Academia and the civil service: e-learning knowledge exchange

The Media Zoo has recently finished hosting a series of four awareness-raising workshops for training designers and providers in the civil service.

Several months ago, we were approached by the head of learning technology at the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) to offer guidance for her staff both on the future of learning and the array of current learning technologies as exemplified in our projects. This followed Gilly’s call to the corporate world to improve the quality of training for its workforce.

These workshops proved to be highly popular in the DWP and the civil service generally. They were conducted over two days. (I’ve posted a sample outline at the bottom of this blog entry.)

On Day 1, Ale and I concentrated on presenting the research output of our projects, before giving the participants the opportunity to engage with the technology – Second Life, podcasting, screen capture – in a mini CARPE DIEM.

On Day 2, Sandra and Gilly guided the participants in imagining the future of learning, culminating in the highly popular Google-opoly activity, an output of the CALF project.

We changed the balance of the days’ outlines  depending on the roles of the participants: learning technologists, learning designers or strategic managers.

Such was the success and appeal of the workshops, they had by the final one included representatives not only from the DWP, but also from the Highways Agency, Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service, Identity and Passport Office, Home Office, UK Borders, HMRC, and The Scottish Government.

For me, the real success lay in the knowledge exchange between our two groups. Here in academia, we have the privilege of researching things that interest us, and applying the results directly to the learner. As a trainer in the civil service, the learning criteria are significantly different, as much teaching/training is based on compliance: a learner must show they’ve undertaken and passed (but not necessarily learned from or even understood) a training module.

I learned a number of things as a result of the workshops:

  • There is huge variety between departments in the quality of training offered.
  • Reinventing the wheel is common, with many departments producing similar courses on identical subjects rather than pooling resources (one reason why OTTER and open educational resources proved so interesting to participants).
  • L&D 2012. This is the plan to consolidate and harmonise training across government.
  • Much training takes place in face-to-face situations. The deliverers of this training are reluctant to change or adapt to online teaching.  
  • The numbers are huge! For example, the DWP trainers are responsible for over 110,000 civil servants.

In the light of the dramatic budget cuts expected in the 22 June budget, I’m certain the workshops were able to offer our civil service counterparts ways and means for dramatically reducing costs and increasing the effectiveness of training.

Schedule_for_workshops (pdf)

Simon Kear
Keeper of the Media Zoo
13 June 2010

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1 Comment

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