Technology Enhanced Learning

Supporting SDG 4 (Quality Education)

In the field of Technology Enhanced Learning, researchers from various disciplines, such as psychology, educational and social sciences, computer science, organisational and management science, etc., work together on innovative, socio-technical solutions for learning practices. TEL research is thus a truly multidisciplinary field.

Broadly speaking, the term “Technology Enhanced Learning”, or short “TEL”, refers to the use of technology to support learning activities. Although technology has been used as a support for learning for many centuries, for example print technology and tools based on this technology such as books or libraries, the term “TEL” normally refers to computer-mediated technological support.  The use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in educational contexts is nowadays globally accepted, and has become common practice in most developed countries, while their potential has also been recognised in economically less favoured regions. Its implementation has already reached a certain degree of saturation. However, there are still challenges to be addressed by TEL research when it comes to combining latest technologies with innovative educational practices, as well as the further advancement of educational technologies.

Being a very interdisciplinary field of studies TEL embraces many different aspects and can be approached from diverse angles. TEL research projects may be pedagogically driven, technologically driven, context driven, etc. Researchers’ interests may span from cognitive aspects to economic aspects, from micro level analysis to macro level. The different communities within TEL research differentiate themselves either by their pedagogical focus, such as self-directed learning or collaborative learning, by their methodological approach, such as design-based research, by their technological approach, such as mobile learning or game-based learning, or by their contextual approach such as workplace learning, formal or informal learning.

In a series of Delphi studies, which were performed by TEL researchers from the STELLAR Network of Excellence, and which included about 300 experts, the following 11 core research areas for TEL were identified (Spada, Plesch, and Kaendler 2011):

•    Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL)
•    Ubiquitous and mobile technology and learning
•    Interoperability
•    Emotional and motivational aspects of technology-enhanced learning
•    Reducing the digital divide
•    Improve practices of formal education
•    Informal learning
•    Connection between formal and informal learning
•    Workplace learning
•    Contextualised learning
•    Personalisation of learning

Another report from the same network, with which ZSI is a partner, includes two additional areas of research, namely games enhanced learning and technology enhanced assessment.

In STELLAR, groups of researchers have been collaborating for approximately four years on the topic of educational technology. Apart from specific researcher project, results have been a European-wide knowledge base on the grand challenges of technology-enhanced learning in the future, a well-established support and networking service for doctoral students, as well as a set of specific scientific events.  The ZSI had a leading role in evaluating the overall outcome and impact of the network.

For many years, the ZSI has been a key player in EC-funded TEL research projects, mainly with the ICT area of the Framework Programme and the Lifelong Learning (LLL) Programme.

A few other examples of our work in TEL:

A successful example of connecting students in higher education from across Europe to collaborate on a given topic via the use of social media is iCamp. When it comes to students in higher education, they are encouraged nowadays in more and more institutions to create their own personal learning environments, and to connect to their peers and supervisors online. Students can enhance a number of important skills by being encouraged to use social media for their specific learning purposes. In addition to the specific course content, iCamp supported students in advancing their collaboration, social networking, and self-directed learning competencies.

In schools, we likewise have some good examples of how to connect teachers, students, and researchers via social media. Geographical borders are no obstacles anymore. However, other socio-cultural and language barriers still have to be overcome. In the project GLOBAL excursion, we connected schools and scientists via social and collaborative media to make science teaching an interactive experience.

A highly innovative project about learning at the workplace was IntelLEO. It aimed to explore supportive technologies for learning and knowledge building activities of learners in Intelligent Learning Extended Organisations (IntelLEO). An IntelLEO represents a community that emerges as a temporal integration of two or more different business and educational communities and organisational cultures (industrial, research, and educational), and leverages innovative ICT technologies to support successful knowledge sharing. The ZSI team was mainly involved in studying motivational aspects of cross-organisational knowledge sharing and the whole project evaluation, mainly working directly in the field with Volkswagen, as the most prominent business case of the project.

The ZSI is also a partner in a number of important initiatives for the TEL community such as the international EC-TEL conference, which has been running since 2006, capacity building instruments such as the European Summer School on Technology Enhanced Learning, or joint infrastructures such as the TEL Thesaurus and Dictionary.

Generally, a shift of focus towards wider implementation and societal take-up of educational technology is noticeable in the European TEL funding landscape. TEL-related topics are currently being integrated in other core objectives such as Inclusion, Skills & Youth or related areas, and the ZSI will continue to address upcoming socio-technical issues involved with the take-up of latest topics in educational technology.

Ansprechperson: Dr. Barbara Kieslinger

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