As lifelong learners, it is highly likely that many of us will face a number of transitions throughout our lives, moving from secondary school to university, entering employment, moving back into training or education to reskill or upgrade competencies.
Such transitions represent a challenge for any learner – adapting to new physical and virtual environments, different teaching and learning approaches, learning to live, learn and work within new communities. And not every learner succeeds, in particular in the transition from secondary education (SE) to higher education (HE), as illustrated by the high dropout rates in the early years of HE in countries as diverse as France and Finland. While a number of efforts to bridge the gap between SE and HE are being made across Europe, the vast majority exist mainly in pockets and at disciplinary level (remedial support in mathematics, access to university lectures for 6th form pupils). Similarly, other initiatives focus on practical support (open days, virtual campus guides).
Research and needs analysis carried out by the members of the eLene2learn network strongly suggests that an approach based on the development of learning to learn competencies could contribute largely in equipping learners to deal with these transitions more effectively. Furthermore, approaches such as ePortfolios, blogs, social networks, online video and serious games have enormous potential to support the development of learning to learn competencies and to accompany citizens in transitions throughout their learning lives. Given the EU strategic priorities of increasing access to HE and developing transversal competencies such as digital literacy and learning to learn, mirrored by national education priorities and actions across the Member States in the partnership, eLene2learn selected this particular area for attention over a number of others that the network was in a position to address.
eLene2learn thus proposes a multi-stakeholder network, exploring and promoting the contribution of ICT and digital media in supporting the development of learning to learn competencies in lifelong learning transitions. eLene2learn will involve schools, higher education institutions and other networks in the identification of current practice, in pilot implementation of a variety of approaches and in drawing out the lessons learnt.
In order to understand better the notion of learning to learn competencies, we propose to use the following Education Council definition:
"‘Learning to learn' is the ability to pursue and persist in learning, to organise one's own learning, including through effective management of time and information, both individually and in groups. This competence includes awareness of one's learning process and needs, identifying available opportunities, and the ability to overcome obstacles in order to learn successfully. This competence means gaining, processing and assimilating new knowledge and skill as well as seeking and making use of guidance. Learning to learn engages learners to build on prior learning and life experiences in order to use and apply knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts: at home, at work, in education and training. Motivation and confidence are crucial to an individual's competence."
(Education Council (2006) Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competencies for lifelong learning. Brussels: Official Journal of the European Union, 30.12.2006 annex, paragraph 5).
This eLene2learn network proposal is a result of the ongoing pedagogy, technology and policy watch carried out by the eLene partners under the Cooperation Agreement signed by the member institutions on completion of the eLene-TLC eLearning programme project in Dec. 2008 (2006-4536 / 001 - 001 ELE ELEB14). Throughout 2009 and 2010, regular online knowledge-sharing meetings drew out the topic of ICT and learning to learn competencies as having a common urgency, followed by two face-to-face project development meetings to define the scope, objectives and main activities of the proposed network. Co-construction of project proposals has always been a key success factor for eLene, ever since the start of the group's activities in 2003, and this principle continues to be applied within the wider network, now extended to EDEN (European Distance and E-learning Network), Ellinogermaniko Agogi (EL) and University of Dundee (UK), all of whom have collaborated previously, thus forming a solid, operational partnership with the expertise and motivation to meet the ambitious objectives of eLene2learn.