Chapter 1

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conceptual specification and development of a a web based learning and training ..... student campus on the one hand and a virtual teacher's studio on the other.

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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Chapter 1 Basic Assumptions for the Conception of a Web Based Distant Learning Environment

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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Table of Contents

1.1) Introduction.....................................................................................3 1.2) Exploitations of traditional management patterns in learning and teaching institutions.............................................................................................4 1.3) New challenges for traditional learning and teaching institutions................5 1.4) Conclusion ....................................................................................10

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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1.1) Introduction In order to motivate and justify the conceptual decisions preceding the specification and conception of the AKV, the basic assumptions have to be clarified on which these decisions have been taken. The basic assumption is to provide progressively a student (or, more generally speaking, a person who wants to acquire some competencies and skills in a given field of knowledge) an environment that has, at least partially, its roots in the traditional forms of organisation of learning and teaching. Traditional organisations of learning and teaching are schools, universities or again specialised (public or private) learning centres. Traditional institutional forms of learning and teaching exhibit specific organisational features and strategies (procedures) for solving the information and “work” flow within a pedagogical institution. They also dispose, more specifically, methods of course accreditation as well as of evaluation of the quality of courseware – two principal problems which have to be solved within a distant learning framework. It is, naturally, impossible (and also not really in the scope of this project) to produce a systematic and fine-grained description of the above mentioned organisational features and solution strategies in traditional learning and teaching institutions essentially based on a sociological field analysis. Nevertheless the identification and a rough description of these two aspects seem to be fruitful for the conceptual specification and development of a a web based learning and training centre. The interest of such an identification and rough description are based on : • Psychological reasons • Educational reasons • Sociological reasons and, as already quoted • Conceptual (cognitive) reasons. It seems to be clear that the principal challenge of the building and maintaining of a distant learning centre is not a technological one: technology is only the necessary pre-condition of distant learning and teaching1 . The choice of a given network infrastructure, of a specific server/client architecture or again of “higher” technological solutions such as database technology as well web design, production or communication tools have to be motivated with respect to the objectives of a distant learning and training centre, the user groups for which it is built, the services that it proposes to its user groups, and therefore the organisational schema as well as the information and “work” flow that characterise such a centre.

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As it has been noted by T. Alexander from the OECD: “Paradoxical as it may seem, some of the most important issues that the burgeoning technological world creates for education are those of values and the ability to make choices, not technical matters at all. There might be a temptation to forget this when sights are fixed firmly on huge investments in hardware for education. http://www.techknowlogia.org/TKL_active_pages2/CurrentArticles/main.asp?IssueNu mber=2&FileType=HTML&ArticleID=36

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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In this first chapter, we will identify traditional organisational patterns of learning and teaching institutions that can be taken over in the specification of a web site dedicated to distant learning (chapter 1.2), the major challenges that traditional learning institutions have to face (chapter 1.3), and, finally, general consequences for the conceptual specification and design of the AKV. It has to be noted that in Erreur ! Source du renvoi introuvable. will be discussed more particularly structure and organisation of coursewares as well as of the monitoring and assessing of students activities.

1.2) Exploitations of traditional management patterns in learning and teaching institutions What is, roughly speaking, the "traditional institutional" environment in which learning takes place ? The following features could be considered to constitute together a general pattern (a schema) of such an environment : • • • • • • •

The frame of a global (institutional) "locus" (a school, a university campus, ...) within which most of the learning and teaching activites are located, general administrative services (for the inscription, registration and follow­ up of a “student”), general services for students (practical documentation, health care services, leisure services, shopping facilities, cultural and other manifestations, students meetings, service, ...) knowledge resources (libraries, mediatheques, contacts with "knowledge holders") services that constitute the "interface" between a learning institution and the professional and more generally socio-cultural environment (job seeking services, “stages”, professional formation, “special information rounds”, ...) specialis ed learning "loci" (departments, study centres, institutes, classrooms, …) provided with the appropriate pedagogical equipment, curricula (courses and lessons, auto-evaluative projects and exercises, series of exams, … within a pedagogical context specified by a set of pedagogical objectives, pedagogical plans and realised through more or less directed interactions between students and teachers).

All of these quoted features exhibits more or less stereotyped (institutionalised) scenarios, this means specific organisational structures, which could be used in order to : • • •

build an organisational schema of a distant learning site organise the information and workflow (for students and teachers) manage such a web site.

The Global Distance Educationet of the World Bank2 specifies, in this very sense, a student operating system for the management of distant learning and 2

cf. http://www-wbweb5.worldbank.org/DistEd/Management/Teaching/opsys.html

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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teaching sites which takes advantage of the already existing management procedures in traditional learning and teaching institutions. A student operating system recovers mainly : • • •

The recruitment and admissions, A student record maintenance, An assessment and certification component.

Each of these components are specified in the corresponding documents of the Global Distance Educationet of the World Bank and exemplified with concrete experiences especially in the the USA and the 3 4 Commonwealth . The initiative EducNet of the French Ministery of Education, Research and Technology, proposes similar solutions for the creation of distant learning web sites. The points which we want to stress here, are the following ones : The student operating system : • • • •

Has been specified out of existing, experienced patterns of students management; Can be attuned either to specific institutional requirements or again to the new context peculiar to a distant learning web site Constitutes a good candidate to become a kind of de facto standard facilitating communication and exchange procedures between different distant learning sites Constitutes the “kernel” of an open management system which can be completed with new components dedicated, for instance, to the administration of the above quoted general students services as well as students information services (library, mediatheque, ...).

1.3) New challenges for traditional learning and teaching institutions It has to be emphasised that the traditional institutions of learning undergo actually important changes due, as J. Salmi 5 explains, to three principal factors: • • •

Economic globalisation, Growing role of knowledge within the society Information and communication revolution.

These three factors seem to be the most important ones for the obligatory changes that traditional institutions of learning and teaching activities themselves have to undergo. In this sense, it is not the objective only to copy organisational patterns and information a work flow strategies that have been approved during the

3

cf. supra

4

cf. http://www.educnet.education.fr/

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Cf. Salmi, Jamil, Higher education facing the challenges of 21st century. http://www.techknowlogia.org/TKL_active_pages2/CurrentArticles/main.asp?IssueNu mber=3&FileType=HTML&ArticleID=56

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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history of traditional forms in learning and teaching but to enhance and adapt them to the new particular context of learning and teaching. Even if technology is only a necessary condition for building appropriate distant learning sites, it is clear that the new opportunities created by the new information and communication technologies have to be exploited in concrete distant learning projects. Such important opportunities are certainly the remote access to learning resources, the possibility to define personal (individual) learning styles and rythms, the possibility to propose personalised follow-ups of “students” (i.e. users), the sharing of common resources, the permanent updating of learning and other cognitive resources as well as the distant co-operation between “students” but also between “teachers” (i.e. courseware proposers). These opportunities which are rather difficult (and even impossible) to realise within the existing traditional institutional frameworks may contribute to the solution of the challenge of growing knowledge that characterise not only the professional life but also the life of every citizen : permanent access to information, assimilation of sometimes rapidly changing knowledge, “problematisation” of given knowledge with respect to concrete experiences, use of knowledge for professional problem solving, ... With respect to the – as it seems – unavoidable trend of economic globalisation, it is clear, also, that permanent access to permanently evolving knowledge is crucial not only for professional reasons but also for general cultural and sociological ones. The fake that economic globalisation could be isolated from a historical, cultural and social background is a technocratic nonsense exemplified by political movements all over the world (and also in Europe) which are contradictory to the dominant liberal doctrines in economy. Therefore, besides the professional training or the training of professionals within a competitive market, distant learning and teaching has to contribute to more “humanistic” goals – a requirement which not always seems to be really well understood. 6

As Dhanajaran has pointed it out, “by and large our traditions of teaching and learning [in that order] has undergone very little change from the days of Aristotle. Notwithstanding, there is a strong lobby that is emerging which argues for the "exceptions" to become the "norm". At the forefront of this lobby is not academia but political forces and perhaps commercial interests. They believe that the technologies of today and those that are emerging will transform the teaching landscape to that extent where it will be neither economical nor socially acceptable to cling on to ancient traditions.” Following Dhanajaran, the evolution of distant learning and teaching technologies and services, will depend crucially on the following factors: “Re -orientation of our teachers and the pedagogy they apply to their vocation. The fraternity still has to come to terms with a new type of learner and a learning environment that encourages the learner to be independent. Whether it is a radio or television program, print or web-based instruction, it is recognised that individuals are capable of self-learning if provided with cleverly 6

Dhanajaran, J.A window for transforming higher education http://www.techknowlogia.org/TKL_active_pages2/CurrentArticles/main.asp?IssueNu mber=3&FileType=HTML&ArticleID=57

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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and sensitively designed instruction, but are poorly equipped to utilise the technology, imaginatively and non-mechanically. Changing the nature and structure of our ‘teaching’ organisations. The traditions of teaching and the views on learning have resulted in organisational structures that are almost and completely centred on faculty: from the design of the curriculum to its transformation into learning experience; from decisions relating to assessment of prior learning to elements of exit standards; from administrative arrangements to academic governance; and from delivery systems to learning schedules. Removing the ‘time’ driven element from today’s schools, colleges and universities. These are ruled by time, prescribing when, in his/her life, a student can or is ready to learn and the length of time required for learning. A report of a task force to the International Council for Distance Education recorded: "The instructional paradigm, therefore, holds learning prisoner to time constraints applied by an arbitrary force or by the preferred work schedule of a faculty member. In the desired [new] learning paradigm, learning becomes the primary driving force and, since learning can occur at any time and at any place 24 hours every day, the constraints of time are removed." The technologies allow those who provide education to break the rule of time. Overcoming the perceptions and the fear of faculty to the changing nature of their roles and values as well as the rewards of the new learning environment. There is a real, though unfounded, fear on the part of faculty of losing total control of the teaching and learning environment. This fear manifests itself in many forms. Some teachers express anger at the perceived loss of academic freedom and others express disdain at the ‘commoditisation’ of knowledge; some express dismay at the loss of employment and others worry about the loss of quality. Learner centrality in the educational environment does pose enormous challenges to the teacher. It requires pedagogical skills, especially in a technology-mediated environment which many of today’s teachers are either inadequate in or totally lacking. Access to technology (telephone, television, radio, Internet) by learners. Even as we near the end of the century, some 500 million people may not have made their first telephone call let alone use the Internet. Most of the non-users are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America. While in the short ­ term, this seems to be a big impediment, the longer-term view, by all accounts, appears to be promising Appropriateness of methodologies. Technology, whether it is print or multimedia, does not teach; the techniques we adopt simply enable the delivery of teaching from narrow to mass catchments, and simultaneously shift the responsibility of learning away from the teacher to the learner. In the process, it transforms the relationship between teachers and learners. While we are entering the era where multimedia and hypermedia are bringing together, under one umbrella, the essence of print, audio and video signals, computer-assisted instruction, conference and group learning, at the heart of the teaching and learning transaction will be institutions and teachers. Our challenge is to create pedagogies of learning within which modes of delivery will contribute to effective learning.”

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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Even if the general economic and cultural context invites strongly traditional institutions to redefine and to “modernise” their learning and teaching environments, the above mentioned requirements show, nevertheless, that this “adaptation” – process will be a complicated one – maybe not so much from a merely technological point of view but first of all because psychological and sociological reasons.

As the above quoted requirements show, these psychological and sociological reasons concern students as well as teachers (i.e. the learner and the “expert”). Concerning the learner side, it seems that there are more general features as well as features concerning specifically the learning process itself. General features are related to the fact that, in one way or in another, a student (learner) looks spontaneously for a learning context which has its roots in already known, experienced learning and study environments – environments such as a universities, schools or private learning institutions. These environments, as already mentioned, propose, around the learning process strictly speaking, a recurrent set of related activities which, together form the “institutionalised” world of studying and learning. As it will be shown latter, this is the very reason, why in the specification and conception of the Archimed Knowledge Village such an emphasis has been given to the building of a “virtual campus” which relates to “real” ones. This doesn’t mean to maintain a traditional institutional pattern within the distant learning paradigm; this means only that the structural forms of it have been taken into account for the specification and design of a virtual student campus.

Besides this strong requirement to take into account a more general learning and studying context during the specification and development phase of a “virtual student campus, the emphasis has to be given, naturally, to the production and implementation of convincing courseware. This means especially, as Olson7 has pointed it out one, to resolve the two central points of accreditation and quality in distant learning: Olson quotes a report on Assuring Quality in Distance Learning for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) identifies eight areas for measurement, focused more squarely on student learning outcomes: “1. Establish reliable and valid performance measurements for distance learning 2. Require providers to substantiate evidence of contact between faculty and students 3. Require evidence of effective instructional techniques 4. Promote systematic efforts for electing and training faculty 5. Assure the availability of learning resources 6. Promote ongoing monitoring and enhancement of the technology infrastructure of institutions

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Olsen, Jody K., Is virtual education for real ? Issues for quality and accreditation. http://www.techknowlogia.org/TKL_active_pages2/TableOfContents/main.asp?Issue Number=3

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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7. Focus attention on the development of courseware and the availability of information 8. Examine alternatives to the traditional accreditation process8 .” It is, naturally, beyond the scope of this project to find solutions for these different requirements but they should be considered as references that guide and motivate the conceptual and pedagogical decisions within it. In chapter 4, they will be discussed in a more detailed way. Nevertheless, a “distant learning centre”, a – so to speak - “virtual university” is used, exploited not only by “students” or “learners” but also by “teachers”, i.e. by habilitated authors of courseware who, in general, accomplish also students monitoring and assessment tasks.

In this sense, the conceptual schema of “distant learning centre”, of a “virtual university” would be in-complete if there is not for-seen a sort of “teachers studio”. This means, in other words, the conception and implementation of at set of services enabling teachers (broadly speaking) to produce and maintain courseware, to monitor and assess students activities and to co-operate with other teachers (broadly speaking). This “virtual studio” requirement also seems to be a solution strategy for inviting teachers (broadly speaking) working in traditional institutional frameworks to use and exploit, progressively, the opportunities of the new information technologies – a point which has been stressed explicitly by Dhanajaran (cf. above). Besides basic (information) services, such a virtual studio has to propose more advanced services enabling teachers (broadly speaking), with respect to his/her pedagogical objectives and plans : • • • • • •

To prepare remotely structured teaching materials To prepare remotely exercises and practical works To prepare remotely exams and forms of evaluation and notification To organise remotely his/her pedagogical (teaching and monitoring) activities To keep informed himself/herself about distant learning initiatives in his/her field of knowledge, To co-operate with other teachers and to co-ordinate with them his/her authoring and teaching activities.

This is, once more, a “maximal” list of requirements beyond the limits of this project to be realised adequately. Nevertheless, they constitute once more again, references for the progressive development of a “virtual teachers’ studio” as a necessary part of a “distant learning centre” or again a “virtual university”.

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060

P.Stockinger, E. De Pablo: The Archimed Knowledge Village (1999)

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1.4) Conclusion In taking into account above outlined general context of traditional educational organisations as well as different pilot systems in distant learning, we can : • • •

specify and build the organisational schema of the Archimed Knowledge Village organise the information and workflow between teachers and students define the technical management tasks and activities underlying a virtual student campus on the one hand and a virtual teacher’s studio on the other hand.

These three points will be developed in detail in chapter 3 of this report as well as in the technical report of task 3.1 dedicated to the definition of database models and objects in educational telematics. But before developing in extenso the application modules that constitute a virtual university like application, we have to check again the actual state of the art of web based distant learning . This will be done in the next chapter.

______________________________________________________ ARCHIMED Telematics Project, PL961060