Earlier research at European level confirms the OECD observation that the application of eLearning at tertiary level mostly takes the form of ‘web-supplemented courses’. A study commissioned by DG Education and Culture, carried out in 2002-2003 and based on a survey of more than 200 European universities, assessed the pace of integration of ICT in universities.3 It concluded that the general extent of integration of ICT in teaching has risen greatly since 2000, with three out of four universities in the EU experiencing high or very high rates of increase and only 3% low or very low increases. The study showed that the basis for ICT use is in place and that almost everyone at university has access to computers, the Internet and e-mail accounts. Moreover, nine out of ten universities have intranets providing information.
The study, however, also indicated that ICT is primarily used to support existing teaching structures and traditional ways of tuition. It concluded that most European universities are still at a stage where the use of ICT “consists of treating the computer as a sophisticated typewriter and as a means of facilitating communication via traditional pedagogy and didactics in the actual teaching situation” and only a minority take advantage of the potential of ICT to redesign curricula and the content of programmes (HELIOS 2006: 48-49).
The OECD has also investigated student performance at secondary level, providing evidence of the impact of ICT on concrete school achievements. Based on the OECD’s PISA 2003 assessment of educational performance by 15-year old students, it has shown that regular computer users perform better in key school subjects compared to those with limited experience with computers or to those that lack confidence in their ability to perform basic computer functions. Moreover, it seems that availability and use of computers outside the school environment, i.e. at home - and even accounting for differences caused by socio- economic status - is a more determinant factor for school achievement than the use of computers at school. Although access to computers in schools has increased in most OECD countries and although access to computers is more universal at school than at home, computers are more frequently used at home by 15-year-old students. Nearly three out of four students on average in OECD countries use computers at home several times a week, in contrast with the 44% that uses computers frequently at school (OECD 2006).
The relationship with student performance in mathematics is striking. Students who have used computers for several years (37% of the total sample for more than five years) mostly perform better than average. By contrast, those who do not have access to computers, or who have been using computers for only a short time, tend to lag behind their class year. The latter is influenced by their home backgrounds: students with low home access, in particular, are likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, even taking into account socio- economic factors, a sizeable positive effect from regular computer use is evident. Students use computers at home for a wide range of functions, not just to play games. Half the students surveyed reported frequent use of word processing software and the Internet as a research tool (OECD 2006). The ELNORD (2006) study also found that pupils at home use ICT for educational purposes, as a collaborative tool. They use e-mail, chat and mobile phones to communicate with classmates, giving and receiving help when doing their homework.
The European Nordic states, which have been pioneering the introduction of ICT in learning, are also in a position to verify the benefits that the deployment of ICT have brought to pupil
PLS Ramboll Management (2004), Studies in the Context of the E-Learning Initiative: Virtual Models of European Universities, draft final report to the EU Commission, DG Education and Culture, http://www.e-