Pounds 1/3 m for pinpointed courses

A Pounds 300,000 grant from the Paul G Allen Virtual Education Foundation will support Oxford University's work on a system for delivering courses individually tailored for each student, writes Tony Durham.

Jonathan Darby, head of the university's technology-assisted lifelong learning programme, described the approach as one which treats student time as the most valuable commodity.

"Each student follows a course that concentrates on what they need to know, with no time wasted on topics with which they are already familiar," he said.

Custom courses will be built from a large pool of small learning components, each representing around 15 minutes of study time. Components are carefully classified according to topic, medium, level and prerequisites, and computer-matched to the student's knowledge and needs. The classification will follow the IMS metadata standard.

The Allen foundation was established by the co-founder of Microsoft in 1987 to advance online education.

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