Chapter 5

Open and Distance Education in Portugal

Lídia Grave-Resendes and Alda Nunes

Introduction

Open and Distance Education in Portugal

Distance Education in Portugal

Distance Training in Portugal

Conclusions

References

 

Introduction

The increased demands of the internationalisation of the economy and the challenges of a rapidly mutating society as a result of technological advances, require that individuals acquire new information and develop new skills in order to survive and compete at the local and also global level. The society that wants to provide the best for its own citizens, is the one that invests in acquiring this knowledge. However, as societies are made of people, citizens need to acquire this new knowledge or skills.

Reading the IRDAC report (1991) on Skills Shortages in Europe we are struck with explicit recommendations to meet the challenges that confront us. Among the various recommendations presented, the report highlights the need for a massive investment to upgrade the existing work force, to provide adequate skills to the young population since they will be the main carriers of innovation and technology renewal, and the need to improve the productivity of education and training, wherever it takes place. It is paramount that schools increase their productivity to match the increased productivity in enterprises and society. To meet these training needs IRDAC recommends an improvement in the productivity of education and training in order to upgrade the skills and qualifications of individuals. This may be achieved in part through distance and flexible learning across Europe. Traditional distance learning systems (such as those of the open universities in Europe) should be assisted in redirecting their actions more towards industrial environments. In addition, and to a much larger extent, new technology should be used in the production and delivery of training materials to permit for individualised learning and to increase the efficiency of the training process. IRDAC also points out that serious attention must be given to the removal of obstacles such as the lack of standardisation, the high unit cost of multimedia training products, the inadequate teaching and leaning experience regarding their effective use and the user-friendliness and attractiveness of such packages and systems.

The main focus of the TEEODE study is distance education in Europe, we as the Portuguese partners in the project, will present a bird's eye view of the present situation of distance education and training in Portugal. Seven Portuguese institutions collaborated in this project, to the best of our knowledge, they are involved either in distance education or training. We are grateful for their participation and will present a sketch of such institutions. Given that there is a major university in the country dedicated to distance education and that it has had also an impact in continuing education, we will present it in a more detailed manner

 

Open and Distance Education in Portugal

In Portugal, the integration into the European Community, created a need for new forms of professional training that could respond to most of the training and qualification needs of human resources. From the tension between tradition and modernisation, distance education has gradually gained ground as a special form of education whose specificity conveys to it an interesting professional training dynamic at the world level (IRDAC, 1991). With the aid of distance education, training systems are gaining ground on the tough challenges of transitoriness, novelty and diversification imposed on them by a global society (Doerfert et al.., 1989).

Current changes in contemporary society in the technical and technological, informational and communicational, relational and organisational areas have made obsolete traditional training systems, once perfectly adapted to their contexts (Galie, 1991). This development led to a new situation characterised by the need for new alternative forms of training (Fortella, 1990). Distance education is an instrument which professional training institutions can use in its three fundamental areas: continuing training, re-conversion and, to a lesser extent, initial training.

The spirit of the Portuguese law is in keeping with the international movement that plans to re-continue reflection on professional training, specifically the need to make use of distance education as a new and powerful means of training. The Portuguese government has actively supported the policies on vocational training expressed in the memorandum of the commission of the European community on distance education (Comissão das Comunidades Europeias, 1991, p. 24). These policies seek to promote the conditions for the generalisation as well as the qualitative and quantitative intensification of continuing education, in order to give substance to the individual's right to training.

In Portugal seven institutions, each offering courses in distance higher education or professional training, participated in our study. Six are professional training centres, one is a private institution and another is a major public university. The enrolment of the students varies from a couple to over a thousand of them.

The literature on distance learning in Portugal is scarce; so far, and besides a number of articles there is only one major study on distance education in Portugal, namely higher education in Portugal, and appears as part of a doctorate dissertation on Modelos Ibéricos de Ensino Superior a Distância: no contexto mundial (Iberian Models of Higher Distance Education: in world-wide context) by Hermano Carmo, 1994. The lack of significant references on the use of distance education in professional training in Portugal, forced us to use a range of information gathering methods. For this chapter, we investigated where were the institutions that offered some sort of distance education or training, contacted them, interviewed them and gathered information that allowed us to characterise the institutions and their programmes provided by them.

What we observe in the country is an awareness of the benefit of using distance education as a way of responding not only to the need of updating continuing professional development, but also as a way of meeting the needs of those who want to obtain a university degree but neither have the time to enrol in a traditional university or in a professional training centre, nor a facility geographically accessible to their homes. Therefore, there is a growing number of institutions that are beginning either to implement or to consider distance education in Portugal.

Distance Education in Portugal

The evidence that it was possible to provide high quality teaching in most scientific, humanistic and cultural subjects, through a process which did not require the students to be physically present in the classroom, and allow them to learn on their own through the use of didactic materials purposely developed was established by the Open University in Great Britain. This success determined the spread of distance teaching universities (commonly known as open universities) all over the world (Trindade, 1989). Portugal could not remain inattentive to this happening. In 1988, the Universidade Aberta de Portugal was created. Before we present this university, we would like to contextualise historically, but briefly, the evolution in Portugal of higher distance education that led to the creation of this university (for a detailed historical review, see Hermano Carmo`s doctoral dissertation, 1994).The basic reference source used here is a chapter of this doctoral dissertation that presents distance higher education in Portugal.

 

A glance at the evolution of Distance Education

As early as 1927, during the First Republic in Portugal, the possible advantages and dangers of the use of audio-visual aids in the educational process was already an issue. Five years after, due to the assumed importance of cinematography in educating people, a commission was formed, called Comissão do Cinema Educativo (Commission for Educational Cinema) under the Ministry of Public Instruction, with the objective of proposing the production, authorship and distribution of educational films.

Thirty years later, in 1963, a big step was taken in the direction of developing educational audiovisuals with the creation of the Centro de Estudos de Pedagogia Audio-visual (Centre of Studies on Audio-visual Pedagogy) whose aim was mainly laboratory research in two areas: one regarding the use of audio-visual processes in education (as support mechanisms) and another of stimulating, co-ordinating and evaluating its applications in this area. The above research pointed to the need to create an organisation that could energise the production of educational materials, and the Instituto de Meios Audiovisuais de Ensino - IMAVE (Institute for Media Support in Teaching) was created in the National Ministry of Education. The main purpose of the Instituto was the production, buying, dissemination and management of educational programmes to be transmitted through the radio and television aimed at a specific population.

In this same year, the Telescola (Teleschool) was launched in Portugal. This was the first systematic use of the media in the formal educational context. Its use was a way of meeting the shortage of teachers needed to put in practice increased compulsory education (to the 6th grade of schooling). Yet, Rocha Trindade (1990) argues that, in technical terms, this system was not distance teaching. In his manual Introduction to Educational Communication while describing the use of media in school context, he describes in detail this programme. He says:
teaching. In his manual Introduction to Educational Communication while describing the use of media in school context, he describes in detail this programme. He says:

"Note-se que, em termos técnicos, a metodologia própria da telescola não se confunde com ensino a distância: o único ponto de contacto entre os dois conceitos reside na utilização intensiva de materiais didácticos mediatizados. Trata-se, por conseguinte, de ensino presencial (em classe, sujeito a horário, coma presença do professor), mas apoioado por meios audio-visuais. Adesignação de ensino semi-directo, aplicado à Telescola, embora algo enganador, é relativamente aceitável" (page 238-9)

 

The average number of students using Telescola reached 60,000 per year with an overall through-put of one million students (Trindade, 1990).

 In the following year, with the educational reforms of Veiga Simão, IMAVE was substituted by the Instituto de Tecnologia Educativa - ITE (Institute of Educational Technology). This new institution had the same objectives as the former institute, but with the added clear objectives of updating pedagogical methods, through the use of the most modern ways of teaching.

In 1975, one year after the Portuguese Revolution, a report by an ad hoc commission recommending the creation of a distance teaching university and presenting a prospective working model which, as Rocha Trindade says (1989), was the first important step in the direction of the creation of a distance university in Portugal. In 1976 UNIABE - Universidade Aberta was created with the objective of contributing to the progress of democracy and the construction of socialism. In spite of its good intentions, this represented a false start, for the decree of creation was not put into actual action.

The first initiative in distance education was the Ano Propedêutico (the pre-university year) which arose as an ad hoc solution to the problem of university access after the Revolution of 1974. This programme proved the viability of developing a centralised distance teaching programme to large adult audiences geographically dispersed. This experience, led in the year 1979 to the creation of the Instituto Português de Ensino a Distância (Portuguese Institute for Distance Education) with the goals of acquiring knowledge, professional competence, facilities and equipment and preparing the ground for the future Universidade Aberta. In 1984 the team of IPED, whose president was Trindade, considered the institute ready to implement the third goal - launch the Universidade Aberta. Despite this fact, new difficulties arose at that time, both financial and cultural. The lack of compatibility, at the level of decision-making, among many other priorities of the educational system and the assumed permanent high costs requested by a new educational structure with rather unconventional, deep, and innovative characteristics raised much scepticism and rejection among the Portuguese intelligenzia (Trindade, 1989).

A significant encouragement to the internal recognition of the need to create an open university in Portugal, through a project adjusted to the particular characteristics of the Portuguese social environment, was given by the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities, created in 1987. The Projecto Universidade Aberta (the new designation given to the former IPED) was a founding member of this group. A technical evaluation elaborated by the leaders of the Association was addressed to the Portuguese Government in defence of the Projecto Universidade Aberta. The issuing of a recommendation of the European Parliament on the significance of open universities in the construction of Europe and the increasing importance given by Community authorities to the same problem (as, for instance, the programmes ERASMUS, DELTA, Strand D of COMETT), may well have contributed to overcoming the difficulties presented by several Portuguese decision-making entities. Progress advanced quickly and in 1988 at the closing ceremony of the Conference "Long Term Developments for European Distance Education" held in Lisbon with representatives of all European open universities, the decision to create the Universidade Aberta of Portugal was publicly announced by the Portuguese Ministry of Education.


Universidade Aberta de Portugal

The Universidade Aberta de Portugal is the most recent Portuguese public university. Although it shares with other universities the overall objectives of a university institution, it has a specific methodology resulting from the explicit objective of facilitating a university education to a student population physically distant from a university as well as those who, for various reasons, are unable to attend a conventional institution. Such a methodology, succinctly called Distance Learning, refers to a study regimen focused on self-learning with no time or space constraints, in which students have ready access to learning materials that constitute the knowledge to be acquired.

The University system of Distance Learning, is based on home self learning, using printed materials, manuals and basic-texts as the principle medium for conveying the course content. Other media such as video and audio cassettes reinforce specific as well as complex areas of the content of the course. The university also uses broadcast TV and radio. The students have easy access to information, learning materials and tutoring provided either by telephone or at the support centres. Study and support centres are located all around Portugal and in countries that offer courses of the University, for providing help and feedback to students on their learning.

The objectives of the Universidade Aberta de Portugal are, among others:

 

Structure

In addition to the usual governing boards of the Portuguese universities (Assembly, Senate, University President, Scientific Committee and Pedagogic Committee), the university is composed of three institutes:

 

Courses

The Universidade offers three types of programmes: degree programmes, non-degree programmes and free-enrolment courses. Degree programmes are programmes that lead to a university degree; a masterís, a bachelorís or an associate's degree; The undergraduate degrees are ministered through distance learning, whereas the degrees are traditional classroom teaching. Non-degree programmes courses are programmes that do not lead to a university degree, nevertheless require prerequisites as well as registration and lead to certification. Participating in this programme, are the in service training for teachers, selected by the Ministry of Education, the acquisition of qualification in education, enabling teachers (elementary and secondary) the possibility of acquiring formal qualification and pedagogical training, which however does not necessarily have effects for teacher advancement.

Free-enrolment courses are non-credit courses that have no prerequisites, no final exams, no certification, and can be any of those being taught at the university. They have a variable duration and may incorporate multi-media, TV, colloquia, seminars and meetings. Depending on the nature of the activities, they may or may not require registration, may have a fee and can lead to a registration or participation certificate.

Currently the Universidade has over 11,000 students, three quarters of all students being women, with ages between 30 and 39 (61%). The university not only covers national territory but also twenty other countries where Portuguese students exist. Due to the increase of the student body and the diverse course offering, the faculty has increased substantially. Presently 2% of faculty have a Licenciatura, 75% a Masters and 23% a Doctorate degree (Hermano Carmo, 1997).

The degrees offered are quite diverse having increased from 3 to 29. An enormous variety of courses, an increase from 16 to 144 distance learning courses, plus nearly 150 conventional classroom graduate courses presently exist.

As the University widens its course offerings, namely in the sciences, management, and computers, new approaches for delivering its courses are being considered. Under development are CD-I, computer programmes, Internet and mixed mode distance learning. Some subjects will be taught in conventional classrooms, while others, who do not require laboratory work, nor a significant amount of face to face interaction, will be taught by distance learning methods.

 

Support Centres

In spite of being dispersed throughout Portugal and other countries and conducting a professional activity, the students have access to a number of infra-structures that minimise the isolation associated with this type of learning. Support centres play a major role in the whole operation, by providing a major service and interaction between the learner or trainee and the tutor. The Universidade Aberta provides to its students a network of support centres, 19 in Portugal and another 20 in other countries (see Figure 1). In addition to these centres, the university has three agencies in Portugal, and one in the International Open University of Asia (Macau).

Students may take advantage of the services and facilities made available to them, view the materials, consult tests, elicit help from the faculty or contact specialised teaching assistants that, at the central facilities, respond to any questions that the study materials (developed by the university) may raise. Students may take their final exams at the support centres.


Figure 1: Universidade Aberta Support and Examination Centres
Europe and Israel Africa The Americas
Portugal* Guinea-Bissau Rep.** Canada**
France ** Angola* Fairfield U., USA***
Spain** Cape Verde** Argentina**
England** S.Tome and Prince Rep.** Brazil**
Switzerland** Maroco**  
Belgium** Mozambique D. R.**  
Germany**    
Netherlands**    
Luxembourg**    
Denmark**    
Israel**    
* with 19 support centres spread all over the country
** Examination Centres
*** a Centre at preparatory stage
 

In addition to the above institutions presented above there is also another new one that participated in our study this is the Higher Institute on Bank Management. 

Instituto Superior de Gestão Bancária (Higher Institute on Bank Management)

With the objective of keeping abreast with the new methodologies of delivering knowledge the Instituto Superior de Gestão Bancária - ISGB (Higher Institute on Bank Management) was created in 1991 as a private school for higher vocational training in banking and financing. It is a professional school that has been officially recognised as an institution of higher education by the Ministry of Education and is entitled to give academic qualifications by awarding officially recognised diplomas. The main objectives of this institute are to promote professional training for banking institutions within the various areas of their activity, and providing the latest knowledge, abilities and skills for those who seek a career in banking.

Since its creation, the ISGB has operated mostly as a Distance Learning School. Its activity in distance learning started in the same year of its creation with the Bank Management Course. Presently the institute provides the following courses:

The ISGB mainly uses distance learning and or assisted self-study. The distance learning and or assisted self-study is based on the use of teaching materials and a support system. The teaching materials are specifically conceived by the institute for Distance Learning purposes. The teaching materials, consist of a manual for each subject, support texts, case studies, audio and video cassettes, CBT (Computer Based training) as well as computer assisted simulations. The manual is considered to be the most important tool.

The support system, consists of a framework of activities that helps the students to study and keep them motivated. The operational made of the support system is based on the work of active tutors and support sessions. The main role of the active tutors is to clarify subject matter and to try to motivate the students along the study process. The support sessions are occasions where the students can discuss their questions with the experts (tutors) and with their colleagues. It is noteworthy, that the support system is organised by an opening session and support sessions along the year.

An opening session initiates the academic year. At this session, the students are given the schedule and the method used in their learning process is explained and discussed. Emphasis is given on the factors that will determine success. At this session, the assessment system and the study activities for the school year are also presented.

Support sessions are held by tutors throughout the year on Saturdays, with the objective of answering students' questions and to drill the contents through the use of case studies.

Distance Training in Portugal

When we talk about distance training in Portugal, we must return, if only briefly, to how and when it started in the country. As we mentioned earlier, when introducing the Universidade Aberta, the launch of the university was the culmination of a number of initiatives that began much earlier. One of these initiatives was in distance training. As we did with distance higher education in Portugal, we would like also to contextualise briefly the distance professional training in Portugal.

Distance professional training began with correspondence courses, mostly of a technical nature with elementary or intermediate qualification. While no systematic studies appear to exist concerning this type of training, some things are known. In the mid-eighties there was a survey completed which found twelve organisations that developed programmes for correspondence teaching. Of these, the oldest, founded in 1947, offered courses in the following areas:

 

With the impact of the III Industrial Revolution and with Portugalís integration into the EEC, the whole system of professional training underwent explosive uncontrolled development. This was characterised by a tremendous increase in available specialisations. The country then underwent a period where the increased need for training, whether initial or continuing training, could not be met due to the lack of educational resources such as instructors, equipment, educational materials and buildings (Carmo, 1994). As a result, new political measures for professional training, both for teaching and learning appeared.

The Instituto de Formação Profissional (Institute for Employment and Professional Training) endorses distance training and has also centres for presence tutoring to students.


Training systems in Portugal and the use of distance training

Distance education is an instrument which professional can use in their three fundamental areas: continuing professional training, re-conversion and to a lesser extent initial training.

In Portugal, initial training follows basic education according to the "Lei de Base do Sistema Educativo" (Basic Law of the Educational System) and comprises generically three areas of training: general, technological and practical training. Apart from some positive experiences, distance education has not had, up to the present, a very important role in initial training that has generally used presence and traditional methods of education. There are, however, known cases in which basic professional training was accomplished by means of distance education methodologies, namely, correspondence courses.

Continuing professional training in its various forms of qualification, updating and re-conversion is implemented by the business sector (public or private), individual businesses, professional associations, or by enterprises whose exclusive business is professional training and using to a greater or lesser degree public or community funding. This type of training is varied regarding duration, objectives, content cost, methodologies, and means used.

An analysis of the scarce non-organised existing information, makes clear the existence of diversified means of implementing continuing professional training as well as the different modalities used.

It was found that a first group of enterprises, does not invest in training, maintains a strategic status quo regarding the training of its staff, uses hired qualified workers or, in extreme cases, goes bankrupt as a result of the non-renewable of the qualifications of its workers. As a result of technological evolution, a second group of businesses finds itself forced to train and re-skill its workers. This extrinsic motivation, not forthcoming from an integrated management strategy that contemplates change and evolution as necessary, sees training as a perturbation and a cost. Lastly, a third group of businesses sees training as a strategic tool for its development. This last group was enthusiastic regarding the use of distance education methodologies with a strong network for the distribution of information and tutoring for its students. The attractiveness of distance education was emphasised by this last group that sees in it the potential for the following:

 

A paradigmatic case is the type of training provided by Instituto de Formação Bancária (Institute on Bank Training), one of the institutions that and that we will start by describing.

 

Instituto de Formação Bancária - IFB (Bank Management Institute)

The IFB has preferentially utilised distance education methodologies supported by a strong information distribution network and tutoring of students that attracts less qualified workers. The IFB uses not only classroom teaching but also and preferentially the teaching methods of Distance Learning and Assisted Self Study.

The Distance Learning and Assisted Self Study package is based on five fundamental components: teaching materials, support system, examination system, evaluation system and operational organisation. The teaching material is self-sufficient in that the concepts, and the means used to transmit and consolidate them, are contained in the package teaching material: manuals, support texts, case studies, audio and video cassettes, computer based training, computer-assisted simulations. A special emphasis is given to the support system that is based on the existence of a structure of Tutors who support the students at a technical and pedagogical level.

At the beginning of the school year, the students are given different activities as part of an Overall Support Plan, which integrates introductory sessions, support sessions, assignments, and telephone support.

Both the development of this system and the preparation of the study material require the effort not only of the teachers of each subject but also of a team of experts, who work together to ensure that the study material and the support system are suitable for self-study.

Assessment is permanent and encourages the student to study regularly throughout the academic year and attempts keep him permanently motivated. Each term the student is formally assessed several times by the IFB using intermediate tests and assignments, as well as a final exam.

The studentís final grade in each subject will be the result of the tests taken during the year (accumulative assessment). In view of the large number of tests each year, the IFB has created its own examination system supported by an item bank of some 10,000 questions (mainly multiple choice) which are used to prepare the tests and exams for each term.

There are two long-term courses using Distance Learning methods at IFB: a Regular Course and a Bank Management Course. While the Regular Course is for the basic banking population (beginners and clerks), the Bank Management Course is of a higher level and is designed to train of middle managers. Both courses have been officially recognised by the Ministry of Education (12th year for the Regular Course and polytechnic diploma for the Bank Management Course) and this constitutes another incentive for the students. Between 1984 and 1991 about 10,000 trainees took the range of courses at IFB.

 

Fundo para o Desenvolvimento do Ensino da Engenharia e da Tecnologia Electrotécnica, Electrónica e dos Computadores -FUNDETEC

FUNDETEC, Fundo para o Desenvolvimento do Ensino da Engenharia e da Tecnologia an association was created in 1984 by a group of various enterprises whose main objective was the development of the Country, predominantly in the areas of Information Technologies and its implications. The main objective of this training institution is the development of qualified human resources in Information Technologies while exploring and creating simultaneously synergy between universities, research institutes, professional training and the business world in Portugal. With a team of partners, FUNDETEC is moving towards an integrated system of professional training aimed at initial qualifying training, continuing training, as well as formal education. This is implemented through various diverse strategies, such as active, presence, distance training, flexible, and assisted self-training. FUNDETEC has had a decisive influence in the creation of jobs for thousands of unemployed young people, as well as in the maintenance of thousands of jobs for professionals, through a continuous plan of re-conversion, skills updating, and specialisations.

In formal education, FUNDETEC has supported the construction of facilities, the acquisition of laboratories and equipment for increase in the number of students and the creation of new courses at the university level, thus supporting the development of bachelors, and masters degrees. Complementary to formal education and professional training, FUNDETEC participates in the training of researchers, postgraduates, specialisations, and re-conversion of graduates.

In the market of Distance Learning and helping its development, FUNDETEC has participated in EuroPACE and EUROPACE 2000, whose main objectives are to provide the most up-to-date knowledge, relevant for research, development, manufacturing and operations, using advanced information and communication technologies. Courses and seminars are disseminated via satellite from among the most prestigious centres of Europe, on Artificial Intelligence, Software Engineering, Microelectronics, Telecommunications, Advanced Technologies of Production, and Management Technologies. FUNDETEC has also intervened in various projects and distance training networks, developing products geared towards distance training and assisted self-training.

FUNDETEC, combining existing expertise in all institutions and businesses with whom it collaborates, has started producing multimedia materials, namely CBT´S, and videos. It has also participated as well in the SATURN programme, which is a network of institutions and enterprises for the production of pedagogical material applied to distance education.

FUNDETEC intends to internationalise its activity in diverse ways and through various areas of intervention, namely:

From 1984/1993 in continuing professional training nearly 2300 courses for 27000 adult trainees were held. In qualifying professional training nearly 300 courses for 8000 young people or unemployed persons were taught.

 

Centro de Estudos de Alta Capacidade - CEAC (Centre for Studies for High Capacity)

The organisational structure of CEAC in Portugal follows that of the home institution in Barcelona, Spain, which has been expanded internationally. In addition to a department of studies responsible for the creation of new courses, there is also a department of training with a large number of instructors - tutors and supervisors. The communications department, distributed geographically over all of Portugal, markets the method CEAC of distance training.

The principle characteristic of the methodologies used by this institution is teaching by correspondence as the main form of communication with the students. In the 1990ís, in addition to written, audio-visual and computerised materials, a database was implemented in order to take advantage of the new technologies and communication systems that allow for a richer and more effective distance training.

During 1997 40,000 students, of which 10,000 were new students, attended these courses in Portugal distributed over an offer of 26 courses. The courses taught presently are in the fields of accounting, civil construction, cultural, drawing, technical drawing, electronics, languages, computers and management information systems, mechanics, fashion and beauty. The professional CEAC team provides training for businesses using distance as well as mixed modes of presence and distance training.

 

Tecnologias das Comunicações, Lda. - TDC - (Communications Tecnologies)

TDC, Communications Technologies Ltd., founded in 1982, is an international consulting organisation in the area of communications. Its main objective is as a telecommunications consultancy as well as specialising in training and the provision or transfer of technologies. TDC is also a partner for international co-operation, principally in Eastern Europe and Africa. In Portugal, TDC co-operates with businesses in order to provide innovative solutions for its clients in areas such as:

 

As an international consulting firm, TDC helps its clients in the search for funding for development projects in its area of intervention. It has participated in efforts of this kind especially in Europe and Africa. The project European Educational Teleports (EETP), through distance training, in which it participates is an example of its intervention in this area. Collaborating with the different countries involved and using distance training, the project aims at the creation and validation of a European network of training teleports, that is, virtual training services based on the co-operation between different entities and providing a number of technical and training services for individuals and organisations through telematics.


Assessores de Gestão e Formação Empresarial Limitada - AGESFAL (Management Assessment)

AGESFAL is a company oriented to training in public administration, both central and local. It offers training in all functional areas related to strategy and general management, finances and management control, marketing, production, projects, quality, and human resources. In order to implement advanced training programmes in international management, AGESFAL has established collaboration protocols with a network of international partners which provide training in the areas of Excellence strategies and quality services, global management, marketing and communications, finances and management control, logistics and provisions and management of human resources. The development of training activities and consulting, adapted to the specificity of Portuguese businesses, is implemented through collaborations with providers, consultants and national entities. In business training has been provided on total quality projects, programmes in various functional areas, specialised courses and conferences and seminars. AGESFAL supports various areas and organisations of which the following are worthy of mention:


With regard to collaboration in European projects that make use of distance training mention should be made of:


Informational Computer Limited - ICL


ICL is a private enterprise oriented to specialised professional training in information systems and new technologies. The training projects differ as a function of the employment situation of the trainees: 


Due to its involvement in management and implementation of training projects, ICL has a multi-disciplinary staff of trainers that is complemented by consultants and programme managers and technical co-ordinators who use active teaching methodologies in their training.

These include computer aided teaching, self-training and distance training through interactive training and manuals, simulations and educational games.

Based on a Computer Aided Teaching concept, ICL has developed, together with other entities and institutions, a number of multimedia projects in all areas. These collaborations have developed principally in emerging technologies (multimedia, virtual reality, and the Internet) as well as in the areas of validation and credibility necessary for the diagnosis of training needs. This includes pedagogical characteristics of the content, training support materials, teaching methodologies for individual training programmes as well as accompanying and evaluation measures associated with the training process.

In the area of formal teaching ICL has developed different products such as CD-ROMS for elementary students for amusement and educational reinforcement. In collaboration with the Universidade Aberta, ICL is involved in an innovative project in the context of the initiative NOW (New Opportunities for Women).

The NOW INITIATIVE basically aimed at promoting the integration of women into the labour force, this research and training project came out with very specific characteristics.

It was addressed to women graduates (some with post-graduate qualifications), most of whom worked either in the private or the public sector, and who were responsible for several management areas. The purpose of this kind of training was to provide the trainees with very specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes within the area of Management Information Systems.

Besides the content of the course the model used was quite innovative. The training model was at a distance training supported by a telematic network. This was the first telematics course to be introduced in Portugal. The management and information organisation is through a BBS (Bulletin Board System) specially programed for this training and installed in a server just used for this purpose.

To investigate the effectiveness of this distance methodology, two groups were formed, one using face-to-face learning as the control group and the other, the experimental group, the distance learning methodology. The objectives were to investigate, in comparative terms, the effectiveness of the two methodologies in the two different groups, to evaluate the technical and pedagogical techniques of the use of the telematic network used support to distance learning, and to analyse the type of the established interactions used in the distance communication between tutor and trainee and trainee and Trainee, in a "virtual" communication environment.

In the area of research and development projects, ICL is integrated in a network of international partners, as a result of European projects such as Leonardo, ESPRIT and Telematics.


Conclusions

The rapid evolution of the field of education and training in Portugal has created the need for new and different education and training modalities that are alternative to traditional systems. The present educational and training system in Portugal relies more and more on distance teaching which has affirmed itself as a privileged means of satisfying educational and training needs.

The impact that new information and communication technologies have on the economic and social development, initial and continuing education and training, is now widely recognised. Professional education and training supported by strategies that use distance teaching methodologies is not only gaining political visibility in Portugal but also getting a more visible support by distance training organisations.

In a private conversation with, Armando Rocha Trindade, President of the International Council for Distance Education - ICDE and Rector of the Universidade Aberta, distance teaching in Portugal includes open and distance learning and both formal education and training will evolve in same way as is expected to evolve world-wide. Considering that Portugal has a strong structure of distance education, both in the public and the private sector, it is believed that in higher education the trend is that conventional universities will adopt distance modes of operation to cope with extra-mural students, working students, and populations that are outside their direct sphere of influence. According to the ICDE President, these programmes are developed not only for these extra-mural students, but in the hope of reducing the cost per student compared to conventional, face to face teaching.

With regards to training, the situation is somewhat different. The duration of the training initiative, or action, for continuing training and re-conversion training have a short duration, and so, it is acceptable that costs are rather high, because the short duration makes for a bulk sum to be paid by the user almost acceptable, and they will be totally acceptable if the user is an institution who wants to train large number of its work force. So, institutional training is acceptable in terms of costs even if it is expensive. Individual training, is still, perhaps outside the economic power of most citizens. It is believed that more and more operators, both organised as large training institutions or as smaller specialised ones, will proliferate in Portugal as they do in almost all developed countries. Trindade believes this is the current trend and in a nutshell there will be a convergence between education and training, and between initial and the continuing counterparts. Finally conventional classrooms face to face teaching will merge with distance education and in, perhaps a decade, both ways of teaching will be interwoven and mixed altogether.


References

Carmo, Hermano Almeida e (1997) A Educação Intercultural de professores: a Experiência da Universidade Aberta. Communication at XIX congress of the Fédération Internacional des Professeurs de Langues Vivantes FIPLP.Brazil.

Carmo, Hermano Almeida e (1994) Modelos Ibéricos de Ensino Superior a Distância. Doctorate Dissertation. Universidade Aberta. Portugal

Comissão das Comunidades Europeias (sem data), Multimedia for Europe - The Key to Distance Learning, Brussels.

Comissão das Comunidades Europeias (1991) Ensino Aberto a Distância na Comunidade Europeia, Brussels.

Doerfert, Frank et al (eds.) (1989) Short descriptions of selected distance-education institutions, Hagen, FernUniversitat.

Galie, D. (1991) "Patterns of Skill Change: Upskilling, deskilling or the polarisation of Skills? in Work, Employment and Society, vol.5,nº3.

Fortella, E. (1990) "The Broadly Lecture", paper on the occasion of the 15th World Congress of the International Council for Distance Education, Caracas.

IRDAC (1991) Skills Shortages in Europe, Brussels, Commission of the European Communities.

Rocha Trindade, Armando (1990) Introdução à Comunicaçaõ Educacional, Universidade Aberta, Portugal.

Rocha Trindade, Armando (1991) Terms of Reference for a European Distance Education Structure, Universidade Aberta, Lisboa.

Rocha Trindade, Armando (1992) Distance Education for Europe, 2nd Edition, Universidade Aberta.

Rocha Trindade, Armando (1993) Basics of Distance Education, The Conceptual Panorama of Distance Education and Training, Eden: Oslo.

An informal conversation with ICDE President , Armando Rocha Trindade (1998), Universidade Aberta. Portugal.