Online learning in the 21st century

Online learning in the 21st century ~ SITE PROFILE

What it is: An educational site aimed at HSC students to assist them with their studies in an interactive environment. Students attend tutorials where the presenters, all experts in their fields, present lessons live. Students can ask questions and be tested in real time as well as interact with classmates.

Currently the site has physics, chemistry, maths and biology programs but more courses will be offered shortly.

Aim of the site: To provide an online interactive broadcasting network for education.

Who developed it: e-cademy, a company specialising in interactive Web content.

The site is designed by a team from the University of Sydney led by Alex Roche.

Design philosophy behind site: e-cademy sought to produce an environment that utilised all the aspects of new technology. The goal is to allow students to learn in an interactive environment, bringing static information alive through multimedia and the consolidation of information resources.

Technology used: The basis for the database is Cold Fusion. e-cademy has a strong alliance with Real Player who is providing the support for its video and audio feeds. e-cademy wanted the multimedia aspects to be transferred over a 28Kbps modem so users could run the programs on their existing systems and not have to buy new technology.

Timeframe: The site has morphed from the initial concept to its existing state in the last 18 months, however, is only one of three interconnected projects that e-cademy has been working on.

Traffic: The number of hits the site is receiving is in the hundreds per day, according to Varnay. This is expected to grow as the site matures although he says that "is not a hit-generating site". Varnay predicts the true capacity of the site will develop as they form alliances with educational and information providers.

Hot tips: You can use the site free up until July 1, after which it will cost users $22 per week for four classes. This gives interested parties a perfect bracket for a test drive.

According to Roche, this is Australia's first live and truly interactive learning Web site. With the online tutors monitoring student progress and directly matching students', individual capacities, he feels presents a cost-effective alternative to face-to-face tutoring.

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