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Andy Walker

E-Learning Credits

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Interesting!

I wonder how may "e-learning" companies artificially kept alive by this corrupt system will struggle as a result

I expect all of them to go out of business. By going subscription they lost the good will of the teaching profession. They also lost their ranking in search-engines. Personally I have little sympathy for any of these companies, including my former employers who rejected my advice when they decided to become a subscription-only website.

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John writes:

I expect all of them to go out of business. By going subscription they lost the good will of the teaching profession. They also lost their ranking in search-engines. Personally I have little sympathy for any of these companies, including my former employers who rejected my advice when they decided to become a subscription-only website.

Bear in mind, however, that there are many free sites registered at the Curriculum Online site too, including BBC Jam, which was financed out of your licence fees as part of the Curriculum Online (Digital Curriculum) initiative. My personal (negative) opinion of BBC Jam is expressed here:

http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/BBC_Jam.htm

John is probably right. Most e-learning companies will go out of business - and good riddance! Without the funding to buy a subscription I doubt that schools will continue to subscribe. I am not impressed by the offerings of e-learning companies. Most VLEs that e-learning companies in my subject area (foreign languages) use to wrap up their materials are repeating the same mistakes as the producers of language labs in the 1960s and 1970s, i.e. falling over backwards to bore the pants off students.

As for blogs and podcasts, I enjoy some of the rants you find in blogs, but most are just boring newsletters. Podcasts are not a lot different from radio broadcasts. Apart from the technological wizardry involved in setting up, downloading and maintaining blogs and podcasts, I can't see enormous advantages. All educational materials depend on quality of content and the imagination of the teachers that use them - and quality of content is currently lacking in most of the blogs and podcasts I have read/heard. As for "feeds", no way! I am overwhelmed with rubbish pouring into my email boxes already and have had to set up aggressive filters to keep it out. My telephone and fax machine were other sources of annoyance until I subscribed to BT's "Privacy at Home" and “Caller Display” services. It's now a lot quieter at home in the evenings.

My business, Camsoft, was forced to register with Curriculum Online, otherwise we would not have been able to take advantage of the eLC money that schools can spend on digital resources. Digital resources include offline resources such as CD-ROMs and DVDs, which is what my business sells. We don't offer any online services - but I do offer free materials at my business website and at the ICT4LT website.

I hate the whole concept of Curriculum Online. It's involved us in unnecessary bureaucracy and actually caused a 50% drop in sales because schools are no longer at liberty to spend the money on resources that are not registered with Curriculum Online. There are many quality products that are unregistered and never will be because (being products for learning foreign languages) they are produced abroad by companies who have not the slightest interest in or understanding of Curriculum Online. Here's what I say on my "Favourite Websites" page:

Curriculum Online (COL): See http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk. A UK government initiative, launched in January 2003, which has the noble aim of providing ring-fenced funding, known as e-Learning Credits (eLCs), to schools in England to enable them to buy software and online services to support their teaching. Unfortunately, the initiative has been surrounded with an atmosphere of controversy from the outset, resulting in court action against the BBC, accusations of high-level bungling and a very expensive website. My personal perception of COL is that it is a technological and bureaucratic sledgehammer that has wasted far too much money on the technical infrastructure and is in the process of creating a cosy clique of suppliers who will dominate the market place and force smaller specialist suppliers into liquidation. The whole initiative has a pre-1989 East European flavour. Having gained control over teachers with the introduction of the National Curriculum, the DfES is now trying to gain control of the educational suppliers. Tom McMullan describes the COL initiative as being a government plan for "backdoor nationalisation of the UK educational content marketplace" (Wired to Learn, Adam Smith Institute). The COL website has been revamped (December 2003) in response to feedback from teachers, making it possible to search for a specific software title or supplier. However, the listing of a product at the COL site is not a guarantee of quality as only random checks are carried out. There is an evaluation process, currently operated by two agencies, Schoolzone and E-valuate, but for an exorbitant fee that a small business cannot afford - and you won't find many Modern Foreign Languages products that have been evaluated.

http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/websites.htm

It's a corrupt initiative. I'll be delighted to see the back of it.

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Tom McMullan describes the COL initiative as being a government plan for "backdoor nationalisation of the UK educational content marketplace" (Wired to Learn, Adam Smith Institute).

Nonsense.... just of a quality you might expect from the Adam Smith Institute.

The problem with elcs was that the scheme protected underperforming private companies.

I would hope for better from a truely nationalised approach - for instance the nationalisation of Adobe and Microsoft would be a positive start :hotorwot

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No, Andy has got it totally wrong. My private business - a small partnership - was doing OK until Curriculum Online (COL) came on the scene. Since then our turnover has dropped by 50%. We are not the only small business - or even medium-sized business - to have suffered in this way. I am in no doubt that Curriculum Online shares a large proportion of the blame for this. Schools are not free or trusted to spend their eLC allocation on anything but COL-registered (= state-registered) products. So much for the freedom of choice.

As for quality control of COL-registered products, it's negligible. BECTA have asked for just two samples of our products out of a large list. The feedback we received from them indicated, firstly, that they did not understand the pedagogy of one of the products and, secondly, that they were mainly interested in technical compliance rather than pedagogy anyway.

Furthermore, Curriculum Online generates a lot of extra work each month when we have to report to BECTA (formerly the DfES) on the schools that have bought eLC-funded products from us and how much they spent. It's Big Brother stuff! (Orwell's Big Brother, of course, not the TV series.) I pointed out to the Curriculum Online administration that the orders submitted by schools did not always indicate which budget they were using and asked if I should contact the schools to find out. The reply was that this was not necessary and that we should only report on those schools that clearly indicated that they were using eLC funding. Obviously, this didn't work out, resulting in a huge mismatch between what the DfES had doled out and what schools appeared to be spending. Now, if any state school buys a COL-registered product we have been told to assume that the eLC budget is being used, even if it isn't! We just report on every school that buys a COL-registered product. So the budget is probably even more out of balance now.

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