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 6 Feb 2015

We are delighted to have won Gold at the Learning Awards in London last night in the Social and Collaborative Learning category for a project that we undertook with BP. The same project also netted us Bronze in the External Learning Solution of the Year category. The awards were presented by Claudia Winkleman. It was a true team effort, congratulations to all involved.

Tue 27 Jan 2015

Meet Rob Hubbard at Learning Technologies 2015
Rob will be chairing two sessions at the Learning Technologies Conference at Olympia, London this week. Catch him on Wednesday 28th January at 11.10 for 'Creativity and Learning' with Tony Buzen, the creator of mind-mapping and again at 11.10 on Thursday 29th January discussing 'Learning Tools' with David Wood, founder of Jam Pan and Julian Stodd from Seasalt Learning. He'll also be running a Google Hangout at 13.50 on Thursday with Patti Shank and Cathy Moore.

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