E-learning’s characteristics fulfil the requirements for learning in a modern society and have created great demand from businesses and education (Wu, et al., 2006). E-Learning as a learning paradigm is also directed towards Lifelong Learning and responds to the challenges of the Europa 2020 strategy as vocational education and training, namely in achieving the goals of social inclusion and cohesion (Official Journal, 2011). E-learning facilitates the access to lifelong learning opportunities to those who prematurely abandon formal education (second chance education). E-learning approach is user-centred, is accordant to the learner’s needs, availability and specific learning rhythm. This methodology breaks down barriers of time and space. It is anytime, anywhere. It is the ideal situation for those who live far from large centres (where schools are), who work during the schools opening hours, those with disabilities who can not relocate to attend school, those who are in secure institutions, to occasional ill people, and also to other hard-to-reach groups. According to the CEDEFOP (2012), the financial profit of e-learning providers increased 70% in the last year, showing evidence of its importance in today’s learning context. Worldwide, the e-learning market has a growth rate of 35.6% (Sun et al., 2008). But failures exist: there is a lack of self-confidence of e-trainers in spite of the global optimism related to e-learning. Nearly 32% of teachers and trainers consider their own competences as ‘weak’ and only 17% say they have ‘very good’ pedagogical ICT skills (CEDEFOP, 2012). This feeling of not being prepared is, maybe, the reason why so many trainers just limit to put content online, and don‘t take advantage of the digital environment. This creates misgivings in students about the virtues of e-learning, and leads to frustration (Sun et al., 2008; Wang, 2003; Arbaugh & Duray, 2002; Thurmond, et al., 2002). As a response, many users stop their online learning after their initial experience, resulting in high rates of attrition (Wang et al. 2003).
On the other hand, there is a special category of potential users, the persons in risk of social exclusion, that leave school early, which can’t fully benefit from e-learning. European policies and legislation have recognized the crucial importance of occupation and employment to ensure equal opportunities for all, to contribute to the full participation of citizens in economic, social and cultural life and enable them to materialize their potential. Education represents a key element for preventing social exclusion risk, for ensuring human development and for promoting an inclusive society. European legislation foresees an "information society for all" by promoting an inclusive digital society that provides opportunities for all and wish to minimize the risk of exclusion. Based on this strategy, Council of Europe launched "i2010 - European Information Society 2010", a five-year strategy aimed at developing the digital economy. It promotes an open and competitive digital economy, focusing on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a driver of inclusion and quality of life.
So, we have two major problems to address: first, the lack of preparation of e-trainers in creating well structured e-learning courses; on the other hand, we want to improve the learning of people in risk in order to achieve social inclusion, one of the main objectives of European policies.
The project has the following specific objectives:
- Improve e-Learning in a global sense allying technological developments and societal challenges.
- Create better e-Learning by reducing social barriers.
- Develop e-Learning tools and methodologies (technological and conceptual related, and evaluation related tools and methodologies) to address "hard-to-reach" groups and to promote among them better skills with regards to the labour market and inclusion and their European citizenship.
- Disseminate the e-Learning offer as widely as possible across participating countries, near the "hard-to-reach" audiences and near the public in general.
- Promoting the development, testing and implementation of innovative practices in the fields of education and training.
- Empowering people through education.
- Help e-learning providers to deal with the problems of e-learning environments and overcome them more easily.
- Making learning more accessible to excluded people, and hard-to-reach people.
- Improving the level of key competences and skills training to excluded people.
- Enhance the international and cross-cultural dimensions of e-Learning.
- Development, testing and/or implementation of innovative practices in the field of e-learning.
This project will design, develop, test and evaluate, in large and wide-ranging areas of activity (NGO activities and their beneficiary groups) a pedagogical platform designed to facilitate the creation of efficient e-learning courses.