Tallinn University researchers in Brussels: ICT-based learning technologies

On 12 November 2014 a seminar focusing on the opportunities and challenges related to the growth of ICT-based learning technologies was held in the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU. Current EU and Estonian developments of technologies and methods were introduced by scientists from Tallinn University and the Catholic University of Leuven. 

The opening speech was given by Professor Tiit Land, Rector of Tallinn University, who gave a brief introduction to the competences and priorities of the University. The institution has recently started a restructuring process to create five interdisciplinary focus fields. Two focus fields- educational innovation and digital and media culture- support the development of ICT-based innovative education.

The newest ICT-based technologies at Tallinn University and the Catholic University of Leuven

The session about opportunities for technology-enhanced learning offered insights into the latest applications and methods being developed at Tallinn University and the Catholic University of Leuven.

Professor Tobias Ley from the Centre for Educational Technology at Tallinn University Institute of Informatics introduced the latest trends in the educational field – digital personal learning environments, MOOCs and apps based on learning analytics that all together create a Digital Learning Ecosystem. Currently, Europe is buying its ICT-based learning hardware from the East, software from the US, while being just an end-user. The FP7 Learning Layers project aims to change this status quo by developing informal learning solutions for workplaces, for examples in construction and healthcare. The Centre for Educational Technology is also working on blog-based e-courses and MOOCs management systems.

Professor Katrien Verbert from the Human Computer Interaction Research Group at the Catholic University of Leuven explored the field of learning analytics further. Prof. Verbert presented the use of dashboards – apps that collect data from different sources, for example Moodle learning environments, in order to give feedback to the users. It’s a good opportunity for the students and teachers to observe and analyse learning processes. The combination of social media tools and learner feedback can have interesting visual application methods and provide lots of data on the productivity of the learning process.
However,Learning Ecosystem without the proper guidance is insufficient, as stated by Dr.Grete Arro from the Centre for Innovation in Education at Tallinn University. Tablets and apps alone are not enough to make students’ and teachers’ learning effective – proper methodology needs to be taken into account in order to make the best use out of the gadgets. Educational psychology and cognitive analysis for student-teacher adaptation to new learning methods and tools needs to be mainstreamed in relevant policy documents.

ICT-based technologies in EU policies

Reflections on the European Commission's initiative “Opening Up Education” introduced the current state of affairs on the policy side of the European Commission and Estonia. Mr Juan Pelegrin, representing DG Connect, stressed the importance of modernizing education in accordance with teacher training. Pedagogical approaches in schools and universities are slowly following the rhythm of change, but this process needs to be speeded up. The Member States are expected to promote excellence in education and skills development through access to digital learning. The expected impact of fostering ICT-based education should not only shorten the gap between skills and labour market needs, but can also lead to the creation of more innovative businesses and increase in technology adoption.

Mr Frank Petrikowski from DG Education and Culture presented the conclusions drawn from the report “New modes of learning and teaching in universities” created by High-Level Group on Modernizing the Higher Education. Recommendations given by the group included the need for developing comprehensive national frameworks for integrating new modes of learning and teaching across the higher education system, such as skills development, infrastructures and legal frameworks, quality assurance guidelines, recognition and funding incentives. The Member States are encouraged to develop frameworks and support structures for innovative learning activities in schools and HE institutions, which in turn should have training programmes and quality guidelines available for teachers and students.

To wrap up the session, examples of good practice from Estonia were given by Mr Jaak Anton, IT advisor from the Ministry of Education and Research of Estonia. Mr. Anton introduced the Estonian IT-platforms for managing school and university curricula and administrative tasks, connecting the information systems with the wider, unique Estonian Public Key infrastructure. Only 37% of nine- year- olds in Europe are studying in a highly digitally-equipped school. In Estonia, the number is higher and though the ICT infrastructure is rather high-level, considerable work still needs to be done as far as new learning methods are concerned.

The event was organised by the Estonian Liaison Office for EU Research and Innovation in cooperation with Tallinn University and the Ministry of Education and Research.

See the article with photos and slides on Tallinn University website: http://www.tlu.ee/en/News/2610