The awards were validated by a jury composed by eLearning experts around Europe on basis of the guiding criteria of the EFQUEL eQuality Maturity Model. The EFQUEL eQuality Maturity Model has been designed in order to provide an inclusive framework for self-assessment of organisations that are willing to measure how advanced they are in the use of ICT to support the quality improvement of learning processes within their organizations. “We received many good entries presenting very well documented concepts for quality improvement in E-Learning for the award and it was a tight decision” Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, Vice-President of the EFQUEL observed. “There seems to be a sound understanding for the concept of eQuality throughout Europe already.”
The winner in the EFQUEL eQuality Award in the category Providers of eQuality solutions and services Chaîne éditoriale process an editing tool developed by ICS (Ingénierie des Contenus et Savoirs, Université de Technologie de Compiègne) represented by Manuel Majada and Stéphane Crozat. In the opinion of the jury: “This documentation tool is an excellent approach to eQuality and a key component of the learning process. Chaîne éditoriale process is therefore a very useful initiative to support quality of learning”.
The winner in the category eQuality users and implementers is the E-Learning-Center of the University of Zurich, represented by Schewa Mandel, “The Quality management in e-learning initiative of the University of Zurich is a very robust tool for project monitoring, self evaluation and strategic controlling. This approach will certainly improve and increase the quality of eLearning projects and courses”, concluded the Jury.
The objective of the EFQUEL eQuality Award is to provide a framework for the use of digital technologies in the management of quality assurance processes, making the quality process an organic part of organisational learning activities. It aims at providing recognition to the providers of eQuality solutions and systems as well as to organisations implementing eQuality systems
The nominated finalists of the EFQUEL Equality Award are:
Providers of eQuality solutions and services
- Chaîne éditoriale Process - Manuel Majada/ Stéphane Crozat from the University Technologie de Compiègne.
- Peer & ICT Organization (PICO) - Paolo Lippi/ Giacomo Gensin from SAGO Spa.
- Self- study course for the technical Swedish - Maria Katajamäki/ Anu Telkkinen from Promentor Solutions Ltd.
Users and implementers of eQuality solutions
- Quality Management in e-Learning - Schewa Mandel from the ELearning-Center, University of Zurich, Switzerland.
- EFMD CEL – Accreditation for Technology Enhanced Learning - Jim Herbolich/ Matthew Wood from European Foundation for Management Development.
- Quality management strategy in FODEPAL project - Santiago Gonzalez/ Luis Lobo Guerra from Fodepal Fao-Aeci.
All finalists and the winners will publish their projects and initiatives in the European E-Learning Quality Portal: www.qualityfoundation.org over the following weeks.
Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. + 49 (0)201-183-4403
European Foundation for Quality in eLearning, University of Duisburg-Essen
From research, three concepts can be utilised and combined to form a new, comprehensive concept of quality development:
1. Quality development has to lead to better learning. This viewpoint can be called education-orientated quality development and emphasises that quality development has to take into account the learners’ situation. Learners’ preferences are analysed to show that they cover a multitude of factors and preference profiles. This suggests that quality approaches have to be highly flexible and allow for individualised quality.
2. Quality development, however, has to take into account not only the learners’ needs; it is a process in which the interests and requirements of the eLearning stakeholders have to be considered as a whole and combined to form a comprehensive concept. Quality in this respect is seen as a relation between the demands and needs of a stakeholder group and the actual delivery of eLearning. In order to shape this relationship in the best possible way, a negotiation process is necessary, involving all stakeholders and integrating their preferences and situations against the background of the given economical and organisational situation. These negotiation processes occur in different positions of the learning environment. We suggest utilising process models such as the ISO Reference Model.
3. The third part of the concept is concerned with the question of how existing concepts, approaches and strategies can be used for quality development. A decision cycle is being suggested that makes it possible to find a suitable quality approach for a given context. However, to decide which quality approach is suitable, to choose from a set of possible strategies, and to adapt those strategies to the specific situational context, certain competencies are necessary. For these competencies, we developed the concept of quality literacy. It covers competencies such as knowledge of quality development, experiences in using particular instruments, modification skills and the ability to thoroughly analyse one’s own situation and needs.
Nicolas Balacheff: "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"
Continuity! I think that the main challenge for the EC’s technology-enhanced learning (TEL) research policy—but it might not only be the case of TEL—is ensuring a continuity of its policy that will be directly in line with the “sustainability” challenge that the Commission offered to the new FP6 instruments. It is clear that if the policy doesn’t have a long-lasting vision of the development of the field, researchers - because of their need for financial support - will just try to surf the wave of the always-changing priorities. As I suggested somewhere else, it will stimulate the development of the Acadustry, a chimera of industry and academia that will indeed be sterile. On the contrary, a policy informed by a long-lasting vision of what I deem necessary for the development of the European research area will be a strong and productive support to research. Ahead of that, academic research and R&D have the responsibility for developing a research domain that is both scientifically robust and productive.
Among the priorities I see for us, is the responsibility to organise the fight against reinventing the wheel and developing technologies that are all-but-forgotten soon after their development by PhD students or projects. A stable EC policy would be a real incentive to make this effort. In particular, the challenge will be less a question of seeing the future twenty years ahead, but rather one of understanding what we know, where the current problems and barriers are, and in which areas we can make real breakthroughs. I would like to suggest that if we engage this direction, we will be more efficient in supporting the development of SMEs in the field, offering real solutions to them, and methods to issues they have to face now, in today’s market.
Kaleidoscope has already shaped elements to support the EU efforts to set a productive TEL research area; a good example of this is the Kaleidoscope virtual doctoral school. Soon the Kaleidoscope open archive initiative will demonstrate the capacity of researchers to share and document their production properly and at an international level. However there are difficulties that come from the fragmentation of TEL on a regional basis. The obstacle raised by this fragmentation is quite difficult to overcome because the research needs are not expressed in the same way by all the European nations and the needs are not shared; learning is not yet a global market. This has an impact on the relations with users and SMEs, whose markets are in general quite local and specific. However by setting up European research teams on concrete and precise topics, Kaleidoscope has initiated a movement to build a European research force with a sustainable scientific agenda. Moreover, while building the network, a fragmentation of the research field itself appeared. We are now reducing it, though, with initiatives like the convergence workshop to be held next December to bridge research on collaborative, mobile, and inquiry learning.
What do you consider at this stage to be the most important research revelations in the field of technology-enhanced learning? What can learners expect from the future?
The inertia of knowledge building in the learning sciences is far more important than in other domains. I don’t expect “revelations” but rather a growing awareness of the complexity and the nature of what we are working on. I expect the development of frameworks and methodologies that will allow us to understand where we are, what our results are, and what our priorities should be. We are already beyond the technology push and learner-centred design; 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.
The learners can expect from the future more personalised, more reactive learning environments: learning environments more integrated into the global educational system in and out of schools, formal or informal. But my discourse here is too general and common. Actually, everything has been said about the expected evolution of the learning environment in general. We now have to be more specific and say what we can expect for general education and universities, for learning at the workplace and at home, in a museum, or on the playground. Because we understand the needs better, learners should expect more relevant and specific learning environments.
They should also expect learning environments that are more coherent or inline with the assessment and accreditation procedures in schools, universities, or at the workplace. There is an “evaluation divide” that has to be addressed; this is not a “revelation” but one of the key challenges we have to take up. As you can see, this not only addresses the learner, but also the teachers, the trainers, and the institutions.
How do you react to the criticism sometimes made of researchers generally that they tend to research topics which are of interest to them and which they find important rather than the topics that society as a whole expects and needs them to research?
This is a normal tension that exists everywhere, and which may exist forever, I’m afraid. The more you progress, the more you understand your ignorance, and you see that the problems you’ve been considering may have been badly formulated, which in turn means the more you will develop research that may be less self-explanatory for the so-called society. I say “so-called” because it may well be the case that the market and the users, the policy makers and the parents, do not have the same view on what the priorities are and what the focus of research should be. It is not even clear that they can effectively articulate research problems, just as academics may have difficulty in envisioning the application of what they are doing. Nobody is really right, nobody is really wrong in that matter. We need a better understanding of each other, better respect of each other’s responsibilities and competencies.
Let me give an example: Researchers have invented dynamic geometry that the society didn’t ask for but is now using widely, whereas society is asking for technology to enhance the learning of maths that researchers seems unable to provide! Maybe this demonstrates the misunderstanding. The difficulty in learning mathematics is a problem that is too vaguely formulated. On the other hand, even if dynamic geometry has had an impact, it hasn’t provided a definitive solution for the learning of geometry, although it has improved its teaching.
We need a place where both are able to interact and understand each other better. We need a kind of gateway among the academic world, the users, and industry. It is a challenge that Kaleidoscope has taken up together with specialists in the dissemination and transfer of technology, who should be able to act as facilitators in building the needed linguistic, conceptual, and political bridges.
How can the TEL research community supported by Kaleidoscope avoid the dangers of constantly "re-inventing the wheel", i.e. how is it possible to record and make current and previous research activities and findings available on a very wide scale for the next generation of researchers?
In my opinion, the best instrument we could employ for this purpose is currently a documented open archive, in line with the current Open Archive Initiative. Such an archive will provide a central and sustainable repository on the model of the well-known ArXiv, which is heavily used by researchers in physics, mathematics, and computer-science.
To develop such an archive, we will need to agree on metadata at a scientific level and hence on the definitions and concepts that lie behind it. It will make the current scientific results and resources available to PhD students, researchers, and projects. Moreover, we must consider that an open archive is multilingual, raising in a very concrete way the question of the epistemological diversity in our field in Europe and beyond. We thus also have to support the development of better mutual understanding and awareness of the differences that prevent us from fully sharing our production today. This should also apply to software and digital resources, indeed combining the standardization efforts that are already being engaged in at a technological level.
Other materials, like video records and large corpora — like those of learning trails—must be shared in the same way. This will take some time since it is very unlikely that such a movement will find its cruising speed very quickly. We must be willing and patient! We must be supported by a stable policy with a long-lasting vision.
Are researchers the best people to lobby policy-makers, and if not, then who should provide the interface between those carrying out front-line research and those responsible for policy making in the same field?
First, here as elsewhere, the researchers need mediators in order to communicate with policy makers. Who can to do that is not clear; the answer might lie in people who are closer to specialised dissemination or to R&D. But there is a difficulty specific to TEL that you may not find in every field. Because people have been educated in schools and have often had the experience of being parents of students and pupils, they feel that they have knowledge about learning that they can claim with the same authority as researchers. This is a very interesting phenomenon, and it constitutes one of the more important barriers in communication between researchers and society, especially policy makers. Look, either researchers express their results in terms not directly understandable and that are seen as jargon, or they express them in everyday language and it is seen as truism…
There is a need to build a communication channel. In my opinion a medium like the eLearning Europa web site or a conference like Online Educa Berlin can contribute - and actually are contributing to this effort. How could it be more systematic? A solution might be by ensuring that all PhD students are trained in general communication, dissemination strategies, and science popularization. This should be part of a modern researcher’s training. By the way, in big ICT companies, the researchers are not in direct contact with the market: the R&D engineers and possibly marketing people are between them and the users or consumers. Why should academia make the economy of this interface? If a research group cannot afford that, it may be possible for a larger organisation like Kaleidoscope to provide this interface, this “gateway” among academia, the society, and industry.
Kaleidoscope is offering support to PhD and Master’s students through the Virtual Doctoral Schools. What are the barriers to implementing a successful Virtual Doctoral School in Europe in the field of TEL, e.g. national differences regarding supervision practice, etc.?
We have just started a systematic exploration of the commonalities and differences, of the obstacles and of the facilitating conditions for the full establishment of such a school. The fact is that we should probably anticipate difficulty in reaching a consensus about the way PhDs are trained and also about the content of their training. What could constitute a course at this level? At what point are the scientific contents shared enough so that they can be considered as a common reference? The building of a TEL doctoral school is not only a pedagogical enterprise and an institutional partnership, it is really a scientific construction whose result will have an impact far beyond the PhD training.
I see this as a convenient back door to the shaping of the scientific foundation of TEL research. Moreover, this common reference must be flexible and open to rapid evolution; a virtual doctoral school should provide resources that the supervisors and students are able to adapt to their needs and view of PhD studies.
Kaleidoscope is developing an infrastructure at a PhD level; Prolearn is developing an infrastructure at a Master’s level. This is interesting and suggests that a common effort should be made in the near future to bridge the two networks and to reach an even more integrated policy for the development of TEL research. Indeed, there are stimulating and interesting challenges for the coming 7th framework programme. I hope the European Commission will take it up with us in a spirit of continuity in view of the huge effort we have all made up to now in search of robust and sustainable integration of the field.
About Dr. Nicolas Balacheff
Dr. Nicolas Balacheff is Directeur de Recherche (senior scientist) at the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). He also serves as Director of the Leibniz Laboratory in Grenoble, France, a multidisciplinary laboratory in computer science and discrete mathematics, with 100 researchers. In addition, he is the present scientific manager of Kaleidoscope, the European Network of Excellence on technology-enhanced learning.
Kaleidoscope is the European research network shaping the scientific evolution of technology enhanced learning. It integrates the leading research teams in the field, who work collaboratively across educational, computer and social sciences to transform the quality and reach of the learning experience. Kaleidoscope fosters innovation and creativity through the development of new technologies, methodologies and concepts, defining the challenges and solutions for interdisciplinary research.
Kaleidoscope’s goal is to inform knowledge transfer between education, industry, and the wider society. Through its scientific programme, Kaleidoscope is helping to build a dynamic knowledge-based economy for Europe, engaging with social, economic and political stakeholders at all levels.
On a daily basis, we tend to organise our actions on the basis of what Giddens described (1991) as “basic trust”. New experiences, however, sometimes call into question the very concept of trust.
The various theories on trust and its relationship with communication form the basis for the idea that it is necessary to try to understand the role that trust plays in the definition of teacher/student rapports in an online learning framework (Merill 1999). It can be difficult to develop trust through online teaching as opposed to through face-to-face teaching and, consequently, there may be greater resistance when it comes to trusting an institution or a teacher who cannot be seen.
In order to investigate the dynamics of trust in distance education, it is necessary to find a means by which to deal with the complexity of the educational environment and the interconnection of human, technological and institutional relationships.
There is a strong link between trust and performance in the experience of online teaching. A key feature of distance learning is interaction, and the results of research into the demand for interaction have so far provided numerous important reference guidelines for teachers organising courses for distance pupils. Trust plays a crucial role in distance education, and there have been several attempts within online education systems to gain trust.
It is also necessary to place greater emphasis on security and privacy linked to learning systems, as trust determines a good process of interaction between the learners and the service provider. All e-learning systems, like any other information technology process, are exposed to safety risks. Safety has now become a must and risk analysis should form an integral part of the e-learning project. Institutions should also set forth guidelines regarding legal aspects such as privacy, plagiarism and copyright.
All nominated partnerships presented their projects during workshops and in the exhibition hall visited by more than 400 participants. The eTwinning prizes go to the following winners:
Age group 5-12 year-olds
- School collaboration Cauldeen Primary School, UK and Dun Salv Portelli Primary School, Malta: Talking Through Time.
The project developed and exchanged curricular materials to enable pupils to research, exchange and collect memories on World War II together. Pupils gained another perspective through school collaboration.
- Pedagogical innovation Oriveden Keskuskoulu, Finland and Iglemyr Skole, Norway: Learning and Sharing.
The project developed the pupils' ICT and English communication skills and introduced a virtual learning environment to pupils. New topics were discussed every month in forums and chats.
- Digital resources Escuela Infantil Gloria Fuertes, Spain and Przedszkole Publiczne nr 5, Glogów, Poland: Playing and Learning.
The project is geared for pre-school where teachers and pupils use ICT to communicate and exchange information on cultures, teacher training and software. Teachers implement common methodologies and material to teach English at pre-school level.
Age group 13-19 year-olds
- School collaboration Bischöfliche Maria-Montessori-Gesamtschule, Germany and Súkromné gymnázium Prešov, Slovakia: Internetzeitung und u.a. Austausch von Texten zur Unterstützung beim Erlernen der deutschen Sprache
The project aims were to create a common Internet newspaper and to exchange texts to support learning the German language. Students exchanged articles on a general topic, without difficult words and need for prior knowledge.
- Pedagogical innovation Lycée de Sèvres, France and Liceo Classico "Ludovico Antonio Muratori", Italy: Europe, Education, Ecole - Club de Philosophie
The project developed a network of long distance exchanges (ICT) between students and teachers on the role of culture, education and schools in a Europe of tomorrow. The project included a video conference, weekly on-line work spaces and a digitalised resource area.
- Digital resources Sint-Donatus Instituut, Belgium, ITCS "Cesare Vivante", Italy and Intercultural Gymnasium of Thessaloniki, Greece: "Crop Circles" challenge
The partners in the project used the same free math software to develop and create materials for teaching math and other science subjects. The materials give students a more active role in learning, and teachers used the school network to share experiences and discuss didactic aspects.
Prizes for the winners
The first prize is a four-day camp on ICT and school twinning on the island of Lanzarote for 20 people from each winning partnership. The stay is planned from 27 to 30 April 2006.
The runners-up are invited to participate in one of the European networking and development workshops that take place throughout the school year in different European countries.
Following a recent meeting with Mrs. Viviane Reding, the newly appointed EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, the European eLearning Industry Group (eLIG ) has published a set of 10 recommendations which it considers necessary to make the Lisbon target of improved economic growth and more and better jobs a reality. The eLearning Industry Group (eLIG), a consortium of 43 leading ICT and eLearning content providers, both private and public, believes that if the EU is to achieve its objective of being the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010, there is a need to actively support the widespread deployment and adoption of new content publishing and management technologies throughout Europe, in education and training, in the home and in industry and especially among SMEs.
The eLIG Manifesto lists 10 recommendations intended to help European central and local governments, public authorities and content industry players to contribute to, and benefit from, the emerging global society of knowledge. The European content industries are facing the challenge of convergence of media related technologies in a situation of fragmentation and localisation - on the other hand the cultural diversity, and the multi-lingual situation represent the core strengths of Europe. The transformation of the content industries has only begun - the challenges are huge and range from the protection of investments, to establishing standards for truly interoperable content. eLIG considers this as a key subject for advancing the Lisbon process.
1. Better balancing of public investment
Pedagogical resources, software and services have in most cases been neglected in public investments. Achieving a world-class broadband infrastructure is a pre-requisite of the Lisbon Strategy but public investment should better balance the four key elements of an eLearning public policy (infrastructure, open standards, quality content and services, teacher training) in order to maximise the benefits to the end users.
2. Supporting Europe’s cultural and linguistic diversity
It is highly desirable, for social and cultural reasons to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, but the European content industry cannot achieve this objective without public support to help recover the extremely high fixed costs of producing multilingual contents serving various pedagogical models and curriculums. More significant resources must be allocated to the development of pedagogical content and tools to generate, maintain and access that content. The next generation of IST programmes should include significant action lines for the production of quality multilingual eLearning materials.
3. Managing Intellectual Property Rights and Licensing Conditions
ICT deployment public policies should combine funding and appropriate licensing conditions regarding the purchase of educational resources. Funding should not be viewed as a substitute for licensing. Urgent action is needed to give publishers further incentives to invest in digital materials. Proper digital management of Intellectual Property Rights solutions (DRMs) should include identification of rights, description of content packaged in an interoperable format and technological protection measures preventing unauthorized use. DRMs based on these specifications are market-enabling solutions. There is no evidence that specific IPR legislation is needed in the education environment.
4. Maintaining fair competition while exploring new business models based on PPPs
Public sector broadcasters in Europe (such as the BBC) often hold a unique position in the eLearning market, having been granted permission (and in some cases, strongly encouraged) to produce quality editorial materials distributed on a commercial basis. Public-private partnerships including public and private sector publishers should be encouraged. We do not support another view expressed1 in favour of a public-sector strategy for educational content creation.
5. eContent for all: take-up by all citizens and enterprises
In order to build a European Knowledge Society which is accessible to all, there is a need to provide basic ICT training to all citizens especially the less advantaged and to promote the benefits of ICT, including eLearning amongst all citizens and enterprises. The EU and its Member States need to invest heavily in these areas.
6. EU level harmonization: towards a Common Core of Content
The European Commission should explore the possibility of a Public-Private Partnership-based approach to define a Common Core of Content (in terms of skills) needed to achieve the Lisbon goals. Yet, public support and funding should remain focused on the traditional approach where pedagogy and skills depend on subject, language and curriculum-specific contents. The Common Core approach could complement the traditional approach.
7. The importance of interoperability and open standards for content repository, exchange, re-usability and re-localization: more R&D is needed on these topics
Important unsolved R&D topics in technologies and standards for content remain. We recommend that publishers are involved in that standardisation process. Additional funding should be dedicated to research and supporting activities aimed at delivering workable solutions to improve content design and storage with a view to automating reusability and facilitating re-localization based on licensing conditions.
8. The issue of Granularity: impact on personalisation features
There has been much confusion between a demand for flexibility and a misconception of granularity. The aspiration for flexibility needs to be weighed against the reality, and the desirability, of the majority of teachers having limited time and will to select and aggregate content. It is important for any eLearning Strategy to acknowledge and work into its plans the fact that publishers already offer a range of tools to support customisation, at the level that most users want, as well as packaged solutions supporting a high level of flexibility.
9. How to measure and improve quality of learning materials?
Where e-learning public policy focuses on the development of low-value, low cost and poorly standardised nuggets designed by amateurs or service providers as promotional material, with limited public commitment or support, there is no incentive for publishers to heavily invest in the production of quality editorial content. However, there has been a growing demand for quality assurance for digital pedagogical content. We are firmly convinced that the best way to achieve quality assurance for content is the editorial process, which should be stimulated so that commercial success can nurture a virtuous development cycle.
10. Need for advanced broadband for the development of rich content
True broadband is needed for the development of rich and interactive education content. The broadband picture in Europe remains fragmented. Broadband penetration is higher in those countries with competitive infrastructure but remains very low in many countries, with entire areas with no access to broadband. Also, the focus in Europe remains on “quantity” of broadband and not on “quality”. There is no focus on the need to deploy next generation broadband facilities providing high speeds, which will enable the creation of richer and more innovative education content and services. International developments in parts of Asia show that next generation broadband facilities are being deployed, and these developments are triggering new and richer content education products and services. Achieving a world-class broadband infrastructure that supports high quality and fast communications, which will enable rich education content development should be a corner stone of i-Europe 2010.
Article extracted from eCompete
“eTwinning represents a new and complementary approach to European action in education”, said Jàn Figel’, Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture, and Multilingualism. “The eTwinning action differs from our other education programmes because instead of funding individual projects, it provides an infrastructure, tools and services, to make it as easy as possible for schools to form all types of partnership, from short term projects to longer term cooperation, in any subject area. The service is free, and there are no burdensome administrative procedures. It is a very effective way to foster the use of ICT, language and intercultural skills in school education.”
eTwinning brings innovation into teaching and motivates pupils to learn. Pupils, teachers, headmasters, librarians and other school staff use eTwinning to add a European dimension to school life. Using the Internet, they work together in many varied ways with peers in other countries: they chat, send emails and exchange ideas and learning materials. Thérèse Hagberg, a teacher at lower secondary level in Sweden said, “eTwinning has contributed to increasing our European contacts and has opened our school to the surrounding world”.
Prizes for the best eTwinning projects will be awarded for the first time in January 2006. Schools wanting to compete for a prize are invited to submit their project results before 27 November via the eTwinning portal. The prize-giving ceremony will then take place at the eTwinning conference on 13 January 2006 in Linz, Austria.
For further information about this action, please consult the European Commission eTwinning portal.
The emergence of electronic journalism
Some years have passed since the electronic press first appeared. Many printed forms have created corresponding web pages to present their contents either in part or in their entirety. There are also other websites, the so-called portals, which were exclusively created for the new medium.
Electronic journalism challenges the traditional role of the journalist who selects and filters the news flow. The television, radio, and publications model is based on the "one speaks, many listen" convention. A transmitter emits simultaneously to multiple receptors, who cannot answer. In this way, television, for example, functions as a technology of oppression. The individual is a passive spectator/consumer of the television product. The low social morals of television are associated with the massiveness of the medium. A lot of ink has flowed about the lack of moral principles due to the pursuit of high spectator rates. The web, however, is capable of limiting the monopoly in the distribution of information. The web gives us the chance to compare the viewpoints of journalists from different websites at the cost of a mouse click. The free news circulation policy constitutes a real threat to mass media and the world of communications. How can they be profitable, when everyone may become a news producer without restrictions or censorship or when there is free exchange of information?
The new medium presents certain particularities in comparison to the traditional newspaper sheet. It provides the author with the ability to renew the contents of the sheet as often as s/he wishes. This results in the text losing its definitiveness whilst gaining forcefulness and directness. The web pages of big news companies are updated every minute thanks to web publication facilities. While the newspaper cannot become more up-to-date and take into consideration the recent developments from the moment it is printed, a web page can respond to current events 24 hours a day. Certain web pages provide their readers with the possibility of participating in discussions, in what are termed “forums” (instead of the correct term “fora”). The medium in its electronic form is clearly more interactive. May we speak of bidirectional communication? The reader sees the text that s/he has sent to the newspaper immediately on his/her screen, along with the visitors of the web page.
By clicking his/her mouse s/he participates in forums on the web. The technophiles are envisioning that these will gradually substitute parliamentary activities, bringing us closer to the democracy of the ancient Greek “polis”. Information consumers are experiencing the third communication revolution in the history of the mass media (typography, electronic media, the web). As the communication feedback is incorporated in the form of communication, technology sets us free from the restrictions of traditional mass media.
The electronic medium allows the web version of the newspaper to include rich audiovisual material, an abundance of photographs, videos, and sound documents. The way the news is presented differs greatly due to the incorporation of different media. In the case of electronic newspapers, they include an abundance of news material and, consequently, it is essential for the reader to develop skills in managing and processing the new electronic data. The ability of digital texts to be transmitted in seconds around the world, to be modified and published, and to include visual and audio material constitutes a challenge for the journalists: a challenge to reform their writing methods and the ways in which they communicate with their public.
An electronic news publication can reach its public during office hours, when, traditionally, access to TV or the reading of newspapers is not a common practice. The worker in front of the computer screen can easily snatch a few clicks to be informed about the news flow, particularly when an event is of increased importance for him/her.
The hypertextual structure of news web pages involves their readers dynamically in the exploration of their content. The structuring of the text through the choice of this or that reading path influences the meaning of the text itself which is in constant formation. The reading experience is thereby enriched. Moreover, many web pages of news agencies allow the reader to create his/her version of the page according to his/her interests. That is to say that a web page visitor may store a synthesis of the news that interests him/her and be presented with a list of the subjects s/he is interested in every time s/he returns to the particular web page. In the case of news web pages, the term interaction is used for the adaptation of communication to the user. This is an important change, with which we have not yet familiarised ourselves. It means that what we present in a "figurative" way livens up and acquires intelligence. If the traditional media, such as television, the cinema, the theatre or the book, "are perused", then the interactive ones tend to create a relation between the news and the public, which is based on human beings’ dialogue with the machine. The web user has developed, necessarily, into a distrustful professional. S/he feels uncomfortable if s/he does not see opinions contrary to the dominant ones or if s/he does not verify the information. The websites of large news services are often invaded by hackers who try to alter their content. On 13 June 2001, the BBC web page broadcast the falsified news of singer Britney Spears’ death after a web invasion. Exclusive news is viewed with mistrust. Even the most marginal opinion is a few clicks away. There were many viewers who sought a rival for CNN.com after the events of 11 September. It is no accident, after all, that the web page of network Aljazeera very soon acquired its English version, thus responding to the increased number of visits by Western users.
The web offers us a wider perspective. In theory, we are given the chance to read all the newspapers of the world, to watch all channels, discussions and lectures very easily and very economically. The surfer constructs his/her own information in the form of a mosaic of pages and sites, opinions and versions.
It is very important that the researchers be able to perform their research in newspaper archives from previous years. The visitor enters keywords and the newspaper search engine brings up all of the articles from previous years that include the particular terms.
The semiotic changes in the ways in which news is broadcast are recorded in current literature while communication theory undertakes to interpret the newly formed communication landscape. The visualisation of narration cannot be considered a simple translation of one semiotic mode into another. We need to comprehend the semiotic characteristics of the different modes, when these are combined into multimodal structures.
We live in an era of intense changes and rapid developments that shape new realities and disrupt familiar balances. Novelties entail agitation, since they always require enormous expense, both in individual and community terms, in order to be accepted.
In the current economic contingency, in which the power of the mass media is constantly increasing and technology is developing rapidly, the question is to what extent the message may be altered by change and the diversification of media. As educators, we must respond by approaching the new media and examining the different methods of reading them.
Our aim is to help our students develop the skills needed for citizens in the information society. We intend to train the receptor of information to become an active reader of meanings produced by the convergence of image and text in the new electronic communication context. All educators agree that because electronic texts are multimodal' and multileveled, they require enhanced reading skills to be approached effectively.
Our teaching approach follows the daily development of web pages and requires that the students recognise the elements revealing the journalist’s opinion (an activity for 11th grade students in the chapter entitled "intertwining of event and comment in the news - "the journalist’s viewpoint in the news), that they analyse the effect of news on the emotions of the public and attitudes and, mainly, that they use language as well as the various semiotic paths opened up by the new media to express their opinions on the serious event. The multimodality of the texts is a quality researched in our time by scientists in the fields of education and communication. In a multimodal text, communication takes place in various semiotic modes, each one of which has a special and important role.
Nowadays, the sovereignty of the written word is increasingly disputed. The widespread use of images in the electronic media has contributed to this critique. The reading of a multimodal text includes both its linguistic and non-linguistic elements (the type of photographs used, the place and the space they occupy, the type of font selected, and the colours used). It is therefore imperative that we select or form criteria for the deciphering of the different semiotic modes used if we want to train citizens who will make conscious choices.
Our era has seen a change in text format. The written word has begun to incorporate audiovisual stimuli. This is due, among other things, to the rapid developments in technology. The criteria that we have been applying to the reading of texts are no more sufficient. How can we "read" a digital text when its borders are fluid rather than distinct? Is semiotics sufficient? Will it be able to help us approach the new multimodal texts?
What if we add a new text structure to this explosive combination, the hypertext, that is? Intertextuality in the web is specific and real. A link actually leads to more reference sites within the same or in other texts.
A page is static, printed black on white - the hypertext is open to reorganisation, an open matrix, from which the reader may compose his/her own text.
Certain researchers claim that, we are on the way to the creation of a “global language” since the image is becoming dominant. The much-discussed issue of globalisation presupposes such a language since it tends to neutralise communication. On the other hand, we should not forget that the way in which we “read" an image is directly linked to our cultural receptors. Communication through images is necessarily based on a generalised approach to aesthetics, provided it is perceived as a communication medium through free associations and the analysis of image semiotics. The complete understanding of a photograph, for instance, involves some kind of "reading" of its language. We organise our reading by certain rules, which prompt us quickly and effectively towards emotionally charged desires.
If we want to become conscious viewers of images, we must work on their reception filters.
The semiotics of news photography aims to instil a creative consciousness (value) in the viewer, rendering him/her capable of being persuaded about certain events or actions. Yet digital technology facilitates photo distortion, which may easily deceive the average viewer. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to verify the genuineness of a photograph.
Saussure claimed that the sign is the link between the signifier (in our case the photographic image) and the signified (concept). The consequent linking of signifier-signified is a result of free associations.
A photograph may transmit knowledge and emotional intensity. The psychological effect of the analysis of a photograph on the individual or group of people is crucial for decision-making.
In most cases, through photographs, the individual encounters reality. The photographic image can record in its own unique way social problems, wars, dreams and expectations for a better future as well as the environment in which we live. It can provide information to the mass media as well as support ideas and conflicts. The experience acquired by “reading” photographs in social or historical or even psychological terms is important.
Human culture has evolved, using different information from visual, audio and other kinds of signs. Language is nothing more than a hierarchic system of communication for the transmission of information. It consists of signs and is, therefore, a semiotic communication system. The signs are neither isolated nor do they lack structure but, rather, constitute organised communication systems. A language needs learning and its acquisition is a result of hard work. In the way our mother tongue has a given syntax and grammar rules, while understanding its make-up and expressing ourselves through it requires study, thus a visual language, specifically the language of web pages, has its own elements, which we should fully comprehend, in order to be able to express ourselves through it.
In general terms, the mediation of digital media during the teaching process results in particular effects and requires the use of flexible teaching forms and techniques. These techniques enhance student attention during teaching and strengthen their active involvement in the learning process so that the students’ interest is preserved during the teaching process.
In this interview Dr. Carol Strohecker give us her insights on a lot of subjects around the role of new media in the learning process. We thank her for her kindness to our users.
What is the difference of didactics or methodology between e-learning and traditional teaching/learning (such as face to face teaching)? Can you predict, in e-learning environment, which abilities/skills of human will be developed (or created) more specially, and which one will be reduced (or disappeared), compared with the traditional education?
HaTran (Rest of the world)
Digital capabilities have obviously revolutionised ways we can communicate, access information, construct ideas, and learn. But human experience is strongly dependent on relations among people. We can do some socialising in virtual worlds, and researchers and developers have devised ingenious ways for us to see, hear, and engage with others virtually. No doubt such channels will continue to improve. But we are a long way from achieving the range and subtleties of real-world interpersonal interactions. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology made a bold move in acknowledging the importance of face-to-face, real-time, real-place relating, through their establishment of the MIT Open Courseware movement. By putting syllabi, course notes, and related materials online they are providing a wealth of information to anyone who wants it, free of charge. But they continue to charge tuition fees for the experience of being a student enrolled on campus, because they understand the importance and added value of face-to-face interacting with professors, students, and other members of the MIT community. The most important characteristic of any learning situation, physical or virtual, is its support for people to make their own knowledge – to employ information and relationships in processes of creating their own meanings and understandings.
What are the current practices & methodologies used to teach Computing subjects online keeping in mind that they don’t have local support and are lone learners?
Abdul Rehman http://www.ecmit.ac.ae arehman2 (Rest of the world)
I would recommend the Open Courseware from MIT’s department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Logo, and Squeak. Also, this paper gives an overview of many available systems (but I would recommend checking the material that each of the systems’ developers provide for thorough descriptions of their theoretical bases, recommended uses, and example code.
Do you consider that e-learning should be complemented with Strategic Planning Systems?
Aida AIDUCA (Rest of the world)
I don’t know much about the field of Strategic Planning but I would only say that it would seem a good idea if the learners are the ones not just involved planning their own learning, but in charge of planning their own learning. Others may provide resources and recommendations, but each learner needs to develop self-awareness of how he or she learns well and must have the power to act accordingly.
If we replicate the real world learning situations into the digital environments, the learning process will be more productive? What kind of tools could we provide to create more human digital scenarios?
HaTran’s question prompted some consideration of social factors in learning. We can also consider how the increasing availability of sensing technologies enables a broader range of perceptual and conceptual involvement as people learn with digital technologies. Perhaps these sources would be useful for further consideration:
Do you envisage informal learning playing a greater role within the formal environment of traditional education? If so, what new skills will teachers need to learn to enable this cultural shift?
Paul Justice (United Kingdom) www.elearningscotland.org
Yes, I do think what’s become known as "informal learning" will play an increasingly important role in all sorts of educational settings and processes. It’s important to remember that "informal learning" does not mean "unstructured learning" but, rather, "differently structured learning" – learning settings and processes that have structures which may differ from those we recognise from traditional schooling. In my view, these differing structures come from identifying things that are important to know in the 21st century, examining and articulating the structure of that knowledge, and creating tools and environments that learners can use as they construct this knowledge for themselves. The world is changing so rapidly that there is no reason to assume that anyone, including teachers, will have learned everything they need to know through some initial professional development. Everyone, including teachers, needs to keep learning throughout life and career. The most exciting teacher development project I have seen is "Empowering Minds," conducted by Dr. Deirdre Butler at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin City University. In this project, practicing teachers learn about digital technologies side-by-side with their young students. The setting is transformed from classroom to studio, where learners of mixed ages work with a range of materials – colourful paper and fabrics, photographs and videos, writing instruments, building bricks embedded with tiny computers and sensors – to construct folkloric narrative scenes with figures that move in response to light and sound. Everyone is a learner, everyone is a teacher, all are creating things together – things that communicate, things that exercise cultural understandings, things that exemplify the deepest ideas in computation. The participants develop understandings of their own learning processes – indeed, they are learning about learning itself, as well as about the interdisciplinary range of ideas. It is a true "learning environment." For more information see:
Why the governments of Europe do not get hundreds of e-learning contents developer companies to develop all standard courses thought in European Schools from 1st grade to 11th grade. There are about 160 or so courses in 11 year of education. EU can afford $ 160 million to develop 160 courses. Then everybody should reach them free like MIT Courseware. Am I too naive?
I don’t know whether anyone has proposed this idea so that it could be debated by potential founders. I would only say that "standards" need to be thought about carefully, especially when such a large and diverse group of people is concerned. Furthermore if we were to develop courses that merely extended today’s curricula, I think we would not be spending our funds well. Too many existing curricula are outdated, both in terms of the knowledge they address and how they address it. We need to rigorously question what people need to know in the 21st century and what kinds of learning environments will best engender this pluralistic knowledge. Last year MIT Professor Emeritus Seymour Papert and I conducted a seminar on this topic, in conjunction with a conference on technologies in education (which was being held at Media Lab Europe as a programme associated with Ireland’s hosting of the EU Presidency). We posed the question of whether people will use computer technologies merely to instigate incremental progress in education, or whether they can prompt us to consider and achieve fundamental changes. Professor Papert’s forthcoming book will explain his preference and recommendations for achieving fundamental change. Meanwhile, you could find some of his earlier writings at:
I’m doing a research about discussion groups and its importance and benefits for the pedagogical process, that’s to say, teaching and learning. What are de pros and cons of the discussion groups? In which way the discussion group can be an answer to the different learning styles in a virtual classroom? Is this tool more appropriate for a specific kind of students, for certain subjects? What type of pedagogical activities can we develop with this tool? Which are the best strategies to stimulate the students participation?
Maria Pedro Serrador mpserrador (Portugal)
What an interesting and important topic you are exploring! I believe that discussion is extremely important to learning processes. It is a way for a learner to make developing ideas explicit and to enrich or challenge them through comparison with other views. Years ago I had the good fortune of studying with the aforementioned Professor Seymour Papert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of my most cherished memories is of a seminar in which we read Galileo’s "Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences." This is a beautifully written work in which three characters discuss the phenomenon of gravity: one is a strong proponent of the view that the phenomenon exists and a sage elucidator of how it works; another is a clever sceptic; and the other is a simpleton who nevertheless asks questions that can be illuminating. This method of personifying different views is a helpful way to bring out detail and sustain rigour in considering an idea. Years later I incorporated readings of Galileo’s "Dialogues" into a seminar that I conducted at Media Lab Europe, along with Imre Lakatos’s "Proofs and Refutations" and Gregory Bateson’s "metalogues" with his daughter Catherine. (We had also read these "talking about talking" exercises in Professor Papert’s seminar). In addition to such literary approaches, there are many computational tools that can support discussion of learning experiences and processes. Here are just a few that I’d consider noteworthy for their strong theoretical bases and application potential or for their ways of supporting learners’ developments of self-awareness, expressive vocabularies, and multiple perspectives: http://www.empoweringminds.spd.dcu.ie, http://www.inderscience.com/filter.php?aid=6019, http://www.media.mit.edu/~ananny/papers/mobileHCI2003.PDF, http://people.ucsc.edu/~wsack, http://smg.media.mit.edu.
I would appreciate your insights on the cultural differences in attitudes toward everyday learning. For instance, what differences do you see between the US and Europe?
Lisa Neal, Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine lisaneal (United States of America)
The biggest difference I see is Europe’s greater reliance on mobile telephony. This pervasive technology enables a range of capabilities in communication and computation, which offer wonderful potentials for intercultural exchange and for learning among people of all ages. I also appreciate being closer to some important landmarks in the learning landscape, such as the "play well" concept emanating from Denmark, the "hundred languages of children" concept from Italy, and the "genetic epistemology" concepts of the Piagetian tradition whose birthplace is at the centre of the European continent. Jean Piaget’s work has often been misunderstood – and often misused – among psychologists and educators. But the emphases on structure and development of knowledge, and on microanalysis of individuals’ thinking processes, provide important approaches for research on learning and for design of tools and environments to support learning.
I am currently working on a project that is looking at the prospects of setting up a Virtual College for the Dublin Fire Brigade training centre. I have spoken to representatives from the Fire Brigade and I am getting a mixed view with regards to using e-learning as a tool for training. A web based learning tool is appealing to some, but not to all. Do you see e-learning as a method of enhancing training and if so, what tools are currently being used and is technology or cost the deciding factor?
Murray Ahern Muahern (Ireland )
You are fortunate to be in Dublin, as a multifaceted group has emerged recently to examine and develop e-learning concepts and methods. I would suggest contacting Declan Kelly at the National College of Ireland. He has access to a wealth of information about e-learning practices and prospectuses. You might also contact Jim Devine at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology, who is renowned for his work in e-learning.
I would like to study cognitive sciences next year. Is trying to establish "learning profiles" for individuals an old idea? If yes, what are the current theories about the individual ways of learning? If not, who/what laboratories/institutions are most advanced in this field and are there any on-going projects?
Sergiu Popesco sergiusergiu (France)
My favourite paper on this topic continues to be "Epistemological Pluralism," by Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert, my own doctoral dissertation (MIT 1991, "Why Knot?") explores a related approach.
This anthology has a section on styles and strategies which exemplifies similar approaches:
These sorts of domain-focused, microanalytical approaches seem more appropriate for learning research than the generalised, questionnaire-based personality- and role-type categories that have become popular for organisation and human resources management.
Suppose there are 120 hours of instruction for a 9th grade physic class: If we can prepare a very well done internet course full of activity, interactivity, simulation, graphics, animations, pictures, videos, I claim that students can learn better than remote areas and underprivileged areas and underdeveloped countries schools’ students. Am I right? A very good course can be prepared let us say at $ 1 million, but when 1 million children reach and use it, it costs only $1 per student: why do you think people and governments of the world do not go for e-learning?
Muvaffak GOZAYDIN e-learning promoter mgozaydin (Turkey)
I share your concern that not enough people have access to such important ideas and your apparent realisation that providing people with computers and communications infrastructure is an important initial step but does not go far enough: we need to develop sophisticated treatments of content so that it is easily distributable, uses a range of media, and supports constructive interactivity enabling individuals to build their own understandings in ways that suit them well.
We are working in implementing e-learning (training) method to replace the traditional method and we have two questions: is there a questionnaire to analyze the profile of student in which we can trust, without the risk of the pleasant answers? And, is there any standard more flexible than SCORM Standard, with more functionalities. We would like to have the support of a browser to search for a word or at least not so hermetic, because if we are constructing a course with variants within the learning profile, we just can’t do it with this standard. How can we deliver the learning objects separately respecting the SCORM standard?
I’m not in a position to recommend an alternative or work-around to SCORM, but your desire for browser support makes sense to me and I hope that any standards developers who are reading may take note of your request. On the deeper methodological issue, I am way about questionnaires as instruments for ascertaining learning profiles. Such instruments go in an important direction by acknowledging differences in learning styles. However their necessary generality makes them brittle when we consider the vast diversity in learning styles: we are far from being able to anticipate and capture all the relevant descriptors of people’s ways of engaging and thinking. From the perspective of the nascent learning sciences, such instruments are premature. We need to do much more research into how people learn in order to develop the views and vocabularies that would help us to characterise thinking processes and how they grow, develop, and change over time for different individuals.
I am interested in the use of commercial Instant Messaging Programs (Yahoo Messenger, ICQ etc.) in e-learning. Are there any examples of using this everyday technology in e-learning? How would you suggest incorporating them in a learning process?
I would suggest pursuing the resources mentioned above in the notes to Maria Pedro Serrador and Murray Ahern.
Could you tell us if the spontaneous and self initiated learning is more successful than the learning traditional model, started and directed by the teacher?
There are several ideas in your question that need to be teased apart: learning may be spontaneous and/or deliberate, self-initiated and/or recommended, self-conducted and/or guided, exploratory and/or rote, constructive and/or didactic, and/or of course much more. I think the most important recent development in learning research and practice is the theory and method of "constructionism," which can be contrasted with the notion of "instructionism". For a wonderful compendium of sources on this idea, see: http://www.papert.org
I would like to know to what extent the ICT and the new technological devices applied to the educational field can really change the way we think. I mean: using hypertext environments frequently -for instance- could change the linear way in which we structure knowledge?
Technologies can echo familiar ways of thinking or support new ones, depending on how we choose to situate and use the capabilities. I think the most important step we can take toward employing the full power of the computer is to encourage people to go beyond word processors, spreadsheets, and search engines to exploring the computer’s extreme versatility as a modeling tool. Even young children can write computer programmes to animate graphics, compose melodies, and control real-world movements of gears and sensors. These activities can be enjoyable and valuable in and of themselves, but they can also promote learning about fundamental ideas about how systems work generally – and this is important knowledge for surviving in our social and physical, large and small contexts on planet Earth. I will soon be publishing a paper elaborating on these ideas in the International Journal of Knowledge and Learning: http://www.inderscience.com/browse/index.php?journalCODE=ijkl ("Learning Cyrkus," in press).
What do you think about the power of "unwitting learning" - for example learning from experience?
kopeckyk (Czech Republic)
I think the discovery of the unconscious mind and studies of unconscious processes of thought are among the most important advances of recent times. I am grateful to writers such as Freud, Poincaré, Piaget, Winnicott, Papert, and Minsky for their studies of such processes, which play an immeasurable role in "unwitting learning." Such processes are perceptual, cognitive, affective, and emotional. We still have much to learn about how these aspects of human experience function and interrelate. Perhaps serendipity is worth considering as another aspect of "unwitting learning." The world gives us many ways to probe and understand the workings of gravity, ecologies, families, and countless other complex phenomena that constitute our experience. But where the natural world does not provide easily accessible means for developing such understandings, we can devise our own representations and models to aid experimentation. The computer is an excellent tool for such explorations. Again, please see my forthcoming article, "Learning Cyrkus," for further consideration of these points: http://www.inderscience.com/browse/index.php?journalCODE=ijkl
I am incorporating an e-learning platform for Language and communication teachers in Chili. They are teachers of seventh grade (students from 11-12 years old). I’m interested in your opinion on a blended strategy that incorporate classroom activities (e.g. oral language, drama, TV or radio listening, news reading) and web-based activities (construction of dialogues between characters, developing of drama sketches, news analysis, exercises of school journalism, etc. Can one combine these activities in a way that there is continuity in the course and that neither the purpose of learning nor the course’s objectives are lost?
Rolando Palacios (Chile)
Your approach sounds delightful and I hope you will pursue it. The different media lend themselves to different kinds of activities, which may be associated with different ideas and with different learning styles. These broad ranges have great potential to support "the purpose of learning," with each person being able to seek out and exercise interests and preferred approaches within an overall context. Please consider carefully what you mean by "continuity" and the "course’s objectives." Each person may be best able to create continuity for themselves if it means coherence within their own scope and progression of ideas. And are your choices of media consistent with your objectives? The broad range of media may be most consistent with a broadly encompassing notion of learning, one which respects and empowers each thinker’s unique development rather than attempting to bring everyone into the same prescribed knowledge. Above all, real learning takes time, and the sort of learning environment you describe would need especially to allow participants to spend time exploring the range of ideas and media, deepening activities in areas discovered to be fruitful. You could find examples of such environments, with descriptions of the media and other design decisions they rely on as well as analyses of the learning they support, in these books on constructionism and at the site of the previously mentioned Empowering Minds project: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0893917869/qid=1113719826/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-8271849-0011115, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805819851/qid=1113719826/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/104-8271849-0011115.
I would like to thank all of the correspondents for their thoughtful and provocative questions. I appreciate this opportunity to exchange views with you and hope you will persevere in your attempts to engender productive learning experiences and better understandings of how learning happens.
Carol Strohecker has conducted learning research at Media Lab Europe, Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She earned the PhD of Media Arts and Sciences from MIT in 1991, and the MS in Visual Studies from MIT in 1986. She has been a Lecturer for the MIT Media Arts and Sciences programme and has worked in the Human Interface Group of Sun Microsystems. Carol has been a Fellow of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the US National Endowment for the Arts, and the Massachusetts Council for the Arts and Humanities. She holds 4 US patents for her work in interactive media tools and methods.
Quality Development as a Negotiation Process
Quality development in education has always been a field of great debates. It challenges believes and existing values of professionals. The nature of quality development is a constant adaptation process of the offered educational services to the target groups which are to be educated. Newer approaches highlight the aspect of negotiation as one very important for successful quality development (Ehlers/ Fehrenbach 2004).
This relates especially to the open nature of quality which in itself is not a normative definition but a relation between the perceived and the offered provision. Within this open concept of quality development, we can identify four steps (adapted from the Quality Decision Cycle of the European Quality Observatory, see Ehlers/ Pawlowski 2004) which have to be taken to develop quality in education in general, and e-learning in particular. To perform these steps of quality development, several competencies are necessary which we want to refer to as quality literacy. They involve:
- Knowledge about quality development for general orientation and selection,
- experience with the usage of instruments for quality development,
- the ability of innovation and modification to adapt instruments and concepts to the own situation or develop new and
- analysis abilities for assessing own needs and evaluate existing tools and concepts
The concept of quality literacy (Fig.1) aims at describing skills which enable individuals in the situation of quality development to act competent. Sometimes these situations are very complex, e.g. when it comes to restructuring whole organisational processes. Sometimes, though, there is only little complexity when only one instrument is applied to perform quality assurance, e.g. a questionnaire at the end of a program or course.
Quality literacy, moreover, is a concept which can not exclusively be learned by means of books or trainings but requires experience and practice. It is, thirdly, a concept which is subject to constant change, as the means and forms of technology enhanced education change as well.
Quality literacy (Fig. 1) can be seen as a set of central competences which contribute to carrying out successful education. A more precise description of the inner structure and coverage of the concept follows by elaboration of the four dimensions the concept contains.
Figure 1. Dimensions of Quality Literacy
1. Dimension: Knowledge About Quality
This dimension addresses the “pure” knowledge about the possibilities of today’s quality development and up-to-date quality strategies in e-learning. The term quality strategies refers to all guidelines, structures, rules, tools, checklists or other measures which have the goal of enhancing the quality of an educational e-learning-scenario.
2. Dimension: Quality Experience
This dimension describes the ability of using quality strategies. It is based on the experiences actors have with activities in quality development and applying quality measures and strategies to e-learning scenarios.
3. Dimension: Quality Innovation & Adaptation
This dimension relates to the ability which goes beyond the simple use of existing instruments and strategies. It refers to the modification, creation and development of quality strategies and/or instruments for ones own purpose. An innovative and a creative aspect are important for this dimension: Innovation in the sense of further development and adaptation processes of quality strategies within the given system, and creativity in the sense of thinking and developing new strategies for quality development.
4. Dimension: Quality Analysis
Quality Analysis relates to the ability to analyse the processes of quality development critically in the light of ones own experiences and the own situation and context. It is important to evaluate different objectives of quality development and negotiate between different perspectives of stakeholders. To “analyse critically“ means the ability of differentiation and reflection of existing knowledge and experiences with education and quality development. For Learners this would mean to be aware of the responsibility which they have for quality in education as a co-producer of learning success. For providers this means to enable flexible negotiation processes in the educational offers in which individual objectives and preferences but also societal contexts and organisational structures are integrated into the definition of quality objectives for education.
Quality Development in Four Steps
In the context of the Quality Development Cycle, mentioned above, the dimension of quality literacy apply to the different steps of quality development (Fig. 2).
According to the presented model (Fig.2), quality development takes place as a sequence of four steps which involve (a) a needs analysis, (b) a decision process, (c) a realisation phase and (d) an incorporation phase. The cycle thus takes on an organisations’ perspective. This is important to note because it is especially developed to answer the question how an educational offer can be provided through an organisation, e.g. a university, to be of high quality. It is not primarily concerned with helping learners, who have to choose a course or a program, helping them to find an offer of high quality. For each phase in the quality development cycle certain competencies are required for the actors performing the quality development process.
Figure 2. Quality Development Cycle (adapted from Ehlers/ Pawlowski 2004)
Step 1: Needs Analysis: In the needs analysis phase, the organisation examines the needs for quality, and the situation and the context in which the educational scenario is embedded. The needs analysis phase includes in itself an iterative cycle which consists of an analysis phase of the current situation, a negotiation processes between the involved stakeholders (e.g. learners, teachers, administration), and a definition phase where the needs are finally defined.
Stakeholders who are involved in these processes need the ability to evaluate and define the needs of all stakeholders which are involved in the educational scenario and negotiate between them to achieve a high quality of the offered learning environment (Quality Analysis). Additionally Knowledge about the possibilities of quality development and about quality strategies or good practice examples could be of help in the needs analysis phase.
Step 2: Decision Phase: In the decision phase the previously defined needs for quality development are matched with available approaches (Quality Knowledge is needed). If those approaches sufficiently meet the requirements, they have to be chosen as model for the quality development project, and the next phase can be entered. If there is no strategy which meets the needs, a new, own quality strategy has to be developed. For this phase two competences are especially important: Quality Knowledge and Quality Analysis skills. When it comes to developing an own strategy the ability of Quality Innovation, i.e. creatively and innovatively developing a fitting quality strategy, gains importance.
Step 3: Realisation Phase: In the realisation phase the quality strategy is implemented into the organisation and thereby adapted to the specific organisations’ needs. The new set of rules and processes have to be “transformed” into the organisations’ “language” and be refined for the organisations’ specific context. This process to a large extent involves experiences, adaptation processes, evaluation and analysis competencies. The usage of models and instruments for quality development like checklists, process descriptions and/or evaluation questionnaires, requires a high amount of Quality Experiences. The adaptation of these instruments and models demands for the ability of innovation and modification and is conceptualised in the dimension of Quality Innovation. Critical analysis and assessment form an integral part of this phase. Quality Analysis thus becomes important.
Step 4: Incorporation Phase: The incorporation phase relates to the modification of activities and actions which have to be performed by the individual actor of an organisation as a result of the quality development process. Quality development – in the final consequence – is always directed at modifying the behaviour of individual actors of an organisation – be it the tutors or teachers or the authors of courses, the system administrators or the organisational representatives. In the incorporation phase it is therefore examined whether the changed processes and new values which are suggested in a new quality strategy are incorporated into the activity patterns of the stakeholders. A great deal of critical analysis skills and evaluation experiences is necessary for this phase. Quality Analysis therefore becomes important in this phase.
As we have seen, quality development involves negotiation processes and can be described as a cycle of four steps. It covers quality development from the first organisations’ negotiations about their needs, to the modified behaviour of the organisations’ actors. For each phase a set of skills and competences is necessary to perform the required activities. These can be describes with the concept of quality literacy which is elaborated above. However, it becomes clear, that the dimensions of quality literacy are not completely distinct from each other. They relate to different skills and competences but influence each other. Quality Knowledge, for example, is connected to Quality Experience and this again to the ability of Quality Innovation in the field of quality development. However, the concept of quality literacy allows to operationalise skills which are necessary for successful quality development. This is important for trainings and support services in the field of developing quality for e-learning
In general it has to be noted that quality literacy applies to all forms of technology related educational concepts, like e-learning and blended learning – as well as presence courses. We derive the term from concepts of media literacy (Baacke 1996) which as a concept describes the abilities which individuals need, to act competent in a world mediated through media.
There are commonalities and differences between “traditional” educational scenarios and e-learning. Concerning quality development in both educational “domains” we have to note that it is a process of negotiation, with the goal of providing successful education. For e-learning we additionally have to deal with the specific field of technology. It becomes clear that additional areas of knowledge apply here, in principal, however, quality development requires the same competences of negotiation.
1. Baacke, D. (1996): Gesamtkonzept Medienkompetenz. [The Concept of Media Literacy] In: agenda. Zeitschrift für Medien, Bildung, Kultur, [Agenda. Journal for Media, Education, Culture] März/ April 1996, S. 12-14.
2. Ehlers, U.-D., Pawlowski, J.M. (2004): E-Learning-Quality: A Decision Support Model for European Quality Approaches, In: Fietz, G., Godio, C., Mason, R. (2004): eLearning for international Markets. Development and Use of eLearning in Europea. Bielefeld
3. Ehlers, U.-D., Fehrenbach, T. (2004): PQM - Partizipative Qualitätsentwicklung im E-Learning. Bildungsprozesse als Basis für eine neue Lernerorientierung. [PQM-Participative Quality Development in E-Learning. Educational Processes as a Basis for a new Learner Orientation] In: Deutsches Institut für Normung: Fachbericht zur DIN PAS 10321. Berlin
The European Quality Observatory offer information about quality approaches and experiences.