Education Departments' Superhighways Initiative

The Education Departments' Superhighways Initiative (EDSI) was a project initiated by the previous Government to explore the potential of communications technologies in education and help shape its use in the future.

EDSI consisted of 22 educational projects making use of medium and broadband technology which were submitted in response to the Secretary of State for Education's January 1995 challenge to British education to exploit the potential of a UK education superhighway. Three further projects were subsequently added to the initiative.

Reports relating to these projects can be found on the EDSI area of the National Grid for Learning (NGfL).


In January 1995, the Secretary of State for Education issued an invitation at the British Educational Technology and Training (BETT) exhibition to the telecommunications, cable, broadcasting, information and multimedia industries to work with the education community to develop pilot projects which use education superhighways. In April 1995 the UK Education Departments published the consultation document 'Superhighways for Education', raising the debate about the potential of new broadband networks for education and training, and inviting responses from industry and education as well as the submission of fully-funded pilot projects for independent evaluation. The Education Departments published 'Superhighways for Education: the Way Forward' in November 1995 which summarised the responses to the consultation document and described the pilot projects to be evaluated. The National Council for Educational Technology (NCET, the forerunner of Becta) was commissioned to act as the agent in managing the evaluation of EDSI. The Scottish Council for Educational Technology managed the evaluation of projects in Scotland.

The Projects

The 25 projects initially selected for EDSI evaluation comprised 19 in England, 2 in Wales, 2 in Northern Ireland and 2 in Scotland. More than £12 million was invested in the projects, the funding in most cases coming from industry (with more than 70 sponsors) but also from grants (for example, Competitiveness Fund), from the participating schools and colleges themselves or local authorities. Over 480 institutions, including about 290 primary schools, more than 130 secondary schools, around 30 colleges, and half a dozen or so higher education institutions and more than 150,000 learners including some with special needs, took part in the projects.

Three criteria were applied in selecting the projects:

  • The educational clarity and relevance of the project
  • The type of technology to be used, at least intermediate band (for example, ISDN)
  • A guarantee by the proposers that the project was fully funded, thus demonstrating a commitment to the development of online applications and services for education.

The projects were formed into five groups for evaluation purposes, these groups focusing on different aspects of education:

  1. Curriculum projects based mainly in the primary and secondary sectors (9 projects)
  2. Vocationally focused projects for secondary school pupils, FE students and adult learners (10 projects)
  3. Projects focusing mainly on teachers' professional development (2 projects)
  4. Projects based on links between schools, homes and the wider community (3 projects)
  5. Projects based in higher education (1 project).

The group A projects were further subdivided, with the two Scottish Projects being evaluated separately.

Since the projects were selected, another three were incorporated into the EDSI evaluation:

  • Lingu@NET
  • Educational Internet Service Providers (EISP)
  • Multimedia Portables for Teachers Project (MPFTP).

Evaluation of EDSI

There were four related aims of the EDSI evaluation:

  • To assess the potential of intermediate and broadband technologies to enrich teaching and learning in a variety of contexts including school, college, at home or in the workplace
  • To identify those services and applications that provide the greatest benefit
  • To identify optimum conditions and strategies for the successful implementation of broadband networks, services and applications and to disseminate those lessons
  • To recommend future directions for industry and the education service for the wider implementation of such networks as they become available and affordable.

The six teams of evaluators began working with the projects in spring 1996, and most evaluations continued until spring 1997.

The reports relating to these projects can be found on the EDSI area of the National Grid for Learning (NGfL).

The Department for Education and Skills also has a research site, where you can find information on the Department's research strategy, current research programme, and research publications.

If you wish to send in your views about any of these reports, or suggest additional resources, please go to the Contributions and Feedback page.

Other websites, documents and sources of information in the field of ICT research and educational research generally can be found on the Links to Further Resources page.