July/August 2002 // Spotlight Site
e-Learning Centre
by Stephen Downes
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source (http://ts.mivu.org/) as: Stephen Downes "e-Learning Centre" The Technology Source, July/August 2002. Available online at http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=1034. The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

This month we explore the services offered by Britain's e-Learning Centre, a one-stop resource base and help center for e-learning providers in Europe.

New visitors to the e-Learning Centre should click on the Centres link from the menu at the top of the home page. Follow this to the Newcomer's Centre to begin an exploration of the field (Note: if it's your first visit, you will be asked on this page to register for a free subscription in order to access certain features of the site; you will receive your login and password via e-mail). This page provides links to background resources describing e-learning and, equally importantly, links to resources that help you keep up with developments in e-learning.

Most of the content at the e-Learning Centre consists of lists of selected Web sites and resources. The presentation is attractive, with each resource accompanied with a logo and a short summary. The lists are a good representation of the best in the field. Most importantly, the reader does not feel swamped by the mass of data: only the best and most important items are presented.

After your quick introduction, return to the Centre's page and pick the link that best describes your role or area of interest (e.g., academic e-learning, e-learning evaluation, or content providers). As you move to more specific topic areas the links become increasingly precise, pointing to individual articles rather than generic resources. If you are not sure where to go, you may chose to access ELLA, a guide to developing online courses in higher education; however, there is an as yet unannounced price attached to this service.

To gain an overview of the e-Learning Centre, click on theResources link from the menu at the top of the page. A large list of topics, ranging from Blogs for e-learning to Simulations in e-learning lets you browse through the resource collection. Again, the resources are well selected, nicely displayed, and summarized. The Planning an e-learning project page, for example, points to a number of well-known and widely-cited articles from such journals as Learning Circuits, Syllabus, and Forbes.

The Showcase area will be of interest for those with more experience in e-learning. This area provides access to examples of e-learning where each example is characteristic of a different vendor's products or approach to e-learning. Clicking on Customer Learning Centres, for example, leads to a listing of sites hosted by Macromedia, Visa, Barnes & Noble, Oracle and more. Spending an afternoon on this page would be an eye-opener for many e-learning practitioners: these are not your typical online university courses (despite the fact that most of the sites call themselves a "university").

By now the structure and approach of the site is becoming apparent. Selecting Vendors or Events from the top menu takes you to similar resource lists. What distinguishes e-Learning Centre is not so much its organization or format but rather the range of resources listed. There is no emphasis on corporate or higher education sources; rather, the entire field is surveyed and the best resources are offered for selection. Thus readers browsing through e-Learning Centre are likely to find listings from beyond the range of their usual experience.

The e-Learning Centre also offers a monthly newsletter, eCLIPSE, that lists new resources added to the site. This newsletter is a useful read, not because it provides the latest developments in the field, but because it identifies five or six quality items each month. Practitioners will also be interested in the newsletter's events listings and job postings.

Whether you are directed to its listings through a search engine, or whether you register and subscribe to the newsletter, you will find in the e-Learning Centre the resources you need to cover an e-learning topic quickly and efficiently.

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