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A Review of the Impact of ICT on Learning - page 9 / 26

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after the formal obligatory education. Finally, lifelong learning embraces learning at all stages of life, from the cradle to the grave.

When the terms eLearning or ICT-enabled Learning are used in this report, they should be understood within this broad approach. Thus, none of the possible uses of ICT for learning are excluded, be they formal, non-formal or informal. This broad approach also reflects the observable shift in recent years in education from an emphasis on “teaching” to an emphasis on “learning” (Fisher et al 2006: 1).

3. The diffusion of ICT-enabled learning

This section looks at available evidence on the diffusion of eLearning and tries to address the question of how widespread it is, in terms of access and use in education and training and also in terms of geographical spread. There, is however, little reliable and comparative data available. Moreover, there are different approaches to measuring the diffusion of ICT-enabled learning. Some look at its diffusion in specific sectors, such as tertiary education, while others compare these different sectors to see where diffusion is most widespread. Other approaches look at differences between countries. Most studies seem to agree however that the traditional approach of counting the number of computers (with or without Internet) according to the number of students in the classroom is an interesting and useful comparative indicator but not sufficient to indicate the impact of ICT on education. Therefore usage should also be taken into account, both quantitatively (e.g. frequency of use) and qualitatively (e.g. how are computers used, and for what), as well as usage both by teachers/instructors and students.

Looking at the different sectors, most studies indicate that the use of ICT for learning is most widespread in tertiary education. The HELIOS eLearning Observatory, for instance, uses a combination of sources such as country overviews, surveys and analysis of secondary reports, to conclude that:

  • Tertiary education is the sector where ICT usage is most diffused, and this is supported by significant (and often growing) public and sometimes private (though still to a limited extent) investment;

  • The level of ICT usage in schools and for Vocational Education and Training (VET) is still moderate and related investments are also judged to be moderate, or low - though increasing - in the majority of countries;

  • The level of usage of ICT for learning and related investment in continuous training and lifelong learning is low to moderate though more investments are being made, as in the case of VET (HELIOS 2006: 11).

HELIOS also analysed where the different European countries stand in terms of progress in eLearning. Criteria taken into account for this analysis were infrastructure and access, competitive supply of learning content and services, evolutions of learning processes and institutional structures, building of eLearning competences and rationalization of spending on eLearning. It is clear that there are great variations between Member States but HELIOS (2006: 97-105) has identified three clusters of countries:

  • A cluster of “high performing countries” - for instance, the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Germany, where strong evidence of advancement appears across all the above mentioned criteria;

  • A cluster of “average performing countries” - for instance Belgium, France and Spain, where evident advancements in the various education and training sectors justify their

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