Problem-Focused Higher Education for Shaping the Knowledge Society

Problem-Focused Higher Education for Shaping the Knowledge Society

Juri Valtanen (University of Tampere, Finland), Eleni Berki (University of Tampere, Finland), Elli Georgiadou (Middlesex University, UK), Margaret Ross (Southampton Solent University, UK) and Geoff Staples (British Computer Society, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/jhcitp.2011100103
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Higher education (HE) has not efficiently targeted a knowledge-shaped economy and has not kept up with the knowledge and IT skills demanded to resolve the problems from social- and work- exclusion. While recently unemployed knowledge workers are searching for new jobs, re-educating policies and career development options have not kept pace with work changes. There is an urgent need for a HE reform in order to address the current socio-economic and work-life crises. For this reform, the authors compare and contrast three promising learning approaches: problem-based learning PBL, work-based learning WBL and problem-focused education PFE. While in PBL and WBL work- and problem-related knowledge is transferred sufficiently, PFE seems to outperform. The paper points to an effective re-organisation of HE by (1) investing in PFE as the means to achieve quality in the learning process and its outcomes and (2) identifying ICT quality features for supporting the PFE learning process.
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Many problems have been created by a set of technological and socio-economical changes, known as globalisation. These changes shifted the entire landscape of human experience, encompassing work and education (Friedman, 2006). Further social and work exclusion are problems that seem to become educational barriers for many citizens (Plant, 2005). These exclusions paradoxically exist in socio-economic areas like European Union EU, where educational policies for European integration target a knowledge-shaped economy.

Background and Rationale

Personal and workplace crises influence negatively the state welfare and work-life balance (Berki & Cobb-Payton, 2005). These socio-economic problems are observed while the emergence of a global high-skills economy stresses the flexibility of work, de-standardization, and the communicative role of technology leading to the growing importance of knowledge as an economic resource. These needs have created the rise of knowledge work, workers, and growing higher education HE demands. Knowledge workers are under continuous pressure to learn something new (Pyöriä et al., 2005). The rise of the need for HE reflects not only a socio-economic demand; there is also an emphasis on a social and cultural transformation. In EU the educational quality challenges posed by the new HE curriculum of the Bologna Process ( are remarkable. The compulsory realisation of the new educational policies and practices in the context of the European HE create an impact on every European country.

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