Educational Networks
Vision and Reality

Vladimir Batagelj, University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Alenka Žibert, Primary school of Cvetko Golar, Škofja Loka, Slovenia
Vladislav Rajkovič, University of Maribor, Faculty of Organizational Sciences, Kranj, and Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Borut Čampelj, National Education Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Uses Unicode/ISO-10646; to see correctly install Opentype - MS Free core fonts for the Web.

Abstract: Initially the main goal of educational networks was a distribution of educational materials; but later the communication and connection among educational users started to prevail. In the paper some existing educational networks were reviewed, their contents and services were critically compared. The intention of the analysis was to identify their strenghts and weaknesses and to articulate the guidelines for educational network developers. These experiences were also applied to redesign of Slovenian education network. Besides the local/national networks a global international educational network should be established.

Keywords: information technology, education, networks,

Educational Networks

The first educational services on the Internet were established around 1989?. They were based on the protocols such as FTP, Gopher and Veronica. The appearance of HTTP protocol and GUI based browsers (Mosaic and later Netscape, ...) in 1993 resulted in rapid growth of the use of Internet. Among others several educational networks were established in different parts of the world. For example: Initially the main goal of such networks was a distribution of educational materials; but later the communication and connection among educational users started to prevail. Beside this the following goals: Internet as a teaching tool, curricula informatization, active network usage (take and contribute), computer mediated communications, collaboration among schools, teachers and students, are also important (Johansson, 1996; Oertel, 1995; Walker, 1995).

Services and Contents of Educational Networks

The goals of an educational network (EN) are reflected in services and contents that it provides. Usually the following categories can be found:


Provides basic information on goals and concept of the network, including instructions and hints for its efficient use.


There are two basic types of links: links to institutions (servers) and links to contents (subject pages and materials).
Besides connecting schoolnet servers and materials on them, an educational network provides connections also to other ENs, servers at institutions related to education (ministry, museums, archives, art galleries, libraries,...), news and media services. An important component are also institutions supporting the informatization of schools (technical support, manuals and instructions,...)
Links are usually organized in indexes or catalogues. In catalogues the information is searched by search engines.
An essential building block of an educational network are websites of individual schools. Common elements of such websites are: addresses, staff, school council, school calendar and time table, contact hours, curricula, health care, safety regulations, school and free-time activities.

Distribution and exchange of resources

There are two different views on resources: Beside this other classifications can be important, such as: commercial/demo/free; format (text, picture, sound, ...).
Educational network should provide easy access to resources needed by users. The process of finding of appropriate materials can be alleviated by collecting additional information about quality, ways of use, users opinions.


Educational network should provide an effective platform where teachers exchange their experiences, opinions and materials. The content and communication possibilities are offering new challenges of professional development.


Internet is a rich source of tests (with answers), short lecture notes and of information for students projects. It also gives a lot of opportunities for entertainment and communications with friends.


Parents should find on the EN general information about the school and its activities. The support of communication with teachers, advisory services and other parents is also a part of the service.

On-line Communications

Internet offers different possibilities for communication: mail, mail-lists, bulletin boards, conferences (notes, chat, video), hypertext (passive, active, interactive), cooperation tools. On this basis special user services can be established, such as communication with experts, parents corner, projects communications,...

An important activity animating international communication among kids are projects such as: KIDLINK, I*EARN - The International Education and Resource Network, ESP - The European Schools Project, NetD@ys, EUN
On-line communications and interactivity opened new dimensions in distance learning, which became complementary to other learning possibilities.


Info on the net consists of frequently required information about: development projects, instructions, manuals, guidelines (computerization of school, Intranet) glossaries, vocabularies, events (competitions, contests, performances).
A special part of Info are different Statistics, where data are centrally condensed and graphically presented: number of schools with server or web site; web news paper; educational materials and projects; clicks (number of visits of the site).

Free time activities

Free time activities make an EN more attractive for kids and supports learning by playing. Forms: lumber room, games, web news papers, competitions, entertainment.


For nonenglish based networks it is important to have an english window into a network.

Organizational issues

Forms of network administration

In establishing and maintenance of an EN the following areas of activities are important: technical support, concept and strategy, coordination with users and supporters (education of local server administrators), promotion and animation, collection and analysis of information about the usage of EN in order to improve its performances.

There is no ideal organization form. It depends on network goals, strategy, concepts and the environment in which the network is established (financial support and trained staff). The design of network structure should be flexible to allow easy growth in different directions.


An EN should be attractive. This can be achieved by different animation activities such as: quizzes, competitions, events, contests, projects, hot news, schoolnet newspapers, on-line meetings, ..

User interface

The quantity, quality and extent of information provided by an EN is expected to reach 'critical mass'. An EN is not merely a collection of links and information - its organization should be simple and structured providing in a standardized way a quick and easy access to frequently used data and services. This contributes towards increased user's sense of ability of effective use of EN. An important dimension of an EN are interactivity and openness to contributions of users. The implementation of EN should consider limitations of available browsers and diversity of users.

EN provides connections among schools, educational institutions and other ENs thus encouraging to exchange ideas and to motivate its active use. On the other hand students should be properly directed in network use and informed about possible pitfalls.

Nonenglish ENs have usually the language and alphabet problem. Unicode combined by the OpenType fonts and the FACE attribute in the HTML tag FONT is the right solution for the alphabet problem. The language problem is more difficult. On one hand nonenglish users sooner or later come across with english based materials. Here comes an opened question about the right mixture between the native and english based materials. On the other hand the use of network somehow determines the way and the structure of communication what influences the changes in language habits, which can lead to the impoverishment of the language.

Redesign of Slovenian Educational Network

In 1994 the Slovenian government started the six years project Information Technology in Slovenian Schools (Batagelj and Rajkovič, 1996; Batagelj et al., 1997). The aim of the project is to rise the level of computer supported informatisation mainly in elementary and secondary schools. To support the project aims (collaboration among schools; collection, evaluation and distribution of educational materials; distance learning, ...) we started in October 1995 to organize Slovensko izobraževalno omrežje - SIO (Slovenian Education Network) (Batagelj, Brodnik, and Lokar, 1996).

Already from the beginning we started with the idea that every user should also contribute to the growth of a network. To support this idea we developed Trubar - a system of programs for Windows to build, search and maintain the catalogues - collections of units described by list of properties (dictionaries, directories, lexicons, catalogues, inventories, glossaries, ...). Trubar is freely available at: Tools, like Trubar, automatize the life of catalogues. Also users-nonprogramers can easily establish catalogues with data of her/his interest on her/his server.

This year analysing our network according to guidelines, presented in the previous section, we reached the conclusion that the organization scheme of SIO should be redesigned in order to better match user's needs. The new SIO can be found at address


What is the goal? We believe that it is in the circulation of information without boundaries. For this purpose the following preconditions are needed: Educational process on all levels can significantly contribute to the operationalization of this goal. Internet is a widely offered educational tool which embraces educational networks as its specialized services. ENs enable the realization of educational goals in full potential as well as to show young people how to work and live together in a global community with existing differences and equalities.

Since the Internet is global by its nature it presents a natural framework for realization of these ideas and concepts. On the local / national level ENs provide a platform for better teaching and collaboration. But for a global level a Network of educational networks is needed.

In the paper we also wanted to provide some guidelines for ENs and their possible interconnections.


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