An open source project run by a regional broadband consortium has been nominated for a prestigious national IT award. The National Digital Resource Bank (ndrb) is a finalist in the eGovernment National Awards' Local e-Government excellence category because it has shown how affordable technology can be leveraged to give nationwide access to locally-funded educational resources. The North West Learning Grid and government-accredited open source provider Sirius Corporation plc have partnered with JANET, the UK's education network, to make the ndrb a reality.
The ndrb is essentially a gigantic online swapshop. Teachers can hit "Search" and gain access to educational resources designed and tested by their 400,000 colleagues across the country. Hours spent concocting lesson plans late into the night will become a thing of the past. Students can download educational videos, exercises and audio clips. And, unlike what Google throws up, everything is quality assured and copyright safe.
UK Government CIO John Suffolk will reveal the winners on 20th January at a Ministerial dinner at the City of London's Guildhall.
Fiona Iglesias, Project Manager, North West Learning Grid said: "We hope the ndrb will become the single most important resource for teachers. The idea is to pull together all the resources created by teachers, schools and public funding into one central location. It is in every school's interest to put their resources into the pot, because they each get back so many times what they put in.
"There is already an estimated £150m-worth of digital resources out there in schools and Local Authorities that are not being shared and ndrb bring all of these and make them available to every member Local Authority's schools. There will also be significant contributions from industry, charities and national archives."
Mark Taylor, CEO, Sirius Corporation plc said: "ndrb has been a very challenging project to deploy both is size and complexity. It is built on software developed by the Spanish government. The process of open sourcing it has enabled us to optimise the system for the UK and, hopefully, get developers all over the world working on the codebase.
"We're thrilled that the ndrb is a finalist for such a prestigious award but we're equally excited that it has shown open source software is ready for large public sector projects and the only way to deliver real, sustained value at low cost."
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 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 yet is anticipated to save schools at least £25M per annum spent on licencing commercial resources.
The technology behind the National Digital Resource Bank is 'AGREGA' and Shibboleth, a federated identity-based authentication system.
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 systems integrator that specialises in deploying and supporting enterprise-class Open Source solutions. The company is the only Becta-accredited provider of open source software and services to schools in the UK.