The paper introduces the guiding principles of the bLO system that provided the guidelines for the development of the tools. This system includes three main tools, two of which were fully developed, and a complement to improve the applicability of the method. It includes a profiling tool based on the LOM, the benchmarking indicator system, and proposes a competence map as a mechanism for continuous improvement. Additionally, a weighting system for efficiency and effectiveness was developed as a complement to the indicators matrix.
The bLO was applied in two different contexts. To test the applicability of this method, three modules on a Master Course in Construction were used. The information provided by this test was important to improve the tools, in particular the indicators system. Later, the bLO method was used as an evaluation tool for some of the outcomes of the European Project entitled “E3: Electronically Enhanced Education in Engineering”. This project aimed to develop LOs that were exchanged and evaluated among the international partners.
Finally, the paper introduces several areas for future work, aiming at improving the system and integrating it with other systems.
This paper was adapted from one originally presented and published at the EDEN CONFERENCE 2004.
After defining the essential features of an LMS appropriate for language learning courses (including, among others, the communicative/collaborative approach, the flexibility of the tools used, and the usability and interoperability with other e-learning management systems), a few blended learning courses were planned and carried out, in order to set up the experimentation phase. This had a two-fold objective: on the one hand, to test the selected tools, the content developed in learning object format (SCORM standard), and the methodological approach chosen; on the other hand, to constantly monitor the evolution of the technologies used, evaluating potential and new functionalities, in order to experiment with innovative methodologies and techniques for language teaching and learning. The gathering of feedback and relevant data concerning the practical experience is made possible thanks to the numerous tools for monitoring, tracking and evaluating both the course project management (evaluation) and the student learning process and achievements (assessment). Each course is complemented by an accurate analysis of the collected quantitative and qualitative data (tracking data, student outcomes, comments and suggestions gathered through questionnaires, etc.), which constitute an extremely valuable source of information for the improvement of forthcoming e-learning projects.
In short, the main goal of this study was to obtain useful data and establish criteria for the efficient use of new technologies in language learning that can guarantee the quality of the e-learning projects tested at the CLIRO Linguistic Centre. After proving the efficacy of the approach, it will be possible to outline internal guidelines and practical suggestions for the project management of e-learning courses that can be applied to different languages (process reuse), constantly bearing in mind the peculiarities of each language and the specific needs of each level of learning, as indicated by the Common European Framework.
A full text of this article is available in Italian in PDF format at http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media11005.pdf
Maja Pivec: "Games can be applied as a tool to foster various aspects of the life-long learning process"
Dear Maja Pivec, I am concerned about the matter of the structural design of educational games and very pleased to have the chance to ask an expert: how should the game be designed to make sure that the learner does not avoid some important educational contents by cheating?
How to avoid cheating? The game should, in the first place, be fun to play – and the interaction in the game should be more rewarding than the completion of the game itself.
Where is the guarantee that students won’t cheat? There is no guarantee. Also, in commercial games, cheat codes are available and popular. Cheat codes are included in the game to allow the developers to test and debug their code without having to play for hours to test enhancement. For example, a driving game may have a cheat code to repair damage, or a shooter may have a cheat code for unlimited ammunition. This allows the developer to test without having to be an expert at the game. These codes always find themselves posted on the Internet and are usually found by players wanting to experience the game in an easier mode.
When designing your own game, it is always a challenge to ensure that the game is linear enough to cover all aspects for learning, yet not so linear that it would restrict players’ further gameplay if they got stuck.
I can see that a video game is of great advantage to help integrate schools in the new digital era. But, for students, can you tell us in which way video games improve children's potential?
finateca (United Kingdom)
Many publications include research that details potential aspects of player computer games. For example, hand-eye coordination, spatial orientation, mental rotation, spatial visualisation (Tetris achieves these), spatial integration and mental mapping (3d maze games), strategies for dividing attention and multitasking (fps games), brain capacity improvement, problem solving, etc.
The games to train site is one of many sites where learning or training games for different topics are listed.
Dear Maja Pivec, I believe that games contribute to the creativity of learners. Do you think that creativity is important for the learning process? Could you give us some examples of these game-based learning projects? Thanks in advance.
Marta Casares (Spain)
Creativity is a basis for learning and forms many of the constructivist learning theories. Gardner, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, suggested that individuals are “creative” in specific domains. He suggested that providing students with ways to be creative allows them to find and solve problems and communicate ideas in various forms. Game-based learning is ideal for this. Some examples are described in Piloting New Ways of Learning and Education Arcade zooms in on games in the classroom.
There is a recent EU-funded project on the application of mobile phones and games for learning called mGBL – mobile Game-Based Learning.
Malcolm Gladwell, a writer at the New Yorker, said about the programme Sesame Street: “If you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.” Do you agree? Do you believe that this could also be applied to adults?
Pedro González (Spain)
I also believe that attention and focus on the topic are necessary for successful learning. However, there are other factors that influence and contribute to the learning process, e.g. arousing interest in the topic, interaction with the topic, etc., where games can be applied as a tool to foster various aspects of the life-long learning process. There are also many publications on immersive environments. Research shows that 3d games can create such an environment and that, when immersed, the player’s cognitive learning abilities are increased.
Games, play and playful interaction can successfully be introduced in all areas of (adult) learning, i.e. formal, non-formal and informal learning.
Dear Maja, thanks for answering our questions. Do you think that game-based learning helps the learning process to take place out of the classrooms as well, for example, at home? And do you believe that collaborative learning is possible in this type of learning? For instance, three children playing together with a videogame.
Octavio Giacomo (Italy)
Many multiplayer games achieve exactly this. Dungeon Siege One is a good example. Each player controls a different character and, in multiplayer mode, they must work together to complete tasks and advance levels. This promotes teamwork and fosters collaboration between children. Multiplayer online games also foster collaboration with many players participating solely for the social interaction.
Are there any examples of this kind of learning in Europe or in other countries in the world?
There are many examples of the application of games for learning in different areas.
One can decide to use “educational games” for learning e.g. Chemicus (by Heureka-Klett publisher; or TIVOLA for the US market), a puzzle-adventure game for the self-directed learning of chemistry. One can find an entire series of titles similar to Chemicus, e.g. Physicus, Hystorion, Informaticus, etc., by the same publishers.
One can also apply off-the-shelf games that cover various aspects of the learning issue, e.g.: Age of Empires for the introduction of ancient history, Jurassic Park covers the topic of dinosaurs, SimEarth or SimCity can be applied for ecology and resource management, The Sims is for social and behavioural sciences, etc., as outlined in the Edge Magazine Oct. 2004, issue 141.
There are also online games available. Several online games and case studies can be seen at the UniGame site.
I am the founder of the Kindersite project. Please could you evaluate the Kindersite within the format of game-based learning?
joelhjosephson (United Kingdom)
The SIG-GLUE quality stamp service is aimed at assessing the quality of learning games. The service started in May 2006. Individuals and companies can submit their learning games for an evaluation process. The term “learning games” is used for games that have an explicit learning purpose and can be used, adapted and adopted for supporting, improving and fostering learning processes within formal, non-formal and informal learning scenarios.
Access the web site to see more details about criteria, submission, the evaluation process and benefits of the quality stamp.
Dear Maja, I'm very interested in games for learning, in order to support constructivist learning. Do you know an interesting software tool for making games? Thank you very much.
“Gamemaker” is a good example. It has a free version and a registered version with many tutorials included.
For the more experienced, there is “torque” from garagegames. This is a commercial engine with 2d and 3d versions, as well as an educational pricing structure.
Both products are very good and produce good quality output; however, you still need to foster the idea and develop the gameplay design before you start.
I read an article that stated that game-based learning is negative because children get used to working in unreal situations (fun, games) that will not be the case when children grow up and work in a company. What do you think?
Lucie Smith (Ireland)
Despite having fun and playful interaction in games (though I personally don’t see why fun and play should exclude learning) games can cover different learning objectives and contribute to various learning outcomes that can also be applied in the professional world.
For example, when playing multiplayer games, the social aspects of these can contribute to the acquisition of numerous skills relevant to professional life, e.g. team work, communication skills, digital literacy, etc. Also, today, many digital games do provide a real-life situation. Simcity is a classic and often used to teach economics. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator is also true to life. Achieving a balance between fun, gameplay and learning is a goal that many developers have yet to achieve.
Online Educa Berlin 2006 organises a round table discussion about the purpose of games in learning, quality issues and theoretical foundations of games design and development on Friday, December 1. To read more please click here.
Call for Papers: SIG-GLUE Special Issue on Game-Based Learning - British Journal of Educational Technology. The SIG-GLUE editorial board would like to invite researchers, practitioners and game-developers interested in the use, or potential use, of games in adult educational settings to contribute to this special issue with articles reporting original research and current developments in the area of game-based learning. To read more please see the PDF on the right-hand side resource area.
Markku Markkula: "Europeans have learned to network, and the working culture is increasingly changing towards working and learning together"
The desired future cannot be invented in the traditional way. We need more innovativeness and more innovations. We, Europeans, have learned to network, and our working culture is increasingly changing towards working and learning together. In this very much needed cultural development, progress in technology is a crucial precondition. In working communities in general, and in education in particular, ICT enables totally new dimensions and new levels of quality in creating joint innovative solutions to meet the challenges we are facing. The changes needed in work culture at all levels of modern knowledge societies are still huge. Both the decision makers and e-learning practitioners need to be more open minded and committed to hard work in order to generate technological and social innovations.
Finland is one of the top countries in education and information society development. What could be done to enable other countries to benefit from Finland’s experience and example?
Too often the wheel is reinvented through countless projects. On the one hand, this is positive, as people learn. But if the decision-makers want to reach the targets of the Lisbon strategy, they have to invest much more in really large and in-depth multidisciplinary development projects. We have plenty of good experiences regarding systemic development processes. Conceptualising the results and disseminating them through effective learning and implementation processes should be emphasised, by using substantially more money on this than has so far been used.
What are the main activities of the Lifelong Learning Institute Dipoli in the area of e-learning?
TKK Dipoli has indeed been and perhaps still is a forerunner in lifelong learning and professional development. Our uniqueness still lies in linking quite successfully the latest industrial and scientific developments in the areas of foresight, innovation and productivity with the latest e-learning developments. Our special expertise is in organising knowledge creation processes with concepts, models or roadmaps, if you like, as the outcomes. We have participated in a number of quite successful European projects working on these kinds of tools for knowledge creation and learning; for example, in the Value-Scout project a powerful tool was developed to foresee emerging learning needs through a specific model designed to detect needs by analysing both strong and weak signals through a specific methodology.
In your organisation, what do you consider to be the impact of e-learning on students' networking and lifelong learning?
The learning habits of youngsters, who have used computer games and networks since their early childhood, are very different compared to those who have not had much experience in using ICT. The huge impact will be seen when the development of using ICT, which we see in the entertainment industry, is implemented in education with the same enthusiasm. This is really creating new value networks globally, which is also big business. Education is expensive, and this radical change to use ICT effectively is even more expensive. But it is most expensive to continue with the traditional teacher and lecture-centric educational model. The new mode is characterised by phrases describing learning throughout your life: “learning is fun”, “learning is based on curiosity and inquiry”, “learning is knowledge creation through collaboration and communication”, “learning means happiness”, and “learning means challenging job opportunities based on your own interest”.
Head of Unit Innovation and Transversal policies. European Commission - DG for Education and Culture
Interview: "Lifelong learning is a powerful concept, indivisible from the knowledge society"
The interviewee is one of the conference's key speakers and she tells in this interview her ideas and thoughs about European (e)learning.
Dr. Nicolas Balacheff
Kaleidoscope Scientific Manager
Interview: "There is a growing understanding of the role and needs of teachers and institutions, of the place of knowledge in the design, and of the implementation and deployment of ICT"
Kaleidoscope is a European Network of Excellence, currently linking the efforts of more than 1,000 researchers. Read the network's director's interview about the future of technology enhanced learning.
Director, Chairman, eLearning Solutions, IBM Europe, Middle-East and Africa, European eLearning Industry Group (eLIG)
Article: Competing in a “flat” world. Innovation and openness for lifelong learning
In this article the author talks about the skills needed to approach the upcoming new ways of learning and how some age groups will face an arduous road to success. Available also in other languages: de, es, fr, it , pl.
Vice-President of EDEN, President of Scienter
Article: What inhibits the implementation of innovation strategies in European lifelong learning?
In this article the authors presents some examples of missing element in the implementation of a European Innovation Strategy in the field of lifelong learning.
Article: E-learning Nordic 2006 - Uncovering the Impact of ICT on Education in the Nordic Countries
The inter-Nordic study E-learning Nordic 2006 is the first study in the Nordic countries to focus on the impact of ICT on education.
The “My favourite e-learning resource” contest received 443 participants in total. The jury had a difficult decision to make because many of the resources were of high quality. A number of different aspects were taken into account during the evaluation: contents and information, technical solutions, usability and interactivity.
The winning resource is a language training community called Shared Talk (http://www.sharedtalk.com), which was sent in by Bernard Vanderydt. He describes the resource in the following way:
This is my preferred way of brushing up my language knowledge. The concept is quite simple; it's a community of people who are willing to help each other learn a language. Members come from many countries worldwide.
According to the contest jury, Shared Talk is a resource with very extensive contents, and it is based on communication and community building. These aspects have been achieved successfully. The user interface is delightful in that it motivates users to participate and stay on the site even just to surf.
A considerable part of the resources were aimed at language learning. Apart from language learning resources, information technology and Internet courses were also well presented. Also, among the posted resources, a general interest in websites that emphasise global and European awareness, respect and awareness of diversity and citizenship could be observed.
The suggested resources showed that users tend to prefer sites that allow them to interact, for example through forums and/or chats, sharing practices and questions among themselves. For example, the Wikis and learning environments allow users to create communities. Moreover, resources that involved games or animation were favoured among the participants, also when concerning resources for adults.
Many teachers sent in their favourite pages that they use for teaching, which shows that these kinds of resources are used frequently in classrooms.
The majority of the participants showed a real interest in the contest and were very enthusiastic about it.
The best resources
Besides the winning resource, the contest received a considerable amount of valuable and useful resources. The best resources can be found here:
Notenmax – virtual music school (Germany)
Simple and fun resource that combines good technical elements, and the result is original and fun.
An excellent tool to learn mathematics, arithmetic formulas and graphical representation. Available in various languages, this is a technical and specific resource.
ENO - Environment Online (Finland)
A global virtual school for sustainable development and internationality, this currently has participants from 75 countries. Learners collect up-to-date information from their local environment to post on the website and share it globally. Material is public and free for everybody.
The resource offers several tools to learn economics. It is fun and useful, containing a lot of information (marketing, stock market, financing, etc.) in the form of innovative presentations, games, courses, puzzles, crosswords, etc.
A versatile online training portal that is well presented. It also displays news and other information.
PEGASUS Campus (France)
An online course to enter the university. Specific and interesting.
An interactive physics course for teachers, students and anyone interested in physics. It is both practical and theoretical, amusing but at the same time professional, making use of scientific terminology.
E-VHF GMDSS (Slovenia)
Content suitable for all sailors to obtain the SRC licence and to practice before going to sea. The unique on-line VHF GMDSS simulator is available free on the Internet.
People who know reasonably well school and university but have –in average- no serious knowledge or experience of what ICT can do for education, and tend to privilege the reproduction of existing national logics –sector by sector (so invalidating –defacto- the “integration” principle of the very concept of Lifelong Learning) and the beloved student mobility- that will anyhow affect a small minority of European students, most frequently already privileged from an economic and social perspective. Why virtual mobility should not be seriously considered to offer all European students a chance to have an international learning experience? And why isn’t it a structured component of Erasmus Mundus? Probably not many -at the decision making table- have a positive image of eLearning and LLL, nor see their intimate connection.
2. Everybody accepts that in a knowledge society education and lifelong learning have a key role to play in guaranteeing innovation, economic growth, social cohesion and practically all the desirable achievements of the adapted Lisbon Agenda. Now, why isn’t educational research a priority in any niche of the 7th Framework Programme, nor in most National Research Plans? Re-organising and re-thinking educational research is necessary, making it accountable to societal needs is indispensable, but these are not excuses for not paying sufficient attention and resources to a renewed, interdisciplinary and socially responsive research on learning systems innovation.
3. Accumulation and utilisation of available knowledge does not happen, in the education field, at the level of effectiveness and efficiency that one can observe in other service sectors such as health or transport. Several factors may explain, but not justify this situation: the “not invented here syndrome”, the limited effort done by “innovators” to transfer results of their experiences, the limited awareness/attention of many policy makers, the objective difficulty of implementing large scale innovation in systems that have few resources to activate change levers. Sometimes even non “user friendly” ways to promote innovation from the top policy level, disregarding the achievement of grass-roots initiatives and ignoring the bottom-up option to diffuse innovation, may play a role.
4. The culture of support to innovation is not a characterising element in European education and training systems: innovators are there, both at grass-roots and at policy making level, but innovation plans are implemented at a very slow pace, and sometimes are abandoned before they can be finally implemented. Support to innovation does not mean only vision and funding, it requires long term commitment at the top level of policy making and institutional leadership, reward to innovators, capacity to learn from mistakes, correct and fine-tune rather than abandon a plan if anything goes wrong or different leadership is installed. A too quick turn over of innovation plans –and substitution of key words- may damage innovators and the concept of innovation more than legitimate resistance to unconvincing innovation. The terms “fashionable” and “innovative” may then risk to be understood as synonyms, while innovation may need a long life-cycle and several adaptations of the originating ideas to become widespread. The case of eLearning is there to demonstrate this statement.
So, if a conclusion can be derived from these considerations, that are also inspiring the 3rd ODL Liaison Committee Policy Paper, presented this month, this is that if the culture of support to innovation does not materialise within education and training systems, we cannot expect our society to become innovative.
"The use of technological media in education is due as much or more to the goals of industry as to educational aims"
I believe that the greatest progress achieved at Spanish schools has been with regard to increased computer networking and Internet connection. The greatest advance in terms of availability is in the ratio of pupils per computer with broadband Internet connection, which has now dropped to below ten. There has also been a significant increase in something considered important for improving educational results: the number of pupils with computers available to them in the home.
The programmes launched by the Spanish public administration with the aim of bringing the information society into education seek not only to improve average access figures, but also to find a balance amongst the different Spanish regions and to increase the number of homes with Internet access amongst pupils from the less privileged classes. Another important goal is to encourage pupils’ parents to use the computer services provided by schools.
Some initiatives and approaches to eLearning have not been as effective as was hoped at first in bringing ICTs closer to society as a whole. Which ones do you feel have failed, and why?
Many policies and strategies aimed at introducing the new technologies into education have been applied in Europe since the 1980s. There has always been insufficient experimentation and research leading up to the launch of these policies, in a technological environment which is changing so rapidly that we get the feeling that both school and society are moving permanently.
The use of technological media in education is due as much or more to the goals of industry as to educational aims. The content and services most used in schools were first used in business, and in the best case were only slightly adapted.
Methodological development has been held up by the inertia characteristic of education systems, and technological advances have taken place quicker than it has been possible to include them in the curriculum. It is still a complicated affair to use the new technologies in courses preparing pupils to take university entrance examinations, in which qualification is still closely linked to traditional content.
A large proportion of teachers have welcomed all this with open arms, accepting the extra work load required in introducing the new resources and making the necessary methodological adaptations. It would not be realistic to say there has been a 100% positive response, however.
You run a public institution that provides access to online products and teaching and training initiatives to a wide community of users. What are the most important lines of action or initiatives that you have developed to ensure the integration of ICTs in education?
The broad working lines education providers follow in Spain are similar to those followed in other EU Member States: firstly, to try to keep a good balance in the use of resources for provision, communication, maintenance, teacher training, content and digital services development, research and dissemination of models and education practices. Secondly, updating and adapting curricula (goals, content, assessment systems), the teacher’s role and education spaces and times, making them as flexible and cross-cutting as possible, are indispensable measures without which no progress can be made. In close cooperation with the autonomous communities, we promote all these lines of action as part of the Spanish government’s Aula y Avanz@ (Classroom and Progress) programmes, extending the education environment beyond the school walls, particularly into the domestic arena.
How will learning be in the near future (2010)?
The process of integrating the new technologies into the classroom is still at its initial stage in most European schools. We are talking about a process of transition in which the technology is introduced firstly as tools to support tried and tested methodologies, well known to all, making this a more quantitative than qualitative change, increasing the efficacy of these methodologies and extending them. If we look at the main line of action behind eLearning 2004-2006, School Twinning, its basic goals – cooperative learning, interculturality, greater emphasis on learning other European languages, better teacher training, etc – had all been pursued before, though without the support of the new technologies. Now we have Internet, which enables instant, easy communications between European countries, and allows inter-school working groups to be formed, sharing tools and resources. In a few years’ time we will have created a huge database on which most European schools will be registered, greatly helping us to develop joint projects on any theme, in any area of knowledge.
This is a huge step forward, but we expect even more from the new technologies through the development of new methodologies created specifically to make full use of the support provided by communication technologies, helping us to progress more in areas such as training assessment, individualised training, everyone’s contribution to the task of educating our young people, ensuring they get the best preparation for life-long, autonomous learning. We expect that by 2010 all pupils will have computer access, both at school and at home, and that a huge majority of teachers and pupils will have the instrumental training necessary to use the tools available, making it possible for methodological changes to be speeded up.
Progress in the use of the new technologies for methodological innovation continues to be made more slowly than we would like, much more slowly than technological advances or the introduction of ICTs in industry, trade and leisure. The problem is that, in education, we still have to do a lot of research into how learning processes take place before we can bring the full potential of these new tools to bear. Although this seems to us to be a time of huge technological advances, we still know little about our how brains work and about the huge differences that exist between one brain and another, and how these differences affect the way we acquire different types of knowledge and learning.
eLearning and Virtual Universities
At the height of the dotcom bubble Peter Drucker predicted that “universities won’t survive … as residential institutions” (The Guardian, April 13, 2004), and others, along the same lines, foresaw that universities would become content providers and learning facilitators to for-profit producers of “learningware”.
In the late nineties, several US universities formed commercial companies alone or in collaboration with other universities, cultural institutions and providers of e-solutions. Among others, New York University invested $20m in NYU Online and Columbia University formed Fathom together with 14 universities, libraries and museums, using $40m. None of these ever launched an e-learning course. At the same time, Cornell University invested $12m in eCornell without registering any significant numbers of students. Also, the attempt by the Open University of the UK to deliver education on the US marked failed with a loss of approximately $20m.
One of the few successful e-learning providers in the USA is University of Phoenix, and its success seems to be related to a focus on a limited and specialised market in the business and health field.
At the same time, in Europe, the European Council adopted a grand scale plan called Europe. An Information Society for All (Lisbon, March 2000) with the goal of becoming ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world’ by 2010. In May the same year, the European Commission published a communication entitled e-Learning – Designing tomorrow’s education.
Parallel to these political initiatives, but without coordination from the European Commission, many national European projects for e-learning were launched, e.g. the UK e-University, the Digital University in the Netherlands, the Bavarian Virtual University, the Virtual University in Finland and the Net-University in Sweden.
Five years later, the UKeU has ceased operations. What was launched as a worldwide 21st century successor of the Open University never attracted financial support from commercial partners and recruited only 900 students at a time when 5000 were expected. £60m of public money was spent on the operation.
The Dutch Digital University - a consortium of universities in the Netherlands together with some it-companies and publishers - is still in operation, but the volume is in no way significant, and partners are considering withdrawing.
The Finnish Virtual University and the Swedish Net-University – both government-run initiatives - have increased their amount of online courses, trying to recruit students from other institutions and regions in the country, but the expected inter-institutional collaboration is still missing.
At the Bavarian Virtual University, also a government initiative, the amount of courses offered as e-learning and available for students from all institutions in Bavaria has been successfully achieved, but with no side effects along the lines of improved inter-institutional collaboration.
The most important lesson learned from these European virtual university and e-learning experiences is that none of the initiatives have reached a level of sustainability – they will not survive if government support is withdrawn.
Considerations regarding eLearning development
In his presentation at the eLearning Conference in Brussels in May 2005, Fabrizio Cardinali from Giunti Interactive Labs, Italy, characterised e-Learning the development in the late nineties as ‘the big wave of e-learning’, and the development at the start this century as ‘the Tsunami of e-learning’.
Nevertheless, in a report published as early as 2001, the OECD spotted the difficulties of implementing e-learning: "In spite of having spent US$ 16 billion in 1999 in OECD countries on ICT, there is (…) no clear evidence that ICT investments made by the public sector have resulted in improved performance of teachers and/or learners, nor that it has improved the quality and access to educational resources on the scale predicted.” (E-Learning. The Partnership Challenge, 2001, p. 24).
Recently, another OECD report entitled E-learning in Tertiary Education. Where do we stand?, published in 2005, has elaborated on the same problem:
“e-learning has not really revolutionized learning and teaching to date. Far-reaching, novel ways of teaching and learning, facilitated by ICT, remain nascent or still to be invented. (…) The adoption of learning management systems (LMS) (…) appears to be one of the prominent features of e-learning development in the tertiary education worldwide. (…) The current immaturity of online learning is demonstrated by low adoption of content management systems (…). ICT has penetrated tertiary education, but has had more impact on administrative services (e.g. admissions, registration, fee payment, purchasing) than on the pedagogic fundamentals of the classroom.” (p. 14-15)
Although the reports express scepticism regarding the integration of ICT in tertiary teaching and learning, they also stress a general confidence in the use of educational technology. The first one gives an analysis of the situation that points to technology fixation and lack of cultural specificities as the main cause for the absence of success in e-learning:
“Technology alone does not deliver educational success. It only becomes valuable in education if learners and teachers can do something useful with it. (…) educational content and e-learning services (…) need to be tailored to local needs and cultures." (E-Learning. The Partnership Challenge, 2001, p. 24-25).
In the British debate following the collapse of the UKeU in 2004, the national funding council explained with a certain degree of bitterness that the lack of interest in e-learning was caused by universities focusing on ‘blended’ learning. But, already a year earlier, at the opening of the Learntec Forum in Karlsruhe on February 4, 2003, Commissioner Reding promoted blended learning as the future for e-learning:
“Modern e-learning solutions now recognise the importance of learning as a social process and offer possibilities for collaboration with other learners, for interaction with the learning content and for guidance from teachers, trainers and tutors. (…) Teachers and trainers once more play a central role, using virtual and traditional face-to-face interaction with their students in a “blended” approach. An approach in which they are no longer seen simply as consumers of pre-determined e-learning content, but as editors, authors and contributors to a contextualised learning scenario”.
This statement by Mrs Reding is not to be read as a total decline of e-leaning or online education, but as recognition of the need for teacher-student interaction and shared responsibility in the learning process. Neither should the statement be taken as an indication of lost confidence in ICT as the means by which to realise the vision for the Knowledge Society by the Commission.
Taken together, the OECD reports, the VET-report and Mrs Reding’s statement indicate that the success of e-learning depends on pedagogical development and the closer integration of technology within students’ previous learning experiences.
Attempts to dig deeper into the problems of eLearning
Parallel to the experiments with virtual universities over the last decade, many universities, particularly open universities, have implemented e-learning solutions in their programmes, often with a touch of the blended approach. Let me use the Open University of the UK as an example.
The success of the UKOU has often been seen as a direct consequence of its well-prepared educational resources and the conscious use of educational technology in a speed adapted to students’ needs. The point I want to make is that this interpretation overlooks an essential feature in the UKOU concept: the integration of learning activities in the resources and the tutorials – and the ability to make these activities culturally relevant. The success of the UKOU is related to the implementation of a social constructivist approach to learning. They shifted the concept of learning from knowledge acquisition to knowledge construction.
The difficulties faced by many of the e-learning and online learning initiatives mentioned above have been caused by viewing learning, and especially e-learning, as a process of knowledge transfer instead of knowledge construction - too much emphasis has been placed on the concept of stand-alone courses and resource-based learning. This approach has been supported, on the one hand by a relative success of short, practice-orientated just-in-time and just-in-place courses available on the Internet or on CD-ROM and, on the other hand, by a focus on learning objects – reusable learning resources - as a possible means of reducing costs in education.
My point is not to diminish the achievements of the learning object concept, but to question the concept of learning, which in many cases is incorporated through instructional design theory. “Instructional design is based on the empiric assumption that behaviour is predictable, and that educational design, therefore, can occur in isolation from educational execution.” (Koper, 2000 p.14), but: “(…) a lot of learning does not come from knowledge resources at all, but stems from the activities of learners solving problems, interacting with real devices, interacting in their social and work situation. (…) it is the activities of the learners in the learning environment which are accountable for the learning.” (Koper, 2001 p.3).
Learning resources (learning objects) broadly taken only become active during the learning process when the learner is doing something useful with them. The creation of relevant learning activities becomes essential. Successful learning activities mobilise the capacities (present knowledge, cultural heritage, etc.) of learners and establish a dialogue with the new learning resource as the basis for learning. Hereby, teachers and tutors are reinstalled in a position as responsible for organising the learning process. They are choosing relevant learning resources and creating learning activities needed in order to reach defined educational objectives.
Technologies to enhance learning as e-learning should augment these realities of the learning process – interaction, communication, collaboration and construction; in order to be successful and meet expectations, the knowledge society has to offer ICT-based learning in the future.References
Bang, J.(2005): eBOLOGNA – Creating a European Learning Space. A Step Towards the Knowlegde Society, IN: UNESCO between Two Phases of the World Summit on the Information Society, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 17-19 May, 2005, Moscow 2005, p. 137-143 (ISBN 5-901907-14-0)
Bang, J. & Dalsgaard, C. (2006): Rethinking e-learning. Shifting the focus to learning activities, In: O Murchú, D. & Sorensen, E(eds.)., Enhancing Learning Through Technology, Idea Group, Inc, 2006 (in print)
E-learning:The Partnership Challenge. (2001) OECD. (Online), March 1, 2005.
E-learning in Tertiary Education. Where do we stand? (2005) OECD
Koper, R. (2000). From change to renewal: Educational technology foundations of electronic environments. (Online), February 23, 2004.
Koper, R (2001).: Modeling units of study from az pedagogical perspektive. The pedagogical meta-model behind EML, Educational Thechnology Expertice Centre, Open University of the Netherlands, 2001. Online.
Reding, V. (2003). Is e-learning going mainstream? Opening of the Learntec Forum, Karlsruhe, 4 February 2003. (Online), September 14, 2003.
Dossiers of elearningeuropa.info - Higher education: Virtual universities and ICT in higher education in Europe
As the UNESCO Virtual University states, “By using ICT the university can provide increased flexibility to students while reaching students beyond the usual catchment area. However, institutions need to develop and apply appropriate policies, and plan and manage effectively for a new mode of teaching and learning”.
The editorial board of Elearningeuropa.info has compiled some articles related to this subject and published earlier on the portal. Here you can find articles about the implementation of e-learning in higher education in different European countries.
Superior education / models of education
The study entitled “Virtual Models of European Universities”, carried out in 2002-2003 by the Danish consultancy firm Rambøll Management for the European Commission and the DG of Education and Culture, analyses the current and potential future use of ICT by European universities for educational and organisational purposes. The study points out, for example, different clusters according to the use of ICT in the organisational and education setting: front-runner universities, cooperating universities, self-sufficient universities, and sceptical universities. To read an abstract of the study, please click here: en de es fr it
Medical sociology / Cambridge (UK)
Tom Davies, from the Public Health and Primary Care Department at Cambridge University, writes on how he got started with e-learning and how it has turned out in his organisation. Turning lectures on medical sociology into online courses raised questions among teachers and students. Read the whole article, “Some Personal Thoughts from a 'Traditional' Academic Moving Towards e-Learning” (en). Original publication date: 10 March 2003.
Needs and competences / Ireland
Jim Devine writes about the challenges the higher education system faces when adapting to the information society. He uses Ireland’s higher education system as an example, showing its trends and the state of play. Read the whole article, “Major Challenges Facing the Higher Education System in the ICT Era” (en). Original publication date: 30 April 2005.
Government initiatives/ Germany
Bernd Kleimann and Klaus Wannemacher describe how e-learning has been implemented in German universities. The article summarises the main funding strategies, national and regional support programmes, and detected barriers regarding implementation. Read the whole article, “e-Learning at German Universities: from Project Development to Sustainable Implementation” (en). Original publication date: 5 September 2005.
Government initiatives / Finland
21 universities in Finland, promoted by the Finnish Ministry of Education strategic plan on information for education and research (2000-2004), created the Finnish Virtual University (FVU). This entity coordinates the operations, but most of the activities of the FVU either take place in the universities or are their joint projects. Read the whole article, “Finnish Virtual University: An Example of the Use of ICT to the Full in Education” en es. Original publication date: 28 June 2005.
Independent initiatives / Poland
Wojciech Zielinski, from the Polish Virtual University, describes how Poland has started to implement e-learning in higher education with determination. Introducing e-learning services in Poland has so far been done almost without state support, and it started with the definition of the e-learning concept itself. Read the whole article, “e-Learning in Poland: experiences from higher education” (en). Original publication date: 6 June 2005.