How the MLA transformed learning on the seven seas

by | Sep 11, 2017 | Case Studies, Evidence for Change, Featured, Resources

This case study describes how The Marine Learning Alliance (MLA) used e-learning to bring a sea-change in the way that professionals in the marine industry and in the field of hydrographic surveying meet their CPD needs whilst at sea.

This project took gold at the 2016 Learning Technologies Awards for ‘Best online distance learning programme’, by Delivering degrees to seafarers without internet.

The Marine Learning Alliance (MLA) is leading the way in the provision of online learning at higher education level for the marine and maritime sector. Since 2012, its Hydrography for Professionals programme has been specifically designed to meet the skills and educational needs of marine industry professionals and employers working in, or wanting to work in, the field of hydrographic surveying.

The Problem

The off-shore marine industry presents distinct challenges to those who want to progress within the industry.  Despite there being a strong need for qualifications within this sector, many of its personnel are school leavers without HE qualifications.

However, due to the nature of their extended deployments at sea, working patterns and frequent poor internet access, workers are often prevented from gaining the necessary qualifications that will release them into more senior positions. Consequently, there was an urgent need to provide the industry with a package of learning that would accommodate these specific challenges.


The challenge

The MLA needed to find a solution that would:

  • Include designing learning materials that could be used in a disconnected, asynchronous learning environment (where students are located or travelling without internet connectivity for long periods of time)
  • Produce distance learning that, at its core, would offer students the flexibility to operate around work conditions
  • Offer students modules that would provide engaging and detailed learning material that would meet the stringent requirements of MLA’s partner, Plymouth University
  • Create a supportive learning environment that would maximise students’ potential and prevent them from becoming isolated whilst at sea

In only 3 years the MLA developed an online distance higher education level programme.  The learning offers students the flexibility to operate around work conditions and critically, it can be used without internet connection whilst at sea.  Furthermore, the programme offers engaging content that meets the stringent requirements of MLA’s partner, Plymouth University

What you’ll learn in this case study

  • How drawing on the latest in technology can ensure that maximum flexibility is provided to learners who experience significant time and internet pressure.
  • How flexibility can offer the magic bullet to ensure learner engagement.
  • Communication, communication, communication. If you have remote learners, ensure that you this factor remains a central feature of the learning process!
  • How advances in technology can allow learning to continue wherever you are on the globe, internet or no internet!
  • How to create engaging learning methods that aren’t text-heavy

Download this case study (PDF)


By Laura Overton, Towards Maturity
Follow on Twitter: @LauraOverton @TowardsMaturity

The case study has been created as part of the Towards Maturity and Learning Technologies Awards Good Practice Partnership, established in 2011.

About The MLA

MLA College offers Higher Education degree qualifications in Partnership with Plymouth University. The college is a provider of online and distance learning degrees in a range of Maritime and Marine based subjects. They offer both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees which are taught by distance learning, both online and offline, allowing students to obtain a relevant degree in Maritime and Marine subjects whilst balancing their careers and other life commitments.

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