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  1. #46
    monkeyx's Avatar
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    ops:

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    AFIK no approved moodle suppliers. Only consequence isthat you setup/support it yourself of find the money to do so. Interestingly, with some modifications Moodle interacts quite nicely with CMIS and will pull courses directly out of the SQL.

  3. #48

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd
    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
    Lancs/Cumbria have standardised on Moodle. I don't know how it impacts funding at an LEA level though. I don't think it effects 121a though, the funding for the 'approved' VLE's is extra and from a separate pot AFAIK.

  4. #49
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Apologies for the delay in replying to GrumbleDook ("misconception number one") - just taken my Easter break...

    I agree that there is an unreasonable expectation that Learning Platforms will be populated by teacher-created content. Teachers naturally want control over the content they use but cannot provide the type of quality, interactive content which commercial providers are moving towards.

    This goes to the core of my arguments for content interoperability. The fact that content needs to be modified for use with a Learning Platform demonstrates how much needs to be done in this area. Learning Platforms, properly implemented, should ease the deployment of new content, not make it more difficult: buy a new CD and wack it on the player - all the fiddly bits are already set up.

    Another benefit of managed content is that flexible, adaptable learning objects can be developed, which teachers can easily modify. There should be a smooth continuum from content, to adaptable content, to authoring tool. For example, a vocab teaching content should allow the teacher to enter their own list of words (maybe adding graphics and sounds if you are keen). Teacher control and commercial-quality systems can coexist. Pick-and-mix sequencing is another aspect of content management which provides teacher control.

    I accept the importance of TCO arguments but do not see why these should not be covered by properly structured managed service agreements - why can't support/training etc all be part of the cheeseburger?

    The heavy discounting of software sold to Local Authorities is interesting. While this may partly be accounted for by savings in distribution, I suggest the main reason is that everyone realises that most of the people for whom the Local Authority buys a platform or content do not want it and will never use it. Both buyers and sellers of the first round of Learning Platforms have been very coy about publishing usage figures. The percieved savings of aggregated purchasing are largely, if not wholly illusory; as well as damaging innovation by raising the threshold of entry to the market.

    In this respect, the term 'aggregated purchasing' is a misnomer. 'Aggregation' means that you start with something to 'aggregate'. But in this this case, most schools have not made a decision to purchase and many have decided to purchase something *other* than the platform provided by their Local Authority. 'Aggregated purchasing' would be to say, 'if you want system x, you can buy through us and get a 20% discount'. What is happening around the Becta framework is centralised, not aggregated, purchasing.

    >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 ...

    If only that were possible! The problem at the moment is that decisions made by people at the chalkface are constantly trumped by large sums of money being badly spent at the centre.

    Crispin.

  5. #50
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Quote Originally Posted by CyberNerd
    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
    LAs do not have to use Becta's list of suppliers as long as they conduct a full OJEU-compliant procurement exercise if - as is likely - the procurement exceeded the permissable threshold of around £140,000. The supposed benefit of using the Becta framework is in being able to run a mini-competition rather than a full OJEU procurement. But our legal advice (available at www.alphalearning.co.uk/ojeu.htm ) is that, if the framework is found by the EC to be invalid, local authorities which used the Becta framework would then be in breach of EU procurement regulations anyway.

  6. #51

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Any breach of the EU procurement regulations would only have occured through following guidance and instructions from Govt and/or their appointed representatives (eg Becta). LAs would have a strong counter-suit against the above if the EU decided that they were directly in breach of the regulations.

    As there has been no further guidance from the Govt about the framework it is unlikely that LAs could be directly sued and any attempt to get LAs to defer the procurement on these grounds count as FUD in my book.

    Platforms that are being sold directly to schools often miss out on opportunities for collaboration as they are not part of a community that is either LA / RBC based or is not 'Net community.

    Isolation is not the same as innovation.

  7. #52
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Given that LAs are now aware of the basis of our complaint to the Commission, I should have thought that any court would expect them to take reasonable steps to ensure that they were complying with procurement regulations. LAs are responsible for spending large amounts of taxpayers' money and it is their job to do so with reasonable care. To say that you are only following instructions, to pretend to 'hear no evil, see no evil' and then to blame anyone who disturbs your state of comfortable ignorance for spreading FUD, in my book is tantamount to wilful negligence.

    If I were in the LAs' position, I would ask Becta,

    1. Were interoperability standards described on the Becta website as mandatory (QTI 2.0, QTI 1.2, SCORM 2004 runtime with sequencing and navigation extensions) enforced?

    2. Were tenderers allowed to rewrite test scripts which they were otherwise unable to pass?

    This would take a quick exchange of letters. Anything less than an emphatic answer in positive to the first question and in the negative to the second would be sufficient to show that the evaluation was seriously flawed.

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook
    Isolation is not the same as innovation.
    True. But collectivism tends to inhibit, while individualism (not at all the same as isolation) tends to promote innovation. And collaboration is essentially voluntary: enforced collaboration is a euphemism for the exercise of central control.

    Crispin.

  8. #53
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    I understand that Becta have been telling LAs that the Alpha Learning complaint has 'gone away' and that there is no case to answer. People may therefore be interested in the following two items:

    1. Letter from the European Commission, received today 22nd May, to say that our complaint has now been formally registered and the Commission is in the process of gathering extra information (this is likely to involve inviting a response from the UK Government) before deciding whether to open an infringement procedure. The annex to the letter contains a description of the full procedure. I am posting a copy of the letter at www.alphalearning.co.uk/ojeu.htm

    2. The following statement from the South-West Grid for Learning

    BEGINS

    17th May 2007

    Following a process of due diligence, the South West Grid for Learning Trust regrets that it is withdrawing its current procurement for the SWGfL Merlin Learning Platform service using the Becta Learning Platform Services Framework. The Trust has taken this decision in view of concern that it may not be appropriate to award a contract for the SWGfL Merlin Learning Platform service under the scope of the Becta Framework.

    This decision has been taken unanimously by the Trust Management Board on behalf of the Directors of Children's Services following dialogue with Becta, legal advisors, and much careful consideration. The Board has not taken the decision lightly and apologises for any inconvenience this action may cause.

    The Board wishes to acknowledge the effort invested by the bidders through the procurement process to date and thanks them for their enthusiasm and commitment.

    The South West Grid for Learning Trust re-affirms its commitment to the SWGfL Merlin project and is totally committed to the delivery of a regional Learning Platform that provides integration and interoperability services that supports school choice in the use of MIS, Learning Environments and other tools. This decision will inevitably impact upon the timeline for the delivery of a regional solution for schools, but the Board feels that withdrawal from the current procurement exercise is in the interest of fairness, transparency and due propriety.

    The Trust will re-tender for SWGfL Merlin based upon its long-established vision using the OJEU process within the coming 8 weeks.

    ENDS

    Crispin.

  9. #54

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    So, instead of using the framework it gets dragged out over OJEU instead ... months of planning and preparation put onto the back burner and the people it really impacts on will be the students.

    In fact we could almost say that the depths that some people are stooping to are destroying education in the UK, setting schools back gdecades and we will end up with a generation of kids scared that they might be using the wrong web portal for something, so Google and a heap of other major names will become obsolete within the UK.

    Then again, that would just be sensationalist journalism from the BBC talking instead.

    Just thought I would pipe in with a dose of insanity.

    On a serious note, it does worry me that the people that are winning in all of this are the lawyers. In everything I have seen so far there is very little knocking the T&L goals of the framework ... it is all to do with paperwork and legalities.

    I have yet to see any evidence to say that the companies on the framework do not provide suitable solutions ... only stuff to say that some companies did not get on board and nothing to say that they could have covered the areas that got shifted anyway.

    I completely missed you last response ... so in return ...

    Collectivism can work. Horizontal collectivism is what exists here within EduGeek, vertical collectivism is what exists in the Army. Most LAs, RBCs and Govt Groups try and get a middle ground. Highlight individual innovations and use as a basis for common standards to aim for. The standards constantly move as innovation continues to be shared horizontally. This sharing and collaboration can be assisted by key factors including ideology evangelist, authoratative review models and fixed methods of measuring achievements met. (sheesh ... anyone for buzzword bingo!)

    In plain English. We all have good ideas, they may not all work but we share them, sometimes people need encouragement and pressure to share to prevent loss of ideas or duplication of ideas. Some poor bugger has to work out who needs to speak with who, and also to help point others in the right direction based on experiences of others. Eventually someone shouts loudly that they have founds something that really, really works and so someone up high works out that it will cost less and work best if it is written as the thing everyone should do.

    Ok ... not all LAs, RBCs or Qangos get this to work properly, but it shouldn't be scrapped because it doesn't fit everyone 100% of the time.

  10. #55

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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    I can't help thinking that letting schools buy what they want and manage it themselves is the best option all round. No middle man, no quangos, no courts. The school gets what they want, when they want.

  11. #56
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook
    On a serious note, it does worry me that the people that are winning in all of this are the lawyers.
    The lawyers are gaining very little (unless, of course, the case goes to the European Court). No-one is pursuing this case in the UK courts for compensation. This is not about money - it is about principle; about honesty and competence in government; and about implementing ICT in a way which will produce real an measurable learning gains.

    In everything I have seen so far there is very little knocking the T&L goals of the framework ... it is all to do with paperwork and legalities.
    My Critique, posted at www.alphalearning.co.uk/ojeu.htm, is all about teaching and learning. I have been making this case for ten years on a wide range of government working groups. A number of companies spent nearly two years on Becta's Learning Platform Stakeholders Group producing a fairly decent conformance regime - then the whole thing was thown in the bin by Becta without a word of explanation.

    It is true that the case I am making is not for any particular pedagogy: there are enough visionaries around already. The case I am making is about creating a fair and flexible market in which the best combination of pedagogies will win as the people at the chalkface make decisions about what works best for them and their students. That is the way that markets work: it gives the purchasing decision to those who are best placed to use it wisely - which is webman's point.

    You can talk about teaching and learning until you are blue in the face and make the most closely reasoned and convincing case you like - but if it does not serve its own interest, Becta simply does not listen. It cannot have escaped people's notice that vast sums of money have been poured into ICT in education over the last ten years with very little measurable results: the ImpaCT2 reports showed virtually no measurable gains. The recent report into Whiteboards came up with a similar result. OFSTEDs 'ICT in Schools' reports were strongly critical of practice (internet research) which was being backed by Becta; their evaluation of NOF ICT training was equally damning; the BBC's Digital Curriculum has been cancelled, effectively because the monitoring regime provided by Becta was a sham. We waited years while the DfES produced its 'Harnessing Technology' report which, in the event, was a load of rubbish and Becta in its most recent annual report effectively disowns it. Occasional documentaries on ICT-in-education which are broadcast on mainstream media are increasingly hostile, as are many teachers.

    The whole "ICT-in-schools" project is in the process of being discredited because of its incompetent implementation. But what's new about that? There are now so many failed and 'unfit for purpose' government agencies that if there is one more, it is hardly even newsworthy. They can continue to screw up initiative after initiative and no-one holds them to account. The reason why I am chasing them on legalities is that is the only area in which they are properly accountable.

    [quote]I have yet to see any evidence to say that the companies on the framework do not provide suitable solutions ... [quote]

    You can't have looked at the complaint, Tony. Its essence is that mandatory interoperability standards (QTI and SCORM) were not evaluated and not supported. Learning platforms are infrastructure. Infrastructure is all about supporting a superstructure: railways run trains; electricity networks power appliances; DVD players play DVDs. Putting in learning platforms that do not support interoperability standards is like laying railway track that does not run trains.

    The technical specifications effectively require compliance to SCORM 2004. Only 1 out of the 10 suppliers on the framework (Studywiz) even claims compliance to SCORM 2004.

    only stuff to say that some companies did not get on board
    Maybe you haven't looked at John Pugh's EDM. The complaint is that companies which do not have turnovers of getting on for £1 million (which includes open source providers) were excluded from the tendering process. You really cannot blame companies for not getting on board when they were deliberately excluded!

    Collectivism can work. Horizontal collectivism is what exists here within EduGeek, vertical collectivism is what exists in the Army. Most LAs, RBCs and Govt Groups try and get a middle ground. Highlight individual innovations and use as a basis for common standards to aim for. The standards constantly move as innovation continues to be shared horizontally. This sharing and collaboration can be assisted by key factors including ideology evangelist, authoratative review models and fixed methods of measuring achievements met. (sheesh ... anyone for buzzword bingo!)
    I guess the distinction between your horizontal and vertical collectivism is about compulsion. When money is provided to schools and they club together, that is voluntary (horizontal) collectivism. When money is provided to LAs to provide solutions which schools may not want, and even more when schools are prevented from running their own platforms, that is compulsion.

    If everyone knew what a learning platform was and could demonstrate its benefits and could show that LAs could get it cheaper, then I do not think anyone would object to central procurement. But Becta's definition of a LP is so vague as to be almost meaningless; the only clarity was provided by the technical specifications which were then not evaluated; everyone recognises that there is very little evidence base to support the use of LPs and there is a great deal of innovation to do. Centralised bureaucracies, through no fault of their own, are cautious and risk averse and are therefore not good at innovation. Moreover, centralised purchasing kills diversity, which is also key to innovation. But I suspect we have done this argument to death already.

    Sharing information is very important - but real innovation also requires mavericks who are prepared to ignore the current orthodoxy, think for themselves, and do something different. And when people come to identify 'best practice', what counts should be the evidence base, not how loud someone shouts nor which solution gets picked as a winner by someone in authority or comforms to the current fashion.

    Crispin.

  12. #57
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Today I received a flyer for a BECTA West Mids event. A few good speakers and a few LEAs sharing their experiences. The mobile work Wolverhampton are doing looks worth a visit.

    What concerns me about the event though is the short bumf from the chosen platform providers. Most talk about what they have and how its being used. Not all but the majority. Might visit to ask questions about their future plans?

    Anyway I thought they were chosen, not on present product but the ability to deliver something that meets Becta requirements.? Simple expanantion I know.

    Rumour has it more LAs are opting for OJEC and not using the BECTA framework do they know something!!!!!!! or do they feel that other solutions from other providers are what they want.

  13. #58
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    Re: The 10 Becta Approved Suppliers

    Quote Originally Posted by NewOrder
    Anyway I thought they were chosen, not on present product but the ability to deliver something that meets Becta requirements.? Simple expanantion I know.
    That is what Becta is saying: they have evaluated service providers and not products. My legal advice is that this is not permissable under the OJEU conditions that they were operating against (the so called "restricted procedure"). They must evaluate supplier and product.

    Lest this be thought a bit of lawyer's sophistry, I cannot see what the common-sense point is of evaluating suppliers and not products. I guess what they mean to say is "Your product does not meet the minimum specs but we like the cut of your suit". And if they only wanted to evaluate suppliers, why did they include so many product-related specs and tests?

    If the line is that they do not currently meet the specs but they have the ability to do so in the future, then presumably no-one is permitted to call-off under the framework until the products do meet the specs. Not sure we should hold our breath. Becta documents have stated that it is the supplier's responsibility to ensure they meet minimum specs: I suppose that means that the supplier can be sued by competitors when they supply a product which fails to meet them?

    If Becta really want to certify suppliers/aggregators then the sensible thing to do, I should have thought, would be to say that the aggregators cannot be component suppliers - then we have a clear division of responsibility to prevent anti-competitive behaviour. Then certify the components purely on the basis of their technical conformance to individual interoperability standards.

    There is, by the way, an OGC slideshow on this at http://www.nwce.gov.uk/files/procurement_overview.ppt (pages 11-21). One interesting point is that call-off contracts may refine/supplement framework criteria but must apply the existing ones. That is why authorities signing call-off contracts with suppliers who do not meet the Becta technical specs seem to me to be in a vulnerable position.

    Rumour has it more LAs are opting for OJEC and not using the BECTA framework do they know something!!!!!!! or do they feel that other solutions from other providers are what they want.
    I guess there is a bit of both. I am hearing the same but only have SWGfL's statement so far. Going for their own OJEC procurements is more expensive but gives them the freedom to rewrite their own simpler specs from scratch - which solves the legal wrangle but does not necessarily do anything more to meet Tony's (and all of our) desire to see real teaching and learning gains.

    Will you post your impressions of the West Mids event if you go?

    Crispin.

  14. #59

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    Quote Originally Posted by kingswood View Post
    We use TALMOS, so if you need help with that one let me know.


    We used Talmos a few yeards ago, i worked for the company who created it (Chisholms/Progrid) before they became Azzurri. We found our teachers didnt like sharing their lesson plans so the server has been switched off for about 3 years, formatted it today and built a linux image server

  15. #60

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    A few months ago I exchange messages with a VP for Core (who now own TALMOS) who was keen to ensure that it was hitting the market correctly and that it was fit for purpose. He was very keen to get the view of someone who chose *not* to go with it with a view to making sure the shortfalls were sorted.

    Hopefully the changes are now starting to be made.

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