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.
Thousands of studies carried out since the 1970s back up this affirmation. From Flanders and Landsheere to Bellack, studies focusing on what was called “teacher-pupil interaction analysis” the results have consistently shown that, in the classroom, teachers speak more than the pupils, that they ask more questions and that the role assigned to pupils is that of following the teacher’s verbal discourse as he or she discusses the subject at hand. In a 1996 study, for instance, Shuell found that effective teachers are those that, amongst other things, give pupils time to think about their answers to questions, structure their teaching well to ensure that pupils learned, are redundant in their explanations, answer pupils questions, etc.
Throughout my experience as teacher and researcher, I have had occasion to corroborate these findings. However, over the last eight years my interest has lain in studying teaching and learning processes in virtual training environments. With my team, I direct the e-Learning Masters and Expert course at the University of Seville (http://prometeo.us.es/master), as well as engaging in other activities concerned with harnessing the potential that e-learning offers for enhancing training (see the Hércules website: http://prometeo.us.es).
The question we have been asking in our recent work is: does the same thing happen in virtual learning environments as occurs in face-to-face education? Are we reproducing the same old traditional patterns as regards organising and managing discourse and interaction in the new learning environments? To answer these questions, we have carried out a considerable number of studies in recent years, though there is not sufficient space here to list them all. Interested readers are directed to another article we have published (Marcelo and Perera, 2004).
Analysis of asynchronous interaction in e-learning
The study we present is based on analysis of the messages sent to the discussion forums of ten e-learning courses we have organised at the University of Seville. All our e-learning courses are developed through the LMS WebCT platform, which enables us to set up such forums as part of our e-learning courses. A total of 217 students have taken part in these courses, which have involved 29 tutors.
A total of 2,037 messages were sent to the forums linked to the 10 courses, distributed as in the Figure above. Analysis of this Figure shows, firstly, that teachers do not speak more than their pupils in e-learning courses. On the contrary, the percentage of pupil-generated messages is considerably higher than that generated by teachers: 66% of messages were sent by pupils compared to 34% sent by tutors.
To analyse these messages, we drew up a system of categories based on the model developed by Garrison and Anderson (2003), which establishes three main elements or dimensions in analysing online interaction: Social, Cognitive and Teaching Presence. Based on these three dimensions and some of the subcategories these authors established, we proceeded to generate our own categorisation system. This system of categories was developed semi-inductively: we created a first system based on the model established by Garrison and Anderson (2003); we generated the subcategories these authors used in their research; we selected two of our forums to initially apply the first system of categories; our research team of three codified each of the three forums independently (the coding unit chosen was the complete message); the team of codifiers, who had carried out the task of coding independently met to pool and compare the codings they had made; encountering new situations that could not be included in any of the initial categories, we established a new category; we then proceeded to codify all the messages.
As we have mentioned, the Social Dimension includes everything both pupils and teachers say that helps to create a group dynamic, promoting social relations, expressing emotions and enabling the group of pupils to affirm itself as such.
Within the Social Dimension, we observe references that might be classified as concerning cohesion. This category includes interventions in which the group identity appears in expressions such as: us/you, the group, companions, etc. It also includes such interventions as introductions, greetings, welcomes, goodbyes, etc, that is to say, formalities used in communication by groups. We can find three types of intervention in this category: those in which the speaker shows their identification with the group by such expressions as “Us”, “You”, “The Group”, “Companions”, etc; interventions in which the speaker uses communication formalities to introduce, greet and welcome; and those in which the speaker voices queries and/or proposals to the group as a whole in relation to subjects which may or may not be related to the course.
Discussion forums are not only spaces for social encounters. They also play an important role by providing a space in which tutors and pupils can interact with the purpose of learning. And as a space of encounter in the learning process in virtual forums, as in face-to-face classes, teachers and pupils interact, ask questions, put forward ideas, answer questions, etc. For this reason, a dimension is needed in order to analyse such processes from the educational point of view.
As our basis for studying the pedagogical moves or acts of forum participants, we took Bellack’s work (cited in Marcelo, 1995), which focused on analysing interactions between teachers and pupils in four different types of teaching moves: Structuring, Soliciting, Responding and Reacting. Each of these moves in discourse are defined in the categorisation system and are defined as follows:
- The objective of Structuring moves is to initiate interaction, to launch a new subject. These are moves that can be made either by teachers or pupils.
- Soliciting or questioning moves are interventions by tutors or pupils requesting information and in the expectation of intervention by another person.
- Responding moves are produced as a consequence of an interrogative that has been raised.
- Reacting moves are interventions concerning modifications or evaluations of interventions made earlier, clarifying, summarising or expanding upon earlier statements.
We stress particularly the four moves described above because they are, as we can see in the Figure, those that are most repeated. We can also observe that tutors are those that make the most interventions in the Structuring move category, though the number of initiating moves started by pupils is no lower. We can also see that pupils ask the most questions, though it is interesting to note that there is a similar number of answers to questions by tutors and pupils. This suggests that pupils also play a role as providers of knowledge which the make available to the other pupils on the course.
With all the brevity that an article of this type calls for, we have attempted to present data on a line of research that is generating information and knowledge about how teacher-pupil interaction processes take place in virtual learning spaces. This information shows that, unlike what occurs in face-to-face training, in e-learning teachers speak and intervene less than their pupils; that processes aimed at directing and structuring discourse generally, though not exclusively, emanate from teachers; that pupils respond to as many questions as teachers, and that they do not wait for permission to intervene. All this enables us to state that virtual learning spaces do provide new vision and possibilities to develop more innovative learning processes that are more in consonance with the way adults learn. This is a subject that we develop extensively in our recent e-book (Marcelo, 2006): as long as we arm ourselves with the minimum sensitivity required to make full use of this new opportunity to generate a true learning environment, then e-learning can offer us the opportunity to usefully transform traditional teaching and training practices.References
- Garrison, D. & Anderson, T. (2003). E-learning in the 21 Century. A framework for research and practice. London, Routledge.
- Marcelo, C. (1995). Desarrollo Profesional e Iniciación a la Enseñanza. Barcelona: PPU.
- Marcelo, C., et al. (2002). E-learning-Teleformación. Diseño, desarrollo y evaluación de la formación a través de Internet. Barcelona: Gestión 2000.
- Marcelo, C. y Perera, V. (2004). Aprender con otros en la red. El análisis de los foros de debate como espacio de comunicación asincrónica. Bordón Vo. 56, Nos. 3 y 4, pp. 533-558.
- Marcelo, C. (2006). (Coord.). Prácticas de e-learning, Barcelona, Octaedro.
- Shuel, T. (1996). Teaching and learning in a classroom context, en D. Berliner and R. Calfee (Eds.) Handbook of Educational Psychology, Macmillan, New York, pp. 726-764.
First of its kind
ICT has been introduced into the Nordic schools during the last 10-20 years. While many studies have analysed how and how often ICT is used in schools, hardly any studies have taken this analysis to the next level: What is the impact of ICT?
The inter-Nordic study E-learning Nordic 2006 focuses on the impact of ICT on education within three key areas:
- Pupil performance
- Teaching and learning processes
- Knowledge-sharing, communication and home-school co-operation.
ICT has a positive impact on the schools’ overall target
E-learning Nordic 2006 shows that ICT has a positive impact on the schools’ overall target – improving the pupils’ learning. However, the study also shows that the full potential of ICT is not being fully realized in many schools. Teachers are mostly focused on using ICT to support the subject content. Still, a positive impact of ICT on teaching is also seen on pupil engagement, differentiation, creativity and less waste of time. The study also shows that the preconditions for using ICT for knowledge sharing, communication and school-home co-operation are at hand, and ICT is indeed being used for this in many schools. However the positive impact of this is as yet only moderate.
Real life example: At Oslo Montessori Skole (a primary school in Norway) it is assessed that ICT specifically has an impact on pupils with special needs in the area of writing and reading. It is the school’s experience that ICT has been a valuable tool to support the concentration and motivation among this group of pupils.
Impact of ICT on Pupil Performance
The teachers assess that the impact of ICT is strongest on the pupils’ subject-related performance. However, a positive impact can also be seen on learning basic skills such as reading and writing. 60% of the teachers reported that they experience a moderate or high degree of positive impact of ICT on the pupils’ writing skills.
Also, teachers experience that ICT support differentiation both challenging the academically strong pupils in new ways or supporting the academically weak pupils so that they can more easily participate on equal terms with other pupils. Many teachers find that it is easier to differentiate their teaching with ICT than without.
Real life example: At Mörbyskolan (a primary school in Sweden) the pupils really like that they can manage their own learning to a much greater degree when using ICT. From the point of view of the teachers’ at Mörbyskolan, the computer is not seen as replacing the teacher, but supporting the pupils in new ways to be able, to a larger extent, to work in their own way.
Impact of ICT on Teaching and Learning Processes
Results from E-learning Nordic 2006 show that ICT generally has a positive impact on the teaching and learning situation. However, some people expected that ICT could in some ways revolutionise the teaching and learning processes at school, and compared with this view, the impact must be seen as more limited. ICT does not revolutionize teaching methods. The teachers are mostly focused on using ICT to support the subject content. However, the impact of integrating ICT in teaching can be measured in pupil engagement, differentiation and creativity.
It has been stated in the public debate – in for example Denmark – that a barrier to the integration of ICT has been that too much teaching time is wasted. The results of the study cannot support this argument, since the great majority of teachers do not experience that more teaching time is wasted with the integration of ICT.
Real life example: Oulun Lyseon Lukio (a secondary school in Finland), is a school with an advanced use of ICT. The teachers at the school emphasise, however the importance of that the focus remains on the subject of teaching itself. The choice to use ICT tools in education must be based on a sound analysis of whether the use actually can bring another dimension to the learning process.
Impact of ICT on Knowledge Sharing, Communication and school-home co-operation
E-learning Nordic 2006 shows that the use of ICT as an organizational tool has not yet fully matured. The preconditions for using ICT for knowledge-sharing, communication and school-home co-operation are at hand, and many schools, teachers, pupils and parents use the ICT infrastructure for informational and collaborative purposes. However, in spite of massive ICT-based communication within the teaching staff at many schools, the positive impact on co-operation and knowledge sharing is as yet only moderate.
Real life example: At Greve Gymnasium (a secondary school in Denmark), the headmaster finds that knowledge-sharing is not necessarily easier with ICT, but as the complexity of the school organisation and the management of daily activities increases, ICT is the only way to handle the intensified complexity.
The study shows that the potential of ICT is not being fully realized at all schools. To address this problem E-learning Nordic 2006 offers a number of recommendations for the future. A special key concern is the need for more focus on organizational implementation of ICT. If the potential impact of ICT in Nordic schools is to be further realised, school owners and management need to be more professional in their organisational implementation of ICT. Substantial investments in ICT have been made at both regional and local level, but often with no clear criteria for success and no structured monitoring of the benefits. At many schools, the situation can be compared to buying 10 new laptops and not un-wrapping them. For example, during the last few years a number of schools have invested in Learning Management Systems (LMS) with the ambition of improving education and knowledge-sharing. However, often the investments have not been accompanied by use of the new systems. Return on investment from ICT investments and ICT projects require a commitment to organisational implementation on the part of the school management. They must be visionary enough to initiate and continuously support the use of ICT as a strategic tool for developing the general ambitions of the school.
The E-learning Nordic 2006 study has been designed and launched as a partnership between the Finnish National Board of Education, the Swedish National Agency for School Improvement, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, the Danish Ministry of Education, and Ramboll Management.
Data collection in the study was based on an internet-based survey conducted among 224 schools in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark as well as 12 on-site school visits. More than 8000 persons participated in the survey. Respondents were pupils in the 5th and 8th grades in primary school and the 11th grade in secondary school, teachers in these grades, the pupils parents, as well as the headmasters at the participating schools.
Studying impact is methodologically difficult. The method chosen was to ask different key participants in Nordic schools about their personal experiences using ICT and their assessment of the impact of ICT. This methodology does not necessarily prove a direct link between the use of ICT and learning impact, but it uncovers the impact as it is perceived by the headmasters, teachers, pupils and the pupils’ parents.
- Ella Kiesa from the Finnish National Board of Education,
- Peter Karlberg from the Swedish National Agency for School Improvement,
- Øystein Johannesen from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research,
- Lilla Voss from the Danish Ministry of Education, and
- Sanya Pedersen at Ramboll Management.
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.
In the e-learning business in Finland, there are around 160-170 companies that provide elearning solutions. The total turnover was around 140 million euros and it employed nearly 2000 people in 2003. This does not however reflect the digital learning solution markets as a whole, since the figures of the companies providing only partly elearning solutions, universities and other public institutions are not included. The companies are mainly small.
A part of the companies export and take part in international development projects.
The e-learning markets are mainly between companies and institutions. The business of institutions is developed with the help of digital medias. Big consumer markets are still to come, since they require for example proper distribution chains and changes in the buying behaviour of education.
Typical services in e-learning business sector are personnel, product, customer, partner, distributor and change management training. The benefits of these services are pace, savings in costs and time, the unique context and quality and possibility to multicentralized exchange of expertise and interactive discussion.
According to the latest barometer of Federation of The Finnish Information Industries (8/05) there is an upswing in ICT business and nearly half of the companies expect business to grow in the future. According to this study the employment has continued well and new employees have been hired.
The expectations for the autumn are positive and personnel will be recruited even more.
E-learning in Finnish schools
More and more education which include e-learning is given in Finland.
Upper secondary school can be passed entirely by studying in the internet and in many comprehensive schools e-learning ensures the possibility to study also rare subjects. Different kinds of networks between schools enable producing the contents.
The purpose of the basic education is that the teacher utilises information and communications technologies in his work and is able to guide students to reach the basic level in information and communications technology. This means practical skills in work, skills in data systems, co-operation and interactive skills and understanding data security and ethical issues.
The projects of the Post-comprehensive school education and adult education have created dozens of good development networks. Virtual schools have been networked both regionally and nationally. In the project networks there have been developed solutions for e-learning, searched answers to problems caused by new studying methods and produced services. The technical solutions and infrastructure of the e-learning are in quite good condition except that the number of computers in upper secondary level schools needs to be increased. The context produced in the networks could be utilised more efficiently. The self provided teaching is found cheaper than one bought from the network.
The present context of teachers´ education is more teaching of the pedagogic models and developing teaching methods, not that much teaching of the software anymore.
There is also a lot of self studying material available for education. Education is given to wider group of people, which means all who will need e-learning in their work. In Finland many schools offer studies which lead to graduation including e-learning. Häme Polytechnic launched this autumn as a first institution offers fully virtual education for teachers.
Experts of e-learning are being trained in almost all units offering supportive education such as eOppimaisteri by the University of Joensuu, e-skills by Häme Polytechnic and Ota-e by the Helsinki University of Technology.
Active research of eLearning
There are 52 higher education institutions including 21 universities and 31 polytechnics in Finland. In all of them there are e-learning related development projects. Universities and polytechnics have both built a virtual consortium, which offer virtual studies for the students, but also a lot of information about developing virtual teaching, work of quality and research. Many fields of business are offering possibilities to study and graduate fully or at least partially virtually.
The research focuses on e-learning including media reading, multicultural phenomena, competences of teachers, usability of learning objects, usage of simulations in teaching, controlling practises of smart mobile device, usability of teaching technologies, using common educational material and management of e-learning. The studies result in thesis, articles, conference performances and also international conferences.
The studies have generated many in national and international contacts and there are several international co-operative projects going on.
For example in the University of Helsinki, which is the largest university in Finland, educational environments were used only about 200 students and teachers in 2000. In October 2005 there were around 17000 users. At the same time the supply of educational contexts have grown from less than 200 to 1200.
There is still lack of good contents all the time. Therefore, University of Helsinki is taking part for example in EU eContent programme in EURES project, which aims at creating European multi lingual teaching portal, which is a unique way of producing and delivering materials.
This could be the future
E-learning has become a part of everyday life whereas the meaning of technology has moved backwards. E-learning is one developed procedures in supporting learning and it is available for everyone. The equipment are easily available, they can and will be used creatively and when needed.
Technical environments and equipment belong automatically to the different processes. The electronic web will connect actors, functions and fields of business tightly and in real time.
Tailor-made teaching has increased and modular type learning objects based on individuality or learning trays are everyday life. Increased supply of educational material and connectibility prevent also withdrawal.
E-learning offers a totally new learning culture. It requires breaking down the previous role models, giving up from being tied in place and time and absorbing new models of interactivity. The change should be based on competence of an individual and flexible practises should be offered for the development of individuals.
The key for professional growth is not individual skills but collective skills that offer flexible procedures for individual development. Common data building is power. Organisations focus on right targeting of resources, which includes directing, control of time and priorising issues.
Motivating, good arguments and encouragement and support will ease up the change.
The basis for good reaction for change in organisation is open flow of information and transparency of actions.
The business in the e-learning field will be segmented and focused. E-learning products and services will be integrated more tightly in developing competence in companies in general. Cost efficient and risk free solutions will be underlined in solutions for customers. The market will grow at least the following five years. The business will become global. Alongside the globalisation, companies will operate on genuinely global markets in the far networked global economy. In the pressure of efficiency, the companies are highly specialized and most of their actions are outsourced, but on the other hand, new products and services enabled by technology and networked economy and new concepts of business will give companies chance to find their way to the new markets.
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre (NGO) promotes the use of eLearning and digital education solutions in Finnish companies and organisations. The purpose is to develop and increase the skills and knowledge of eLearning in education, teaching and business operations.
The Association is a national meeting point, providing networking links. It helps to create contacts to both, companies, organisations and individuals. The Association co-operates with the best experts and provides up-to-date information about research, development, trends and experiences of eLearning.
The Association works together with several companies, polytechnics, universities and training institutions. It is also a networking organisation for the numerous Finnish eLearning projects and regional clusters.
We provide contact information for international organisations and experts interested in co-operating with Finnish eLearning experts, organisations and projects.
The Association of Finnish eLearning Centre
Tel +358 3 651 5255
Fax: +358 3 621 5200
- Tietoalojen liitto: Suhdannekyselyn tulokset / Elokuu 2005
- Lith P. Digitaalisen median toimialaselvitys 2005, Digitaalisen median, sisältötuotannon ja oppimispalvelujen osaamiskeskuksen julkaisusarja
Project learning belongs to alternative teaching forms, which are in connection with the application of Frame learning program for primary education appearing in the actual school practice more and more often. One of the main advantages of project learning is represented by interconnecting of subject links among subjects a particular project corresponds with. The pupils themselves better remember the subject matter which fits in the complex, they connect knowledge of more subjects, they are able to use new acquired experience in practice, their relationship to the co-investigators is enhanced, etc. In the framework of project learning the so-called "blended learning" is used very often. It is a term indicating a so-called "blended education", i.e. a combination of full-time learning supported by ICT.
Undoubtedly, most of you have worked with blended learning already, without actually realizing it. A combination of full-time learning and e-learning complements is used at small, middle-sized (SME) as well as big firms, schools and other state institutions.
Most frequently, a blend (blending) takes place in our lessons when we work with a CD-ROM containing an educational content. For example, when I want to find some information quickly. However, how to start with blended learning?
An ideal start is realizing what I can do, what kind of information I am working with and if I am an educator I need to realize what and how I want to teach my students. The next important stage is to realize the individual important aspects of blended learning and to answer the most important questions. In fact, it is necessary to solve the following scheme for your needs.
DECISIVE COMPONENTS OF BLENDED LEARNING (koláč)
(F. Douglis, ETD San Diego State University)
If we have substantiated the individual components of blended learning we can try its actual realization - e.g. in the environment of primary schools with the use of project learning.
An example of an interesting project using blended learning, project method and critical thinking is the "Flying over Europe” project (“Letem světem po Evropě") done by Veronika Krejčí, Trávník Primary School, Přerov). This project, which is realized at the 5th grade of Primary school, is focused on the basic characteristics of selected countries in Europe.
I. Motivation of the project
The “Flying across Europe” project came from the presumption that the pupils of 5th grade are independent and able to do critical work with information, individually create notes and work with note apparatus. That is why they will be able to work up their own projects focused on selected European states, which they already have some basic information about. The teacher therefore gave the pupils about a month’s time for their individual preparation and processing the topics (they worked in pairs) while the realization of the project itself, which means the responsibility for the success of the project, too, was cared for by the pupils. Filming the „papers“ on a digital camera also motivated the pupils.
II. Aids, tools for presentation and tools for searching information
The pupils used textbooks, atlases, books and other information publications, which were in the public library to look up information. The Internet was also an important tool, which they used especially for full-text searching of information (which they continued to work with later). At the presentation the pupils used maps, pictures and photographs, music samples, slides, tasting of food, etc. Among other tools there was a big folding map of Europe (the individual states can be separated and you can work with them further), pelmanisms of the capitals, states and flags, flags that can be pinned to the map of Europe. The pupils themselves took part in making the map, too. They were learning to put the map on the contour plan. Now they are able to lay the states as a blind map.
III. Project realization
In the initial preparation part the pupils were individually searching for information according to the teacher’s instructions. They were using the public library to obtain information about European countries, they were working actively with the Internet. At the work with sources of information it was necessary to teach the pupils to separate the essential and inessential information. The pupils were learning to process excerpts from exercise books, other books and Internet resources and at the same time every text went through a critical correction. For example, texts from the Internet, which were a few pages long, were abbreviated and maximally simplified in such a way that they would contain the most important information. The pupils then were obtaining other information from their parents, relatives and acquaintances who supported the projects. The pupils were working in pairs (cooperation), sorting out and ranging information and making their own reports. They knew the structure of the individual topics from the previous lessons – they made their own outline for the presentation of the most essential information and at the same time they knew from their teachers what to focus on. The Internet provided a great advantage to the pupils, especially its full-text search. The activity of the pupils was supported by their parents because at searching of the information the pupils were actively working with the computer and they did not limit their activity on playing computer games only, so the cooperation of the pupils and parents deepened. The relationships deepened also when the pupils and their parents prepared spaghetti as a typical Italian food. Then the whole class had the opportunity to taste it.
IV. The project outcomes
The pupils prepared presentations about each country, which were 15 to 45 minutes long. The presentations were enriched in picture material (photographs, but also pictures which they drew themselves), sound recordings, slide shows and so on.
During the presentation the presenting pair of pupils controlled and lead the whole class which worked together with them. The realized project contained basic characteristic information on the countries, structured according to the teacher’s recommendation. In addition to the basic information they also contained some characteristic features of the cultures of the particular country, e.g. the national meal, anthem, specific music or some cultural phenomenon (e.g. Korida, famous personalities, traditions, etc.) The pupils also presented whether the particular country is a part of the EU, if they have accepted the EURO as their currency, etc.
Every realized presentation of the project had to motivate the other pupils, provide some feedback and keep the attention of the other listeners. That means that there was interaction in the lessons. The pupils got the assigned tasks (calculate, find in the map, crosswords, tests, looking for the meanings of the words, e.g. Slovak – Czech, Polish – Czech), etc.). The speakers guaranteed fulfilling the tasks. The outlet of the project is an archive of a big amount of picture, textual, music and digital materials, which will be used further. Today, a multimedia CD-ROM is being prepared which will sum up the most important parts of the project and will contain the video recordings of the project, too.
The project was recorded by a digital video camera, i.e. it was digitally archived. The recordings of the project were used in the prepared CD-ROM and also presented to the pupils at the end of the whole project.
V. Project and RVPPZV
In the framework on the project, interconnecting of the subject links of the integrated subject of National history and geography with the other subjects, especially Czech language, music education, art, mathematics, etc. took place. The children often practised their presentations outside the lessons, which is what RVP is counting with, too – some days will be focused on project exclusively.
The realized project supports healthy self-confidence and ambitions of the pupils, develops the pupils´ cooperation and independence. It correlates also with the outlets of the Framework educational programme for primary education (both in the areas of key competencies and the cross-sectional topics) -work with information technologies, critical thinking, education of Europeanism, environmental education, etc.
Where to find a project: http://cesky-jazyk.upol.cz/evropa/
Some pictures by children
Douglis, F. Blended Learning: Choosing the Right Blend. Online: http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/articles/blendlearning/index.htm
In September 2003, the Directorate General Education and Culture of the European Commission selected Unisys and its partner EuroPACE to lead a strategic study on e-learning in continuing vocational training, particularly at the workplace, with focus on Small and Medium Enterprises. A survey was launched to get a direct feedback from European SMEs, assessing with them the opportunities e-learning could bring as well as the barriers they encountered for and during implementation.
According to the Surveys’ results, while most corporate companies have integrated e-learning in their training portfolio, SMEs are lagging behind. This article summarizes the major needs identified affecting SMEs. The list of needs is also a catalogue of opportunities for e-Learning providers, and a list of aspects to be identified and improved for SME managers.
SMEs devote little time to the learning activity: they are often guided by the daily pressure of the business, and a need for training will only be identified when a problem arises: therefore, SMEs will look for a quick fix, allowing to proceed with the business: they need just in time, bite-sized, to the point learning.
SMEs have specific constraints: a same person has several responsibilities, most workers have little time and will look for only what they need, they will need it as soon as possible and very specific to their needs. No standard training will match 100% of the needs of individuals from SMEs.
Most of the learning in an SME is informal, i.e. it often takes place on the job, through a “sharing of knowledge” rather than in a “training”. When confronted with a need, the SME worker will usually contact his network of reference people whom he trusts. He will look for an expert in the subject matter who will answer his specific questions.
Most SMEs do not have a training responsible, nor a Human Resource Department aligning the skills of the employees to the strategic objectives of the enterprise. SMEs are often not aware of the development needs of their employees. Before SME owners can talk of development needs, they might need help to identify where they want to be, and where they are today.
e-Learning providers that meet some success will usually provide services to identify the needs at the level of the company and of the individual and explore with them the different learning options that are available on the market. This first step in the learning process usually takes place in a 2-hours face-to-face meeting: the proximity of the service provider and his good understanding of the local language are a must to support the definition of the needs.
Guidance in the Learning Offer
Once the skills development needs have been identified, the potential learning solutions must be analysed and a training scenario has to be set up. The existing e-learning offer is perceived as abundant, with little information on its adequacy and effectiveness. SMEs want support to help them find what learning opportunity will best match their business and development needs.
Quick Assessment Tools
One of the perceived advantages of e-learning is the steadiness of its quality: it will be the same wherever it is delivered, independently of the mood of the instructor or the time he had to prepare his course. Yet, determining the quality of an e-learning course is one of the difficulties. Books are perceived as easier to assess: you can open a book, have a quick look through it and decide on the value of its contents. How can an SME owner make a quick assessment of an e-learning course? How can he evaluate the depth in which subjects are handled, the adequacy for his own environment?
Easy access to figures and benchmarking information, quick assessment tools, as well as clear standards would provide SMEs with objective decision criteria.
SMEs are not well aware of what e-learning is. They will not be interested in e-learning as such, as it is only one of the means to deliver knowledge. They need to understand what the development of the skills of their workers could bring to them and where e-learning fits in the picture.
Information should be very practical, give the indications where SME owners will find guidance for the assessment of the skills of their employees, for the definition of the development needs, for the learning options that will best meet these needs.
Today, SME owners are not convinced of the effectiveness of e-learning, whereas they still trust that employees will get some benefits from classroom-based trainings. An awareness raising campaign will only be effective when there is a practical, user-friendly, easy to use offer behind it.
When analysing the subjects that should be covered by e-learning, all the sources agree that the most important subject is the core business of the enterprise, “everyday business”. The current training offer is often evaluated as “too horizontal”, bringing the overall management and administration guidelines but not conveying the expertise workers need to do their job. SMEs do not have the critical mass to develop e-learning courses or have them developed for their sole use. They clearly need to be part of a larger learning community they can trust. Yet, SMEs are afraid to share knowledge and give away their business secrets: in some cultures, they will not share industry specific information.
Besides the core business, the skills that need to be developed in SMEs are the ones that will bring them the ability to survive in the market. Therefore, the learning offer should also cover general skills, as management skills, accounting, office tools, language skills, etc.
Customisation of Course
SMEs need courses that respond to their specific needs. Several options could be explored for the customisation of course content. User-friendly authoring tools would enable the SMEs to tailor existing courses for their own environment.
First of all, the information needs to be shared within the enterprise: SMEs often do not have documented procedures. They need to be aware of the importance of managing and sharing the knowledge and culture inside the company e.g. via an intranet.
As we can see from Gartner’s study on the purchasing behaviour of SMEs, they require solutions that will work in time and will preferably work with long established relationships.
Though a lot of effort has been done in the provision of infrastructure, all SMEs do not have the necessary infrastructure for e-learning and broadband connectivity is still mentioned in most sources as one of the major hurdles.
The learning tools should be easy to install and nice to use. SMEs do not have the time nor the resources to solve technical problems or learn sophisticated users’ notices. Installation and operations of the e-learning solutions should be simple and quick.
Access To Matter Experts And Support
A web course with no human interaction is a course where you have no opportunity to ask questions. Traditional learning has a considerable social aspect, which needs to be reproduced in a web-based environment. Students must have access to an expert who can answer their questions. The credibility of the expert needs to be established. Some e-learning projects start with a “kick off” meeting, where students and tutors meet and get to know each other.
Students should also have access to help when they experience technical problems:”Technology problems and glitches are frustrating to the learner when they happen” (Schooley C. (2001). Justifying IT Investments: Training and Learning)
As an important characteristic of e-learning is the flexibility of the learning schedule, support must cover extensive time frames (Abdelli Z. (2003). Formation En Ligne Et PME Québécoises)
Cost of Learning
Learning is a cost, and the SME owner does not always consider it as an investment for the future. Depending on the size and turnover of the organisation, learning could easily become an activity that is out of reach: the enterprise needs to pay both the salary of an “unproductive worker” and the price of the training.
Education is a cost that is usually taken up by society. Not all SMEs do consider that the development of the skills of their employees is part of their mission.
Individual Follow Up
E-learning requires more self-discipline than traditional classroom-based trainings. There is a risk to increase the skills gap between individuals: some could give up learning whereas others could become learning geeks.
An early education of the lifelong learner and an individual follow up should prevent the risk of having too high a “drop out” rate.
Knowledge of Return on Investment (ROI)
An enterprise should constantly evaluate how learning programs can help it achieve its business goals. The main objective of an SME when purchasing IT software or services is to improve the performance of its staff, hence have a better bottom line.
Today, there is no “rule of thumb” to calculate the effective ROI of e-learning, and experts have different opinions on the cost of e-learning.
All SMEs are not using computers; some of their employees have never worked with a computer before. As the study on “e-learning Readiness” by the Economist Intelligent Unit shows, all countries are not equal in front of and closely followed by Western European countries. The new joiners of the European Union will still need to invest in the infrastructure, the capabilities, the content and the culture, which are defined as the 4 main criteria for the measurement of e-learning readiness.
“SMEs are often unable to articulate and scope their learning needs. There are difficulties in assessing the merit and value of available programmes and learning materials, which are often perceived as failing to meet firm-specific needs. Finding appropriate training is also made more difficult by a culture clash with external training providers, especially in the public sector, who are seen as unable to understand business processes.” (Reich, K. & Scheuermann, F. (2003) E-Learning Challenges in Austrian SME’s).
Between the e-learning providers and the SMEs, there is no dialogue: on one side, the providers say SMEs do not understand the advantages of e-learning, on the other side, SMEs believe e-learning does not meet their needs. A brokerage could support a better dialogue between providers and users.
The report “Key Data on Information and Communication Technology in Schools in Europe”, published by Eurydice, has just come out. 35 indicators describes the situation of ICT in the educational systems of thirty countries.
The report “Key Data on Information and Communication Technology in Schools in Europe – 2004 Edition”, submitted on 18 May 2004, was preceded by another report three years ago. What are the main differences you have noted over those three years?
As far as the descriptive information is concerned, which we will call qualitative, we have observed very few changes since 2000 either in terms of initial training of the teachers or integration into the curriculum. One country, Poland, will make initial training of teacher in ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) obligatory, and four others – Bulgaria, Rumania, Slovenia and Greece – have added teaching ICT as a completely separate subject. Those are the only two changes to be observed in the official organisation of ICT teaching in Europe.
Does that mean that the situation of ICT in school has hardly changed in the last few years?
We are talking in the report about official recommendations for the teaching of ICT. We do not analyse the evolution of use as such, and it may well have evolved greatly. To return to the official recommendations, the situation has not evolved a great deal, but it was already rich at the time, back in 2000. Many public authorities had already made the integration of ICT into the pupils’ curriculum obligatory. And about half the countries had introduced an obligation to train teachers. Where things have moved and are still moving rapidly is in terms of equipment. However, we cannot compare the two reports because they depend to a large extent on different data. But I can tell you that two of the countries presented as having a low level of equipment – Greece and Portugal – have already improved their rates of equipment in 2004.
Has Europe reached a certain homogeneity in the installation of computers in schools?
Contrary to what one might believe, the computer equipment phase in European schools has not finished, except for the Nordic countries, the UK and some countries of the European Union. In the new member states, and in Portugal and Greece, the computerisation of schools is certainly not complete and it is in those countries where we find the greatest disparity in terms of equipment between schools within the country itself. That computerisation takes place gradually. Many countries which had weak equipment in 2000 have set important goals for improving the situation by 2006. And so it is a little early to say whether they will be reached.
Does the process of computerisation of schools follow the same methodology all over Europe?
It seems that the computerisation of schools is done in two broad stages: first the computerisation of the administration and the teaching staff and then the use of that equipment by the pupils. When the computerisation for the pupils phase is complete – in other words, when a good pupil/computer ratio is achieved – we observe that the pupils have access to a computer not only in the computer rooms but also in the classroom. At the age of 15, the average number of pupils per computer varies between 5 and 20.
Are the ICT used for teaching other subjects or are they considered a whole subject apart?
The official recommendations clearly tend towards use as a tool at the service of other subjects at all levels of education. That approach is shared by all the countries in the Union. The ICT are seldom taught as a separate subject, at least at primary level. In secondary, apart from the use as a tool, the ICT are offered as a complete separate subject.
Do European children use computers regularly?
On average 64% of pupils of 15 say they use computers in school regularly. We observe a more frequent use of computers in secondary than in primary. Generally the ICT are more frequently used when the schools are well equipped. Some countries, like France or Belgium, have relatively good equipment, but still many pupils say they seldom or never use ICT.
For what kinds of activity do the pupils use ICT?
The official recommendations strongly advise the use of software, searching for information and communication on the net. In fact, what pupils of 10 say they do at school corresponds relatively well to the recommendations, except for communication on the net: on average only 1.9% of pupils in primary school say they use computers to communicate. That means that there should be better internet connection equipment because the connection rates are lower than the rate of equipment, even in very well equipped countries.
Is teacher training in ICT obligatory in many countries? How much time is spent on that training?
We see that training teachers in ICT is obligatory in half the countries of the European Union, which show that some countries leave a good deal of freedom to the teachers in deciding whether or not to train in ICT. Moreover, even when training is obligatory, we can observe considerable flexibility and autonomy of training establishments to decide contents and the time to be spent on them.
What are your main conclusions?
We need to reinforce information about teacher training and the type of use of ICT made by teachers. As far as the level of equipment in schools is concerned, we must continue to measure it but we should extend the indicators to far more precise information which goes beyond computers. Too much attention is paid to them and not enough to other tools like digital cameras and printers. It is also a matter of finding out more about the age of the equipment and its power. We also need to know more about the use pupils make of the computer. Other work is being done by the European Commission on these matters. The Eurydice report on ICT in schools in Europe will be published every other year. We shall pay close attention to the different works in progress to enrich the next edition and show the changes that will be taking place in coming years. Complementary information:
The Eurydice information network on education in Europe is one of the strategic pillars created by the European Commission and the member states to provide information and analyses to meet their needs.
Report “Key Data on Information and Communication Technology in Schools in Europe – 2004 Edition”.