Spotlight on Hungary

With a multiple award winning e-Learning platform and a strong, integrated set of ICT initiatives, Hungary is a country to watch and learn from.   

The Hungarian Government decided to invest in ICT after a disappointing PISA study showed that they were far behind international standards for providing work-place skills to students.  This lead to several initiatives, the most noteworthy of which is the SULINET Digital Knowledge base – an e-Learning platform which has achieved a wide range of accolades across Europe including:

The design goal was to make high quality learning content available that completely covered the curriculum at all stages of schooling across Hungary.

In 1996, Educatio – a ministry backed agency – developed SULINET with backing from Microsoft.  It now has over 1million learning objects in a wide variety of content types – classroom-ready handouts, diagrams, animations, lecture drafts, films and databases. Crucially, documents can also be edited by teachers to ensure that content remains up to date and relevant.

The user experience starts with a great interface:

From there, specific subject content can be easily located and used:

Collaboration on learning projects is made possible through “presence” and communication tools:

 

HOW DOES SULINET WORK?

Publishers or teachers create the content with a Windows based Learning Object (LO) creator tool, or via a browser, and load it into the National LO Content Management Server.

Whilst other e-Learning systems simply serve up learning objects for users to consume, SULINET enables users to blend learning assets to form sophisticated learning objects. This allows for a much more constructivist approach.

HOW WAS SULINET DEVELOPED?

For the content, there were three different calls:

  • A first call was for school book publishers to take the standard curriculum text books and turn them into interactive and multimedia learning tools.
  • A second call was for cross-curricular modules, newly introduced and any subjects that were not covered by the first call.
  • A third call was for additional teaching materials and media collections. Schools and institutions could contribute with self-made materials or they could open their existing digital content collections.

From September 2006 individual users could upload learning resources to their private users’ sites.

The content types available in the system are:

  • Reusable learning assets: the smallest, independently existing building blocks. These can be texts, pictures, sounds, animations, simulations, movie clips or tasks. They are reusable, because they can be combined with other assets to form unique combinations – learning objects.  
  • Learning objects: these are compiled from the learning asset building blocks, from the highest level subjects down to the lowest level learning units. These include experiments and tasks, for example.
  • Collections: sound, picture, video or test collections sourced from different national archives, such as the Hungarian News Agency (MTI) and the National Audiovisual Archive (NAVA).

The assets, objects and collections are stored in a central database, where they are classified and tagged. Underpinning this is the use of set of international standards – SCORM, IMS, LOM, and Dublin Core.

The system was developed in .NET and key technologies include: SQL (database); SharePoint; Visual Studio.NET

The knowledge base is available for everyone on the http://sdt.SULINET.hu site and its use for nonprofit public educational goals is free of charge.

The challenge now is for the Hungarian Ministry of Education to drive up usage amongst teachers, through teacher training campaigns, roadshows, and marketing activities.

BEYOND SULINET

SULINET is part of an integrated package of ICT initiatives that includes:

Whiteboards

35,000 out of the 62,000 classrooms in Hungary are equipped with interactive whiteboards, projectors and a set of 32 computers. These will come with classroom response systems and voting tools. The feedback of these IWBs showed that 70% of teachers found them very useful when teaching a class. To read more, click here.

Notebook computers

To add to the current stock levels, Intel have started to deploy their Classmate PCs into the market, starting with 3000. A further 2000 netbooks were also made available by the government through the Intelligent Schools Program.

 Teacher training

As part of the Microsoft Innovative Schools Program, 80,000 teachers were trained. The courses ensured that teachers were getting the most out of digital content, electronic administration and tutoring through IM.

Internet access

The quality of internet access in schools continues to improve, and broadband connections are now being pushed into primary schools.

KEY QUESTIONS

Thinking about implementing a SULINET type solution in your country? Here are some points to consider:

Who’s the principle audience – teachers, students, parents?

Who can publish – teachers, students, parents?

What incentives are there to encourage contributions?

How will Quality Assurance work?

What about peer review/rating systems?

Should all contributors be allowed to:

  • Create a SCO
  • Publish a SCO
  • Edit a SCO
  • Keep own created SCO’s by themselves without sharing?

How do you foresee the logical grouping working?

  • National level admin and users
  • District or conglomerate of schools admin and users
  • Individual School admin and users
  • Grade level admins and users (Eg Year 10)
  • Subject level admins and users (Eg Maths)

Who is the legal owner of a SCO – teacher, school, and district?

How do you manage digital rights?

FURTHER INFORMATOIN

  • To read a report about the original goals of SULINET, click here.
  • The next challenge for SULINET is to drive up usage of teachers and students by incorporating social networking into the portal. They have started to make use of forums for students and teachers to come together and discuss.
  • SULINET have also organized a variety of events since it’s conception in 1996, including:
  • SULINET Adventure Tour– competition amongst students involving theoretical and practical exercises.
    SULINETwork- A large conference held annually to update teachers on the latest functions on SDT 
  • To read more about SULINET, click here.
  • To read more on the current policies and programs in Hungarian public education, click here.
  • To review a full Insight report on Hungary click here

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