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Steering students through the Net

A NEW Internet-based "knowledge navigation" system could save further education students hours searching the Web, by guiding them to the most useful learning resources.

Educentre's PowerStations break down an FE course into study units and modules with all the content, including exercises and links to relevant websites, needed to study the subject. The online company says they "sort and structure the Internet, thereby releasing its full potential".

The links to these sites, along with the student's notes and other work, can be stored on the Internet in a personal PowerStation - dubbed a "digital brain". The idea is that a student's work becomes a "living CV".

David Clancy, chief executive officer of Educentre, believes this will be a much better way for students to show employers what they are capable of than a paper-based resume.

Participating colleges will use the PowerStation materials as part of course materials, but students not enrolled at a college can sign up independently. The cost will depend on the number of learning hours, but a GNVQ in childcare, for example, could cost around pound;70.

Six courses are currently available through a PowerStation but a total of 20 of the most popular FE courses have been commissioned. Every national curriculum subject is also available through a PowerStation; home access will cost pound;9.95 per subject.

Bournemouth and Poole College is the first further education institution to participate in the new venture and Educentre is also expected to announce a deal with a northern college next month.

The Bournemouth local authority has also allocated individual PowerStations to each of its 21,000 school pupils in a pilot project.

Stephen Chappell, chairman of its education committee, says the system represents a practical way to link the work done in schools, colleges and libraries to students' homes. "We believe that we are creating the critical mass locally for a truly inclusive application of the digital revolution," he says.

Keith Holder, head of content for the National Grid for Learning, says the PowerStations will be a welcome addition to the content on the grid.

Although Mr Clancy says the idea is "slightly visionary", this has not deterred investors. As well as revenue from content, deals with other companies, such as online booksellers, will generate income.

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