Monday, June 11, 2007

On "No More Jam"

Back in March the BBC took the decision to suspend BBC Jam its online interactive learning service for 5 to 16 year olds. It was said that Jam had 170,000 users.

At the time there was quite a fuss about the possible loss of jobs and loss of educational provision. I remember that in Scotland and Wales some comment was made about the loss of Welsh and Gaelic language resources. Commercial providers of online interactive learning had complained to the European Commission and the BBC suspended production.

Seb Schmoller wrote to the BBC asking for further information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The data provides much food for thought. As Seb quite rightly states the killer fact is the extraordinarily low average weekly use per registered user. Jam may well have had 170,000 registered users, but they weren't really using the service provided, were they?

Once again we are faced with a set of statistics that show us how difficult / impossible it is to determine the use of an online service. We should also note that service providers who have access to meaningful statistics are reluctant to release all their data. Registered users doesn't mean what it says ........... all too often registered users are people (like me) who register (because we have to); have a look round; decide we don't like it and never go back again. Compare and contrast with the discussions about Second Life users, or the number of blogs in the world.

What was the budget for Jam? How did they spend it? Did it provide value for money?

As an ex provider of primary education (in another life) I found the graph of registered users by school year interesting and revealing. The peaks and troughs are quite telling. A peak at Year One, (why no Foundation Stage), a peak at Year Six (preparation for SATS in England or development of independent learning skills?), then an extraordinary decline as the children join the secondary school system. Jam just wasn't doing what it said on the jar.

The graph showing the number of unique users by week, although difficult to read shows troughs and peaks that presumably reflect the school year, the troughs clearly show holidays, suggesting that most Jam users came via schools. Not much evidence of independent out of school learning here.

For those of us in Wales, the preferred language stats might be of interest. Seven hundred and eighty one registered users declared their preferred language as being Welsh, that's 0.47%!
No registered users declared their preferred language as Gaelic.
(update 22.30 ......... apologies I've just realised Gaelic was not offered as a preferred language)

I'm no statistician.
Someone else can analyse those figures.

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