ExplaNet Overview

We have generalized the process of anonymous online review by creating a system that allows students to author explanations for instructor-provided questions. These explanations are read and reviewed by other students. Our system, which we call ExplaNet, is a cross between discussion boards and online quizzes. Beyond creating a powerful environment for collaboration, and encouraging students to think critically about concepts, ExplaNet provides a framework for content development. It is both difficult and expensive for instructors to create course materials that will appeal to a variety of students. Each student brings to a class a unique background knowledge and perspective, as well as a set of preferences for how they best assimilate course material. ExplaNet exploits this diversity by shifting the process of creating course content from the instructor to the pool of students, who we feel are better suited to generate course materials for their peers.

If questions cover important concepts, students will generate a lot of course content. Students who do not understand a concept will have access to the varied explanations created by other students. In addition to fostering these explanations, ExplaNet provides individualized rankings of the explanations based on both
explicit student ranks as well as student profiles and learning styles. These rankings can be used to filter explanations and reduce the volume of extraneous or poorly suited information presented to each student. The rankings are based on the assumption that if student A is ``like'' student B in some important way, student A's explanation will be more useful for student B than for some very difference student C. In addition to the creation of course content, instructors can use ExplaNet to asses students answers and trace the flow of information throughout the class.

For a demo of the software contact Jessica Masters at jmasters@soe.ucsc.edu.


Masters, J., Madhyastha, T. M. and Shakouri, A. "ExplaNet: A Framework to Manage and Analyze Student-Authored Course Content" ; in American Society of Engineering Education, Nashville, TN, June 2003.


American Society of Engineering Education, Nashville, TN, June 2003: ExplaNet: A Framework to Manage and Analyze Student-Authored Course Content