The iLearn platform, which will start being introduced in state schools as from April, provides students with a whole new world of opportunities to learn in their own time and at their own pace. Essentially, the eLearning solution provides a virtual school building where teachers can easily upload any material they may need to share with their students. It also serves as a place where students can communicate in a safe environment. Francesca Vella
The launch of the Smart Learning Strategy in 2008 marked the beginning of efforts to invest in the necessary information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in schools, deliver the necessary training to teachers to use ICT pedagogically in the classroom and generate content.
The aim of this strategy was to make students’ learning experience more engaging, motivating and fun.
Plans in the Smart Learning Strategy included the procurement of an eLearning solution, and after a tendering process that started in 2010, Fronter was selected and the government signed an €8.6 million, seven-year agreement for the provision of an eLearning solution for primary and secondary state schools.
Fronter is a Virtual Learning Environment and it is used by thousands of schools around the world. It is thought of as a digital school building that runs alongside your regular building, expanding and enhancing it, creating new opportunities.
Just like a regular school building it is an arena for learning, teaching, interacting with peers and colleagues, organising, sharing, documenting and improving people’s lives through education.
Fronter was established in Norway in 1998 and then acquired by Pearson in 2009. Winning many prestigious awards, Fronter has been acknowledged as a leader in its market. The Fronter Platform is used by teachers and students in schools, colleges, universities, and professional organisations around the world. Fronter has vast experience in the implementation of eLearning solutions in schools across the world, including Denmark, Norway, England, Austria, Germany, Ireland and The Netherlands.
In 2005 Fronter became the first pan-European Managed Learning Environment provider to achieve the highly renowned ISO 27001 certification for information security. In November 2010 Fronter’s ISO27001 Certificate was upheld following an independent audit by DNV.
In Malta, training for teachers and administrators has started and by mid-2013, all primary and secondary state schools will have access to the iLearn platform.
The government has already invested significantly by providing a laptop to all teachers and increasing the number of computers in schools, and will be investing further to increase schools’ bandwidth speeds.
The eLearning Solution will provide teachers with tools to work more efficiently and teach in ways that are more engaging for students. The solution will also enable parents to be more involved in their children’s educational progress whilst students can learn in more creative and innovative ways.
The platform is designed to have one virtual classroom for primary students and one classroom per subject for secondary students. Each teacher and student will have their own login details and because iLearn is a web-based solution, only a desktop or portable computer and an internet connection are required to access the platform.
During a briefing organised by the Malta Information and Technology Agency a few days ago, Ingun Vaglid from Fronter explained that teachers can upload material very easily – from free content available on the internet like YouTube videos, to audio clips they can record on the platform itself and students’ homework and test results.
Teachers can decide whether to give students the possibility to read each other’s work, and different schools can decide to collaborate and share certain content if they like.
The iLearn project is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme (85%), and is an important milestone in the strengthening of Malta’s educational system, as it will deliver the benefits associated with the merging of ICT and traditional teaching methods to students, teachers and parents alike. Following a tendering process, Fronter was selected as the bidder with the most economically advantageous offer for the provision of an eLearning Solution.
The Malta Information and Technology Agency is responsible to ensure that the right ICT infrastructure is in place in schools, and the Education Ministry is handling teacher training and content development.
By means of this investment, students in primary and secondary state schools will have access to high quality interactive learning content and will be able to benefit from a personal online learning space that offers opportunities to collaborate with other learners, as well as learn more independently anywhere, anytime – even outside school.
The eLearning Solution will also provide educators with the means to create and maintain their learning material online, and will enable the uploading, distribution, grading and storing of student assignments in a purposely-designed online class space.
This new technology will also provide educators with the facility to assess and monitor their learners’ progress online and will facilitate the transfer of knowledge with other educators in different schools and teaching communities.
Parents, on the other hand, will be able to actively participate in their child’s learning process while benefiting from the advantages that an online environment provides, including facilitated means of communication with their children’s educators. The new technology will give parents easy access to their children’s learning materials and school work whilst enabling them to monitor their child’s educational progress.
The eLearning Centre at the Education Ministry has qualified staff that deal with the support that teachers in schools might have in using the eLearning solution. Members from the centre will also be visiting schools to explain to parents how the system works and address their queries.
Matthew Mermagen, international operations vice-president at Pearson Platforms and general manager of Fronter said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to provide the eLearning solution in support of the Smart Learning Strategy. That is our objective – to support the government in ensuring that the Smart Learning Strategy is a success.
“Fronter was developed in close cooperation with the education community and it is learning that motivates our product development. To put it very simply we use technology to make more learning possible.”