Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Accessible e-Learning? You BETT!

I'm lucky enough that I have a job that gets me out of the office for 1-2 days a week doing something or other. Normally it's providing training or consultancy to the growing number of organisations that "get" accessibility and want to do something about it. It's a nice break from routine and this week I'm going to be at the BETT show in Olympia, London to represent(CDSMs) suite of accessible e-Learning products.

Accessibility is extremely important to the education sector in the UK. Fortunately, we have a quite a tight Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) designed to protect the rights of disabled learners, but despite this, educational software vendors still aren't investing in developing truly accessible solutions for learners. That makes it difficult for Schools to procure material that actually allows them to comply with Government requirements and with accessibility being such a buzzword, confusion rains on the poor procurement officer.

As part of the "Building Schools for the Future" (BSF) initiative, the government are expecting Local Education Authorities (LEAs) to invest in technology and the built environment to encourage effective learning. Schools and colleges will be expected to demonstrate how they have implemented their solutions and improved the state of affairs in their own establishment.

Over the past 2 years, CDSM, has invested in developing a truly accessible, SCORM compliant e-Learning package using Flash technology which can be delivered via a learning platform. CDSM's learning platform is called "My Learning Space" and it allows teachers to easily author their content, have it peer reviewed, improve it, upload it, and share it with others. The solution is being developed in Partnership with Dr. Kevin Palmer, Director of Salford City Learning Centres. Several components of the solution are already complete and work as stand-alone applications. This includes "Pedagogue" the accessible Multimedia e-Learning content development platform. The ability to create repositories of learning material which are quality graded by other teachers is one of the key features of the product. It will help teachers find the best resources to help them deliver quality lesson plans.

To ensure that we stay on the right track, all these developments need regular peer review by teachers and educators to shape the solution into something that meets their requirements precisely. CDSM/Salford CLC want to broaden the scope of the project to include other learning professionals. Middlesex University, London's largest University has recently started to participate in steering the "My Learning Space" initiative after becoming disillusioned with their existing VLE. At BETT, I hope to be talking to other enthusiastic educationalists who will also want to shape the future of e-Learning in the UK.

So anyway, from Mid-day Thursday and most of Friday, I'll be at BETT on stand S86. It's always good to put faces to names so if you happen to be at the show, call in and see me.


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