Last Thursday I went to Carmarthen to one of four regional meetings about the about-to-launch Wales National Learning Portal – Hwb.
As a few people have asked, I thought it would be useful to put together a summary of what we found out.
Hwb will be a public facing content repository. All the NGfL Cymru content will be migrated and it will include an iTunes U Channel. In the future it will pull together user generated content from around Wales for QA and translation, and so the collection will grow and evolve (much in the same was an NGfL has). This will go live to everyone on 12th Dec this year. The only thing that won’t go over is the ‘My NfGL’ sections where you could save favourites (This relied on a user database which won’t be transferring . I also got the impression (although I can’t say this with 100% certainty) that it would provide access to a number of other digital repositories including things like ‘Gathering the Jewels’ from the National Library of Wales
Hwb+ is the Learning Portal. Provided by Learning Possibilities, and built on their LP4+ programme. It is designed to provide a learning platform for schools that want it, but also to integrate with existing systems and solutions that schools and local authorities have in place. It is already being tested by a small group of pilot schools in Cardiff, and another tranche of schools (including Olchfa) will start beta testing from 12th Dec.
Following that other schools will be provisioned in a further three waves, to be allocated by the regional consortia. These schools will be supported by the 8 strong digital leader team who have been seconded for two years to help schools make the most of the opportunities offered by Hwb. All schools should be on within 18 months.
The exception to that will be if LEAs want to move all their schools over in one go. If that’s the case, and they can demonstrate that they can provide a level of support equivalent to that provide by the Digital Leader team they can all switch as once. If you’re a school who would like to get in early, I suggest you get on the phone to your LEA and find out what they’re doing about it!
As part of Hwb+, all schools – including staff and students will get access to Office 365 – the online version of Microsoft’s Office Suite. This is great news for several reasons. One it reduces the need for parents to buy the software, and it reduced the headache for schools where students turn up with work created in Microsoft Works which can’t be opened it school. It also opens up the possibility to reduce licensing costs for schools and LEA. As part of that package, schools would also have access to video conferencing via ‘Lync’. It seems that plans for additional national licences are being drawn up. Personally, I’d love to see a national license for Brainpop, including getting them translated into Welsh.
One of the most impressive things about what I saw at the meeting was the effort the team have gone to ensure is that this joins together existing ideas and platforms, rather than simply ignoring or trying to replace them. It connects all the elements of existing school improvement plans, and has a strong focus on the 3 government priorities of literacy, numeracy and reducing the impact of poverty. It has a look and feel that connects it to other sites, such as learning.wales, but in Hwb+, it also provides different themes depending on the age of the user, all of which can be customized by individual users.
I’ll be able to give more detail once we’re up and running after the 12th. There are a huge number of opportunities for collaboration and development with this platform, and I’m looking forward to trying many of them out! You can find out more about the plans for Hwb at this page on Learning Wales.