Almost at the other end of the world (well, for those of us in Australia), there's a massive SharePoint in education project providing a learning environment for students and teachers in Scotland. 80% of Scotland's 70,000 teachers are using the system, with a total of 425,000 users. The project is called Glow, and is run as a nationwide project funded by the Scottish Government through Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS).
Less than four years on, Glow has just celebrated the 20 millionth login - a pretty staggering story of long-term growth and development. (Probably also staggering for the unsuspecting primary school pupil who's in line for RM's goodie bag!)
The project started with the design and build of the Glow system in 2005, when RM won the tender to provide a national learning intranet for all primary and secondary schools in Scotland. Two years later, the system went live, and has since attracted worldwide recognition. The George Lucas Foundation honoured LTS with the Global Six award and presented Glow to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions as an example of exemplary use of IT in education.
At the time these kind of big systems are launched, there's always a lot of fanfare and triumphal celebration. But even more important is the result a few years down the road, when the attention has moved on to newer projects, and the students are the ones who are seeing it every day. 20,000,000 logins show that good things are still happening five years on.
It's one of the largest SharePoint projects anywhere in the world - and certainly the largest one involving a SharePoint learning management system, so it is a great case study for mass student engagement.
There are some great ideas for classroom projects in the Glow Cookbooks
Thank you for the kind comments about Glow. I initiated and then ran the Glow Project (originally called the Scottish Schools Digital Network) from its foundation in 2001 until i left to join Cisco in 2007, by which time the implementation of the learning platform was already under way.
Anyone interested in the early history of the project can find some details on my blog, at:
Let's have a bit of a reality check here now.. Despite the hype and spin GLOW is by no means a huge success story. Actually, nowhere near 80% of Scots teachers use Glow. Whilst this number theoretically have access, the real picture is somewhat less encouraging with huge numbers of teachers ignoring it completely, unless you count those who are forced to log in to access their work email ( thus inflating the log in stats significantly). There have been management issues with the Glow project and much unrest and negative publicity in Scotland as a result, with most education authorities scaling down their commitment to Glow after initial investment when the hype couldn't live up to the reality of using a system which just didn't work well or efficiently enough for sustained classroom use and in terms of time wad just not cost-effective.
In 2009, I published the only (so far) quantitative research study into the use of Glow in raising attainment, a study which was extended to run for two years. (http://tinyurl.com/6zoyz83). A search of my blog
( mimanifesto.wordpress.com ) for GLOW tags reveals a much more realistic and less anodyne story than the founding fathers and current management will have you believe !
Whilst there is undoubted potential for Glow, and indeed any ICT initiative to raise attainment, it must be cost-effective when compared to other interventions.
The research on other large scale IT projects is usually a good place to start when designing such initiatives and if the designers and project managers had done this with Glow, they might have avoided the the threats and weaknesses that any basic SWOT analysis might have revealed. Factors such as training, familiarisation, and ease of use could have perhaps been better addressed. Glow is not a truly national thing because this research was discounted and even ignored in a rush to sign up every education authority in Scotland before the bugs had been ironed out. Even much of the feedback from the pilot phase was not acted upon in this unseemly rush towards ubiquity.
If there is a Glow 2, let's hope the lessons have been learned, or else there will be two White elephants in the Scottish education room !