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Web and education, a successful open entanglement

Minguillón, Julià (2009) Web and education, a successful open entanglement. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece.

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Abstract

E-learning, understood as the intensive use of Information and Communication Technologies in distance education, has radically changed the meaning of the latter. Today, the most widely accepted meaning of e-learning coincides with the fourth generation described by Taylor (1999), where there is an asynchronous process that allows students and teachers to interact in an educational process expressly designed in accordance with these principles. We prefer to speak of Internet-Based Learning or, better still, Web-Based Learning, for example, to explain the fact that distance education is carried out using the Internet, with the appearance of the virtual learning environment concept, a web space where the teaching and learning process is generated and supported (Sangrà, 2002). This entails overcoming the barriers of space and time of brick and mortar education (we prefer the term face-to-face) or of classical distance education using broadcasting and adopting a completely asynchronous model that allows access to education by many more users, at any level (including secondary education, but primarily university education and lifelong learning). Distance education has been historically the only option for those learners out of the traditional educational system, and it has gained a reputation of a secondary lower quality option. With the appearance of the World Wide Web, distance education has been able to overcome the typical distance learner barrier, namely isolation, and it has become a true competitor for face-to-face educational institutions. Distance education is no longer an individual process but a social one, through the use of virtual learning environments which promote a higher degree of interaction between learners, teachers, resources and the environment in itself. In fact, most classical universities are also adopting the use of virtual learning environments as part of their educational offer, showing the increasing attention that e-learning has deserved in recent years (Curran, 2001). Furthermore, the guidelines set by the new European Higher Education Area (EHEA) promote a competence-based student-centered learning that is more homogeneous among universities, which allows the students to study and work in any country (in terms of the European sphere). This can lead to greater competition between universities as, through quality distance education, the students will not be tied to an option that limits them due to geographical reasons, for example. Distance universities now not only aim at a small number of adult students, but at their whole lifecycle, from when they enter the university to continuous professional development. The new EHEA paradigm is pushing universities towards providing learners with more control on their own learning process, thus breaking the classical producer-consumer model where a teacher produces and transmits knowledge unidirectionally to the students which consume it. Historically, education has always been teachers creating knowledge, publishing it and then transmitting it to learners. This is a model driven by content, i.e. the knowledge to be learned. On the contrary, the new EHEA paradigm focuses on the concept of competence, which is acquired and developed through activities which engage learners into the learning process. Contents become the last element in the educational chain and, in fact, they can be replaced depending on the proposed activity. Therefore, a huge repository of high quality contents is still necessary. This repository will be used for creating learning itineraries (that is, sequences of activities) which will guide learners through their personalized learning process. By personalized we mean adapted to learner's particularities: preferences, learning style, accessibility issues, access device and so on, following the directions of the new EHEA. On the other hand, the web has also provided its users with new opportunities to overcome the producer-consumer model barriers. With the apparition of web 2.0 technologies, all users are capable to create, publish and share their own contents. This new model, named create-mix-share-reuse (Geser, 2007), has enabled a new movement which has a great impact in the future of education, namely the Open Educational Resources movement. The web has become a huge repository for finding learning resources, but unfortunately most of them lack of the basic characteristics which make them to be truly “open”: use of technological standards, licensing, metadata, etc. All these issues are absolutely necessary to ensure and promote content reusability, one of the main goals of any repository. Nevertheless, in the last years several projects1 have shown the possibilities of the OER movement, which is yet to explode. All these changes can be analyzed from the perspective proposed by what is named “Web Science”, a multidisciplinary field which addresses all the technological, organizational and social aspects of the web (Berners-Lee et al, 2006). Today we are at the point where the necessary conditions have arisen to take a step forward in the concept of e-learning, as described by Web Science. A combination of key factors at micro and macro levels have come together to make what was known as distance education evolve (Minguillón, 2008). E-learning has replaced the concept of distance education through a technology, the web, and has also changed the perception that users have of it, obliging every educational institution to adopt it in order not to be left behind in the race towards quality lifelong education. On the contrary, the most prestigious universities are making their most precious resources open and available to all users through experiences such as OpenCourseWare2 or other similar open repositories. In this paper we describe the circumstances that have driven the changes in distance education, focusing on the impact of open educational resources. We address all the key issues: quality, licensing and the related social aspects. Finally, following the spirit of web science, we do not try to make predictions about the near future of education, but to anticipate what classical face-to-face universities might have to face in the following years since the adoption of web technologies.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:e-learning, open educational resources, distance education, web science
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:139
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:51

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