A pattern that's tailored to fit

Learndirect and its university partners bring bespoke education to the workplace, says Liz CLose

Uniting education with the needs of employers and the economy is nothing new to online training provider learndirect. As part of its goal to help reduce the UK's skills gap, it has pioneered a service called Learning through Work to bring higher education into the workplace via online technology.

It has partnered with nine universities to offer skills-based learning to undergraduates and postgraduates. The number of partner universities could reach 15 by the end of this year.

Judy Saxton, Learning through Work manager, says: "Because learners use real work projects in their programmes, Learning through Work is opening the door to higher learning to the business market. Although existing university modules or employers' in-house courses can be incorporated, learning is tailored to the specific needs of the employer and the individual. As well as full awards, shorter credit-bearing programmes can be developed, which employers often prefer."

The House of Commons Education and Skills Select Committee suggested last year that a demand-led approach coupled with a blended learning experience, including internet and traditional learning methods, was the key to success in online higher learning. Learning through Work is designed to do this.

A learner support environment allows individualised learning contracts to be developed. Although it is not a store for courses, it does incorporate a range of online learning resources in generic areas.

The online learning content can be used to form the basis of credit-rated modules, either individually or mixed and matched to suit a particular learner or group. The technology offered through the learndirect system means that Learning through Work can offer well-supported programmes to distant learners.

"Learning through Work is a powerful tool for widening participation and employer engagement, bringing in people who wouldn't otherwise participate in higher education," Saxton says.


  • More than 2,500 people have registered and developed Learning through Work contracts
  • More than 600 have graduated with Learning through Work to date
  • 38 per cent of students are individuals, 62 per cent part of employment-based cohorts
  • 62 per cent are at undergraduate level, 38 per cent at postgraduate level
  • There are 80-plus business-based cohorts
  • 81 per cent of current students have all or part of their fees paid by employers
  • More than 550 employers are involved, 33 per cent of those in small and medium-sized enterprises.

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