Innovative technologies for learning
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Information and communication technologies are changing dramatically the way in which individuals live and work and organisations operate, creating the basis for the information society in which we live today. There is also a shift towards a more ambitious concept: the knowledge society.
Learning as the premises for knowledge and particularly Technology Enhanced Learning (e-learning) is recognised as essential to this transition and will soon become its engine. It is an enabling application area with a strong potential impact on the continuous education and training of individuals, on the quality of life and the competitiveness of European industry and will play a fundamental role in ensuring that the all-pervasive, and sometimes overwhelming amount of information available nowadays, is converted into relevant knowledge for the benefit of Europe's citizens and organisations.
Besides, e-learning is an emerging market sector in its own right which is going to be prominent in the upcoming years according to all forecasts. The outstanding quality of education and training systems in Europe, coupled with innovative and constantly improving application of information and knowledge technologies will ensure Europe's readiness to meet the growing demand for lifelong learning and to become a key player in this market.
The main application areas for e-learning technologies are:
Learning at schools
Technology Enhanced Learning is seen as an important vehicle to provide pupils and children with knowledge and skills necessary to make them active citizens of the information society. Even more, e-learning has a great potential to supplement the traditional acquisition of information about facts and techniques, providing new opportunities to explore higher level cognitive activities such as autonomy, creativity, problem solving and team work.
Learning at universities
Universities are using e-learning solutions as a source of added value for their students, improving off-campus, flexible, virtual learning through web-based resources, including continuous education. In order to respond to the changing education market, universities are entering into strategic partnerships and adopting new business models.
Learning at work
In the work place, greater emphasis is being placed on flexible, just-in-time education and training, empowering workers and providing the necessary skills and competence for rapidly changing business needs.
Lifelong learning and learning at home
Technology Enhanced Learning is considered an important enabler for adult education and e-inclusion, acknowledging the importance of informal and non-formal learning. New opportunities appear as the technology becomes a facilitator for sharing resources, creating communities of learning and communities of practice.
Research on learning technologies Funded by the European Commission
The European Commission has launched a number of action plans and other initiatives in order to create a critical mass of "resources" able to support, guide and stimulate research, technological development and innovation in education and training. ICT enabled education and training has long been a priority within the Framework Programmes for Research and Development. 300 research projects have been funded since 1988 through research on e-learning technologies funded by the European Commission, and a considerable amount of European expertise and know-how has been built up. Results are both new services, systems and standards, and networks of schools, research labs and other organisations involved in education and training.
The Education and Training Applications unit of the Information Society
Directorate-General, jointly with the Research Directorate-General, has been actively pursuing international co-operation. This has resulted in the exchange of speakers and experts and in the participation from a number of countries outside Europe in the IST projects, from North America, Australia and from Central and Eastern European countries. International co-operation is seen as a way of ensuring relevance and up-to-dateness of activities and is thus a clear win-win initiative.
More than 70 institutions from non-EU countries are participating in the IST education and training research activities, forming about 10% of the total of participants.
The IST programme also actively supports international initiatives such as EUMEDIS for the development of the Euro-Mediterranean information society or @lis , a programme aiming to reinforce partnership between the European Union and Latin America in the field of the information society.