E-Learning starts from a different basis as what has long been understood as “learning”, and which was based on the book-paradigm, where one starts from front to back, and there is a logical, often chronological order in the learning process. In e-learning, this paradigm is replaced with others, such as associative teaching, cross-referencing, and the use of rich content.
Another important element is that there is a different type of relationship between instructor and student. The study is asynchronous, tailored to the needs of the student. Follow-up and evaluation take place in a different framework. The student studies individually, but not everyone is the same type of student.
Essentially, the task for the researchers working on the project is to develop a learning trajectory that “works”. Whereby “working” is understood as the mode by which the student acquires and understands the learning goals that have been set out per chapter and course module.
E-Learning at the IES
Whilst lots of literature is available on both European Law and European Institutions, most of it is fairly specialized and requires specific background to be fully understood. The IES therefore decided to take a different approach, and identified another target audience: professionals and students with non-legal or political science backgrounds, who frequently come across European issues and European law in their professional and personal life, but who feel that they have insufficient knowledge to fully understand the influence and consequences of this “European Influence”.
For those techno-specialist amongst you, the modules are created via a web-based learning-system using .asp and .xml technology, and enriched with Flash-animations. The text pages are currently ordered in 3 modules:
The possibility is foreseen to create extra modules, or to use (parts of) the existing content to create other specialized course modules.
Following the imperatives of associative learning and information referencing, a few elements were created common to all course modules. These data are grouped in a glossary and in a database containing abstracts of cases brought before the European Court of Justice. A biographical database is also present for the Politics and Institutions module.
Content of the modules
The Politics and Institution module provides, besides factual data on European Integration history and institutional setup, analysis and further explanation, thus placing the content in a wider framework to facilitate understanding. (i.e. learning through association).
A third module, currently under construction, deals with European Information Sources. We noticed that finding and interpreting the right information is often a major challenge. This module will therefore concentrate on guiding people in finding the information they need. Practical exercises will help to achieve this.
In the next phase of the project, the online-modules will be used as additional and supporting materials for the organization of the IES Summer School on the European Decision-Making Process, and may be used as a support for seminars and conferences. The information modules can further be used to increase wider public awareness and understanding on specific European topics. The information in the modules is created in a way which allows it to be “profiled” to specific target groups.
The project brings the IES an increased understanding of both methodology and the state-of-the-art in e-teaching, applied to one of the natural fields of expertise of the institute.
Technology-enhanced learning day
On 29 November 2004 IES researchers Ruben Lombaert and Frédérique Lambrecht attended the Technology-enhanced learning (TEL) information day organised by the European Commission, Directorate-General Information Society.
The European Commission organised this Information Day to introduce its initiatives on TEL in the 6th R&D framework programme, which runs from 2002 till 2006. In the field of TEL, the commission introduced 3 major focal points for research:
The information day in Luxembourg aimed at introducing the Commission’s objectives, and provided information about the administrative procedures to follow. There were also group discussions, aimed at introducing ideas for potential projects, and forming consortia, and streamlining various project proposals targeting the strategic objective of Technology-enhanced learning in the Information Society. This information day also helped the more than 100 researchers from universities and companies to share ideas on and experiences in the possibilities and constraints of technology-enhanced learning.
In the framework of the educational E-Modules in European studies that the IES is developing, this information day was particularly useful for the IES researchers that attended. Now that the content of the first E-Modules is almost complete new ideas were gathered on the marketing, student monitoring and evaluation methodologies and on the follow up of these E-Modules. This should help the IES in the near future to kick off with the now available modules.
IES launches lecture series on Multiculturalism in the EU
He said that the discourse on the whole issue had changed radically in a relatively short period between the late 1980’s and the present. In the first instance it went through a phase of consultation with social actors such as the police and health service. In the second – what he called the “high” period, multiculturalism was mainstreamed into policy thinking in practically every aspect of national life. In the third phase, there was a reaction and the rise of the right wing encouraged by nationalist media. Finally in the “post” phase, new reflections have led social scientists and those responsible for race relations in the UK to consider that too much emphasis on diversity leads to phenomena which encourage the racially inspired riots in northern England in the late nineties. The report on the riots concluded that the different ethnic groups lead parallel lives in the same environment. Even the left in the UK now believes that diversity needs to be tempered with solidarity and the encouragement of “Britishness”. This is the reason why the government has introduced language and history tests for would-be citizens and a citizenship ceremony.
The lectures take place every Tuesday of this semester in aula D.0.03 of the VUB. Exceptionally, lectures take place on Thursday in aula QC. Click here for futher details..
Marketing and Communication in the EU
On Wednesday 27 April, IES and the Erasmus Hogeschool Brussel co-organize a colloquium on “Marketing and Communication in the EU”.
The colloquium will make reference to the VUBPress published book “Vision for the Knowledge Age” - the emanation of an EC initiative that brought together a number of scholars (also from VUB) to give an overview of what the future may offer. One of the aspects discussed in the book is a renewed concept for the production of goods, changing the relationship between manufacturor and consumer and consequently having a huge impact on marketing and public relations.
The colloquium will be open to students and specialists, and will take place in the auditoria of ING Bank, Marnixlaan 24, 1000 Brussels (close to metro Trone) from 09:30 to 17:00. More details on the IES website.
Kyoto, Global and EU policies to combat climate change
«Le cadre international et européen des politiques de lutte contre les changements climatiques», Courrier hebdomadaire du CRISP, 2004, n° 1858-1859, 61 pages, can be ordered from: http://www.crisp.be/FR/dernieresparutions/DP_8.html
IES and Denial of Citizenship
Senior Research Fellow Richard Lewis was rapporteur at a meeting convened on February 25th by the European Policy Centre on the subject of “Denial of Citizenship: A Challenge to Human Society”. About 30 experts took part drawn from academia, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and government. The meeting was chaired by Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, special representative of the UN Secretary General. Richard will be producing a short report of the meeting and, although it will have no official status, its recommendations will be followed up with the appropriate bodies. The subject of why people become stateless and what can be done about it is closely linked to migration studies, and statelessness leads to many of the same problems faced by migrants such as lack of health care, education and social services.
Publications by IES Researchers
Former IES collaborator Johan Pas and associate researcher Bruno De Vuyst wrote an article on “Re-establishing the Balance between the Public and the Private Sector: Regulating Public Sector Information Commercialisation in Europe”. It was published in this year’s second issue of The Journal of Information, Law & Technology (JILT) and can be read electronically on http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2004_2/. Bruno De Vuyst earlier published an article on copyright matters (Verwent het auteursrecht verweesde werken?) in De Juristenkrant of 15 September 2004.
From Tbilisi to Kiev, from Gaza to Baghdad people, who had been hitherto deprived of the freedom to choose their leaders, are being empowered. The people of Togo should not be the exception. The events that have been unfolding in Lomé are of unalloyed importance for the entire African region. This is because the episode exposes salient issues, to wit, the potential danger of replicating unconstitutional take-overs in other neighbouring fragile democracies, the deleterious fallout in terms of strategic and sub-regional security concerns and finally the unfortunate economic implications.
The danger of replicating unconstitutional regimes
The Togolese military and ‘government’ claim that they want to ensure a smooth transition. This argument is premised on two assumptions. First, that there are no viable institutions to secure a peaceful ‘fin de reigne’ and secondly, that the Togolese people will accept this. Both propositions are preposterous.
Article 65 of the Togolese constitution reflects Article 7 of the French Constitution of 1958. This clause has been subject to gross mimicry, mutatis mutandis, in other constitutions of some African countries, for example, Cameroon (Article 6 (4) ), Equatorial Guinea ( Item 43 (2) ), Gabon (Article 13), Republic of Congo (Article 70) and Chad (Article 76).
Mindful of the fact that some of these countries are ruled by ageing people with ambitious progenies calling the shots from the rear, it is important that Africans send a strong message to Togo and beyond, that the continent is governed by and for the people and not in spite of them. That the constitution of Togo should be confined to the bin by a cabal of vision-free individuals is not new ritual to Africa. What is new though is the resolve by certain African states to pilot the fuselage of our lagging continent on the principles of democracy, freedom and, above all THE RULE OF LAW.
The current situation in Togo unravels two simple choices to Africa: democracy based on the rule of law and merit, on the one hand, or chaos driven by insular predilections of a coterie of mediocre minds bound in blood and amity, on the other. If Africa must forge ahead then it has a Hobson’s choice. I am convinced it is not the latter.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have condemned the events and they are right to say so. It is paradoxical that it was in Lomé that African Leaders adopted the July 2000 Declaration on the Framework for Reactions to Anti-constitutional Changes of Government decided upon in Algiers in July 1999. But there is snag. In defining anti-constitutional take-overs, this declaration does not include “dynastic imposition” as obtained in Togo. The definition relates, on the one hand, to situations where a democratically elected government is toppled and on the other, to instances where a vanquished incumbent refuses to hand over power to an elected government.
Some will assert that after all, Joseph Kabila is not the son of Laurent Désire Kabila. If anything events in the post-L.D.-Kabila Democratic Republic of Congo expose the fact that the procedure of such replacement is all but a paradigm to be emulated. What is unfolding in Togo is not constitutional because the constitution provides a clear procedure for unforeseen circumstances. This procedure was violated by the military. Whether or not Faure is competent is not the issue. The issue relates to the untidy manner in which he was parachuted to the supreme seat of government.
In as much as the second presumption is concerned, it will be incorrect to assume that the Togolese would entertain prospects of further dictatorship by Gnassingbe Eyadema’s alter ego. This country is by no means in short supply of competent people poised to deliver if given the chance to. The Yale and Oxford Professor Gilchrist Olympio is but one of such. There are alternatives and the people must be given the chance to consider them. The danger of complacency due to fears of violence may deter the resolve for real change in Togo. the Togolese have the chance to look at the thriving democracy in Ghana and the instability in Côte d’Ivoire and to select the apposite route.
Strategic and security implications for the sub-region
West African countries such as Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone are convalescing from the scourges of needless imbroglios. Liberians are bracing themselves for an election and the people in Côte d’Ivoire are struggling to resolve the feud between Northerners and Southerners. Nigeria is relatively stable while grappling with the threats from disenchanted oil communities in the Plateau and Niger Delta regions. Senegal, Mali, Niger, Benin and above all Ghana, are nascent but functioning democracies and the last thing they may desire is chaos in Togo. The pervious nature of borders in this sub-region implies that the propensity for the exportation of conflict is anything but low.
The escalation of potential violence in any country in the region is usually accompanied by dire elements such as the trafficking of light weapons and the deployment of mercenaries. The issue of child soldiers is not new in the area and provoking a new influx of refugees simply distracts from efforts made heretofore to return victims to their erstwhile homes. The moment is urgent. It needs to be understood as such.
However, these events should not displace a prospective and hopeful commitment from certain quarters to see Africa chart a proper course.
Unfortunate economic implications
Charting a proper course entails an unwavering engagement by countries to establish durable institutions that can guarantee the human and economic security of people. Most Africans clamour for trade, for foreign direct investment, for market access, trade facilitation and development. Simply put, they want to savour the rare privilege of a decent life. Instability is anathema to such a dream. Investors will not put their money in high risk zones regardless of the risk insurance schemes that their countries are ready to offer.
The timing of the Togo saga could not have been worst for progress-minded Africans. The AU is fighting to make a case for Africa via the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) which predicates aid on good governance. Besides the political governance initiative, NEPAD is founded on the pillars of corporate governance initiative as well as the strengthening of Africa’s human resource capacity. The programme is also accompanied by the idea of a peer review mechanism (PRM) whereby leaders sign up to and are closely examined on their governance record.
External efforts are equally being marshalled to assuage Africa’s plight. During the World Economic Forum held in Davos in January 2005 British prime minister Tony Blair intimated that improving Africa will constitute (alongside climate change) one of his two major concerns as Britain takes the Chair of the G7 and the European Union in 2005. The pending report of the Blair Commission due in spring is expected to identify priority areas for action. British Chancellor Brown’s International Finance Facility is tipped as the Marshall Plan for Africa. In a related initiative, The Sachs Report on the Millennium Development Goals “Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals” (17 January 2005), focuses amongst others on the issue of debt cancellation and market access.
These and other efforts are being made by people who believe that Africa deserves better. But events such as those in Togo occurring while Nelson Mandela and Gordon Brown appealed for debt cancellation for Africa render the task of the altruists more Herculean. Put otherwise, such episodes serve as a fillip to the cynicisms of Afro-pessimists.
Words of concern and condemnation from African countries, The EU and the United States have recently cascaded on the protagonists of the constitutional farce in Lomé. They should. The way ahead is far from smooth and difficult choices will need to be made. In the meantime, the people of Togo will have to choose between the constitution and military oversight. The ball is in their court.
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IES Researcher takes Commission to Court over Access to Documents
A Doctoral Research Fellow at the IES has begun legal proceedings against the European Commission before the Court of First Instance. The case (T-42/05) concerns access to documents. During her research into ‘The Impact of Globalisation on Community Environment and Development Law’, Rhiannon Williams made a request under Regulation 1049/2001 EC on access to documents, asking the Commission for background documents to various EC GMO legislative measures. The request was largely refused. Annulment of the Commission’s decision is being requested with regard to three categories of documents:
- documents which the Commission failed to identify (for example, although the initial proposal for Directive 2001/18 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms was adopted in February 1998, the Commission failed to identify any background documentation relating to the drawing up of that initial proposal);
- certain documents to which access was refused on the grounds that disclosure would seriously undermine the decision-making process and the protection of public interest as regards international relations; and
- certain documents to which access was refused on the grounds that disclosure would undermine the protection of commercial interests.
Williams is asserting a rebuttable presumption that where the decision-making process is complete, the public interest in the preparatory documents outweighs any harm which may follow from their release.
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The call for tolerance is structured around a core set of European values, opening the door for a discussion on integration, assimilation and social cohesion with respect to immigration. Richard identified contemporary European culture by this set of common core values, recently laid out in the Draft Constitution. The issue of migration was presented as a two-fold phenomenon, both necessary and problematic, in constant need of well thought out social programmes that will ensure the diversity of Europe in a conflict-free environment.
In his speech, Richard drew parallels with current problems in the States, inviting the audience to consider a better system of cooperation and communication (primarily on social issues) between Europe and America. Both parties have a lot to learn from each other, particularly when it comes to the phenomenon of migration, although the “American Dream” and the “European Dream” constitute a different approach to life.
Richard’s talk at Wayne State University can
be downloaded from the IES website at the following URL:
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Integrated Product Policy (IPP) experts convene in Brussels on 18 March
The Belgian State Science Department is supporting a two year project on ‘the role of public authorities in integrated product policy: regulators or coordinators’ headed by IES Senior Researcher, Professor Dr.Marc Pallemaerts.
On Friday 18 March, 25 participants from 11 countries, including academic experts on various aspects of environmental law and product policy, officials from the European Commission and the OECD, representatives of Belgian public authorities with an interest in IPP, as well as representatives of some other stakeholders, will meet at the VUB to discuss new research findings on IPP. Members of the project’s inter-university research team, Professor Dr.Marc Pallemaerts (IES-VUB), Delphine Misone (CEDRE - Facultés universitaires Saint-Louis), Prof.Dr. Theo Jans (VUB – Politics Department), and project researchers Isabelle Bédoyan and Irina Tanasescu (VUB - Politics Department), and Aaron McLoughlin (IES) will deliver their prelimary research findings to the assembled experts. IPP expert, Dr. Frieder Rubik, will deliver a keynote address.
For more information on programme and admission, contact IES researcher Aaron McLoughlin (Aaron.McLoughlin@vub.ac.be) or the IES secretariat.
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E-learning at IES
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