Europe catches up on e-learning

An e-learning group has been established to work with the European Commission and national governments to help academia and business take advantage of online learning tools

The eLearning Industry Group -- a coalition of 15 European companies -- met for the first time on Thursday in Brussels. Its mission: to promote the use of e-learning in schools, universities, the workplace and homes.

The group, which was created out of the May 2001 eLearning Summit, will work with the European Commission, national governments -- who recently established e-learning as a priority in forthcoming plans for e-Europe 2005 -- and academia to undertake innovative projects to promote e-learning deployment in Europe.

The industry group will provide advice to the European Commission and national governments across Europe in areas such as information technology and telecommunications infrastructure, open standards that facilitate the exchange of e-learning content, development of a sustainable market for e-learning content and development of crucial professional and personal skills.

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for education and culture, said, "If Europe is to be a dominant economic and social force on the global stage it must act as a cohesive unit wherever possible. E-Learning is an opportunity for Europe to utilise the power of technology for real social and educational change, bringing benefits to academia and to business."

The founding members of the Industry Group -- 3Com, Accenture, Apple, BT, Cisco, Digitalbrain, IBM, Intel, Line Communications, NIIT, Nokia, Online Courseware Factory, Sanoma WSOY, Sun Microsystems and Vivendi Universal Publishing -- will work closely in partnership with public institutions such as governments, schools and training organisations to implement four key initiatives.

These iniatives include removing the barriers that prevent people of all ages and from all sectors of society from having access to interactive e-learning environments; adopting and participating in the development of open standards of e-learning; creating the conditions to sustain a commercial market for e-learning content and development; and increasing investment in continuous professional development of teachers and trainers, enhancing their status, and helping them develop and understand the principles for e-learning.

Newly elected chairman of the eLearning Industry Group Richard Straub said the four initiatives will "make a positive, fundamental change in overcoming the hurdles faced by Europe when it comes to lifelong e-learning." Over the next six to 24 months, he said, working groups will take charge of each of these initiatives to make e-learning a reality "to benefit and, as a result, for Europe to build on its traditions of strong educational institutions to become a world leader in learning in the digital age."

The eLearning Industry Group will be used as a forum to develop industry-wide public policy recommendations that will be presented to the national governments of Europe.


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