Three universities have joined together to set up the Scottish Centre for Research into On-Line Learning (Scrolla), whose aims include strengthening links between online teaching researchers and the country's developing software industry.
Scrolla, a partnership between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Heriot-Watt universities, is funded under the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's research development grant, which promotes collaborative approaches to meeting Scotland's needs. The centre has won more than £560,000 over three years.
Jeff Haywood of Edinburgh University, one of Scrolla's co-directors, said:
"To date, almost all of the educational investment in information and communications technology has been in development and not research. However, the need for research to underpin the latest developments in ICT and for a wider forum to inform and support good practices is vital."
Scrolla will draw together major research that overlaps but is in discrete disciplines - such as psychology, multimedia studies, teacher training and IT technology - and will stimulate collaborative work.
It hopes ultimately to attract research funding from outside Scotland, particularly from the European Union and businesses from elsewhere in the United Kingdom and overseas.
"This is a young but expanding field, especially in Scotland, and it would benefit from some coordination to strengthen it," Haywood said. "There is also a need to span all levels of education in a way that single research projects are unlikely to do."
Haywood's expertise is in policy strategy supporting ICT. Co-director Cliff Beevers, of Heriot-Watt University is a pioneer of computer-aided assessment, and co-director Erica McAteer, of Glasgow University, specialises in online learning and tutoring.
McAteer said: "You want networks because none of us can do all of it. And there needs to be scholarship underpinning it, guidance in action."