Learning Lab, the unique centre promoted to electronic learning, was launched this week with government and industry backing.
As reported exclusively by vnunet in October, the centre, based at the University of Wolverhampton, is a collaborative venture between 16 companies including Microsoft, ICL and BT, to create a European centre of excellence for anyone interested in the design, development and delivery of online learning solutions.
Michael Wills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Department of Education, speaking at the London end of the virtual launch said: "Education, skills and training are among the most crucial issues facing Britain today and the Learning Lab has the potential to make significant improvements in each of these areas."
He warned that the Internet brings risks as well as opportunities and said that projects like Learning Lab are needed to prevent the "great gulf" or "digital divide" which threatens to open up between those who have access to resources and can exploit technology and the rest.
Any organisation interested in using technology enhanced learning solutions such as schools, colleges, businesses, local education authorities, government and training providers can use the Lab to assess what learning technologies will best meet their needs.
The centre is run on a non-profit basis and has so far cost £300,000 to set up. Professor Steven Molyneux, University of Wolverhampton, one of the main movers behind the project, said: "Any surplus cash will be reinvested into much needed research into this area."
Andrew Boswell, chief technology officer, ICL said that Leaning Lab can help address the skills crisis because it is in a "pole position to help organisations skill up for the new millennium."
He added: "Public and private organisations can now come to the Learning Lab to work with a range of experts, to create completely new learning environments with their organisations.... and see for themselves how new technologies can improve learning in support of their organisational goals."
Jeff Raikes, Microsoft's vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, said he hoped: "Learning Lab will become a model for a global network of similar programmes to support best practice around the work and enable visionary governments, such as the UK, with its agenda for lifelong learning and global economic competitiveness."
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