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Virtual Learning Platforms Thread, The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers in Technical; StArbiter refers to our (Alpha Learning's) complaint to the EU and our legal advice to the effect that Local Authorities ...
  1. #31
    crispinw's Avatar
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    StArbiter refers to our (Alpha Learning's) complaint to the EU and our legal advice to the effect that Local Authorities running mini competitions under the Becta framework may themselves breach public procurement regulations. If any Local Authority wants more information about the basis of the case, they can email me at crispin.weston@alphalearning.co.uk. One of many criticisms of Becta's evaluation process is that tenderers who were were allowed to rewrite the tests for their own products (setting new pre-conditions, process and post-conditions). The evaluation of interoperability standards was consequently a sham and any LA should consider not only the legal implications of "calling off" under the framework, but also the practical implications of providing platforms which do not meet the important technical specifications published on Becta's website.

    The significance of the framework is that it allows contracting authorities to bypass the EU procurement process, otherwise required for contracts over a certain threshold (about £140,000). Schools are obviously not affected by this threshold. But the government has provided £42m to Local Authorities to buy platforms, with strong encouragement to pass this money up to RBCs - not down to schools. So schools are free to ignore the LA so long as they are prepared to pay.

    As for what platform to choose, it very much depends on what you think a platform is about. Becta and the DfES deliberately defined "Learning Platform" as a vague catch-all. No-one really knows what the term means.

    The central idea of Moodle appears to be the discussion forum. These have been shown to be valuable in HE and adult learning (if you are an Open University student stuck on an essay, some chat will clearly be very useful). It also conforms to child-centred, constructivist theory, as children are free to discover and publish for themselves. Accounts of its use at Primary Schools by enthusiastic and committed teachers (like Miles Berry) with primary/prep school children have been very positive. But I cannot help thinking that providing discussion forums to adolescent children, often without the involvement of highly committed teachers, will be problematic, to say the least.

    The government requirement is for all students to have a "personal workspace" (which I understand to mean an online storage area) by March 2008. Useful if you have lost your USB pen, but clearly nothing to change the world!

    Alpha Learning's solution (Engage) regards the Learning Platform as a deployment infrastructure for content, allowing teachers to assign tasks track performance and competency, and manage bookmarking and preference data, and allow teachers to "sequence" different "learning objects". Progressive educationalists criticise content-driven systems as "instructionalist", which I would own up to, in the sense that Engage is about providing digital equivalents of classroom management tools, providing teacher control. If you are a radical constructivist, and take an optimistic view of human nature, you will prefer completely unstructured tools, allowing children to research, discuss, and publish without teachers getting in the way. On the other hand, there is great potential to provide semi-structured content (such as collaborative games, content which allows you to create new instances of an object, such as a puzzle, and share them with friends). I will admit that this exciting new content is more aspiration than reality, but given effective deployment platforms, I believe there is a huge amount of creativity in the despised cottage industry which would create this content.

    Crispin.

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Hi Crispin - good post - can you name any authorities that may have suspended their procurement process due to the complaint you have posted with the EU ?

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    It is very interesting indeed. In particular considering the fact that this morning I have a meeting with the LA and other Oldham Schools to discusss and view the LPs for the 10 approved suppliers. I, for one, am not interested in any of those that are displaying and will more than likely go our own way.

    I am a little concerned also that our LA "dictates" that
    By Spring 2008 every pupil should have access to a personalised online learning space with the potetnial to support an e-portfolio (provided by their local authority)
    I'm struggling to find the government legislation that indicates that it has to be provided by the LA!!

    Anyway I had better watch myself today as I kicked up a fuss about the P4S stuff in relation to BSF and the fact that we found out about it via a brief comment. I'm rambling...endex!!

  4. #34

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    The Govt has given the money to LAs ... mainly under Grant 121a, but the recommendation is that for economy of scale, sharing best practice and to allow for resources and content to be easily created and shared between schools the procurement and implementation should be LA driven based on an RBC model.

    This is why Becta did the framework ... so that once the framework was created it would save LAs and RBCs having to go through the whole EU model ... saving time and money.

    There is no legislation to say that you *have* to go with one of the 10 accredited providers ... but people should be aware that it is likely that there will not be any funding directly from LA to schools to pay for what you go for, nor is there likely to be funding for training or even access to commonly created materials / resources.

    Having spoken to a number of people across the country now (and thanks to those who have filled in the matrix for me ... much appreciated) as well as suppliers and VLE practitioners, it is fairly obvious that a school can, on its own, set up a very good VLE.

    However, as we can see from this site or other community based sites, it is also a good idea to share things on a larger scale.

    I forget the exact words but there is a statement from the Govt that LAs should provide online learning space with potential for ePortfolios ... so they have to have one. If you choose not to use it because you have your own then fine ... but they *have* to provide one ... they have to do the work and spend some money ... otherwise they get called to account about it all.

    Consider if every school went their own way ... it would mean that they would have to look and assess each and every solution implemented to ensure it met the minimum requirements ... consider that some schools consider the ePortfolio to be access to home areas via WebDAV.

    I have opted for working *with* the LA this time ... hoping that I can steer the choice in a direction that will make most sense for those schools that still want to be innovative and push the boat out a bit without having to tow the line to much.

  5. #35
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Thanks StArbiter. I understand that St Helens has suspended their mini-competition: the only one I have heard of so far, although I know of other LAs/RBCs which are currently considering their position. It is still early days since the publication of our recent legal advice.

    The parenthesis in ctbjs' quote has clearly been added by the Local Authority - the rest of the quote being (from memory) from the DfES requirement. The LAs are being given the money and have the responsibility to ensure that everyone meets this minimum standard; but there is absolutely no obligation on schools to use the LA system - GrumbleDook has just posted to the same effect.

    I do, however, question the assumption behind the framework, that 'aggregated purchasing' saves money. Economies of scale can be achieved by commercial suppliers as well as public sector buyers, without destroying the market or disempowering those closest to the chalkface. Would I get my MacDonalds cheeseburger more cheaply if the Local Authority bought them in bulk on my behalf? If the answer to this question were "yes", then I suspect the world would now be dominated by Stalinist Russia, not free-market America. The philosophy only makes sense if you see the learning platform as something that schools (or indeed LAs) build for themselves (always, IMHO, potty), rather than buy as a turnkey system.

    Crispin.

  6. #36

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Misconception number one ... the only cost in implementing a Learning Platform is the cost of technology so if everyone paid the same fee for software/hardware then individual schools can do it not LAs / RBCs

    Reply to misconception ... Unfortunately many companies that provide resources /content that can be purchased and preloaded onto Learning Platforms have a pricing scheme that means that the larger the number of schools that buy in as bulk purchase (eg LA or RBC) then the cheaper it will be ... the other option is for each schools to spend the time creating or converting content to use on Learning Platforms ... and then we get to the next large set of costs ... time/training.

    I hate to say it but I will defend teachers now and say that it is fairly unreasonable to ask them to take all of their schemes of work, all the resources they create, all of the tests they have as worksheets ... and convert them for use on a Learning PLatform within a few months. Given the current rate of introduction of new initiatives this tends to mean that a lot of reworking of resources or rewriting of SoW is done during the 'exam leave' period ... and this is not enough time.

    It is often easier to buy in materials to kick start it all ... or to work as a group to share resources that are created ... and then you have to consider training and implementation of all of this. Project based work such as literacy, numeracy, transition and subject specific projects are good models for implementing Learning Platforms in a collaborative manner ... this also encourages schools to share resources and content, lowering the expected workload on any sinlge teacher.

    A common model that is being adopted is the implementation of Moodle so that *all* monies can be used in the training and implementation ... but there is still work to be done with additional aspects of the tools available within a Learning Platform for a number of LAs to be happy with it as a perfect solution (remembering that time is short and any LA that has not started the procurement process by now will be hard pushed to use the EU procurement framework, rather than the Becta framework, to choose and then implement it all and get all schools using a system in time in such a fashion that they can say money well spent ...)

    Some of this comes down to TCO arguements ... and most of us know by now that TCO arguements are like any form of stats ... there are lies, damn lies and statistics. You can make them say what you want.

    I am mainly looking for the best solution on functionality and implementation ... and trying to avoid the politics of what is happening about it all ...

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    I am an ICTAC Co-ordinator and my Leadership team have told me to get a VLE in place ASAP. we are only looking at the approved 20 (is this a mistake) at this risk of sounding stupid can some of you please explain a few of the terms I have been reading in this discussion.....

    RBC
    BSF
    grant 121
    MLG

    Thanks.

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Approved 10 (not 20) typo sorry

  9. #39

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    1) Regional Broadband Consortium
    2) Building Schools for the Future
    3) National Digital Infrastructure for Schools Grant
    4) Microsoft Learning Gateway

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    RBC:

    Regional Broadband Consortium (Plural RBCs - Regional Broadband Consortia). A consortium of Local Authorities, who have chosen to aggregate their funding, resources and expertise in order to provide internet connectivity, online resources and applications to their schools, generally at a lower cost than they would otherwise have paid as an individual authority.

    BSF:
    Building Schools for the Future is the biggest single government investment in improving school buildings for over 50 years. The aim is to rebuild or renew every secondary school in England over a 10-15 year period.

    National Digital Infrastructure for schools - Standards Fund Grant 121a

    As part of transforming learning and teaching through the effective use of technology, a further £41 million of capital is being allocated to local authorities this year to improve the National Digital Infrastructure for their schools.

    The intention of this funding is to:

    help move institutions to a position where ICT is treated as a utility


    drive aggregation of demand across institutions and between Local
    Authorities


    achieve the highest quality services and best value-for-money for the
    optimum collective spend at regional or multi-authority levels

    MLG
    The Microsoft Learning Gateway

    One of many optional learning platform solutions.

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Believe it or not the Becta framework does not approve the products that those companies on the list currently supply. The framework recommends the company to provide a solution.

    So in theory they all could supply a microsoft learning gateway.

    Strange but true

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Theoretically you could ask any of the accredited companies to provide technology from other companies ... or even other things.

    I wold love to see the look on the TALMOS reps face when you ask them to provide Moodle or Fronter!

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    So would I.

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Just some info - 2nd hand so treat accordingly

    CLEO (Lancs/Cumbria RBC) are hosting Moodle VLE's for any school that wants one and I was on a Basic Admin training day today.

    The trainer (from an outside company) basically said that the Open University have gone for Moodle and put money into the kitty for its development and also have Google and Mr Gates as well!


    "Checkmate and game over for everyone else" I believe was the phrase he used.

    I asked how come all our VLE was "free" and all our training was "free" and he said that CLEO had tapped into central funding and that they were using "extra" money to fund them :!:

    regards

    Simon
    PS Moodle Roles - nearly as bad as learning NTFS permissions

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    I asked how come all our VLE was "free" and all our training was "free" and he said that CLEO had tapped into central funding and that they were using "extra" money to fund them
    Can LA's apply for grant 121a then legally divert some of the funds to 'real' VLE's that aren't on Becta's list of suppliers. Does anybody know the legal standpoint on ring-fenced funds, or is it ELC-2.0

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