Enhancing Learning Processes
by Caj Södergård
In our turbulent times, the educational system has often to face financial cut downs at the same time as the number of students grows and the educational goals are becoming more demanding. At work places, the need for life-long training of the personnel is becoming a must on all organisational levels. Information technology is a key tool in mastering this development. Being a compliment by no means a substitute to the teacher, information technology enhances the learning process in many ways. Especially Internet and multimedia technology offer powerful tools for constructing rich learning environments.
The contributions in this issue cover many aspects of the use of information technology for education and training. A broad division into two categories can be found:
- Methods and tools for creating, distributing, using and assessing IT based educational material. These methods include active learning environments, simulation models, authoring tools for multi- and hypermedia, as well as user interfaces like virtual room metaphors, speech recognition and data pen interfaces.
- Domain specific cases including medical, psychology, engineering and graphic arts education as well as on-job training related to the nuclear power and car industry.
The systems presented cover all of the three user situations self-learning, collaborative learning and distance learning. Several systems can be used in all three settings. The contributions clearly reflect the ongoing shift from off-line electronic media (mostly CD-ROM) towards network media, both intranets and Internet. Only a few of the presented systems are based on off-line media. The systems typically use a variety of information modes, but multimedia is becoming more and more central as the network bandwidths and the computer processing power grow.
Synchronous and asynchronous interaction modes are both represented and typically combined within the same system for the benefit of the learner.
Much of the activity of the ERCIM laboratories in this field seems to be directed towards developing the working skills of adult learners. Children and special groups excepts visually impaired are not explicitly identified as target groups in these papers. This is of course a consequence of the strong links between ERCIM laboratories, universities and the industry.
Even if only a few of the articles stem from international efforts in this case EU projects it is self evident that there is a great potential for European and global cooperation in this field. Internet links together teachers and learners all over the globe. ERCIM has surely an important role to play for creating such a cooperation.
Caj Södergård VTT Information Technology
Tel: +358 9 4565963