors - unless they are between peer learners). In the research reported here our main objectives were to develop techniques to facilitate learners' access to, especially, dialogues and discussions which have arisen when other learners were faced with similar issues or problems in understanding the material. This required us to investigate means of indexing and retrieving appropriate dialogues and build on these to create an advanced prototype system for use in educational settings.