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Buckinghamshire CC celebrated the 10th anniversary of Adult Learners' Week across the UK this year. Education secre...
Buckinghamshire CC celebrated the 10th anniversary of Adult Learners' Week across the UK this year. Education secretary Estelle Morris said: 'I am passionate about the importance of learning and the need to understand why we must continue our learning journey throughout our lives.'

Buckinghamshire is equally passionate about learning and around 400,000 adults in the county are benefiting from a new

e-learning initiative. We launched the Making Life Easier scheme to improve learning opportunities in the area. The move is part of the county's£2.5m investment in adult learning and will let learners choose from 3,000 courses at over 150 locations.

The project will improve adult education across the county - with the aim of advancing the skills base across the regional workforce. By integrating all education courses into one networked management system, the project leaders aim to develop e-learning programmes for students and meet new business requirements.

With a rapidly changing environment in adult and community learning, Buckinghamshire is keen to stay ahead of the game. The county is at the forefront of initiatives to engage adult learners, both through the use of technology and the way we deliver our service generally.

A central plank of our strategy has been to improve integration of our learning delivery with our business operations. To satisfy the Learning and Skills Council's requirements on individualised learner data, necessary from 2003, and to carry out strategic planning, the Adult Learning Service needed a management information system to provide detailed statistics about its learners and the courses.

Our existing management information system was geared towards top-down management and was unlikely to cope with the 21st century adult learning demands. We opted to move to a learner-centred management structure, building up both the information management and learning delivery systems to create a managed learning environment.

The council chose FD Learning, a specialist in providing technology solutions for education establishments, to provide the system.

The council tendered for a managed learning environment, which could provide better access for both learners and managers, while developing learning opportunities more appropriate to the 21st century. FD Learning was the only management information systems supplier that could also provide the

e-learning component of a managed learning environment. Their solution enables us to use electronic communication to empower both the teacher and the learner. The tutor can interact with learners in a more responsive way, while learners also benefit from peer-to-peer support. We also have the added benefit of solid, reliable management information to inform planning and provide LSC data returns.

The service has already begun a cultural progression, with the traditional image of classroom-based evening classes shifting to one of a service, which operates all day, seven days a week. The new hi-tech service includes an award winning website and links with UK Online. The service is also a lead partner in learndirect, part of the government's vision of a learning society in which everyone, from whatever background, routinely expects to learn and upgrade their skills throughout life.

We see the new system as central to our traditional business, not something that is peripheral to it. We need to develop new ways of managing and delivering learning if we are to address the two most important issues facing us - social inclusion and the need to raise the skills base of the workforce.

Alan Noble

Head of Adult Learning, Buckinghamshire CC

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