learning services, Mobile technologies, implementations, developer communities, instructional components, distance education, technologies, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest, mobile learning, reference model, commercial providers, Consumer market, market, external platforms, learning platforms, open source applications, Learning Management Systems, commercial products, open standards, software applications, Lifelong learning
TRENDS IN E-LEARNING
Luciana CARABANEANU(1), Romica TRANDAFIR(2), Ion MIERLUS-MAZILU(3) Department of Mathematics
and Computer Science Technical University of Civil Engineering Bucharest B-ul Lacul TEI, Nr. 122-124, Sector 2, Bucharest, ROMANIA (1) [email protected]
, (2) [email protected]
, (3) [email protected]
ABSTRACT This article is about the latest trends in e-learning. Yet, some years ago, not many people have heard of the term "e-learning". A lot of people have heard of terms such as distance education
or distance learning, yet with the introduction of e-learning, distance education took on a whole new meaning. With e-learning, the possibilities for getting knowledge and information out to the learner at her/his own pace opened a whole new world for knowledge transfer. In recent years terminology changed and it went from using such terms as "technology-supported learning, distance learning and distance education" to "online learning
and web-based training" to "e-learning". Today, e-learning allows us to share and manage knowledge and skills of the professionals who work in our colleges and universities, and to get the right information to the right people, when and how they need it.
1. TRENDS IN E-LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES
1.1 mobile technologies
In the future learning solutions and services will be integrated into mobile technologies as mobile
phones, PDAs, digital pen and paper, and in the long term, mobile devices that are not yet on the market. In the
long term, learning solutions and services are also likely to be integrated into electronic appliances, machines
and information interfaces.
For mobile learning there are two distinct potential market
s which are evolving:
The first one is the market of learning services for people that are without
infrastructure (accessibility to internet and e-learning may not be as wide spread
in rural or remote areas) and learners in developing economies
The second one is the market of learning services for people who's jobs require
them to continuously move, people learning and receiving information while visiting
various sites and locations, certain types students needing individualized learning
education, on the move and while on external projects.
In the United States the PDAs have already been used in schools and for workers on the move and this thing had significant results in terms of improved learning effectiveness. In Europe, mobile learning is beginning to develop, and telecommunications companies such as Nokia and Vodafone have already integrated these technologies into their training and development systems. However, the real growth across this sector remains to be seen. Any growth in this market is likely to happen in the medium to long term.
1.2 Simulations in e-learning process For a number of years, simulations have played an important role in the training activities of certain sectors, like the defense, aviation and aeronautical industries in several countries. They were not adopted until now on a large scale as learning tools
due to some factors like the cost of development and the lack of tools for developing high-quality simulations. These days we are in a different situation and simulations are being adopted in other industries and for a broad range of skills and competence development. Technology and cost barriers are
continuing to shrink, opening up the potential for wider adoption of simulation technology. Today, computer technologies, such as Macromedia Flash, have become ubiquitous and e-learning vendors with simulation-development expertise are trying to offer more industry- and topic-specific simulation templates. There are still barriers to be overcome, particularly in terms of design innovation, but computed mediated simulations are expected to gain a larger share of Education and Training
activities. Simulations may offer advantages over handbooks and they can complement lectures, demonstrations and real world practice opportunities
. The market for these kind of learning services will probably continue to grow as simulation technologies become more sophisticated and more cost effective to build.
1.3 Adaptive learning environment
In the recent years there is an increasingly heightened awareness of the potential benefits of adaptivity in e-Learning. This is happening because the ideal of individualized learning (i.e., learning suited to the specific requirements and preferences of the individual) cannot be achieved, especially at a "massive" scale, using traditional approaches. Factors that further contribute in this direction include: the diversity in the "target" population participating in learning activities
(intensified by the gradual attainment of life-long learning practices); the diversity in the access media and modalities that one can effectively utilize today in order to access, manipulate, or collaborate on, educational content or learning activities, alongside with a diversity in the context of use of such technologies. A learning environment is considered adaptive if it is capable of: monitoring the activities of its users; interpreting these on the basis of domain-specific models; inferring user requirements and preferences out of the interpreted activities, appropriately representing these in associated models; and, finally, acting upon the available knowledge on its users and the subject matter at hand, to dynamically facilitate the learning process. 107
Adaptive behavior on the part of a learning environment can have several manifestations:
Adaptive Interaction which refers to adaptations that take place at the system's
interface and are intended to facilitate or support the user's interaction with the system,
without, however, modifying in any way the learning "content" itself. Examples of
adaptations at this level include: the employment of alternative graphical or color schemes,
font sizes, etc., to accommodate user preferences, requirements or (dis-) abilities at the
lexical (or physical) level of interaction; the reorganization or restructuring of interactive
tasks at the syntactic level of interaction; or the adoption of alternative interaction meta
phors at the semantic level of interaction.
Adaptive Course Delivery which constitutes the most common and widely used collection
of adaptation techniques applied in learning environments today. In particular, the term is
used to refer to adaptations that are intended to tailor a course (or, in some cases, a series
of courses) to the individual learner. The intention is to optimize the "fit" between course
contents and user characteristics / requirements, so that the "optimal" learning result is
obtained, while, in concert, the time and interactions expended on a course are brought to a
Content Discovery and Assembly refers to the application of adaptive techniques in the
discovery and assembly of learning material / "content" from potentially distributed sources/
repositories. The adaptive component of this process lies with the utilization of adaptation-
oriented models and knowledge about users typically derived from monitoring, both of
which are not available to non-adaptive systems that engage in the same process.
Adaptive Collaboration Support is intended to capture adaptive support in learning
processes that involve communication between multiple persons (and, therefore, social
interaction), and, potentially, collaboration towards common objectives. This is an
important dimension to be considered as we are moving away from "isolationist" approaches
to learning, which are at odds with what modern learning theory increasingly emphasizes: the importance of collaboration, cooperative learning, communities of learners, social nego tiation, and apprenticeship in learning. One of the problems regarding the adaptive learning environments now is that existing standards do have some provisions for adaptation, but require substantial extensions to accommodate common practice in ALEs. The motivation for seeking standardization in adaptive e-Learning is directly linked to cost factors related to the development of ALEs and adaptive courses.
1.4 Open source e-learning tools Today it is estimated that there are already more than 250 providers of commercial Learning Management Systems. In addition, there were recently identified more than 40 open source LMS offerings (some of the most well known are Moodle, ILIAS, eduplone, Claroline and SAKAI). Most of these products have extensive developer communities and present strong arguments for considering open source applications like an alternative to commercial products. Some of the criteria that are in favor of making a decision regarding an open source software
applications are related to cost savings, stability, performance and access to code. On the other hand, for ensuring that users in the near future as well as the longer term have access to the best available applications, these Open Source software applications should be built on open standards. It remains to be seen if open source e-learning technologies will capture the current or future market share
from commercial providers, but the important thing in the process of making a decision regarding the adoption of a certain e-learning software for education is to consider all software options and make a choice based on their merits.
108 1.5 standards development
Standard development is meant to knit together disparate groups and interests in the distributedlearning community
. It is intended to coordinate Emerging technologies
and capabilities with commercial/public
Until some time ago, a number of organizations have been working on different but closely related
aspects of e-learning technology. These organizations have made great strides in their separate domains, but
they have not been well connected to one another. Some of their specifications are general, anticipating a wide
variety of implementations by various user communities (e.g., those using the Web, CD-ROMs, interactive mul-
timedia instruction or other means to deliver instruction) and others are rooted in earlier practices and require
adaptation to newly emerging approaches.
The idea is now to build a common "reference model
" for the foundation of a good Web-based
learning. It is generally accepted that all systems, whether commercial or open source, should be built on open
standards if the market is to develop. These standards should articulate guidelines that can be understood and
implemented by developers of learning content. In the second place, they must be adopted, understood and
used by as wide a variety of stakeholders as possible, especially learning content and tool developers and their
customers. Thirdly, they must permit mapping of any stakeholder's specific model for instructional systems de-
sign and development into itself. Stakeholders must be able to see how their own model of instructional design
is reflected by the reference model they hold in common.
In order to stimulate industry agreement some high-level requirements are established for the development of the e-learning environments. The requirements are:
Accessibility: the ability to locate and access instructional components from one remote
location and deliver them to many other locations.
Adaptability: the ability to tailor instruction to individual and organizational needs.
Affordability: the ability to increase efficiency and productivity by reducing the time and
costs involved in delivering instruction.
Durability: the ability to withstand technology evolution and changes without costly
redesign, reconfiguration or recoding.
Interoperability: the ability to take instructional components developed in one location
with one set of tools or platform and use them in another location with a different set of
tools or platform.
Reusability: the flexibility to incorporate instructional components in multiple
applications and contexts.
Probably standards and specifications (such as IEEE LOM, SCORM and more recently IMS specifications such as IMS LD, IMS LIP and IMS QTI) will successfully evolve and become flexible enough to allow for the integration of real time learning processes, simulations, games, customized adaptive learning, digital rights management by 2010.
2. SOME OTHER TRENDS IN E-LEARNING
2.1 Trends in the development of e-learning markets Some of the main evolution features in the e-learning markets are presented in the following table:
- Although many schools have introduced platforms for sharing
information and supporting the pupils in their learning, it is likely
to take years before the teaching staff and culture is ready to adopt
comprehensively pedagogical approaches that take full advantage
of e-learning. -In the medium term, learning material publishers will
continue to introduce text-based curricula resources supplemented
by e-learning elements, but these will typically require access to
different external platforms and will be linked directly to specific
- On the platform side, if in-house developments and the open source
tools succeed in overcoming problems of reliability, interoperability,
documentation, continuous development and standards integration,
commercial offerings will have a very tough time trying to achievemarket shares
in the school market.
- As teachers become more ICT literate, they will be developing more
of their own learning materials and sharing these with each other and
pupils, making these suitable to individual learners.
- Open Source e-learning platforms are likely to gain a foothold in this sector. - The universities will increase in the number of courses offered in e-learning format (as stated in the study "Virtual Models of European Universities", European Commission
2004).vocational education and training
Open source e-learning platforms will offer a serious competitive alternative for users in the VET market and this is based on the fact that there is already a solid base of in-house developed learning platforms at VET institutions.
- Strong e-learning sectors in the workplace market will continue to be the ICT, business services, financial and pharmaceutical sectors. In the public sector
, it will continue to be the National Health Service
s, the defence departments and public including Local Government
Consumer market Lifelong learning
- In this sector, apart from internal education and training for employees, there is likely to be more focus on training through e-learning to external partners and customers. - The consumer e-learning segment will consist of Internet and CD-ROM based edutainment products primarily for children and young people and in the long term, also mobile, location independent edutainment to handheld devices. It will also include standard and individualized language learning
products for the same media, and educational products that allow parents to supplement their children's education with online or CD-ROM based learning opportunities. - In future, more and more guidelines and manuals associated with complex domestic appliances and small machines will be multimedia based with simulations of the assembly process, maintenance, cleaning and/or usage. It will be possible to access the simulations from various devices (PDA, Mobile phone, TV connected to Internet or a PC). - Although it is an obvious market for e-learning products and services, it is unlikely to show much growth in the future because the motivation of learners to choose lifelong learning via e-learning is limited unless it is part of a formal postgraduate education
financed by employers or required education in order to change or advance in careers while still in employment.
Future development in the sector of e-learning suppliers
The evolution of e-learning supplies can be characterized as follows:
Many small e-learning operators in all product areas (technology, service and content) will
have disappeared, merged with others (both international and national) or evolved into a
different sub sector. Those that survive will have identified a valuable niche or built strong
ties to a loyal customer base
New operators could emerge either in niche areas (game based learning, simulations, open
source integration) or by complementing their current offerings with e-learning services.
In the future telecommunications operators and professional associations are expected to
enter the market as suppliers of e-learning services for their customers.
The international (predominantly US and Canada-based) e-learning operators can be
expected to continue their strong market presence and in some areas they will increase
their dominance. Firms offering L(C)MS and enterprise suites include companies like IBM,
Oracle, SAP, SumTotal and SABA, all mainly addressing the needs of large o rganizations.
Within education segments, they will include companies like WebCT, Blackboard and
Microsoft. Within live e-learning platforms, they will include Centra, Interwise and Webex.
entrants can also be expected within emerging segments such as game
based learning. US-based operators like Horn Interactive, Digital Mill, Socratic Arts,
Breakaway Games, ACLS Interactive could be tempted to enter the European markets.
2.3 Blended learning Another trend in our days involves blended learning programs. The term "blended learning" has come to describe a well thought-out combination of e-learning and other traditional training
methods. The combination that we speak about is meant to increase effectiveness in the process of learning, due to the fact that a single delivery method is no longer sufficient to handle all training needs. Blended learning has the advantage
that preserves the necessary consideration of how people learn, but in the same time offers options for learning and produce measurable savings in learning offerings promised by e-learning. 3. CONCLUSIONS The principal aim of this paper was to provide a summary of current trends in the development of elearning. Unquestionably, e-learning will continue to grow in our organizations. In anticipation of this growth, the governments, business companies and professional associations can start focusing on applications and the effective and efficient implementation of e-learning. By recognizing that e-learning truly is a methodology, one can experience the greatest benefits that e-learning has to offer now and in the future. In the end, the fact remains that, with respect to e-learning, poor quality procurement practices (in all sectors but especially in the public sector) are a barrier to growth and adoption. So it is necessary to make a thorough evaluation when it comes to choose an e-learning software for education in order to improve the knowledge of learners, the learning outcomes
, the performance outcomes, the business and policy impact and in order to value the money spent.
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L Carabaneanu, R Trandafir