Title SME.net.pl – Increasing usage of the Internet among SMEs in Eastern and North Eastern Poland through innovative blended learning
Project Number PL/07/LLP-LdV/TOI/140012
Project Type Transfer of Innovation
Marketing Text SME.net.pl
The SME.net.pl project aims at:
1. development of innovative blended learning content on e-business skills;
2. set-up of a virtual learning environment, where SMEs will be able to interact with trainers and other participants in between classes;
3. validation of the quality of the training program through a pilot training of 72 representatives of SMEs in the three regions, in a 10-month long blended learning program;
4. evaluation of business impacts of training (new company webpages set up, new e-commerce activities launched etc.) to show tangible benefits an intelligent use of the web can bring to a small or medium-sized businesses;
5. dissemination of results of the project to all organizations and institutions supporting development of entrepreneurship and innovation in the three respective regions.
Experiences of the Polish partners in the consortium point to the fact that the apparently obvious solution to the aforementioned challenges – providing traditional training support to SMEs, will not deliver the desired result - a higher use of the Internet and improved level of e-business skills, and for several reasons:
- SMEs are reluctant to devote time of their management and/or employees to training, because traditional classroom training is considered incompatible with their real-life problems (in fact research shows that only 0,9% of Polish SMEs are willing to invest in training of employees ).
- Even if SME managers and employees are willing to undertake training, they are often very busy and have problems in devoting enough working time to classroom training (in fact, if you are a manager of a micro-company this could mean you have to close your business for a couple of days). In other words the opportunity costs are very high.
- Lesson from previous training projects is such that training needs to be embedded in a more tangible context. There has to be an visible and instant business benefit from learning. It cannot be learning for the sake of learning. New knowledge must be swiftly transformed into action to create improvements to the participating SMEs.
Thus, an innovative and more flexible approach has to be provided in order to bridge the digital gap between Polish SMEs and SMEs in countries such as Spain or Finland.
The project targets SMEs in the three regions: podlaskie, lubelskie and warminsko-mazurskie. Specifically we would like to target companies in the following sectors: manufacturers of furniture (a strong industry in Podlaskie and in the Warmia-Mazury region), hotels & restaurants (an important sector in Warmia-Mazury), eco-tourism and manufacturing of organic food (sectors of growing importance in Lubelskie and Podlaskie).
According to the information gathered by the Voivodship Offices in the three target regions, the principal needs of our target groups, from the perspective of our project’s objectives, are the following:
1. SMEs need to increase sales in what they perceive as competitive and price-sensitive markets;
2. SMEs have to enhance their financial stability by improving effectiveness (e.g. lower unit costs of sales) and increasing their margins (e.g. through accessing new clients and markets and improving their market image);
3. SMEs seek support, through training and one-to-one consulting, to be able to apply internet-based solutions/tools/services to their companies;
The SME.net.pl project addresses all of the above concerns.
By establishing a learning environment that provides a business context and guidance throughout the entire learning process, we will assure that each and every one of the participating SMEs will set up very tangible objectives for its participation in the project and will maintain a focus on it throughout the entire time.
Rather than basing on outcomes of one particular projects we have identified in this partnership a number of projects the results of which will form the basis for the SME.net.pl. project. Our added value is to synthesize findings from these multiple projects and apply them in a new context.They include for example projects which were related to e-business or e-work; for example: Development Programme of e-Business (ESF), New Opportunities of e-Business (Electronic Business IV) wireless technology and functional service concepts, Data Secure e-Business (Electronic Business III), SEAMLESS or COMIST (both - 6th Framework Programme) Electronic Business I and II and Electronic Commerce and Telework Trends (ESPRIT-programme) have brought expertise, knowledge and models for utilizing Internet for business, which we intend to use. (eg. in case of the SEAMLESS project we will capitalize on knowledge SEAMLESS has built about easy, intuitive and context-aware e-collaboration for (clusters/networks of) SMEs)Moreover, we have chosen to base our project on two innovative ideas: blended training and the virtual learning environment. Both go much beyond other, ‘standard’ approaches of using ICT in the learning processes (eg. CD-ROMs). The blended learning is a combination of multiple approaches to learning, for example:- self-paced, collaborative or inquiry-based study. In our case, the blended learning will be applied by the use of 'blended' virtual (compare the VLE description below) and physical resources. Even though the concept is not new, its usage in Poland has been close to none. Within the SISINE project one of the first pilots (among SMEs in the Wielkopolska region) is being executed now. In SME.net.pl we are going to use the experiences acquired within SISINE.
The VLE concept looks at the learning process holistically, not only pushing the ICT use in learning but also giving proper recognition to the pedagogical aspects of learning. The VLE will hence add a lot of value to the training process (details provided in section C2.2). We will especially take advantage of several important features of the Nexe’s VLE, such as multi language capability, flexibility from an administrative point of view (it has the capability of adjusting the codification of users depending on the type of company /project), flexibility from a content creation point of view (functionalities prepared to add new material to the training process, to plan the training process).
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Information and Communication
program or curricula