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Curriculum Online


John Simkin
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Last year the Department for Education and Skills spent £2.4m on the Curriculum Online website. Research shows that despite this spending, the website is still unpopular with teachers. The government has therefore decided to pay Flow Interactive to give it a makeover. There are now subject-specific home pages, which include news and features. Resources have also been divided into more hierarchies relating to topics. The website allows you to search through 1000s of multimedia resources. It is still a mess and it is very surprising to discover that it is on the shortlist for the Government Computing/BT Syntegra Awards for Innovation.

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The nomination for the award is described at the Curriculum Online website as “a reflection of the unique collaboration between Government, educational software suppliers, technical specialists and teaching professionals that is Curriculum Online.”

I like the euphemism "unique collaboration" :) . As an educational software supplier (and theoretically one of the collaborators), I find the whole initiative technologically top-heavy, excessively bureaucratic, time-consuming and generally symptomatic of the control freak mentality of the current government that we have in power. The Curriculum Online website is labyrinthine. So far I have not met a single teacher who finds it usable or useful.

Regarding “control freak mentality”, educational suppliers have just been issued with a warning from Curriculum Online's "compliance police" (BECTA) that some of them have not been obeying the "80:20" rule, namely that all Curriculum Online certified products must:

>Be digital products and/or services. DfES requires that a minimum of approximately 80% of a Product’s constituent parts be digital products and/or services, with up to 20% being support materials i.e. non-digital products and/or services that are designed to support the classroom use of the Product. For a delivery-staggered Product, the 80% digital and 20% support criteria may be measured over the expected life of the Product. "Digital" should be interpreted to exclude material which, although delivered digitally, in the reasonable opinion of DfES offers the user no significant additional ICT functionality of relevance to education than the equivalent, non-digital form would offer. However, with Products not paid for using eLCs, "digital" may include products and/or services not offering such significant extra functionality. The 80:20 approach provides flexibility that is beneficial to suppliers and schools. It supports the overarching aim of increasing the quality, quantity and usage of multimedia resources in the classroom, which, of course, has direct benefits to growing the market and increasing business opportunities. One should be clear that this flexibility should, in no circumstances be used to shift the focus of eLC spend away from high quality educational software that is aligned to the curriculum as taught in England. Frankly, some suppliers have strayed beyond flexibility and these actions if left unchecked will undoubtedly bring Curriculum Online and eLCs into disrepute and could attract serious challenges.<

I have written back to the compliance police asking how one measures the the 80:20 proportions and, in view of the weight of research evidence concluding that reading from the computer screen is around 25% slower than reading from the printed page and that most people find reading from the computer screen unpleasant, if it is really a good idea to be going down the 80:20 route anyway. I await their reply with interest, but they often don't reply.

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  • 3 weeks later...

We've sold e-learning creditable resources to just over 1,500 schools in the last 9-12 months. And to my knowledge, not one school found us using CO, or indeed uses it for anything else. Operating CO from a content provider perspective is a nightmare.

Jim

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Jim write:

We've sold e-learning creditable resources to just over 1,500 schools in the last 9-12 months. And to my knowledge, not one school found us using CO, or indeed uses it for anything else. Operating CO from a content provider perspective is a nightmare.

Our eLC sales have picked up dramatically in June - as schools try to get rid of their eLC funding before the end of the school year. I have indentified just two schools that found our business (Camsoft) via Curriculum Online - i.e. since March 2003. The word 'nightmare' is an understatement.

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