eLearning solutions are a growing part of WSOY's educational offering. The internet-based Opit learning environment, aimed at Finnish comprehensive schools, is one of the most important eLearning projects in WSOY. WSOY's Polish subsidiary, Young Digital Poland, concentrates on eLearning content production.

In Finland ICT skills are included in the new framework curriculum for comprehensive schools. The roles of both information processing skills and learning are clearly changing in schools.

Opit is an internet-based eLearning environment planned especially for schools. With Opit's content and tools, schools can benefit from ICT in classrooms or organise distance learning sessions. Opit includes a basic package, which enables an instant introduction to the service. The package includes materials for 47 courses in the main subjects taught at various levels in Finnish schools.

- With the basic content package we ensure that the service contains relevant material when it is taken into use. Later on teachers can produce their own content or buy additional material packages. Pupils also produce content by doing exercises and group work, Publishing Manager Otto Mattsson from Opit says.

Using Opit does not require any special ICT knowledge. Each user has his/her own registration code. The service can be used on any computer with an internet connection and a suitable browser.

Opit also offers tools for communication between home and school. Four classes in Finland are finding out how well Opit works when parents also use it.

User friendly service

The Opit service was launched in October 2001. At the moment it has more than 60 communities and about 69,000 individual users around Finland. Long-term, large-scale user agreements have been made with Tampere and Espoo. Both cities decided to introduce the Opit service for all their students. - At the moment we are negotiating with some ten communities about the Opit service, says Mikko Laine, Senior Vice President of eWSOY.

The actual decisions about buying Opit are always made at the community level. - Our challenge is to help teachers to recognise the value-added that Opit offers for them, Laine says. The selling process of Opit starts with piloting, in which teachers' experiences and needs are taken into account.

- During piloting we also check that the computers and programs used at schools can support Opit, adds Mattsson.

eContent from Poland

In addition to the Opit environment, eLearning materials are also a growing area of WSOY's portfolio. Young Digital Poland (YDP) is one of the leading producers of interactive teaching materials in the world. YDP develops and publishes material packages for eLearning, software for language courses, and technical solutions for eLearning.

YDP concentrates on producing eLearning content for large publishers. Depending on the situation and needs of the customer, YDP provides publishers with content for their platforms or with content on YDP's own platform. - Language programs used to play the main role in YDP's product range but nowadays they are only 20% of its portfolio, Laine says.

Perception of learning tightly connected with the culture

The learning material market in Central Europe is very competitive. - Some signs of increasingly tough competition can be seen in Finland, Laine says.

According to Laine, materials will play an important role in learning in the future. The perception of learning varies in different countries and cultures. The definition of a good pupil or a good teacher differs a lot. A good way of teaching or learning in Finland can be totally the opposite in France, for example.

- In short, the further south you go in Europe, the more teacher-oriented the learning style, Laine says.

In Malaysia, where learning is very strongly teacher-led, YDP has developed an eLearning environment just for teachers, where they can find support and ready-made materials for teaching in English.

Text: Anna Mäkelä and Tiina Tuomainen