ERCIM News No.33 - April 1998

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:

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.

Please contact:

Caj Södergård ­ VTT Information Technology
Tel: +358 9 4565963

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