Case Studies

CASE STUDY 2: University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

The Issue

In 2009, Cambridge were in the throes of writing the HR strategy for the University. They recognised the advantages of incorporating learning technologies into their strategy, particularly in terms of cost-saving, but as most of their training programme was delivered face-to-face, they realised that they would need to bring in a specialist to help them to maximise the benefits of online learning.

The Challenge

The challenge at Cambridge was, in fact, twofold:

  • To develop an elearning strategy for the University's 8,000 staff which would be fully integrated into the overall HR strategy and also to provide ongoing consultancy and support to help them to implement the strategy.
  • To develop the elearning aspect of a blended induction programme.

We were selected from five leading UK elearning consultancies to work with them on these challenges.

The Process

As with Sellafield, our approach when developing strategy is to first get to know the organisation, to find out how they think and feel and to discover what really makes them tick. A university has a huge range of staff, from Nobel Prize Winners to gardeners, who vary wildly in their roles, technical capabilities and ability to access PCs, all of which need to be taken into account.

When developing content we start with the simplest solutions and work up in complexity until we find the ideal method to deliver learning content. We don't believe in making something more complicated or expensive than it needs to be.

The Solution


We looked at all aspects of the learning experience and the University's technological capabilities before making our recommendations. Through employing the right technologies, we were able to realise a considerable cost-saving for the University. So what's the 'right technology'? Well, for example, we worked on identifying the best learning management approach and, rather than recommend that Cambridge purchase a new expensive package, we adapted an existing University course management system, based on the open source content management system, SAKAI, and added SCORM tracking to it.

We are now working with them to build and train an internal development team which will give the University the instructional design and technical skills to be able to build and author their own effective learning content. We won't, however, just build a team and leave them to it – we are there for expert support and guidance at every step of the way.


We designed and built a suite of electronic activities, resources and content that form part of Cambridge's blended induction programme. All content is fully accessible to W3C standards and beyond, whilst still getting top notch feedback from participants for engagement and effectiveness. Cambridge were keen to have a product that was very much 'theirs' and not 'off-the-shelf', so a highly collaborative approach and excellent communications were imperative.

One of the elements involved us using our film-making skills to film nine employees, including gardeners, administrators, academics and the Pro Vice-Chancellor, giving perspectives on their roles and what they enjoy about working at Cambridge, to broadcast online. We can't deny that we love playing Steven Spielberg and we like to think we're rather good at it!

What's next?

In Summer 2010, we signed an agreement with Cambridge to become their elearning partner for staff development for the next two years. In addition to the courses in induction, health and safety, admissions interviewing and email management that we have already developed for them, we will be developing a range of courses specifically designed for the higher education environment in subjects such as project management, time management and communication skills.

About University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is one of the world's oldest universities and leading academic centres, and a self-governed community of scholars. Cambridge comprises 31 Colleges and over 150 departments, faculties, schools and other institutions and has over 8,000 staff. Academically, Cambridge is consistently ranked in the world's top five universities and as the leading university in Europe by numerous media and academic rankings. The University has more Nobel Prize winners than any other institution.


Fri 14 Nov 2014

Learning Awards 2015 Finalists!
We are delighted to have been shortlisted in two categories for the Learning Awards 2015.

Organisation Design Toolkit, a project with BP to help them improve and standardise organisation design within their company, is a finalist in the Social and Collaboration Learning Solution of the Year and External Learning Solution of the Year categories.

We will be going to London next week to present to the judges and we will get the results in February 2015.

Thu 8 May 2014

Catch Us Live
Rob will be speaking at the Technology for Associations Congress 2014 in London on 2 July. He'll be helping participants understand how to choose the right technologies and the right vendors for their audience and organisational needs.

Rob will also be speaking at Learning Live in London, in September 2014. His interactive session will focus on digital learning design to solve performance problems. Tickets are on sale for both now.

Thu 3 Apr 2014

Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual Authors Donate Royalties to LearnAppeal
We are very pleased to announce that the contributors to the Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual, which was edited by our very own, Rob Hubbard, have generously decided to donate their share of the royalties to LearnAppeal, the UK's elearning charity. LearnAppeal are involved in some really exciting learning projects to benefit the most disadvantaged people across the world. Massive thanks to Clive Shepherd, Laura Overton, Jane Bozarth, Lars Hyland, Julie Wedgwood, Jane Hart, Colin Steed, Clark Quinn, Ben Betts and Charles Jennings - you guys are awesome! If you haven't got your copy yet, you can use this code on the Wylie website to get 15% off: VBF11

Thu 3 Apr 2014

First Waterstones Intake Graduate
Congratulations to the first intake of the Waterstones Bookseller Qualification who will graduate next week in a special ceremony at the publisher, Penguin's, offices in London. The qualification was completed on the award-winning Waterstones Academy system that we designed and built for them. This project also features as one of the case studies in the up-coming second edition of Clive Shepherd's ground-breaking Blended Learning Cookbook.

Thu 3 Apr 2014

Sign Up Now for Our New Digital Learning Design Course
Places are now available on our brand new Digital Learning Design Course. The first intake will start in September 2014 and we will run the course twice per year. This free two-week course will teach participants how to design effective performance-focused learning solutions to address organisational challenges. Watch the website for details or contact us to be added to the waiting list.

Thu 20 Feb 2014

eLearning Awards Showcase
Rob will be speaking at the eLearning Awards Showcase, organised by the eLearning Network on Friday 28 February in London. He and Emma Brown, Head of Learning and Development at Waterstones will be presenting a case study on the Silver award-winning Waterstones Academy. Tickets can be booked online Come and find out the secrets of our success!

Thu 20 Feb 2014

ReD is Dead - Digital Learning Design is on the Way!
We will be retiring our hugely successful ReD (Rapid eLearning Design) course this Spring. The final course will run from 3 March 2014 and there are still a few (free) places left. Out of the ashes will spring our brand spanking new Digital Learning Design Course. The DLD course will teach learners how to design effective, performance-focussed or knowledge-focused learning solutions to address organisational challenges. As with ReD it will be free of charge and we will be running it twice a year, with the first intake in September 2014. Watch the website for details and/or email us to be added to the waiting list.

Thu 20 Feb 2014

Finalist at the Learning Awards 2014
We were delighted to be a finalist in the 'Learning Technologies' category for the Learning Awards 2014, joining big names such as PwC, McDonalds and Ashridge Business School.

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