SYSTEMS, ENABLING TECHNOLOGIES AND METHODS FOR DISTANCE LEARNING
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:STEEL (Systems, enabling Technologies and mEthods for distancE Learning) is a national project funded in 2007 by the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research (http://steel.cilea.it).
The widespread diffusion of Information and Communication Technology has made a broad spectrum of online learning possibilities available to increasingly demanding and large targets. Flexible learning and personalised learning are keywords that point to the possibility, for learners, to choose among different study strategies according to their objectives and learning styles.
Lecturers and instructional designers will need to choose freely how to support students while learning each subject, while students will need to make informed decisions as to how to go about in their own learning, and to access to the learning platform from wherever they are. This can only be achieved if the learning platform provides for synchronous and asynchronous textual, audio and video communications and integrates them with a learning management system providing high quality ubiquitous learning facilities. Such a platform does not need to be developed starting from scratch: there is a large amount of work that has already been done in several areas: open source software and computer mediated communication systems, as well as terrestrial and satellite technology providing high quality broadband connection everywhere in the satellite footprint.
The aim of the STEEL project is to develop a complete e-learning system based on an innovative integrated satellite-terrestrial network, addressed to higher education, and integrating different media and different communication technologies. This presentation provides an overview of the whole project: the educational and methodological requirements identified for the pilot course to be delivered within a virtual university curriculum; the online platform, focusing both on its technological and educational features and its modularity, that guarantees the integration of synchronous and asynchronous tools; the hard-ware architecture, designed to manage the distance service delivery over a variety of access technologies and to guarantee a certain level of Quality of Service to end users.
The STEEL aims to develop such a platform by selecting and integrating existing tools with technology developed ad-hoc to provide an environment where several teaching and learning strategies can be implemented: from interactive video-lectures to computer supported collaboration, from resource based individual study to self assessment.
The output of the research project is not a “theoretical” system but rather an operative enhancement tested through the delivery of a set of pilot courses, a selection of the teaching subjects of a real programme of an online university. This field test aims to verify the quality level and validate the implemented system from both the standpoint of methodological effectiveness and that of the technological quality. The methodological aspects mostly concern soundness and effectiveness of the instructional design of the courses while the technological aspects primarily regard the suitability of the platform architecture and the reliability of its software functionalities.
The STEEL project has a double soul (i.e., the technological and the methodological soul). Did we manage not to give precedence to either of the two souls? Could STEEL output be a prototype that can be reused in other contexts? We hope so.
Keywords: e-learning, virtual university, teacher training, Integrated Satellite-Terrestrial Network, Computer-Mediated Communication, Learning Management System.