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Analysis of recent 1:1 learning initiatives in primary and secondary schools in Europe

By Yves Punie and Panagiotis Kampylis, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), Spain; Stefania Bocconi, Italian National Research Council, The Institute for Educational Technology, Italy.

In recent years, large- and small-scale one-to-one (1:1) initiatives have been launched in a number of European countries. Inspired mainly by the pioneering One Laptop Per Child programme, 1:1 computing initiatives in Europe aim to equip students and teachers of a targeted school, class or age group, with a portable mobile computer device (i.e. laptop, notebook, tablet or smartphone) for continuous use both in the classroom and at home. 1:1 indicates the ratio of devices to users, i.e. one device per learner. More recently, however, the focus seems to have shifted away from the device to changing the way of learning with each student taking a more active role based on the use of his/her personal device in a connected and well equipped classroom; hence the emphasis  on 1:1 learning rather than on 1:1 computing.

The project “Overview and analysis of one-to-one computing initiatives for Education and Training in Europe” (1to1Learning) was launched by JRC-IPTS[1] and was carried out by European Schoolnet (EUN) from January 2012 to December 2012. The project aimed to provide an overview of recent 1:1 learning initiatives in primary and secondary schools across European countries, and to identify major bottlenecks and barriers to the implementation of 1:1 learning in schools. The study’s findings were discussed with experts and stakeholders in order to reach a consensus on policy options for scaling-up 1:1 learning experiences that successfully promote technological, pedagogical and organizational innovation in Education and Training.

The 1to1Learning project identified 29 recent 1:1 initiatives (dating back no earlier than 2008) with significant scale and/or scope from 19 European countries. These included large-scale initiatives involving a total estimated number of more than 620,000 schools and 16,800,000 students across European countries. The majority of students were from Turkey (15,000,000), Spain (635,000) and Portugal (600,000).


Figure 1. Geographical distribution of the 1:1 learning initiatives analysed in the IPTS/EUN to1Learning study (Source: Bocconi, Kampylis & Punie, 2013)

The main beneficiaries of the 1:1 initiatives identified in Europe were the students and teachers, who in most cases received laptops and netbooks, in some cases tablets and in a few cases, smartphones. In most of the initiatives, students owned the devices and could use them for their activities in and out of school. In other cases, the equipment was owned by the schools and in a few initiatives, the Ministry of Education owned the devices and lent them to the schools. Half of the identified initiatives covered both primary and secondary education, six covered primary education only, and seven initiatives addressed solely secondary education.

Most of these 29 initiatives aimed to promote a 1:1 learning model that would lead to pedagogical change and innovation. Another key objective was to address economic inequalities by improving students’ access to ICT and promoting e-inclusion on a more general level. To improve students’ ICT skills and motivation, or to expand ICT provision in schools by further reducing computer-per student ratios was the goal of around one third of the initiatives.

Initial findings of the 1to1Learning project show the existence of different types of teacher training activities, including training sessions organised by the schools themselves, external training activities provided by local/national educational authorities, or universities, or by the technology companies that equipped the schools.

Most of the initiatives were evaluated by external experts. These evaluation studies showed a positive impact on students’ motivation and the promotion of student-centred learning. Only a few evaluations highlighted the impact on students’ learning outcomes and the role of parents as beneficiaries of the 1:1 initiatives. Key findings from the 1to1Learning study also show the need to strategically plan the implementation of 1:1 initiatives, focusing on a greater number of systemic enablers of innovation. These include encouraging a pedagogical culture by building teachers’ networks and creating incentives for teachers. Clear long-term implementation strategies and adequate training measures are also needed to make mainstreaming of initiatives both sustainable and effective.

The 1:1 learning initiatives in Europe can be analyzed through the mapping framework of ICT-enabled innovation for learning developed by JRC-IPTS in the context of the SCALE CCR study (Kampylis, Bocconi & Punie, 2012). The mapping framework (Figure 2) provides a "snapshot" of their current state of development and offers valuable insights on the emerging trends regarding the nature, the reach, the target groups and the impact of 1:1 innovation in learning.


Figure 2. The mean reach and impact of the 29 1:1 learning initiatives in Europe (Source: Bocconi, Kampylis & Punie, 2013)

Overall, 1:1 learning initiatives in Europe can be considered as mostly incremental (nature of innovation), moving progressively to more radical approaches where the emphasis lies on active learners and 1:1 pedagogies.  It is interesting to note that about half the 1:1 initiatives have already reached a significant scale, involving a large number of students (e.g. 180,000 in Norway and 113,226 in Greece) and are moving towards mainstreaming (e.g. 600,000 students in Portugal, 634,549 in Spain and 15,000,000 in Turkey) (implementation phase). More than half the initiatives are embedded in regional/national strategies (access level) but only one initiative was cross-border, involving learners from six European countries. The vast majority of the analyzed 1:1 initiatives are at service level, addressing key aspects related to the provision of equipment to schools and the development of infrastructures both inside and outside schools (impact area). The main beneficiaries (target) of 1:1 initiatives, in fact, are still the students and teachers who received laptops and netbooks in most cases. Given the current economic conditions in many European countries, the sustainability of such initiatives is under pressure as they are dependent mainly on public funds. In order to make the mainstreaming of 1:1 initiatives sustainable and effective, strategic planning and multi-stakeholder involvement are required.

In particular, strategic planning should be medium- or long-term and should include clear implementation strategies, evaluation and monitoring procedures, and effective training and support mechanisms for both school members and families. It should not only focus on students’ achievements but on a number of other essential elements (e.g. students’ engagement, attendance, behaviour, and motivation) and cater for a combination of the technological, pedagogical and organizational dimensions of innovation (i.e. including changes in the curriculum, assessment, timetables, teachers training on 1:1 pedagogies). In this perspective, a variety of stakeholders play an important role as key change agents in 1:1 innovations. At system level, the regional/national government is responsible for ICT policy and vision, funding, curriculum, assessment, and teacher training. At school level, school leaders have a strategic role in leading and managing the innovation process and creating capacities within the school. Teachers are key change agents as regards facilitating students’ learning and within the process of implementing 1:1 initiatives.

Several initiatives also highlighted the importance of including parents in the process as they are committed to children’s well-being, learning, and development. Parents are one of the most critical interest groups, especially as regards investment (financing devices) and security.

The final report of the 1to1Learning study is expected to be published by EC JRC-IPTS in Summer 2013.


·         Bocconi, S., Kampylis, P. & Punie, Y. (2013). Framing ICT-enabled Innovation for Learning: the case of one-to-one learning initiatives in Europe. European Journal of Education. 48(1), 113-130

·         Kampylis, P., Bocconi, S. & Punie, Y. (2012). Towards a Mapping Framework of ICT-enabled Innovation for Learning. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. EUR 25445 EN


[1] The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) is one of the seven research institutes that make up the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC)