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e-Learning

Report of workshop from conference:
"Putting the 'e-' in e-government"
Birmingham, February 2001

Case Studies

Across the country there are hundreds of projects coming under the heading of "e-learning", ranging from infrastructure projects to online content delivery.

The two presentations here concentrated on 

  • ICT learning centres

  • the innovative developments in Nottingham, which include broadband wiring up of social housing, providing laptops for all children in the local authority area and online collaboration between teachers and students.

ICT learning Centres - the story so far

The government has been providing money for the development of ICT learning centres in some of the most socially disadvantaged areas of the country. But how effective are they? Jeremy Wyatt of economic development consultants Hall Aitken presented the results of the evaluation of the first wave of implementations in the 3 year 252 million project.

Amongst the findings are that:

  • the learning centres are highly valued by users

  • in general, they have been successful in attracting users from intended socially excluded target groups

  • users, however, are predominantly women: it has proved much harder to attract men, younger men in particular

  • men and women use the centre in different ways: women are significantly more likely to undertake programmed courses, while men are more likely to pursue a particular interest 

  • the ambience and interaction in the centres is particularly effective in helping develop new skills amongst users who did not thrive at school.

In the process of the evaluation a great deal of insight has been gained into good practice - what works in terms of management, technology, marketing, programming and sustainability. There were many links here with the advice in the Planning Exchange's Good Practice guide.

Many of the workshop participants were involved in similar projects, or were about to be - a great deal of government money is coming into this field to promote the government's vision of a wired future. One of the key issues raised here is that of the sustainability of projects beyond the initial funding period - a key issue that central and local government need to address if they are to capitalise on the value of completed projects.

For further details contact Jeremy Wyatt.

e-Learning in Nottingham

Nottingham City has been gaining a justified reputation as pioneers of ICT in education. Malcolm Edmonds, ICT Consultant at Nottingham City LEA outlined how their innovative strategy emerged from the situation in Nottingham.

In terms of the "digital divide", Nottingham found itself firmly on the wrong side of the tracks. To a large extent this was born out of the wider circumstances of social exclusion. Figures such as 50% of adults not paying income tax, and 48% of children on free school meals, are sharp indicators of disadvantage in the city. 

Yet Nottingham has been successful in attracting high-tech inward investment. The problem has been, however, that local people are not being recruited by high-tech firms: recruits commute in from the surrounding area and further afield in the Midlands.

So the development of e-learning in Nottingham has been a focused response to particular problems.

The main strands of e-learning development are:

  • making a laptop available to every teacher and every student

  • creating the broadband infrastructure for "Anywhere, Anytime Learning"

  • wiring up all libraries, community centres and council houses by 2002

  • incorporating use of technology into teaching and learning using the services and software of Digitalbrain

  • creating an e-learning foundation to support all individuals and groups who want to acquire a computer, and to promote awareness in business and the community

What impressed delegates most, perhaps, was the way in which Nottingham had pressed ahead and implemented many of the measures. Most ambitious perhaps are the laptop provision and wiring up of homes.

A very robust laptop is available to each child at school with the Education Authority buying a managed service from Ergo Computing. Parents can then lease laptops for use at home, at very favorable rates, discounted for people on low incomes. 

The wiring up of all council homes is one of the first such projects in the country, and is being carried out in partnership with cable provider ntl. It is planned to make extensive use of interactive TV, with people having access via their TV to learning opportunities and online council services.

With the support of Digitalbrain ICT is being integrated into the curriculum and into teaching practices. Features include:

  • online resources tailored to the individual, with 25mb storage per pupil

  • lesson templates

  • professional development materials including online workshops

  • online monitoring and assessment systems

  • online management and reporting systems

  • web-based email

  • conference sites with "e-friends" for pupils

  • access to the system from anywhere: home, school, learning centres, etc.

There was definitely a "wow" factor to this presentation. Now delegates face the challenge of "go and do likewise"! There are many lessons to learn from Nottingham's experience.

For further details, contact Malcolm Edmonds

 

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