|The paradigms of e-Education: An analysis of the communication structures in the research on information and communication technology integration in education in the years 2000–2001|
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According to Hefce (2000), there have been two radical forms of convergence in technical development in the past ten years, which have changed the operation environment of education. Digitalization of various media, like print, video audio etc. emerged together with personal computing and the convergence of networks: broadcast, cable and telephone as well as local and wide area networks etc. This changed the internal and external operation environment of education radically, just as it changed the overall environment of industry and business. The development of interactivity and two-way communication especially has had a great impact on education and can be seen as a background of the emergence of interactive online education.
What basically are these new operating environments in education called “virtual learning environments” (VLM), “instruction management systems” (IMS), “virtual schools” or “virtual universities” (VU) etc.? Are they only technical applications in education? Or is it a question of organizing and managing education in new ways? In educational research traditionally the question has usually been made from the learning and teaching point of views and the major problem can be seen in terms of pedagogy. Now, when the change is shaking whole educational institutions, research and development needs to focus on the other processes than learning.
The implication of ICT integration in the education systems and learning is substantial, from pre-school to higher education. Mainly due to economic reasons, but also due to technological change and the unsuitability of traditional schools to fulfill the needs of the information society, the educational institutions have been forced to create new forms of organizations, which are more competitive in the global economy of education (Russell & Holkner 2000; Hefce 2000). Higher education, especially, is in the process of forming networked organizations like virtual universities and other alliances to compete. These institutions are recruiting their students and teachers from global markets. This means also that the structures and culture of owner institutions will be spread out globally. (Hefce 2000.)
Global distribution means global curricula and accreditation systems. For example, the European University Association (EUA) is in the process of developing “Joint Masters Programmes” in the spirit of the Bologna convention (Tauch & Rauhvargers 2002.), which will form the basis for this development in higher education.
What is important in this development for education institutions is an understanding that ICT can be integrated into new kinds of operation environments in educational institutions. These environments can also transform the traditional forms and structures of education in all the levels. New global phenomena are multinational university networks together with multinational publishing of learning materials. At the institutional level, the issue is new organization of education like virtual schools with new learning management systems and educational portals, which can also be called learning- or studying environments at the micro level.
To summarize the observations from the recent literature about ICT in education, we can see changes at least at the levels (subsystems) presented in table 4 (Farrel, 1999, Hefce, 2000).
Table 4. The impact of ICT in educational institutions.
|Traditional (including traditional technology assisted education)||Anticipated change when applying ICT||Challenges and problems to be considered by the research and development|
|National curriculum, structures and legislation.||International curriculums, structures and legislation. Global educational markets and distribution.||Cultural diversity / globalization. Accessibility.|
|School based teaching and learning arrangements and methods.||School networks, virtual institutions. Open and flexible methods and learning management tools.||Management. Affordability. Quality of education.|
|Local teachers. Classroom centered thinking. Disconnected teaching. Individual learning. Obeying. Facts. Formal learning.||Distributed learning communities and networked teachers Social learning, Negotiations, agreements Informal, flexible learning.||Contextuality. Meaningfulness of learning.|
From table 4, we can see that the actual changes in education are parallel with the general demands of global information society. The educational products are changing from hierarchically developed and static “paper based course packages” to dynamic processes and flows of information, which are developed by the inputs of the learners as well. The learning process is usually connected to real life through the learning projects and therefore dynamically changes the economic and societal processes – not only becoming merged in them. The challenges /problems column indicates the desired directions of the change although there is not necessary evidence that the development is going on in that way. More global evaluation research is still needed.