You insist on the fact that there is no difference between e-learning and learning. On the other hand, you want e-learning to have a real impact on learning. I do believe that we need a radical pedagogical transformation based on an externalisation of learning, i.e. the dissemination of the learning process in a continuous way throughout society. In a way, this would take us to a learning society instead of a knowledge society. After all these years of ICT-based strategy, do you think Europe is ready for a learning society?
Wow, what an interesting first question! Firstly, I believe that technology is merely a tool for learning. Perhaps we should not be blinded by the techno-wizards any longer. Technology is not a solution to learning. The effective use of it may be.
I am an enthusiast about the future potential of e-learning, as it could provide real learning solutions. But, I think we need to `put our money where our mouth is’, that is to say we must support implementation rather than new technical developments. I think this point needs to be realised at European (and national) level, especially through funding streams. eEurope seems to be mainly about access, but this will not transform our society to a learning society. We have to properly finance research to understand the impact of e-technology on learning.
In budget terms, education has suffered and continues to suffer at the expense of other Commission priorities. This does not look like it will change under the current proposed budgets. So I suppose my plea is to make sure we place education and learning at the forefront, rather than technology. Once we have done this, we will have a chance to transform our European learning society. So, to respond to the question, perhaps we are ready, but I do not think that those who make decisions understand what this implies.
I think the reality is that, in many institutions, the Bologna process is still at the stage of accreditation/reaccreditation of courses according to new guidelines imposed at European level. Currently the focus is on administration, matriculation, and top-level course content, less on teaching and learning processes, and unfortunately even less on the impending outcome.
That said, your point is, of course, valid in that Bologna offers a wonderful opportunity for reflection, renewal and change, in terms of being learner-centred. And e-learning is one of a number of media that can usefully support it. But being learner-centred demands skills that need to be developed – by learners, not just by course designers, administrators and teachers. We as educators still pay far too little attention to the vast array of skills and competencies required of current and future learners: amongst others, media and technological skills, project management, time-management and self-organisational skills, communication skills in a part-virtual learning organisation and environment. Furthermore, which skills, learning expectations and thought processes does the mobile phone, web 2.0 learning generation bring with it? How do, and should, these skills influence our current teaching and learner-centred approach and that of the future? Signposts are important but, before setting them, have we as educationalists done our homework on surveying the landscape and mapping out the routes?
You’re speaking my language. I suppose we need to be asking the right questions, not closing doors, but opening them. I don’t think we should be worried about learner skills for being learner-centred; this is part of discovering yourself in the learning environment. What concerns me is that we are wasting a lot of time and effort (and money) on administrative processes, on hoops to jump through, setting up ever more complex and bureaucratic systems. This is happening, so much so that we are losing sight of the real reason for Bologna, namely to improve the quality of the learning experience of the student. I work in an organisation where we believe the student experience is central, but even with this belief we spent many years submerged in the microscopic detail of the process, without ever really thinking about the whole picture. So, under Bologna, many courses are being redesigned, or perhaps I should say re-packaged, when Bologna should provide us with an excuse to be really creative and consider what we are trying to achieve and how we do it.
Perhaps that is because we have never had the breathing space to have a real vision and feel for the ‘process’ of Bologna. So, for example, really exciting opportunities to examine and lay down a unique ‘European dimension’ are not being followed up. Most of the academics I have met recently are struggling to see further than the paperwork that they have before them. Europeanisation was a feature under Bologna that seems to have disappeared from the agenda.
The TUNING survey was an attempt to map out the routes, but it has only been fully undertaken for some subjects and then with incomplete agreement as to the outcomes by those involved. The follow-up done has been limited also to those areas in the first phase. This is frustrating for the other disciplines. Why is this so? Does TUNING provide us with answers or more problems? Thematic networks are also a wonderful opportunity to encourage dialogue and debate, but policy prevents real longitudinal research into the impacts and outcomes of Bologna. So it is a shame that we really don’t know what the ‘Bologna-effect’ really is and have no real process or opportunity to investigate it.
What is the answer? The reality is that we have not seen the landscape, let alone even prepared the signposts. I think we should establish a really creative European ‘think-tank’ of pedagogical visionaries to provide us with leadership and guidance. They would be charged to give us the big picture. At the other end of the scale, we also need much more national (and institutional) support for reform, in order to be able to courageously transform the higher education system at grass roots level. In the UK, I am proud to be involved in the first steps towards this. Through the National Teaching Fellowship scheme and the establishment of Centres of Excellence, many outstanding colleagues have been raised on a pedestal and encouraged to explore and disseminate our ‘visions of the future’. With few strings attached. So, I’d like to see a European version of this developed, where individuals might be given the opportunity to make a difference and have some influence.
Dear Mr Donert, do you think that the learning process always has to be supervised by the figure of a teacher or do you think that, with the actual learning tools, a student can learn by him or herself? Can we get rid of the figure of the teacher? Will we substitute him or her with user-centred learning tools? Will the teachers be key figures in designing these learner-centred learning tools?
Hi Maria, maybe we shouldn’t call ourselves teachers. We are really all learners. I can honestly say that I learn so much from my own students, I tell them this but they don’t all necessarily believe me! If we keep ‘teachers as the key figurehead’, then I think we are also restricting learning opportunities. I like to think that we can all become experts, so we all have a role to play in learning. My students are far more expert than I will ever be at communicating online and a host of other things. They also discover during the course of their learning far more than I could ever teach them. So, if we encourage learners to express themselves, then we can all learn from this.
Now we come to the issue of ‘teachers as assessors’. If we are the only ones that make judgements on the value of the learning outcomes, then we remain at the centre of the learning process. Maybe we inhibit achievement through this. The concept of ‘unintentional learning’ and its assessment came up in a recent forum debate I was involved in. If it was not intentional, do we discount it, as it isn’t one of the proposed learning outcomes? A ‘Catch-22’ dilemma for Bologna, if the core of Bologna is learning outcomes! I can just imagine the problems this might cause if the bureaucrats were to get hold of it. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to deal with this? Do we need to think of the ‘level’ or quality of achievement, as opposed to what is achieved?
What do you think about the future of mobile learning? Can this be a ‘real’ choice compared to classical ‘e-learning’ tools (such as a computer and multimedia-rich training programme either with or without internet support)? What is the applicability of m-learning tools (whilst taking care of the increase in smartphone capabilities)?
Hmmmmm …. mobile learning – this is where the kids could be today. But we are not really ready for it institutionally. I haven’t really had much experience with this apart from a few ‘learning bytes’ through pod-casting. What I do feel, however, is that the challenge is to engage the learner at the right time and in the right place for him or her to learn. As we are all different, we need to establish the availability of flexible and usable learning opportunities. So we don’t want to create a recipe book approach, more opening some doors and encouraging learners to step through them and into their preferred learning environment; instead, we have to encourage them to step outside their ‘comfort zone’. So the key might be simple, yet flexible learning tools and resources that encourage thinking – rather than simply activity. Note – I do believe in active learning.
Comment: Nothing special anymore about ‘e’! In my view, what is now important is the creation of the environment for continuous innovation - integrating digital devices and digital media into the curriculum - and expecting that so-called 'disruptive technologies' are becoming the norm. [For example - we are working with teachers and very young school pupils with digital video, editing, pod casting, use of Skype, etc. The possibilities are endless. It does not matter much who 'creates' the content; it could be the teacher or the pupil! But the teacher plays the vital role of mediating the curriculum. Higher education is light years behind in terms of innovative pedagogical practice! Have a look at www.fis.ie
Hi Jim, I couldn’t agree more. Yet I think ‘e’ should stand for environment. The person mediating (I won’t call this person a teacher as it isn’t teaching) has the responsibility of letting the learners loose and keeping them moving forward. A bit like shepherds I suppose! But do we need to actually know where we are going? Hmm…
I also agree that higher education urgently needs to look at other education sectors and the learning experiences there and especially the exciting things happening with learning being undertaken by very young children. I suppose we really need to support cross-phase actions that allow this type of sharing to take place. I think there is much innovative in higher education – but it is drowned with the search for research assessment and funding.
- Do you agree that broadband high speed Internet is actually what we need in order to attract students and have a real breakthrough in the educational process?
- To what extent do you think that universities in the EU are prepared for a day-to-day distant learning service and online tutoring? Isn't it really a problem that educators urgently need e-education?
- No, I think broadband just enables access to learning materials. It could also provide a technologically blinding haze that hides the sort of transformative learning change that learners need to experience. So we must reject the opinion that technology provides a solution. It doesn’t. It certainly doesn’t affect the education process unless we think how to use it effectively.
- EU (and other) universities are looking for solutions. They find it hard to deal with the individual, they don’t understand that learners cannot be produced through a conveyor belt system and maintain quality and excellence. I am not sure that distant learning services can do this either. Therefore, unless the tutors are encouraged to understand the learners, the services are not likely to suit their real needs. We spend too little time thinking/reflecting on the impact of the learning space created on learners.
Educators need e-education … an education in the real E-xperience of the learner.
- Is e-learning effective for mass education using current technology, whether in developed or developing countries?
- How does one compromise with the fact that, in spite of all the high tech tools available, almost all of the schools in the world are still using paper/printed homework or textbooks for their daily work?
- Equipping each school in a country with 50 computers or so is quite an achievement for many. But how can 2,000 students use 50 computers for 7 to 10 subjects? This would give each student no more than 9 minutes a day.
I am from Malaysia, and I have been pondering about this for years, and yet nothing seems to improve. Tons and tons of paper are still used every day. If you want to see my solution, check it out at www.visualgram.com. Perhaps my ideas will provide food for thought on how to overcome such inhibitions.
- I suppose we should discuss whether mass education is a desirable goal here. If we are seeking to increase the proportion of students who enter and complete higher education, or to extend the education potential to achieve learning for life, then current technology (and I include media – news, TV, etc. in this) is a very rich and powerful resource. In our open learning environment, we are bombarded with lots of information. Mass education thus needs to be about how to help the learners make the right choices and decisions in their learning and in their lives, based on the stimuli that are available to them (stimuli = learning objects, activities etc.). So the technology doesn’t matter at all. It is what we do with the information we have and the learning we experience. Technological solutions should not be a holy grail! Learning solutions should be. But they are less sexy and so attract much less money!
- No matter how ‘high’ and how ‘tech’ we get, teachers still think traditionally and they think they are at the centre of learning. The fountain of knowledge! That is the real issue, not the technology. I repeat here that I think there is little vision of ‘the experience of learning’. We mainly concentrate on the experience of teaching. Have you also thought that books and paper might be a ‘lowest-common denominator’, providing a mass education that does not challenge learners? Do we want to create thinking and questioning citizens? So if we wanted to change the goal, we could change the system.
- I agree with this; in fact, I said precisely this several years ago at a major national geography conference! I still don’t believe we should be using computers in school unless it is for highly specialist and relevant things and for suitably lengthy periods of time. The most valuable computer-based learning needs time for the learner to discover, think, reflect, respond and participate in the learning. Having school classes that end after 40-60 minutes when the learners have just warmed up means that we are just wasting the potential of our technology in schools. I’d really like to see us concentrate on using ICT in learning beyond schools and to re-structure the school day to enable creative and constructive learning.
I have often wondered why young (and less young) sit and concentrate deeply on cartoons or computer games for hours with seeming to get tired or bored, yet they switch off within minutes in a classroom. So what types of environment are we all captivated by? We enjoy stimulus, interaction and excitement to engage us, so why can’t we develop such strategies to create deeper and more meaningful learner-centred experiences?
Following a recent meeting with Mrs. Viviane Reding, the newly appointed EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, the European eLearning Industry Group (eLIG ) has published a set of 10 recommendations which it considers necessary to make the Lisbon target of improved economic growth and more and better jobs a reality. The eLearning Industry Group (eLIG), a consortium of 43 leading ICT and eLearning content providers, both private and public, believes that if the EU is to achieve its objective of being the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010, there is a need to actively support the widespread deployment and adoption of new content publishing and management technologies throughout Europe, in education and training, in the home and in industry and especially among SMEs.
The eLIG Manifesto lists 10 recommendations intended to help European central and local governments, public authorities and content industry players to contribute to, and benefit from, the emerging global society of knowledge. The European content industries are facing the challenge of convergence of media related technologies in a situation of fragmentation and localisation - on the other hand the cultural diversity, and the multi-lingual situation represent the core strengths of Europe. The transformation of the content industries has only begun - the challenges are huge and range from the protection of investments, to establishing standards for truly interoperable content. eLIG considers this as a key subject for advancing the Lisbon process.
1. Better balancing of public investment
Pedagogical resources, software and services have in most cases been neglected in public investments. Achieving a world-class broadband infrastructure is a pre-requisite of the Lisbon Strategy but public investment should better balance the four key elements of an eLearning public policy (infrastructure, open standards, quality content and services, teacher training) in order to maximise the benefits to the end users.
2. Supporting Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity
It is highly desirable, for social and cultural reasons to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, but the European content industry cannot achieve this objective without public support to help recover the extremely high fixed costs of producing multilingual contents serving various pedagogical models and curriculums. More significant resources must be allocated to the development of pedagogical content and tools to generate, maintain and access that content. The next generation of IST programmes should include significant action lines for the production of quality multilingual eLearning materials.
3. Managing Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Conditions
ICT deployment public policies should combine funding and appropriate licensing conditions regarding the purchase of educational resources. Funding should not be viewed as a substitute for licensing. Urgent action is needed to give publishers further incentives to invest in digital materials. Proper digital management of Intellectual Property Rights solutions (DRMs) should include identification of rights, description of content packaged in an interoperable format and technological protection measures preventing unauthorized use. DRMs based on these specifications are market-enabling solutions. There is no evidence that specific IPR legislation is needed in the education environment.
4. Maintaining fair competition while exploring new business models based on PPPs
Public sector broadcasters in Europe (such as the BBC) often hold a unique position in the eLearning market, having been granted permission (and in some cases, strongly encouraged) to produce quality editorial materials distributed on a commercial basis. Public-private partnerships including public and private sector publishers should be encouraged. We do not support another view expressed1 in favour of a public-sector strategy for educational content creation.
5. eContent for all: take-up by all citizens and enterprises
In order to build a European Knowledge Society which is accessible to all, there is a need to provide basic ICT training to all citizens especially the less advantaged and to promote the benefits of ICT, including eLearning amongst all citizens and enterprises. The EU and its Member States need to invest heavily in these areas.
6. EU level harmonization: towards a Common Core of Content
The European Commission should explore the possibility of a Public-Private Partnership-based approach to define a Common Core of Content (in terms of skills) needed to achieve the Lisbon goals. Yet, public support and funding should remain focused on the traditional approach where pedagogy and skills depend on subject, language and curriculum-specific contents. The Common Core approach could complement the traditional approach.
7. The importance of interoperability and open standards for content repository, exchange, re-usability and re-localization: more R&D is needed on these topics
Important unsolved R&D topics in technologies and standards for content remain. We recommend that publishers are involved in that standardisation process. Additional funding should be dedicated to research and supporting activities aimed at delivering workable solutions to improve content design and storage with a view to automating reusability and facilitating re-localization based on licensing conditions.
8. The issue of Granularity: impact on personalisation features
There has been much confusion between a demand for flexibility and a misconception of granularity. The aspiration for flexibility needs to be weighed against the reality, and the desirability, of the majority of teachers having limited time and will to select and aggregate content. It is important for any eLearning Strategy to acknowledge and work into its plans the fact that publishers already offer a range of tools to support customisation, at the level that most users want, as well as packaged solutions supporting a high level of flexibility.
9. How to measure and improve quality of learning materials?
Where e-learning public policy focuses on the development of low-value, low cost and poorly standardised nuggets designed by amateurs or service providers as promotional material, with limited public commitment or support, there is no incentive for publishers to heavily invest in the production of quality editorial content. However, there has been a growing demand for quality assurance for digital pedagogical content. We are firmly convinced that the best way to achieve quality assurance for content is the editorial process, which should be stimulated so that commercial success can nurture a virtuous development cycle.
10. Need for advanced broadband for the development of rich content
True broadband is needed for the development of rich and interactive education content. The broadband picture in Europe remains fragmented. Broadband penetration is higher in those countries with competitive infrastructure but remains very low in many countries, with entire areas with no access to broadband. Also, the focus in Europe remains on “quantity” of broadband and not on “quality”. There is no focus on the need to deploy next generation broadband facilities providing high speeds, which will enable the creation of richer and more innovative education content and services. International developments in parts of Asia show that next generation broadband facilities are being deployed, and these developments are triggering new and richer content education products and services. Achieving a world-class broadband infrastructure that supports high quality and fast communications, which will enable rich education content development should be a corner stone of i-Europe 2010.
Article extracted from eCompete
How is the Internet governed today?
The internet governance controversy in Tunis turns on the question of who manages a key part of its infrastructure – the domain name system (DNS), i.e. the rules that computers and networks use to find each other. These rules are currently managed by the California-based not-for-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), under a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Commerce Department.
In effect, this arrangement gives the US government the sole right to decide when a new Top Level Domain (TLD) can be introduced into cyberspace, whether it be a new country code (.uk, .fr, etc) or a new “generic” TLD, such as .com or .eu.
The fact that the internet has become a strategically vital part of most countries’ communications infrastructure, and one that directly affects economic growth and social development is prompting many to question whether one government alone should supervise such an important part of the infrastructure. Many countries see the internet as a global resource, and some even argue that all nations should have a role in setting policies through a multilateral institution. Internet Governance has therefore become an issue which is debated at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis.
What is the Commission’s position on internet governance? The 25 nations of the European Union will speak in Tunis with one voice, expressed by the UK Presidency and supported by the European Commission. The EU view has been repeated many times in the past months and has remained essentially unchanged in recent years. The EU advocates a free, stable, democratic Internet that is open to the world.
The EU believes, first of all, that ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is doing a very good job. The privatisation of the technical management of the world-wide domain name system in the hands of the California-based non-profit organisation ICANN was strongly supported by the EU in 1998. The Commission believes that one should not try to change this successful example of management in private hands. ICANN carries the trust of the global Internet Community.
Secondly, the EU believes that governments should not have a say in the day-to-day management of the Net. To involve governments in this work could create unnecessary burdensome structures and could even endanger the Internet’ stability. The EU therefore supports an approach to Internet governance that even further removes government control from ICANN.
For many years, this objective was also shared by the US administration. Such an approach would also allow complete the privatising of the day-today management of the Net by phasing out the oversight functions of the US Department of Commerce over ICANN.
Thirdly, the EU believes that on important policy issues concerning the functioning of the Internet – such as spam, cyber crime and, most important, ensuring access by all citizens to the freedoms offered by the Web – a new "cooperation model" is needed, in other words: a light and transparent mechanism for deliberations between governments. The Commission welcomes the fact that the US has already expressed their interest in a closer cooperation with other governments to address public policy and sovereignty issues concerning the country code top-level domains. The Commission takes the view that in these discussions, we should bring all nations to the same table and not exclude anyone. Only in this way will we spread the understanding that freedom of expression on the Internet is the starting point not only for a democratic development of societies, but also for their prosperity.
However, for such deliberations, we do certainly not need to establish new structures or even to call in the United Nations. We can instead build on the existing structures, in particular on ICANN. With regard to the new model of cooperation proposed by the EU, Commissioner Reding could envisage the following: “If governments around the world are genuinely committed to a free, stable, and open Internet, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN could be a suitable body to help putting elements of the new cooperation
model proposed by us Europeans into practice.”
How can information and communication technologies help developing countries?
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) – which include everything from old-fangled telephones and broadcasting equipment to the latest smart, do-everything devices – are vital to any country’s long-run economic competitiveness, social cohesion, good governance and quality medical care. National research and education networks play a strategic role in enabling schoolchildren, students, businesses and citizens to use these technologies productively, in ways that overcome the inadequacies of existing markets and public services.
ICTs need infrastructure, but hardware alone does not make an effective information system. To make the hardware useful, international co-operation schemes also support energy supply, training, policy and planning, and ICT applications development. These schemes are helping many developing countries to skip older generation ICTs and access newer, cheaper and more useful ones directly.
As developing countries’ economies liberalise, so a growing share of telecommunications infrastructure investment must come from the private sector. To attract this investment, governments, with donor support, may provide low-interest loans or risk guarantees. At the very least, they need to ensure that regulation fosters enterprise and competition.
Where the market cannot meet development needs, e.g. because providing connections to poor and rural areas would be unprofitable, governments may help through innovative public-private partnerships, incentives, or public provision. Donor support is often important in launching and expanding such initiatives.
To harness the development potential of ICTs, the EU works with international aid programmes coordinated by inter-governmental or non-governmental agencies. The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD, and the European Development Fund (EDP) – an initiative for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries – are all important partners in investing in ICT for development.
For example, around €110 million from the 9th European Development Fund for ACP countries goes to ICT-related aid. Most developing countries view ICTs as an integral part of their development plans, and ICTs form a significant part of many EU-funded projects.
How are EU-funded information and communication technology (ICT) projects contributing to development worldwide?
Research and education
- GÉANT2, the high-speed pan-European research and education network, connects European researchers with colleagues in North America, Japan, Latin America, the Asia-Pacific rim, North
Africa and the Middle East, South Africa, Caucasus, and Central Asia. Because research is inherently global, GÉANT2 strives to offer a seamless worldwide service enabling researchers to share knowledge and co-operate, irrespective of which specific network takes data to the individual scientist.
GÉANT2’s geographic coverage, technology skills and services attract interconnection requests from all over the world.
- ALICE (America Latina Interconectada Con Europa) connects Latin American national research and education networks to GÉANT2 via a Latin American regional research network, RedCLARA. ALICE is 80% funded by the European Commission (@LIS Programme), and has 4 European partners (France, Italy, Portugal and Spain) and 19 Latin American ones, including the Latin American research networking association CLARA. ALICE has greatly enhanced the ability of researchers in Latin America to join in research projects around the world.
- The EUMEDCONNECT network infrastructure serves research and education communities around the Mediterranean – currently Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey and is 80% funded by European Commission (EUMEDIS Programme). Before EUMEDCONNECT, there were almost no internet links among Mediterranean countries, and very few research and education links between these countries and Europe.
- TEIN2, the Trans-Eurasia Information Network, is providing a regional backbone network for research and education within 10 Asia-Pacific countries (including 6 developing countries which directly benefit from 80% funding under the European Commission’s - Asi@ICTProgramme). TEIN2 facilitates scientific collaboration within the Asia-Pacific region, with its neighbours (e.g. Australia and India), and with Europe (via GÉANT2).
- The regional ALICE, EUMEDCONNECT and TEIN2 network infra-structures are linked via GÉANT2 to:
- research and education networks in more than 30 European countries,
- the major research networks in North America Abilene CANARIE">CANARIE, ESnet">ESnet ) and Japan (SINET">SINET),
- the South African research network, TENET">TENET,
- the research networks on the Caucasus and in Central Asia (via the SILK">SILK and SPONGE">SPONGE projects), and
- access to the commercial internet (optional service, terms and conditions apply).
- BEANISH is an EU R&D project that networks European and African countries to develop ICT applications to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS. It enables governments, universities, private firms and NGOs to tailor open-source software to specific local needs, and train people to use it.
- T@lemed is a project that combines medical diagnostics with network technology to deliver advanced clinical expertise from large hospitals to remote rural communities in Brazil. Medical data and images are transmitted via network infrastructure provided by the ALICE (America Latina Interconectada Con Europa) or RedCLARA">RedCLARA networks. RedCLARA links researchers across Latin America, and enables them to exchange medical data and opinions with European colleagues via RedCLARA’s European counterpart, GÉANT2">GÉANT2, using a transatlantic link.
Upgrading networking technologies for the worldwide web
- 6NET, a European project with 35 partners from academia, research and private industry, has demonstrated the viability of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6), which is needed to upgrade the worldwide web’s carrying capacity and support its exponential growth. 6NET has developed tools and expertise for migrating from today’s IP4 to IPv6 networks and tested a range of IPv6 applications. Its findings, including a comprehensive user manual, have been made available worldwide. In the southern Caucasus and Central Asia, the SILK">SILK and SPONGE">SPONGE projects used European Space Agency (ESA) equipment to supply a satellite-based IPv6 service. Many other IPv6 or dual IPv4/IPv6 networks are now being rolled out around the world, enabling developing countries to skip several technology generations and access the latest, high-performance networks directly.
How does the EU contribute to information society policy making worldwide?
The European Union strongly supports international cooperation in the ICT field. In line with the WSIS Declaration of Principles, the programmes and projects supported with the least developed countries and regions aim to fight poverty and to empower citizens by helping them to access and use ICTs. International cooperation takes place at three levels:
- political - the EU and its Member States work with non-EU countries and international organisations to promote policies in which ICTs play a key role. Examples include: a joint ACP-EU position on “Information Society for Development” (adopted at the WSIS-I meeting in Geneva in 2003); the EU-China Information Society Dialogue and Information Society Week and the Euro-India Co-operation Forum,
- regulatory - the EU works with international partners to ensure that each country’s rules governing ICTs are mutually compatible. This helps to ensure that ICT systems are interoperable, which in turn facilitates international trade, and
- scientific and technological - the EU has been taking part in international scientific and technological cooperation schemes for over two decades, during which has gradually opened up EU research programmes to players from all over the world. Its monitoring of international research developments also provides early warning of new technology trends that may make it necessary to update rules governing ICTs.
Vehicles for international information society cooperation include:
- the EU-Meditarranean programme EUMEDIS">EUMEDIS, which runs Information society projects in the areas of healthcare networks, electronic commerce, tourism and cultural heritage, industry research and innovation, and education,
- the EU-Latin American programme @LIS">@LIS (Alliance for the Information Society), which supports ICT applications for local e-government, e-education and cultural diversity, e-public health, and e-inclusion. @LIS also provides -discussion fora for EU-Latin American networks of regulators and researchers, and in addition promotes open and international standards, and
- the EU-Asia (Asi@ICT) programme, which promotes trade and technology ties between Asia and Europe. Asi@ICT covers ICT applications in agriculture, education, e-governance, environment, health, and transport. The EU also has bilateral agreements with China and India (see www.eurochina-it.org).
“E-learning is a teaching and learning method that involves the formative product and process. Formative product means every type of material or content made available in digital format by means of computer or network channels. Formative process means the management of the entire didactic itinerary that involves aspects of distribution, fruition, interaction and evaluation” (ANEE, E-learning Observatory, 2003).
E-learning constitutes a broad sector with many facets. The themes to be taken into consideration vary and knowledge of the complexity of the issue is fundamental in order to have a global vision. It would be a mistake to consider this kind of education from a purely technical point of view; nor should one deal with it by limiting oneself to the didactic and methodological aspects.
Although one often makes the mistake of thinking that, for this form of education, it is sufficient to obtain, and concern oneself solely with, platforms, learning management systems, learning objects, etc. (thus delegating educational strategies to technical instruments), experience has shown that, in order to accomplish successful e-learning, it is essential to carry out an in-depth restructuring of educational processes, maintain a constructive and collaborative approach to e-learning, and re-think the roles, placing the student at the centre of the educational process.
It is clear that didactic and methodological issues should always remain in the foreground; nevertheless, keeping an eye also on the instruments and following the technological developments that accompany e-learning from a purely technical point of view is a necessity, if not an obligation. This is fundamental in order to innovate education, taking the best advantage of everything that technology makes available to improve, integrate and strengthen the learning procedure.
The biblio-webliography is sub-divided into the following themed areas, which have been separated in order to deal with the various constituent elements of e-learning with greater clarity:
- GUIDELINES: Research and National Governing Guidelines• TECHNOLOGICAL ELEMENTS: Platforms, Standards, Learning Objects, Open-source.
- EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT: Production/Planning of Contents, Instructional Design
- EDUCATIONAL PROCESS: Methodological Aspects, Collaborative Approach, On-line Tutoring
- FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS: Integration with KM, Mobile or Wireless Learning
Key terms: Research and National Governing Guidelines.
With the aim of providing valid support to deal with the problems resulting from innovation processes in Italy, a number of bodies and associations (including the CNIPA, ASFOR and ASSINFORM) have become involved in creating documents either to operate and provide guidance in the sector of distance learning, or to understand the terminology and methodology within.
There are a number of key texts that are of interest in terms of having a full view of the situation concerning e-learning in Italy.
- ASFOR Lettera Asfor n.3/2002. “The e-learning planet and the Asfor proposals: from Guidelines to Glossary”, in ASFOR, 2002 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
A full glossary with a further 450 terms, the objective of which is to constitute a reference point for the entire public and private education sector. The aim of the ASFOR initiative is to offer clarity in the somewhat confusing sector of e-learning, starting with the terminology itself, often hostile, which is used in this field of activities. ASFOR is the Association for Management Education Development, and has also created the guidelines for the on-line Master’s accreditation process.
- CNIPA (a cura di). “Vademecum for the execution of e-learning educational projects in public administrations”, in CNIPA, 2004 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
An extremely useful, complete and accurate publication drawn up by the CNIPA (National Centre for Information Technology in Public Administration). It contains guidelines for educational e-learning projects in public administrations, with the aim of promoting the correct use of new methodologies and technologies for education. The section dedicated to the organisational and methodological aspects of management of an e-learning project is of note, and particular attention is paid to the numerous and diverse roles and professional figures involved.
- Liscia R. (2004). E-learning: stato dell’arte e prospettive di sviluppo (E-learning: state of the art and development perspectives) Milan: Apogeo.
The ANEE (National Association of Electronic Publishing) of ASSINFORM (National Association of Producers of Technology and Services for Information and Communication) carried out the E-learning Observatory 2004 in order to study the current trends in the Italian market and provide an up-to-date scenario of the sector. The study revealed that the e-learning sector in Italy has grown steadily for the third year in a row. The study was carried out under the aegis of the Ministry for Innovation and Technology and with the collaboration of companies and universities operating in the distance learning sector (including Microsoft, Banca Intesa, Sfera, Telecom Italia Learning Services, Isvor Fiat, the State University of Milan and the Polytechnic of Milan).
Key terms: Platforms, SCORM Standard, Learning Objects, Open-source.
The section presents texts concerning mainly technical issues such as the e-learning standards (SCORM – Shareable Content Object Reference Model), learning objects and the diverse types of software (open-source). Nevertheless, the majority of the texts could also be of use to those who have less expertise, from a technical/technological point of view, or to those who need not deal exclusively with technical issues, because it provides an overall framework in relation to the world of e-learning.
Those involved in instructional design, or those needing guidance in the choice of technological solutions for the definition and organisation of virtual learning environments, will undoubtedly find it useful to go into greater depth with regard to certain essential technical concepts (for example, the importance of metadata, the possibilities that the standards offer or the consequences of the adoption of a specific instrument, be it synchronous or asynchronous, on the type of approach of the on-line course, etc.) and thus perceive the way in which the technological environment can restrict or increase the learning and methodological possibilities of distance learning.
- ADL Initiative. “The SCORM Implementation Guide: A Step by Step Approach”, in ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), November 2002 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
This text may be useful for the practical application of SCORM and may be considered a good starting point for instructional designers. It is a practical guide that provides interesting and precise ideas for the organisation of a SCORM project. Four main phases may be noted: analysis (needs, content, target); planning; content development; and verification and testing. This is a document under continuous development.
- ADL Initiative. “Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) 2004 2nd Edition”, in ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning), July 2004 (consulted on 15 July 2005).
The text, which is in its second edition, provides an overall view of all of the documentation regarding the SCORM particulars, the main characteristics of which are illustrated in the latest version (SCORM 2004 or 1.3). Although this is an overview, the language used is technical. Further information regarding the technical details of SCORM can be found in three other documents: CAM (Content Aggregation Model), RTE (Run Time Environment) and SN (Sequencing and Navigation). The ADL (Advanced Distributed Learning) is one of the main organisations to advance the initiative for the e-learning standards, and is sponsored by the Department of Defence (DoD) of the USA. This is a collaboration programme between the government, industry and universities, the objective of which is to define how to make the learning instruments and contents interoperational.
- Barritt C. / Alderman Jr F. L. (2004). Creating a Reusable Learning Object Strategy. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
An introduction manual that highlights all of the problems regarding the implementation of a strategy of learning objects in organisations and companies. It analyses the life cycle of the reusable content and is based on real corporate experiences. It is characterised in particular by costs and the increase in ROI (Return Of Investment). It is not very useful from a didactic point of view, in that it does not deal with issues regarding didactic strategies but limits itself to economic and organisational matters.
- Carnegie Mellon University. “SCORM Best Practices Guide for Content Developers”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab), 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A guide aimed at content creators and instructional designers, a valid support for the creation of materials compatible with the SCORM standard, or even to convert existing material. It contains advice and techniques for the implementation of particulars, but it does not substitute the other official, more technical, documents. Document edited by Learning Systems Architecture Lab (LSAL) of the Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA).
- Carnegie Mellon University. “Simple Sequencing Templates & Models”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab), 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A document illustrating the main sequencing rules of the didactic contents that provide the learning object designers with control over the learning process. For example, by means of the setting of certain rules, it is possible to establish a minimum number of points to be obtained in a test as a requisite in order to be able to go on to other contents, or even make it obligatory to consult certain materials before being able to move on to other sections of the course. The objective is to have a universally shared sequencing model.
- Fini A / Vanni L. (2004). Learning object e metadati. Quando, come e perché avvalersene. (Learning objects and metadata; when, how and why these should be used). I quaderni di formare n. 2. Trento: Edizioni Erickson.
An excellent, complete and clear book; above all, it is correct in its approach to learning objects. It provides a number of practical examples regarding instruments, as well as the various experiences on a national and international level regarding the application of standards. The chapter on “Questions, critiques and problems” is of particular interest, as it provides a useful overview of the debate under way which, for some time now, has offered encouragement to researchers and students in the sector with regard to the true didactic value of the learning objects and the possibility of using them effectively.
- Fontanesi P. (2003). E-learning. Milan: Tecniche Nuove (New Techniques).
These texts put forward a brief and concise framework from a theoretical point of view (what e-learning is, main definitions and characteristics), as well as from a technological point of view and in terms of the changes under way in the sector. The market standards are illustrated and explained in a simple manner, even for non-experts. The guidelines to choose an e-learning system are of great use, as is the section devoted to practical examples of available instruments and platforms. Besides these, it is a practical resource for novices who intend to embark on an e-learning project and who, therefore, require certain basic notions, this book also takes a look at the future of distance learning, highlighting the potentials and fields of application of mobile learning.
- Pasini N. “What content developers & instructional designers need to know: an overview of SCORM concepts”, in LSAL (Carnegie Mellon Learning Systems Architecture Lab). 2002 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
A presentation (PowerPoint) produced by Nina Pasini, from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, USA) that provides an outline of the advantages of contents in standard format: the contents become reusable (it is possible to reuse them in a number of learning contexts), interoperable (they can be used with diverse instruments and in various platforms), durable (they will resist technological developments), and accessible (it is possible to individualise and access the available contents in various places). Of particular interest is the section devoted to the impact of SCORM on the design of e-learning processes and therefore on instructional design. Although this is a presentation containing a content outline, the author clearly explains certain fundamental concepts and stresses that the instructional designer should not be responsible for including all of the technical details of SCORM, but should concentrate mainly on the design of effective content.
- Pettinari E-L / Rotta M. “Ambienti sincroni in Open Source” (Synchronous environments in open-source), in Form@re Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The article presents an overview of how the environments for synchronous communication in a didactic sphere are considered. The importance of synchronous communication instruments (such as chat, audio/video conference, etc.) has been safely proved in constructivist-type courses, which see interaction as the key to the construction of knowledge. Nevertheless, the open-source world, unlike what is currently taking place with owner software, still offers a limited number of solutions of this kind. After giving an outline of the main characteristics of synchronous spheres, the authors illustrate some of the instruments of this kind that are currently available, and often little known; for example, platforms, chats and shared blackboards. The authors conclude with a presentation of a number of experiences and specific cases. This is an interesting contribution in order to understand the state of the art regarding the use of synchronous environments in the didactic sphere and the possibilities, unfortunately little known, made available by open-source.
- Rotta M. “L'accessibilità e l'usabilità delle piattaforme Open Source” (The accessibility and usability of open-source platforms), in Form@re – Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The problem of accessibility by differently-abled subjects remains unresolved in the majority of e-learning platforms. Their architecture often makes it harder and more complicated to adjust to the WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) standards. The author shows that there is still a great lack of attention devoted to the issue, although research groups and specific projects (such as the Commonwealth of Learning or the MIUR Technological Observatory) are dealing specifically with the issue. Part of the problem stems from the fact that there are still too many barriers in e-learning, not only technological ones, but above all cognitive ones, concerning the planning and bad organisation of educational plans. The barriers with cognitive implications are still such a huge problem that they overshadow the technical barriers. One potential solution is the possibility of making open-source type platforms accessible since, given their nature (the possibility of accessing the source code), they can be modified and adapted to specific requirements. This is a task that undoubtedly requires time and work, but it is possible.
- Rotta M. “Open Source e scuola: alcune riflessioni” (Open Source and school: some reflections), in Form@re – Erickson, February 2005 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
This interesting article by Rotta offers an in-depth framework regarding the perception and aims of the use of open-source software in schools. The author stresses that, although this has been talked about and debated for a while now, one often mistakenly thinks of open-source mainly as a means of breaking up the Microsoft monopoly, or to obtain free software. This is not correct, since the situation is actually complex, whereby the types of license vary and the scenario is constantly evolving. Rotta criticises the fact that, too often, the technological choice prevails over the didactic one (hardware and software are, in fact, only instruments of an educational strategy) and that insufficient attention is devoted to the learning project. Dwelling too much on the ideological debate under way regarding open-source does not appear to be very useful in relation to schools, which should also take into account the fact that, besides CMS and platforms, there is a great deal of specific software (text editors, graphic, sound and animation editors, etc.) that can be used for didactic purposes.
- Sinform - Sinergie per la formazione (2003). Gli standard internazionali di produzione dei contenuti didattici: il modello SCORM (International production standards for didactic content: the SCORM model), project financed by the region of Emilia Romagna.
A complete and in-depth report on e-learning standards. It deals with technical issues, such as the Content Aggregation Model (specifics to define data and content in XML for learning objects) and Run Time Environment (specifics that enable communication between objects and LMS) in a simple and accessible manner, even for beginners. The issue of metadata is explored in depth in an accurate way. Also of interest is the section on conformity and LMS and content certification, an issue about which little information is found in networks and literature on the standards.
- Whiley D. “Learning Objects, a definition”, in Wiley, 2002 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
For the creation of reusable content, the SCORM model is based on Learning Objects (LOs). One of the most recognised and used definitions of learning objects, also because of its flexibility and indefiniteness, is that which can be found in this document by Whiley: a learning object is “every digital resource that can be used to assist learning”.
Key terms: Instructional Design, Content Design.
Instructional Design is the application of learning principles and theories and teaching for the development of formative participation. The instructional designer is responsible mainly for the organisation of the on-line education course, defining the instruments, the technological architecture and the storyboard, with the objective of creating effective learning experiences.
- Bruschi, Barbara / Perissinotto, Alessandro (2003). Come creare corsi on line (How to create on-line courses) Rome: Carocci Editore.
This guide contains practical advice and methodological indications for those who intend to create on-line courses. It is particularly useful from a practical point of view, in that it offers good suggestions in relation to basic issues, such as the use of images, the usefulness of speakership, music, videos and animations, the strategies to use for the construction of texts, from formatting (graphical form and text arrangement) to the type of language (brief, schematic, syntactically simple and attractive). Also of note is the part relating to the structuring of the didactic learning objects which, according to the authors, should have an initial evaluation, an introduction, a set number of content units, a summary or conclusion of how much has been learnt and a closing learning assessment. The section on learning objects is not dealt with from a technical point of view, but a methodological one: the authors show a certain sensitivity in terms of the Italian learning situation, and indicate a different approach to the one suggested by those who drew up the standards. Indeed, it is often difficult to believe in the real combinability and standardisation of the learning objects and the possibility of applying a model of this type in a humanist environment. Therefore, methods that are more in keeping with the Italian education system and the cultural traditions of the country are put forward.
- Calvani, A. (2001). Educazione, comunicazione e nuovi media, Sfide pedagogiche e cyberspazio (Education, communication and the new media, pedagogical challenges and cyberspace) Turin: Utet.
In this book, which deals with the main problems related to the use of technology in educational contexts, a number of interesting concepts emerge, such as “media ecology” and “didactic ergonomics”. The former regards the mechanisms to be borne in mind in learning environments, such as avoiding an overload of information, finding a balance between direct and indirect learning experiences, integrating and measuring out more learning channels, and using simple technologies. The latter concept concerns a discipline that is placed mid-way between the ergonomics and education technology, the object of which is the safeguarding of the cognitive commitment in the subjects involved, to prevent a levelling-off of the cognitive functions during the subject-technology interfacing.
- Lucchini A. “E-learning e scrittura professionale” (E-learning and professional writing) in Mestiere di Scrivere, 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
Lucchini is a business writer and is involved in professional writing courses. In this MdS (Mestiere di Scrivere, in PDF format) notebook, the author analyses (based on his own experiences and specific cases) the use of e-learning for education courses on writing, demonstrating the advantages of distance learning. The author dwells on the issue of the sense of isolation and coldness that can be experienced in a computer learning situation and, in this respect, puts forward methods of experimentation in order to increase the active and emotional involvement of the students and collaboration among them. He cites, for example, the CREAM method (Control, Relevance, Emotion, Action, Multi-sensory environment) proposed by Patrick Dunn (a learning strategist from DigitalThink UK Ltd.). The author comes to the following conclusive reflection: “… we can anticipate for the coming years a development in the profession of the e-learning writer. Not a simple extension of the web writer, or the technical writer, but a professional who, besides writing skills, requires the understanding of the psychological and didactic mechanisms that govern and promote learning”.
- Ranieri M. (2005) E-learning: modelli e strategie didattiche (E-learning: didactic models and strategies). I quaderni di Form@re n. 3. Trento: Edizioni Erickson.
After providing an introduction to the concept of industrial design and the differences between the two main directions (instructivism and constructivism), the text illustrates the main types of e-learning that can be developed from the methodological point of view. This can be summarised in the following categories: content and support, the content being the central element, learning is individual in type and interaction with peers is scarce; wrap around, whereby content is less structured, learning is individual and in small groups, with the support of a facilitator; and integrated model, a form of e-learning that focuses on the group and in which there is a great deal of interaction between peers. After dealing with the problem of e-learning design and the factors that have an impact on this (use, objectives, content and infrastructure), the author stresses the role of the instructional designer and the importance of models and didactic strategies that can be implemented in networks.
- Guerra T. & Heffernan D. “The Guerra Scale”, in Learning Circuits, March 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2004).
A very original point of view in terms of e-learning content is that defined by Tim Guerra and Dan Heffernan: the “Guerra Scale” describes the possible levels of interactive experience of the student in a scale that goes from one to ten, where the first levels are made of the simple reading of on-line PDF files or internet pages that are interconnected, and the final levels represent simulation scenarios attended by experts in the field and virtual realities. This is a very useful representation in that, going up one level in the scale, there is an increase in complexity, functionality, development times, programming capacity, course design capacity and the attention of the experts in the field.
Key terms: Collaborative Approach, On-line Tutoring.
This section presents a number of fundamental texts regarding network communication mechanisms, the various types of on-line interaction and the most effective methods for e-learning. If one wishes to conduct distance learning courses or devote oneself to tutoring activities, it is necessary to have a certain familiarity with the communicative dynamics of distance learning and be able to manage learning situations that respond to rules that differ greatly from those related to traditional forms of teaching.
- Anzalone, Francesa / Caburlotto, Filippo (2003). E-Learning. Comunicare e formarsi online (E-learning. Communicating and learning on-line). Milan: Lupetti – Editori di Comunicazione.
A brilliant text that focuses on certain points of extreme importance where communication, methodology and the management of on-line learning courses are concerned. From the reflections of the authors, the following concept is clear: e-learning differs from the traditional didactic approach in that it is possible to use networks as a collaborative means, where virtual space becomes a space for growth and interaction between the on-line communities and the network is no longer understood as a computer network, but as individuals’ networks. Learning is stimulated through belonging to the group and it is precisely the ongoing confrontation with the group, the exchange of experiences and ideas among those participating in the learning experience that contributes to the acquisition of notions by the individual, increasing motivation and thus also encouraging the growth of the entire on-line community. The roles of the figures involved and rapports within the virtual classes are undergoing a genuine revolution. The introduction of new information technology instruments influences the type of communicative model that is installed: teachers and tutor are no longer at the centre of the communicative process and no longer constitute the only source of knowledge. Furthermore, the student is no longer limited to a mere receptive and passive role, but takes on an active role and has greater autonomy in the construction of the learning course itself (learner-centred approach). The main task of teachers and tutors is to stimulate, motivate and enable the flow of knowledge, guiding and monitoring the progress of the pupils.
- Calvani A. e Rotta M. (2000). Fare formazione in Internet. Manuale di didattica online (Learning via Internet. On-line educational manual). Trento: Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson.
This is a fundamental publication in order to gain a complete idea with regard to distance learning, starting with its history and ending with the most efficient and up-to-date applications. After a first part, in which the main mechanisms of “presence” and “absence” communication are analysed, the text concentrates on more practical issues, such as the design and preparation of on-line courses, presenting the main problems involved. The manual concludes with a series of in-depth charts, a reasoned bibliography and network resources.
- Mabrito M. “Guidelines for establishing interactivity in on-line courses” in Innovate on line, 2004 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
The objective of the article is to enable an understanding of the importance of interactivity within on-line courses. There are three possible types of interactivity: 1) student-teacher interaction; 2) student-student interaction; and 3) student content interaction. The author provides a series of practical advice in order to increase interactivity, an element that contributes greatly to the success of the courses. Diverse studies show that on-line courses are particularly effective when the students manage to be active participants and learn through a collaborative approach: collaborative interaction is the key to the knowledge creation process.
- Trentin G. (2003). Gestire la complessità dei sistemi di e-learning (Managing the complexity of e-learning systems). Taken from the minutes of the Didamatica 2003 annual convention, pp. 1-8.
In this interesting article, Trentin underlines the importance of defining above all the e-learning model that is to be implemented. It is fundamental to be aware beforehand, in order to organise the project as well as possible. For example, for a model based on self-instruction, and therefore on the use of structured materials, professional figures and specific technologies are necessary for the production of e-content; however, for an approach based on learning groups, it is necessary to consider specific professionals (such as on-line tutors) and technologies with ad hoc functionalities for group interaction. It is therefore evident that the choice of model has a decisive influence from a didactic-pedagogical point of view, but also from a purely operative point of view (human resources for the design and management of the educational project, technologies and organisational order). According to Trentin, future studies should concentrate on the problems preventing the dissemination of the proposed models. From his conclusions, it is clear that “the key is to acquire knowledge regarding the demand for a change in paradigm in confronting the issues of continued learning, moving away from the learning on the job logic to that of learning is the job”.
Key terms: Integration with KM, Mobile or Wireless Learning.
A number of authors illustrate the possible developments of e-learning in the near future. On the one hand, a close integration of platforms (Learning Management Systems) with other platforms that are currently used for a number of purposes is forecast, until knowledge management is reached through a single integrated structure. On the other hand, there is greater talk of mobile learning (m-learning) or wireless learning, a learning method that takes advantage of the possibilities of wireless networks, such as those in wi-fi systems, mobile telephones or palm systems. Some of the studies presented in the section demonstrate how these instruments can encourage learning during one’s free time, effectively representing the possibility of learning any time, anywhere.
- Attewell J e Savill-Smith C. “Learning with mobile devices, Research and development”, in LSDA (Learning and Skill Development Agency), 2004 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
An interesting set of studies on the possible applications of mobile devices for learning. Topics discussed include the effectiveness of m-learning, costs, content development methodology, the type of design necessary, the learning potential of games, and the role that mobile learning may play in increasing social inclusion.
- Giacomantonio M. “Il futuro dell’e-learning” (The future of e-learning) in WBT (Formazione in Rete), (in WBT, web-based training). March 2003 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
After a brief overview of the various aspects that characterise e-learning, such as the role, the sectors (content, communication, support, management), the instruments and technologies, the author questions the future of distance learning. Having overcome the adaptation to the standards phase (already in operation for a number of years and at a satisfactory stage) to eliminate the link to certain technological solutions, e-learning will undergo an integration with many diverse applications, thus reaching a more mature phase, to border on more evolved and mature sectors such as KM (Knowledge Management), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), becoming an integral part of HRM (Human Resource Management).
- Giacomantonio M. “Dove vanno le piattaforme di e-Learning” (Where the e-learning platforms are headed), in WBT (Formazione in Rete) in WBT (Web-based Training), September 2004 (consulted on 29 June 2005).
The author presents an in-depth analysis of the current LMS characteristics, their evolution and future developments. His conclusion is that the current trend is that of converging e-learning platforms with other technological instruments for content management, document management and project management, in order to attain complete instruments for integrated knowledge management. Indeed, even today, on-line learning activities are no longer reduced to simple structure courses; one learns through working in groups, connecting to the Internet and managing projects together with other people. Therefore, new modules with new functionalities will be integrated within the platforms.
- Prensky M. “What Can You Learn from a Cell Phone? Almost Anything!”, in Innovate online, June 2005 (consulted on 12 July 2005).
Mobile devices, particularly mobile telephones, are becoming increasingly small and powerful. Although they are still considered instruments to be used prevalently for telephone communication or, more recently, for recreational purposes, mobile telephones have now become genuine computers. Like any information technology communication instrument, mobile telephones can be used for learning, bearing in mind the fact that they have a huge distribution, particularly among young people and students. After illustrating how to take advantage of the various characteristics of mobile phones (voice, SMS, graphic displays, download functions, Internet navigation, GPS, etc.), the author concludes the article by suggesting, particularly to those who continue to seek to ignore the phenomenon, that this learning mode be seriously considered, and advising a flexible reconsideration of how to design content and activities for mobile learning.
The proposal for an integrated programme for lifelong learning (ILLP), currently under negotiation, encompasses all lifelong learning provisions by integrating in the same structure the previous programmes devoted to education (Socrates) and vocational training (Leonardo). It is structured around four specific sub-programmes (Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundtvig) and complemented by a transversal programme including four key activities (policy development, language learning, Information and communication technologies, dissemination and exploitation of results).
The transversal programme aims to provide the Community with a more effective instrument for pursuing activity that cuts across two or more "traditional" fields of activity, notably across the sub-programmes mentioned above.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) issues will be mainstreamed in the four sub programmes Comenius, Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci and Grundtvig. This might be either through actions specifically focused on the development of innovative pedagogy in a certain segment of education and training, or through actions which have other objectives but are supported by ICT and innovative pedagogical models. Besides, a specific Key activity in the transversal programme will be dedicated to ICT and innovative pedagogies. The Key Activity will support innovation in learning and the achievement of the lifelong learning paradigm by focusing on projects which cut across several sectors and address issues of a horizontal nature – eg content, standards, innovative pedagogy, etc. As such it will build upon the current work under the transversal action line of the eLearning Programme. The new ICT action of the Lifelong learning programme like its predecessor the eLearning programme, will focus on the needs of today’s society. Although it will have a technology base, its focus will be on the practice, the pedagogy and the impact of ICT on lifelong learning.
In the last years a shift in emphasis could be observed at both the European and national level. Policy initiatives are placing less and less emphasis on the pursuit of e-learning, per se, as a goal in itself. Rather they are focusing more on the benefits that technology has to offer and the pressing needs of the economy and society. Hence a focus on innovation, on competitiveness and on inclusion..
This change in emphasis - from the mechanism to the goals - also occurs at a time when the discussion on e-learning is enlarging. The definition most commonly applied to e-learning is one of distance learning using the Internet. This is clearly an important example of how ICT is being used. However, it misses out many other important examples, such as the use of electronic whiteboards in schools, the use of simulation tools in laboratories, the use of mobile learning devices by workers. It is therefore necessary to think beyond e-learning and to emphasise the real added value of technology use, such as collaboration, communication, simulation and cooperation.
In the context of the FILTER project respondents in different European countries were asked to reflect on how learners with special needs are assisted in accessing their virtual communities, what barriers exist and what solutions are available. The respondents were asked to review a website in their country or region, and to identify any potential barriers such as ‘missing text equivalents’ or ‘inaccessible online forms’. The reviewed websites are amongst others: www.open.ac.uk, www.kennisnet.nl, www.ou.nl and www.universitet.no. Some respondents explained how the reviewed site helps people who are blind to use the site, or that in some cases there are no text alternatives at all. Most reviewed sites however do offer text alternatives. Some country specific experiences arising from the FILTER study are discussed below.
United Kingdom: The Open University
The Open University in the United Kingdom (OU/UK) is very advanced in this respect and has a policy to deal with students with a wide variety of special needs. The University has its own Center for Assistive Technology and Enabling Research (CATER). CATER supports the development of an accessible curriculum through a number of ongoing projects. It also provides ongoing staff development together with the development of enhanced technology based services for people with special needs.
The OU/UK website (see www.open.ac.uk) has a large range of facilities for students who are disabled: including those who are blind or partially sighted, deaf or hard of hearing, people with restricted mobility or manual dexterity, with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties, with mental health difficulties, with specific medical conditions, or with impaired speech. Adaptations of the curriculum include the tape-recording or videotaping of course materials, the conversion of printed texts into e-books thus enabling texts to be read on screen with the aid of a screen reader, as well as the use of particular programme applications to suit the needs of users with impaired mobility.
The preferred method of teaching can be discussed with the tutor by e-mail. If the student does not feel able to go to tutorials, copies of tutorial materials can be sent to the student. The possibility of an individual tutorial or extended correspondence tuition can also be explored. The Study Support or Disability and Additional Requirements Team in the student’s local Regional Center can also deal with any queries a student might have. In addition, the Evening Advice Line is available out of office hours. Some Centers have additional facilities to provide ongoing support.
The OU/UK has a Learner’s Guide Services for Disabled Students website at http://www3.open.ac.uk/learners-guide/disability/index.htm. More than 8,700 disabled students – a figure higher than the entire student populations of some UK universities – currently benefit from the Open University’s pioneering work in transforming higher education into a better place for learners with special needs. The OU/UK is a guide for other institutions. About 8000 tutors can transfer their knowledge to others. In the UK each university is required to be pro-active in the field of special needs policy.
Denmark: ”Tilgængelighed til uddannelse”
”Tilgængelighed til uddannelse” http://tilgaengelighed.emu.dk is a Danish educational portal containing advice and guidance about education and aid to people with disabilities. The providers of this portal have ensured that their own portal is accessible for people with disabilities.
However, as far as access to online forms is concerned, the reviewed websites failed to observe the design guidelines. The result is that users with disabilities are unable to complete online forms and therefore may be filtered out of benefiting from what the site is offering. Furthermore, respondents were asked about ‘inaccessible device restrictions’ for example those interactions that are only available using a mouse, and hence interactions that any user with either a motor or visual disability would be excluded from performing.
However, many web sites are designed in such a way that certain interactions are only available via a mouse. When asked if the reviewed website had inaccessible device restrictions, only one respondent noted that there was an alternative (tab and enter) to using the mouse for interacting with the site.
The Netherlands: Drempels Weg
In the Netherlands a project has been launched by the Ministry of Culture and Education entitled Drempels Weg (translated: Delete Barriers). The purpose is to enhance the accessibility of websites for people with disabilities. Drempels Weg makes organizations and the public in general more aware of the potential access problems faced by people with disabilities and assists organizations in making their sites more accessible.
The website www.sonokids.com enables children to create their own website. One of the games is the RaDaR soundgame where children learn to e-mail, chat and can even build their very own, accessible, website. The mole, the bat and the dolphin are animals that share one common attribute, that is that they do not use their eyes. These animals are the major characters in the game, see also www.sonokids.nl/radar.
Another initiative Netwerk ff contact :0] (www.ffcontact.nl) includes different websites for different target audiences and age groups. Netwerk ff contact :0] has been developed to enable children that suffer from long term illness to chat with each other. Some children are excluded from school and friendships for a long time. The site Sterrekind (www.sterrewereld.nl) gives them the opportunity to get connected with and communicate with children in similar circumstances. There are communities for small children (3-5 years), as well as for older children and teenagers where they can listen to music or watch a movie together. Sterrewereld originated in the hospitals of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague and has now been launched on a national scale. Even a song contest was launched recently.
On another site of the Stichting Artsen voor Kinderen (www.artsenvoorkinderen.nl), children can address a question to a medical doctor, and the site Diabeter (www.ysl.nl or www.diabeter.nl) focuses on education. Other Web initiatives are launched for children with muscular diseases, and the Foundation Rob facilitates imagephone calls for children that are in hospital and want to communicate with their friends or family.
Ireland: accessibility for all in website access.
In recent years the European Commission has been actively developing action plans and policies in relation to access to Information and Communication Technologies for all Europeans (cited in Irish National Disability Authority (NDA) Accessibility Guidelines, nd). While it is not clear how far these objectives have been achieved within individual Member States, it does appear that the Irish Government has taken steps to try to ensure accessibility for all, particularly in relation to website access.
For example, the Irish National Disability Authority outlines proposals by Government in 1999 in its ‘Report of the Inter-Departmental Implementation Group on the Information Society’ which recommends that “Websites should be designed and operated in accordance with the needs of users” and “the key principle underlining accessibility is that websites should be easy for everyone to use, including people with a disability” (NDA, nd). However, an extensive survey carried out by McMullin (2003) and mentioned earlier in this article, analyzed over 159 Irish websites. The survey found that 100 percent failed to meet the professional practice WCAG-AA accessibility standard; 94 percent failed to meet the minimum WCAG-A accessibility standard, and at least 90 percent failed to meet minimal conformance with other generic technical standards for web interoperability. (Information relating to WCAG [Web Content Accessibility Guidelines] is available from the World Wide Web Consortium’s website listed at the end of this paper in the reference section).
Spain: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
New teaching technologies can help people with disabilities to make progress both within the educational field and within the wider social and economic world of work and play. “Project FOTEUMIDIS, initiated in 1997, draws on all of Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia’s (UNED) media to deliver audio and video instruction through the Digital Network of Integrated Telephone Services (RDSI) public line” (García Aretio, 1998). This university-level teaching is directed towards those affected by different types of disability. The objective is to make it possible for individuals with a disability to study via multi-video conference through RDSI and so obtain the maximum results with the least amount of effort. Collaborating with UNED in this project are the Ministry of Work and Social Affairs (INSERSO), Telephónica, the ONCE foundation, IBM, Alcer Murcia, and INSALUD (García Aretio, 2001).
Belgium: the Wai-Not project
Jointly with some European partners the project Wai-Not has developed computer applications that are beneficial to children with a wide range of special needs, particularly those with developmental or learning difficulties, (see www.wai-not.be). In addition to encouraging Internet access by children with special needs, Wai-Not also investigates if access to activities on the Internet by these groups of people has the potential to enhance their social integration into society.
One of the tools used on the website is an Internet playground with creative, recreative and informative content. A combination of written text, spoken text and pictograms are presented, thus accommodating the needs of users with many different types of disability. Wai-Not shows that people who find reading and writing a challenge are able to use the Internet. Wai-Not originated from some Belgium schools for children with disabilities and was supported by the European Commission under the Minerva programme.
- Bernes-Lee, T. (1997), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Launches International Web Accessibility Initiative W3C Leads Program to Make the Web Accessible for People with Disabilities
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- García Aretio, L. (1998), Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED). En Vázquez, G. Madrid: espacio universitario abierto, (pp. 261-300). Madrid: Fundación Universidad Empresa.
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Goggin, G. and C. Newell (2003), Digital Disability, The Social Construction of Disability in New media, Rowman.
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- Piek, P. and F. Reijenga (2004), Disability management als nieuwe insteek voor HRM, SDU.
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When should we start the process of introducing children to computers? Is the technology good or evil for the learning process? Joel Josephson from Kindersite Project gives some insight on this topic.
2 years, 3 years, 6, 8, 12, 15, never, when do we start the process of introducing children to computers? Educators, parents, even gray-haired and learned professors cannot agree. The second question that then arises is whether computer based content positively or negatively affects the learning process. I can hear the screams of protest and support in full interactive, multi-media, broadband enhanced detail even as I write. Meanwhile millions of dollars are being spent to bring computers and the Internet to elementary schools around the globe. The only area all agree on, well maybe, is that all students should be taught how to use computers and the Internet eventually. As all will need an understanding of technology to enjoy the products of technology and in many cases within the future work environment. In this article I will try to summarize some of the arguments for and against technology in early education and finally to make a synopsis of how I believe we should address this vital issue. Firstly lets take a look at the arguments for early introduction.
Future Needs: The use of computers and an understanding of how to use the Internet are already critical to modern society today in manifest directions. These include, the work environment, information gathering for work orpleasure, shopping, communications etc. and if true today, how much moretomorrow. The Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment predicts thatthe computer industry will continue to show the greatest growth of any industry in the USA. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than half of all workers used a computer on the job in September 2001. And nearly three-fourths of those workers connected to the Internet or used e-mail.
Early Skills Acquisition: As with all fundamental skills, the earlier the education system allows students to become familiar with technology the greater will be their depth of understanding and effectiveness in using it. It is immaterial to argue that skills acquired today by a five year old will not be relevant later in life because technology will develop beyond comprehension. This is because skills acquired can focus on an understanding of what computers can do rather than just how to interact with today’s computers. In addition, once the initial ground work has been obtained the potential for adaptation to a dynamic system can be incrementally updated in the same way as adults have to adapt to new technology.
Personalization: Computer based content allows a level of individual engagement and interactivity that comparative learning systems fail to deliver. By its nature learning with the computer is a one-on-one experience or at worst, small groups. This alleviates the paradigm of large classes with minimal personal intervention.
Learning Levels: Computers allow users to individualize their speed of attainment to suite their personal needs and capabilities. The speedy are not held back and those that need greater repetition are not passed over. Additionally special groupings can be more easily and effectively catered for.
Wide Distribution of Quality Teaching: Computer based learning allows the maximum effectiveness and distribution of the best quality teaching and content. A great teacher is not limited by the classroom but can reach out across the Internet to thousands either through building digital lessons or distance learning software and programs. Most distance learning systems today can be configured as live broadcasts with high levels of interactivity with the teacher. Now, here are the equally strong arguments against.
Accessibility and Suitability: If an individual does not have access to a computer or does not understand the content through a language deficiency or cultural differences, they will be relegated to the digitally divided, 44 million at the last count just in the USA according to Professor Howard Besser, The Next Digital Divides.
Interfering with Natural Development: Young children should be utilizingtheir natural propensity for physically based activity rather than be ‘stuck’ infront of a computer. They already spend damaging amounts of time glued to televisions, as researchers have discovered, that impairs development. Our children, the Surgeon General warns, are the most sedentary generation ever.
Lack of Depth: Computer based content is a long way from offering the depth, flexibility and tried and tested results that a trained, dedicated and experienced teacher can offer children. In addition, the interaction with a sophisticated adult allows critical advanced vocabulary and personalization skills.
Quality of Content: Most digital content is overly simplistic in its structure. For example, a sum can only be wrong or right. The content will not explain to the student why the sum was wrong. A real teacher will mark a piece of work and offer the essential logic reasoning for the decision that will enable the student to gain a fundamental understanding of the system behind what constitutes correct/incorrect.
Health Hazards: Computers pose health hazards to children. The risks include repetitive stress injuries, eyestrain, obesity, social isolation, and, forsome, long-term physical, emotional, or intellectual developmental damage.
Safety: Children must be protected from the dangers of the Internet, stalkers, adult content, hate and violence. Filtering software is notoriously inefficient.
By no means am I attempting to articulate all the arguments or cover them inreal depth but just to raise some of the issues we all face. In my opinion both the Pros and Cons are very strong arguments all of which need serious consideration and answers.
Now to put this in to an importance perspective, digital technology is invading virtually every aspect of modern society and its impact is becoming fundamental to how we work, play and learn. Technology within education also has a huge role to play but its’ effectiveness and impact has not been studied in the depth and breadth that such a fundamental development requires.
In the work environment, mistakes in the use of technology are paid for inmonetary terms. How much less can we afford to make mistakes with introducing technology to our children, mistakes made here cost far more than damaged business, with education we are talking damaged lives. At the moment we just seem to be ‘throwing’ computers and the Internet at teachers and children, as I state above, without any real understanding of what we are actually doing to the children or should I call them ‘guinea pigs’.
The logic seems to be, at least on the governmental level, that we cannot afford for the coming generation not to be computer enabled, as this ability will be critical for a country to be economically competitive. In fact every country is being driven to ensure it’s digital competitiveness. At a governmental level this logic is difficult to fault but it is our job as educators and parents to ensure thatthe effectiveness of the headlong plunge is in the best interests of all the children.
My opinion is that large-scale research in to the issues needs to be carried out. Not on the scale of a few dozen subjects over weeks as many examples of current research do, but thousands or even tens of thousands of subjects over years.
These subjects need to be from 2 years to 8 years old. They need to bewidely dispersed geographically. Come from all levels of the social andattainment spectrum. In fact technology and the Internet is a perfect platform to carry out this type of research. I founded the Internet based Kindersite Project to enable researchers to accomplish this type of wide-scale program.
I believe that only significant research that studies thousands of subjectchildren over a long-term, years probably, will allow the educational community to really gain full and meaningful answers to the questions such as:
- Does the early introduction of digital content positively or negatively affectyoung children?
- What should be the parameters of the introduction (if any)?
- What content types should be employed within the introductory process?
- What constitutes 'good' or 'bad' content and why?
- What parameters define 'good' or 'bad' content?
As a result of sustained and profound research, guidelines should be drawn. These guidelines should offer teachers and parents tried and tested parameters for the use of computers for their children at each age level. It should include areas such as; how long should a child use a computer over a period, maximum and minimum attainment levels to be expected for each age group based on set proficiency standards, how digital content should be integrated in to standard lesson plans in a similar way that other media isused.
Most importantly, set standards for educational content providers must be laid down that they must adhere to if they wish to produce educational content utilizable by educationalists.
In addition all young childrens’ content, educational or leisure should be labeled with its appropriateness for each age group. These standards should be defined by the research.
In conclusion, it is fairly obvious that computer based educational content is becoming a feature of schools, whether we like it or not. In the home we see increasing evidence that even the smallest children are gaining access to computers either with parents or through watching older siblings. It is unreasonable to expect to turn back the clock and bar children below a certain age from computers, this is unenforceable and ineffective.
It is our duty to ensure that clear usage standards are set, content guidelines are drawn and sites rated at a governmental level so that children, parents, caregivers and educators have a clear and safe basis for using computers and the Internet with their charges. Anything less is an abrogation of all our responsibility.
Online asynchronous discussion task(s) can be designed so as to produce these characteristics or activate a large number of Shuell’s learning functions and therefore increase the probability of producing ‘meaningful learning’. This paper discusses five general issues that can help in the design of Online discussion tasks.
Design is not an Exact Science
The learning functions are ongoing and parallel psychological processes. A learner does not simply have expectations at the beginning of a learning episode or receive feedback solely at the end of it. Designers should repeat exposure to functions from task to task, through the whole learning episode.
The characteristics are not independent of one another and the learning functions are not independent of another: expectations, attention and motivation are all related, so are comparison and hypothesis generation , and so are monitoring and feedback. If the designer wants to incorporate some ‘monitoring’ into a discussion task he should ask himself about how he plans to give ‘feedback’ or how he should encourage the learner to give himself feedback.
Any one characteristic may be activated by several functions and any one function may instantiated by several characteristics. For instance ‘Self-Regulation’, a characteristic, may be activated by more than one function e.g. Expectations, Monitoring, Comparison. Conversely ‘Comparison’ may activate both Constructive and Cumulative characteristics . This a reminder that although design is not ‘a hit and miss’ activity it is not an exact science either- a topic taken up below (See ‘Indirectness of Design’).
Indirectness of Design
There is an important distinction between task and activity in the design of online discussions. The task is what the designer designs and develops. The activity, however, is what the learner engages in as a response to that task. There is no guarantee that a learner will respond to a task in the way the designer intends. The relationship between a task and the learner’s subsequent cognitive activity (and ultimately the learning outcomes) is, therefore, probabilistic. The designer devises tasks, based on the best advice available, so as to increase the probability of certain cognitive activities/effects. The designer, however, cannot be certain of the effect (Dillenbourg 1999:6-7). Novice designers may find this disheartening but it is, perhaps, fortuitous. If learners are to be responsible for their own learning then part of that includes allowing them the latitude to interpret learning tasks in the light of their own goals and needs. It is, also, fortuitous for another reason. It is an important reminder of how subsequent moderation of online discussion tasks can help ‘correct’ learner responses unanticipated at the design stage.
Design and Moderation
Moderation refers to tutor-led3 activities such as welcoming, bridge-building, task and process facilitation (Salmon 1998: 5). A discussion task’s effectiveness depends partly on design, partly on its moderation (Goodyear et al 2003 16-7). Discussion tasks, for instance, may explicitly ask students to read and reflect on the their peers’ contributions. If, when the tutor contributes, he is careful always to refer to earlier contributions4 then he models, thru moderation, the behaviour required of the student. This modelling whether it is of ‘suitable diction’, ‘relevant question’[s] or ‘legitimate behaviour’ (Brown et al. 1989: 34) is a powerful reinforcement of the design instruction (Painter et al. 2003: 165-7).
Design and Purpose
Online discussions can have various purposes. One might, legitimately, design a discussion to encourage critical or creative thinking, or as a way of conveying information on domain or procedural matters, or as a question and answer forum, or for the social benefits (Goodyear et al 2003 16) it offers such as validating experience, or simply to support students in just one component of their studies, say the Assignment (Painter et al. 2003: 161-2). These purposes are not mutually exclusive but some choices have to be made. These should be made consciously at the outset.
Design and Participation
Even with well designed discussions (Painter et al. 2003: 162-8), participation in online discussions can be disappointing ( Goodyear et al 2003: 17). Participation seems to increase when it is linked to assessment- a strategic student response (Goodyear et al 2003: 1) -, when moderation is insightful, frequent and sensitive, when there is ‘an emphasis on dialogue’ (Salmon 1998: 4), and when there is some degree of student ownership (Painter et al. 2003: 160, 164). Useful strategies for encouraging dialogue are: acknowledging, agreeing, approving (Painter et al. 2003: 164).
Design and Learner-Empowerment
Some research claims that up to 80% of verbal exchanges in the classroom are attributable to the teacher. There is evidence to suggest, however, that learners who are too shy to contribute in the classroom, feel more empowered to do so online (Jonassen 1996: 172, 179). In this regard, Shuell has a useful list of learner-initiated activities for each function/process (Shuell 1992: 31). Useful design strategies for empowerment in online discussions are: designing tasks that require students to talk about themselves, their experiences, their feelings and their goals, that encourage students to take responsibility (e.g. to put topics on the agenda, getting students or past students to act as moderators) (Salmon 1998: 6; Jonassen 1996: 176), and designing collaborative tasks. Most of the design precepts in this paper are stated in such a way as to emphasise the activity desired of the learner rather than of the designer. Design therefore can contribute greatly to empowerment but, like participation, it too is partly dependent on moderation.
- Brown, JS, Collins, A & Duguid, P (1989) Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 32–42
- Dillenbourg, P (1999) What do you mean by ‘collaborative learning’? In P. Dillenbourg (Ed) Collaborative learning: cognitive and computational approaches Amsterdam: Pergamon
- Goodyear, P, Jones, C, Asensio, M, Hodgson, V & Steeples, C (2003) Constructing the ‘good’ e-learner. Proceedings of the 10th Biennial European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) Conference, Padova, Italy
- Goodyear, P (2001) Psychological foundations for networked learning. In C Steeples & C Jones (Eds) Networked learning: perspectives and issues. London: Springer
- Grogan, G (2005): Can asynchronous online discussions be designed to produce meaningful learning? Available at http://www.elearningeuropa.info
- Jonassen, D (1996) Computer-mediated communication: connecting communities of learners. Chapter 7 in Computers in the classroom: mindtools for critical thinking. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Merrill, Prentice Hall
- Painter, C, Coffin, C & Hewings, A (2003) Impacts of directed tutorial activities in computer conferencing: a case study. Distance Education, 24 (2), 159–174
- Salmon, G (1998) Developing learning through effective online moderation. Active Learning 9, 3–8
- Shuell, T. (1992). Designing instructional computing systems for meaningful learning. In M. Jones & P. Winne (Eds.), Adaptive Learning Environments. New York: Springer Verlag.
Quotes: “Learners who are too shy to contribute in the classroom, feel more empowered to do so online”1. Shuel gives this as a description of cognitive conceptions or characteristics of learning but it seems to apply equally well to his own work.
2. The learning function are expectations, motivation, prior knowledge Activation, Attention, encoding, comparison, hypothesesis generation, repetition, feedback, evaluation, monitoring and combination-integration-synthesis.
3. Sometimes discussions can be moderated by students.
4. He may adopt a convention for doing this such as cutting and pasting into his contribution the contribution which he is going to use as his point of departure (Painter et al. 2003: 167)
Hello, I work as head of training in a company; I am studying e-learning standards and distance learning, and I am making my debut in instructional design (adapting the material of the company to LMS), but I would like to work in development or social projects (I am particularly interested in women and the environment), as private companies with no social responsibility are not fulfilling, so where do I start? I am already quite old, so the possibility of working as a volunteer and living with my parents is not viable. Is it possible to earn a living whilst participating in worthwhile projects? Thank you, all the best.
Thursday, July 21 2005
marietafs (United Kingdom)
Yes, I believe that this is increasingly possible. We are currently seeing that the governments and NGOs are beginning to perceive the use of this kind of project, or, at least, there are now influential people who are aware of these possibilities and put pressure on politicians to introduce more realistic and less dramatic policies with regard to digital inclusion.
Your profile is perfect in order to obtain a contract and organise e-learning platforms with a social bias. As I was saying previously, we are still in a gestation phase. The politicians know that the need exists, or are beginning to realise it, but there is still a great deal of money in more engineer-based approaches – infrastructure, cabling, etc – which means that they can not make the change instantly. Keep your eyes peeled for grants (this website is not a bad place to start) and start experimenting with a simple project in order to obtain expert knowledge, so that you will be ahead of the sharks that will be circling when social e-learning projects get off the ground.
Hi David. First, I would like to ask you a specific question: what is the main definition of e-learning? As you can see, this question is slightly beyond the scope of the discussion, but it is really important because, at the moment, companies are constructing their own definitions, which are more suited to their products. What, from your point of view, is the general public’s knowledge when it comes to e-learning? And how it can be on the increase, if the products on offer differ greatly from the definition of e-learning? Thanks in advance for your answer. Best regards.
Friday, July 22 2005
Starting with the most general of perceptions, e-learning is distance learning by electronic means. This is how the concept is understood by the university and business worlds. Nevertheless, I believe that this merely instrumental description is insufficient. I think that e-learning should be something more. E-learning should include new methodologies adapted to the new possibilities that Information and Communication Technologies offer us. Anybody may set up an e-learning course made up of a series of PDF files posted on the network along with an e-mail address to which one may write if in doubt. This is unquestionably useful, as it avoids the problem of having to go to a bookshop or a library in order to get hold of the necessary text, and e-mail is definitely cheaper than the telephone, but I think that it is necessary to go much further.
For me, e-learning has to consider the idea of virtual community and collaborative learning. Everybody collaborates in the educational process and the interactive capacities made available by new technologies should be used as much as possible.
I think that the public has matured over the past few years. The magnetism that the novelty of e-learning once held has disappeared, and the public has become more demanding. Increasingly, the public will complain if it is offered mere digital versions of book + tutor-style distance learning and expects interactive systems, knowledge capsules, internship communities and all of the advances that digital technology offers. At least, I think that this situation is increasingly the case in the business market. In the university world, it is slightly more complex, since there is a “captive” public that is unable to attend classes in person for a variety of reasons (timetable, disability, geographical distance, etc.) and accepts the teaching that is offered even though, often, it is nothing more than an equivalent of the personal attendance style.
Are the forces that generate digital exclusion different to those that generate any other form of social exclusion? Is there an example of a technology that has, alone, reduced a particular form of social exclusion? Can education really free people, or at least radically improve their lot, when all other social forces work towards their continued exploitation?
M.J. Menou (France)
Friday, July 22 2005
In general, the forces that generate digital exclusion are the same ones that generate the other forms of social exclusion. If geographical isolation generates social exclusion when it comes to receiving a good schooling or a good job offer, it also generates digital exclusion since it is very likely that broadband Internet access, and perhaps even the telephone, will not be available at this remote location.
Likewise, if somebody is economically challenged, this will imply digital exclusion since he or she is not going to be able to buy a computer or pay the monthly Internet connection charges.
Having said that, I should like to point out two aspects:
1) There are also mechanisms specific to digital exclusion that are not necessarily associated with digital exclusion. Age is, in general, an obstacle when it comes to digital inclusion, regardless of whether or not the person in question is also socially excluded because of his or her age. That is, pensioners may be socially included but they may find it very difficult to access Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
2) Digital exclusion strengthens social exclusion, creating dangerous vicious circles. For example, an unemployed person will find it far harder to become digitally literate. This means that this person will be denied access to a series of employment positions that require IT knowledge, thus reducing his or her possibilities in terms of finding a job, and therefore increasing his or her degree of exclusion.
This is why I believe that it is currently essential to fight against digital exclusion.
With regard to the second question, I do not think that there is any technology alone that has helped to reduce any form of social exclusion. Technologies without methods to back them up are blind, like the proverbial knife that can be used to kill a person in the hands of a murderer or save the person in the hands of a surgeon. This is one more reason why we should shed the technological optimism and devote the same amount of time to producing new technologies to study how we wish to use them, with what objectives and according to which principles and safeguards.
Finally, I do believe that education is one of the few safe values that we have in the field of inclusion, whilst, as you say, the other social forces work to continue the exploitation. This is why you will see here my repeated assertion that e-inclusion must have its own pedagogical model and seek education for empowerment if it is to have any meaning.
Hello David. What are SPSS programmes and how are they used?
Tuesday, July 5 2005
Hmmmm... Sorry, but this question is beyond my field of competence. I know that SPSS is a statistical packet that is used a great deal in science to assess the results of an experiment and see its significance, to study the behaviour of populations in sociological studies, but I do not know much more. And I have never used one, so I can not really explain to you how they are used.
Dear David Casacuberta, what kind of social solutions can be developed for the digitally excluded? How can the digital media play a role in this social divide?
Tuesday, July 5 2005
Basically, I think of the social concept as being inextricably associated with the digital concept. Applications that are currently very famous, such as flickr to download photographs, the distribution of websites through tags such as del.icio.us, or even the phenomenon of blogs, are not what they are because of simple technological development, but because there is a clear model of collective construction and intelligence which makes them so successful. I think that it is worth transferring this model to the world of the digitally excluded so that we do not limit ourselves solely to teaching them instrumental knowledge, but we hope that such technology will be of use to them.
Digital media have at least three functions that, in my view, are key:
1) Media democratisation. Thanks to media such as blogs, it is very easy to go from having a merely receptive role to having a broadcasting role. This has a great empowerment value. First, the mere possibility to express oneself personally does a great deal. Second, only if those who are excluded have a voice will there be material on the Internet that is of use to them. As has been said time and again: What is the point of a rural Peruvian having access to the Internet if all that he or she can see are virtual shops or film reviews that he or she will never be able to see?
2) Expand content. As I have said previously, if those who are excluded are going to be interested in the Internet, the content that they find there has to be of use to them. With great megamedia in a few hands and with the economic benefit as the single driving force, it is very difficult to create content for those who are socially excluded.
3) Facilitate access to relevant content. Whether for reasons of geographical isolation, economic problems or disability, many people are excluded from knowledge throughout the world. Digital media facilitate access as they can transform such knowledge into a format that can by understood by disabled people, offering free information that, in the “analogical world” is very expensive, or provide access to content that, for reasons of isolation, would be impossible in the real world.
What are the principal applications of Digital Divide and how and where are they applied in daily life?
Thursday, July 7 2005
The question has left me somewhat perplexed. Are you referring to the “problems generated” by the digital divide in daily life? Or how certain solutions are applied “against” the digital divide? Both questions have been dealt with elsewhere, and hopefully my responses are sufficient to answer your question. If not, I would be happy to respond to another, more detailed, version of your question.
Hello David, we are creating a cooperative and have to develop a digitalisation plan for the company on a short and long-term basis. We are very interested in learning everything about this issue and the parts that it comprises, everything about the use of ICT (B2b, B2c, E-administration, dynamic and private websites, etc., infrastructures, internal networks, etc.); in short, learn about the entire digitalisation process. We have time and energy for this, although it will involve many hours of hard work. Also, we will use all of this knowledge in the creation of an adequate system and for future continued e-learning use in the company. We therefore seek to learn and study all of these procedures (for example, learn how to use Lotus Notes, etc.) via e-learning and we seek advice as to how to do this. Basically, we need advice from somebody who knows what he or she is talking about. We hope to hear from you and maintain continued contact. Thank you very much. Alexander Badiola, Txentxe@hotmail.com.
Monday, July 11 2005
Well, the truth is that I do not dominate such matters. I have a handful of notions about e-learning companies, but this is not my speciality, so I can not really be of much use. I would advise you to visit the following portal to seek more information about the issue of e-learning in companies, as there is a great deal of good quality information there. Another interesting address is Infonomía (www.infonomia.com), where a number of issues are dealt with, including e-learning as a means of innovation in companies.
Dear David, I have been reading the document highlighted in the Studies section of the portal entitled “Is e-Learning Improving Access to Learning Opportunities?” It seems, according to this report, that Information and Communication Technologies have managed to “go deeper” (those who use it are increasing the use and the application more effectively) rather than “go wider” (to reach more users). E-Learning “has opened new learning opportunities, but has not sufficiently extended the number of learners, nor the range of contents available for specific groups of learners”, according to the survey. So, my conclusion is that e-learning is widening the digital gap instead of bridging it. Do you agree with this view? Thanks in advance,
Tuesday, July 12 2005
TOM ANSINK (The Netherlands)
It is sad but, yes, I must say that I totally agree. I also read the document that you mention and I got the same impression. This sensation also occurs when analysing other things such as blogs or digital culture. It appears that we are widening the digital gap, creating an elite that dominates various technologies and, through that, is increasingly advancing in a stronger manner in the information society, whilst there are many people who still do not know how to use a mouse. A recent study carried out by the Fundación BBVA found that 71% of Spanish people believe that the Internet is unnecessary.
This is why I think that is essential to change the chip. We need to forget about this obsession for the coolest, the newest, or the most technologically advanced, which indeed reinforces the widening of the digital gap, and opt for a basic form of teaching that enables the reinforcement of social, collaborative and informative aspects to allow the great majority of citizens to use the Internet and ICT in order to improve their social situation.
Dear David, I am working to introduce new systems among my organisations (Local Health Services in Tuscany - Leghorn) and citizens. For example, I am thinking about Digital Terrestrial because I am planning to build a local network. What do you think about Digital Terrestrial as a new system for information and formation?
Monday, July 18 2005
Hmmm... I am not the best person to ask about technological matters. I have always been in favour of wireless networks. I have always been fascinated by projects such as Seattle wireless (http://seattlewireless.net/) and how one can have a local wireless network the size of a city. Wireless is particularly attractive from a community point of view because it means that network users are also involved in the maintenance of the network. This creates a stronger feeling of community than simply being a user and paying a monthly rate to be connected. Unfortunately, it appears that the EU in general always opts for more hierarchical solutions...
Given your experience in the dissemination of contemporary art issues, digital art and net art, could you recommend any specific experience or initiative that uses these themes as e-inclusion tools? Best wishes.
Monday, July 18 2005
Personally, the most interesting contemporary art initiatives along these lines can be found in the CCD (Community Cultural Development) category. Australia’s government has pioneered these issues and you can find a lot of information about the matter at the following address: http://www.ccd.net/
The Granollers town council (Barcelona) also works actively in the matter, and you can find more information at the following address: http://www.dccgranollers.info
As for digital art and net-art, the following projects are of note.
Communimage (www.communimage.ch). This is a simple collective construction project in which the public adds images so that the common image is able to grow and transform.
Identity swap database (http://www.teleportacia.org/swap/).
This is an artistic project by Olia Lialina and Heath Bunting where, by means of a database, a person offers his or her identity so that another person looking like him or her may pretend to be him or her. It does not, of course, have any real practical function, but it tries to make us think about the function of Information and Communication Technologies in this increasingly globalised world.
E-valencia (www.e-valencia.org), by artist Daniel García-Andújar, is a simple but effective example of how one may question the cultural policy of a government (in this case, the Autonomous Valencian Government), giving power to artists and citizens together so that they may put forward their own opinions.
The artist Josh On, with projects such as They Rule (www.theyrule.net), or Exxon Secrets (www.exxonsecrets.org), has shown how political activism can benefit greatly from Information and Communication Technologies, particularly the fascinating field of data visualisation.
And in a more radical position, you have the Electronic Disturbance Theatre, which created an unusual digital empowerment programme known as Floodnet, which enabled the equivalent of a street sitting, but against a server, Centenares. Thousands of people use this programme to aim at a website until they achieve the fall of the server. A digital equivalent to a road block.
Electronic Disturbance Theatre/Ricardo Domínguez http://www.thing.net/~rdom/
Dear David, how can one establish instructional material that supports the formation of teachers in approaches that are focused on learning?
Thursday, July 21 2005
Bolaños Alonso2005 (Spain)
I recommend two approaches. The collaborative approach and the problem-solving approach. In the 5d Project that I mentioned earlier, you have a very strong example aimed at children, but that can be extended to other ages. The problem-solving approach enables a rapid remodelling in relation to the world of Internet and you will find a number of excellent manuals on the issue. Personally, I rather like “Problems as Possibilities” by Linda Torp and Sara Sage, which has also been translated into Spanish.
If you want to see a simple example of this kind of learning for people who organise e-learning courses for e-inclusion, take a look at the files we have posted on the website of our e-learning for e-inclusion project (www.el4ei.net).
David, the problem is indeed cultural and, in this sense, I wonder, given your long career in the social area, how one can offer teachers a course that motivates them to take the step towards the realisation of the technological culture, using this for their own training purposes.
Thursday, July 21 2005
Bolaños Alonso2005 (Spain)
I am delighted that you have asked me this question. There is a good European initiative that I would recommend, which is the 5d Project (at www.5d.org). It aims to show teachers the possibilities of a collaborative learning system based on Information and Communication Technologies. I do not know of any courses such as the one you are describing, but I believe that it would be very useful to organise one. I am open to proposals, collaboration, etc., to set something up.
Dear David, in Germany, only 10% of people are using e-learning in the workplace (Berichtssystem Weiterbildung 2004, published by the national educational ministry). Do you have any international figures? How about Spain? I agree with Tom Ansink that e-Learning is widening the gap (we call it the Matthew Principle: To him that hath shall more be given). Is that a German phenomenon? Thanks for your advice,
Dr. Anke Grotlüschen, Junior Professor for Lifelong Learning at Bremen University, Germany
Thursday, July 21 2005
Not at all. I think that the situation is general and Germany is still in a better situation that the Mediterranean countries. Allow me to digress slightly with regard to the figures, which do not seem to me to be very attractive here. Basically, these studies do not analyse what type of technology is being used, or the function. They simply have faith in the company saying that it is using e-learning, when often the company simply uploads PDF files with “study material” that nobody looks at. A clearer example is the way in which we count the number of e-included people in Europe. Basically, the number of broadband Internet users is added up. Well, that is all well and good but, in my investigations, I have come across what might be called “functionally illiterate” people who had broadband Internet access but used it only in P2P networks to download music, films and chat systems to talk to their friends. Some did not even know that they had a browser. Is there any sense in adding these as people included in the information society? I think that it is clear that there is no sense in doing that.
This is why I fear that, if we were to look on a case-by-case basis, we would discover that this 10% in Germany is worse. I dread to think what the situation is in my country, Spain.
Hello David, I share the opinion that overcoming the digital gap, rather than teaching how to use the means, entails teaching the use of skills. My question is, how can one define the skills involved in the social use of Information and Communication Technologies, and what kind of formative experiences should be designed to develop them? Above all, how can one finance sustainable projects over time?
Thursday, July 21 2005
Well, first of all there are instrumental skills that inevitably have to be taught; if you do not know how to use a web browser, it is not going to be of much use to you to be told that the Internet can help you to escape your circumstances of inclusion. But these skills are sufficiently covered in any course using digital literacy (normally adapted to the Windows world, but that is another issue).
Less well-known, but equally important, are information skills. I would select the following as key:
- Recognising that you need more information on an issue.
- Knowing how to identify the correct sources from which you will obtain this information.
- Efficient and coherent search strategies.
- Locating and compiling the information that is really relevant.
- Knowing how to critically evaluate sources and establish whether the information obtained is truly reliable.
- Knowing how to present that information in order to communicate effectively.
- Legal and ethical issues related to the distribution of information.
- Multimedia as a new form of expression, which enables a combination of text, image, sound, moving images, etc.
- Information and Communication Technologies as a means of empowerment.
- Creation and participation in social networks.
The methodologies for making these skills work can be found in pedagogical systems that go beyond the conference model – the model that we continue to reinforce in universities – as learning based on the resolution of problems or collaborative learning, which are models that take much better advantage of the characteristics of e-learning.
I think that there are two forms of financing:
A) State financing. As I said before, governments are beginning to understand the need to broaden their understanding of the digital gap and move towards social e-learning. The same can be said of private foundations with social projects.
B) Recycling of models for companies. Many of the initiatives that we are generating for e-inclusion will function just as well in a company. I am convinced that a collaborative approach when organising a project would, for a company, be far more useful that the traditional pyramidal approach of passing orders from the top downwards. I know of various projects in the USA that work using this hybrid model: developing software for companies and then launching open-code projects to strengthen e-inclusion.
He also works for Trànsit Projectes on a number of projects financed by the European Union to do with e-inclusion and ICT and the way they can be used to combat social exclusion. At the same time, he has worked for digital culture projects such as Autobahn, a map of electronic music for the CaixaForum Mediateca, and Hiperiment, hypertext brought into play, for the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona.
Learning technologies tailored to individual needs
The key to success of the information society is the empowerment of all individuals with the competencies and skills to exploit the opportunities it offers. Empowerment means educating people, equipping them with the information, knowledge and skills necessary to live, work and communicate in the digital age. This creates challenges for ICT-based learning.
For learning, the challenge is to develop e-learning solutions that understand and support individual learners, whether they are learning on their own or collaboratively with others. We need solutions that motivate people to learn, including, or even especially adressing those learners who are often excluded from more traditional educational settings; and solutions that are affordable. And these solutions must address the needs of different user groups, matching specific needs, experiences, circumstances and profiles.
Today's technologies, such as those coming from the computing science domains of artificial intelligence and knowledge management, are providing the enabling conditions to support individualised learning. We are moving away from generalised systems, focusing on the delivery of distance learning and training, to customised solutions putting the demand side, the learner, in the centre. This is creating a dynamic which is different from preceding e-learning systems.
This calls upon educational institutions to develop new models in support of more ubiquitous and lifelong learning, and to integrate formal and informal learning environments. Making e-learning systems more relevant to different needs and contexts will help underpin widespread adoption and turn into a benefit for the society. Providing better learning opportunities to individuals and organisations can improve competitiveness, productiveness and well being.
On-going research work
EU-funded research on technology-enhanced learning is part of the IST programme
Technology enhanced-learning research aims at improving our knowledge of how we learn when using information and communication technologies for learning. It focuses on the development of the next generation of user-centred learning solutions, on the improvement of the learning process and the efficiency of learning for individuals and organisations.
Advances in technology, especially in intelligent and cognitive systems, and in neuroscience are providing a new baseline from which to re-examine past models of ICT enabled learning, but going beyond a purely technology-based approach. Research in this area is increasingly interdisciplinary and involves engineers as well as researchers from the humanities and social sciences.
The first FP6 funded research projects in technology-enhanced learning started work at the beginning of 2004. They address topics like:
• personalisation and adaptive learning for individuals and groups
• dynamic mentoring (e.g. through intelligent agents)
• collaborative learning, supported by high performance distributed computing infrastructures (such as GRID)
• experience based learning in the classroom
• new methods and new approaches to learning with ICT
• innovative learning resources for professional training
• promoting interoperability and standards for learning objects and systems.
The range of project participants covers both suppliers and users of technologies for learning: universities, training centres, multimedia publishers, research centres and industry, including SMEs. Participants come from about 30 countries in- and outside Europe.
This portfolio will be reinforced by the projects selected under the last call, which focused on
• the interactions between the learning of the individual and that of the organisation in order to improve how current or emerging ICT can mutually enhance the learning processes for the individual and for the organisation.
• new understandings of learning processes by exploring the links between human learning, cognition and technologies.
On-going research is based on expertise and knowledge built up by EU research into educational technology and multimedia since 1988. Under FP5 (1998-2002)
The application areas targeted by the research work were (virtual) universities, schools, professional training and lifelong learning.
One strand of projects developed electronic platforms and brokerage systems for exchanging and trading multimedia components for learning, the so called ‘learning objects’. Technology in conjunction with interoperability standards allows teachers and learners authoring themselves courses and other material by accessing, tailoring and combining digital learning resources from large public and private repositories of educational content.
Other projects created collaborative learning environments for seamless access of teachers and learners to learning resources such as modeling software and remote laboratories. The projects developed demonstrators in science areas as diverse as water management, climate control, bioinformatics, medicine, astronomy, seismology, space science and robotics.
Under the so-called 'School of Tomorrow' action line of the programme, several projects have worked on new approaches to the use of technology in various teaching and learning situations occurring in the traditional classroom setting. Their developments support, for instance, more practical, more interactive and more collaborative learning experiences.
For learning at the workplace, novel tools and systems were designed in order to support management training and human resources development. Some projects resulted in virtual and blended learning spaces for technical domains like aeronautics or mechatronics.More information on projects, the programme and calls for proposals is available from the TeLearn website of the European Commission, Directorate-General 'Information Society and Media', unit 'Learning and Cultural Heritage'.