The aim of the Methodology II project was to increase teaching quality by providing teachers with systematic support in the area of teaching methodology, development of learning communities, and effective self-improvement support through ongoing training of teachers. As a vehicle for these activities, the RVP.cz Internet portal was created. Since its establishment, the portal has earned a good reputation within the teaching community and has been successful in meeting its goals even after the completion of the Methodology II project in 2012.
Until 2009, there was no respected website in the Czech Republic – despite several attempts to set one up – where teachers would “gather” and share their experiences, know-how, and motivation. The emergence of the RVP.cz portal succeeded in meeting this requirement, particularly thanks to its practical content, which is a real benefit for teachers and is created by the teachers themselves. Another important element that has helped to spread information about the portal is the licences that have been selected for individual published materials – these include Creative Commons licences. These licences stipulate that the work can be freely distributed and modified, and used as a basis to create derivative work. Teachers have thus been given access to materials that can be legally and safely used for their work, without them having to become experts on various licenses.
What Are Framework Educational Programmes and School Educational Programmes
These constitute a multilevel system for standardising the creation of educational programmes. Framework educational programmes (RVP) specify, in particular, the form, duration and the compulsory content of education, its organisation, professional profile, processes, as well as conditions regarding the completion of education and principles for designing school educational programmes.
Description of target users and groups
Based on the framework educational programs and rules laid down therein, individual schools can create programme implementation documents – school educational programmes (ŠVP). Framework educational programmes have been prepared for preschool education, primary education (including a programme for special elementary schools), 284 fields of secondary education, including conservatories, language schools authorised to organise state language examinations, and for elementary art schools.
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Methodological Portal as an Implementation Tool for RVP
The RVP.cz methodological portal offers, through its content section, the possibility to freely use all materials, the so-called DUM (digital teaching materials, i.e. basic teaching aids), which support the introduction of school educational programmes (ŠVP) in all types of schools. The materials include theoretical contributions, teaching ideas, learning materials, etc. The creation of DUMs was initially rewarded financially, and the materials had to meet several conditions:
compliance with RVPs – universal use in many schools,
expected results – the majority of DUMs should help to achieve defined outputs,
quality and content accuracy – proofreading, expert reviewers’ opinion, and user ratings,
no special software requirements to run and use in practice – emphasis placed on commonly used applications; mainly freeware and free/open-source software,
possibility to print for immediate use – the word “digital” refers to the method of distribution; materials are limited to use on PCs,
intended for direct use in the classroom, can be used by students,
licensed using Creative Commons licences.
In the community sections (Wiki, Forums, Digifolio, Blogs), the portal offers teachers a communication space where they can share their experiences, exchange ideas, and participate in the development and improvement of the contents of the Methodological Portal.
Digifolio is a module whose functions are intended for the users themselves. Users can create their own digital portfolios, which affords them the opportunity to track their own professional development and to plan their future goals. Digifolio is used for teacher self-evaluation and to facilitate their professional development.
The educational part of the Methodological Portal (e-learning module) is populated by tutored e-learning courses, which follow the published materials, thus contributing to further education of participating teachers. This section is now starting to focus on webinars.
Built Using Reusable Software
The RVP.cz Methodological Portal was created with the idea of utilising freely available as much as possible, with their subsequent modification based on specific requirements (custom templates and extensions). Requirements for some modules were so specific that the best way to implement them was to create a new system tailored to the requirements. These systems are, in most cases, based either on the Nette framework or on the Zend framework and exploit the MVC architecture (design pattern).
The Portal as a whole is a large and complex set of individual systems. An example of the technologies used:
operating systems of all virtual machines: GNU/Linux, especially the openSUSE and CentOS distributions,
selected technologies: Apache, PHP, MySQL, OpenLDAP, SVN, Apache Tomcat, Mono, Solr, Postfix, Java, Nette, Zend,
selected applications: BigBlueButton, DekiWiki, Mahara, phpBB, Moodle, WordPress.
The portal’s individual modules offer a unified visual experience and are connected to a central user database. This means that the website uses a single sign-on technology (SSO), which ensures that by signing in on any of the modules, the user is logged in to all modules of the Methodological Portal.
The RVP.cz Methodological Portal uses its own servers. Their hardware resources are virtualised and distributed among several independent virtual servers. Most web applications are operated on an application server (Apache, PHP 5), and their databases are hosted on a database server (MySQL 5). Some applications or other support systems require special environments to operate, and for them special virtual servers have been designated. These include BigBlueButton (BBB), DekiWiki, and full-text search. The BBB system, which is used for holding online seminars, not only requires a separate virtual machine but also a specific Linux distribution and other complementary software. The Wiki module is based on the MindTouch DekiWiki application. A support system for indexing and searching for content is based mainly on Apache Lucene technology – Solr. Its operation requires Java.
The RVP.cz Methodological Portal was created over a period of several years (modules were gradually added), and thus the selection of software corresponds to what was on offer at a particular time.Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards, Open source software
Main results, benefits and impacts
Project Objectives and the Level of Fulfilment
During the Methodology II project, which ran from 2009 to 2012, all expected goals were achieved. These are described below. The portal and its offerings were accepted by the teaching community and professionals, and a sufficient number of authors have become involved in content creation and use. The RVP.cz platform has hosted numerous webinars and expert discussions, and a number of subprojects and materials for all teachers were created. The Portal has also become a medium for publishing efforts by university students and non-teaching professionals.
Increasing the quality of primary education by applying modern technologies that accelerate the process of transferring information between teachers and thereby streamline the implementation of innovations in education
This objective was met by the establishing the RVP.cz Methodological Portal, which showcases the latest trends on the Internet. Thanks to new tools, such as discussions and blogs, the project has helped to accelerate the transfer of information between teachers who can now be better informed about news in education.
Providing broad online methodological support for teachers
This objective was met by the publication of more than 10 000 posts in different categories strictly focused on methodological and didactic support and educational assistance to the professional public. At the time of the preparation of this text, which was three years after the completion of the project, the numbers of posts were as follows:
Pre-school education: 5468
Elementary education: 22780
Elementary Art Education: 598
Special education: 1794
Grammar schools: 7068
Vocational education: 3456
Language training: 554
Operation of a comprehensive national repository of digital learning materials
This goal has been met. Over 7000 digital teaching materials have been published on the methodological portal (at the time of the preparation of this text, the number was over 9 300). The repository is linked to the European LRE repository, which is operated by the European Schoolnet project.
Creating new opportunities for cooperation and sharing of experiences among teachers
The project developed online tools that support active collaboration between teachers. These include a teacher WIKI (similar to the well-known Wikipedia project) where teachers can create content together and, based on feedback, improve their qualifications.
Increase the use of ICT by teachers
Based on visitor statistics, which showed 10 000 unique daily visits at the end of 2014, it can be concluded that the RVP.cz Methodological Portal contributed greatly to an increase in the use of modern technologies and the Internet by teachers. This in turn improved teachers’ understanding of ICT.
The outcome will be a respected and lively portal dedicated to teachers and their profession
This goal has been met in full. This is evidenced by both the above-mentioned website traffic and by the large number of posts added to the portal by teachers and the professional public. The staff of the Methodological Portal also participated in numerous professional conferences and have an active presence on social networks.
The project outcomes are still available at http://rvp.cz. The Portal will remain in operation for at least the 5 years required by the compulsory sustainability period of the project.
The project was co-financed by the European Social Fund and the Czech Republic state budget. The project budget was about CZK 75 million, i.e. about EUR 2.7 million.