Priorities for the EC's new ICT Work Programme (FP7)

A new website has been launched with details of the next ICT programme. Calls will be released next year, against seven "Challenges", including:

There is also a focus on Future and emerging technologies, and support for international cooperation through Research e-Infrastructures. If you're unlikely to take part in such programmes, perhaps of more interest is the IST Results service, which provides news of what EU funded projects are producing.

Online Education in the United States - 2006 Sloan Survey Released

Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, is the fourth annual report sponsored by the Sloan Foundation. Solely covering Higher Education, these surveys are intended to "answer some of the fundamental questions about the nature and extent of online education".

While the focus is very much about online learning courses, rather than the broader view of learning that is supported by any use of ICT, the report is definitely worth a look, if only for the scale of the survey. The report covers responses from over 2,200 colleges and universities. This leads to some big figures - nearly 3.2 million students were taking at least one online course in Autumn 2005. Also, an increase of 800,000 additional online students is more than double that found in previous studies. Thus, contrary to expectations, enrollment is not starting to plateau.

The survey also looked at the profile of online learners, with the majority being undergraduates, which reflects the overall student body. It also assessed what different types of institutions were offering. Essentially, the larger institutions are more likely to be delivering fully online programmes (about two-thirds). This compares to only one-sixth of the smallest institutions offering fully online programs. Given the investment in infrastructure alone, this is perhaps not surprising.

The report also addresses perceptions of quality amongst academics, as well as the potential barriers to widespread adoption of online education.

The world's smallest phone?

Touted as 'the world's smalles phone', the V-Phone is essentially a USB data key with pre-loaded internet telephony software, and a headphone adapter enabling internet based phonecalls to be made from any PC.

This would be great for someone hot-desking, i.e. travelling a lot but always with access to a PC. However, it's not as useful as a mobile phone, and it's not any smaller than the headset I currently use for Skype (albeit you don't have to load skype onto each different PC you use with the V-phone).

Still, it is quite neat!

Free computer courses for Scotland

To help increase the rates of PC competency within Scotland, Learn Direct are now offereing free computer courses across various learning centres in Scotland.

More information can be found in this report by the Herald, who cite research from the Scottish Executive saying that 35% of adults in Scotland have no digital literacy. What may be more relevant is finding out what percentage of these people actually want or need it?

Make your own Startpage

Having recently started using Pageflakes, for among other things aggregating various elearning feeds, I've discovered the world of Ajax. Not a former brand of bathroom cleaner, but a Web development technique for creating interactive applications. (Ajax stands for Asynchronous JavaScript And XML.)

This is a way of creating interactive web applications. The technology means that small amounts of data can be exchanged with the server behind the scenes, meaning not everything has to be reloaded each time the user makes a change. The intent being to enhance the Web page's interactivity, speed, and usability. 3spots has an excellent listing of Startpages (ie users make their own startpage using tools such as pageflakes, Netvibes, goowy, start.com, etc); Non-English Startpages; and Drag and drop applications.

It's like having a webpage feederreader, but with extra tools, such as calendars, notes, translators, to-do lists, and so on. So it can be accessed anywhere.