Concept and project objectives

This Network of Excellence in Technology Enhanced Learning is predicated on the view that in today’s knowledge society, people are not only confronted with classical transitions from school to university, from university to a company and so on. They are also faced with additional transitions, for example, between companies, between formal institutional learning and informal learning, between, learning for personal growth and learning for work. These transitions place high demands on people in terms of self-managed lifelong learning. Given this background, the Network of Excellence works within the first of the four challenge themes for ICT research set out in the FP7 call and relates to improving learning and educational systems.

This Network represents the effort of the leading institutions and projects in European TEL to unify our diverse TEL community. This Network of Excellence is motivated by the need for European research on Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) to build upon, synergize and extend the valuable work we have started by significantly building capacity in TEL research within Europe, which is required to allow the European Union to achieve its goals via the Bologna Agreement and the execution of the Lisbon Agenda. The European TEL agenda has been set for the last 4 years by the Kaleidoscope network – with a huge strength in pedagogy and scientific excellence, and the Prolearn network with a complimentary strength in technical and professional excellence.

Although these two networks have already been successful in partly integrating the European TEL landscape there is still a significant degree of fragmentation. What both achieved was to reduce fragmentation in two well-defined silos. The integration of the silos with each other and further extension beyond them remains a challenge for this field. The disjoint scientific communities contributing to TEL could combine to form a stronger unified community, which would be recognized and connected with TEL stakeholders. Indeed, another significant set of problems for European TEL relate to the fragmentation of the TEL ‘stakeholder’ views. A challenge that the community is currently still facing is e.g. the fragmentation of disciplines. Our work aims to overcome this fragmentation and reach a real multi- and trans-disciplinary approach that TEL research needs. In addition, we perceive a TEL research landscape, which is becoming significantly risk averse, funding and producing work which is relatively safe and ‘low pay-off’ We see integrating the excellence achieved by the previous networks and moving on to the higher strategic formation of policy based in leading research including all relevant disciplines is the challenge for the next years. The Network of Excellence will move beyond the earlier networks by setting a new and critical foresight agenda for TEL via an annually reviewed Grand Challenge programme.

In addition, despite this very valuable previous work, European TEL is not internationally as visible as it should be. Neither previous network of excellence targeted the integration of International perspectives. Similarly, at the strategic level, there remains a great deal to do, to reach policy-makers. National, European and International TEL policies are currently not well aligned. Governmental, institutional and industrial educational agendas could be much better coordinated for the benefit of the community. As it is challenging to provide a robust set of measures of this fragmentation and lack of alignment, one early deliverable of our ‘Evaluation’ thread of work (WP7) will be to provide an initial picture of the ‘state of the art in TEL research’ from this perspective.

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