Israel is using the net to the full with its innovative learning programmes. Helena Flusfeder reports.
Although the internet has widespread applications in Israeli universities, there are very few fully fledged for-credit courses on the internet in universities, says Diego Kramer, of the Hebrew University's Computer Authority, who is in charge of developing this type of learning.
However, an initiative last year by Israel's Council for Higher Education asking universities to open "support centres", resulted in the Hebrew University building sites for special courses, ranging from the faculties of law to dental medicine and life sciences. The university is also opening a "computer farm" with 250 computers and four computer centres, which will allow more students to access electronic journals via the internet.
Kramer said: "A digital video library has been created. Now you can get any kind of video online, including streaming video. You can see a full video online through the internet. We are the first university to have a large video server.
"Distance learning does not really exist in Israel. However, the Hebrew University has developed other applications for using the internet, such as trying to improve the way students do exams. Exams can now be animated using video.
"We are trying to take advantage of the internet - we still keep the original way of teaching, but we are trying to improve it. One way is to take advantage of graphics, animations and electronic journals."
The internet is also being used for the administration of students. "You can access data on the web. No one sees their marks on the board any more - only on the web. The student can access his full schedule, the dates of his exams and his marks on the internet," Kramer said.
The Hebrew University has 250 courses on the web. "Next year, we'll open a site for every one of the 7,000 courses. We hope that this will push teachers to put data on these sites," Kramer said.
The challenge of taking advantage of the internet to improve teaching and learning methods has been tackled by Israel's Open University in innovative ways.
Like its British model in Milton Keynes, the OU in Israel, established 25 years ago to improve access to higher education for students with geographical and financial limitations, was originally based on written course materials with broadcasts on educational television.
Five years ago, the Israeli OU began a drive to integrate new technologies into teaching. This included establishing a Centre for Technologies in Distance Education at the university. "The aim was to improve students' access to higher education," said its director, Edna Yaffe.
The Israeli OU now has websites for half of its 400 courses. The sites are used for administration and teaching, updating course material and studying real-life events - from politics and social studies.
The Israeli OU has also built a virtual library, which includes electronic journals and databases, accessed via the internet.
Ms Yaffe said: "I believe that our long experience in distance education helps us to see the potential in the new education technologies and integrate them for the benefit of the students."