Telematics For Flexible and Distance Learning (DELTA)
Final Report – Executive Summary (English)
This report describes the key results achieved by the 30 projects and the other concerted actions and studies within the Telematics for Flexible and Distance Learning Programme (DELTA). It also aims to put this Programme within the context of future developments towards learning within the European Information Society.
Coming from 12 Member States and 5 EFTA countries, more than 200 organisations participated in this European Commission Programme, of which more than one-third were SMEs – small or medium size private enterprises. Each project consisted of several partners, associate partners, sponsoring partners and sub-contractors, spread over a number of different European countries. The Commission contributed 62 million ecu towards the cost of the projects.
The Programme has acted as a catalyst for European co-operation amongst pioneers from many different types of organisations and disciplines. This report describes the key results which have been presented under three main challenges:
- Improving access to learning facilities
- Meeting the increasing demand for cost-effective learning solutions
- Improving quality, defining standards, understanding and stimulating the market
The Programme has laid the foundations for improving access to learning facilities. It has enabled the creation of a number of networks for specific learner groups. For example, a European-wide network has been established linking 15 existing Training Technology Support Units to increase the access to learning resources for small and medium enterprises. Based on the concept of a virtual European Open University Network, a European-wide integrated telematic network has been established, which by 1996 will be used by over 6000 fee-paying students working from home or from their local EuroStudyCentre. An experimental multimedia teleschool was established involving the delivery through telematic systems of 15 distance learning courses. This involved more than 1400 learners from 60 European companies and institutions within 12 countries. Aspects of this pilot are now being commercially exploited.
Positive learning outcomes were observed in these pilot applications, particularly where distance teaching and learning were combined with periodic face-to-face interactions in the form of seminars and residential meetings. As yet, this has tended to support existing social, institutional and pedagogical arrangements, but it does provide the basis for the development of new paradigms for learning.
Prototypes have been developed involving systems integration of commercially available hardware, software and communications systems. These could develop as value added products and stimulate the emergence of an important niche market for customised learning systems, tailored to the needs of a particular training activity.
A number of software tools have been developed which will enable more cost-effective methods to be utilised for the design and production of multimedia learning resources. A cost-effective process has been developed which will allow providers to re-use course learning modules, and a system has been developed to enable tutors to “pick and mix” their own courses and to publish the necessary materials on-demand.
A number of studies looked at the cost-effectiveness of telematics-based flexible and distance learning. This has created a body of knowledge but has highlighted the complexities of looking at cost-effectiveness in real user environments. There is a need to collect more concrete evidence of cost-effectiveness of advanced technology based training solutions.
The Programme has provided a focal point for starting to raise awareness of the potential of new technologies in education and training, and has acted as a catalyst for European co-operation amongst pioneers from many different types of organisations and disciplines. Projects have highlighted the complexity of issues which need to be addressed when introducing new technologies into what is still a very traditional environment of education and training. Embedding an innovation into an organisation requires the active involvement of a number of key players – senior management, the computer department, personnel department, training materials developers and training providers. It has also highlighted the cultural, linguistic, pedagogical and organisational issues which have to be addressed in the emerging but diverse European market for technology-based education and training.
A framework for common standards has been established for hardware, software and communications used in learning technologies. This will reduce the possibility of fragmenting the market due to lack of interoperability.
A market observatory study concluded that a European-wide flexible and distance learning market has only recently started to emerge, although the markets in some individual European countries were more developed than others. A survey based on the opinions of European experts predicted that the market is likely to become fully developed within ten years. During this period there is likely to be an increased demand for lifelong learning, a growing acceptance by traditional education and training providers to adopt telematic systems, and increased competition due to deregulation of telecoms which will stimulate new pricing structures and telematic infrastructure development.
Emphasis has been placed on trying to achieve a Europe-wide education and learning system, but it is evident that this “Europeanisation” has not beensuccessful yet. Markets are still predominantly local, regional or national – hence the market for European products and services will still need to be nurtured at a European level.
Whilst experts in a given field are able to come together to co-produce learning materials at the European level, the delivery and support for learners will continue in the main to be provided at a more local level. As education and training provision becomes more “Europeanised”, providers will increasingly use technologies to achieve widespread delivery. Many projects have highlighted the need for proper training in the use of the telematic systems for tutors, students, and other users. This factor was largely underestimated. This training also needs to recognise cultural differences and to adapt the training to local cultures.
There is still widespread ignorance of the implications of using telematics in education and training, and scepticism about the benefits. Further demonstrations and validations are needed with a broader user base in order to establish durable education and training service networks. There is a need for broader dissemination activities to encourage the education and training market to really “take off”.The Fourth Framework Programme will focus on users in large scale demonstrators and less on research and development of new technologies.
The full report is only available in English can be freely downloaded as a file in a PDF format.