NON-FORMAL EDUCATION AND E-LEARNING: LESSONS LEARNED FROM LIFELONG PROGRAMS IN GREECE
The teacher of the 21st century, in an effort to meet the new demands and challenges of the profession, should adopt lifelong learning practices, in order to maintain strong reflection to the changes. Assuming teachers’ training as a set of activities essential to improve and develop their academic, practical, personal and professional knowledge, skills, abilities and interests and assuming that the lifelong learning aims to personal, social and individual professional development throughout his life, then it can be argued that teachers’ training is actually part of lifelong education and learning. The term "Lifelong Education & Learning" refers to all types of education (formal, non-formal, informal), characterized by flexibility in the implementation mode (place, time, content, teaching approaches, etc.), and is inextricably linked to the individual’s socio-economic reality, with the basic objective of open and continuous access of citizens to educational processes. It is an acquisition and reorganization of knowledge process by citizens throughout their lifetime and therefore education is now transformed into a process of creating an individual’s learning biography. In this context, distance education and training, taking into account the educational design, contemporary social adult learning and education theories and the need for increased participation based on the opportunities offered by the Internet, decisively contribute to lifelong learning, addressing many of the problems identified in traditional forms of training. It’s basic aim, namely the need for remote self-learning (in staff or in the workplace), which leads to certification of qualifications and skills with emphasis on the professional development of participants, can be met by offering educational programs based in e-Learning technologies for the provision of digital educational content, collaborative environments and systems of self-assessment and evaluation. In a new and competitive environment, adapted to new professional knowledge-intensive skills, guided by new learning / teaching models and supported by modern technological innovations in recent years, there is a booming of distance learning programs through e-Learning, both in formal and non-formal learning in Greece, under a “supply-demand” model. In particular, in the field of lifelong learning, there is a strong effort coupling Academic Institutions with training programs and qualifications. Potential role in this effort plays, among other, University of the Aegean, offering during the last few years, new and innovative curricula for lifelong learning through e-Learning, in both general population groups, as well as specialized as teachers of all levels. This article presents the functional and organizational structure of lifelong learning programs, technological and pedagogical framework, and the evaluation of key dimensions of the process, in order to understand perceptions of those involved in e-learning that potentially could be taken into account in the design of such programs, so that they can better meet the educational needs of the participants, emphasizing the quality and effectiveness of the educational process. Besides the evaluation of various aspects of the programs in terms of organization, instructional design, participation, educational models used, etc., students’ receptions were evaluated against technological infrastructure, modes of communication and educational processes used.