A barrier to the development of lifelong learning in the United Kingdom has been partially broken down by the introduction of a national broadband service, writes Tim Greenhalgh.
BTopenworld multi-user service is the UK's first commercial broadband service to use the company's ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) technology.
Denise Hall, head of government health and education internet services, said that the development of broadband services was key to the rapid roll-out of rich-media online learning in the UK.
"It will mean that the best minds in education are no longer bound to location. Colleges and universities will be able to provide engaging learning opportunities without boundaries. It will enrich the learning experience and provide commercial benefits to institutions."
Ms Hall said that the development of lifelong learning and reskilling within the workplace would also be accelerated by broadband services.
The service, which costs Pounds 99.99 a month plus a Pounds 260 installation fee, allows internet access for up to four PCs. Customers can network more PCs via LAN connections. A Macintosh version of the BTopenworld business product is available. BTopenworld offers users always-on, high-speed broadband internet access, initially at up to ten times faster than conventional modems.
These speeds are scheduled to increase incrementally and will eventually be available at up to 2Mbps downstream. ADSL also allows users to access the internet and make voice or fax calls over the line at the same time.
In conjunction with BT's business application service provider, Ignite Application Services, it offers a portal that features a range of rich content and interactive applications designed for small businesses. Ignite is hosting the first e-learning solution for accountants on behalf of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. The online professional development is available through ACCAdemy.com.
The ACCA, with about 250,000 members and students, recommends that its members carry out at least 35 hours a year of continuing professional development training. For practising members, CPD is compulsory.
ACCAdemy.com allows members to obtain relevant training where and when it suits them.
The online learning resource is based on a Lotus LearningSpace platform. Transition Associates developed the site and maintains the content.
Colin Lilburn, head of horizontal applications, products and marketing at Ignite, said: "We offer leading-edge rentable applications and services, and working with organisations such as the ACCA demonstrates our continued commitment to provide vital business software online. Through developing the best technical resources and business partnerships, we are enabling organisations of all sizes to rapidly adopt these emerging e-learning solutions."
Ignite has the largest broadband network in Europe and plans to invest about Pounds 4 billion over three years to expand its backbone network and web hosting and application service provider capabilities.