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Estonian model for national cooperation in e-learning

Alastair Creelman 2009-10-09

Jüri Lõssenko, Estonian IT Foundation
Bild:Jüri Lõssenko
Jüri Lõssenko, Estonian IT Foundation

Estonia has created a national framework for cooperation in e-learning using a combination of state and EU funding that can be of particular interest to many of us in Swedish higher education. I met up with Jüri Lössenko of the Estonian IT Foundation at the SVERD conference in Stockholm (6-7 October) where he delivered an interesting overview of e-learning in Estonian higher education.

Jüri Lõssenko is a project manager at the Estonian IT Foundation where he and his colleagues at the Estonian e-Learning Development Centre are responsible for coordinating the implementation of e-learning in Estonian higher and vocational education. He has been involved in several higher education and ICT projects on both national and international level financed by the European Social Fund and several Community programmes.

Development of e-learning in Estonia

Estonia has seen a major investment in e-learning over the last ten years or so and has now a coordinated national initiative to ensure that the country's higher and vocational education sectors are able to train students in essential 21st century skills. Estonia is a small country and distance learning has therefore not been a major focus. Instead they have invested in using technology in all forms of education and using e-learning as much as possible on campus.

The first major initiative in e-learning was the Tiger Leap Foundation initiated in 1996. This was a top-down approach to kick start e-learning in Estonia. It consisted of building up the national IT infrastructure, providing broadband access for schools and teaching basic computer skills. Phase 2 of this initiative (2001-2005) focused on further teacher training, development of infrastructure, networking and support of small-scale projects in schools. By 2006 all schools had broadband access and about 65% of all teachers had received basic IT training.

E-Learning Consortium

The driving forces behind e-learning development today are the Estonian e-University consortium and the Estonian e-Vet consortium jointly funded by the EU (79%), the government (17%) and membership fees (4%). These consortia coordinate national activities for e-learning for the whole adult education sector (higher ed and adult ed). They do not decide the universities' IT policy but provide guidelines and infrastructure to assist in the development of e-learning.

Among the services they offer are:

* Cooperation in developing and popularising e-learning in Estonia
* Common LMS maintained by the consortium (Blackboard, Moodle or IVA). The consortium provides central servers, operation, updates and maintenance. Universities provide local support
* Common national repository for learning resources. All learning objects must be open (Creative Commons) and funding is available for development.
* National teacher training programmes at three levels (basic, intermediate, advanced).
* National e-learning quality label and manual for quality e-course development.
* Multipoint videoconferencing and recording. All universities are connected and systems are coordinated.
* Cooperation in international projects and membership of international organisations.
* They are currently working on integrating the student admission system with the LMS enabling automatic registration and transfer of grades.

The consortium holds regular conferences, coordinates special interest networks and provides a gateway to all resources on their website at www.e-ope.ee (only in Estonian). The benefits of this type of national initiative include:

* Better information about learning opportunities; common database and search engine for e-courses
* More reasonable use of resources; common investments to environment, portal, technical support, time of students and teachers, central investment to e-course development
* Supporting regional development with the help of regional study centres
* Facilitates cooperation and competition; one partner for enterprises, easier and coordinated cooperation in international projects and organisations

In 2008 Estonia had around 45,000 students (70 % of total) participating in around 2,600 e-learning courses.

Estonian IT Foundation (Estonian/English)
Estonian e-University Consortium (in Estonian)
Tiger Leap Foundation (Estonian/English)

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