E-learning: get in on the ACT!

LIFESTYLE Learning – a new initiative to get Britons teaching themselves everything from a foreign language to photography – using Personal Digital Assistants, pocket PCs and laptops – is moving a step nearer reality thanks to the Sheffield-based University for Industry and e-learning experts ACT E-Learning.

Barkers Pool-based ACT is designing a range of e-learning packages for a pilot programme designed to deliver bite-sized "chunks" of training to busy people who are on the move.

Topics will be as diverse as French, photography, web design and sign language and courses will be offered with special accessibility features for people with sight and hearing impairments.

"We are very excited about the potential of the system and content", said Georgina Kamsika Project Manager for the pilot programme.

"We now have the opportunity to offer a much richer, more accessible and flexible approach to the learner, with the potential to revolutionise the way e-learning is perceived by the general public.

"We recognised from the start that the content and underlying teaching had to be as strong as the technology. One of the key components of the programme was to develop educationally sound lifestyle content and this was why we chose to work with ACT E-Learning. Additionally we were keen to set the standards for any future content providers."

The new initiative uses Broadband and the new mobile phone GPRS technology both of which allow "always on" connections to the Internet which can transmit data much faster than was possible before – vital since the "chunks" of training could include video and audio as well as text and learning will take place in "real time" so nothing will be permanently downloaded to the user's electronic device.

The project is the latest of a series of collaborative contracts with the University for industry – Ufi – since the two organisations began working together four years ago.

While the Ufi has developed the communications software for delivering the training, ACT is creating the training packages. The result will be fully interactive training, using cutting edge design and technology which allows the learner to customise the look and feel of the training and it can be used on ordinary PCs as well as mobile devices, says ACT's Wendy Weller Davies.