Julian Gravatt at juicy.bits
The World-Wide Web is a life-saver for the disorganised. Forget something and you can www.askjeeves.co.uk. Want information and you can use www.metacrawler. com, the search engine's search engine. Need a holiday and you can go tomorrow, with the help of www. lastminute.com. No guarantee as to quality but enough holidays were sold to value the company at pound;850 million back in March. Travel websites are booming. A few clicks and you're on the other side of the world. Decide to study at the other side of town and life's a little slower.
Few UK websites enrol you on the spot. Every August, www.ucas.com is a hot site, bursting with last-minute offers for teenagers. Unfortunately, you still need to complete several official forms to close the deal. One click to find the course, six forms to confirm it.
Adult learning is little better. There are several information sites, including the government-funded www.learndirect.co.uk. There are also college sites and various local listings. But it's al a bit half-hearted. It's faster to phone Learndirect on 0800-100900 than to log on.
Many college sites are brochure-ware. And one London directory site, www.floodlight.org.uk, is honest enough to say "It's often better by the book" - in this case a book costing pound;5.
Few sites offer direct links and most enrolment is paper-bound. Audit rules require about 10 pieces of A4 paper per publicly funded student. If you laid all the paper for all the students end to end, you'd get to Bali.
In time, this could change if three things happen. The Government could take an interest. (You can check its commitment to e-services on www.e-envoy.gov.uk.) Websites should start chartging fees per online referral to support their development. And the education world could accept these charges as a small price for a big step forward. But it hasn't happened yet. Dream of e-enrolment but don't forget to sign those learning agreements.
Julian Gravatt is registrar of Lewisham College, Londone-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org