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Marchmont Observatory learning theme: good practice in ‘learner support’


The Marchmont Observatory exists to capture the knowledge of a learning network - a network of practitioners and researchers who wish to share news, ideas, concerns and successes in the fields of e-learning and workforce development. It has set up a number of learning themes for discussion through establishing priorities with network members and the University for Industry (UfI Ltd). Observatory staff and members of the Marchmont network explore each theme by identifying existing research, describing projects that demonstrate relevant or good practice, through on-line discussions and a two day Workshop. Topics which have aleady been covered are Understanding SME Learning, Market Research and Marketing Learning and Funding for Learning.

This week saw the launch of the Marchmont Observatory's 4th 'Learning Theme' on Learner Support (see

Ben Neild from the Observatory has submitted the following introduction to the topic:

Technological developments have the potential to revolutionise learning, paving the way for new and innovative approaches to learning. Yet this has major implications for learners and those supporting the learning process. There is, however, a danger that learning strategies will be driven solely by technological development rather than how well these technologies are employed for learning purposes. The drive towards e-learning in the corporate arena, together with those in learndirect and other providers of learning services, mean that it is becoming increasingly important to support the development of effective practice in the learner support. If the benefits of technology are to be realised in terms of improved learner motivation, achievement and retention, as well as widening access to non-traditional learners, then effective learner support strategies must be at centre stage.

The Learner Support theme will explore how the role of teachers is changing, the skills required to support learning clusters and employer learning networks, the scope for computer mediated collaborative learning and the potential pitfalls of the UfI model for learner support.

The theme was chosen as developing a culture of lifelong learning culture increasingly means that different learning needs and learning styles need to be valued and delivered. In this context, the concept of "learner support" goes far beyond traditional teacher / student relationships and is pivotal in determining our progress towards a 'learning age'.

For the next three weeks Observatory staff at the University of Exeter will be facilitating on-line discussions, documenting good practice, identifying and summarising research on this vital topic.

On the 11th and 12th October the learning theme will conclude with a FREE workshop at St James Park Football club in Newcastle. Facilitated by Willie Roe, the workshop will hear from speakers including: Ian Draffen from UfI; Julia Duggleby author of 'How to be an on-line tutor' and Liz Kitson manager of the pioneering learning centre Learning World.

To download workshop details and a booking form visit...

Contributions to discussion and related resources on learner support are at

To participate in the discussion via e-mail just send an e-mail to [email protected] with 'Join Discussion' as the Subject Line.


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