July 1999
1higher education is likely to evolve from a loosely federated system of colleges and universities serving traditional students from local communities into, in effect, a knowledge and learning industry. Since nations throughout the world are experiencing growing needs and demands for advanced education  …..… the global knowledge-learning industry will be unleashed by emerging information technology that frees education from the constraints of space, time and credentialing monopolies” 
new knowledge frontiers 

The statement "we live in a fast changing world" is not simply a platitude but a reality that reverberates through different levels of society. The paradigm of the industrial age has given way to the information age. The lexicon of the steady, solid, localised machine has been replaced by a vocabulary favouring that which is international, flexible and networked. Continuing changes and challenges in technology, biology, social values, demography, the environment and international relations are going to tax our collective ability to deal with these changes. At the epicentre of this paper is the question: what methodologies and tools can we use to generate graduates best able to deal with demands of this new era?’ 

The question becomes increasingly relevant as the ramifications of the wider technological and societal changes are felt. Parallel to the changes has been a shift in focus to the value of knowledge and a concomitant measurement of wealth on the ability to learn. Whilst the concept of learning has been pushed onto centre stage the traditional institutions of higher learning seem to still be grappling with ways to deal with the rapid growth of a knowledge industry1 

What key characteristics define the contours of the new knowledge frontier?  

    speed and change : We live in times of rapid change. The potential speed of the computer that I am using to write this paper on will probably increase around 30 times over the course of a year. Over the course of 10 years it will be 1000 times as fast. In terms of my ability to work with this machine, my knowledge has to be able to adapt at a similar tempo. In other words, the speed at which knowledge is developed is reflected in the speed in which knowledge becomes old. 2Brandsma  has estimated that the current shelf-life of professional knowledge is between 5 and 6 years. The accelerated speed of change has direct consequences on educational practice.  When knowledge has a shelf life that fails to reach the double digits value is placed on other areas. Thus the new rules dictate that: the ability to select, judge and imbibe information is of more value than the quantity of knowledge originally held. 
2The researchers Peetsma and Volman  identified 6 characteristics of people who are effective life long learners. 1. An intrinsic motivation to learn. 2. A conceptualisation of learning as an instrument assisting in the achievement of long and short term goals. 3. Anability to place her/himself in the role of director rather than performer (i.e. feels responsible for the decisions taken and the objectives defined) 4. Is focused on the future. 5. An ability to think critically and reflectively on his/her own functioning within a work situation 6. An ability to work independently (based on the ability to plan, monitor and evaluate his/her own learning curve) 

    life long learning: Related to the speed of change is the concept of life long learning 3 .  In order for companies and organisations to remain competitive and effective they require employees with the ability to constantly refresh their own knowledge bases. Learning is not just that which is done at a university, rather life long learning has become a survival tool in the professional lifestyle.   Kevin Kelly calls the strategy of consciously adapting and interacting with the needs of your environment and then learning from the experience:  ‘the law of churning’. Whether it relates to product development or to personal effectivity in his view, within the framework of the new lexicon the same principle applies: “The sustained vitality of a complex network requires that the net keep provoking itself out of balance. If the system settles into harmony and equilibrium, it will eventually stagnate and die4.”    In order to keep your own professional knowledge healthy you have to ‘churn baby churn’.  

    abundance and hierarchy: Information is available in increasingly abundant and diverse forms. The accessibility of a great variety of information has powerful ramifications. On the one hand the new generation of students are increasingly used to handling a multiplicity of sources. This has increased the diversity of existing levels of knowledge, learning styles and attitudes amongst new students. Learning processes thus need to adapt to this by being increasingly individualized and flexible. Another consequence of the diversity of information is the change in old hierarchies. Consider the following (not uncommon) anecdote: ‘a patient with a fairly rare disease consults a doctor and is told there is no cure for his/her ailment. Instead of laying down and accepting the prognosis s/he turns to the online world and in a discussion group hears of a new cure being pioneered in the US. The own doctor is informed of the new technique and is able to start administering the necessary treatment once the patient (via the courier service of DHL) has purchased the necessary medication’. Knowledge is no longer the sole domain of the ‘expert’ but through the online network has gained a far more diffuse and non-hierarchical nature. From this medical example parallels can be made with education. A situation of info abundance has meant that the teacher is no longer the single source of knowledge nor the most viable master-architect of the learning trajectory. Rather the role of the teacher changes. S/he is a coach or mentor that creates the scaffolding in which a personal learning curve is made and acts as the guide and coach to the explorer who goes from discovery to discovery (rather than answer to answer). 

“Klee and Kandinsky developed a pedagogy in which they taught students to analyse rather than copy the great classic master-pieces. They taught students to recognize the different workings of form, colour and material and to be able to identify the working relations between these elements.”  

    flexibility and creativity: A situation of flux, abundance and diversity requires creative answers. In the new complex information frontier the effective participant is required to analyse, react, solve and extract meta-knowledge before moving on to the new challenge. In order to do this, creativity is no longer the sole domain of artists and fringe organisations but rather the ability to engage in role-playing, to use fantasy and offer alternative visions on a given situation are a much sought after palette held by the movers of the new frontier. 5Rijnierse  describes the technique used in the Bauhaus movement in order to strengthen the creative capacities of students. The Bauhaus pedagogy formed the basis for a break-through in art education. The technique was centred in breaking with the old tradition of teaching students by getting them to fastidiously copy the compositions of the old masters. Instead the technique focussed on unleashing the student’s own creativity. Similarly in academic education, in order to generate creative graduates able to rise to new challenges (as opposed to students who are simply well versed in their subject area), the student has to be able to recognize the colour of an argument (i.e. the wider context that it has come from), its value (i.e. its appropriateness to the setting and internal logic) as well as the relations between its component parts in order to be able to break it down and recreate it in new forms. This approach goes beyond a passive confrontation with information that is then reproduced in an appropriate setting. Rather it is about gaining insight into the functioning of a network of meanings and interpretations and being able to ‘connect the dots’ in ways which reveal new relations between the bits and bytes.

The new knowledge frontier requires changes in: 
the curriculum itself: the institution of higher learning will need dynamic curriculuma in order to be able to quickly anticipate and respond to changes in the wider societal landscape. Students will require an increasingly flexible curriculum in order to give form to the learning processes that they consider necessary in order to show that they have developed a hold on the required combination of content and defined academic competences.
Within the scaffolding of TNU a vital component is added to the three areas mentioned. This takes the form of the Academic Call Center. The Call Center is an academic on-line hub providing direct and continuous communication between students and supervisors and between the various facets of a course. A student has direct access to a supervisor for questions or comments on issues raised during the course of the study.  
The flow of information, in the call centre, is not however unidirectional as the supervisor is also there to re-work comments and criticisms from the student back into the programmes in order to improve and keep them up to date. In this way the Call Centre forms the central thread through both the curriculum development and the learning material, as well as providing the backbone to the didactic strategy of TNU.  For further information on the academic call centre direct your browser to http://www.netuni.nl/hp/call.htm 
Nedermeijer and Vos6 . have identified core academic competences as:  the ability  to solve problems; an ability to quickly internalise new knowledge and methods; a critical disposition; a keen sense of inquiry; creativitiy; social and communicative skills in a situation requiring mediation; the ability to formulate questions; the ability to develop a concept into a project and then to realise and evaluate this.  

The learning material. The changing landscape has consequences on the way that the material is presented. The resource material should facilitate non-linear learning trajectories and promote active learning that is relevant to the life experiences of the participant as well as the future work environment. Different participants will have different points of departure, go through different packages of information and read it with different ideas in mind. Within this network of information they may choose the sequence most suited to their own learning trajectory. The "linear" order in the programme is the scaffolding created by the course designer. The scaffolding is formed by the weekly (or bi-weekly) focus on a specific theme; it is further given form through the multiplicity of ‘checkpoints’ (in the form of assignments and assessments) built into the week’s activities. This is supported through the creation of hyperlinks allowing participants to deepen or widen their knowledge as needed.  

The strategies employed to achieve the learning goals. Strategies are needed that that promote active learning, that promote an integrated approach to learning and working and that incorporate a wider range of stakeholders in different levels of the learning process. These learning strategies have to extend further than presenting ‘old wine in new bottles’ rather they should be analogous to ‘exploring new horizons with different forms of transportation’. 

New frontiers and old institutions 

In the face of these trends many universities are turning to ICT to see to what degree the electronic revolution can help to meet the challenges. The number of initiatives in the area of distance education is growing rapidly. Lectures are being put online in the form of digital paper or, being sent out in the form of live video feeds. Students correspond with their lecturers via email and both conduct and submit their research papers from the electronic desktop. The Network University [TNU] is based on the premise that the broader societal trends point to the need for actively constructing educational alternatives rather than reproducing the problems inherent to the lecture hall in an electronic form. This premise is reinforced by the expectation that new technologies can play a key role in forging solutions. The strategies TNU uses to realise its learning goals are collaborative learning and competence based learning. ICT is not used merely as a substitution to traditional forms of education but rather it is employed to

TNU’s response to a changing educational paradigm:
  the formulation of new didactic principles which address the broader changes in education and are reflected in the quality of the learning experiences
  the facilitation of a high degree of supervision and support to assist students in gaining content and professional knowledge whilst reflecting critically on their own learning curve.
   the ability to create learning communities consisting of researchers, students, professionals 
  creating a tighter fit between  critical, relevant content , academic competences, the abilities of graduates and the demands of the job market 
  the creation of a flexible organisation able to respond to the wider changes in society and the knowledge needs being generated
promote innovation (in the increased effectiveness of the learning strategies) and transformation (to be seen in the changed organisation and implementation of both the learning process as well as the organisation itself).  

What are some of potential disadvantages of using ICT in education? 

  Scarce resources are focussed on the hardware and not on the in the people using the hardware. 
  All too often the practice that is created is of disengaged students sitting in front of their monitors relatively isolated from a broader community of students and lecturers 
  Coursework is downloaded online, then printed out by the student him/herself (reading off a monitor is difficult). Thus the key difference to face to face teaching is that the student becomes responsible for printing out his/her own handouts and reading instead of listening to lectures. 
  Linear reproductions are made of existing material thus there is no cognisance taken of the molecular nature of the online world and the potential this offers for learning. 
  Academic education moves increasingly into the area of ‘journalism’ and out of the domain of scientific research. 
What are some of potential advantages of using ICT in education? 7 
  the freedom from many of the constraints of time, place and overfull agenda’s. With this comes a concomitant increase in flexibility for the student and professor.  
  Increased potential for building interactivity into the learning experience (for example the ability to alter parameters in a simulation game based on own needs) 
  Increased communication by using both synchronous and asynchronous technologies 
  Ease and accessibility of information. 
  The ability to making the content itself more playful and exciting and thus more in tune with the reality of the ‘net generation’. 
Whats the importance of community in all of this?
    a belief in the value of the collective knowledge enterprise so that participants take responsibility for the opinions/ views s/he ‘puts out there’
    by being part of the community you are forced to take on different roles (eg. one time you question, then you challenge, then you are tutoring, then you are constructing
    gain access to people and ideas
    the community acts as an  ‘organic knowledge filter’ in a situation of info’ glut. 
So what is collaborative learning?8

Collaborative learning programmes are not based on individualised reading and a single final examination but rather on multiple interactions leading towards common and negotiated understandings based on differences in ideas, knowledge and attitudes amongst all the participants. In this the educational experience is process and not just product oriented. The focus is on constructing an individual knowledge and skill base within the context of a wider group. Participants are required to actively take on different roles within the group. In fulfilling their different roles they have to take into account their own knowledge level and understanding as well as that of the audience. In order for this to be effective participants need to take an active approach to learning as well as take responsibility for how someone else understands. In this latter aspect the sense of ‘community’ is vital. The shared responsibility is increased by the fact that all contributions are added to a communal knowledge pool (hosted by the organisation but maintained by the group itself). 

Numerous researchers9  have investigated the relative merits of passive versus active, collaborative versus individual approaches. Collaborative learning, it is argued, promotes active learning (i.e. ‘what do I need to know to solve the problem at hand and how do I gain access to this information, rather than what is it that you are going to tell me today?’) and increasingly thoughtful participation in the learning process leading to a greater understanding of the issues being tackled. The improved results in students performance (in the various studies cited) were attributed to the fact that students had to constantly query, challenge and/or seeking justification for what they were hearing, reading or discussing; inconsistencies that percolated to the surface, as well as the necessity of trying to understand different viewpoints, were discovered during the groups discourses. In an online environment this process is supported by the fact that views are ‘recorded’ online offering participants a digital memory of the issues and arguments heard.  The turning point in an argument, the moment of ‘insight’, or the moment when you realise your arguments are incomplete or one-sided are accessible through one easy click, to be reflected on and learnt from.  
In broad strokes, learning can be understood as a very fluid, four phased cycle repeated along a longer learning trajectory10 . Each phase within the cycle holds the potential to be organised as a collaborative process.  

The issue of mapping learning goals to competences is further discussed in the chapter on ‘competence based learning’
cycles of learning 

Orientation: here the student is focused on understanding the long and short term learning goals established by the course developer and on orienting his/herself around the competences relevant to the task at hand. In terms of content the student begins to gather information and resources initially placing the findings against pre-existing mental maps in order to gain greater clarity on the personal level of understanding and interests. Parallel to this is the (continuous) process of questioning and challenging of his/her own mental maps and restructuring these according to the findings. 

In the planning phase students map the course developers learning goals to their own knowledge maps as well as defining their own learning goals to the task at hand.   Within the framework of a team (both with fellow students as well as in collaboration with the supervisor), the student then charts out a strategy for imbibing and applying the resources, information and skills necessary to complete the task.   Here bulletin boards, html pages and other digital media provide imprints of these strategies creating a degree of transparency necessary for the rest of the cycle. 

In the execution stage, the student fulfils the task(s) within the established scaffolding of the course. The course is the framework within which the students learns to become the autonomous agent of his/her own learning process. Within the group or team, the student is forced to reason, argue and problem solve. Here discussions lists, bulletin boards, and the portfolio can be useful to ensure asynchronous interchange (where the cognitive element is focussed on evaluation and reflection) and the electronic whiteboard and ‘chat’ possibilities in synchronous interchange (where the focus falls more on brainstorming, social skills and promoting the free-flow of ideas).  

The final stage of evaluation has a subjective and objective focus. The student is asked to reflect on the work that s/he has produced and to map these to his/her own learning goals established in the orientation phase. In this a self-critical attitude towards work produced is promoted. The objective face of evaluation takes the form of processes between students and between student and supervisor. Within this latter function the supervisor has the task of ‘coach’ or external advisor. The supervisor matches the courses learning goals to the work produced and provides the student with direct feedback.  Examples of questions asked by a supervisor during the evaluative stage are: to what degree have the tasks learning goals been achieved? In what way does the defined competency still need to be improved? What are related content issues to explore?  

For an organisation like TNU this leaves us with some questions and problems. It is clear that the goal is to create highly interactive, online programmes facilitating heightened degrees of participation and collaboration, but how do we go about doing this? The fact of the matter is that the simple fact of being online does not magically transform participants into participatory, active learners spontaneously involved in creating a learning community. The online community ‘The WELL’ 11has demonstrated this: “Despite the influx of new users, most users of the WELL do not actively participate in its construction. Recent statistical analysis shows that 50% of all postings in the WELL are generated by 1%, some seventy people, from the larger 7000 person population” 

In the following section firstly a 3-stepped framework is given for integrating collaborative learning with course planning and creation. Then a list of examples is given of collaborative evaluation techniques that can be used for online courses. 

For those looking for a more detailed stepped outline on how to set up a course see: http://www.netuni.nl/
“Stappen plan om een module te maken” by Gerd Junne 
For an example of the way that  academic objectives were outlined for the creation of a cd-rom  see: http://www.dds.nl/~cdcd/academic.htm

Integrating collaborative learning with course planning and creation 

1. Clearly and accurately define the learning objectives for the course as a whole as well as for the individual assignments. What content specific issues do you want to highlight in the programme and what general competences are you aiming for? How does each assignment contribute to these goals? 
2. Secondly make a selection of the appropriate evaluation techniques to reach these objectives. In what different ways will students be assessed in terms of content and in terms of competences? What are the criteria for a 9 and what constitutes a 5?  
3. Define the learning activities and link these to the learning objectives and evaluation/assessment techniques. What content specific issues do you want to highlight in the course and what competences have you identified? These should be clearly articulated to the participant so that s/he is aware of these in the ‘orientation’ phase of his/her learning cycle. The student incorporates the learning activities into the ‘planning’ phase of his/her cycle.  

Examples of collaborative learning activities that can be built into an online course 

Group Evaluation/Testing: In a pre-determined discussion thread structured into various intervals of the course, students come together in order to test what they have learnt thus far. Questions are asked to smaller groups who have to formulate a response and place it online. This type of collaboration promotes tutoring and tutorship, exposure to different problem solving approaches and points of view, peer review of work, and aids group formation. For the supervisor/course developer this tactic has a number of advantages. On the one hand it forms an early warning signal to where content related difficulties may lie. On the other hand, the content of the answers can also contribute to the creation of a FAQ database of content related issues.  
Linking student achievement to group goals: One approach to enhancing student achievement is to clearly establish group goals while retaining individual accountability and a sense of equal opportunity for all team members. In other words, the group is rewarded on the basis of the quality on the individual learning of each of its members. Establishing group rewards can be done in a variety of ways. Individual accountability can be nurtured by awarding bonus points when all members of the group (a) achieve a stated goal (e.g., all pass an online quiz), (b) improve each member's performance over a pre-measured length of time (e.g., this could also be measured by an online quiz that records individual results), and (c) through peer evaluations (e.g. the answers to short assignments that have been submitted to each other, critiqued, returned and then improved). High achievers could be rewarded for taking the time to provide explanations to lower achievers. A problem often encountered is that high achievers are tempted to wrestle control of the group away from others to do the work themselves. Focusing the group's attention on learning something as a team (options a and b above) or rewarding effective listening and coaching through peer evaluations can reduce this kind of behaviour as well as developing skills in this area. 
Issues for course developers to consider: 
task structuring and organisation,  
  what are the various participative roles,  
  creating the perception that all contributions count 
  group size and cohesion,  
 formal or informal nature of discourse,  
  student roles and style of contributions,  
  relating task functions to type of on-line facilities and available software 
Role Playing: Role playing is particularly useful in covering material that students find abstract. Part of the learning objective in roleplaying is for the student to both internalize as well as being able to intellectualize about working relationships, professional responsibilities, methods, etc. For an example of role playing as a collaborative endeavour see: http://www.netuni.nl/demos/mai/nieo/nieo3.htm. In this example, the students are asked to enter into a debate with each other in which they discuss the issue of ‘technology transfer’ from the historical perspective of the 1970s. They can choose from one of 5 positions elaborated in the assignment. 
  Short Cases: Short case studies (of approximately one page in length) are useful for introducing topics, strengthening critical thinking, and developing student interest. Short cases can relate to the most mundane aspects of subject related concepts but can simultaneously cover exciting, real world situations. Students debating points of the case are given a concrete example of the applicability of the material in their everyday lives and are offered a trampoline for exploring further intersections with other case studies. When a Socratic approach is coupled with the short-case studies it can encourage critical analysis by students. For example, groups of students examine two or three pertinent questions about the mini-case. Conclusions from each group on each question are placed in a discussion list. After all comments have been made, the class then critiques the responses. This is an effective strategy to use in the beginning of a course to develop an awareness around participation as, the critique of a response is then separated from the student who made the response, reducing the risk of embarrassment. See for example the case studies being developed at: http://www.netuni.nl/description/ipe_internet.htm 
Does the collaborative exercise involve skill acquisition, joint planning, categorization, memory tasks and/or critical analysis? 
Synchronous Short Assignments: Mini-assignments provide an avenue for reinforcing task-oriented topics and mediation related competences. After introducing the material, the class is divided into groups (either permanent or ad hoc) and given a problem requiring 15 minutes to complete. The result of their mediations have to be placed online. The advantage to this approach is that enhanced collaborative learning is combined with immediate use of the new material, reducing the time between concept and practice.  
Asynchronous Short Assignments: There are several examples of these kind of assignments to be found under the assignment button of the ‘Introduction to IPE programme’ http://www.netuni.nl/ipe. For example, assignment 6 in week 9 reads: This assignment requires that you work together with a fellow student. One of you will be an advocate of the IMF, the other an opponent of the IMF.  
See also: further examples of ideas for collaborative work in an online environment by Lara van Druten: http://www.netuni.nl/ techies/group.htm 
And: Tips and tricks for shaping a virtual learning space http://fas.sfu.ca/0h/css/update /vol6/6.3-tips-Virtual- Learning.html 
1. Find a fellow student to work with.  
2. The person who has chosen to be an opponent of the IMF should write an article (of approximately 1xA4) criticizing the role of the IMF in the region. The paper should include an account of some of the most important actions taken by the IMF in the East Asian region, as well as some of the most important criticism targeted against the IMF.  
3. The advocate of IMF policy should place his/herself in the position of a staff representative of the IMF and write a reaction to the opponent's article (the reaction should be approximately 1xA4 in length). In this reaction the 'IMF representative' should explain why the criticism is not valid.  
Both opponent and advocate should use existing articles on this subject to reinforce their answers. The two A4 sized papers should be submitted as one assignment with each name clearly displayed on the front. 

Another example of asynchronous short assignments is found in the formulation of assignments with various degrees of complexity. The participants work together with those in the group who are interested in both the same subject matter and able to deal with that level of difficulty. For example: Assignment 1c of week 6 of the ‘Introduction to IPE programme’ http://www.netuni.nl/ipe reads: “The final assignment for this section recognizes 3 layers of difficulty. Find a student interested in answering the same question and submit the paper with both of your names on it. Your answer should be approximately 15 - 20 lines long.  

TNU aims to establish a network of people and organisations around content related issues. Larger projects (initiated within the scaffolding of TNU) will, as far as possible, be situated within this wider network. This means that in both simulation projects as well as research commissioned by outside organisations, students will have a wider network of practitioners and experts to whom they can direct their research and questions. 

- (least difficult) What are some of the criticisms that have been targeted at Modernisation Theory? 
- (slightly more complex) What were some of the implications of modernisation theory for the foreign policy of the US? 
- (third degree of complexity) Some scholars have noted an irony in Rostow's formulation of 5 stages of development  and his sub-title "a non-communist manifesto" in that it shows strong parallels to orthodox Marxism. Can you identify 4 reasons on which this accusation is based?  
Major Projects: Assigning a group of students to a larger project provides a sense of real world experience in an online setting. The effect is enhanced when the topic investigated (or project undertaken) includes different elements from a professional setting. For example, the process of interviewing company officials, analysing data, and integrating theories with practice allows the student to apply and reflect upon what they have learned. See Euro programme for examples of major collaborative projects. 
Within the traditional concept, learners are first ‘taught’ theoretical knowledge and afterwards apply it to test its applicability to a given issue. In the problem and competence oriented concept, learners begin by trying to solve the problem using their available knowledge, become aware of their own informational needs of where and how they can apply the theory as well as the competences that are needed in order to do this successfully 
 Competence aware learning 

The pioneers on the new frontier require both traditional academic skills as well as a plethora of other competences in order to face the challenges ahead. One of the broader aims of TNU is to produce graduates who are able to face these challenges by: 
- acting appropriately in a context of social and cultural diversity;  
- who are able to think creatively and make critical evaluations; 
- graduates able to effectively communicate, the critical solutions they formulate 
- graduates who are used to managing themselves and to applying their skills in different environments.  

One method to achieve this is to place emphasis on the acquisition of competences during the learning process. A competence can be broadly defined as: the ability to apply knowledge, skills and values to relevant workplace/study-place environments based on the standards/success criteria required by that environment. 
In other words, a competence is always a marriage between knowledge and skill. 

The application of numbers refers to the ability to read and use numerical information (such as statistics and percentages) within an appropriate context placed in a wider argument 

Core competence's are those that are relevant to a number of different settings. These empower learners to be able to adapt and transfer their learning from one setting to another. Examples of such skills are12 : 
- communicative skills 
- the application of numbers, ideas, concepts 
- information technology skills 
- personal skills relating to working with others 
- personal skills relating to critical self-reflection 
- problem solving skills 

TNU aims to integrate the acquisition and exercise of competences throughout the curriculum's components and to relate this to assessment criteria. TNU has identified five key areas each with their own core competences. The five key areas relate to: analytical skills; the ability to combine and organize information; the ability to articulate ideas appropriate to the context; the ability to think self-critically whilst functioning in a social context and profession- specific skills. 

a competence implies the integration of knowledge and skills that is  necessary to act professionally in a situation of complexity 

Core competences related to analytical skills 
- pattern recognition 
- ability to read and think logicially 
- employment of different forms of intelligence (emotional vs analytic) 
- ability to think conceptually (to understand, apply, improve and invent concepts) 
- ability to relate theory and practice 

Core competences related to combining and organizing information 
- ability to gather and organize a wealth of detailed and confusing information 
- ability to combine information and ideas creatively 
- ability to construct an argument 
- ability to apply research strategies to a context of information overload 

Core competences related to the articulation of ideas and arguments appropriate to the context 
- ability to formulate questions 
- ability to express simplicity 
- ability to express complexity 
- ability to find effective forms to express an idea (for example: is it a written report or  a hyperlinked file; an audio file and/or a powerpoint presentation?) 
- ability to write 
- audio visual literacy 

Core competences related to self reflection and socialization 
- ability to handle feedback 
- self management and motivation skills 
- ability to critique past personal performances  
- ability to listen 
- sensitivity to cultural differences 
- cooperation skills 
- mediation and negotiation skills 

Core competences relating to professional skills 
- abiltiy to delegate 
- keep abreast of trends 
- time management 
- project work 
- ability to coach 

Competence aware learning and evaluation techniques 

In order to acquire and fine tune these competence's their articulation should be mapped to the assignments and specified in the assignment’s learning objectives. This mapping would function on two levels: firstly the activation of the competence should function to increase the level of understanding and the internalisation of the content at hand  and secondly, as the means to acquire and tune the competence itself. 

Some examples of competence based assignments 

  RE: Core competences related to combining and organizing information - Filtering: When dealing with any research question, we are faced with the need to develop a research strategy for coming to grips with the issue. In a wired world, the research skills that are needed are somewhat different to those addressing the confines of old media firstly because so much of online information exists in a spatio-temporal vacuum (unreferenced, unindexed and no longer clearly linked to the source) and secondly because there is so much more information accessible through a single click. Consequently students have to be increasingly able to 'filter' information.  Filtering has two facets: pre-filter and post-filtering. 
Pre-filtering refers to the ability to set up research strategies; to finding out where to look for what kind of information. When to go online (be that on the Web, in newsgroups or even in gopherspace13 ) and when to turn to the library. What search engine is a good one to use when looking for specific information as opposed to creating a general mental map of the subject area? Assignments in this regard could be to ask students to set up a research strategy for a particular issue. The research strategy (rather than the result of the research) is the assignment that is submitted.  
Post filtering refers to another facet of the competence i.e. knowing how to deal with the 12 084 answers that the search engine gives you as a response to your single request.  At the collaborative level, the learning community plays an important role in this regard as a ‘subject related organic filter’. Urls and resources are shared and critiqued based on common goals and interest. The valuable urls are pushed to the forefront, creating effective portals from which further discovery can be launched. At the individual level, participants learn to scan and analyse information based on its history, colour (what is its purpose?), internal coherence and value.  
Learning to think and work visually entails: 
  empowering students to meet the challenges of confronting and dissecting cultural representations in an increasingly multicultural and technological society 
  the ability to visualise and represent a situation of increasing complexity 
  the ability to  identify underlying relationships and patterns in an argument and to graphically articulate these 
  insight into how media works and how meanings are constructed
    learning to think visually The degree of audio-visual literacy in academic education is varied. Some disciplines, such as Anthropology or Physical Science, have long incorporated visual elements (such as diagrams and graphics of particle structures) into both the teaching and the research process. Whilst other disciplines, such as Art History, have regarded a fundamental engagement with visual constructs, such as paintings, as being essential. In Political Science however, the vast majority of textbooks and educational media have regarded pictures and sound as decorations rather than objects of analysis in themselves. Yet even in Political Science this is slowly changing. Increasingly there is an awareness of the skill and importance of being able to visually represent a complex issue or idea in a single graphic. 
Media representations are part of the fabric of our society, they help construct our images and understanding of the world. Increasingly it is said that the current generation of students are the MTV generation. Whilst you may (or may not) be a part of that MTV generation, you are also probably aware that the mere abundance of interaction with images does not necessarily translate in an increased ability to better analyse audio-visual material. Within the old lexicon, an argument was presented in a 10 page paper: the new lexicon asks for the key pointers of an argument to be chrystalized into a 1 minute ride. This is a skill that has to be fine tuned and developed. This competence involves the ability to both regard and construct images as objects of analysis in themselves (which goes further than regarding an image as a pretty but not essential adornment) as well as an ability to reconstruct often highly complex relationships into a single representation.  
Should you require assistance in using the graphics options in your word processor or learning to use power point, try following the online learning @ your fingertips course developed by TNU in which the basics of power point are explained, http://www.netuni.nl/learning Alternatively you could consult Z-Net University (http://www.zdnet.com) which gives online tutorials in using different aspects of particular software packages.

The following example is an assignment articulated in the cd-rom project on the International Political Economy of the Raw Materials markets, it reads as follows:  In 1995 Yasau Hamanaka lost $2.6 billion for the Sumitomo Corporation of Japan whilst attempting to create a monopoly position on the international copper markets. He did not do this alone but planned his deals with several other stakeholders on the London Metals Exchange. Identify the organisations to which 5 ‘characters’ in the Sumitomo debacle belong. Once you have identified these organisations, create a flow chart in which you illustrate the nature of the flow of capital in this network between these organisations.  This should be graphically represented and submitted to the supervisor. 

Competence and collaborative learning: an outline of a project-based educational venture 

The following is an example of one way to organise a large project based assignment in a way that combines elements of collaborative and competence aware learning. Once the broader learning goals for the assignment have been defined and the appropriate evaluation techniques outlined, the broader participant group can be broken down into sub-groups each with their role within the framework of the project: 

For example: imagine that the task at hand is to establish an ICT Roundtable discussion for a developing country. This would be in the form of a joint endeavour undertaken by all stakeholders (such as the national government, key specialists, industries, media, NGOs and users) with the aim of generating a win-win situation for all collaborating parties. For this roundtable it is necessary to identify and formulate national ICT priorities; identify 'agents of change' and formulate a number of 'bankable' projects based on fund-raising, investment and partnering.

Task group Key tasks Competence
Project initiating and planning Analysis of the projects landscape including a problem analysis and division of the group into different  task groups (each with their own project  goals and  learning goals)
  • pattern recognition
  • Ability to relate practice and theory
  • Ability to delegate
  • Task groups (or working groups named A-Z)  Each sub group has the task of formulating, presenting and defending the solutions proposed for their own task area
  • thinking creatively working together as a team as well as incorporating a number of different stakeholders into the process
  • presentation skills
  • defending an argument
  • Evaluation team Evaluation of proposed solutions within the context of the whole project
  • learning to give criticism
  • critical reflection
  • cultural sensitivity
  • Project management team Project management and co-ordination
  • planning, coordination
  • working within a budget
  • dealing with problems as they arise
  • Documentation team Document and review the project from the level of processes and information flows (from group structure to project  management to co-ordination to an  analysis of the information and  communication flows)  reflect on present processes, learn from what has worked and suggest ways to improve on what has not
    The digital portfolio 

    Thus far, learning has been spoken of within two contexts. Firstly, learning related to the ability to use current knowledge and skills to complete a task or problem with which the learner is currently faced. Secondly, learning related to the development of a personal methodology aimed at evaluating past performances, learning from mistakes and thus taking the necessary steps towards life-long learning. The digital portfolio system is a key instrument in both aspects of learning . 

    The idea of a portfolio for art students is not uncommon, yet for students of the social sciences it is often looked upon as an oddity. The art-portfolio is intended as a collection of works that represent the development of the artist: it is a representation of both the working progress of its owner as well as a showcase for the created works. In this way it represents the explored themes and approaches as well as the theoretical and technical considerations of the exhibited pieces. The conceptual scaffolding around the digital portfolio for the student in the social sciences is not so very different. On the one hand it offers an online ‘showcase’ in which the student can present his/herself to a wider network of stakeholders in the educational and professional sphere. On the other hand it is an instrument the student uses to trace his/her own theoretical and competence based considerations in the creation of his/her academic research and analysis (what we have called ‘learning products’).  

    An homepage + plus package 

    The digital portfolio is an “home page-plus” package.  It consists of a student’s own homepage that contains a number of obligatory elements. In the creation and maintenance of the own website the student is given and must assume a great deal of responsibility . Within the portfolio the student must demonstrate that s/he has taken responsibility for the way that s/he has acquired/is acquiring the competences necessary to fulfil their profession successfully. This is done in first instance by linking the process of self-reflection around the competences to the ‘products’ (or assignments) that have been created during the length of the course. In second instance this is done by creating a digital window in which the student presents the best practice of own work generated through-out his/her career with TNU.  

    The moments of reflection around the competences and learning objectives have two facets: 1.text based: the student keeps a written diary on his/her progress 2. graphical representation: the student uses an interactive competence meter to record the degree (from 1 - 5) to which a competence has been reached. Both entries have a date and cannot be altered once they have been placed into the system. A student is asked to record both aspects twice during an assignment (during the middle and at the end). Both aspects are obligatory elements for the successful completion of an assignment.

    The component parts 

    The component parts of the portfolio reflect the clear scaffolding TNU provides in order to guide and support the learning experience and thus goes further than merely asking the student to fill in a number of forms as a reflection of his/her learning experiences. Rather the portfolio offers the student both a platform to develop his/her own creativity and supplies the supervisors and course developers with evidence that the student has insight into his/her own learning process and parallel to this can demonstrate the concomitant competencies.  

    The obligatory elements  in the portfolio consist of: 

    A student’s CV containing an overview of the student’s work and educational experience as well as the courses followed. A student should get into the practice of regularly updating his/her CV. 

    An example of another kind of portfolio system (including examples of student work and a guide on making a portfolio) can be found at: www.kzoo.edu/pfolio

    The products section, contains an archive of all the products a student has created during the course of his/her study. The products are richly hyperlinked to:  
    - (if applicable) the organisation within the learning network that commissioned the research/literature overview/multi-medial product/simulated speech/case study or whatever the learning-product may be. 
    - just as important as the product itself is the link that the student makes to the original learning objectives set by the course developer as well as his/her own learning objectives in terms of content and in terms of competences.  
    - lastly the student should link to the various moments of reflection that s/he has recorded around assignments to the products  

      The competency section includes the competencies listed above and are linked to the student’s self-assessment already described. 

      Student presentations are placed in the public area of the portfolio. It is in this arena that student’s showcase themselves and their work to the wider network in the learning community. 

    Within the framework of TNU: the portfolio is not intended as a stand alone application, but rather as a vital element providing the conceptual and practical cement to a single, cohesive online learning package.

    The portfolio system functions as a tool that brings together the different elements of TNU’s didactic strategies. It is hoped that in this way the participant will learn to draw connections between their experiences and achievements; record experiences that may otherwise be forgotten or undervalued; identify patterns emerging in their own areas of study and ultimately be more pro-active in designing their further educational plan.  

    1Katz, R.N. and Associates (1999) “Dancing with the Devil”, p. 10 – 11 Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Fransisco 
    2Brandsma, J. (ed) (1998) “(On)mogelijkheden en perspectieven van een leven lang leren” [report commissioned by the project team ‘life long learning’], Enschede: OCTO, The Hague 
    3Peetsma, T.T.D. and Volman, M.L.L. (1998) “Bevorderende en belemmerende factoren voor een leven lang leren: exploratief onderzoek op microniveau” [report commissioned by the project team ‘life long learning’], Amsterdam: SCO-Kohnstamm  / The Hague 
     4Kelly, K. (1999) “New Rules for the Networked Economy” http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.09/newrules.html?pg=11&topic 
    5Rijnierse, E. (1998) “De Bauhaus-pedagogiek: discussiestuk over het onderwijs binnen de vakgroep politicologie en de consequenties voor de organisatie van de opleiding”, Department of International Relations, University of Amsterdam 
    6Nedermeijer, J. and Vos, P. (1998) “De academische signatuur van de propedeuse scheikunde”, Paper ORD ’98, Leiden: ICLON 
    7The point srelating to the advantages of using ICT are a reformulation of those raised by Peters, E., Moonen, J. and van Geloven, M. “(On)mogelijkheden en knelpunten van ICT in het Hoger Onderwijs – een literatuuronderzoek” Deelonderzoek van het onderzoek naar gebruik van ICT in het Hoger Onderwijs in opdracht van het ministerie van Ocand W.
    8For further information on collaborative learning try one of these portal sites: Collaborative Learning portal sites: http://mytilus.kenyon.edu/collab/collab.htm and http://www.hypernews.org/HyperNews/get/www/collaboration.htm 
    9See for example: Johnson, R. T., & Johnson, D. W. (1986). “Action research: Cooperative learning in the science classroom”, Science and Children, 24, 31-32. or Totten, S., Sills, T., Digby, A., & Russ, P. (1991). “Cooperative learning: A guide to research.”, New York: Garland; or a comparative study done in 1995 at Western Illinois University,  published online at: http://borg.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/jte-v7n1/gokhale.jte-v7n1.html
    10The learning cycle developed by the EFA (educatieve faculteit Amsterdam [the innovative result of cooperation between the Amsterdam Higher School of Education and the Higher School of Holland]) has been repeated here in a slightly adapted form. See: “Van statisch naar dynamisch: opleidingsmodel EFA-EXPLO, January 1999, working group ‘dynamic curriculum’.  
    11 http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/csoc/papers/voices/  
    12Note that these core competences are very similar to the one’s identified by Nedemeijer and Vos as the competences necessary for life long learning. Nedemeijer, J. and Vos, P. (1998) “De academische signatuur van de propedeuse scheikunde”, Paper ORD ’98, Leiden: ICLON
    13 Gopher is an early Internet program developed to hierarchically organize a wealth of text- based information available on the Net (unlike the WWW, gopherspace has no multimedia applications). Gopher helps you find and retrieve information by presenting menus of options. These menus group information usually by subject. The system was very popular in academia during the early phase of the Internet.