Successful Campus CMS Implementation Spawns Community Education

Tameside College is a further education college just outside Manchester, England. Further Education colleges are similar in many ways to community colleges in the United States. With 3000 full-time and 14,500 part-time students, Tameside offers preparation for university as well as specialized workforce skills training.

During their implementation of a WebCT system, Tameside faced the challenge of a faculty with limited IT experience, as well as a student body with limited exposure to any online learning technology. The campus had a goal of providing students with access to courses, research, quizzes, and other learning materials from home or outside class.

Starting from scratch, Tameside selected a single volunteer from each of its ten schools to for training on the WebCT system and online course development. Identified by the campus as "champions," the volunteers received paid hours off from class instruction during the training process.

Courses were rolled out slowly; one of the first successful courses was developed entirely in Microsoft Word. However, as the faculty and the campus became more comfortable with the technology, the sophistication of the course materials within the CMS increased.

From the Campus to the Community
As the campus programs developed, campus officials began work on a "Passport to Learning" program to bring online learning to town residents. The target population for this two-year nationally funded pilot program was town residents who couldn't or wouldn't go to college. Providing improved employment prospects was an important motivation in offering the Passport to Learning program.

Unlike the campus environment, Tameside faced the major challenge of attracting individual learners. The original plan had individual residents accessing Passport courses from home or from one of 80 outreach centers. The early focus on individuals did not produce the hoped for participation.

A shift in emphasis to working with local employers, volunteer group, health services, and other organization that need to train people, increased the reach of Passport. Companies are now offering orientation and training courses. Other organizations are using quiz modules to assess literacy and other job skills. Volunteer organizations are now training their staffers. Many offered courses are short in duration. One-day training sessions have been highly rated by program managers.

However, not all courses are closely tied to companies or organizational vocational needs. Local residents are taking courses for enrichment or pleasure. The college is pleased with the ease in which residents have taken to online learning. They cite as an example a 101-year-old man who is taking a writing course with virtually no problem in learning the ins and outs of online learning.

In the end, all of Tameside is benefiting, the college and the community.

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