/ only connect - STARTING POINTS \

The Only Connect project grows directly out of the research masters I am doing at Sheffield University. The course focuses very much on professional practice which presents quite a challenge for someone who works freelance. In the absence of a supporting employer my only real option was to create one. The great advantage of this was that I was free to create exactly the job I wanted, the great disadvantage was that I had to find someone who would let me do it.

/ the main idea \
First and foremost I wanted to work with students that were still of school age. Partly because this is my area of expertise and partly because, during the course, it had become clear to me that the bulk of research so far done in on-line learning was concentrated on tertiary education.

My original idea was to try to work with private home tutors - those who are brought in by parents to supplement school work, but there was an extent to which this felt like giving more support to those who were already getting a full-time education. Readers might feel that that is an un-justifiably political notion - it's not, it's simply that I saw the project as something that should have the greatest effect on the students I was dealing with as it could. It seemed to me that I could do more for those who were exclude from a 'normal' education. A swift investigation told me that home tutored students only received four hours of teaching a week and they seemed like an obvious target population of on-line learning.

The fundamental question both the Only Connect project and the dissertation address is: Can on-line learning technology and techniques in some way improve the educational experience of home-tutored students? To that I add the question: Can internet communication help to limit the social isolation I assume such students experience?