e‑Learning is one of the most active fields of research and practice in Europe, in all the education and training sectors. The use of new and innovative technologies for learning is raising expectations and motivation between researchers, teachers, students and other education stakeholders.The European Conference on e‑Learning (ECEL) is an annual event that has been at the forefront of this revolution. It brings together groups of people in a variety of areas related to e‑Learning seeking to combine cutting‑edge research with practical, real‑life applications, in order to advance the state of e‑Learning around Europe.
The 9th European Conference on e‑Learning ‑ ECEL 2010 took place in Porto, Portugal. Porto is renowned for its historical City Centre (World Heritage) and its wine but also for being an innovation‑prone city which is an excellent environment for an e‑learning conference. This special edition of EJEL is dedicated to ECEL 2010.
With an initial submission of 220 abstracts, after the double blind, peer review process there were 97 papers published in the Conference Proceedings, an acceptance rate that places ECEL 2010 on the top of the conference quality rankings. The number of high‑quality submissions to the conference required a thorough process of selection by the session chairs and the editors to finally produce this edition of the journal. The selected articles cover different points of view of e‑learning from a more technological approach to a more pedagogical one.
The first set of articles is precisely concerned with technological aspects and in particular with the importance of computer aided assessment systems in the efficiency of e‑learning. Trevor Barker presents a study on the importance of automated feedback to provide good quality individual feedback to learners. He also demonstrates that these systems, by relieving the teachers from the exhaustive task of test marking can give them more time for communicating with students. Escudeiro and Cruz present a very innovative approach to the grading of students' answers in free text. Their work minimizes fluctuations in the evaluation criteria, improves detection of plagiarism, reduces the assessment process time and allows teachers to focus on the feedback to the students. Gütl, Lankmayr, Weinhofer and Höfler approach the design, development and validation of an automatic test item creation tool. This tool is able to extract concepts out of textual learning content and create different types of questions on the basis of those concepts.
To complete this more technically‑oriented view, Kurilovas, Bireniene and Serikoviene present a model and several scientific methods for the quality evaluation of Learning Objects (LOs). They pay special attention to their reusability level, in particular, when crossing linguistic barriers.
The second set of articles focus on pedagogical aspects of e‑learning and in particular, in students' related issues. Karin Levinsen presents new concepts related with e‑learning. She addresses the phenomenology of acquiring digital literacy and self‑programming in order to be able to identify relevant learning objectives and scaffolding.
Marques and Belo approach the profiling of student through their web usage habits. Through their investigations they can discover what students do, by establishing user navigation patterns on Web based platforms, and learn how they explore and search the sites’ pages that they visit. Nakayama and Yamamoto also address student issues by examining participants’ assessments made during the transitional phase in a learning environment which includes blended and fully online courses. O’Hara, Reis, Esteves, Brás and Branco focus on the effectiveness of learning through sports with the systematic integration of interactive situations in different contexts, with or without electronic devices. Sabey and Horrocks tackle the need for new electronic resources for health research for use within the context of a classroom taught course. They describe the process of developing an interactive resource incorporating a narrative element. Finally, Tuncay, Stanescu and Tuncay present a very innovative approach to the use of metaphors in e‑learning to reinforce communication between students and teachers.
As chair of ECEL 2010 and editor of this special edition of EJEL I feel privileged to have been in contact with such exciting thoughts, ideas and projects presented by the authors. It is now my pleasure to pass on to you this collection of articles, knowing for sure that they will motivate you to continue or even to start your research, development or use of e‑Learning as a major learning strategy. I also look forward to meeting you in Brighton, this autumn, for another fascinating ECEL conference.