Guest Editorial

Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) has been around for quite some time now, and is still thriving. It has the goal of "providing socio-technical innovations (also improving efficiency and cost effectiveness) for learning practices, regarding individuals and organizations, independent of time, place and pace. The field of TEL therefore focuses on the support of any learning activity through technology"1.

Note also that the term TEL is often used synonymously with E-Learning even though there are significant differences. The main difference between the two expressions is that TEL focuses on the technological support of any pedagogical approach that utilizes technology. However, this is rarely presented as including print technology or the developments around libraries, books and journals in the centuries before computers2.

Still, TEL has already spread out to include a vast number of other aspects. Not long ago, the major issues in TEL were learning content, instructional design, personalization, recommendation, adaptation and adaptivity, interoperability, and natural language processing. Nowadays, all major TEL conferences and journals include dozens of new and emerging topics, including social processes associated with learning, learners' motivation, learners' and teachers' trust and reputation, and many more.

Thus, when issuing the call for papers for this special section we have tried to identify important new trends in the area of TEL and to represent such trends with selected articles. We have consulted the topics suggested by top-level TEL conferences, high-reputation TEL research journals, and several other Internet resources. Submissions of extended versions of papers previously published in conferences and workshops were also welcome, given that they were substantially expanded and improved. To this end, the call has proposed submissions including (but not limited to) the following topic areas:

• Personalization, learner modeling and adaptation

• Context-aware learning systems

• Social Semantic Web and learning

• Mobile technologies for learning

• Network infrastructures and architectures for TEL

• Ubiquitous learning

• Data mining and information retrieval

• Recommender systems for TEL

• Learning analytics

• Problem- and project-based learning / Inquiry based learning

• Computer-supported collaborative learning

• Collaborative knowledge building

• Game-based and simulation-based learning

• Story-telling and reflection-based learning

• Instructional design and design approaches

• Communities of learners and communities of practice

• Teaching techniques and strategies for online learning

• Learner motivation and engagement

• Evaluation methods for TEL

• Self-regulated and self-directed learning

• Reflective learning

• Social processes in teams and communities

• Knowledge management and organizational learning

• Sustainability and TEL business models and cases

• Business-learning models

• Trust and reputation in TEL

• Applications of TEL in various domains

• Practical experiences of TEL

• Results of TEL research projects applied in practice

• Workplace learning in small, medium and large companies

• Aggregated learning at the workplace

• Distance and online learning

• Lifelong learning (cradle to grave)

• Vocational training

• Informal learning

• Accessible learning for all

• Psycho-pedagogic support for users

• Educational guidance for tutors

• Adapted learning flow, content and monitoring process

Out of all the submissions we have received, we have selected five high-quality papers containing original research results on some of the above and related topics. Out of these five, two are invited papers, and the other three are regular papers.

The invited paper "Recommending Collaboratively Generated Knowledge", by W. Chen and R. Persen, addresses two of the above listed topics: recommender systems and collaborative knowledge building. It recognizes the fact that learners (and not only teachers, tutors, and other traditional content authors) have become active producers of knowledge, not only consumers – by actively conducting their learning processes, learners generate a vast amount of content. This kind of content can be a valuable learning resource in both studying and assessment processes. However, it also gives rise to new challenges for indexing, sharing, retrieval and recommendation of such learning content. The paper presents a newly developed recommender system for such emerging learning content generated through collaborative knowledge building processes and studies the implications and added values of the recommendations.

Another invited paper is "A Model-based Approach for Assessment and Motivation", by J.M. Spector and C.M. Kim. It pertains to representations as a foundational aspect of learning and instruction. The paper briefly reviews the research literature about cognition and processing internal mental models, putting the emphasis is on the role that mental models play in critical reasoning and problem solving. Then it presents a theoretically-grounded rationale for taking internal mental representations into account when designing and implementing support for learning. The emphasis here is on interaction with meaningful problems. The authors have developed and presented a conceptual framework for integrating models into learning environments that includes technologies for formative assessment and motivation.

D.G. Tremblay and V. Psyché, the authors of the paper "Analysis of processes of cooperation and knowledge sharing in a community of practice with a diversity of actors", focus on communities of practice as an important sub-topic of organizational and workplace learning. Communities of practice often stem from a voluntary initiative within an organization, whose members share some knowledge or expertise they wish to improve. However, a community of practice can take the form of a network that brings together members with common interests coming from different organizations and even several countries in which they perform different types of work. To this end, the paper discusses the evolution of communities of practice supported by the use of Web 2.0 tools that promote collaboration.

The paper "Web Service Support for Collaboration between Demographers", by M. Devedzic and her co-authors, runs along a similar avenue, focusing on collaboration among demographers working in different organizations. In fact, the paper promotes the use of novel Web services in the daily work and research of demographers and illustrates how such services can facilitate learning and collaboration between a university research group in the field of demography and professionals in the field of demographic statistics. Still, since the technology used is generic, it can be easily instantiated for use by other social science researchers. The Web services used in this collaboration are developed as part of an EU research project.

Lu Xiao, the author of the paper entitled "Exploring the Use of Contextual Modules for Understanding and Supporting Collaborative Learning Activities: An Empirical Study", reports her experiences with three student groups that have collaborated in a semester-long classroom project. The project included both tasks that required students to complete in virtual group workspace and activities that could be carried out in physical world environment. The author has noticed different collaboration patterns among the groups with respect to building and maintaining social relationships, submitting individual’s work to the group, and scheduling group meetings. She has then used Bereiter’s two contextual modules, intentional learning and schoolwork modules, to interpret the observed patterns. The interpretation suggests that the group leader’s contextual module plays a significant role in all members’ group learning experiences and outcomes. Based on this, the author discusses design implications intended for encouraging learning-based (as opposed to work-based) practices in virtual group environment.

1. Wikipedia, "Technology-Enhanced Learning". [Online]. Available: (Last visited: May, 2012)

2. Ibid.

Vladan Devedzic
University of Belgrade, Serbia