Last updated: 01.07.10

Virtual College bucks trend as expansion continues

Online training pioneer Virtual College, in Ilkley, is experiencing major growth during its 15th anniversary year. Operations director Lesley Ord reports that an increasing number of companies are taking out licences to use Virtual College’s branded learning management system Enable to meet both their online and off-line training needs.

Lesley said: "More and more businesses are focussing on personal development, with managers tracking the progress of individual employees, as they try to get the best from their workforce." Stairway to success. Virtual College staff are pictured at their Ilkley headquarters.

"Enable is used widely by large and small organisations seeking to provide their staff with e-learning material for induction, mandatory and refresher training. It is also a valuable resource for training and human resources staff to record and track learner records, manage training needs analysis, appraisals and e-portfolios." Since its foundation in 1995, primarily to develop bespoke e-learning courses on behalf of other innovative and forward thinking businesses, Virtual College has expanded and diversified to become one of the UK’s leading providers of e-learning courses through its evolving stable of e-Academies.

They operate in the healthcare, safeguarding children, housing, food and drink, and trades sectors – and together offer over 100 online courses. The total number of registered e-learners across all Virtual College courses has now hit 360,000 – and is growing at an average rate of around 3,000 per month.

The Safeguarding Children e-Academy remains a leading UK training provider in its specialist field. Its growing 70-strong UK membership is made up predominantly of Local Safeguarding Children Boards. The academy currently has over 192,000 registered e-learners. The Housing e-Academy drives forward adoption of e-learning within its target sector. Its increasing membership is made up of individuals and organisations that work within, or provide support, for the UK housing sector and, through its ground-breaking Tenant Plus initiative, is providing training for individual residents, so helping to provide better homes and stronger communities.

Virtual College has a strong presence in the healthcare sector through the Healthcare e-Academy, with almost 100,000 registered online learners, and the Lean Healthcare Academy. Together, they provide both e-learning courses and face-to-face Lean facilitation to NHS organisations. The Lean Healthcare Academy is currently working on over 200 NHS projects to help implement and sustain improvements across the UK health economy. Launched earlier this year, Virtual College’s Food, Drink & Hospitality e-Academy offers e-learning courses including food safety & hygiene, customer care and fire safety-related training. It is making an increasing impact in the catering and licensed trades, having recruited many small businesses and has already developed a 50,000-plus base of online learners.

The Trades e-Academy is the latest addition to the fold. It has been established to meet the training needs of trades people from all professions, offering both trade and job-specific e-learning courses. Virtual College now has a 63-strong Ilkley-based workforce, along with ten freelance consultants. Chief executive Rod Knox said: "Despite the current economic climate, we continue to thrive, as individuals, businesses and organisations across both the public and private sectors seek to access innovative, flexible and cost-effective training solutions." "E-learning is an increasingly popular and proven route to traditional face-to-face training. Geographical restrictions are removed and learners can access their training at a pace, place and time to suit them."

"We are constantly looking to enhance our e-learning provision across all sectors through the development of both new academies and training courses. We are well equipped to respond to future challenges and opportunities."