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Online thread to navigate the technology maze

THE latest player on the e-learning scene says it has "struck the right chord at the right time".

Kenneth Fee, chief executive of the business-led eLearning Alliance, said that in its first year of operations the company had attained all its performance targets and established an e-learning community with extensive networks of employers, educational organisations and suppliers that cross traditional boundaries.

"We are the only organisation in Scotland that seeks to bring together all the bodies with an interest in promoting learning enhanced by computer technology," Mr Fee said. "We originally envisaged a membership of around 100, but we currently have 150 and expect this to rise to 200 this year."

Its reach encompasses further education colleges, universities, local authorities, training consultants, commercial companies and software developers and suppliers. Initially funded by Scottish Enterprise, the company expects to be self-sustaining within three years of its establishment rather than the four years originally planned.

Yesterday (Thursday) the Alliance held it first educational suppliers' fair which was expected to attract more than 200 visitors. Mr Fee said that "the common thread" is the use of information and communications technology to enhance and distribute learning.

Tom Wilson, principal of Glasgow College of Building and Printing and chairman of Learning and Teaching Scotland, pointed to the production of programmes for the building industry. The educational content had been supplied by a partnership of three colleges, a commercial company had delivered the software and sponsorship had come from the Construction Industry Training Board and Learndirect Scotland.

David Elder, chairman of the alliance and chief executive of training provider and software development company Media Corp, said that the first birthday was "a reason for both celebration and reflection. What was a germ of an idea has grown into a fully fledged organisation for change and progress in the e-learning sector."

Mr Elder told The TES Scotland that the alliance had "broken down the barriers that existed in respect of companies, software and learning suppliers and further education, created an open forum for unbiased information and a platform from which the Scottish market can engage in the global opportunities that exist via the web".

Mr Fee, a former manager for Scotland of the Open College, says the problem facing the training world is finding a way through "the technology maze".

He added: "Training managers must find it bewildering when they encounter the range of technology tools offered in the name of e-learning. For those who specialise in employee development, it is one thing to source the means to facilitate learning, but quite another to understand the relative merits of various technology applications.

"Few training managers are also experts in IT systems, so it is not surprising that many of them have been slow to realise the potential of e-learning. There is a real and immediate need for some clear guidance."

The eLearning Alliance has recently signed an agreement with the European Institute for e-Learning which will allow the Scottish organisation to distribute the institute's European Guide to e-Learning Solutions in this country.

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