The UK based Telecom company, BT has just launched CampusWorld which it claims to be the worlds largest on-line network providing a dedicated service for education. Although not the first company to launch an education Internet service aimed at schools, it appears to be the first company to be paying content providers to produce materials specifically for their service.
BT expect about 3,500 UK primary and secondary schools to subscribe to CampusWorld from soon after the launch, rising to about 6,500 by March 1996. A key element of the service is the ability of members to network on projects. Schools from around the world, for example, can get involved in mediated debates about a wide range of subjects, often involving specialist comments from recognised experts in the field.
CampusWorld provides clear guidelines to teachers and lecturers on how to manage student-centred research on the Internet, with protection from less desirable areas. Teachers can create their own environment, defining how much of the Internet may be accessed.
CampusWorld has three main components. The main body consists of teaching resources and information put together by CampusWorlds consultants in a "walled garden" on the Internet. This is only available to customers of the service. It is a huge interactive database containing a combination of curricular and cross-curricular services created for BT as well as a selection of the best educational services available on the main Internet. Other components consist of an Internet mailbox and full access to the Internet, controlled by password.
BT has recruited a wide range of professional partners to provide their materials through CampusWorld, including the National Trust, the Welcome Trust, museums, the French Embassy, the BBC, Ordnance Survey, BP and the Police. Projects and resources are aimed at all levels of education from five year-old to further and higher education. Examples of those currently available on the CampusWorld server include a "Newspaper Day" with the help of up-to-the-minute world news delivered by e-mail, schools are challenged to produce a newspaper within the space of a school day. "From Page to Stage" is a chance to question two actors and their director about the challenge of playing Macbeth; questions can range from the difficulty of playing particular scenes and the actors approach to their roles, to the challenges for directors. "Living in space" is a cross-curricular project with accompanying resource pack, including teachers notes and pupils worksheets with tasks sent out by e-mail each day. "Science-Net" enables teachers and students to send in a question on any medical or scientific matter and receive a personal reply from a team of professional scientists.
BTs existing on-line curriculum support service for schools Campus 2000 is based on Telecom Gold electronic mail technology, and will be phased out over the next 18 months and BT hope the majority of its 4000 customers will migrate onto the new CampusWorld service.
UK Government Schools minister, the Right Honourable Robin Squire, commented at the launch that "Both CampusWorld and its competitor services seek to provide a focus on educational quality and relevance which adds value to the Internet. This is very welcome. It is precisely the sort of development which we must see now if we are to harness the much greater speed and capacity of future networks to educational advantage." As well as the many commercial Internet providers there are already at least two other Internet providers offering specific education services to schools in the UK. As reported in issue 3 of this newsletter the UK computer and network solution company Research Machines (RM), have been offering "Internet for Learning" since January 1995 and The Education Exchange also offers a rather more limited service.
The BT launch will certainly stimulate interest amongst UK schools into the potential of using the Internet and it will also stimulate the development of high quality learning resources, particularly as BT are large enough to commission especially produced materials for their service. However, there is the question of whether other education Internet providers will have the resources to commission their own educational resources. Has competition really been created or is it still really a monopoly situation?
For further information contact:
CampusWorld , Westside, London Road, Hemel Hemstead HP3 9YZ, United Kingdom. Tel 0345 626253 (UK only) Fax +44 1442 295273 Email: email@example.com or point your URL to: http://www.campus.bt.com/CampusWorld/.
Internet for Learning point your URL to: http://www.rmplc.co.uk/
The Education Exchange can be found on: http://www.tcns.co.uk/.