Schools OnLine 1995 - 96

SoL logo

The Schools OnLine Home Page was quite a revelation - a big clear (very compressed!) graphic with icons, and not the usual (for that time) deeply scrolling index of underlined links.


This key feature evolved. Our users wanted to know had created things, who each other were and we sought to do this by a dynamic "passport" that showed who you were through what you had contributed or created. A set of modern language annotations would be more valued if they came from someone who had regulalrly contributed to modern languages in SoL for example. It also showed how many folk had used, or even just visited, your contributions. At the top level of a passport you had your own Profile (below) but the "stamps" in it came from usuage and contribution.


This feature became hugely important; in a peer driven, user contributing community it helps to have markers for who to trust, who to value and who to turn to for fresh and different insights.


The annotation feature was important too. With somuch information out there - we thought the web was big then (!) - having someone with a "perspective" annotating it, building pointers and threading narratives around others' content was omportant - and has proved to be so since too.

Here for example are Carole Chapman's annotations on Gender.. We had annoators illustrating a huge range of possible narratives and perspectives - we had a Norwegian annotator, geeky views on computer modelling and much that was diverse and unexpected. Here is what we said in general about Annotations right at the start of SoL.


A place where you could just pop in, see who was a round (maybe check their passports first) then chat to then in a serendipitous was, or a planned and structured way. I think the way we handled time in SoL has yet to be properly surpassed.

Here is a very early example of how it looked in the cafe

What's New

was generated dynamically - giving that sesne of an active community constantly contributing that we now know to be so seductive in Facebook, Twitter et al. We had 60 schools with around 1,000 students participating and it seemed huge!

Talk box

Live chat was a feature - and we enabled "nearly now" chat as well as immediately synchronous chat. By SoL2, as you can see from this screengrab, the talk box had purpose too, with Project Tasks added - as you see anyone at any time could initiate a discussion

talk box

Curriculum Area

We commisioned subject expoerts to find, contribute and encourage subject specific contributions: annotations, chats, ideas, and more. Some of our unxepected stars in the curriculum areas ranged from art specialists to special educational support.

There were also five newsgroups within this curriculum area:


instant place to post reflections, bugs, ideas - very much in SoL every user was reflective user practitioner. Every user.

and then the usual details:


was a constantly updating set of advice, FAQs and problem solving tips - getting connected reliably was a constant concern of course, for everyone.


not database driven - just all the points of contact and details like that


who they were - (and they were key to allowing it alal to happen in the first place)

The overriding feature of course was the dynamic, constantly changing nature of all this - that might seem normal now but in 1995 it felt revolutionary!

this page created August 2013, project ran from 1995 = 1996 and last uopdated Wednesday, October 2, 2013 9:25 PM