Online university courses will be extended so that they can be used by schools, heralding a digital revolution in the way children learn, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie announced today.
The move will ensure that every school pupil has the opportunity to study a course which inspires them. Mr Rennie set out his plans as he toured exhibits at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.
The Lib Dem plan would commission Scottish universities to extend their massive open online courses (MOOCs) - short, free-access interactive courses delivered by experts on the web - so that they can be used by school pupils.
This would involve the creation of new content suitable for school-age learners and ensuing that schools in more remote areas can benefit through increased access to superfast broadband.
Mr Rennie said: “Expanding access to MOOCs to older school pupils would open young minds and provide them with a new world of opportunity.
“This change would be a digital revolution in the classroom and help get Scotland fit for the future. This is not about replacing traditional classroom learning. It is about complementing the hard work that teachers do in our classrooms.
“Teachers do fantastic work in classrooms up and down the country but staffing and financial pressures necessarily limit the opportunities that pupils have to shape their own education.
“Online courses have long been highly effective at increasing the life chances of people who would previously not have been able to enter further or higher education, and they are also highly effective as on-the-job training. We have seen MOOCs used by women in places like Saudi Arabia whose access to formal education is restricted but also by the civil service here in Scotland, and by businesses like Marks and Spencer for training purposes. The beauty of MOOCs for school pupils is that they can explore topics they are studying in a new and exciting way.
“Lib Dems want every child to have the chance to study subjects which inspire them. Many pupils will find inspiration from reading about Rabbie Burns or Adam Smith in a book at school. But people learn in different ways and the way we educate children should reflect this fact.
“That is what our plan to massively increase access to online courses would offer.”