School of digital

SchoolofDigital is bringing together something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now – effective online training that brings together the advantages of e-learning with the benefits of face to face training.

It’s a hard nut to crack, but with some of the experiments I’ve been running recently with Steve DaleDavid Wilcox and others; and following the online learning thought leadership of the likes of Donald Clark, I think I’ve come up with the best balance.

Hence SchoolofDigital – which is where I’ll be running courses on innovating online, by using innovative online delivery methods. The key elements are:

  • asynchronous – learners don’t have to be in the same place at the same time
  • social and personal – as well as shared resources, content and discussion areas, learners get one to one support from the course facilitator
  • responsive – because this isn’t a pre-prepared day long course, there is the opportunity for content to be created to meet the specific needs of delegates as they arise

The first course we will be running will start at the beginning of May, and is on successful digital engagement.

Here’s a quick summary of how that course will work:

The course consists of eight lessons, which last for a week each. Total learner time per lesson is around an hour, which they can do in one chunk or spread throughout the week – it is entirely up to them. The idea is to provide a social, asynchronous learning environment  where the learner can access materials and get involved at a time that suits them, within the framework of a weekly lesson format. We do as little synchronised activity as possible, to make things as flexible as we can.

Support is provided both to the group as a whole, with discussion and sharing of experience and knowledge encouraged; and privately through email or telephone discussion between the course facilitator and learners.

Each lesson will include some or all of the following elements:

  • An introductory video introducing the topic and explaining some details
  • Downloadable templates, resources, guides and case studies
  • Links to further reading and case studies
  • Interviews with practitioners
  • Screencast demos of how to perform certain actions
  • Learner discussion areas
  • One to one private email or telephone support
  • Additional content in response to queries and requests
  • Assignments to practice learning

The eight lessons in this course are:

  1. Introductions, objectives, how the course and the platform works
  2. What is digital engagement and what defines success?
  3. Strategies for successful digtial engagement
  4. Popular platforms
  5. Emerging platforms
  6. Other tools and techniques
  7. Skills and roles
  8. Bringing it all together

The course is suitable for people already comfortable with the internet and social media, and who want to take their use of these tools to the next level in terms of meeting personal or organisational objectives.

The course costs £450 + VAT per delegate.

Innovative ways of training

I’ve been thinking about using some new ways of providing training on digital engagement stuff to those working in public services – in tandem with the traditional approach that we are taking in our workshop tomorrow.

Webinars are something I’m looking into, and I’ve written about my experiences of running them previously. What I am looking at doing is something a little more structured over a period of time.

So, how about a twelve week course on digital engagement? One webinar per week on a chosen topic, with a private discussion space so everyone can talk to each other about the topic afterwards.

Here’s a draft list of weekly topics:

  1. Introduction to digital engagement
  2. Designing your strategy
  3. Designing a policy
  4. Operational engagement plans
  5. Managing risk
  6. Developing a Facebook page
  7. Effective organisational use of Twitter
  8. Blogging for organisations
  9. Crowdsourcing and online open innovation
  10. Social media for events
  11. Social media in a crisis
  12. Community building and sustainable engagement

Would this be something you or people in your organisation would be interested in?

Also… would you (or your organisation!) be willing to pay for it? How much?

New councillor? Get the training you need online

With the elections of May 5 2011 now complete Member Development Officers need to look at the most efficient and cost effective way to train these newly elected councillors.

Modern Councillor is the online learning and support destination for councillors, people considering standing for election, or indeed anyone with a passion for local democracy provided by my pals at Learning Pool.

The service has been designed with both new and more experienced elected members in mind. A subscription to Modern Councillor provides elected members with full access to a growing catalogue of e-learning modules, at a fraction of the cost of classroom based training as well as access to our online community.

What modules are included?

All 17 of the current e-learning modules have been created alongside subject matter experts and cover areas such as Induction, Media, Community and Legislation. Specific modules include Introduction to Local Government, Your Role as a Councillor and Getting Started with Social Media. You can view a full list of the current modules available in this PDF e-learning catalogue.

Who does the community involve?

Alongside a suite of e-learning modules, Modern Councillor will now include an online community bringing together councillors, prospective councillors, co-opted members, local government officers, activists, and residents so that they can connect, share and learn together. Join the community, for free, here.

Guest Access

If you’d like Guest Access to preview the training available through Modern Councillor or any other information, please email

MDO Support Webinar

Join us for our free webinar on training and supporting your elected members on Thursday, 19 May, 2011 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM BST. Register here.

Learning Pool content jam

Learning Pool is running a ‘content jam‘ event in December in Birmingham, on Tuesday the 7th, at Fazeley Studios.

It’s a new type of event for us, and one I had a bit of a role in putting together. What I wanted to do was to take the idea of the ‘hack day’ and make it relevant for Learning Pool customers.

So, on the day, a bunch of Learning and Development folk from across local government will get together with some LP folk, and put together a brand new course, which will be finished on the day.

Some people will be writing the text for the course, others sourcing and taking photos, others producing video and interactive content.

Afterwards, the finished course will be put into the Learning Pool catalogue and made available to all our customers to access and remix for their own use.

The subject of the course is also being determined by the community, with a discussion on the lively Learning Pool forums to decide what to cover.

So if you are interested in taking part, or if you are in Birmingham anyway and fancy popping in, do either register or get in touch.

It should be a great day, and a good example of collaborative working across local government!

Saving lots of lolly with Learning Pool

Quickly grabbing some connectivity at a friend’s house, so I thought I would share this post – originally published on the Learning Pool blog – outlining just how much money the public sector has saved by working with us to deliver their training and collaboration online.


Two hundred local authorities in England and Wales have made substantial savings of £36million in their HR budgets over the last three years by using an open source platform to track and monitor delivery of their internal training programmes.

Councils have saved between £46,000 and £100,000 every year by using the Dynamic Learning Environment from Learning Pool. This service was launched in September 2007 and has been bought by small, medium and large public sector organisations. Developed on Moodle, the open source Learning Management System allows organisations to deliver and manage all kinds of learning resources and to track usage while demonstrating return on investment from training spend.

Mary McKenna, Learning Pool describes how using open source software helped:
“Open source software allowed us to create a managed learning platform that we launched on a disruptive pricing model. We set out to save councils money, and we did.”

Learners benefit from built in Web2.0 features such as wikispodcastsdiscussion forums and pollswhich can be switched on as required to provide a learning experience that goes beyond the classroom or, in the case of e-learning, the solitary computer.

The business case for open source

Stories of councils paying exorbitant fees for managing their learning prompted Learning Pool to develop this system for the public service.  Prior to 2007 councils were paying anything from £40,000 for a one year LMS contract without any support or maintenance, right up to £600,000 for the platform plus another £600,000 to implement, as experienced by a large county council in the North of England.  By comparison, the average cost of a Learning Pool DLE is £4,000 per year including set up, configuration and initial training.

Collaboratively created

Moodle was the obvious choice for the technology to underpin the DLE. Created by the open source community, this technology has quickly become the world’s favourite LMS and is deployed in thousands of organisations worldwide, including the Open University. On the first day of the launch over 50 Learning Pool customers signed up to be guinea pigs, thereby demonstrating the clear need for an affordable solution.

Their feedback, critique and requirements shaped the first launch of the platform and has continued to inform its development ever since.

Since those early days not only have no customers cancelled their contracts, over 150 more have signed up and we’ve continued to develop and enhance the platform with new updates to functionality and features, many suggested by customers themselves.

Learning Pool’s Paul McElvaney says:
“We consider ourselves to be an open source success story and we’re really proud of  what we’ve achieved. The DLE we have built gives our customers flexibility and functionality. It’s completely customisable and can be configured to meet the needs of each individual organisation in the public service.”

We work hard so you don’t have to

In today’s environment of efficiency and budget cuts a Learning Pool DLE gives time pressed HR and IT managers the ability to create management information reports to quantify progress against objectives and demonstrate ROI.

And, because the platform is hosted by Learning Pool, there are no tricky firewall or security issues to contend with and no need to worry about rolling out upgrades or software extensions – this is all taken care of centrally by Learning Pool. Feedback from Learning and Development managers who are using the system is positive.

“We’ve realised just how powerful and flexible the DLE can be, compared to our limited LMS experience of just administering learning accounts. The DLE, together with the new version of the authoring tool, will add another dimension to our e-Learning modules.”
Steve Day, Rotherham MBC

“My aim is to change the mindset of staff and managers. Those who think at all about [our DLE] probably think ‘What does it do?’I want to change that to ‘This is what I need to do in my service – how can I get [our DLE] to facilitate this?’ This would be a major step forward to using the DLE as an integral part of the business, something I believe has enormous potential.”
Simon Green, Blaenau Gwent CBC

About Learning Pool

Learning Pool is the only online learning community dedicated exclusively to the public sector. From councils to central government, we provide e-learning courses, a managed learning platform and community-led social learning solutions designed to help public sector organisational change, improve service delivery and build capacity – all with increasing efficiency.

With less than 50 employees Learning Pool is a small, agile and fast paced organisation that bears little resemblance to the Local Government Improvement and Development project where it began. Independent and grown up for four years, we kept the good stuff – the total focus on the public sector, the commitment to collaborative working, not reinventing the wheel and the name and improved the rest – not least our software and customer service.

For further information on Learning Pool’s Dynamic Learning Environment, including costs, please email or call 0207 101 9383.

Learning Pool on tour in September

LP events

September is promising to be a busy month already, with Learning Pool having scheduled in some exciting events for you to come along to.

Firstly, Elaine from our Modern Governor service is hosting a breakfast meeting in Birmingham. Find out what the latest good practice is in supporting school governors and with e-learning:

Second are a pair of breakfast briefings in Scotland. The details are:

At these events you’ll be able to hear all about how learning technology can help your organisation improve and innovative in a climate of budget cuts. Carol Woolley from Worcestershire County Council will be telling her story of how she has used Learning Pool’s services to make her life easier and her colleagues’ lives better; and I’ll be wittering on about something or other too.

Last, but undoubtably not least, is Learning Pool’s fourth birthday party in London. It promises to be a rip-roaring afternoon of networking and interesting presentations, followed by an evening of getting mullered by the Thames. You know you want to!

It’ll be great to see some DavePress readers there!

Free webinar on social care training and e-learning

A short commercial break, if you’ll excuse me. Learning Pool are rather proud of our new social care e-learning offering, and if you, or a colleague, would like to know more, we’re running a free webinar.

All the details are below:

Delivering efficiencies on your social care training has never been as important.

This free webinar will help you create a more efficient and effective way of delivering training via e-learning.

Learning Pool Social Care is a suite of e-learning designed around the delivery of the Care Pathway with the added capability of tailoring content to your audience.

In a climate where cuts in every sector is inevitable, we can demonstrate savings of up to 80% to your current training budget.  Let us show you how we can do it.

Those who sign up before 1st August 2010 can get an early bird discount of £10,000 on their subscription.  Ask us today.

Title: Need to make savings on your social care training?

Date: Thursday 22nd July 2010

Time: 2.00pm – 2.30pm GMT

To reserve your Webinar seat click here or email or call 0207 101 9383.

Webchatting in Kingston

Being part of something big is really nice sometimes. Take being on the Learning Pool team, for example. Now, quite a few people read this blog, and my gibbering on Twitter – but really, relative to the number of councils and government departments out there, it’s hardly any.

But Learning Pool have over 80% of UK councils signed up for one product or another, and from time to time I get to talk to those councils – usually by turning up to a meeting and performing, but sometimes in other ways. Normally I’d never get a chance to find out from these people what the issues are that they face, and how I might be able to help out.

I’ve spoken from my desk via a live webcam thingy using Skype, and have pre-recorded webinar type things which have been played within organisations or at meetings. Occasionally it’s a mixture of a couple of ways of interacting.

A great example of this is the work we are doing with the The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. A couple of weeks ago, RBK launched their Learning Pool based learning system, which is called Evolve. To provide some light entertainment I went along to present on the subject of all things social.


It seemed to go down pretty well – and I’m going to do a question and answer session this Friday with RBK staff on what they might want to use the social web to do, and how they can go about it. Only, I’m not going to Kingston to do it, I’ll be at home in my office, contributing to a webchat on Evolve. Here are some of the topics I’ll be covering:

1. During the presentation the other week, I showed several examples of public sector organisations engaging with citizens about the services they provide. Could your service reach out to residents in this way? What would be the advantages, and what are the barriers blocking you from doing this?

2. A major theme of my presentation was about how we can apply the tools of the social web within organisations, to improve learning, collaboration and knowledge sharing. How could these tools be used within your council and what are the issues they could help tackle?

3. An important part of any organisation’s approach to using social media is that it has the appropriate governance arrangements in place in the form of corporate strategy and user policy. What are the important things to consider when drawing up these documents? How do you think you can get buy in both from senior management and from staff?

4. I bought an iPad on Friday. Anyone want to know anything about it?

The Learning Pool system, you see, is based on a bit of open source software called Moodle, which you may well have heard of. It’s the pre-eminent learning management system, used widely in academic, perhaps most notably at the Open University. We call our version of it the Dynamic Learning Environment (DLE).

The DLE isn’t just about e-learning though, it also includes social stuff like forums, wikis, blogs and the ability to run chatroom style webchats. Hundreds of councils in the UK have this technology available to them thanks to Learning Pool – although not many use it to its potential.

Kingston really want to make the most of it though, which they are running my Q&A as a live webchat. It’ll only take up 2 hours of my time, rather than the whole day which it would take were I travelling down. Hopefully it will be of help to the council, as well.

We are always looking for interesting and innovative ways that we can help councils. If your organisation has a Learning Pool DLE, and fancy doing a webchat or similar, let us know. Even if you don’t, we’re testing things like GoToMeeting and DimDim to provide online sessions to anyone who wants to join in. Get in touch!

Using social media in learning

A question was asked in the social media community of practice (various levels of authentication required) about using web 2.0 technology to support learning. I couldn’t help myself…


Using blogs to record and share learning is a really nice use of technolog. Blogging is great for writing stories and sharing experience, especially when everyone in an organisation can access and search the information on a blog. Fundamentally blogs are just really easy ways of getting content online, but the personal nature of them also helps individuals write about their own knowledge and learning. Get people to blog about a recent learning experience they have had, or about tips and tricks that they have come across in their work that others could make use of.


One of the things we have come across at Learning Pool when it comes to e-learning is that when people can talk to others about something, it tends to stick in their minds much better than when they just read about it. So our e-learning management system provides forums along with courses so that those studying that lessons can ask questions of the rest of the learning community, discuss the content and work together on problems. Forums can also be used to support face to face training and learning activity too – enabling people to talk to each other about what they learned in the classroom afterwards, helping to make that learning stick in their heads, and to clear up any confusions people might have walked away with!


Blogs are good for people to record their personal learning experiences, and forums for having conversations about learning, but what about building collections of resources for people to refer to, and add to, over time? For that you need a more traditionally structured website, but one which lots of people can contribute to. That’s where wikis come in. Any kind of useful web resource, where large groups of people can contribute material, is great for a wiki. Rather than handing out loads of sheets of paper during a training session, why not put them all up on a wiki for people to access online? That way everyone always gets the latest version, and if there’s is something that needs correcting or updating, someone from the community can do it for you. Alternatively, wikis are great for building online dictionaries or jargon busters, for example.


It might be considered a distraction to have people sat in a training sessions fiddling away with their phones, but actually having people recording and sharing what they are finding out is a great way to learn! It’s just like taking notes with paper, only everyone can re-use it. If you use a common hashtag with your training, everything that has been tweeted during the sessions can be drawn together in one place and everyone can benefit from it. Even better, by using a public platform like Twitter, you can get people not present in the training giving their input too, adding to the mix of ideas.

Media sharing

A great way for people to consolidate learning is to record training sessions and let them watch, or listen to them again later on. It’s simple enough to record a video of a talky bit of training using a Flip or Kodak video camera and then share it either publicly on the web or on an intranet, say. Alternatively, audio podcasts might be easier to do and share. Other resources can be shared online too, whether presentations using a public site like Slideshareor other documents and learning materials on Scribd. By sharing this stuff publicly, others can take what you have done and add bits and improve it in places and everyone can benefit. To see an example of this, check out this fantastic resource from the Scottish Government Library Services.

Social bookmarking

Sites like Delicious, which let you store links to useful web pages and sites on a public webpage are a great way for a group of learners to share the great stuff they find online. Once you get into the habit of bookmarking interesting articles using a social bookmarking tool, it becomes a quick and easy way to build up huge knowledge bases of related content. Using tagging to build up your own vocabulary of key words to describe content makes bringing together resources on a similar topic really fast too.

Social networks

Using social network type features, as seen on Facebook and others, is a really useful way of combining a lot of the activity above with a great method of further sharing people’s knowledge, talents and interests. Social networks tend to feature Twitter-like status updates, discussion boards and media sharing (but generally not wikis, sadly). What they also have is user profiles which are great ways for people in an organisation to share details of what they know about, what they do, what they are interested in and where there talents lie. So much more useful than the traditional ‘yellow pages’ style staff directories! So if you need some expertise on an issue, someone to lead a training session maybe, if you have an internal social network you could search and find the ideal person.

Bookmarks for March 16th through March 18th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.