Questions need answers…more GLOW woes for Education Scotland
Posted September 24, 2013on:
Glow is in big trouble. The migration of the existing Glow content to it’s new home within office 365 is in complete disarray. And after spending over £100 million on the GLOW project since its inception, just why is it that we don’t have something which works?
Local authorities are exasperated and fed up with what they see as poor communication from Education Scotland, the agency tasked with leading the migration and RM, the current Glow contractor carrying out the work. There is anger that progress, pledged to take place over the summer break, simply hasn’t happened.
The current situation with Glow Plus is chaotic. How has Education Scotland managed to get into this mess and why is the communication to its users almost non-existent? I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many LA senior managers and headteachers over the past few weeks and the message I get is one of total confusion, exasperation and even anger at the chaotic situation surrounding ‘inbetweeny’ Glow (as the Microsoft/RM version is commonly known as). In fact the situation has become so dire that the learning directorate and ES were forced to write to everyone concerned about the migration of resources from the GLOW v1 MLE (Managed learning environment) over to the new Glow MLE (also based on Microsoft’s Sharepoint technology, but integrated with Office 365).
Not only can these converted resources not be read by the old Glow digital tools but there are also problems using them with the new Office 365 platform (versions of Microsoft’s Office software programs that operate in the ‘cloud’).
And as if things couldn’t get much worse, the much loved WordPress blogging platform is to disappear this December and no migration plan has been revealed for all of that data to a new blogging platform – important as many were using the blogs for their records of achievement or ePortfolios. It appears to be a double whammy – the new tools don’t work properly with the content in the new MLE, and the old, familiar, trusted digital tools have been withdrawn.
Of course, we had a flavour of what was to come well before the summer break when Highland Council had a huge problem over migrating email. As well as this, Charlie Love has detailed in a superb blog post how the potential for this disaster was identified back in early 2012 and solutions devised to prevent it happening.
Education Scotland’s Stuart Campbell and Ken Muir had assured members of the ICTEx group at a meeting at the end of 2012 that migration plans were in place and workable. If this was the case, many might ask why the potential problems were not identified in the project risk register and action plans put in place to mitigate the possible pitfalls. After all, it wouldn’t have taken a genius to have looked at the user stats and identified that the vast majority of data in GLOW was not used anymore and therefore would not needed to be migrated.
Key contacts could have been asked to instigate a ‘cull’ of resources that did not need to be migrated across their establishments. Instead of which we now have a chaotic situation where some sites are too big to migrate, and the overall huge amount of data is completely clogging up the process.
Many LA sites will be too big for the new cloud-based SharePoint based MLE, and Charlie Love’s article on these issues, which merits wide reading, reads like the script of a disaster movie! This is going to be a real problem for LAs which have made decisions about using Glow as a significant part of their intranet communications. Many of the original Glow web parts will now not exist in 365 and everybody who wants to use Glow will have to spend huge amounts of time rebuilding their sites for Office 365, which was never really designed for schools anyway.
I’m currently writing user guides for using Office 365 in Education as a part of a business project in another country, and so I am well aware that it might not the most intuitive product out there, but despite its real potential for use in schools, it is in danger of being tarred with the ‘reject’ brush here in Scotland particularly when you add this latest situation to the user engagement trials in early 2012 when although not fully developed it was pitched head to head with a much more mature product, Google Apps for Education. The Scottish Government has consistently refused to release the results of these trials, but they are nevertheless widely available despite this and show Google Apps to be the product of choice at the time.
So now the danger is that public perception of Glow will suffer yet again at the hands of inept management of the migration project by Education Scotland – yet another big project managed to disaster by this agency. If ever there was an argument for considerably reducing its remit, this must be it, because ES has effectively killed off what little confidence the Scottish education community had in GLOW. And Microsoft Office 365 could suffer the same fate by association. How embarrassed must they all be by this fiasco?
And so yet again, I find myself calling for a moratorium on any future work on GLOW and the migration project until the problems are sorted out. Any local education authority or independent school which might be thinking about how to move forward with GLOW should stop right now. In fact, I have to say that, in my opinion, they would be crazy to even consider GLOW as a part of any development planning for at least the next school year until the picture becomes clearer and the product workable.
With tablet devices becoming increasingly available, and with MLEs like Edmodo and My Big Campus gaining real traction in our schools, together with a myriad of tools and apps for education, the question has to be asked, ’Is there any use for GLOW in its current form in schools and, as Charlie Love suggests, should we not just use it as a storage ‘digital suitcase’ for any data LAs want to preserve from the old GLOW?
GlowPlus must surely now be something very distinct from anything that has gone before. A new start, with a new name. Education Scotland must up its game and build capacity as it currently does not appear to be capable of managing a national schools learning platform. Otherwise Glow Plus must be managed separately- it is just too important to suffer a repeat of past failures.
And above all, after over £100 Million has been spent on GLOW since it’s inception (and this doesn’t include the money to be paid to RM for the new secure authentication portal and two year management contract) I think the Scottish Education Community, parents and students, as well as the wider public are entitled to expect some bang for their taxpayer bucks! Or at least something which works. And after all this money has been spent, lets just pause for a moment to consider just what exactly have we got to show for all that investment at this present moment in time?
(Readers are advised to read my standard disclaimer which covers everything I write about everything – even schmoozing ! )