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HP Awarded Massive e-Learning Project

In the biggest push to date to improve the efficiency of the world's classrooms, Hewlett-Packard was awarded a $100 million contract Wednesday by the Northern Ireland government to launch and maintain the technology aspect of Classroom 2000 (C2K), a massive education improvement undertaking to bring information technology to all the schools in Northern Ireland.

C2K was commissioned by the Ministry of Education as part of the existing CLASS Project (Computerized Local Administration System for Schools) launched in the 1990s, and involves all state schools.

The aim of the ten-year project is to enable every child in Northern Ireland from kindergarten through university level to have an Internet address and access to virtual classrooms.

According to an HP spokesperson, that number rounds out to about 400,000 users.

If all goes as planned, by 2008 most children in Northern Ireland will have actively experienced features such as video conferencing and posting contributions in the virtual classroom, and teachers, students, and families will be connected from their home or school to the Internet.

Other bonuses for all those involved in the Northern Ireland educational system include access to digital materials and curriculum content, subscriptions to online libraries, educational collaboration through e-mail, text, and video conferencing, and according to HP, children will have easier access to learning resources inside and outside the school environment.

According to the HP spokesperson, in addition to the initial $100 million that HP will pocket to set the adaptive infrastructure in place and get the project going over the next five years, there is the potential to make an additional $200 million in upgrades, future installments, and a more extensive build-out of the infrastructure.

Partnering with HP on this massive undertaking is Germany-based Hyperwave, a supplier of e-learning software. Hyperwave reportedly beat out 62 competing e-learning software providers for the job.

For a cool $15.5 million, Hyperwave will provide its eKnowledge software infrastructure for C2K, which will effectively link together 1,280 schools, an estimated 330,000 pupils, and 20,000 teachers.

Hyperwave maintains additional partnerships with IBM, Unisys, Siemens Business Services, and KPMG.

Hyperwave's infrastructure will make it possible for teachers to interact with students with special needs or students who are prevented from even going to school in the first place. According to Hyperwave, student performance can more easily be monitored, which will ultimately benefit teacher and student alike.

"As well as reducing teachers' administration loads, the opportunity of communicating through a digital medium will help break down social exclusion barriers by giving all pupils the chance to gain digital literacy," said Christoph Michel, CEO of Hyperwave. "C2K is a major project providing the vital infrastructure to ensure that young people acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed beyond school and into their working lives."

For added support, HP has hired England-based Amaze, an Internet technology services company that specializes in e-learning services, for the visual and functional design of C2K and for the integration of the Hyperwave hub software.

C2K also marks one of the largest installations of Microsoft Exchange.