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Education IT

Singapore’s education ministry wins FutureGov Award

Singapore Ministry of Education’s One Portal All Learners (OPAL) system has won the ‘Education Organisation of the Year’ award at this year’s FutureGov Award. Lim Teck Soon, IT Director, Organisation Development Division, shares the objective, challenges and benefits of this award-winning initiative.

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OPAL was rolled out to 46,000 users last year, consisting of Education Officers, Executive and Administrative Staff and Allied Educators, across 365 schools and the ministry.

The system was designed to enhance online connectivity and collaboration, professional e-learning, and provide a one-stop experience for existing teaching and learning systems.

“With OPAL as an online platform, users can stay connected and share resources. While we would continue to encourage users to meet face-to-face as part of relationships and trust building, meeting online reduces the time needed to meet synchronously,” said Lim.

The ministry wanted to give users a single seamless gateway to all resources while retaining ownership of content by respective divisions. Through OPAL, users can access repositories, as well as corporate websites of four academies, web sites of over 70 subjects, projects, programmes and communities. Its federated search feature allows users to easily find relevant content across OPAL.

“Each user will also have a personalised e-portfolio, that features user management, digital resource management, content management system, personal workspace or learning journey, and collaborative tools such as blogs, wikis, forums, and surveys,” he described.

Since its launch in November 2012, 80 per cent of its target users have logged in to OPAL. In a short span of five months, the total numbers of downloads and uploads have hit more than 269,000 and 1,500 respectively and about 1,500 e-learning courses were created by users.

There are currently close to 170,000 teaching and learning, professional development and research related shared resources in OPAL.

OPAL is successfully building an identity and culture of collaboration. “More than 1300 collaboration groups were created for topic-specific discussions, and supporting tools like blogs, wikis, forums and surveys were actively used,” he said.

After the implementation of OPAL, three systems (edumall2.0, iSHARE and VITAL) were decommissioned. As a result, there is lower overhead cost per user, as the ministry no longer pays subscription and maintenance cost for these systems. The ministry benefited from more than 42 per cent reduction in subscription and operating cost over five years.

The ministry plans to use semantic web analytics to better understand its users’ behaviour and learning patterns. Lim said: “As more people use OPAL for sharing and collaborative learning, we want to understand how adults learn in an online environment, as self-directed learners and in collaborative groups. The semantic web analysis will allow us to research on the learning patterns of adult learners and use this information to drive optimisation in terms of user experience and performance of the system.”

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