ericsson competence solutions

home documentation   partners   members   publications

CHAPTER 1. THE FUTURE OF LEARNING

The project

The Leonardo da Vinci project From eLearning to mLearning is a harbinger of the future of learning.

The project sets out to design a learning environment for wireless technologies and provides this model of the environment:

The project seeks to put in place a new virtual learning environment which might be represented thus::

Wireless Virtual Learning Environment of Tomorrow

 

The project will do this by trialling and evaluating the didactic dimensions of three technologies, already developed, which are the harbingers of the wireless society of tomorrow.

It also set out to develop course materials for a range of devices in this learning environment and to trial the courses with real students in real learning situations.

At the dawn of the third millennium Ericsson and Nokia announced that there would be 1.000.000.000 mobile telephones in the world by 2002. The world population would be just over 6.000.000.000.

With the successful development of Bluetooth, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), GPRS (General Packet Radio System) and UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), the technological structures for wireless telephony and wireless computing are now firmly in place.

All over Europe today wireless technologies and applications are replacing wired ones: e-Commerce is moving to m-Commerce; m-Business is replacing e-Business; venture capitalists are snapping up WAP application providers as they appear; the site http://www.ericsson.se/letswap lists WAP applications for stock exchanges. booking flights the WAP way, instant mortgages over WAP, banking with WAP.

The list of 3G (third generation) wireless services is breathtaking, with applications already developed for refrigerators, business and the home. The move to wirelessness in telephony and computing is irreversible.

Only in the fields of education and training are there no applications in development or planning.

This project sets in place the first stage in the creation of a global provision of training on the wireless internet. It sets in place the first building block for the next generation of learning: the move from distance learning (d-Learning) and electronic learning (e-Learning) to mobile learning (m-Learning).

 

The status of learning

The evolution in education and training at a distance can be characterised as a move from dLearning (distance learning) to eLearning (electronic learning) to mLearning (mobile learning). These three stages of development correspond to the influence on society of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th to 19th centuries, the Electronics Revolution of the 1980s and the Wireless Revolution of the last years of the 20th century.

The Industrial Revolution
Distance education and training was born of the developments in
technologies associated with the Industrial Revolution in Northern
Europe and in North America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries.

It was no accident that teaching at a distance began with the
development of industrial technologies, especially in postal
communications and transport. The first trains and the first
correspondence courses started at the same time.

Even today distance training would not be possible in a society that had
not yet achieved an adequate level of industrialisation.

It is of interest that the government of North-Rhine Westphalia chose to
locate its open university at Hagen, because the wire- and needle-making
industries in the valleys of the Hönne, the Ihmertebach, the Oese and
the Lenne, at towns around Hagen like Hemer, Iserlohn and Altena, were
the harbingers of the Industrial Revolution from the 1680s onwards.

It is an interesting coincidence that the theory of distance training as
the most industrialised form of teaching and learning was developed by
Peters (1994) who was to become the first Rektor of the Distance
University at Hagen.

Electronics Revolution
The telecommunications industry underwent swift and complex changes in
the 1980s, which constitute an electronics revolution. These changes can
be attributed to three factors:

  • an urge to deregulate
  • speeding up of chips
  • introduction of broadband technologies.

Prior to the Electronics Revolution, governments regarded
telecommunications as a lucrative, monopoly industry. It was linked to
secret defence installations. There was total regulation. Development
contracts were negotiated between the few monopoly providers and the
military or government contractors.

Policies, however, associated with the Thatcher government in the United
Kingdom led to open tenders, and a seeking for improved services, and
better value for government money.

Policies associated with the Reagan government in the United States of
America led to the breaking of monopolies, especially for the new
cellular licences. Telecommunications became consumer driven.

Computing technology was introduced into telecommunications in the 1960s
with the first public, analogue software switchboards dating from the
mid-1970s. These were digitalised almost immediately, and were followed
by the development of Integrated Services Digitalised Networking (ISDN)
in the 1980s. In the 1990s, seamless digitalised connections between
fixed and air networks were achieved. In all these developments, the
ever-increasing speed of chips was crucial. The process will be
accelerated with the replacement of silicon chips by nano-chips in the
early 2000s.

The development of broadband technology is of vital importance for
distance training, because one needs extensive bandwidth for pictures,
audio, video and virtual realities. Broadband is usually defined as
rates of more than 2 Mbits per second over a public switched network.
Interactive multimedia, image processing, data and video are all large
consumers of bandwidth.

The electronics revolution of the 1980s led to group-based distance
training and opened the way to the net and the web.

A Mobile Revolution
In late 1999 the population of the world reached six billion for the
first time. Almost the same day Ericsson and Nokia announced that there
were 500,000,000 mobile phones in the world and there would be one
billion by 2004.

The mobile revolution has arrived.
The electronics revolution of the 1980s changed the nature of distance
education, making it possible to teach face-to-face at a distance, to
restore eye-to-eye contact electronically, and to teach groups as well
as individuals at a distance. The mobile revolution of the late 1990s
will change the distance student from a citizen who chooses not to go to
college, to a person who not only chooses not to go to college, but is
moving at a distance from the college.

The development of the didactic structures for the implementation of the
mobile revolution will fall largely to the open universities and the
government distance-training systems, as there is little likelihood that
universities will focus didactically on students who choose to be mobile
away from them.

If there is a rule about the choice of technology for distance training
it is that technologies that are available to citizens may succeed.
Rarely has a technology penetrated so quickly and so widely as the
mobile telephone.

There is an unprecedented takeup of wireless telephones and wireless
computers in developed and developing countries alike. The World Wide
Web and the Internet are not enough, says the telecommunications
industry: wireless access independent of location and Internet services
everywhere is the requirement. The air interface is replacing the wire
interface.

At the time of writing we have only seen the beginning of the wireless
information society. But the protocols for provision are already being
put in place: Bluetooth, GPRS, WAP.

Bluetooth is the universal radio interface for wireless connectivity.
Previous portable devices used infrared links, were limited to 2m, were
sensitive to direction, needed direct line-of-sight, could only link two
devices. By contrast, the Bluetooth air connectivity uses radio links,
which have much greater range, can function around objects, can go
through certain materials, can connect to many devices at the same time.

General packet radio system (GPRS) brings official data and internet
connectivity to mobile terminals giving instant, transparent, IP access
with no call set up time. Wireless access protocol (WAP) brings web
browser usability of the Internet to mobile terminals. It provides
data-oriented, non-voice, services, anywhere and at any time The major
manufacturers are committed to global standardisation of third
generation mobile systems in radio environments like wide-band code
division multiple access.

The challenge for distance systems at the dawn of the third millennium
is to develop didactic environments for mobile phones and mobile
computers as the availability of mobile devices spreads to a billion
users. The mobile telephone is becoming a trusted, personal device with
Internet access, smart card usage, and a range of possibilities for
keeping the distance student in touch with the institution's student
support services, in contact with learning materials and fellow
students, while at home, or at work, or travelling.

 

Statistics

The statistics of mobile telephone availability are an indicator of the need for mLearning.

In distance learning history, systems have always followed the availability of the technology near the distance students. Technologies with excellent didactic facilities, like 12" laser discs in the early 1990s, were not a success because they were not available in the homes of students.

There has never been a technology that has penetrated the world with the depth and rapidity of mobile telephony. Over 500.000.000 are available today with forecasts from Ericsson and Nokia stating that there will shortly be 1.000.000.000 in a world population of 6.000.000.000.

This penetration has been in both the developed and developing world. Statistics released by Ericsson in mid-2001 showed that communist China had the world's greatest number of mobile phones at 170.000.000, ahead of both the USA and Japan.

Empowering Technologies provide in 2001 telling statistics about the Mobile Learning Era:

The Mobile Learning Era
The evidence is overwhelming that mobile learning is beginning to take hold:

  • Over 50 percent of all employees spend up to half of their time outside the office.
  • More than 75 percent of all Internet viewing will be carried out on wireless platforms by 2002.
  • Mobile devices will outnumber landline PCs by 2002 and exceed the 1 billion mark the following year.
  • More than 525 million web-enabled phones will be shipped by 2003.
  • Worldwide mobile commerce market will reach $200 billion by 2004.
  • There will be more than 1 billion wireless internet subscribers worldwide by 2005.


Of particular importance is the statement that mobile devices will outnumber landline PCs by 2002 and exceed the 1 billion mark the following year.

 

The nature of technology in learning

Throughout the 20th century there were developments of the role of technology in learning.

Pressey's testing machine of 1926-27 is well known but his main contribution to educational technology lay not so much in his machine as in his strong belief that an industrial revolution in education was about to dawn, bringing great benefits of more effective and more efficient learning. He pursued this dream for several decades, although he had little time for programmed learning or for teaching machines when these came along. Even his own machines were thrown away in favour of a small card with blobs of ink on it; the learner erased the blob over the answer he thought correct, and underneath was a symbol that told him whether he was right.

"We are on the threshold of an exciting and revolutionary period, in which the scientific study of man will be put to work in man's best interest. Education must play its part. It must accept that a sweeping revision of educational practices is possible and inevitable". With such evalgelising zeal did Skinner write in his 1954 article The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching.

Skinner saw four serious shortcomings in the educational system:

· The reinforcers used were still aversive
· They were used too long after responses had been elicited
· The progression towards the required behaviour was poorly arranged
· Reinforcement was provided too infrequently.

Skinner suggested that few teachers, if any, could remedy these shortcomings working alone with a group of pupils and proposed that machines might be employed to perform most of the function the teacher could not perform, as well as some of those she could. Skinner saw programmed learning and teaching machines as part (if not all) of an overall improvement in teaching techniques.

The use of technology in learning is different in its use in traditional group-based face-to-face teaching and in distance education, which is frequently individual-based and separates the learner not only from the teacher but also from the learning group.

Traditional group-based face-to-face education and training has used technology as a supplement to the teacher, and differs from distance education in which technology is a substitute for the teacher. However, in the late 1990s, with the arrival of the WWW and the provision of some universities of web based courses in place of lectures, the web has become an option on the campus as well as at a distance.

In distance education one can follow the development of a series of developments of the use of technology for teaching. The first generation uses the technology of printing and was basically the provision of print based materials for learning. A second generation added multimedia including audio, video and CD Roms to replace or supplement the print-based materials. The third generation of the 1990s was the impact of eLearning and the arrival of the WWW.

 

The future of technology

Present day technologies are presented by Bates in The Changing Faces of Virtual Education (2001) thus:

The Web is becoming a dominant technology where people have access to it. Because of its capacity to reach thousands of lerners with a service of a defined standard, satellite broadcasting still plays a valuable role in many developing countries where a large number of learners do not have access to the Intenet. Videoconferencing, on the other hand,m has limited uses, is dependent on very low telecommunications costs and lacks the flexibility and potential of the Web.


The challenge for distance systems at the dawn of the third millennium is to develop didactic environments for mobile phones and mobile computers as the availability of mobile devices spreads to a billion users. The mobile telephone is becoming a trusted, personal device with Internet access, smart card usage, and a range of possibilities for keeping the distance student in touch with the institution's student support services, in contact with learning materials and fellow students, while at home, or at work, or travelling.

The mid 2000s seem to be the indication for the general availability of voice synthesis, voice recognition and voice input into telephones and computers, whether fixed or mobile. There should again be benefits for distance systems rather than on campus, because of the greater reliance of distance students on correspondence, assignment preparation, and assignment submission.

Far from seeing conflict in the tensions listed above, the vision here is of the richness and choice that confronts the learner in the twenty-first century for both education and training: schools, colleges and universities will continue to prosper, as will systems based on teaching at a distance. Teaching face-to-face at a distance in virtual and electronic systems will continue to prosper, as will training on the World Wide Web. To these will be added the boon of Bluetooth and mobile technologies, with the elimination of wiring and fixed installations for many applications, and the further blessing of voice input into machines.

 

The future of learning

ELearning is the state of the art in distance learning at the time of writing.

Many have seen it as the 'killer application' for telelearning as in Collis' Telelearning in a digital world: The future of distance learning (1996). ELearning means the award of nationally and internationally recognised university degrees, college diplomas and training certificates to saudents who spend all or much of their study programme sitting in front of a computer.

It is not yet clear that the distance learning market in Europe has been transferred from print-based courses to eLearning but a growing number of institutions are providing some electronic component in their distance systems, even if it is only an email contact to the administration or the tutor. At conferences and groupings of distance educators, however, the talk is all of eLearning and pre-electronic forms of distance education are scarcely discussed.

The next task of the future is to build the same systems for wireless computing and telephony as eLearning has provided for wired computing and telephony.

The wired learning environment of today might be presented diagrammatically thus:


Wired Virtual Learning Environment of Today


The project seeks to put in place a new virtual learning environment for the future which might be represented thus::


Wireless Virtual Learning Environment of Tomorrow

The project will do this by trialling and evaluating the didactic dimensions of three technologies, already developed, which are the harbingers of the wireless society of tomorrow:

This will be followed by the mid 2000s by the introduction of voice input and voice recognition into wireless devices to create a more user-friendly environment for learners.


[ Home ]
[ Documentation ]
[ Partners ]
[ Members ]
[ Resources ]
Last update: August 2002
Editor: Paul Landers