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In contrast to traditional e-learning/electronic learning, e-business, and e-government systems, whereby all users are offered or even directed a standard series of hyperlinks, Adaptive Hypermedia (AH) tailors what the user sees to the learner's goals, abilities, interests, knowledge, etc. Adaptive Hypermedia is the answer to the 'lost in hyperspace' syndrome, where the user has normally too many links to choose from, and little knowledge about how to proceed and select the most appropriate ones to him/her. Adaptive Hypermedia thus offers a selection of links or content most appropriate to the current user. Moreover, adaptive hypermedia can also offer the most appropriate links or content for the context of the current user, for the device the current user is accessing the information from (e.g. hand-held device versus desktop, etc.). Adaptive hypermedia is thus closely related to Web personalization.
A very popular (and historically the first) application field of adaptive hypermedia is adaptive educational hypermedia (AEH), which tailors what the learner sees to that learner's goals, abilities, needs, interests, and knowledge of the subject, by providing hyperlinks that are most relevant to the user. Essentially, the teaching tools "adapt" to the learner. Of course, this requires the system to be able to effectively infer the learner's needs and desires.
However, AEH is not the only application field for AH. E-business can be performed via adaptive hypermedia, where the items offered for purchasing are adapted to the user's detected interests. A good example of such behaviour is the Amazon book recommendation, where a current buyer is offered books via the catchphrase 'buyers who bought this book also bought ...'. Thus, the use of adaptive hypermedia is not limited to formal (or informal) education or training endeavours. Such systems can increase profits by adapting to consumers' searches (sometimes unconscious) for goods, services, and experiences. Thus, systems like Amazon are also examples of adaptive hypermedia, recommending books based on user preferences and prior history. Other application fields of adaptive hypermedia, beside of adaptive e-learning and adaptive e-commerce applications can be adaptive e-government applications. Generally speaking, adaptive hypermedia systems can be useful anywhere where hypertext and hypermedia is used. The most popular adaptive hypermedia systems are web-based systems.
Related research fields
Many fields of research including human-computer interaction, educational technology, cognitive science, intelligent tutoring systems, web commerce and computer engineering are contributing to the development of adaptive hypermedia. Unlike intelligent tutoring systems, however, adaptive educational hypermedia doesn't target stand-alone systems, but hypermedia systems.
Adaptivity versus adaptability
An interesting aspect of adaptive hypermedia is that it makes distinction between adaptation (system-driven personalisation and modifications) and adaptability (user-driven personalisation and modifications). One way of looking at it is that adaptation is automatic, whereas adaptability is not. From an epistemic point of view, adaptation can be described as analytic, a-priori, whereas adaptability is synthetic, a-posteriori. In other words, any adaptable system, as it 'contains' a human, is by default 'intelligent', whereas an adaptive system that presents 'intelligence' is more surprising and thus more interesting. This conforms with the general preference of the adaptive hypermedia research community, which considers adaptation more interesting. However, the truth of adaptive hypermedia systems is somewhere in the middle, combining and balancing adaptation and adaptability.
Adaptive hypermedia is the object of a number of researches, in particular in conjunction with user modeling, and the results are published in several Journals and conferences such as:
- Adaptive Hypermedia bibliography of references (up to 2002 year), Technical University of Eindhoven, Section of Information Systems
- authoring of adaptive hypermedia