E-learning set to make giant strides

E-learning will become even bigger than e-commerce. Daniel Thomas reports from the World Open Learning Conference

E-learning will become even bigger than e-commerce. Daniel Thomas reports from the World Open Learning Conference

The open learning industry held its inaugural awards at the World Open Learning Conference and Exhibition (Wolce) in Birmingham last month, and the loudest cheer of the night was reserved for Stephen Molyneux, who won the Outstanding Contribution Award.

Molyneux is director of the Development and Evaluation of Learning Technology Applications Institute (Delta) at the University of Wolverhampton where he currently holds the Microsoft chair of advanced learning technologies.

Speaking at the awards dinner, he said, "I am thrilled and honoured to receive this award and consider it to be the pinnacle of my career to be recognised by my peers in this way - especially for a contribution to something that I am so passionate about."

The Delta Institute is dedicated to the promotion and use of information technology in education and training. Molyneux's responsibilities at the university include monitoring technological advances which could benefit the student population, as well as reviewing the strategic implications of information and communication technology.

In addition to being director of the Delta Institute, he is also director of The Learning Lab, a centre of excellence for ICT in training and education solutions. And in 1998 he was made a distinguished fellow of ICL for his contributions to the computer industry.

Molyneux is chief architect of the European Regional Development Fund Broadnet project, a joint £2.6m venture between ICL, IBM, Telewest and the University of Wolverhampton, which is aimed at providing university-to-industry services across the West Midlands.

He strongly believes that IT will play a vital role in education and training in the future. "E-learning is set to become far bigger than e-commerce. With an estimated growth rate of 141% over the next five years, e-learning will have the sort of impact on education and training that hasn't been experienced since the invention of the printing press," he said.

"How can I fail to be enthusiastic when UK e-learning companies will have the opportunity to be a part of this learning revolution," he added.

Other award winners included Wendy Cliffe of Scottish Equitable, who was named Learning Resource Centre Manager of the Year. She was appointed in 1997 and dramatically increased the usage of Scottish Equitable's learning centre to over 16,000 hours last year (75% utilisation of the centre). As a result, the company saved over £150,000 in 1999 compared with the costs of comparable training by traditional means.

When a new learning centre opened in the building in which Janet Henry had been working in Stockton on Tees, she embarked on a programme of IT skills. Encouraged by her rapid progress, Henry, who had been working as a part time cleaner in the building for 15 years, prompted others to enrol. her actions meant she was recently offered a full-time contract as a learning assistant. For her sterling efforts, Henry received the New Learner Award.

wolce winners

Outstanding Contribution to the Open Learning Industry: Stephen Molyneux

Learning Resource Centre Manager of the Year: Wendy Cliffe, Scottish Equitable

New Learner Award: Janet Henry

Generic Product of the Year: Electric Paper

Bespoke Product of the Year: AdVal

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