NEW APPROACHES TO THE E-CONTENT AND E-TEXTBOOK IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Improving the efficiency of an education system predominantly relying on verbal contents may represent quite a challenge due to the lack of the necessary time and information and the slowness of correction mechanisms in the case of traditional curricula, as it was proved by several methodology experiments. Even “modern” curricula that had been developed by the end of the 20th century had a linear structure and the prevailing dominance of verbal contents was changing only slowly, giving way to visual contents which in turn were mostly composed of static pictures. Though online curricula and multimedia-based e-learning representations include more dynamic visual contents (flash, video), the “logic” of curricula design has not changed in our opinion. Visual contents are still considered as mere supplements to verbal (written and oral) messages.
An alternative to the curriculum design paradigm drafted above may be increasing the ratio of visual elements in order to increase the volume of information. However, the ratio cannot be altered just randomly. Changes should fit into the parabolic equations, assuming that both formats (verbal and visual) are required by learners and their ratio is the same for a given subject, age group and other conditions.
In the framework of our ongoing research to develop new curriculum designs, we use online tools and methods to present knowledge elements (Tf1…Tfn) in a virtual space instead of the traditional sequenced order (that obviously used to be also a prerequisite for printing). Basing on our current development and the relevant hypothesis, the new curriculum may greatly facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and its control. This new curriculum, where verbal and visual elements are presented in a one to one ratio and knowledge elements are organised into a network, would be scale-independent and structured as a graph; it would also be supported by a mathematical representation to enhance both its theoretical and practical aspects and users would be allowed to extend it by case studies and practical examples.
The strategic concept of these developments is being elaborated currently. The first design of this kind is being developed for the new online curriculum “Introduction into Systems” for teachers working in secondary education. Our hypothesis may be summarised as visual learning may provide opportunities to use parables that are able to improve the efficiency of human learning, currently based on traditional verbal communication and as such hindered by time constraints and information pressure.
The most up-to-date interpretation of the never ceasing debate that was provoked by Ferguson’s Engineering and the Mind's Eye almost half a century ago points out how poorly our current education paradigm is able to exploit the potential of visual learning. The historic experiences in interpreting and using parables called the attention to the fact that these two methods of communication do not necessarily contradict each other as educational tools. Indeed, state-of-the-art interpretations of learning make us abandon teaching traditions when designing new curricula and exploit the new technical options offered by our digital environment, providing learners with a flexible, continuously developing system that where proven methods are available to extend the set of relevant practical examples.