What do staff expect from an online university? Well, why not follow National Health Service's lead and just try asking them directly
The NHS is using an innovative multimedia simulation tool to prototype and road-test the online arm of its 'bricks and clicks' university, which is scheduled for launch in autumn 2003.
Called The Demonstrator and created by Loughborough-based e-learning solutions provider DeltaNet International, it runs on CD-Rom and has been supplied to selected members of the NHS as a market research tool. It offers a glimpse of what will ultimately be the online incarnation of one of the largest 'corporate' universities in the world and become the framework for career development in the NHS.
The NHS has an annual learning budget of £3bn, but currently there is no central body that controls or co-ordinates NHS training. The Government announced its intention to launch the NHSU in its 2001 manifesto and it will serve more than one million employees. The 'bricks' version will take the form of a network of learning and training centres, some of which will be based in universities up and down the country (it already uses a number of universities for training in this way).
"The bricks and clicks approach is an innovative concept within the NHS," says NHSU project manager David Arnold. "Not all our staff have their own PCs and the idea of using modern technologies to underpin learning for all staff as a means of improving patient care is a very radical idea."
DeltaNet had created a similar approach for the Employment Service and when Arnold saw it, he felt it would be the ideal solution to help them commence the NHS project. As DeltaNet managing director Darren Hockley points out, many organisations start projects like this with a blank canvas and need to be kickstarted. "The Demonstrator starts the debate for them. If you're developing a multi-million pound project like this, you need a clear vision of exactly what you're going to do or else you can waste a lot of money," he says, adding that the corporate world could learn a lot from the NHS approach.
DeltaNet structured a blueprint of what NHS employees would be able to access within the online university based on research carried out within an NHS Trust and drew on its own in-house knowledge of e-learning provision.
Following a number of meetings with the NHS