European Union Policies and Strategic Change for e-Learning in Universities
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Major policy operations, like the implementation of ICT in education, risk to fall short of their objectives. This is one of the main conclusions of the project HECTIC according to its final Report, recently released.
The project HECTIC (Higher Education Consultation in Technologies of Information and Communication) has been designed to analyse how the political objectives of the European Union to make the best use of ICTs in Higher Education can be addressed by universities in such a way that synergy and sustainable effects result.
In the HECTIC Final Report relevant trends and scenarios are discussed first, together with resulting challenges and change requirements for European universities (Ch. 2 and 3). The conclusion is then drawn that most European universities have not yet determined their strategic positions regarding their main priorities for the future, taking into account the challenges of eLearning. In the view of HECTIC such strategic processes are indispensable.
The report therefore briefly outlines the main elements of strategic action at university level as discussed (Ch. 4) and then turns to the European policies (Ch. 5) and confronts the universities in their present day state with these issues (in particular: the European Council concrete objectives, the Bologna process, the eLearning Action Plan and the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning). This confrontation leads to three sections in Ch. 6, about Higher Education’s ability to respond to EU objectives, about Virtual Mobility, and European Virtual University.
Numerous obstacles to sustainable ICT implementation in education
Regarding the ability to respond to EU objectives, the report states: “The points of view sketched above all give evidence of frictions in communication, in understanding each other’s positions and span of control, in not well-understood mutual expectations, etc. If this situation is not recognised by higher authorities and taken into account when developing policy matters, major policy operations like the implementation of ICT in education risk to fall far short of their objectives. This cannot be remedied by simple changes of procedures and attitudes of the actors, though both are very important. Major policy processes are too complicated to be approached in a monoschematic way. A flexible approach with constant and committing participation of all involved parties will be needed".
To intensify the dialogue as a priority
This important conclusion led to the recommendation (Ch. 7) that the “highest priority should therefore be given to the creation of a mechanism to intensify the dialogue initiated in the Workshop between the European Commission and the representatives of European Higher Education (....) Practical ways should be found to engage representatives of national governments and/or their higher education authorities in this mechanism to ensure that sufficient interaction takes place in that direction as well”.
Tasks of the standing body would be:
· “to ensure that European Commission policies can be implemented with maximum effectiveness and therefore:
· to identify the barriers to the wider implementation of eLearning at European level;
· to make proposals for the removal or reduction of such barriers;
· to identify higher education relevant aspects of European Union policies and facilitating their implementation: observation and orientation;
· to devise suitable programmes and actions to support implementation of the European Union’s policies for eLearning in higher education;
· to follow ongoing activities, evaluate results and assist in adaptations of programmes - actions;
· to aid in dissemination of good practice across Europe”.
Key actions which the body should take are described in Chapter 7 of the report.
The report also make recommendations for inmediate action: by the European universities, and by European (and national, regional) authorities.
HECTIC has been coordinated by the Coimbra Group; partners were European University Association, SCIENTER, Helsinki University of Technology, University of Edinburgh, University of Granada, University of Gdansk. The European Commission participated in the project organising group.
The project consisted of two parts: first a structured workshop with participation of university leaders, eLearning experts and officers from relevant DG’s of the European Commission. Secondly circulation of the draft final report after approval by the workshop participants among the universities in Europe with the aim of validation of its conclusions and recommendations. The report now on the Internet is the validated outcome of the project.HECTIC has been a one year activity supported by SOCRATES - Complementary Measures in 2001. The final report appeared in the course of 2002.
The HECTIC project group explicitly asks further support and comments from readers. This invitation is extended with pleasure to readers in this platform.