A preliminary study on the current state of e-learning in lifelong learning
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The study, carried out by Cedefop, was initiated to address to the priorities of the revised Lisbon strategy and the Maastricht communiqué. The aim of the study is to contribute to the Commission policy development of ICT in the Integrated lifelong learning programme and to help to prepare the ground for identifying the needs for further investigation of ICT for innovation and lifelong learning for all. Here you can read an abstract of the study and the full report is downloadable in the resource area.
The study, carried out by Cedefop, was initiated to address to the priorities of the revised Lisbon strategy and the Maastricht communiqué. The Lisbon Strategy, relaunched in 2005 by the European Council, states the necessity to concenter among others on productivity, social cohesion and innovation. Lifelong learning is seen indispensable in this process to meet the objectives. In the Maastricht Communiqué (2004), 32 European countries agreed on the future priorities of enhanced European cooperation in vocational education and training.
The aim of the study is to contribute to the Commission policy development of ICT in the Integrated lifelong learning programme and to help to prepare the ground for identifying the needs for further investigation of ICT for innovation and lifelong learning for all.
The study reports the current state of e-learning within the context of lifelong learning in five Member States of the EU (Germany, Spain, Slovakia, Finland and the United Kingdom).
In the research it was take into consideration the perspectives of individual learners, education and training organisations, and work organisations.
The primary questions of the study were:
- What are the national policies of e-learning in lifelong learning?
- How is e-learning organised in lifelong learning?
- How does networking enhance e-learning in lifelong learning?
- What are the relevant issues in future developments?
Various resources (e.g. published research and studies, European e-learning projects, conferences and seminars) were used to collect information for the study.
European e-learning policy developments
E-learning is one corner stone in the European Union's strategy of becoming by 2010 ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion’ (Lisbon Agreement, 2000). The Commission’s e-learning initiative in 2000 has four main lines:
- Training at all levels,
- The development of good quality multimedia services and content, and
- The development and networking of centres for acquiring knowledge.
Furthermore the Commission's eLearning programme (2004–06) aims at effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training systems in Europe. The four action lines of the programme are:
- Promoting digital literacy,
- European virtual campuses,
- e-Twinning of schools in Europe, and
- Promotion of teacher training and transversal actions for the promotion of e-learning in Europe.
According to the information gathered and analysed in the five Member states, the study shows the promoting factors for e-learning in lifelong learning. These factors include among others:
- Broadband connections
- Supply of courses in a number of languages
- Initiatives to improve the low level of digital literacy
- Encouraging cooperation between training instituations and SMEs
- Blended learning initiatives at universities
On the other hand some inhibing factors are:
- Lack of programmes and information available in the vocational sector despite of considerable volume of training opportunities
- No quality standards set for private e-learning providers
- Lack of governmental support to promote the availability of e-learning for continuing personal development
- Culture of learning develops slowly
Furthermore, the following areas were concluded to point out the critical and important factors to enhance the use of e-learning in lifelong learning in the next few years:
- Technology: mobile e-learning; faster speeds via broadband and satellite; improved computer power and affordability.
- Courseware: improved delivery systems that are compatible across computer platforms.
- Networks: universities and SMEs creating bigger networks for the development, exchange of information and software systems.
- Literacy: governments will increase efforts to raise the basic literacy levels of EU citizens.
- Digital literacy: greater investment in opportunities for people to step on to the e-learning platform.
- Vocational training: an overall increase in the investment of developing e-learning packages for the vocational sector and especially people in SMEs.
After a transition phase that e-learning has been going through it is establishing its place in education, training and lifelong learning. However, e-learning opportunities varies in quantity, quality and accessibility in the countries studied.
An important factor when introducing lifelong learning is encouraging people to participate and “selling” the idea to the individuals directing them to realise the benefits of such learning to themselves personally. Therefore, governmental support is important and each Member State should develop a policy to promote learning for individuals and providing easy access to courses.
Apart from university courses which are widely available, there seems to be a short of accredited courses in the vocational area. The SMEs tend to hold back most the training possibilities. Thus, several pilot networks try to change this situation allowing them to share resources and reduce costs and labour. These networks can work in collaboration with universities as well.
It has not been possible to evaluate the true level of digital literacy skills. Digital literacy is actively promoted by the Commission through several projects. Key factor for digital literacy is the competence of the lecturer/teacher. This can be addressed for example with staff development programmes and introducing a standard system that would allow an easy courseware transition from one system to another.
One problem with courses available in the Internet is that there is no quality guarantee, except the ones organised by recognised organisation. One example of a standardised course is the European Computer Driving License (ECDL). The situation can be improved with the development of higher education standardisation, VET qualifications and European qualifications framework.
Link to the full report: