In recent years there are many initiatives aimed at raising and improving levels of digitalisation of schools. Ministry of Science, Education and Sports develops and maintains the fundamental infrastructure for implementation of new technologies in the education and research system of Croatia by relying on the Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNet) www.carnet.hr and University Computing Center (Srce).
Schools, through their CARNet membership, are entitled to a permanent Internet connection and use of a range of services which are continuously being developed and improved by CARNet, such as:
- hosting service for elementary and secondary schools (HUSO) - schools, their employees, teachers and students have a free electronic identity that contains an e-mail address, user name and password which allow access to CARNet services
- e-Dnevnik - web application for managing classroom books electronically
- free e-mail address and CARNet webmail for reading and sending e-mails, creating address books, editing schedules, adding new calendar appointments and placing documents on servers
- hosting space and CMS (Content Management System) - a system that allows schools to easily set up and update web pages via a web browser; currently more than 1,100 primary and secondary schools have a website in CARNet's CMS for schools
- MSDC (Microsoft Download Center) - a place to download Microsoft software for primary and secondary schools
Main initiative in near future is CARNet's project, “e-Schools”, which is scheduled to start in 2015 and will last seven years. It foresees continuation of implementation of current pilot projects such as:
e-Class Register - a web application for managing class registers in electronic form which began as a pilot project in school year 2011/2012. The application has all the functionalities of existing paper class registers with additional ICT functionalities. Schools included are CARNet partners in development of the application and their proposals and experiences are continuously used to update and improve different features. Application users are teachers, students and parents. Teachers enter data for teaching hours, absent students, marks, school excursions, school and parent meetings etc. Students login with their AAI@EduHr electronic identity to view their grades, notes, absences, and exam schedules. Parents can view the same information with a 48 hour delay. They can also subscribe to email notifications for absences of children. Experience showed that this reduced unexcused absences of students and resulted in better communication between parents and teachers.
After six months a survey conducted among teachers showed that 90% of users think that e-Class Register application is an improvement over the paper version. After these positive experiences, Ministry of Science, Education and Sports changed the rules of school administration which, until then, ordered record keeping solely in paper form so now schools can choose to keep the records digitally. This resulted in 30% of schools using e-Class Registry in school year 2014/2015.
"Nikola Tesla" National Distance - Learning Portal offers online courses in mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry for secondary schools, ECDL courses, and courses in Internet technologies. It enables computer-assisted classes and learning to be conducted with the use of digital educational materials.
The Portal comprises:
- secondary school mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry and English materials
- ECDL modules which include materials required for the basic computer literacy diploma
- courses on the application and use of the Internet and Internet content development tools
Secondary school materials designated as 'student material' are intended for students who use them for independent study, while teachers use the same material with the 'instructional material' indication for teaching. Multimedia presentations of lessons include animated examples, audio-visual simulations of experiments and interactive elements to make the coursework more interesting and easier to understand.
ECDL modules enable the acquisition of basic computer skills, including word-processing, working with spread sheets, working with databases, making presentations, and Internet communication programmes.
Courses on the application and use of the Internet include computer security basics, database search and Internet communication. Courses on Internet content development tools include introduction to image, audio and video material processing programmes, website development and the use of advanced web technologies.
Schools 2.0 – the aim of this project is to enable high-quality and comprehensive distance learning and e-learning for a wide number of users - teachers and students.
Within the framework of "Schools 2.0" project, 25 schools (seven central schools with corresponding branch schools) are connected to the fast Internet line and to CARNet via optical network. In schools, wireless networks were installed (with eduroam access points) to provide access for students and teachers via their tablet computers to online contents and digital textbooks, and use them for videoconferencing and distance learning.
During the project, a systematic education of teachers has been performed regarding the IKT implementation in their teaching and work, as well as encouraging the teachers to accept new education methods and use the technology.
The Schools 2.0 Project was chosen as one of the three most innovative initiatives in the "Initiative for the Education and Research" category of the European Prize for Innovation in Public Administration during an award ceremony which was held on June 6th 2013.
The main aim of the e-Schools project is to create digitally mature schools, connected to ultra-fast Internet, highly equipped with adequate ICT, with a high level of informatisation of business and education processes that create digitally competent and research-minded students who are adapted to requirements of modern education and the European labour market. In order to achieve the purpose of the project a complete informatisation of teaching and business processes in schools is required and will be achieved through the following activities:
- informatization of business processes in schools
- systematic introduction of ICT in teaching and learning processes, including the production of digital educational content, methods and tools
- connecting schools to fast and ultra-fast Internet
- building local networks in schools
- training and support for teachers
Estimated funds needed for complete informatization of business and teaching processes in schools are 287 million €, where the rate of state or local government co-financing will be up to 15% and the rest of the funding will be through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF).
Project “e-Schools” will lead to a gradual, voluntary transition to digital content in which the spotlight will be on teachers as key stakeholders of the educational process, both in the past and in the future.