Towards Maturity celebrates Macmillan Cancer support

by | Jul 26, 2011 | Articles

You don’t need a large team to develop an interactive, user focused learning environment. Neither do you need to create resources if appropriate generic content already exists. 

Macmillan Cancer Support achieved success by staying focused, by bringing together a range of resources from different providers but giving it a Macmillan look and feel, and only creating content when trying to meet specific user needs.

Macmillan implemented an overarching Learning and Development Strategy that brought together a number of separate strands. The strategy made it clear that Macmillan wanted to go further than just offering eLearning courses, its objective was to make full use of learning technologies to develop, deliver, support and manage learning, both face to face and virtually.  In 2007  the charity established the post of a Learning Technology Manager who created Learn Zone, a virtual learning environment initially providing learning opportunities for Macmillan Health and Social Care Professionals.  However Macmillan’s long term objective was to provide learning and development opportunities to all those who are affected by cancer, so there was a long way to go!

During the last four years, Learn Zone has gone from strength to strength and now has more than 15,700 registered users. From its small beginnings, Learn Zone now has three ‘entry points’: one for Health and Social Care Professionals; one for members of the public; and another for staff and volunteers – all of which allow those who register on the site access to an amazing wealth of resources, eLearning content and the ability to connect with others through the online spaces that have been set up to share good practice and resources.

Macmillan have commissioned and created some bespoke content, however with the help of the Charity Learning Consortium, they have been able to negotiate licence agreements with a range of providers. From the outset, the aim was to make Learn Zone as easy to use as possible.  Users only need to login once to access any of the resources, so moving between different resources and courses is seamless.

Macmillan also realised the importance of establishing how online and face-to-face learning can work together to give learners the best possible experience. Pre-course materials for conferences and events are made available through Learn Zone, resources referred to at face to face training events can be downloaded from the site.

Implementing an effective technology based learning solution has had a number of positive benefits for the charity.  It has been able to reduce training and associated accommodation costs, allow direct communication between learners and trainers and most importantly it has extended its reach to a much wider audience offer learning and development opportunities to all those affected by cancer.
No small feat, particularly when you consider the whole team still only consists of three people!

Top tips for success:

  • Negotiate with content providers to get the best deal…. if you don’t ask you don’t get!
  • Keep it simple….the fewer clicks the better.
  • Integrate your Virtual Learning Environment into wider learning and development activities by using it to provide pre and post support for face to face events.
  • Bring your users into the VLE for practical activities, such as applying for grants, event registration and face-to-face pre-course tasks. This ensures that they get used to navigating the environment on a regular basis.
  • Invite content suppliers to demonstrate their resources when you hold events and conferences.  They will often bring along ‘freebies’ which attract people to their stands and the suppliers are very often able to enthuse people in a way that L&D people can’t.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of marketing and communicating the service you are offering to existing users. Getting people to register on a site is relatively easy; it’s much harder to get people using it on a regular basis.
  • Lack of time is often identified as a barrier to usage: let learners know that the eLearning you are offering can save them time by quickly and easily providing solutions to issues or concerns they may have
  • When you communicate with learners, use language that resonates with them, don’t use L&D jargon
  • Celebrate achievement….even if your courses are not accredited, allowing learners to print out Certificates of Completion provides the learner with evidence of CPD which improves motivation, resulting in increased uptake and better completion rates.

Macmillan are members of the Charity Learning Consortium , one of Towards Maturity’s founding ambassadors. Find out more at www.towardsmaturity.org/ambassadors

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