The emergence of the Knowledge Society and the Knowledge-based Economy signify a new era for education and training. In the "traditional" economy, the physical capital and material resources have been the driving force, whereas, the "new economy" is driven by the human/intellectual capital and knowledge. As computer-based systems tend to take over the linear, repetitive functions that the twenty century workers used to perform, the "new economy workers" are expected to focus on problem-solving and critical thinking tasks. Furthermore, rigid organisational structures are gradually replaced by adaptive, semi-autonomous, virtual organisations that rely on decentralised responsibilities and expertise, leading towards "learning organisations" which aim to attain success through the ability to learn faster than their competitors.

Within this framework, knowledge and skills of citizens are becoming increasingly important both for the economical strength and social cohesion of the society, and the quality of citizens' life. The structural and functional society transformations raise the demand for major reforms in Education and Training, aiming at reducing the risks for knowledge gaps and social exclusion.

An interesting political and scientific debate is thus continuing, on the paradigm shifts in the way that education and training is planned, organised and delivered, as well as the definition of concrete future objectives of educational systems. Typical demands include:

* personalised training schemes tailored to the learner's objectives, background, style and needs;

* flexible access to lifelong learning as a continual process, rather than a distinct event;

* just-in-time training delivery;

* new learning models for efficient integration of training on workplaces;

* cost effective methods for meeting training needs of globally distributed workforce.

On the other hand, the rapid evolution of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) provides the enabling technological tools for facilitating the implementation of the new paradigm in education and training, referred to as e-learning. e-Learning capitalises on advances information processing and internet technologies to provide, among others:

* personalisation , where training programmes are customised to individual learners, based on an analysis of the learners' objectives, current status of skills/knowledge, learning style preferences, as well as constant monitoring of progress. On-line learning material can be, then, compiled to meet personal needs, capitalising on re-usable learning objects.

* interactivity , where learners can experience active and situated learning through simulations of real-world events and on-line collaboration with other learners and instructors.

* media-rich content , where educational material can presented in different forms and presentation styles, and learning material can indexed and organised in such a way that it can be searched, identified and retrieved remotely from several different learners providing the right material to the right person at the right time.

* just-in-time delivery , where technologies such as electronic performance support systems can facilitate training delivery at the exact time and place that it is needed to complete a certain task, and wearable computers can provide real-time assistance in actual work environments.

* user-centric environments , where the learner takes responsibility for his/her own learning, and the instructor acts as the "guide on the side", rather than a "sage on the stage".

Over the past few years, there is a growing interest in e-learning both in terms of research and scientific developments. Significant resources are allocated in collaborative R&D projects in this area, investigating a number of important aspects, both on technological and on pedagogical advances. This volume aims to capture the state-of-the-art on these developments.

Carmen Padrón, Juanma Dodero, Paloma Díaz and Ignacio Aedo in their paper entitled "The collaborative development of Didactic Materials" present an analysis of the development process of technology-supported didactic material. The authors in their analysis consider didactic materials as the conjunction of contents and instructional design used to guide learning and teaching processes. They conclude that didactic material development is not a trivial task and it calls for a development methodology support, as well as, a high-quality authoring environment. To this end, they describe MD2, an integrated Development Method of Didactic Materials and the CASLO, The Collaborative Annotation Service for Learning Objects.

Ryo Takaoka and Toshio Okamoto in their paper entitled "A Design of Interaction Model among Pedagogical Agents in Collaborative Teaching Process" offer a study towards analyzing and classifying the collaborative tasks among pedagogical agents during the teaching process and they propose communication performatives and protocols for the interaction required during the various teaching tasks. Agent-based Learning Environments constitute an important sub-category of Intelligent Learning Environments (ILEs). The definition of flexible models that can represent the variety of interactions between multiple agents of different teaching strategies that should collaborate is an open research issue. This manuscript contributes towards this direction.

Yih-Ruey Juang, Tzu-Chien Liu, and Tak-Wai Chan in their paper entitled "Web-based Performance Support System for School-based Curriculum Development: SBCDSS" propose, implement and evaluate a School-based Curriculum Development Support System with query and statistic tools for curriculum analysis and evaluation, a collaborative design mechanism for curriculum design, an e-Learning system for curriculum implementation, a rubric table for curriculum evaluation, and categorized discussion boards for communication. The authors capitalize on their previous experiences from IPASS, an Instructional Planning Assisted SyStem which emphasized the design of instructional plans for individual teachers by providing template-based tools with co-design mechanism to help collaborative design work. Their work contributes towards demonstrating the benefits of web-based electronic performance support systems in school curriculum development.

Jin Tan David Yang, Chun-Yen Tsai and Ming Jey Huang in their paper entitled "A Case Study on Research Assistant System - From Knowledge Management Perspective", present a study on the development of a web-based Research Assistant System (RAS), as a Knowledge Management System to support the Community of Practice of Research Assistants in Taiwan. The authors examine the design considerations of such a system and discuss in detail their experimental results.

Ron Stevens and Amy Soller in their paper entitled "Machine Learning Lodels of Problem Space Navigation: the Influence of Gender", present models how problem spaces are navigated as male and female secondary school, university, and medical students engage in repetitive complex problem solving. Their study suggests that strategic problem solving differences are common across gender, and would be masked by simply looking at the outcome of the problem solving event.

Thierry Nabeth, Liana Razmerita, Albert Angehrn and Claudia Roda in their paper entitled "InCA: a Cognitive Multi-Agents Architecture for Designing Intelligent & Adaptive Learning Systems" present a cognitive multi-agents architecture called Intelligent Cognitive Agents (InCA) that is proposed to be used in the context of Adaptive Intelligent Learning Systems. The InCA architecture relies on a personal agent that is aware of the user's characteristics, and that coordinates the intervention of a set of expert cognitive agents (such as story telling agents, assessment agents, stimulation agents or help agents). The authors have applied the InCA architecture in the design of K-InCA, an e-learning system aimed at helping people to learn and adopt knowledge-sharing management practices.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the reviewers for their great efforts and all the authors who submitted their papers to our special issue. We particularly thank the authors of accepted papers for their high-quality work and for having worked on a tight schedule to come up with their revised versions in a timely manner.

The reviewers for the Special issue are: Eshaa Alkhalifa, Muhammad Betz, Steve Corich, Paloma Diaz, John Jamieson, Mike Joy, JaeMu Lee, Carmen Nápoles, Marjanovic Olivera, and Steve Yang.

Guest Editors
Kinshuk and Demetrios G Sampson