Digital Nation

Building a Scottish Digital Learning Nation: Scotland Needs a ‘Virtual School’

Learn.scot is our plan to roll out an e-learning community platform, to pioneer new models for education.

As Digital Skills Scotland reports, Scotland faces a skills shortage challenge that would hamper our ambitions to build a world leading digital economy.

Furthermore and particularly concerning is Scotland’s general education performance, their PISA results pointing to declining performance in key subjects like Maths and Science.

Harnessing modern digital learning platforms can address Scotland’s challenge, and overall presents the country with the opportunity to modernize not only what we learn, but how we learn, and transform our entire approach to education.

Covid-19: Imperative for a Digital Learning Nation

The Covid-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated the importance and social value of a nation comfortable and capable with online learning, and how poorly equipped Scotland is in this regard.

While you would assume e-learning would now be a mature component within the education sector, the reality is that it’s adoption is still quite immature – 62% of parents said their school has not provided any online learning for their children and teachers are struggling with how to deliver it effectively.

Scotland has reversed plans for a blended schedule and will return to full time school learning, but even without an immediate necessity it could still easily be argued that in today’s world a mature and effective digital learning capability should be an expected component of a successful education system. It can greatly augment traditional learning when that is possible, and provide a complete continuity of service in the event of disasters like Covid, which we are still far from having dealt with.

TES makes this point: That the return to schools and colleges is still going to be fraught with challenges and that e-learning is here to stay.

Much of this news highlights the overall theme of Scotland aspiring to be a world leading nation – Many pupils can’t participate because of a lack of the basic tools, like tablets and Internet access.

In comparison Estonia, the world’s leading digital nation, have leveraged technology to achieve astounding levels of success on the same rankings, first in Europe. Indeed they describe it as a platform for enabling an ‘Education Nation‘, and for them education is simply one function of this advance digital nation state, enabling life to continue without interruption during Covid.

Conclusion: Scotland needs a ‘Virtual School’

The primary purpose of Digital Scotland is to drive the initiatives that will see us emulate the digital nation success of countries like Estonia, and with this program ask and answer the question how might Scotland achieve this same level of digital capability and the same high performance academic achievement it enables.

The EU sees education as central to the economic recovery from the Covid impact, and with Estonia open sourcing and sharing their technologies and practices this isn’t an overly difficult challenge, and already in Scotland there is a momentum underway that can be built upon.

There is an ongoing sharing of best practices and exemplar leadership that can be emulated, such as Scottish Borders Council, who have over 96% of young people accessing learning resources and experiences through their ground-breaking Inspire Learning programme, with nearly 6,300 pupils in possession of an iPad and a suite of the most up-to-date learning tools.

Writing for Reform Scotland Jenifer Johnston offers this simple but very compelling ideal for what is needed – A ‘virtual school’, exactly what Learn.scot will be set up to provide:

“My ask of the Scottish Government is that there is a national online curriculum developed and delivered digitally in really simple, open-access websites, no passwords, no gatekeeping, just lessons broadcast daily on a website, join in if you can. Scotland has many superstar teachers who could deliver classes to the nation’s kids in a virtual school – we could get to know them as well as our own fantastic class teachers. Lessons could be live and recorded to watch later if children can’t get to them right away.”

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2 Comments

  1. I’m sorry but I have to disagree with the statement that Scotland is poorly equipped. For years, Education Scotland have been developing the Glow online platform for all schools across the country. It is disappointing that many Councils and IT professionals have not engaged with teachers in developing its use.

    1. Thanks for the comment Colin. That would still come under the banner of poorly equipped, ie, it also includes the adoption support and training, not just the technology.

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