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learndirect is ‘up with the best,’ says DfEE


The government's learndirect online learning initative is among the best in online learning in the world, according to new research commissioned by the DfEE.

The report, produced by research company ECOTEC, who have produced a number of research reports for the DfEE in the past, says that learndirect is unique in its commitment to access for all, nationwide focus and attempts to tackle skills shortages.

ECOTEC looked at learndirect's online offering compared to that of 32 online learning providers identified as operating in a similar market. The research examined learndirect and other online training providers breadth and depth of course offering, links with qualifications, cost to learners, extent of learner support and accessibility. The research found that most providers were focussing on a market of 'committed learners', with learndirect instead targeting those not currently engaged in formal learning and those likely to have few or no existing qualifications.

ECOTEC's study commended learndirect for 'using learning centres as a key access for customers and giving wide ranging support to learners, developing a clear identity which learners can easily recognise, provision of ICT training for those without previous access to computers, flexibility in allowing learners to study at their own pace and the development of online basic skills learning opportunities.'

The government is ploughing £76m in learndirect through the University for Industry in the coming year. A further £135m is being made available by the Learning and Skills Council.

TrainingZONE says: Some qualification is needed with this research: The report's authors admit that the research was only carried out over a short period, and that it is 'based on an assessment of market leaders in online learning through an analysis of their websites - not based on an evaluation of the quality of course materials', so the learndirect course materials weren't actually evaluated properly or compared with the content of other providers. It's also a bit disingenuous to suggest that this is a comparison between 'top online learning providers' - the other providers were all virtual universities.

It's still early days to properly gauge the success of learndirect. The government says that since 1 April 2000, 100,000 people have enrolled for 218,000 learndirect courses at the 1,076 centres around the UK, but further research is definitely needed to assess the courses themselves.

The report "learndirect: A Comparative Study" produced for the DfEE by ECOTEC Research & Consulting Ltd is available on the DfEE website as a PDF document at


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