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Virtual Learning Platforms Thread, VLEs in Norfolk - Fronter the only choice? in Technical; Just getting to grips with the set up in a Local Authority thats new to me, and wonder if anyones ...
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    VLEs in Norfolk - Fronter the only choice?

    Just getting to grips with the set up in a Local Authority thats new to me, and wonder if anyones got any views:

    The school i've recently joined has a small Moodle install hosted off-site. Obviously we need to be looking at promoting VLE use and looking at ultimately integrating it with our MIS. The LA seem to be pushing Fronter as their LA-wide solution; not sure i've seen all the details at all, but there doesn't seem to be any mention of whether this is optional or not.

    Can anyone share their experiences or what they plan to do? Still early days for me in decision-making, but i had planned to investigate bringing Moodle on site and integrating with Facility (our new MIS in the pipeline), and maybe rolling out Exchange for email instead of the Easymail service currently used. Having never seen Fronter in use, not sure i want to take the school down the route of blindly saying if there are alternatives...

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    It looks like we'll drop the LA's offereing (Uniservity) in favour of moodle. Possibly with a drupaled or mahara integration. We already have SIMS and Active Directory integrated with moodle.

    There is no requirement for schools to adopt the LA VLE. The only issue is that our funding has been topsliced to pay for it - whether we want it or not. Our LA are paying the bast part of half a million quid for something that is only really usable by primary schools. Meanwhile the 'free' solution is going strong.

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    Reading further into the documentation there is a suggestion, as you say, that this is optional. The deal looks, superficially, quite good - three years of costs will be funded by the LA and they'll sort out implementation and MIS integration. Trouble is, i've never seen it in use, and need some guidance from those that use it! I also wonder how much the LA's implementation will differ from the standard fit offering...

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    plexer's Avatar
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    You are quite right the Norfolk VLE is entirely optional but when you look at what you get for your 3 year period that's when it looks attractive to your head.

    Ben

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    BUT, Fronter is pretty poor...

    The Sharepoint ones look best to me.

    @CyberNerd - what you have done sounds interesting. When you say SIMS integration, do you mean one-way, or do you write back to SIMS too?

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    I'm in Norfolk too. In terms of the finances, my understanding is that the funding will be topsliced but there will be no obligation to use the system (as per the earlier post).

    I think it comes down to how far you've got with your current learning platform - Fronter is a decent product for schools which haven't got anything at present (or are unhappy with their current product). However, when we went to look at it there were so many little things that were either the same (or not as good) as what we already had, let alone what we plan to implement in the next 12 months, that it would have been a retrograde step.

    Having said that, I don't blame the LA for trying to get some kind of consistency across schools. I do wish it had happened 3-4 years ago though, as I know it did in some other parts of the country. That way we wouldn't have the mish-mash of schools all using different systems that we do now (and I include our school in that!).

    In fact, the timing is just about as bad as it could be really. I know it's all because of the government deadline on access to eportfolios etc etc, but the missing ingredient for everyone as far as I can see is true integration with MI systems. None of the products in the Norfolk shortlist were able to offer that, but all promised it "soon". Fingers crossed...

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    Jay
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    Norfolk did look at quite a few providers, I think around 20 were invited to tender initally. The requirements of MIS intergration, BSF availability levels of 99.99%, no hidden charges for extra drive space etc put a lot of suppliers off though. The fronter solution came top both technically (bits above) and when tested by teachers and heads. I don't think we had any Moodle suppliers reply to the tender, the other candicates had custom solutions or Sharepoint based offerings with custom web parts.

    The other posts are correct in saying its optional. As I understand it some of the money being used is from a central government grant to RBC/LA's to provide a learning platform option to schools, its not topsliced as such so I doubt you would get any back. (Best to speak with Mike Pickett from NCC to confirm)

    PS: The LA offering is the standard product but with a slightly different support package. There is a LA section that the teaching advisory service will no doubt make use of. One of the things to think about with any MLE/VLE is how you collaberate with other schools, thats one area any LA/RBC offering should have an advantage with. I know fronter does because we had a discussion not so long ago about devolving some cross-school enrolement permissions to named individuals at school level (federations, shared teachers etc).
    Last edited by Jay; 29th June 2008 at 06:27 PM. Reason: added more detail

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    Cheers for that, very helpful!

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    some norfolk schools are also using LPPlus. it's based on sharepoint. it's.....ok, but it's basically a business tool with bits bolted on for education, i think the concept of 'web parts' are difficult for non-tech people to grasp, i think the kids will be fine, but i can see huge parts of it becoming a wilderness.

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    And to add to it, after three years the whole lot gets to go to tender again. I'm with Plexer on the LP+ side, and it's starting to take more shape now.

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    Fronter is not the only fruit

    We are coming to the end of the line in our efforts to make Fronter work at our place. I'd shop around, and include Frog in your shopping around.

    Let us know how you get on! A lot of places are in the dark because of the newness of the technology, and all info much appreciated!










    Quote Originally Posted by cheredenine View Post
    Just getting to grips with the set up in a Local Authority thats new to me, and wonder if anyones got any views:

    The school i've recently joined has a small Moodle install hosted off-site. Obviously we need to be looking at promoting VLE use and looking at ultimately integrating it with our MIS. The LA seem to be pushing Fronter as their LA-wide solution; not sure i've seen all the details at all, but there doesn't seem to be any mention of whether this is optional or not.

    Can anyone share their experiences or what they plan to do? Still early days for me in decision-making, but i had planned to investigate bringing Moodle on site and integrating with Facility (our new MIS in the pipeline), and maybe rolling out Exchange for email instead of the Easymail service currently used. Having never seen Fronter in use, not sure i want to take the school down the route of blindly saying if there are alternatives...

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    Edu-IT's Avatar
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    BUT, Fronter is pretty poor...
    What makes you say that?

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    We didn't choose our LA solution and lost the initial top sliced payment that they removed for the county wide VLE. Schools were then asked to contribute an additional £x per student after that which we didn't have to pay.

    We created our own VLE in-house using Sharepoint and have the SIMS webparts for read / write access to our SIMS data via the Sharepoint solution. Staff have taken well too it so far since we launched it 18 months ago.

  14. Thanks to Sylv3r from:

    edsbishop (7th July 2009)

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    As said above all Norfolk Schools - even those with their own VLE (Wymondham, I think) and those on LP+ (most of West norfolk AFAIK) will have full access to Fronter.

    One thing to bear in mind about Fronter - the LEA are putting quiet a bit of effort into it. They are promoting County-wide rooms for all subject areas. Our Geography teachers have already started pestering me about having access to the Norfolk Geography Teachers Room.

    Also, like most of these systems, Fronter is what you make of it. Personally I quiet like it. I think one of the keys is making a good common launching area - say a Staff Room, or an Intranet Room, with easy web links directing users quickly to other rooms.

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    "fronter is pretty poor..." - not my words, but I can't disagree! Our network has added the killer blows of no mis intergration and deadly slowness - in addition to Fronter's eccentric hidden feature culture and ugliness, it's a classic case of working to make it work - isn't it meant to be offering something to us!? I wouldn't recommend it on my experience, although I have little reason to offer alternatives, with the exception of a live Frog demo in a school that has their vle 'Frog' sing dance and juggle!

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