NLN Materials

… should we let them be put out to grass?

Recently, JANET (UK) and LSIS announced that funding to continue the NLN Materials service ( “in its current formwouldcease at the end of July 2011.

They went on to announce a survey, which would be designed to identify the options and find out users’ preferences about the future of the NLN Materials.
See the survey at

The survey will close on Friday, 28 January. I must urge anyone reading this to “make sure your voice is heard”.

I remain a passionate supporter of the materials and was one of the original team of NLN ILT Subject Mentors recruited on half-post secondments back in 2002.  Although funding had been allocated for 30 mentors, Becta (who managed the project) never managed to recruit quite that number. Nevertheless, many of those NLN mentors are still out there, working in colleges or like me, independently (one even manages a JISC RSC) trying to encourage their colleagues to realise the potential of ILT, or e-Learning as we now call it.

Our roles were never to ‘just’ promote the materials themselves. We showed teachers and sometimes learners, how the materials could become part of a lesson or how they could be used as self-study materials. We even came to show how if disaggregated, they could be a flexible source of personal learning development. The use of the then infant VLEs was also encouraged. We would often be the only source of training for the Interactive Whiteboards that were being fitted willy nilly at that time. Very few managers had the time to train staff in IWB use and as many of the NLN materials lend themselves easily to being used interactively via IWBs we fitted in well.

Time passed, funding changed and the materials moved over eventually to JANET and Xtensis – where they have been admirably managed for about four years now. As that time passed, the mainly schools-based vocational Diplomas have emerged and there has been much interest in the materials from schools. As a large body of NLN material is vocationally orientated, they lend themselves nicely to use in schools, where materials for Diploma were initially pretty non-existent. I know from personal experience that the materials are liked and appreciated by school teachers and learners alike.

I know that many of the learning objects are now looking a little tired or dated and that many more have never really functioned without a lot of work by institutional technician teams, but these are in a minority. Some could be ditched if the money cannot be found to repair them – the problem is usually with plugins for older versions of flash or shockwave. The others still have some relevance, if the user is creative.

So come on, let’s hear it for the NLN materials.

Fill in the survey (link above) and support their continuation in whatever form works best for the wider community. Let’s not hide them away. ACL and WBL have it hard enough, let’s keep the ‘stuff’ where everyone can get at them.

Quote from survey page 1: “If you have any further questions about this survey, please send an email to Bob Powell, Excellence Gateway Programme Manager, LSIS (”