Bavaria, Bremen, Hamburg and Saxony are “well on the way” with their school clouds, Berlin, on the other hand, is one of the federal states or large cities in which two or more digital learning platforms exist side by side. This is announced by the Deutsche Telekom Foundation for a study commissioned by it on learning management systems (LMS) in the 16 countries, which was presented on Thursday .
The country comparison compiled by the Institute for Information Management at the University of Bremen (ifib) paints the picture of a “heterogeneous landscape” of platforms and their operating models (the link to the full study can be found See them here).
“We see countries that made offers to their schools early on and thus offered them orientation. Others started later and are now confronted with the fact that there are already a multitude of solutions at the municipal level, “explains study leader Andreas Breiter.
The multitude of solutions, the municipal ones Self-determination by the school authorities and school autonomy made a nationwide uniform school cloud solution for all schools very unlikely, according to the central message of the study.
Such a solution should be offered by the HPI School Cloud, which the Potsdam Hasso Plattner Institute on behalf of the Federal Government of 2016 until summer 2021 programmed and supervised. Planned as a kind of guiding star of the multi-billion dollar digital pact for schools, the HPI solution was not able to establish itself nationwide.
The HPI cloud will be continued by only three countries
After a pilot phase with the MINT-EC school network, 4000 schools with 1 , 4 million users: connected inside. But only three states – Brandenburg, Lower Saxony and Thuringia – use the platform across the board. After the end of federal funding in July of this year, the system will be operated in a network of the three countries.
For Thomas de Maizière, chairman of the foundation, it is also clear: The study clearly shows that the nationwide school cloud that has been called for over and over again is a utopia. “In view of the diversity of the learning platforms, it is more important to connect them with each other through common standards and interfaces.
“When it is so complicated,” said de Maizière in an online press conference on Thursday, “the schools need help.” Every school must be provided with technical support, for which the digital pact also 500 million euros are planned, but have hardly been called up to date. Educational support from educational technologists who can develop specific learning scenarios is also in demand.
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According to a statement published on Thursday against the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK) by leading educational researchers: a nationwide solution, at least as a roof structure, is by no means off the table. The Standing Scientific Commission (Stäwiko) of the KMK calls for the “development of a transnational structure to link platforms that provide the developed digital technologies and tools as open educational resources”.
Competition between the connecting systems
With Mundo, the “Open Educational Media Library of the Federal States”, such a roof structure is already being set up, at least for digital learning content. There are currently scarce 40. 000 Media for teaching. Mundo, however, competes with Wir Learn Online, another search engine and platform for free educational materials – in this case funded by the federal government.
Another “building block of a federal, digital infrastructure” is Vidis, the “mediation service for digital identity management in schools” funded as part of the digital pact. In the future, Vidis is to offer secure logging into all online services for schools.
The same applies here: Many building blocks create a confusing construction site for the digitization of schools and lessons which still has a lot to be done. At least the private educational foundation of Telekom and the consultants of the KMK agree on the necessary interfaces between the systems.
What the Stäwiko under the chairmanship of the educational scientist Felicitas Thiel (FU Berlin) and Olaf Köller from the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (University of Kiel) recommends elsewhere, but differs from the statements of the study for the Telekom Foundation.
Stäwiko criticism critique of commercial offers
commercial offers “on the complex market for digital learning software” speaks about the Stäwiko the Quality from: “These tools are often designed to support exam preparation and neglect important functions of the teaching-learning processes.”
An individual evaluation of the platform solutions in the federal states but neither do the Stäwiko nor the Telekom Foundation. “With regard to the suitability or unsuitability of a specific product”, this is not possible and makes no sense due to the different starting conditions, say Breiter and his team A comparison between Bavaria and Berlin allows conclusions to be drawn about different levels of development. According to the ifib study, the “Bayern Cloud Schule” comprises the Visavid video conference tool, the school portal and the Mebis learning platform, as well as the integrated teachSHARE service, which enables teachers to exchange teaching materials and concepts across schools in Bavaria. Mebis also includes browser-based blackboard software, a media library, an examination archive and an information portal.
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“Legally secured and pedagogically didactically tested video and audio content” can be called up in the media library. The “mebis Tube” extension is also intended to enable teachers to publish explanatory videos they have created themselves under a Creative Commons license. And in the examination archive, central Bavarian final exams, grade and comparative papers as well as basic knowledge tests are available.
Many sources for online tools and material in Berlin
All of this sounds like a much more comprehensive and focused offer than Berlin can provide with two learning platforms. The Berlin learning space, which has existed for several years, has been supplemented from the beginning 2021 with the support of the school administration by the commercial provider itslearning. The open source video conferencing solution BigBlueButton and learning tools are available as integrated services for both systems as a national license – and cover planning as well as for a digital class register. Schools can access online media via the Berlin-Brandenburg education server, the state media center and the media forum.
An OER platform is still under construction. The platforms for online media should “in future also be accessible via the school portal that is currently being developed”. A lot of digital construction sites also for Berlin.
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In the final overall evaluation by the ifib study director and his team emphasize the “importance of standardized interfaces, data formats and protocols”. Only they would enable “secure data storage, secure data transfer and thus a reliable, distributed IT system landscape suitable for everyday use without unnecessary media breaks”.
Classroom teaching – and digitization stagnated?
The conclusion of the study also includes the fact that Germany is still lagging behind in the use of learning management systems in an international comparison. Countries such as Great Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands have been making LMS available to schools for more than a decade or have been “offered on the market”.
This means that the digital tools are in the Lessons are anchored much more deeply there than in Germany. And without the corona-related school closings, the progress made in distance learning threatens to be forgotten again. In the current attendance phase, it is more about finally offering children and adolescents orderly lessons again.
The Standing Scientific Commission of the KMK notes critically that Germany is according to the school barometer when schools were closed 2020 only one third of the pupils reached via online learning platforms, while it was two thirds in Austria and Switzerland.
KMK consultants: Embed digital media broadly, also in tests
That should change: According to Stäwiko, “the permanent operation of learning management systems and learning platforms” is part of a “robust IT infrastructure” that every school in Germany needs. The prerequisites for this are connections to the fast Internet, high-performance school servers including manufacturer support, reliable teaching structures as well as sufficiently flexible end devices and the associated “multi-year maintenance contracts”, writes Stäwiko in its “Statement on the further development of the KMK education strategy in the digital world”.
According to the commission, free accessible digital materials, i.e. open education resources that have added value compared to analogue teaching elements, are basically good. To do this, they would have to be based on theories of learning psychology and subject didactic theories – and on technological innovations from AI, for example through an “automatic evaluation of language-productive performance” the KMK uniform standards for the admission of school media and corresponding certification procedures, which the 16 countries jointly develop.
Overall, according to the Stäwiko statement, digital media should be integrated much more strongly than before in the classroom, but also in class work and school performance studies. The tools should be used, for example, to improve the “cognitive activation and exercise of skills” – for example through interactive visualizations and digitally supported collaborative forms of work. On the way there, the KMK must clarify “the importance of the subject of computer science in the lesson tables of the federal states.” of the lesson is still at the beginning. Digitization expert Andreas Breiter from ifib is, however, cautiously optimistic: All federal states would have the digitization of lessons on the program.
Digital instruments and media would also remain an integral part “after Corona” – “In the preparation and follow-up of lessons, when exchanging materials and when accessing current content”.