SCHOLAR offers a range of fully online courses at Scottish Intermediate, Standard and Higher levels. Initiated in 1999 by the Mathematics department at Heriot-Watt University it started by concentrating on revision and support materials for Mathematics and broadened to encompass a wider range of STEM subjects. Over the past ten years the course offer has been extended to other curriculum areas and courses currently offered on the website cover
Its web site is at http://scholar.hw.ac.uk
- Human Biology
- Information Systems
- Art & Design (Textiles)
- Business Management
- ESOL (English for speakers of other languages)
SCHOLAR operates as a supplementary school, with potential students applying through their mainstream school, where they undertake an induction programme. SCHOLAR provides an integrated set of materials and services which meet the needs of both students and their teachers. These resources include:
- Comprehensive online interactive learning materials, activities, assessments and revision packs.
- The GLOW learning platform giving access to online communities, resources, monitoring information and information tools.
- Study guides which contain key reference materials and learning activities.
- Tutor notes with valuable curriculum and planning information.
A recent case study (2010) undertaken by Heriot-Watt University asserts: SCHOLAR is the largest sustainable e-learning programme for schools in the world. Created by Heriot-Watt University based in Edinburgh, it delivers cost-effective online, interactive learning courses and underpinning e-assessment to more than 400 Scottish secondary schools, both public and private, in subjects ranging from science and mathematics to business and languages. SCHOLAR is designed for 16- to 18-year-old students, to help make them college- and career-ready, and now reaches more than 90 percent of that population.
The e-learning program rests on five basic principles:
- Technology should serve the learning and accessibility needs of the student
- Assessment is inextricably linked to learning and teaching
- The student is placed firmly at the center of the e-learning strategy
- Performance is measured by improvement against national targets and international benchmarking
- The "achievement gap" between the top and lesser performing students should be reduced.
There are key lessons learned from the SCHOLAR programme that could serve as a model for the U.S. Common Core State Standards and assessment consortia include:
- creating quality e-courseware, where content and assessment are inextricably linked;
- grounding assessment policy on strong research principles;
- employing subject champions in the learning and teaching transformation;
- convincing the teaching profession of the vision for this educational paradigm;
- ensuring a strategic political structure is in place for the whole programme.
SCHOLAR is currently developing an additional set of study units targeted at young people who have completed their Highers and are waiting to take up places in higher education - these units are designed to smooth the transition from school to university by introducing students to the study skills needed for higher education and the pace of work they will need to undertake.