Online Learning Zone and WebCT-based Abertay Degree Launched by Prime Minister Tony Blair

February 21, 2002

The master’s degree was devised by the University of Abertay Dundee and is taught using world-leading WebCT technology through the British Council’s Online Learning Zone (OLZ) in the Indian capital. Prime Minister Tony Blair officially launched both the OLZ and the degree during his visit to India last month.

Within days of the launch, over 250 inquiries had been received about the course and it is expected that the initial 20 places on the first intake of the course will be oversubscribed, and some of India’s brightest young computer scientists will be using WebCT e-learning technology to begin their studies.

The OLZ in Delhi is effectively a mini-campus, equipped with library, hi-tech computers and other equipment, as well as work and social space. Indian students on the Abertay course will enjoy the same high quality learning experience as students in Dundee, with the only difference being that the lecturer is on the screen instead of the podium.

The Abertay course uses an online study guide in WebCT, which enables students to access Abertay learning materials over the World Wide Web. WebCT also gives them e-mail contact with tutors, videoconference group sessions and video recordings of master classes given in the University’s IC CAVE research center. Practical and written work will be submitted and assessed over the Internet, and examinations will be held in Delhi.

Abertay’s director of research and commercialization, Paul Durrant, commented: “WebCT has provided us with excellent support during the development of our online learning portfolio and we shall continue to work in close partnership with them as we expand our provision in this area. The model we have developed for this project has enormous potential, and we plan to develop the concept further to enable us to deliver almost any of our courses anywhere in the world

– we are already in discussion with prospective partners in North America and

other study centers in South India.”

Software engineering in general and games design in particular are major growth areas in India, and shortages of design professionals are already apparent. At least one Indian entertainment company has invested in a Silicon Valley start-up with the aim of developing games based on its films. The potential of the course, given the vibrancy of India’s ‘Bollywood’ entertainment industry, is thought to be enormous.

The Abertay degree course is one of only three UK university courses chosen by the British Council for the new OLZ. The others are Manchester Metropolitan with Edexcel (HND Computing and Business Applications) and Durham University (MA Management). The British Council hopes to develop the concept in other locations around the world.

Learning materials for the course were developed by Abertay in partnership with Scottish Knowledge plc, and the University has invested around 250,000 Pounds Sterling in the project.