UK schools are to have unrestricted access to digital learning resources courtesy of a new national digital content repository. The National Digital Resource Bank will give all schools immediate access to over £30m of digital educational resources with the expectation that this figure will double year-on-year.
The National Digital Resource Bank project will be managed and led by the North West Learning Grid and supported by open source specialists, Sirius.
Despite strong government funding, to date, the enthusiasm for Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) in UK schools has been dampened by the absence of high quality learning content which has been criticised as too expensive and unsuitable for use within Learning Platforms. However tens of millions of pounds of digital resources have been created using public funding in Local Authorities, City Learning Centres and schools themselves. In addition many charities and industry partners have valuable digital resources that they would like to make available to schools. Access to these rich and freely available resources will be now possible through the National Digital Resource Bank.
The announcement comes after the signing of an agreement on 6th February 2009 in Madrid between the Spanish government and JANET, the National Education Network. Under the agreement the source code and technical documentation for 'Agrega', the software behind the National Digital Resource Bank, will be released under an open source licence.
Rt. Hon. Jim Knight MP, Minister of State for Schools and Learners said: “A partnership with the Spanish Telecommunications and Information Society has been signed … to develop a National Digital Resource Bank, to create, search for, and share digital content. The UK is renowned for excellence in ICT infrastructure, development of Digital Resources, and willingness to work with other countries and has combined these three elements in this landmark project.”
Gary Clawson, CEO at the North West Learning Grid said: “The National Digital Resource Bank is the missing link in UK Digital Resource Strategy. We have a great infrastructure, we have lots of media rich resources and we have implemented Learning Platforms in every schools. But despite this, schools have been unable to share resources with other schools because of different technical solutions implemented across different Local Authorities.
“Now we have a partnership of more than 100 Local Authorities, the creation of the National Digital Resource Bank using open source software and incorporating international standards, will enable UK schools to access the most comprehensive set of digital learning resources available anywhere in the world.”
Mark Taylor, CEO, Sirius Corporation said: “The National Digital Resource Bank is the first nationwide project that relies on open source software, open standards and open content.
“The scale and ambition of this project has been made possible by of free and open source software. Being tied into a commercially licensed platform would have restricted the NDRB's ability to scale. It would have been just too expensive.
“The NDRB shows how to reduce the risks associated with national IT projects and make them more affordable.”
*About National Digital Resource Bank*
The National Digital Resource Bank (NDRB) is a bank of resources that are available, under a creative commons non-commercial share-alike license, that have been mapped and tagged and made suitable for use with learning platforms. The bank of resources is available free to any local authority wishing to become a member of the scheme and willing to contribute their own publicly funded resources. Resources range from, tutorials, activities and interactive games covering entire courses to individual photographs, audio clips and worksheets.
The cost of developing and maintaining NDRB is estimated to be less than £400,000 per annum which represents less than a quarter of a percent of current annual ICT investment in schools.
The technology behind the National Digital Resource Bank is 'Agrega', a multi-million Euro open source development funded by the Spanish government. The software is licensed under the General Public Licence version 2 (GPL2). For information about open source licences visit www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html
*About North West Learning Grid*
North West Learning Grid is a consortium of eighteen Local Authorities and more than 2,000 schools, working in partnership to improve the process and management of learning using the latest information and communication technologies. Central to its activities is the provision of e-learning content, much of which is free to access to all schools and their learners. As a National Education Network provider, North West Learning Grid also maintains broadband connectivity between its 18 member authorities and the National Backbone provided by JANET(UK). For more information visit www.nwlg.org or call Gary Clawson on +44 7799 374 075.
*About Sirius Corporation plc*
Sirius Corporation plc is a leading European IT services group specialising in enterprise-class Open Source infrastructure solutions including databases, email systems, file & print, directory services, and cross-platform authentication. The company is the only Becta-accredited provider of open source software and services to schools in the UK.