FILE Resources

See for more information: C.D. Hulshof, P. Wilhelm, J.J. Beishuizen, H. van Rijn, FILE: a tool for the study of inquiry learning, Computers in Human Behavior,21(6), November 2005, Pages 945-956, ISSN 0747-5632, DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2004.03.014.

The abstract of this paper:

A computerized learning environment (Flexible Inquiry Learning Environment; FILE) is discussed. FILE allows researchers in inquiry learning to design, administer, and analyze learning tasks in which content domain and task complexity can be configured independently, while other factors (e.g., the interface) are held constant. This allows for more valid across-task generalizations. FILE is based on a descriptive model of inquiry learning and its monitoring facilities allow for the extraction of learning indicators derived from the model. Furthermore, FILE is suitable from the age of eight years, which allows developmental issues in inquiry learning to be addressed. It is concluded that FILE can be used to set up studies in inquiry learning in an efficient way, saving expensive programming time.

Correspondence about this paper should be directed to Pascal Wilhelm.

Interface & Screenshots

The interface of a typical experiment in FILE is shown below. (Click on the image to see an enlarged version.)

Screenshot of FILE interface

By means of clicking on the rows of icons that represent different levels of a variable at the left side of the screen (the two bikes, the two breakfast-options, etc) the learner can construct experiments. In the screenshot, the learner has just clicked on two icons which are shown on the right. As can be seen, the variables that are already selected are grayed-out. In this particular configuration, the learner has to make a prediction after a selection has been made for all variables. This is done by typing the prediction or selecting one of the previously defined predictions just below the selectable icons. After a prediction is entered, the learner can ask for the "Result" of the experiment by pressing the now grayed-out Result button. If an icon is accidentally selected, the learner can deselect that icon by pressing the "Take back" button, left from the Result button. If the number of experiments the learner constructs does not fit on the screen (or is more than the predefined number of experiments that is allowed on the screen), the scroll-bar can be used to scroll back to bring back previous experiments. To be able to compare experiments that are too far apart to have them at the same time on the screen, the learner can select experiments by clicking on them, and show them in a separate screen by pressing the magnifying glass in the upper left corner. (See this screenshot.) The instructions can be read again by pressing the book-icon. A “Finish” button enables an experimenter to decide when FILE is closed down using a password (“secret”).


FILE enables the easy and fast construction of a inquiry learning task by means of specifying all the necessary information in a configuration file.


FILE is available for free. This implies that no support can be given. However, we would be grateful for information about successful and less successful attempts to use FILE in a scientific setting.

Download, unpack and install FILE here


The data that is gathered by FILE is a detailed account of all the actions taken by the learner. The following actions can be distinguished in the log file:


Conducting an Experiment


Deselecting Previously Selected Levels


Scrolling Old Experiments Back in View


Selecting Experiment for Separate Viewing


Converting Log data into Row-based Data

Conducting an Experiment:
The data is stored in .olg files, and looks like: (obviously without the line numbers...)

data-figuur 1

The data is outputted in a way to ease the further processing using SWI-Prolog. Each file starts with a header which is delimited by a header-star and -end line (lines 5 & 8). Line 6, with "pp" (which stands for "ProefPersoon", Dutch for Participant), contains the identification code as entered by the experimenter. The next line, with "epoch(..)" contains the number of seconds passed since 0:00 at 1-1-1970.

After the header, each line of information starts with a "@" and ends with a closing brace and dot (")."). Each line reflects an action of the learner. The number before the textual information reflects the number of seconds passed between the start of the experiment and the start of the action. As can been seen in line 10, if an actions takes time, both the start and the end time are present. That is, line 10 represents the reading of the theory for 48 - 15 = 33 seconds. (The learner already had been shown this instruction.) The next lines (11 to 15) represent the pressing of the icons to construct an experiment. As can be seen, the learner first pressed the icon of the fourth variable "books" (L13) before the third variable "speed" (L14) was selected.

The entry that starts at line 16 is added to the log file at the moment the learner presses the "Result" button. It contains all selected levels and the prediction that is given by the learner. The number which starts with an "@" sign is a FILE internal code, not informative for outside use.

Deselecting Previously Selected Levels: Above example consists of the most straightforward construction of an experiment. As discussed in the Interface section, the user is also able to deselect the last selection that was made. The representation of that action is shown below:

data-figuur 2

Here, a learner decides after selecting a level for all variables that one of the earlier selections ("shoes") should have had another value. So, in lines 6 to 9 the previous selections are taken back to enable the "on_bike" level to be set in line 10.

Scrolling Old Experiments Back in View:
If the number of experiments exceeds the number of experiment that fit on the screen, the oldest experiments scroll off the screen. The learner can scroll back to these experiments, which is recorded in the log file as follows:

data-figuur 3

Here, the lowest number represents the oldest experiment that was brought back onto the screen by the scrolling. For each click on the scrollbar, one of these entry will appear in the log file.

Selecting Experiment for Separate Viewing:
Another action that is recorded in the log files is the selection of experiments and the displaying of the selected experiments in a separate window.

data-figuur 4

In line 1, a first experiment (experiment number 20) is selected, and after some scrolling, second experiment (experiment number 1) is selected. Immediately after the selection of the second experiment, the learner has pressed the magnifying glass icon to show the selection on the screen. After about 2 minutes (1502 - 1383 = 159 seconds), the learner closes the window and continues working in the main screen.

Converting Log data into Row-based Data:
Although the above presented data reflects the richness of the action data captured by FILE, it does not lend itself very good for analysis in row-oriented packages like Excel or SPSS. These programs require a data file in which each column is a case, for example, in the current context, an experiment. To ease the conversion to row-based data, we've used a perl-script that scans data in above presented form and extracts the necessary information. The perl-script is available for download, although it will probably need some modifications before it can be used in different setups.

For comments or questions about information on this website: Pascal Wilhelm (2012)