Friday, October 12, 2007

eLearning comes of age (Maruja Gutierrez Días) was born at Lisbon in April 2000. It is now a healthy seven years old creature. Seven is a magic figure. It is the threshold of adulthood in many cultures. It is a time for starting your way out from home and for assuming a place in society. eLearning is now starting this adult path, out of the cosy environment of fledglings, out of the limelight. Utilities become the more invisible as they are taken for granted, as they become a part of daily life, embedded in the social fabric. eLearning has been accepted as a basic tool for Learning. This is such a big step ahead that we should be most happy.

Seven years ago, most of us were labelled as visionaries, this often meaning slightly nutty. Many people thought eLearning was a new name for becoming proficient keyboarders in productivity programmes. Some people thought eLearning was a new name for getting teachers off the classroom and replacing them by computers. Some other thought eLearning was just a new money machine. Some even thought eLearning was cheap and easy.

We have come a long way, an arduous way. There have been casualties along the way, and I would like to pay tribute to some of the enthusiastic companies and people who are no more with us. But for most of us it has been a positive learning experience. Getting education and training systems to understand and adopt e-learning has required a substantial effort. To start with, it has required a substantial investment in infrastructures, equipment and training.

The extent and the speed to which this has happened in Europe is one of the major success stories of the so called Lisbon strategy. It is only right that this "coming of age" of eLearning happens also at Lisbon. Portugal is a very good example of how European countries have faced the ICT challenge and have recognised the need to equip children, students and citizens at large with the skills and competences to learn, work and live in the knowledge society.

Looking back, we could be pleased with eLearning so far. But it is not a time to look back but to look forward. The ground is laid to make eLearning what it should be: a personal tool for lifelong learning and a social tool for innovation and change in learning. We see eLearning as a basic channel to make lifelong learning accessible to all.

We can now envisage a European learning infrastructure providing access and support to all sorts of learning for all sorts of people. This wide ranging vision of learning opportunities as a service from education to society requires creativity and innovation to become true. eLearning can and must be there.

(Maruja Gutierrez Días)