The Expected Impact of the 6th Framework Programme for R&D on e-Learning
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The Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Development is a deliberate break with past FPs with regard to ambition, scope and the contractual arrangements.
The new Framework, adopted in September 2002 by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, will have an overall budget of EUR 17.5 billion, representing close to 4% of the EU's total budget (2001). Thematic priority two, Information Society Technologies, has an indicative budget of EUR 3.6 billion - including up to EUR 100 million for the further development of GEANT and GRIDs.
The aim is to achieve greater focus on questions of European importance and a better integration of research efforts on the basis of an improved partnership between the various actors in the European Research Area. This means two key changes in the programme concept:
1. Concentration on a limited number of priority fields of research;
2. Strengthening links between the Community research effort and national and regional research policies.
Two new instruments, Integrated Projects and Networks of Excellence, will particularly support multidisciplinary and multinational co-operation within the research community.
The first call for proposals will be open from December 2002 until April 2003. It will also address Technology Enhanced Learning, one of the strategic objectives of the IST priority under the specific programme Integrating and strengthening the European Research Area.
The passage related to Technology Enhanced Learning in FP6 reads as follows: "Work on e-learning will focus on personalised access to, and delivery of, learning as well as on advanced learning environments at schools, university and in the workplace that take advantage of the development of ambient intelligence".
During the preparatory phase for the new Framework Programme, the European Commission and, respectively, the unit "Education and Training Applications" in the Information Society Directorate-General set up several initiatives inciting communication with and within the research community in order to define future research trends and challenges to be tackled in the Commission's work programme:
In the IST Work Programme 2003-2004 the outcome of these initiatives is reflected in the objective "to develop advanced systems and services that help improve access to Europe's knowledge and educational resources … and generate new forms of cultural and learning experiences".
Focus of future research on e-learning technologies has been defined as following: "Improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of learning, for individuals and organisations, independent of time, place and pace, through the development of open systems and services in support of ubiquitous, experiential and contextualised learning and virtual collaborative learning communities. Work combines advanced cognitive and knowledge-based approaches with new media, including virtual and augmented reality, virtual presence and simulation, takes account of technological, pedagogical as well as organisational aspects, and aims at demonstrating next-generation learning solutions in sizable field experiments."
Expected impact of future research into e-learning technologies
Research results are expected to include novel learning and knowledge paradigms for collaborative, experiential and personalised ubiquitous learning with new organisational, pedagogical and business models in different contexts (school, university, work place, lifelong learning, health education, construction industry, environment, etc.).
Solutions, integrating technological, pedagogical, and organisational perspectives and taking into account socio-economic, cultural and motivational factors, will contribute to lower technological barriers in the learning path. They should strive to unlock computing resources and networks, and thus enable individuals (including those with special needs, marginalised people, unemployed, people with learning difficulties, people living in rural areas) to fully exploit the potential of “ambient intelligence” . Another objective is the dynamic construction and exchange of knowledge in the intertwined learning process between individuals and organisations.
Specific research objectives
Innovative solutions (new developments, experimentation, deployments, etc.) are expected in the following areas:
Access to learning – advanced technologies and infrastructures such as 3G learning management systems over broadband networks, GRID for learning, mobile learning, learning appliances, avatars and intelligent agents, virtual reality and mixed-augmented reality, simulators, interfaces, computer supported collaborative learning, intelligent ambient learning environments;
Knowledge construction, management, sharing and transfer – integration of learning management systems and enterprise resource planning, interoperable and widely accessible knowledge pools, knowledge modelling, representation and visualisation for learning, learner modelling, metadata for learning objects, virtual knowledge sharing spaces, evaluation and assessment;
Learning resources management and learning services – new forms of content modelling, authoring and distribution, interoperability and transportability of digital learning content, standards, certification, IPR, educational modelling languages;
Virtual learning communities – network infrastructures, learning regions, social learning, collaborative knowledge producing, communities of practices, virtual campuses, "People’s University". See related article:
Innovative technologies for learning