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UfI launches ‘learndirect’ – the first 68 learning centres in the network


learndirect will be the name of Ufi’s network of learning centres that are to be developed nation-wide from 24 November, Ron Dearing, Chairman of Ufi has announced.

Sixty-eight learndirect development centres across England, will this week start working with Ufi in developing a new approach to the delivery of flexible learning. They are in friendly, easy-access locations such as sports and shopping centres, football and rugby clubs, community centres, churches, railway stations and libraries. Some centres are based with employers.

Ufi will also be operating in Wales and Northern Ireland where the first learndirect development centres will be announced shortly. The Scottish Ufi will be a parallel but distinct organisation for Scotland.

Learning Direct, the national learning information help line (0800 100 900), will change its name to learndirect as part of Ufi’s national campaign to market lifelong learning.
Learners using the development centres will be able to choose from a trial range of 24 on-line courses covering information technology, and business and management skills. These courses provide in total almost 100 ‘bite-sized chunks’ of learning, which people can try out between now and spring 2000, at a pace and at times that suit them best. Ufi will be gathering feedback during this pilot phase in order to develop its initial range of learning materials, ready for full operations next autumn.

People using learndirect development centres will have access to computers and the Internet to support their learndirect course. Centre staff will help people get started and to use the on-line materials.

All the courses on offer will attract funding from the Further Education Funding Council, which has made £4 million available to support learners using learndirect centres in 1999-2000 and a further £20 million for the following year.
The marketing and operation of learndirect services, including the nation-wide delivery of learning materials on-line through the Internet, will be closely evaluated as Ufi develops its new approach to learning, which will help people to use ICT to learn from home and at work, as well as at learndirect centres.

"These first learndirect centres are the beginning of the revolution in learning promised by Ufi", said Ufi chairman, Ron Dearing. "By dropping into centres and learning on-line through the Internet, people and business will realise that learning can be accessible, flexible and affordable. We aim to transform how and where people acquire new skills and qualifications and to deliver learning that fits the needs and lifestyles of individuals and employers. Our development centres will test this new approach in partnership with hundreds of education and training providers who share our vision and who have already begun to reach new learners.
"The name learndirect will help us and our partners in this task. It will give learning itself a powerful presence on the high street and in the consumer market place and will help drive up the demand for learning. It also builds on the excellent impact made by the Learning Direct helpline, which will soon be taking its millionth call."

Welcoming today’s announcement, Michael Wills, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Learning and Technology said: "Ufi is at the heart of the government’s lifelong learning strategy. With its learning centre partners, Ufi is harnessing ICT to make learning more widely available and accessible than ever before, to both individuals and business."

learndirect development centres are being run by consortia of employers, trade unions, voluntary groups, colleges, universities and training providers. They are in the heart of urban and rural communities. Some are specialising in specific business sectors such as automotive components, multimedia and retail.

Three campus-based centres will be testing the delivery of learndirect services at FE colleges.

Lessons from the development centres will be shared with other learndirect consortia as Ufi rolls out its national network and moves towards its target of up to 1000 learndirect centres.

Ufi is planning to offer a wide portfolio of learning materials from a range of suppliers by autumn 2000, by which time it will be fully operational.

The initial courses on offer at the development centres are being provided by four of the Ufi’s qualified suppliers: NETg, Maxim Training, Xebec McGraw-Hill, and M2S.


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