SEI -Romanian IT-based Educational System (SEI)

Published on: 03/06/2009
Document

The Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation in Romania is aiming at raising the level of usage of IT&C resources in education to state-of-the-art standards, in order to accomplish the educational reform objectives in conformity with the EU strategies: eEurope 2005, eLearning European Initiative, i2010.

SEI - (The IT-Based Educational System) is an ambitious project initiated by the Romanian Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation (MERI) and since 2001, it has been integrated as a key component in the educational reform in Romania. It focuses on digital literacy of the population through the young population, as well as ITC support for teaching/learning and management activities. Introducing IT&C resources in the Romanian schools represents a mandatory step in creating an authentic knowledge society, competitive at European and global level.

SEI, the program of introducing ICT in the Romanian educational system had two main components: one, which was oriented to the transition towards computer-based education and the second one to the development of management, public consultation and decision support IT tools, country-wide and covering all managerial levels in education.

As a strategic program of the Ministry, SEI covers all major activities in the educational sector:
Pedagogy - teaching and learning, testing and evaluation, management of educational content, training and life-long training programs for teachers;
School resources management;
National education management - ICT support for the national examinations, the national education database, the school map portal;
Communication and collaboration - including a National Educational Portal;

The users and beneficiaries are located at several levels (local, regional, and national, each of them comprising several sub-levels) and include teachers, students, parents, managers, operators, decision-makers and the general public.

The SEI project included:
-Installation and configuration in each school of complete educational solutions for the teaching-learning process - IT laboratories equipped with eLearning solutions, school administration software and educational multimedia eContent. 13.181 schools and 42 regional training centers received until now 192.705 computers, servers and laptops.
-Elaboration of 3,647 AeL eContent lessons (totalling 16,000 learning objects) - and their distribution in all the SEI laboratories, together with 16 dictionaries: explanatory, orthographic, synonyms, antonyms, Romanian-English-French etc.; encyclopaedias and glossaries of terms, movies, art, poetry and theatre, Encyclopaedia Britannica - the concise edition etc. Teachers are empowered to author their own content with specialized authoring tools: editors for mathematic expressions, geometry graphics, function graphics, chemistry, tests and questions.
-School curricula management integrated with the AeL educational library and with the organizational structure.
-Development of IT projects for supporting the national examinations;
-Technical support for all teachers;
-Implementation of a document and workflow management system in the Ministry connecting the central sites to the 42 regional County School Inspectorates;
-Development and administration of the SEI Educational Portal as the main web-based communication centre between the education management, teachers, pupils, parents, regional and school administration and the general public.
-Intensive and extensive training of 141,750 system administrators and teachers for integrating ITC resources in education.
-Development and implementation of national IT systems for management of key administrative projects:national examinations, management of social aid programs etc.

 

Policy Context

The SEI Program represents a pre-requisite of the transition period toward a knowledge society. The economic capital of a country is directly proportional with the educational level of the human capital. SEI represents primarily an answer to a social demand. The computer operating skills represent a basic condition for the individual integration within the labor market and information society.

Description of target users and groups

As a strategic program for improving the Romanian educational system, SEI has a positive impact on different levels of users and it addresses the entire society focusing on the development of the national economy.

Today, the SEI Program has as beneficiaries:
-2.8 million students enrolled each year in primary, secondary, VET and high-school education;
-275,000 employed teachers;
-Administrative personnel from each school and County Education Inspectorate (ISJ)
-Education management from the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation (MECI)
-The parents and the general public

The Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation aims at offering through SEI Program, maximum advantages, according to their specific needs for each target group.

One of the main objectives of the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation is to offer free and equal access to education and technology, to all Romanian students.

The main beneficiaries of the SEI Program are students and teachers in Pre-universitary education. SEI Program aims at offering them more possibilities for creating a better future, through education. Students benefit of the complex AeL solution which includes thousands of learning units of interactive content, meant to increase the motivation for learning and students' scholar results. As an outcome, students transform obligation in motivation, develop new skills, and become more engaged in the learning process and more self confident about their future. They can access a wide range of educational resources, inside and outside the school environment, participate in group projects, and collaborate with teachers and colleagues.

Teachers are playing a major role in the SEI Program, as they are empowered to use specifically designed software tools as additional resources in the classroom. They are able to plan and organize their lessons more easily and can have quick feedback from students. Teachers can use ICT support for testing, for evaluation and grading; can collaborate with other teachers, with students and parents.

SEI components are designed to offer strong support to the administrative personnel and responsible factors within the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation in deciding upon, controlling, planning, assisting and making forecasts about the educational process. They have direct access to detailed indicators of the educational system, through NEI (National Education Indicators) and National Education Database (BDNE), which collect primary data from each school.

Parents or public community can publicly access the School Map Portal (http://harta.edu.ro), a web component that reflects the data included in the National Education Database (BDNE), in order to see reports on education units and statistical county data (students, teachers, resources).

The education management systems support the daily activity in schools, at regional administration and national management levels.

 

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Since 2001, the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation (MERI) is running SEI (The Romanian IT-based Educational System) a strategic program meant to improve the Romanian educational system.

The principles that were followed within the SEI project were:

1.Each student should have direct access to ICT tools and his/her own PC in the classroom.The focus was set on pupils learning by doing: experimenting, understanding, applying concepts.
2.The focus was on pedagogy and not on IT. Computers themselves do not bring pedagogical value; the program had to include software, high quality multimedia content, and services - training and communication.
3.Computers are not meant for reading text - highlevels of multimedia and interactivity were required.
4.Teacher-centric - the teachers have the strongest oppinion in the use of ICT in schools. Even if the pupils are in the center of education, the teachers are the vehicle for bringing the technology into the classroom.
5.Standardization - the project makes extensive use of standards and standardization
   The advantages are:
   a.Increase in maintainability
   b.Ease of transfer of knowledge (training) towards the education system
   c.Economies of scale, ease of replication
   d.Ease of integration between various components and technologies such as:
      -integration between software systems: learning management software, content management software, educational content, authentication and authorization software, school administration software, education administration software, communication and collaboration software.
     -integration between hardware, software and communication components.

The SEI project has successfully accomplished until now six unified phases of implementation, each bringing a new and improved approach, but all following a coherent educational strategy. During all stages of implementation, the SEI Program reached 3 layers of success:
1.Providing effective access to interactive resources for both students and teachers. This was the easiest and minimum layer.
2.Elaborating and validating an official methodology for enhancing the use of ICT in education. This was the intermediate and more difficult layer.
3.Integrating the ICT in day-to-day education. The third layer requires the previous two to be accomplished.

The success of the 3 layers implementation involves applying a clear change management methodology. The innovation must be perceived as a complimentary tool for the traditional teaching methods, meant to simplify the teachers' work, and not as a threat. This is an ongoing process that needed to be transferred to regional and local administration for sustainability. For this program to take effect, teachers had to understand the need of introducing ICT in the teaching/learning process, in order to prepare students, but also themselves for the modern society's challenges.
The components of SEI Program were specially designed to answer the needs of different levels of users. All the applications have intuitive and easy-to-use interface, and offer complex features. Most of them are online based applications and thus can be accessed from different locations, at any time. The SEI components are inter-connected, in order to offer a complete view of the educational system, from individual school level to Ministry level.
SEI was developed as a complete program, which can be mapped in any language, for different regions and cultures, learning levels and types of educational institutions.

 

Technology solution

Over 13.181 nationwide Romanian schools currently have at least one IT laboratory for use as a teaching and learning tool. Every IT laboratory is briefly composed of the following elements:
Hardware:
-5 to 25 workstations (desktops or laptops);
-Server for each laboratory;
-Laser printer and scanner, multifunctional device, video projector;
-Networking equipment; infrastructure for internet connection (all schools in urban areas are connected);
Software:
-AeL Platform (Learning Management System), provided by SIVECO Romania
-AeL eContent, multimedia educational content, comprising 3.700 learning units and over 16.000 Reusable Learning Objects, for computer-based learning;
-Microsoft Windows operating system (mainly Vista Business), Microsoft Office, Windows Server; antivirus;
-Technical assistance, warranty and support;
-Methodology;
-On-site assistance;
-Free-toll phone number
-Face-to-face training for administrative personnel and teachers;
The SEI project was designed as a complete nation-wide solution, composed of an integrated network of local and regional solutions. Each IT laboratory provided to schools is itself an integrated solution, ready to be used by teachers and pupils. The IT laboratories (local solutions) are integrated into a logical network comprising all the schools in a region. All regions are integrated into a national network connected to and coordinated by the project management unit. Thus, the SEI project has a strong impact at different levels of users, from individual student to each school, to County School Inspectorate, and to the Ministry level.

The backbone of the program was the Learning and Content Management System AeL, which was implemented in all the schools implied in the SEI project.
AeL is an integrated Learning and Content Management System developed by SIVECO Romania, which supports administrative staff, professors/tutors, students, and other stakeholders in the learning process.

Features and capabilities:
Teacher- led training
- the virtual classroom:
-Content delivery - broadcast server;
-Content and tests are displayed simultaneously on all stations in the virtual classroom or to individual students;
-Student tracking - monitoring of online student activity;
-Instant messaging;
-Interactive, monitored testing, with real-time progress tracker.

Public or targeted surveys;
Integrated discussion forum;

Monitoring;
Content library:
-Multimedia, interactive electronic content;
-Support for all common content types:MS Office documents: MS PowerPoint, MS Word, etc, HTML, PDF, RTF; Flash, ActiveX, Java applets; Images, movies and sound.
-Import/export:Content packages, miscellaneous media files, archives/folders of resources for easy redistribution; Supports major eLearning standards.
-Content aggregation:Derive own, personalized courses from existing components; Create completely new courses.
-Support for management and search in large sized dictionaries and glossaries.

Management of the school and of the education
-Administration of users and user groups;
-Management of resources;
-Graphical maps for course-rooms / virtual learning spaces;
-Curricula, school records, full student information, teacher information, administrative personnel, scheduling, etc.

 

Technology choice: Standards-based technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

The evolution of society towards the amplification of its knowledge-based character poses some problems to the education and training systems which need radical solutions. In order to prepare students so as to ensure the integration of all citizens for tomorrow's society, we needed to change the traditional paradigm cantered on teaching/teacher with a new paradigm, centred on learning/student. The strategy evolved and focused on lifelong learning, and a decentralized education, whose interface is ensured not only by the educator, but also by the wide range of opportunities, provided by information and communications technologies.
The results of this process were presented in a synthetic form in a Study realized by the University of Bucharest, in collaboration with the Institute for Education Sciences, Centre for Innovation and Development in Education (TEHNE) and the Association for Education Sciences (ASTED). The latest research was conducted during August 2007 - May 2008.
The research report was focused on the way in which the new ICT resources are used in the Romanian education system for teaching and learning activities, for school collaboration and for developing specific competencies for the 21st Century for students. The results revealed a positive impact of SEI on the education system, both on teaching staff and on learners.

The evaluative research of the computerization of the Romanian educational system through the SEI Program analyzes the degree of implementation of the new technologies in terms of supply, access to ICT, how teachers use equipment and educational soft, effects on students, teachers and schools, as well as the opinions on computer-based education of those involved in the educational process.
Regarding the teachers' activity, ICT have the greatest role in facilitating the learning objectives achievement, followed by the discharge of teaching activities. Regarding the organization of the education process, the value of using ICT is pointed out by teachers especially concerning active and participative learning, as well as concerning cooperative learning.
Seven teachers out of ten (70.2%) reveal a positive impact of ICT on the learning performance at their discipline and 65% declare that they use a computer well or very well.
Another aspect revealed by the study indicates that teacher training in computer-based instruction has a significant importance. Therefore 83% of the teachers, which have followed a specialized course, relate a positive impact on students regarding the use of ICT, comparing to only 65% of teachers, which have not participated to courses focused on ICT in education.
Students consider that the most important effect of using the ICT for school lessons is the fact that they learn easier, followed very shortly by an easier understanding of content and by the fact that they develop new skills in using the computer and technology. Only 0.9% of the students, who are engaged in schools that were endowed with IT laboratories during the implementation of SEI, do not use the computers; 63% of them use the computer at school and 83% use the computer at home.
95% of the students declare they would want to use more the computer and the Internet for lessons of various disciplines. 90% of students consider that those of them which do not have access to a computer will be disadvantaged later in their professional and social lives.
The extent to which teachers are familiar with ICT and their use in the educational process is confirmed by the following results:
a) More than 95% of the teachers in high-school and gymnasium education, as well as almost 70% of the teachers in primary education use the provided SEI laboratories;
b) 17% of the teachers organize more than 6 lessons per semester in the laboratory, the most frequent situation being that of the lesson (in gymnasium) in a SEI laboratory with AeL installed.
The types of learning activities carried out in the SEI laboratories cover a more large and diverse area than in the traditional teaching system, especially with regard to the development of skills required by the guidelines of education for the knowledge society. Therefore, there are many sequences of individual work, cooperative and collaborative activities, problem-solving tasks, tasks for editing, Internet browsing, exploring and creation, product/document presentation, report etc.
This openness of the horizon beyond the limits of the formal curriculum may be a valuable starting point for school counselling and students' professional pre-orientation.
Teachers and managers consider that computers make the learning process more efficient, facilitate the individual learning and promote the collaborative education. Also teachers consider that the SEI program offers new possibilities for evaluating the pupils' progress in school and prepares them for long life learning.
By using IT&C resources, the teaching process became more interactive and improved the traditional methods in order to build a modern system that promotes the principle of building one's own knowledge.
The SEI Program is targeting schools while being integrated in a larger effort that includes universities, public institutions and other organizations. The immediate benefits refer to an increase in the IT literacy of the population, especially young generation. It is also targeting the future, since it is focused on school pupils. Schools already became local knowledge IT-enabled centers.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

In order to assure the efficacy of such a large project, the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation adopted a series of best practice approaches, by engaging in the process dedicated specialists in dealing with implementation, technical assistance and support, training, reporting, change management and communication. All the phases of the project were evaluated by specialists in order to improve the methodology and further steps.

SEI project has successfully accomplished six phases of implementation, each one being developed as a strategic step for improving the Romanian educational system.
The project was chronologically split in 6 phases:
•1st Phase, 2001-2002 was the pilot phase of the project, in which IT laboratories was implemented in 120 schools of different levels.
•In the 2nd Phase, 2002-2003, 1.100 high-schools were equipped with complete IT laboratories.
•In the 3rd Phase, 2003-2004, the project was implemented in 290 of vocational high-schools.
•In the 4th Phase, 2005-2007, the project was implemented in 3.270 secondary schools and upgraded in the high-schools in which it was previously implemented.
•In the 5th Phase of SEI, 2008-2009, 8.191 schools nationwide were equipped with state-of-the art laboratories, and 75.940 computers were deployed with latest technology.
•The Rural Phase implemented in 2007-2008, in which 1.974 schools from rural area were equipped with modern IT laboratories.

Each phase of the project respected a standard implementation methodology, but each brought a big improvement compared to the previous phases. These improvements consisted in either a strengthened methodology or the development of the project's components (like new software applications, or new multimedia content, or new training programs) or changes in the weights of different components in the project (like moving the focus from technology to pedagogical issues).
With over 4 million end-users nationwide and over 140,000 teachers trained, the SEI Program, initiated by the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation in Romania and implemented by SIVECO Romania, benefits from unique references and parts of the SEI project has been replicated in projects worldwide.

The SEI Program and the AeL eLearning solution were highly appreciated at national and international level, as one of the most advanced eLearning projects in the world.

Cyprus: national eLearning platform
-700 schools (secondary and VET)
-130,000 students
-150,000 parents
-20,000 teachers
-Learning Gateway (SharePoint, AD, Exchange, ISA)
-AeL LMS, Collaboration in Greek
-AeL eContent - 540 courses in Greek language/curricula, for 13 subjects

United Arab Emirates: implementation of the national educational portal
-Partnership between Microsoft Gulf, ITQAN, ITWORX, SIVECO
-SharePoint Portal for 30,000 students
-Reliable source of information for pupils, teachers and parents
-Offers accurate up-to-date information referring to the latest events from the educational area
-2,000 Learning Objects in Arabic integrated in MSLG

Morocco: eLearning and eContent pilot
-3 schools, 90 learning objects in French and Arabic

Azerbaijan: Education Pilot
-AeL eContent, LMS, School Management

Lebanon: Examinations Management

 

 

Lessons learnt

The SEI Program implementation is a very complex process and there have been many critical aspects to be dealt with during its various phases, derived both from the Program's scope and scale.
Using eLearning solutions became a compulsory component for accomplishing the objectives set in the Lisbon Summit that forecast that until 2010, Europe should become the most competitive information economy. In this context introducing IT&C resources in the Romanian schools represented a first necessary step in creating an authentic knowledge society, competitive at European level.
The implementation of the SEI Program emphasized the need of a coherent, long term strategy for the national educational system. The focus was set on the teaching/learning process, not on equipping schools with hardware. Pedagogical value was added to the program by equipping the computers with educational software, high levels of multimedia and interactive content. Standardization had to be applied to all components.
Since the teachers have the strongest impact to determine the use of IT to promote or block the project, special measures had to be taken in order to ease the transfer of knowledge/training. Tens of training sessions for expert teachers and school inspectors were held in order to provide teachers the opportunity of developing the necessary competencies. All high schools were included in information campaigns, which included direct mailing, visual, audio and printed media. Training courses were introduced in life-long learning curricula for teachers (general computer skills and the use of ICT).
SEI Program had to adapt and enable trans-disciplinary approaches to teaching global issues, in order to ensure a labour market-oriented approach to educational national policies. Efforts had to be made to encourage the use of innovative teaching and learning techniques and to stimulate creativity among teachers and students by offering a general framework for development of collaborative projects. In this way the people enrolled in the educational system have the chances to participate directly in the development of the information society.
One of the major risks faced was not that computers were not provided in sufficient number (which is a risk itself), but that the computers might have been misused, or - worse - not used at all.
Also, change management was an essential component in the implementation of the SEI project. A very strong emphasis was put on: integration of the IT solutions in the educational system and the acceptance of interactive resource as a special tool (considering its power), but still another tool (and not the only one), for use by the teacher and the pupil in the teaching and learning process, together with the blackboard and with the piece of chalk.
It is significant to notice that the greatest challenge faced by the SEI Program is not the hardware distribution, Internet connecting or software implementation, but the people that work in the educational system that had to be convinced of the importance of using IT&C.
For this project to continue the Ministry of Education, Research and Innovation has to convince the stakeholders to accept the technology, by promoting the good practices and find those organizations and people that have the power, authority and will to get involved and carry on the program.

Scope: National