Funding to research online learning for the socially excluded

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NIACE (the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) has been awarded a grant of £396,199 by the Community Fund to investigate the potential of online learning to overcome social exclusion. The Community Fund is the operating name of the National Lottery Charities Board, which distributes money raised by the National Lottery to support charities and voluntary and community groups.

The project will explore different online teaching methods across Britain. NIACE and the Open University in the East of England will be working together on the three-year Overcoming Social Exclusion through Online Learning research project. It will investigate who takes part in online learning and their reasons for taking part; who goes on to successfully complete courses; and how students respond to different online techniques and different subjects.

Roger Mills, regional director of the Open University in the East of England, said: "This is a real opportunity to understand further the way in which online learning can help
to widen participation and we are very pleased to be able to work with NIACE on this project."

Alan Clarke, of NIACE, said of the project: "Online learning has the potential to overcome many of the barriers which disadvantaged adults face. However, we need far more evidence about how to exploit this potential to ensure that the benefits are maximised. Online learning is often perceived to be a 'second chance' learning opportunity for those who were failed by the traditional education systems,
but it needs to be a successful experience or it may exclude the learner from taking part in other learning opportunities."

Project organisers are confident that their research will go on to increase the understanding among decision-makers about online learning and how it can be best used to overcome the barriers of social exclusion. Mr Clarke added: "NIACE and the Open University would like to acknowledge the Community Fund for supporting this project - it will be a real case of Lottery money making a difference."

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