George Cole on a merger of Internet services that holds a great deal of promise for schools
The saying that you get what you pay for certainly applies to using the Internet as a classroom resource. There is a lot of good free material on the Net, but there is also a fair amount of dross. What's more, finding the right resources can be a time-consuming business and material can be inaccurate, out of date or unsuitable.
For these reasons, the idea of an Internet-based subscription service has its attractions. Last November, Anglia Multimedia and BT Campus launched a joint venture - Anglia Campus. It's a 50-50 partnership aiming to provide the best of the Anglia Interactive and BT Campus online services. Anglia Campus is not an Internet Service Provider (ISP) which can link your school to the Internet, so what does it offer?
"We aim to provide a living and comprehensive curriculum service for all schools," explains Peter Stibbons, managing director of Anglia Multimedia:
"We want to provide a straightforward strategy so that teachers and pupils can get there very quickly and be confident about the quality of the materials and support."
Yet with so much free information on the Internet, why should schools want to pay for Anglia Campus? "We believe that to provide comprehensive and appropriate curriculum content on the World Wide Web, it has to be properly structured and you need revenues to achieve that," says Peter Stibbons. The content on the Anglia Campus site is written by a team of 60 teachers, and Anglia Campus uses another 20 people in-house to prepare the material for publication on the Internet. A lot of the material on Anglia Campus is written for children rather than adults, says Peter Stibbons.
Subcribers to Anglia Campus also have access to materials which are copyright cleared for classroom use: "As a broadcaster, Anglia owns a large library of video and stills photography, and where we have had to approach an external picture library, we've been able to negotiate a good price," adds Stibbons.
The advantage of using a website specifically designed for schools is that it is geared towards their needs. For example, online costs are a concern to many teachers and so many of the materials on Anglia Campus are linked to activities which can be carried out away from the computer. And every term, subscribers receive a CD-Rom, with all the web content, which can be used on a school intranet (an internal network using Internet technology).
The Anglia Campus website caters for the three main computer systems used in schools (Acorn, Apple and PC), and all the major web browsers used for exploring the Internet. It has deliberately chosen to avoid a number of "plug-ins" - software programs downloaded on to a computer and used to add new features to the machine. The reason is that not all computers in schools can use plug-ins.
The Internet is not just about grabbing resources, and Anglia Campus runs a series of projects and events that encourage schools to link up, sometimes on an international basis. One project, News Day, in volved schools using the Internet, CD-Rom and telephone to create their own newspaper. Pupils could call actors playing various roles for information. The finished newspapers were published on the Anglia Campus site.
A subscription to Anglia Campus costs primary schools pound;120 a year, and secondaries pound;490, although it's worth checking if your local authority or Internet provider has negotiated a special deal. There is also a student's licence which costs pound;40 a year for home use.
Anglia Campus (tel: 01603 752683) www.angliacampus.com