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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Initiative provides Net-based platform for lifelong learning

Initiative provides Net-based platform for lifelong learning

But multi-agency project faces some challenges also

IN AN EFFORT to create lifelong education, four agencies have joined forces with a view to forming a unified self-learning platform for all ages on the Internet. But experts have warned that there are many challenges ahead if the initiative is to prove a widespread success.

Phansak Sirirajataphong, vice |minister for Information and Communications Technology, recently announced the opening of the "Lifelong Learning Space Project" during a "Lifelong Learning Space for Thailand Digital Economy" academic seminar.

The project is a collaboration between the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), the Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec), the Office of the Higher Education Commission (Ohec) and the Office of the Permanent Secretary of Education.

The venture aims to bring together the NSTDA's Thai Open Educational Resources (Thai OEC), Obec's Distance Learning Information Technology (DLIT) and Ohec's Thai Massive Open Online Courses (Thai MOOC).

"The government has a policy to drive the country toward the digital economy and build a digital economic foundation for the country. The development of digital services for society, to enable Thai people to use technology wisely by online education service and open educational resources for lifelong learning, is one of the government's urgent priorities in terms of what it provides for the people," Phansak told the seminar.

He explained that the "Lifelong Learning Space Project" would support long-term education by combining all levels of online education resources, from elementary school to higher education, and from academic knowledge to folk wisdom, thus providing the opportunity for everyone to learn at any time, and anywhere.

Anuchai Theeraroungchaisri, a representative of the Thai MOOC project, said the new online education system would allow learners to use a single ID to access all levels of lessons.

"With the use of this learning platform, learners can study what they like by themselves, as the site provides every type of useful function to help and guide study, such as online testing, online library and other learning materials," he said.

Moreover, the learning history of every user would be kept online, so that each individual can use it in their portfolio when they apply for a job, he said. 

This would also help people to continue their studies where they had left off in cases where they had to drop their online lessons, he added.

However, other speakers at the forum pointed out challenges that needed to be addressed in order to implement the policy smoothly. 

Boonlert Aroonpiboon from the NSTDA said that most of the learning materials in the Thai OEC project violate copyright licences because many creators of the materials had copied photos, video clips and other licensed work without seeking permission from the original creators.

"We found that up to 80 per cent of the learning materials sent to us contained plagiarised content, copyright violation of media, or both, so we had to neglect them all and upload around only 10,000 original learning materials," he said.

Another problem was highlighted by the deputy director of the Development Centre for Improving Thai Education by Distance Learning, Chamlong Bunrueangroj, who raised the issue of accessibility to the online self-learning platform by small schools in rural areas.

"DLIT and the 'Lifelong Learning Space Project' require the Internet access to use, so the major problem for this good project is the lack of Internet infrastructure in rural areas," he said.

"DLIT is suited for medium-sized and large schools that have Internet connection, while the other type of distance learning, such as via satellite television, still has to be implemented in some areas," he added.

However, Anuchai told the seminar that the biggest problem in respect to self-learning was the determination of the learners themselves.

"Self-learners need to have more responsibility and a strong will to study by themselves, as we have seen that many self-learners give up in the middle of their studies," he said.

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