The main ideas of this section are taken from the book Multi-Media-Campus: Die Zukunft der Bildung by Franz-Theo Gottwald which outlines a new idea of how to teach and learn within an interactive and multimedia campus set up on the internet. It offers interesting perspectives on tomorrow's education and the changes which have taken place so far.
2.1 Megatrends - a learning society
The world we are living in, changes rapidly. Most of today's employees work no longer in industry but in service industries which offer information like the press, banking, telecommunications and all the sectors based on computers. The trend moves away from simple manufacturing to processing of information. People must learn to deal with this trend and not only globalisation demands life-long learning.
Nowadays, one is everywhere asked to be flexible. This means to be permanently able to do relearning, to deal with new technologies and to be ready for new requests. Flexibility means also to be capable of taking up new perspectives.
Within hundred years, the amount of freetime available to employees has doubled. Around 1900 people had 2.000 hours per year, at 2030 it will be as high as 5.200 hours. Most of that time will be used for multimedia education. Sparetime will be less used for mere consumption of leisure-time activities but will make up the potential for self-realisation.
Like the leisure industry, also education lives on the people's growing urge for change. The variety in education can be quite effectively used to make the learning process more interesting and to increase the learners' potential.
Not only variety, but also interaction determines the future of education. Interactive communication is a highly flexible means of education which does not aim on the mere imparting of knowledge but rather on communication and the techniques of how to get information from various sources.
The world's knowledge has organised itself in a gigantic "ocean of knowledge" which is constantly growing. Not even in one's own subject it is no longer possible to keep pace. To filter relevant information out of this vast amount of knowledge, we need aids to support us in valuation and evaluation of information. In the future, not detail knowledge will be important but general knowledge about ourselves, our relation to our environment and to our world. We need to adapt our way of how to cope with information to our constantly changing world.
2.2 Open learning in virtual worlds
Tomorrow's learner is an open system. His thinking, emotions, motivations and learning are integrated into the world surrounding him. He is dependent on his cultural, social and ecological environment. No longer cognitive elements within a learner can be regarded as positive and emotional ones as negative. If we understand a learner as an open system, this dilemma is neutralised.
Additionally, technology is no longer a dangerous tool in the hands of people who aim to seize world domination but it is a helpful aid which can respond to the learner in a particular way. The boundaries between man and machines are covered up as machines are more and more modelled on the human brain.
The more learning takes place in virtual surroundings, the more people are ready to dissolve from the limitedness of previous techniques for presentation and interaction. Much more than just the visual sense is addressed by today's learning software and this trend is going to continue. Action-orientated mechanisms allow the arrangement of the subject matter according to the educational objective. "Learning with all senses" is the motto for the education of the future.
Two kinds of learning will be of a great importance of tomorrow's virtual learning environment. The first is the "anticipatory learning" which means learning how to cope with unexpected situations which possibly never happened before. Here, the emphasis lies on modelling a person's subject competence and his personal, leading and sensual competence. The virtual classrooms of the future allow anticipation by integrating the getting of experience in the learning situation. The second kind of learning which will dominate the education of the future is the "participatory learning" which emphasises social interaction. Participation, to work on a problem together, is highly important to reconcile groups of people who gained different techniques of anticipation.
In the virtual classrooms of tomorrow, learners can autonomously build up their own system of strategies, means and ways of how to learn most effectively. The traditional dependence of the learner on the teacher becomes less important as learning will be more and more self-controlled from the inside than determined from outside. In multimedia classrooms the autonomy of the learner is realised since it is possible for the individual to continue learning of his own accord without support from the outside. Everybody learns differently, so each learner will set up his own learning environment. Lifelong learning can be easily organised since that learning environment is a highly flexible matter which can be adjusted to ever new tasks and jobs.
The most important thing to learn will be media competence, that is to be able to learn with different kinds of media. Media competence means to get as much suitable information as possible and then utilise that information most effectively. Today, a great variety of "edutainment programs", which combine education and entertainment, are available to learn media competence by doing. Tomorrow's learner must get to know how to consciously decide for that kind of information which is most important for his learning process.
Especially the entertainment aspect will be of great importance in the classroom of the future. Learning is going to be more and more based on pictures. Already today's edutainment programs are very attractive because of the learning stimuli conveyed by pictures. For complex learning processes pictorial learning is more suitable than the traditional verbal imparting of information.
Also computer games can contribute to a greater interest in multimedia learning. In most of these games the player can interfere in the story by controlling one or more characters within a virtual reality. By doing so, people get used to navigate within a virtual reality and get the expectancy that tomorrow's learning will be as easy as controlling a figure in a game. This is a good basis for the anticipatory and the participatory innovative learning of the 21st century.