The Internet in UK Education - a Maturing Market?

By Lepper, Steve | Teaching Business & Economics, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

The Internet in UK Education - a Maturing Market?


Lepper, Steve, Teaching Business & Economics


AUTHORS COMMENT

On May 1st I embarked on a new career as the Education Services Manager for a new Internet company, AngliaCampus. This article was written before this appointment and represents a personal view.

INTRODUCTION

The EBEA first started to explore how the Internet may be used in education and for the benefit of members at the end of 1994. The EBEA's interest in the Internet and in developing a subject gateway in 1995 seemed to many a strange obsession. At the Easter 1995 conference we launched the first web-site for a UK Professional Association and, largely at the instigation of Richard Young, the then development officer, were the driving force behind the establishment of 'BizEd' in January 1996. Biz/Ed is now widely recognised as a model of its kind and, through the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) the Internet is becoming deeply embedded in education at all levels. This article looks at the development of the Internet over the last five years, focusing especially on UK education. It concludes by offering a few thoughts on likely future developments. The main thrust of this article is that the future is likely to develop along similar lines to digital broadcasting, with a growing dominance by a few large providers that combine subscription only content with free and sponsored material.

A BRIEF HISTORY

In December 1994 when the EBEA first went `on-line' Mosaic was THE Web browser, Netscape was at version 0.96 beta and Internet Explorer wasn't even a gleam in a developers eye because Bill Gates thought the Internet would never catch on.

The EBEA and Bized

The Economics and Business Education Association (EBEA) began to explore how the Internet may be used to benefit members at the end of 1994. At its Easter conference in 1995 it became the first UK Professional Association with a web presence for members.

It was quickly realised that to achieve the EBEA's ambition of a site that would be a significant asset to teachers of business and economics, substantial resources would need to be found. Discussions took place with potential partners and at the January 1996 BETT conference Anita Roddick launched 'Business Education on the Internet' (Biz/Ed) as the first dedicated subject gateway for the UK schools sector. Biz/Ed was (and is) located at Bristol University with a full-time staff.

Schools access to the Internet

In 1994/5 NCET provided some LEA Advisory Service IT centres with access to the Internet via the BBC Networking Club. Most schools had no access, but a small number of enthusiasts were using 'dial-up' accounts with Demon to experiment with the new medium. RM set up Internet for Learning, using partnerships with some LEA's to provide local 'PoP's' (Points of Presence). At the same time BT were in the process of setting up CampusWorld as an Internet successor to Campus2000.

Education content for UK Schools

The Internet was becoming widely used in Higher Education, with several initiatives to develop gateways and electronic methods of sharing information. There were several early 'self-help' gateways for UK schools. SchoolNet UK set up in 1994 was one of the first. An early feature of RM's Internet for Learning' was their 'Pathways' a searchable database of Internet sites suitable for use with the UK National Curriculum. CampusWorld also provided links to other Internet sites, but was mainly focussed on the provision of unique content and 'on-line' projects. In this respect Biz/Ed pioneered the subject gateway concept for school and college use, providing both 'pointers' to useful places to go, and its own unique content.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

In the early days of the Associations involvement with the Internet, several expressed puzzlement as to why so many people provide so much free information on the Internet. Allied to that have been related questions of how quality and consistency can be maintained without the profit motive as a spur. …

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