Learning Schools Programme

Company: IntegraCustomer: Learning Schools ProgrammeSubmitted by: BluegrassThe Learning Schools Programme (LSP) is a partnership activity between RM, the main supplier of software, services and systems to UK education and the Open University, the UK’s largest teaching institution. They called on the service of the leading Web development and hosting company, Integra when they needed a personalised on line learning environment developed.Funded by the National Lottery, the Programme’s aim over the next three years, is to train a quarter of the UK’s teachers and school librarians (125,000) in understanding the role that IT, and in particular the Internet, can play as part of their everyday teaching practice.Approval of the LSP as a recognised training provider for the scheme run by the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) was granted in February of this year. The partnership saw RM fulfilling the technical implementation and staged roll out of the Programme with the OU holding responsibility for the course quality and content.

Approved Training Provider status signalled the start of an ambitious six month project development cycle with Integra.Development consisted of two main projects; a front end marketing web-site intended to act as an information vehicle, providing potential customers with a better understanding of the Programme, and a second operational web-site where OU developed material and shared teaching resources which are to be maintained on an ongoing basis.The marketing web site was developed in house by RM. This public web site details the background, objectives and services offered by the LSP and is being used to create general awareness within the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and schools.The second stage of the project, the operational extranet for signed up LSP users was developed by Integra in conjunction with RM.The LSP extranet solution provides a secure login interface for authorised users, whilst an easy-to-use administration suite enables the OU to update content such as the addition and removal of course material.

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The solution is coded in Microsoft ASP and runs on Windows NT together with SQL Server 6.5 enabling integration with the existing RM database systems for LEAs and schools.Careful consideration was given to designing a ‘universal’ web front end since the typical user could be running a PC, MAC or Acorn machine, possibly without support for JavaScript. The fact that teachers do not need the worry of additional ‘plug-ins’ before they can properly run web page contents was also taken into account in the final solution.The materials designed by the OU for the LSP extranet cover both primary and secondary education, all National Curriculum subjects and phases across the UK and are available to all state-maintained schools.

LEAs hold and administer training entitlements and work closely with head teachers to sign up interested individual schools.A single database architecture simplifies programme management for the OU – content can be updated centrally, with any changes rolled out instantly across the extranet user base.Conversely, what each registered teacher sees at login is a unique home page that reflects their subject preference, LEA and the age range of the children they teach.The personalised home page equips the teacher with a single, intuitive interface to email, the SoftArc FirstClass online conferencing system, OU published coursework material, the National Grid for Learning, relevant professional associations and other useful sites. Teachers can even submit their own work which can be published on the extranet as a shared teaching resource for colleagues in other schools.Since each teacher signed up to the Programme only needs a login id and an Internet connection to access the LSP extranet, the site represents a comprehensive online teaching resource that can also be accessed outside of the busy school day at any time from their home PC.

The system, hosted by RM went live at the beginning of September and is already gaining favour in the academic community:”We are putting all our teachers through this programme” comments Martin Beedle, Staff development Manager at Ossett School and 6th Form College.Robert Green, LSP product development manager at RM added: “This is one of the largest Professional Development Programmes ever. Integra worked with us to understand our needs from the beginning and really enabled us to achieve our goals in time.”