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Customised Learning Development
- An Exploration of Practice
Edited by Irene Sheridan
and John P Murphy
The REAP Project is a Strategic Innovation Fund Project
Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material contained in this publication,
complete accuracy cannot be guaranteed. All or part of this publication may be reproduced without further
permission provided the source is acknowledged.
Published by CIT Press, Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland.
Design by Raven Design
Printed by Walsh Colour Print
© CIT Press 2012
This document is based on contributions from individuals and organisations. The principal contributors are the
members of the Roadmap for Employment–Academic Partnerships (REAP) working group and the representatives
of the enterprise organisations who were directly involved in the learning partnerships presented herein. Many
others within the higher education and enterprise partner organisations and elsewhere helped to make this work
possible. Particular thanks are due to Dr Kara McGann (IBEC) who provided guidance and support, and Deirdre
Goggin (CIT) who collated the case studies.
The REAP project is funded by the Strategic Innovation Fund Cycle 2 from the Higher Education Authority
under the National Development Plan 2006-2013.
The collaborative development of targeted specialist courses to meet speciﬁc industry
needs was a signiﬁcant aim of the SIF-funded Roadmap for Employment-Academic
Partnerships (REAP) project. In order to support the development of ﬂexible, innovative
and responsive solutions, this work has explored a number of examples of practice
throughout the project consortium. As the REAP project is focused on the employer
as a partner in the learning design and delivery stages, the emphasis is on courses
which have been tailored or customised for a particular student group in response to
an existing or emerging learning need.
The courses presented in this report have been chosen to illustrate the range and extent of partnerships through
which courses are developed and they represent just a small portion of the workplace-relevant learning provision
of the partner institutions. By exploring these courses and the processes through which they were developed,
an outline process ﬂow has been constructed which considers all of the major stages encountered in these
The REAP project team in conjunction with the academic and industry partners have further explored the critical
success factors of each instance of customised learning and the roles of each of the major stakeholders in order
to develop an outline guide to support new developments.
Vice President for Development,
Cork Institute of Technology.
1. Introduction 1
Background and Context 1
Workforce Learning Needs 2
Recognition of Prior Learning 5
Work-based Learning 6
Roadmap for Employment-Academic Partnerships (REAP) project 7
2. Partnerships and Practice 9
Postgraduate Diploma/MA in Advanced Social Care Practice 10
Lean Six Sigma 13
BSc (Honours) in Nautical Science 16
ITAA Professional Higher Certiﬁcate 18
MA in Higher Education: Professional Legal Education and Skills 20
Diploma in Enterprise Innovation 22
Laser Safety in the Workplace 26
Diploma in Credit Union Studies 28
Postgraduate Certiﬁcate in Teaching Enterprise and Innovation 30
BSc (Honours) in Airline Transport Operations 32
3. Good Practice Guidelines 35
General Stages in Customised Learning Developments 35
5 Enablers and Barriers 37
Guidelines for Good Practice for all Partners 38
Planning Stages 40
Organising Stages 40
Implementation Stages 40
Evaluation Stages 41
Appendix A Individual Proﬁling and Learning Planning Guide 43
Current Employment & Employment History 44
Education & Training Completed 45
Personal Career & Learning Progression Goals 46
Skills and Competences Assessments 47
Reﬂection on Future Directions 48
Appendix B Outline Memorandum of Understanding 49
- Customised Course Development
Appendix C Course Evaluation Template - Student 51
Course Evaluation Template - Employer 53
Appendix D REAP Working Group Membership 55
Background and Context
The development of a world-class base of skills has become the key driver of economic growth in the developed
world. There is a recognition that future competitive advantages will only emerge through enhancement of
workplace skills. Ireland, in particular, is experiencing a signiﬁcant economic downturn allied to the competitive
challenges posed by more open markets.
International and intense competition and technological developments, which are enabling global trading are
placing increased pressure for competitiveness and productivity on enterprises. In this kind of climate organisations
need to identify the precise areas where they have or can build distinctive strengths that will enable them to
compete effectively. In the past, Ireland beneﬁted signiﬁcantly from the international expansion of markets for
trade, capital and labour. Today, with the rapid opening of markets in Eastern Europe and Asia (especially China
and India), globalisation presents both opportunities and challenges.
The primary source of continuing skilled labour supply is, and will continue to be, achieved through the training,
development, and learning of individuals. In effect, from an employer’s perspective, the focus is on workforce
(or professional) development – the upskilling and reskilling of an organisation’s employees at a higher level.
Changing employment patterns in the organisation of work have impacted on the demand for higher level skills.
Employees are expected to be more ﬂexible, have a broader range of skills, and be more competent at managing
their own career and development. Graduate-level skills and qualiﬁcations are seen as increasingly important in
the changing workplace. Knowledge creation and the deployment of new knowledge in the workplace have
given rise to the workplace itself being recognised as a site of learning and knowledge production. Brennan
(2005) suggests that, if higher education is to continue to make a contribution to the knowledge economy,
collaborative learning activities based in and around the workplace should be considered.
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are expected to be responsive to the needs of the economy and of the
labour market, while at the same time affording citizens the right to appropriate levels of education to sustain
economies in stable societies. Langworthy and Turner (2003) describe the University role within a complex
process requiring forecasting of emerging workplace skills needs and a trend towards lifelong learning in a
model of engaged scholarship. The growing interest in the interface between the higher education sector and
the world of work at European Union and national levels is evident as an increasing number of research projects,
incentives and initiatives now have a distinct enterprise and labour market focus.
Research suggests that over 70% of learning comes from experiences, either planned or unplanned, thus
emphasising the need to ‘learn from real work’ (Nixon et al., 2006). Such learning is also seen as a means for
the economy to respond more rapidly to changing skill needs, when compared to ‘campus-based learning’.
Generally, the value of experience-based learning in higher education has been recognised only in very speciﬁc
contexts, for example, in practice placements on professional awards.
The Irish Government currently funds full-time education up to third level, and training primarily aimed at the
lower skilled. Until recently, the emphasis in state-funded third-level education has been almost entirely towards
“for-employment” rather than “in-employment” education and training. In-employment training, has, for the
most part, been largely disconnected from the education/qualiﬁcations system.
Comparisons of education/training of adults show that Ireland lags behind many countries and, in particular, is
considerably behind the target of 12.5% of adults engaged in lifelong learning set under the Lisbon Strategy
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 2
for Growth and Jobs by the EU in 2000. Lifelong learning is essential for the development of ‘human capital’,
which, in turn, is inextricably linked to personal, social, and economic development. This process of continuing
development of the workforce will promote lifelong employability in a context where a ‘job for life’ is no longer
Workforce Learning Needs
Quintini (2011) points to the importance of work-related education and training to alleviate skill mismatch,
where it allows the under skilled worker to acquire the competencies they lack and the skilled worker to combat
skill obsolescence. In terms of determining the type of education and training sought or desired Toner (2011)
Employers typically want ﬁrm-speciﬁc short duration training, whereas employees want skills that are
recognised, transferable and provide a decent wage in the external labour market.
Acknowledging this tension between the expectations of the employer and the employee in terms of motivation,
Hansson (2008) reports signiﬁcant beneﬁts for both associated with education and training with an estimated
20-50% of the beneﬁts accrued by the employee with the remainder of the productivity effects going to the
A number of recent reports have identiﬁed a gap in understanding and differing priorities between the training
providers and potential client organisations and individuals. The Enterprise Strategy Group’s report Ahead of
the Curve (2004), for example, emphasises the need for education providers to engage with employers and to
take a proactive role in fostering and supporting industry-based research and development. The report presents
challenges necessary for an adaptive and responsive higher education sector, including requirement to:
l be ﬂexible and adaptive to the needs of students and enterprises;
l be creative and innovative in delivery methods;
l facilitate mobility of staff in both directions between academia and enterprise.
Forfás (2005) outlines an ambitious vision for the Irish workplace of the future and presents a set of
recommendations that include:
l A continuous learning and development facility that enables individuals to identify and assimilate knowledge,
skills, and abilities acquired in different contexts;
l Detailed regional assessment of changing technology trends and skill requirements as a basis for regional
growth to inform and support proactive collaboration between industry and the third-level education sector.
Forfás (2007a) also suggests that:
l Universities and, in particular, Institutes of Technology will have to deliver ﬂexible, market-driven solutions.
This will require these institutions to tap into market trends and to develop improved linkages with potential
l There is a need to develop methodologies for capturing data on skills needs at a regional and sectoral level
and to feed it back to education and training providers.
Several themes emerge from the above reports:
l Lifelong learning is essential for the development of ‘human capital’, which is inextricably linked to personal,
social, and economic development;
l Educational provision for workplaces must be context-sensitive, ﬂexible, innovative, and adaptive;
l Developments must be informed by an understanding of the needs and opportunities, by region and by
l The education sector needs to proactively facilitate and simplify the engagement process;
l HEIs and employers should strive for mature, long-term partnerships that can meet and exceed current
needs and anticipate future needs.
There must, therefore, be genuine dialogue between HEIs, training providers, and prospective learners, reﬂecting
the view expressed by the Industrial Development Authority (2005):“Global competition requires a collaborative,
national team effort in which all key stakeholders actively contribute and assume their respective responsibilities
to deliver on our shared national vision.”
Organisations and enterprises seeking to develop their knowledge base and to engage with HEIs, however, face
a confusing array of schemes and an inconsistency of approaches. There is a need for the education sector to
proactively facilitate and simplify the engagement process. Developments must be informed by an understanding
of the sectoral and regional current and emerging learning needs. The need for workplace innovation and
the transformation of the concept of work from the static use of previously acquired skills into a dynamic of
continuous learning is accepted as essential for the Ireland of the future.
In its statement on education and training the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) 2009 clearly identiﬁes
the role of HEIs as key drivers of national and regional competitiveness and growth. The need for HEIs to
respond more ﬂexibly to the learning and development needs of the business community is identiﬁed. Enhanced
employability possibilities, and improved personal development opportunities arise through partnership
arrangements between HEIs and employers.
The NCC report notes that as employers respond to ever changing markets, the possibility of stable career roles
is far less likely with individuals experiencing frequent change in roles during their working lives. This indicates
a shorter skills shelf life and an increased need for up skilling and reskilling of the workforce. Increasingly,
therefore, the Irish higher education system will be called upon to facilitate the education and development
needs of those already in the workforce.
In addressing the difﬁculties anticipated by the HEIs in responding to the educational needs of those in the
workforce, the NCC highlights:
l Relevance of courses: greater collaboration is required between education and training providers, employers
and the students themselves;
l Timing of courses: the provision of workplace based training which is ﬁtted around working hours needs to
be more actively promoted;
l Costs: addressing the anomaly whereby full-time students can access education without tuition fees while
part-time students must pay is seen as important in broadening access;
l Access to information: there is a need for a form of adult career guidance whereby learners can access
information about courses and programmes relevant to their desired employment outcomes.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 4
The research ﬁndings presented by Linehan (2008) demonstrate that higher education systems are being
challenged in relation to the learning provision which they offer to a range of part-time learners. This research
found that, of 433 different courses considered, over 254 were developed and offered based on a need identiﬁed
by the higher education provider alone. Over 220 were designed by the HEIs alone and 366 are delivered on
campus while only 160 consider the recognition of prior experiential learning at entry. This paints a picture of a
Higher Education system which is somewhat inﬂexible and out of touch with the employers/learners. It contrasts
with isolated agile and ﬂexible solutions that are increasingly being developed in response to speciﬁc learning
needs as part of close working relationships between HEIs and enterprises.
Developing a real partnership interaction between organisations requires effort and has the potential to repay
those efforts. The REAP project is based in the concept that there is a continuum of partnership interventions
that are possible and which provide beneﬁts for both parties.
Research by Boud and Solomon (2001) suggests six key characteristics for successful education-industry
l The partnership must foster learning;
l Learners should be employed by the external organisation;
l The programme should derive from the needs of the workplace and the learner;
l Learners should engage in a process of recognition of current competencies prior to negotiation of the
programme of study;
l A signiﬁcant element of the programme should be through workplace projects;
l The higher education provider should assess the learning outcomes against a trans-disciplinary framework
of standards and levels;
l This points to a number of key factors in successful relationships including work-based learning, recognition
of prior learning, and negotiation.
Not surprisingly, these characteristics feature strongly in the range of different learning interactions which are
explored and presented in the set of case studies in this report. The cases are chosen to represent a range of
disciplines, levels, credits, and employment sectors which are served by the partnership learning interaction. The
current economic downturn underscores the need for everyone, particularly those with low skill levels and those
in vulnerable sectors, to upgrade their skills to maintain employability. The aim is to signiﬁcantly improve access
for unemployed persons to job search, training and education, community and employment programmes, and
to maximise opportunities for up-skilling and re-skilling so that people will be better placed to avail of new job
opportunities where they become available (Ireland, 2008: 54). In order to facilitate the required up-skilling
and re-skilling, a particular focus needs to be placed on efforts to increase participation in lifelong learning by
providing opportunities for education and training. The Irish Government recognises the importance of lifelong
learning, and its publication of Building Ireland’s Smart Economy document (Ireland, 2008) indicated that a
number of initiatives are required to support lifelong learning, for example:
l Restructuring the higher education system will be a priority with a new Higher Education Strategy to
enhance system-wide performance;
l HEIs will be supported in pursuing new organisational mergers and alliances that can advance performance
through more effective concentration of expertise and investment;
l Under the Strategic Innovation Fund, priority will be given to ﬂexible learning initiatives that can be targeted
at up-skilling people in the workforce (Ireland, 2008: 13).
The NCC (2009) also underlines that investment in human capital is critical if Ireland is to maintain a healthy
and viable economy in the future. The recognition of prior learning affords opportunities to those already in the
workforce to engage in lifelong learning in a meaningful sense. One of the most signiﬁcant underlying elements
of a context sensitive learning provision is the requirement that it build on, and not repeat, existing learning. This
is most commonly achieved through the recognition of prior learning.
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)
In addressing the role that recognition of prior learning can play in facilitating and enabling up skilling, Úna
Halligan, Chairperson of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs states:
RPL is about giving value to the skills and competences people have gained, whether acquired through
formal or informal learning. RPL can be used by people to gain access to qualiﬁcations where they do
not meet the entry criteria on the basis of formal qualiﬁcations alone, to gain exemptions from certain
modules of qualiﬁcations and, in some instances, to gain full awards.
RPL is important in ensuring that education and training resources are utilised effectively, particularly
in a time of scarce resources. For individuals, RPL can ensure that learners only receive the education
and training that they need and avoid duplication of learning. RPL can help employers to tailor training
more effectively and better match employees to tasks. More widely, RPL can play a role in the upskilling
objectives of the National Skills Strategy, by ensuring that individuals engage in upskilling at the most
appropriate level on the National Framework of Qualiﬁcations. In addition, from a labour market
activation viewpoint, while many people that are currently unemployed may not have high levels of
formal qualiﬁcations, they may have developed many skills through work and life experience, which
can also be valued and recognised.
(EGFSN, 2011: 1)
Within the Irish education system the general principles for RPL have been set out by the National Qualiﬁcation
Authority of Ireland (NQAI) (2005). They include:
l The recognition of prior learning will give value to all learning no matter how that learning is achieved;
l Recognition of prior learning will be an inclusive approach to learning by the education and training
providers and awarding bodies;
l Recognition of prior learning will provide opportunities for access transfer and progression and for the
achievement of an award;
l Recognition of prior learning will provide opportunities for learning to participate on an active basis in
society in general and within a workplace context.
In working to address the speciﬁc learning needs of individuals or enterprises higher education providers should
endeavour to recognise and value prior learning. In a report based on practice development in RPL in Irish higher
education Sheridan and Linehan (2009) stress the importance of the role that the employer can play in facilitating
the recognition of prior learning and in working to support the employee-learner in the process. The employee’s
existing learning provides a context for the development of a learning plan or pathway which will ensure the
opportunity to attain the desired learning and award. Recognising the workplace itself as an important location
for learning, many learning pathways developed in partnership with employers will also include elements of
work-based learning where some of the desired learning outcomes are planned and attained in a structured and
supported way through the work itself.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 6
A wide range of terms is used interchangeably for the concept of work-based learning, including: workplace
learning, work-related learning, and vocational learning. This leads to some confusion and may undervalue the
potential beneﬁts of work-based learning as a mode of learning at a higher level. Furthermore, since the mid-
1990s, there has been a gradual shift in language and techniques used to describe steps taken by employers to
help employees perform their jobs more effectively – a point emphasised by the Chartered Institute of Personnel
and Development (CIPD) which records that learning, development, and training are often used in the same
context. This has also led to confusion. The CIPD consequently deﬁned work-based learning as “a self-directed,
work-based process leading to increased adaptive capacity. Individuals ‘learn to learn’ and possess the capabilities
that enable them to do so to help to build and retain competitive advantage” (CIPD, 2005).
Learning occurs in many contexts including work, involvement in social and community activities, or learning
through life experience. In order to enable an individual to learn throughout life, value should be given to all
these forms of learning regardless of source, how it is achieved, or when in life it is achieved. Lifelong learning,
therefore, is about making use of personal competencies. Duvekot et al. (2007: 9) suggest that:
Everyone should be aware that people are always learning everywhere and, above all, not always in a
conscious or self-chosen learning situation. The degree in which individuals and the knowledge society
consciously build on this is still strongly underexposed and under-utilised. In the knowledge society, the
focus should be on the individual learning process.
Work-based learning has the potential to contribute signiﬁcantly to employability and situation-speciﬁc skills.
Many organisations ﬁnd that a combination of formal learning and contextualised work-based learning provide
the optimum solution for their learning needs. As a planned and supported element of a formal award programme
work-based learning provides a ﬂexible and context-sensitive set of learning outcomes. Raelin (2008) suggests
that there are three critical elements in the work-based learning process:
1. Learning is acquired in the midst of action and dedicated to the task;
2. Knowledge creation and utilisation are collective activities;
3. Learners demonstrate a learning-to-learn aptitude, which frees them to question underlying assumptions of
Work-based learning differs from conventional learning as it requires a conscious reﬂection on actual experiences
and develops the ability to translate and interpret between the practice domain and the theoretical domain.
Gallacher and Reeve (2002) suggest that four concepts are regarded as particularly important to understanding
work-based learning in higher education:
While these elements are a particular feature of the cases presented later in this report it is evident that the
partnership between the employer, enterprise or sector and the HEI is the most signiﬁcant element in the
development of customised learning solutions.
Roadmap for Employment-Academic Partnerships (REAP) project
The importance of the interaction between the academic and the enterprise community has been underlined
in many recent government publications. The means of encouraging partnership development and overcoming
barriers through exploration of speciﬁc engagement activities is part of the aims and objectives of the REAP
The REAP project is a Strategic Innovation Fund Cycle 2 collaborative project aimed at developing and validating
a model and roadmap for partnership and engagement between HEIs and employers and enterprises. This
partnership approach is seen as especially relevant in the context of a dynamically changing economic and
and shared risks
Long term mutual
RPL and WBL mentoring
Customised In-house courses
Short research projects Undergraduate projects
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 8
The partnership concept is extended beyond that of the learning partnership. By exploring existing examples
of good practice throughout the project consortium and identifying enablers and barriers, a toolkit will be
developed to facilitate engagement across the spectrum of potential partnership activities. The impact will be
twofold - both HEIs and enterprises will be encouraged to seek out opportunities to engage and to identify
any barriers to engagement within their systems and processes. Through the REAP project, it is intended that
enterprises will view HEIs as key service providers and strategic partners.
Within the range of partnership engagements the REAP work has mainly focused on ﬁve different types of
l Cooperative work placement;
l Specialist targeted course development to meet speciﬁc enterprise learning needs;
l Professional postgraduate pathways;
l Academics/researchers contributing within enterprises;
l Opportunities for professional employers/employees to contribute within the academic environment.
The ﬁndings to date have shown that successful and sustainable partnerships need “resources, relationships and
realistic objectives”. The key HEI enablers include:
l Clear point of contact and good communication;
l Flexible and responsive administrative procedures and processes;
l Integration and valuing of partnership activities at the core of the institution.
The literature on partnership reports barriers in terms of perceived inaccessibility and inﬂexibility of the HEI in
dealing with enterprise needs. However, the experience of successful partnerships, reviewed through the project,
has provided ample evidence that these barriers can be overcome.
The exemplars presented in this report are evidence of successful partnership interactions within ﬂexible and
adaptive frameworks. These exemplars, along with explorations of the underlying systems and structures
are used to develop a generalizable practice guide which is intended to further the development of speciﬁc
customised learning solutions.
In order to determine the stages in the development and implementation of customised learning solutions and
to ascertain the factors that contribute to successful partnership interactions a number of speciﬁc programmes
were analysed in detail. All of the REAP project partners were invited to submit courses for consideration and a
small number of speciﬁc cases are presented here. These cases were selected to illustrate a broad range of level
of learning, discipline, number of credits, and a variety of external partner. In all cases an effort is made to detail
the challenges that were encountered and the difﬁculties presented by the HEI systems as these will present the
most valuable learning opportunities.
The variety of cases presented is summarised in the following table:
2. Partnerships and Practice
AIT PG Dip/MA in Advanced Social Care Practice Humanities Varies 9 60
CIT Lean Six Sigma Engineering 8 days 7 5
CIT BSc (Honours) in Nautical Science Nautical Science 2 semester 8 60
DIT ITAA Professional Higher Certiﬁcate (CPD) Tourism 1 semester 6 5
DIT MA in Higher Education:
Legal Professional Education and Skills Education 2 years
part-time 9 90
ITTD Diploma in Enterprise Innovation Business 2 semester 8 60
NUIG Commercialisation Business
Systems 8 days 9 10
NUIG Laser Safety in the Workplace Physics Varies NA NA
UCC Diploma in Credit Union Studies Business 1 or 2 years
part-time 7 60
WIT Enterprise and Innovation in Education Education 1 semester 9 10
WIT BSc (Honours) in Airline Transport Operations Business 2 years
part-time 8 180
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 10
Institution: Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT)
Title: Postgraduate Diploma/MA in Advanced Social Care Practice
Level: NFQ Level 9 Credits: 60
Partners: Five professional social care organisations including the Health Service Executive (HSE) and
221 placement agencies
This is a REAP funded innovative academic course development process for postgraduate education, known as
‘AIT Postgraduate Steps’, that reconﬁgures the way in which AIT develops academic programmes. The process
allows those working in a particular profession to prescribe both the modules offered on academic programmes,
and the content of those modules, in order to meet the immediate needs of their profession. The process
further allows learners the opportunity to select, from a suite of modules which the profession as a whole
considers relevant, those modules that are relevant to their particular professional position. In the past year, the
Department of Humanities has successfully applied this process to a multilevel Modular/Postgraduate Diploma/
Master of Arts degree in Advanced Social Care.
The immediate aim was to narrow the gap between the needs of an industry or sector and the type of programme
that an educational institution offers. The second aim was to provide educational opportunities to people who
were excluded either through lifestyle or high programme costs.
AIT established a database of stakeholders in the social care profession who are to be surveyed bi-annually to
identify evolving areas of the profession which require continuing professional development. AIT established
strategic partnerships with ﬁve professional organisations, including the HSE, to provide these modules to their
It is accessible as learners pay per module, classes are offered in the evening and at weekends, and assessments
are aligned to the learner’s work environment. Crucially, the process is transferable to other disciplines.
This whole course development process for an individual module is completed within a matter of months.
This ‘bottom-up’ approach to service delivery reﬂects a new commitment to an active partnership between AIT
and industry. The aim is to improve the quality and relevance of learning, linking educational opportunities more
closely to current professional needs of employers whilst taking account of individuals’ needs at different stages
in their working lives. The Postgraduate Diploma/MA in Advanced Social Care Practice is aimed at enhancing
core competencies and reﬂects a growing trend towards learning as a lifelong process.
The Department of Humanities offers a minimum of two modules per academic year. By offering a part-time
course, the Postgraduate Diploma/MA in Advanced Social Care Practice extends opportunities for participation
in further training for professionals in employment who may not be able to attend a full-time programme.
Postgraduate Diploma/MA in Advanced Social Care Practice
There is a large target market within Social Care. From the Institute of Technology (IOT) sector alone there
are over 1200 graduates per year in Social Care. There are also many related disciplines such as Nursing and
Psychology in which members of the social care profession hold qualiﬁcations.
The Programme recognises the importance of a ﬂexible mode of delivery offering a series of minor awards
that a learner can take as required. Unlike other postgraduate courses which are completed within a speciﬁed
timeframe, this modular programme of study enables students to complete the MA within their own chosen
A learner who enrolls has three potential avenues open to them as follows:
1. Completion of 1 module of 10 credits and receiving a minor award (Level 9);
2. Completion of 6 modules leading to an award of a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Social Care Practice;
3. Completion of 4 modules as well as the approved modules in “Research Methods” and “Dissertation”
leading to a MA in Advanced Social Care Practice.
Since its inception, 32 students have enrolled on the programme - the highest number ever recorded for a
postgraduate course offered by the Institute in its ﬁrst year.
The ﬁrst module of the Postgraduate Steps Programme ran in January 2010 (11 participants). Students chose to
complete this ﬁrst module to increase their specialisation in the discipline area and/or extend their expertise into
an additional work area. The second module commenced in September 2010 and the third module started in
January 2011. Additional modules are currently being designed.
l A unique quality assurance process was designed to speciﬁcally ensure the academic integrity of the
Postgraduate Steps Programme. It is working effectively and runs in tandem with the existing rigorous
quality assurance processes already in place in AIT.
l Group work and case study techniques are encouraged to promote active learning. Work place learning
provides the learner with the opportunity to apply theory, concepts and principles in practice. Projects and
case studies provide the learner with an understanding of the practical application of theory in a cross-
l Creation and validation of an original quality assurance process is a key milestone. The creation of responsive
Social Care modules, the registration of students on these modules and industry buy-in are additional
signiﬁcant milestones in the delivery of this model of education.
l The process is different from previous models of delivery in the Institute, it took almost a year of engagement
with the quality processes in order to reﬁne the proposal to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
Beneﬁts and Testimonials
l Learners attest that while this type of education delivery facilitates them to maintain their work/life balance,
it also enables them to develop expertise in the areas they are working in, or hope to work in.
l This process of course development and the resulting programme are very cost effective and result in
income for the Department.
l The Postgraduate Steps Programme bridges the traditional gap between academia and practice. Thereby,
graduates are equipped to work to standards of best practice within the changing contours of Irish society.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 12
Beneﬁts to AIT
l This engagement informs other teaching outside the Postgraduate Steps Programme;
l Further collaborations have developed in areas such as work placements and research projects with new
l Enhanced proﬁle of Social Care programmes in AIT both regionally and nationally;
l In a social care context, the Department proposes to grow this programme through delivery by remote
l The transferability to disciplines in Science, Business and Engineering would allow for the development of
a real “Smart Economy” workforce where graduates could acquire a new level of knowledge and skills in a
l The programme development process is reconﬁguring the way in which academic programmes are
developed to meet the needs of industry.
Beneﬁts to Partners
l Assignments based in the workplace;
l Employees retention;
l Non funded employees applying for further learning on Programme;
l Enhanced motivation for learning.
Lean Six Sigma
Institution: Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)
Title: Lean Six Sigma
Duration: 8 days attendance
Level: NFQ Level 7 Credits: 5
Partner: SR Technics Airfoil Services Ltd
SR Technics Airfoil Services Ltd is located in Mahon Industrial Estate in Blackrock, Cork. The company is a heavy
engineering works, specialising in the refurbishment of turbine blades and vanes on large commercial airline
engines. It is a multinational company and employs approximately 80 staff at the facility in Mahon.
The Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Management Systems (CAMMS) at CIT provides individuals and
companies opportunities to study for and obtain professional qualiﬁcations in speciﬁc areas. It also provides
research and consultancy services to a range of industries in the areas such as Plant Layout, Simulation, Project
Management and Process Optimisation.
SR Technics has a management strategy committed to up-skilling and reskilling existing employees, mirroring
the strategy of company headquarters in Zurich. The company had previously engaged in lean training for
production teams and facilitators with CAMMS and identiﬁed Six Sigma training as the natural progression. The
engagement also stemmed from the desire to secure the jobs in the Cork facility and increase the manufacturing
efﬁciency in the Cork plant.
The ability of CAMMS to deliver courses which have both HETAC and American Society of Quality (ASQ)
accreditation was an important factor in the decision of SR Technics to engage with CIT. CAMMS developed a
one day ‘yellow belt’ six sigma course for all SR Technics staff. CAMMS was able to adapt an existing ‘green belt’
six sigma module to meet the particular requirements of the SR Technics workplace. Supports were available
in the development and delivery of the programmes from the CIT Department of Mechanical, Biomedical &
Specialist targeted courses by their nature may require ﬂexibility in terms of delivery as they seek to satisfy the
needs of workplaces. The ‘yellow belt’ was delivered on site in the SR Technics facility in Mahon. The ‘green belt’
course was delivered in CIT over a period of weeks for 8 contact days. Project hours, mainly at the company
facility, were in addition to these time requirements. The ‘green belt’ attracted 5 ECTS credits at a Level 7.
The relationship succeeded due to mutual trust and goodwill developed over time. The development process
required negotiation between, on the one hand, representatives from CIT including the CAMMS ofﬁce, staff in
CIT, an external trainer/mentor, and on the other hand, management in the local Mahon facility with the support
of management in the Zurich ofﬁce.
SR Technics did not require exclusivity of delivery and welcomed the involvement of ‘external’ learners which
SR Technics saw as enhancing their employees’ learning. In addition to this, SR Technics facilitated an external
student to work on a SR Technics based project as part of the programme. This student successfully gained
employment in SR Technics following the programme.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 14
The course represented signiﬁcant value for SR Technics particularly because of the European recognition of the
HETAC accredited award. The participants were registered with CAMMS and the academic results were reviewed
and approved at the module exam boards at semester end. Administratively and academically the course was
dealt with in accordance with standard academic and quality procedures within CIT.
By the end of 2010, 80 staff of SR Technics had successfully completed the ‘yellow belt’ programme and 30 - 40
staff had qualiﬁed on the ‘green belt’ programme. CAMMS has also developed a follow on ‘black belt’ six sigma
course which attracts 30 ECTS credits at Level 8 and is delivered over 20 days. A number of the successful ‘green
belt’ participants have already embarked on this programme.
l There was openness in terms of negotiation and communication regarding suggested course content which
satisﬁed the needs of both parties.
l The commitment by SR Technics management both in Cork and in head ofﬁce in Zurich to up-skilling the
workforce in six sigma training.
l The previous successful course delivery by CAMMS with SR Technics enhanced the likelihood of additional
l SR Technics was aware of the direct point of contact within CIT in CAMMS.
l The immediate availability of CIT staff when required for mentoring on projects within SR Technics added to
the ability to respond to the needs of the workplace partner.
l Dual HETAC and ASQ accreditation for the course.
l SR Technics had clear objectives for the engagement.
l Realistic expectations on both sides.
l Flexibility in course design, development, and delivery was exceptional.
The initial interaction between CAMMS and SR Technics began in 2005 with production teams and facilitators on
lean training. These were the original courses which incorporated ﬂexibility in terms of meeting the needs of SR
Technics. Any of the major challenges with regard to timetabling, content and cost were resolved in those earlier
engagements. The following outlines some of the minor challenges which arose in this CAMMS/SR Technics
l The timing of the programme in terms of the days of the week it was delivered on to facilitate shift workers
and general company business requirements. The absence of employees from the workplace for a total of
8 working days or 56 hours was not an issue.
l The physical delivery of the module was located in CIT, with projects being completed in SR Technics. The
yellow belt training to the majority of staff was completed at their facility in Mahon.
The critical learning and beneﬁts CAMMS gained from the engagement:
l The value in having a unit dedicated to liaising with industry in programme design, development, delivery,
l A prompt and timely response by a HEI to the needs of a workplace partner to avoid frustration and
l The importance of good communication and awareness.
The critical learning and beneﬁts SR Technics gained from the engagement:
l By year end 2010, 80 staff had successfully completed the ‘yellow belt’ programme;
l 30 – 40 learners had successfully completed the ‘green belt’ programme;
l A number of successful ‘green belt’ participants embarked on a Level 8 ‘black belt’ Lean Six Sigma course.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 16
BSc (Honours) in Nautical Science
Institution: Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)
Title: BSc (Honours) in Nautical Science
Discipline: Nautical Science
Duration: 2 semesters
Level: NFQ Level 8 Credits: 60
Partner: Irish Naval Service
The Irish Naval Service (INS) is based on Hawbowline Island, Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork. Its principal responsibilities
centre on the maritime defence requirements of the Irish State.
The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) is a constituent college of CIT and is located in Ringaskiddy,
NMCI established a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Nautical Science course, in partnership with the INS, which
met the requirements of both the merchant shipping companies and the INS. The INS had previous experience of
courses accredited in NMCI, for example BSc in Nautical Science and the BEng in Marine and Plant Technology.
The programme is delivered by a combination of CIT staff and Naval ofﬁcers based in the NMCI. Four modules
included in the programme are speciﬁc to the needs of the INS and are compulsory for Naval cadets and
ofﬁcers. These equate to 20 credits of the 60 credit programme. These modules are completed while the learners
are on board ships at sea. The dissertation module of 10 credits is also supported by a workplace mentor in
collaboration with a member of staff in NMCI. The topic of the dissertation module is chosen by the INS to
ensure its relevance to the workplace.
Naval ofﬁcers who assist in supporting the learner and assessment of learning material completed several
workshops in mentoring and assessment of work based learning with CIT staff. This ensured these ofﬁcers
were competent and familiar with the appropriate academic approach to be adopted. The learners also attend
workshops on portfolio development and critical reﬂection to familiarise themselves with the appropriate
processes and the boundaries for the successful completion of the work-based learning elements of the
The process required substantial negotiation between the representatives from CIT including the Registrar’s
ofﬁce, management and staff of NMCI, and the Naval Ofﬁcer Training School of the INS. By 2011, 18 learners
had successfully completed the BSc (Honours) in Nautical Science and 8 further learners were undertaking the
l A track record of successful prior interactions between the NMCI and INS, extending over a period of more
than 30 years.
l The committment of the staff of both NMCI and the INS to a successful outcome.
l The system of modular accumulation of credits which was introduced in CIT/NMCI in recent years, with
emphasis on achievement of learning outcomes also facilitated the development of these novel approaches.
l The desire of the INS to achieve formal validation for work based learning.
l The ﬂexibility in course design, development and delivery exhibited by both organisations, NMCI and the INS,
enabled the development of workable solutions in terms of assessment and supervision whilst maintaining
l The openness in terms of negotiation and communication regarding suggested course content which
satisﬁed the needs of both parties.
l The willingness to try something different in terms of content, delivery, assessment, and tailoring modules
for the INS workplace which resulted in the creation of two parallel streams within a single programme.
l The willingness of the INS to commit resources to mentoring and supporting the learners.
l The culture of the INS which meant that once a decision had been made, there was full commitment by all
staff and learners to the process.
l The diversity of organisation culture. This cultural diversity meant that communication and course
development was initially difﬁcult.
l Some resistance to change was experienced.
l The modules speciﬁc to the INS which were incorporated into the BSc in Nautical Science also required
ﬂexibility in terms of delivery and assessment.
l The principles of validity, reliability and authenticity in the assessment of the work-based assignments were
l Securing ﬁnance for the course was a challenge.
l Systems need to be in place to facilitate ﬂexibility in terms of delivery and assessment. Strict protocols are
required between the HEI and the employer.
l The processes of assessment and allocation of marks and the required standards should be clearly understood
and agreed prior to any delivery of modules.
l Extra effort was made into ensuring those on work-based learning modules, particularly those supervised
and assessed by INS tutors, were not remote from the NMCI systems and structures.
l The programme met the academic and professional requirements necessary to qualify and educate Naval
Ofﬁcers to fulﬁll their duties at sea.
l The NMCI and the Department of Transport have aligned the academic learning associated with the
Professional Licence to practice with elements of this award.
l Resulting from this process, Managerial staff developed the necessary skills to envisage, participate in design
and implementation of a specialist academic programme.
l A Memorandum of Understanding is now in place to ensure standard operating procedures for the smooth
operation of the programme within the partnership arrangement.
l The partnership has contributed to the exploration of other joint academic programmes.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 18
ITAA Travel Professional Higher Certiﬁcate
Institution: Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)
Title: ITAA Professional Higher Certiﬁcate (CPD)
Duration: 1 semesters
Level: NFQ Level 6 Credits: 5
Partner: Irish Travel Agents Association
The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) is a representative body whose members include specialist tour
operators, on-line travel agents and travel agencies in every county in Ireland. Membership is open to businesses
that hold a Travel Agent’s and/or Tour Operator’s licence in Ireland from the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
The ITAA wished to establish opportunities for its members to receive accredited training from an Irish institution
– beginning with the establishment of a short Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme with a
view to expanding the relationship up to Degree level.
The development of this new programme in association with the School of Hospitality Management and Tourism
at the DIT brought together a number of short one day seminars/courses which the Association previously had
provided as un-accredited on-the-job training for its membership. This restructuring into a formally accredited
module attracting European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) credits provided the impetus for a formalised
relationship with the School, and also provided a much more desirable means of up-skilling ITAA membership,
with the full support of Skillnets who encouraged this initiative from the outset.
The ﬁrst step in this process was ofﬁcial recognition of the ITAA as an accredited provider of DIT programmes,
through the ofﬁcial accreditation process deﬁned by the Quality Assurance procedures of the Institute.
Having achieved formal recognition, the ITAA as a provider of DIT accredited training, in association with the
School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, developed the ﬁrst programme/module to be delivered via this
arrangement. This was to be a single 12 week module, delivered externally, to professional travel personnel
through a blended teaching format.
The module content included a range of themes/skills relevant to the sector including: Marketing Communications,
Information Technology, Law, Time Management, and a number of ‘product’ related units. Delivery was by 6 full-
day seminar-style sessions supported by on-line tools such as email, discussion boards, personal blogs/portfolios
and the uploading of all class-based materials in advance. The module was validated as a CPD Module through
the procedures of the DIT – being approved ﬁrstly at School Level, then Faculty Board, and ﬁnally being approved
by Academic Council. Students are registered as fully recognised part-time students in DIT. As the students on
this module are primarily full-time workers in the travel industry, delivery of material, and assessment have been
considered in detail, to allow for successful completion by participants.
Enablers and Success Factors
l The delivery of the programme in ‘block’ format, well organised and planned in advance, means unexpected
or extended absences of staff for training is not necessary.
l The availability of online learning tools via DIT WebCourses, supported by the Learning, Teaching and
Technology Team at the Institute was a further successful element of the module.
l The online blog software which encouraged students to interact on a regular basis with each other, with
their tutors, and with the material they learned. Class materials were fully available in advance to all students
on the programme.
l The organic development of a relationship between the School of Hospitality Management and Tourism at
the DIT and the ITAA.
l The open and ﬂexible dialogue between the two organisations
l The incremental way in which the relationship has developed in a multi-stranded nature. The relationship
began with low levels of communication – initially the placement of DIT students with the ITAA for internship
purposes on an annual basis.
l Flexibility in course design, delivery mechanisms and assessment within the DIT quality assurance and
l The system of modular accumulation of credits which has been operated in the DIT for a number of years.
l The availability of Skillnets funding.
l The ofﬁcial recognition of the ITAA as an accredited provider of DIT programmes.
l The need to ensure that the ITAA could provide sufﬁcient evidence to satisfy the rigours of DIT validation
l The credentials of those who would be delivering modules, the quality assurance procedures that would be
followed (and ensuring these mapped onto the DIT systems), the teaching facilities, support services, entry
requirements into programmes etc.
l DIT needed to assure itself the ITAA offered an ethos and environment for learning and teaching appropriate
to higher education and to the particular proposed collaboration.
l Programme design to provide the up-skilling and training required due to increasing pressures on the sector
in light of technological changes and the recent economic global and national downturn.
l Ensuring ﬂexibility in delivery and assessment to allow for successful completion by participants and to
capture the experience of the participants.
l To date almost 30 students have graduated with a Travel Professionals Higher Certiﬁcate CPD award.
l This Level 6 module offers an accessible relevant route to further education.
l ITAA and DIT supported and encouraged by Skillnets, have begun the process of developing a 3 year
executive degree programme for delivery to the travel and tourism industry.
l In recent months, the relationship between the School and the ITAA has evolved to a position whereby the
ITAA has signed up to the DIT Institutional Corporate Partnership Programme.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 20
MA in Higher Education: Professional Legal Education and Skills
Institution: Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)
Title: MA in Higher Education: Professional Legal Education and Skills
Duration: 2 years part-time
Level: NFQ Level 9 Credits: 90
Partner: Law Society of Ireland
The Law Society is the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors’ profession in Ireland
and exercises statutory functions under the Solicitors Acts 1954 to 2008 in relation to the education, admission,
enrolment, discipline and regulation of the solicitors’ profession. With 12,000 solicitor members, to whom it also
provides services and support, it is governed by an elected Council, which is supported by a full-time executive
led by the Director General.
To support training needs, the Law Society operates a Professional Training Network, which includes the Law
Society Skillnet and the Law Society Finuas Network. It is the only network in Ireland that meets the diverse and
challenging lifelong learning needs of the public and private solicitor enterprise sector and has a membership of
2,231 member ﬁrms. In 2010, the network trained 3,082 trainees and delivered 4,765 training days through its
suite of over 120 training programmes.
In 2009, the Law Society contacted DIT to discuss the possibility of the Institute providing a targeted short course
in learning and teaching for members who were involved in teaching on their professional development courses.
As a result, it was agreed to pilot an adaptation of an existing DIT 5 ECTS short programme in learning and
teaching with the inclusion of employability skills and legal education related issues. The pilot programme proved
particularly successful and precipitated further discussions around the possibility of collaboratively designing a
master level programme in this area.
The new MA in Higher Education: Professional Legal Education and Skills is based on an existing DIT MA in Third
Level Learning and Teaching but incorporates modiﬁcations to reﬂect Law Society professional development
requirements. In order to ﬁne tune these key elements and ensure a close ﬁt between the Masters programme
objectives, learning outcomes and assessment, staff from the DIT Learning Teaching and Technology Centre
(LTTC) worked closely with the Law Society on ﬁnalising the programme including preparing documentation for
programme validation through DIT’s quality assurance process.
The result was a new 90 ECTS part-time taught MA programme with learning outcomes set at Level 9 of the
National Framework of Qualiﬁcations (NFQ) that links directly from the 5 ECTS short course in learning and
teaching. Incorporating appropriate elements of theory, practice and research activity the Masters comprises six
core modules to be completed prior to a ﬁnal research project and thesis.
Successful completion of the 5 ECTS short course is a pre-requisite for entry onto the MA in Higher Education:
Professional Legal Education and Skills. In addition, participants are required to successfully complete some key
profession speciﬁc elements.
While some participants were already familiar with aspects of practitioner research and may already have applied
the methods of participant research or action research to their own work or practice, the programme aimed to
broaden the researcher role to include a critical understanding of the issues in the context of both practice and
policy in higher education, professional legal education and skills. This ﬁrst intake of Law Society participants
onto the new MA was in September 2010.
The learning, teaching and assessment strategy on the MA in Higher Education: Professional Legal Education
and Skills is designed to ensure a quality learning experience for participants that is enriching, effective and
enjoyable. The curriculum was designed so that the learning activities and assessment tasks are aligned with the
intended learning outcomes. There is an emphasis on a shift towards methods that encourage the progressive
development of independent learners, with attainment standards for personal and transferable skills as well as
l The programme has been tailored to requirements of the Law Society;
l A ﬂexible approach to delivery which is constantly under review;
l A sense of shared ownership of the programme;
l A positive relationship with the Law Society facilitating effective programme development and delivery;
l The use of shared faculties in DIT and the Law Society;
l The opportunity for students on DIT MSc in E-learning to share modules with MA in Higher Education and
MA in Higher Education: Professional Legal Education and Skills thus bringing together individuals from
academic, legal and industry backgrounds;
l The support of professional learning by linking aspects of the programme to professional practice.
l In the current economic climate, students have found it difﬁcult to take time off and consequently, it has
now been agreed that for future deliveries of the programme, modules will be scheduled for evenings and
weekends to facilitate working professionals.
l An additional consequence of the economic downtown has been a reduction in numbers applying for the
programme in recent times. This poses a particular challenge in that the sustainability of the programme is
called into question.
l Many of the applicants have a Level 7 qualiﬁcation in addition to professional exams. In these cases,
prospective students were asked to provide appropriate references in support of their applications.
l In April 2011, the Law Society Professional Training Network received the Irish Institute of Training &
Development award in the Networks and Groups Category;
l The creation of a successful and sustainable partnership with the Law Society;
l The use and tailoring of an existing programme for current and future industry needs;
l Student feedback was very positive in terms of being inclusive and providing support where needed.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 22
Diploma in Enterprise Innovation
Institution: Institute of Technology Tallaght, Dublin (ITT Dublin)
Title: Diploma in Enterprise Innovation
Duration: 2 semesters
Level: NFQ Level 8 Credits: 60
Partner: Innova Training and Development
Innova Training and Development is a dynamic training company which was established in September 2005
that has as its central mission the personal and professional development of its learners. Working with County
Enterprise Boards, Area Partnerships, and Institutes of Technology, the company has developed expertise in
training potential entrepreneurs across Ireland on how to start, develop and run their own enterprises.
While delivering ‘Start Your Own Business’ courses in 2009/10 the training company noticed that the education
and work experience background of the participants was changing. There were a greater number of professional
and more highly experienced individuals attending these courses to explore entrepreneurship as a career path as
a result of being made redundant.
Innova required additional expertise and substantial facilities to tender for programmes under the Department
of Enterprise and Employment Labour Market Activation initiative in summer 2010.
The ITT Dublin Synergy Centre works with entrepreneurs to build and grow indigenous, knowledge-based
businesses. The Centre offers a number of enterprise development programmes (e.g. the Enterprise Launch
Programme and Enterprise Platform Programme) which together form the ‘Synergy System’ – a three-stage
process for developing high-technology or knowledge-intensive companies.
Synergy had identiﬁed that many applicants did not compete effectively for a place on the programmes, as they
did not have a sufﬁciently developed business idea, or they did not have an awareness of the full range of issues
that have to be addressed to get a business off the ground.
In addition, ITT Dublin through its involvement in the Roadmap for Employer Academic Partnership (REAP) had
been piloting the use of reﬂective diaries/e-portfolios as resource to support teaching and learning and provide
new models of assessment that meet the needs of the workplace/entrepreneurship and the requirement for
The rationale for the Enterprise Evolution Programme was to address the lack of preparedness of graduates
for an entrepreneurial or self-activating role identiﬁed by Innova and the perceived deﬁciencies in the pool of
potential entrepreneurs in Ireland as identiﬁed by Synergy and deliver an innovative programme that fostered
entrepreneurial development while at the same time met the needs of academic accreditation.
l A dedicated development partnership who believed in the project and were prepared to take on the work
load to get course accreditation and subsequently to deliver the programme;
l An innovative approach to course delivery and assessment that suited an entrepreneurial type programme.
This approach enables academic quality standards to be met while at the same time encouraging innovation,
creativity and entrepreneurial development;
l Reﬂective practice, mentoring, the provision of a dedicated course coordinator and the setting up of a
programme team to coordinate and manage the delivery of the course;
l The quality and calibre of the lecturers who developed and delivered the programme;
l The willingness of the development team to be innovative and creative in the design, delivery and assessment
of the programme;
l The availability of funding through the Labour Market Activation (LMA) Fund.
l The public/private partnership, to which each party came with different expectations and working practices;
l Internal institutional structures and attitudes which created tension and resisted the partnership development;
l The timescale in which the programme had to be developed and delivered;
l Ensuring compliance of a new programme with Quality Assurance processes;
l Advertising and marketing a programme that was being delivered for the ﬁrst time, which did not have case
studies/student experiences to rely upon;
l Recruiting the right proﬁle of participant to the programme.
Beneﬁts, Outcomes and Testimonials
l More than 80 participants have completed the ﬁrst iteration of the programme, providing genuine
opportunities for their personal and professional development as potential entrepreneurs and champions of
the Smart Economy;
l Numerous businesses are emerging from the programme of which many are expected to progress onto the
Enterprise Platform Programme in the Synergy Centre in IT Tallaght and other support programmes;
l A successful roll–out of innovative learning and assessment methods;
l The development of links with numerous industry speakers (including some high proﬁle entrepreneurs such
as John Teeling and Bobby Kerr);
l The conﬁdence and hope the programme brings to previously unemployed graduates and industry
professionals is very evident;
l Under Springboard 2011, Enterprise Evolution Programme (EEP) has developed a partnership between ITT
Dublin, Dun Laoghaire IADT and Innova Training & Development. The Diploma in Enterprise Innovation is
delivered with 100 participants undertaking the programme across both campuses on a part-time basis
over the course of the academic year 2011/2012. The new partnership expands both the educational and
geographic breadth of the programme.
l The key success factor from a partnership point of view is that the EEP is an excellent example of public
private partnership and it has bolstered signiﬁcantly the links between industry and academia for the ITT
Dublin both internally and externally.
l Student Testimonial: “As an Engineering graduate with a Masters in Project Management, I had acquired
a new found interest in business practice. I found the EEP a perfect vehicle to bridge the gap between
university and entering the workforce in this smart driven economy and has instilled in me a conﬁdence to
one day start and run my own business.”
l Student Testimonial: “Having started this programme as a result of not being able to ﬁnd a job, it has given
me the ambition and conﬁdence to create my own job and not wait for one to come my way, I would highly
recommend the EEP to anyone who wants to seize the chance to create a new opportunity for themselves.”
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 24
Institution: National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway)
Discipline: Business Information Systems
Duration: 8 days
Level: NFQ Level 9 Credits: 10
Partners: Lionra Network, Technology Transfer Ofﬁce NUI Galway
In September 2006, the Lionra Network secured funding to deliver an Enterprise Development Programme
(EDP). NUI Galway was identiﬁed as the project manager with the responsibility to ensure that the programme
was delivered successfully, on time and within budget. The EDP programme resulted in an innovative and novel
regional delivery of an enterprise programme which fulﬁlled the needs of a diverse range of industry and sectoral
participants. The programme was completed in March 2008.
As a result of NUI Galway’s involvement in the EDP, a need was identiﬁed to provide training for researchers in
business skills and market knowledge. A Campus Commercialisation Programme (CCP) was developed by staff
at the NUI Galway Technology Transfer Ofﬁce to meet this speciﬁc need – up-skilling researchers on campus.
The LMA Fund was established as part of Budget 2010 to support training and education programmes for the
unemployed who needed and wanted to improve their education and skills. The CCP programme was aligned
with the objectives of the LMA and consequently the Commercialisation module was developed.
The Commercialisation module was accredited and is now aimed at graduates/researchers with a technical or
business background that wish to develop an understanding of the process of commercialisation.
The Commercialisation module is offered as a stand-alone award or as part of the Postgraduate Diploma in
Enterprise Management and Postgraduate Diploma in International Business under the Business Information
The course requires 8 days attendance on campus and is completed within one semester. The delivery format
uses a combination of interactive workshops, networking, case studies, one to one mentoring, individual and
group exercises, show and tell discussions, and guest speakers, as well as incorporating the traditional lecture
This module is linked to the Postgraduate Diploma in Enterprise Management and Postgraduate Diploma in
International Business. The ﬁrst instance of this accredited module was delivered in September 2009.
l The module is designed to meet speciﬁc needs identiﬁed in a survey carried out to determine the needs for
researchers and industry in the area of commercialisation;
l The successful reputation of parent course (CCP) within NUI Galway;
l Feedback from previous programmes is embedded into the existing module;
l The module offers wide variety and breadth of topics covered, expert and practioner presentations,
networking within the programme, and external speakers;
l The ﬂexibility and variety in module delivery - More than just “talk and chalk” module – practical, hands on,
interactive workshops, show and tell sessions, etc.
l Ensuring that the course content is kept up to date and applicable to all participants attending – especially
if there is a cross-sectoral mix in attendance;
l Keeping the interest of researchers in this “commercial space”;
l Building an appropriate cost structure and funding mechanism;
l Securing commitment from academic management to ensure that all researchers and principal investigators
within NUI Galway attend this module;
l Maintaining ownership of the module delivery within NUI Galway;
l Deciding if this module should be promoted externally to other HEIs.
l Allows participants to gain an understanding of the commercial environment and its key players;
l Provides the business acumen for participants and also provides the opportunity to up-skill participants on
all aspects of the commercialisation process;
l Develops key skills and competences in areas such as networking, Intellectual Property, funding options for
new technologies and market perspectives on their individual skills and technological specialities;
l Potentially acts as a key diagnostic tool for technology ideas;
l Provides a tangible link and introduction to TTO activities to researchers within the University.
l Enhances the University reputation and brand and beneﬁts the University by way of recruitment and
retention of researchers;
l The course has proven to be a cross-sectoral success with biomedical, applied optics, Information and
Communications Technology (ICT), marine, medicine, renewable energy discipline participants as well as
attendees from multinational medical manufacturers. This mix provides a good network for all participants;
l Positive feedback from participants including acceptance of their need to learn more about the commercial
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 26
Laser Safety in the Workplace
Institution: National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway)
Title: Laser Safety in the Workplace
Duration: Varies - depending on Industry need
Level: Not applicable Credits: Not applicable
Partners: Various companies
The National Centre for Laser Applications (NCLA) is based in the School of Physics in NUI Galway and was
established as a centre of excellence in Laser Technology in 1989. The group works very closely with industry
through laboratory-based feasibility trials, full R&D services, technology transfer, prototyping, laser safety audits
and tailored training courses in laser technology, applications and safety.
In late 2007, the NCLA visited a number of companies listing 18 potential courses that it could run for them.
A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) was carried out targeting these manufacturing industries that use laser based
processes. As a result of this activity, a considerable number of strong links with industry were established that
required similar types of training. From this, a new network was established – BESTNet (Biomedical Engineering
and Science Training Network). Within BESTNet there was a partnership of about 60 companies who had
identiﬁed their training needs in Biomedical, Science, Lasers and Optics. This training was subsidised through the
Skillnets organisation which allowed the companies to offer the training to their employees.
The NCLA delivered a number of courses to this network but the primary demand was for Laser Safety in the
Workplace. Sometimes the demand from one company was adequate for the NCLA to deliver the course on-site
with just their employees. In these cases, modiﬁcations and adjustments were made to the courses that catered
for their speciﬁc needs and eventually the NCLA found that over time the courses became more customised for
l The ability to tailor a speciﬁc course to meet the needs of one employer, including the design of practical
examples based on the equipment on the company site;
l Physically locating course at employer site – use of on-site equipment as an integral element of their course;
l The high practical content - hands on/working on actual lasers during training;
l The in depth knowledge and skill in laser technology in NCLA;
l The track record of NCLA engaging with industry and designing courses;
l The key input from each employer to satisfy speciﬁc up-skilling needs, including equipment, timescales and
l The availability of funding through Skillnet.
l The overall numbers attending did not match the training needs analysis;
l The value of designing tailored courses when the attendance was low;
l The cost of training if subsidy from Skillnets was not available;
l Balancing the increasing demand in industry for accredited programmes with the fact that occasionally the
course duration and level were inadequate to warrant accreditation;
l Meeting the needs of smaller companies which do not have enough employees to ﬁll a course.
l The development of strong sustainable partnerships between industry and academia;
l The ability to develop a speciﬁc practical course to meet the needs of one employer with the ﬂexibility to
adapt it to meet the needs of multiple employers;
l An improved recognition by NCLA of what its industry partners want and is improving at designing effective
courses to meet their needs;
l Through practice, an improved NCLA response time to requests for customised courses.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 28
Diploma in Credit Union Studies
Institution: University College Cork (UCC)
Title: Diploma in Credit Union Studies
Duration: 1 or 2 years part-time
Level: NFQ Level 7 Credits: 60
Partner: Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU)
The Diploma in Credit Union Studies has been offered by UCC since 1991 and is a successful example of
industry-academia partnership in the development of tailored education for credit union personnel. The Diploma
is designed for those with experience in credit unions, as employees or as volunteers. There have been over 780
graduates to date, equally representing credit union employees and credit union volunteers, including board
members and committee members, from both small and large credit unions in urban and rural areas. The
Diploma is designed to develop a critical awareness of the distinctive nature of credit union organisations and
their role in promoting socio-economic development at community level. It also aims to further develop the
knowledge and abilities of credit union personnel, so that at organisational and individual levels, they can
organise and manage credit unions more efﬁciently.
The Diploma in Credit Union Studies was launched as a direct result of a perceived need for a third level
qualiﬁcation for credit union personnel identiﬁed in the Planning Committee Report as adopted by the Irish
League of Credit Unions (ILCU) at its 1991 Special General Meeting. Established links between the Centre for Co-
operative Studies at UCC and the ILCU were built upon to investigate the feasibility of developing a programme
of studies. A steering committee comprising of two academic and six industry partners was formed to design
and oversee the development of the Diploma. It was agreed by the steering committee that a distance learning
approach would best suit the diverse locations of the target audience. This meant that the course materials had
to be developed in advance of the programme being offered, unlike more traditional on-campus programmes
where materials can be developed week on week. This, of course, incurs signiﬁcant up-front costs, long before
student fees are paid. Consequently, the ILCU agreed to fund the start-up costs of the Diploma programme
by way of an interest-free loan. This loan was repaid to the ILCU in full as students enrolled in the programme
and fee income was generated. The steering committee also advised on programme content, ensuring that the
content was both relevant and timely for credit union personnel, and of an academic standard to merit university
The Diploma programme can be taken over one or two years. A blended approach to distance learning has been
adopted in order to give students the opportunity to learn at their own pace. This approach to course delivery
comprises of text-based modules combined with regional distance learning lectures.
Both assignments and exams require students to apply the theory in the modules to their own practice in credit
unions. This helps them to contextualise and evaluate their practice and to explore possible lessons learned for
While it is a compulsory entry requirement for all course applicants to have completed at least two years of
employment in a credit union, there is also an exemption on this course for students who have completed the
Advanced Certiﬁcate in Credit Union Practice awarded by the University of Ulster. Holders of this award are
eligible for exemptions of a total of ten credits, i.e. two modules, from Level One of the Diploma in Credit Union
l The close working relationship and partnership between the ILCU and the Centre for Co-operative Studies
at UCC; the chosen method of course delivery; and the commitment of UCC staff to the development of
l The ILCU’s input to the development of the programme, both in terms of ﬁnancial assistance and contributions
to curriculum development, has been invaluable in ensuring that students are offered a relevant and timely
l The blended approach to distance learning adopted by this programme has allowed students to experience
the best of both approaches: they can conduct a large portion of their learning at their own pace in their
own time, but they are also afforded the opportunity to experience cohort learning and engage with other
students through the lectures and Summer School which they attend as part of the course.
l The commitment of UCC staff to the development of this sub-discipline has ensured that the Diploma
programme has remained relevant over time. Staff are continuously involved in cutting edge research in this
ﬁeld (often ﬁnancially supported by the ILCU) which allows students to be kept abreast of the most up-to-
date developments in their industry.
l The difﬁculty in incorporating ﬂexibility into this course. Although ﬂexibility around different student needs
is extremely important to a course of this kind, it is not always easy to be ﬂexible within the conﬁnes of a
large university organisation.
l I ncreasing competition in the market for training and education, new regulatory requirements regarding
‘Minimum Competency Requirements’ for credit unions, increasing acceptance of education technologies,
and a spotlight on operational costs in credit unions, all have implications for student recruitment and
retention. However, some of these challenges can be turned into opportunities and this is where the focus
now lies for the development of the Diploma.
l UCC offers a number of progression routes to further studies for Credit Union diploma holders. Firstly, as
the Diploma constitutes the ﬁrst year of the three year Level 8 BSc in Mutual and Credit Union Business,
applicants for the BSc who were awarded the Diploma are eligible to proceed directly to Level Two of
the degree on successful completion of a brief ﬁfteen credit bridging programme. Upon completion of
this degree, students may then progress to Level 9 on the NFQ and apply for the e-learning MBus in Co-
operative and Social Enterprise.
l Credit Union personnel have been enabled to think strategically and to contribute more effectively, not only
to the Credit Union movement, but also to their wider communities.
l Student uptake on the programme has been very diverse and feedback from students has been extremely
positive. As well as gaining a valuable qualiﬁcation which helps them to progress in their individual career
development, the course also offers students an enormous opportunity for networking within the industry,
whereby students have found that through the Diploma they have built up a network of contacts in other
credit unions that can be drawn upon when help or advice is needed.1
l The partnership created between the ILCU and UCC in the development and subsequent delivery of this
programme has led to numerous beneﬁts for all key stakeholders involved in this engagement.
29 1The development of this network has been further supported through the creation of a speciﬁcally dedicated website for students
of the Diploma which acts as a reference point for students throughout the year. One of its main features is a ‘discussion forum’,
enabling students throughout the country to stay in contact with each other for the duration of the course.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 30
Postgraduate Certiﬁcate in Teaching Enterprise and Innovation in Education
Institution: Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)
Title: Postgraduate Certiﬁcate in Teaching Enterprise and Innovation
Duration: 1 semester
Level: NFQ Level 9 Credits: 10
Partner: Celtic Enterprises Ltd
Institutes of Technology are called upon to play a pivotal role in the development of an enterprise culture
through entrepreneurship education and producing graduate entrepreneurs, who will be capable of using their
knowledge and applying it to start up and grow their own businesses. Whilst HEIs play a key role in the supply
entrepreneurial talent to develop new businesses, entrepreneurship education should not be the preserve of the
higher education sector. Ideally, entrepreneurship competence should be acquired through lifelong learning,
with entrepreneurial skills being developed at primary, second, third and fourth level.
In 2003, Celtic Enterprises Ireland (CEI) Ltd was established as a non-proﬁt organisation to develop and deliver
enterprise education in primary, second-level, and further education. They did this by visiting schools to support,
motivate and advise students wishing to set up their own business. Whilst the second-level curriculum includes a
number of business-related subjects e.g. Business Studies, Accounting, and Economics, these do not necessarily
provide students with the practical skills required to set up their own businesses. Celtic Enterprises conducted
research amongst teachers which highlighted both their need and appetite for learning about Enterprise and
Innovation. Whilst teachers appreciated the value of promoting and teaching entrepreneurship, they lacked
conﬁdence in their own ability to teach Enterprise and Innovation without having appropriate training. Celtic
Enterprises secured INTERREG funding to develop accredited training for teachers and collaborated with WIT’s
School of Education to develop a 10-credit, Level 9 module in Enterprise and Innovation for the continuing
professional development of teachers.
This module aims to provide teachers with the knowledge and skills for effective entrepreneurship education.
Initially, it was aimed at second level teachers and Celtic Enterprises was responsible for recruiting teachers.
During the module, teachers explored good practice in entrepreneurship education, identiﬁed pedagogical
approaches to effectively engage students. Moreover, they were encouraged to reﬂect on their role as enterprise
teachers and their teaching philosophy. The module had a strong emphasis on action learning with the teachers
encouraged to test new approaches to teaching enterprise and reﬂect and report on their effectiveness. On
successful completion of the course, teachers developed a portfolio of teaching resources/materials, which they
could use with their own students.
l The use of creative and collaborative teaching methodologies;
l Teachers responded well to the concepts of Innovation and Creativity and understood how implicit they are
in the broad deﬁnition of entrepreneurship;
l Teachers embraced their role in promoting enterprise;
l The 2011 iteration of the module was delivered to teachers across the spectrum of education;
l On successful completion of this module, participants gained 10 Level 9 credits and could progress to study
the MA in Management in Education, MA in Teaching and Learning in FE & HE, the MA in Education (WIT),
or relevant postgraduate courses at other HEIs.
l Initially, the module was restricted to second-level teachers;
l Primary school teachers were sceptical of their role in promoting or teaching enterprise;
l There is no standard, one-size-ﬁts-all deﬁnition of enterprise thus it can be interpreted differently by different
l The teachers lacked conﬁdence in their own ability to teach enterprise thus the lecturers focused on building
their conﬁdence and self-efﬁcacy in entrepreneurship education;
l The need for ﬂexibility in design and delivery to facilitate a variety of participant backgrounds and the
continuing professional development needs of teachers in the disciplines of Enterprise and Innovation.
l In the ﬁrst year, 31 teachers completed the Postgraduate Certiﬁcate Programme in Teaching Enterprise &
l Teachers gained a theoretical and practical understanding of the importance of entrepreneurship to the Irish
and EU economies;
l Teachers developed a network of enterprise teachers with whom to share good practice, teaching approaches
l Teachers developed a portfolio of teaching resources/materials to enhance their teaching of the subject;
l This programme will inform enterprise/entrepreneurship lecturers in WIT how to progress the teaching
Enterprise and Innovation in primary, second-level, and further education.
l The programme highlights both the opportunities and key challenges for integrating entrepreneurship
across the spectrum of education.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 32
BSc (Honours) in Airline Transport Operations
Institution: Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)
Title: BSc (Honours) in Airline Transport Operations
Discipline: Education and Professional Development
Duration: 2 years part-time
Level: NFQ Level 8 Credits: 180
Partner: Pilot Training College of Ireland (PTC)
Arising from a collaborative agreement between the School of Education and Professional Development in
WIT and the Pilot Training College of Ireland at Waterford Regional Airport a distance learning BSc (Honours)
in Airline Transport Operations was developed. This programme built on an existing degree course that led to
a dual qualiﬁcation of (i) third level accredited qualiﬁcation in airline transport operations and (ii) a commercial
pilot’s licence. The distance learning method of delivery was developed as an alternative method of study,
aimed at providing ﬂexibility to ﬁt changing lifestyles and meet the needs of career airline pilots to balance
career development objectives with a busy work life. Pilots from a number of airlines wishing to pursue a
managerial career within the airline industry and seeking the opportunity to further their managerial career
should they choose to give up ﬂying or work in other areas of the aviation industry have embarked upon this
programme. This challenged educators and curriculum developers to bridge the gaps between academia and
industry, particularly in view of the rapid changes due to the arrival of new technologies.
The Pilot Training College is a Joint Aviation Authority (JAA) Flight Training Organisation approved by the Irish
Aviation Authority for the purpose of carrying out Commercial Pilot Training. The Pilot Training College of
Ireland operates to a Quality System based on IAA/JAA Regulations. It ensures full pre-ﬂight and post-ﬂight
brieﬁngs for every exercise. Trainees receive full guidance on training expectations and ongoing progress reports.
Initial training is critical to setting the values and practices that a pilot will carry throughout his or her career in
aviation. The highest standards of training and testing are crucial to establishing a strong foundation of skill and
understanding. Through the Flight Instructor and Flight Examiner programmes, which provide the basis of all its
ﬂight-training, it aims to produce well-motivated and dedicated pilots who will maintain the safety standards set
by the regulatory authority.
The majority of the course is delivered by distance learning. This is supplemented by face-to-face sessions at
dedicated times throughout the two years of this programme. The e-Learning resources consist of online forums,
reading lists, and online material and links. Students can also directly communicate with lecturers and enter
discussions with other students using Moodle.
The overall aims of the BSc (Honours) in Airline Transport Operations are:
(i) to provide the students with an in-depth knowledge of the international air transport industry;
(ii) to develop their specialised skills, knowledge and competence to pilot a commercial aircraft;
(iii) to provide the graduates with the capability to work effectively as professional managers within the aviation
Due to the technical nature of a pilot’s work, 110 credits of the overall programme are achieved by undertaking
the various technical aspects of becoming a pilot. It is this basis, that the School of Education has launched a
blended learning version of the BSc (Honours) in Airline Transport Operations.
Existing pilots are afforded the opportunity to augment their existing pilot’s licence by undertaking a further
70 credits of study. Pilots who hold a current JAA Airline Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL), frozen or unfrozen,
and who have successfully completed a Multi-Crew Cooperation Course (MCC) receive credit towards the BSc
(Honours) in Airline Transport Operations. Building on the expertise in delivering the programme since 2008, this
two year part-time course has been designed to develop comprehensive business knowledge and skills relevant
to the aviation industry.
l Blended Learning;
l Use of a Learning Management system, Moodle;
l Development of a framework to deploy learning to address the diverse lifelong learning needs of air
l Getting the best from the available resources to deliver the programme;
l Ensuring that CPD programme meets the objectives of participants in the context of the resources available;
l Ensuring that adequate opportunities are created to facilitate capturing experiential learning opportunities.
l There are 14 pilots from six countries throughout Europe who commenced the programme in February
l The course has been successful in facilitating pilots’ career progression through distance learning.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 34
The cases presented here illustrate a variety and range of learning solutions designed in partnership to meet
speciﬁc learning needs. They vary from short focused interventions to much longer full awards on the framework
from Level 6 to Level 9. Depending on the details of the particular learning need it is apparent that some of these
interventions will have a reasonably short currency and others will exist for a longer timeframe. In all cases the
courses grow from a mutual understanding and a relationship between the Higher Education Institution and the
external partner(s). They involve a variety of funding mechanisms and they illustrate the importance of agility in
terms of meeting learning needs in a responsive and ﬂexible way.
These cases and a variety provide the starting point for an analysis of the processes, procedures, challenges and
opportunities in developing customised learning solutions. An exploration of the similarities and differences
experienced across the partner institutions was conducted in order to extract guidelines to support the
development of more ﬂexible and agile responses to learning needs. These are summarised in the following
The REAP project consortium recognises that a partnership approach to learning is important in providing
agile and ﬂexible learning solutions for a wide range of enterprise and community partners. Rapid changes in
society, workplaces and technology mean that responsive approaches to continuing education and professional
developments are more essential than ever. According to Langworthy and Turner (2003) these changes mean
…there will be less emphasis on a single lifetime career, a greater importance of lifelong learning and
an increased reliance on diverse sources of learning and knowledge…
Many HEIs have built long-term partnerships with organisations over time and have developed innovative
and context-sensitive targeted courses to meet speciﬁc education and training needs. Through the detailed
exploration of practice and the identiﬁcation of critical success factors for all parties, this work seeks to support
good practice and to promote a partnership approach to learning which recognises and values the contributions
of all parties to the design and support of the learning process.
Several illustrative cases have been presented in Chapter 2 of this work. In addition to these, an exploration of a
wider range of course offerings was undertaken throughout the project consortium. The REAP project partners,
having shared the practical experiences in the different institutions, worked together to identify themes and
transferable guides for practice. Some of the initial work considered the timeline or series of milestones that
occur between the initial identiﬁcation of the learning need and the satisfactory resolution. Despite the range
and variety of programme types and levels, it is interesting to note that the identiﬁcation of similar stages was
possible in all cases.
General Stages in Customised Learning Developments
The overall stages identiﬁed in the development of Specialist Courses in partnership were:
l Exploratory Learning Needs Analysis – identiﬁcation of the workplace learning need;
l Formation of the partnership and identiﬁcation of the various participants;
l Initial negotiation stages;
l Development and accreditation of the course;
l Further negotiation stages including numbers of students, learning, and assessment modes;
l Recruitment of learners including an exploration of the existing formal and informal learning of the target
l Learning Agreements at both organisation and student level;
l Delivery and assessment of course;
l Monitoring and evaluation;
l Identiﬁcation of next steps in the learning partnership evolution.
3. Good Practice Guidelines
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 36
Main Steps in Customised Course Development
These stages will not necessarily occur in exactly this order and often stages will be revisited in the process as
more information becomes available to all partners but this provides a good general outline for the process. It
is evident that some of these stages will be quite lengthy and that for various reasons the development process
may stop or be discontinued at various points along the way.
Enablers and Barriers
Following detailed consideration of examples of customised learning development shared by the REAP project
partners in consultation with external partners, some key enablers which support the development of innovative
courses in response to identiﬁed needs, as well as some of the main barriers which act to impede such
developments were further explored. While this is not an exhaustive listing it was important in informing the
development of the guidelines for good practice to support the structures.
l Existing relationship and good mutual understanding;
l Clear points of contact and commitment to the vision and the process;
l Clear decision structures in each organisation;
l Identiﬁable learning need;
l Flexible approaches to learning and assessment;
l Availability of funding;
l Existing exemplars.
l Unrealistic expectations of time, effort, cost involved;
l Cultural conﬂicts including skill vs education dilemma;
l Lack of awareness of HEI capability and capacity;
l Inaccurate learning needs analysis, over-projection by company of the level of need;
l Lack of infrastructure/systems within the institution for registration and invoicing of non-standard students;
l Lack of infrastructure at college level for costing/pricing;
l Challenges associated with resourcing new initiatives;
l Rigidity of HEI contracts and the lack of clear recognition or reward for HEI staff
l Inﬂexibility of processes in relation to non-standard students and the place and pace of the learning and
l Relevance and currency of HEI course content and lack of recognition of learning gained outside of HEI.
It was clearly recognised that the development of relevant and responsive solutions to work place learning needs
has signiﬁcant beneﬁts at a national economic level as well as the level of the various participants. All of the
REAP project partners reported that these initiatives were key in the development of improved partnerships and
enhanced mutual understanding and respect between the academic and the industry partner.
For the HEI partner the beneﬁts identiﬁed could be summarised as:
l Increased student numbers and the associated income stream;
l Increased diversity of learners;
l Organisational learning and staff development;
l Enhanced relevance and currency of the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes;
l Other opportunities for engagements and access to expertise and resources.
For the industry partner the beneﬁts include:
l Improved employee knowledge, skills and competence;
l Enhanced employee satisfaction and improved retention;
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 38
l Proﬁle as a learning organisation;
l Improved productivity and work practices;
l Other opportunities for engagements and access to expertise and resources.
Many of the HEIs reported challenges associated with resourcing ﬂexible initiatives, particularly with the current
signiﬁcant constraints on hiring. There was also a considerable spread of practice in relation to the level of
involvement of the external partner in the learning process. In some cases this depended on the discipline. In
new and emerging technologies it was reported that often the most up-to-date and relevant expertise resided
within the external enterprise or industry partner and that it was appropriate to engage practice experts as
partners in the delivery and assessment of learning. This provided an additional challenge in terms of the ability
of the systems to cope with these ‘adjunct faculty’ members and to provide them with the appropriate training
Structures and process within the HEIs to invoice enterprise partners in a timely and responsive manner presented
difﬁculties in some cases. Where these processes failed or were inadequate there was a signiﬁcant impact on
the learners as they were unable to complete registration processes or gain access to a range of HEI services.
Often these difﬁculties in dealing with external partners on a ‘business-to-business’ footing were addressed by
the formation of a separate ‘unit’ within the HEI to separate these interactions from the main registration or
Where HEI staff were involved in interactions with organisations and enterprises and were willing to develop
and deliver negotiated courses in ﬂexible and partnership modes, they often expressed frustration at the lack
of support and recognition for the work. There were also some difﬁculties experienced in ﬁtting what are often
short, intensive, off-campus courses into rigid semesterised timetables within the HEI system.
Guidelines for Good Practice for all Partners
The REAP team collated and analysed a number of partnership developments of customised courses. The courses
were chosen to span a range of disciplines, levels, credits and durations to provide as broad a basis as possible
from which to extract transferable learning. From this work the following guidelines have emerged. These are
intended to facilitate the development of such courses by providing a framework for improved communication
and collaboration between all parties in the process.
They recognise the key part played by the HEIs, the employers and the students in ensuring the success of
the initiatives and are broken down to address the main stages in the process. While they will not always be
applicable to every case they should provide a valuable supporting blueprint.
Indicative Analysis of Stages
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 40
In the planning stages, the process of negotiation and joint course development often requires a number of
phases to clarify learning and development needs and to balance the needs of the learner, the employer and
the higher education provider. The reported experience is one of a cyclical approach wherein clarifying learning
needs is often impacted by identiﬁcation and proﬁling of the learner leading to an agreed top level goal.
The outcome of the planning stages will be enhanced mutual understanding and an outline Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) which will provide a positive backdrop for future development work.
As the outcome of the process will be a learning pathway which is sensitive to the learners’ existing knowledge
and experience and informed by the employer’s anticipated business model, the development and accreditation
stages for the course will be undertaken in a partnership mode. It is at this stage of the process that the ﬂexibility
parameters listed below will be embedded into the course design:
The outcome of the organising stages will be an approved course, agreement on ﬁnance and resourcing issues
and identiﬁed learners.
Developing ﬂexible and responsive courses includes taking account of learners’ diverse portfolios and will
require some level of individual learning planning. Successful implementation of the course depends on clear
communication channels incorporating all stakeholders in the processes. Clear structures to address any
unforeseen difﬁculties or challenges will include honesty and openness in the partnership processes.
4 Inclusion of practice-based learning and work-based mode of learning;
4 Facilitation of the recognition of prior learning including experiential learning;
4 Identiﬁcation and provision of HEI staff development activities required to support the initiative;
4 Timetabling of the course and the delivery to include ﬂexibility in terms of location and multiple
access points to course lectures, tutorials, practical elements;
4 Alignment of delivery and assessment schedule with company calendar.
Structures to collate and analyse the experiences of all partners, the learners, employers, and HEI staff, should
be formally established in order to ensure a cycle of continuous improvement in the design, development and
delivery of customised courses. Looking at the experience from the perspective of the development of the
partnership between the HEI and the employer ensures that new opportunities for engagement interactions can
be explored. Many of the HEIs in evaluating their customised courses reported that they were able to identify
further ‘markets’ for their courses and to target and recruit additional learners and new partnerships.
The cases presented here provide a clear evidence base for a partnership approach to learning which values
the employer and the workplace in the design and support of the learning process. This approach challenges
the higher education provider to move beyond the traditional and into ﬂexible and learner-led educational
frameworks within a robust quality-assured structure.
Achieving this depends on a number of elements of the ‘toolkit’ for ﬂexible learning. As this learning is aimed
at learners in the workplace it should be structured to recognise and value what the learner already knows,
regardless of where or how the learning was gained. It should be designed to take advantage of the availability
of the workplace itself as a rich learning environment and to include the employer as a key learning partner.
While there are many challenges for both HEIs and employers, there is considerable beneﬁt to be gained from
the sharing of experiences and expertise. The guidelines presented in the Appendices will help to improve
the practice development and to structure approaches building on existing practice. In this way incremental
improvement can be achieved efﬁciently and shared across the entire sector.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 42
Boud, D. and Solomon, N. 2001. Work Based Learning: A New Higher Education? Milton Keynes: Open University
Brennan, L. 2005. Integrating Work-based Learning into Higher Education: A Guide to Good Practice. A report
by the University Vocational Awards Council. Bolton: University of Bolton.
Expert group on Future Skills Needs, 2011. Developing Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): The Role of RPL in the
Context of the National Skills Strategy Upskilling Objectives. Dublin: EGFSN.
Forfás. 2004. Ahead of the Curve: Ireland’s Place in the Global Economy. Dublin: Forfás: Enterprise Strategy
Forfás, 2007a. Tomorrow’s Skills: Towards a National Skills Strategy. Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. 5th
Report. Dublin: Forfás.
Forfás. 2007b. Promoting Enterprise – Higher Education Relationships. Advisory Council for Science Technology
and Innovation. Dublin: Forfás.
Hansson, B. 2008. Job-related Training and Beneﬁts for Individuals: A Review of Evidence and Explanations.
OECD Education Working Papers, No. 19. OECD Publishing.
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Langworthy, A. and Turner, T. 2003. Learning for the Workplace and Beyond: the Challenge of University-
Community Engagement. HERDSA.
Linehan, M. 2008. Work-based Learning: Graduating Through the Workplace. Cork: CIT Press.
National Competitiveness Council (2009). Statement on Education and Training. Dublin: Forfás.
National Qualiﬁcations Authority of Ireland. 2005. Principles and Operational Guidelines for the Recognition of
Prior Learning. Dublin: NQAI.
Nixon, I., Smith, K., Stafford, R., and Camm, S. 2006. Work-based Learning: Illuminating the Higher Education
Landscape. Final Report. York: The Higher-Education Academy.
Quintini, G. 2011. Over-qualiﬁed or Under-skilled: a Review of Existing Literature. OCED Social Employment and
Migration Working Papers. No 121, OECD Publishing.
Raelin, J. 2008. Work-based Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Sheridan, I., and Linehan, M. 2009. Recognition of Prior Learning: A Focus on Practice. Cork: CIT Press.
Toner, P. 2011. Workforce Skills and Innovation: An Overview of Major themes in the Literature. OECD Education
Working Papers, No. 55. OECD Publishing.
Current Employment and Employment History
Education and Training Completed
Personal Career and Learning Progression Goals
Skills and Competences Assessment
Reﬂection on Future Direction
Individual Proﬁling and Learning Planning Guide
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 44
Current Employment and Employment History
Please complete or tick (4) the appropriate box.
Previous job titles/roles with
Current or most recent employer
Title From To
Previous employment history Employer Position Held From To
o Under 20 o 21-30 o 31-40
o 41-50 o 51-60 o Over 60
Education and Training Completed
(or equivalent) completed
(or equivalent) completed
Post-Leaving Certiﬁcate/Third Level Education:
(Include Degrees/Diplomas/Certiﬁcates/Trade Certiﬁcates etc.)
Additional Training/Continuous Professional Development
(Please include all types of training: in-house, online courses/modules, workshops, evening courses, part-time courses etc.)
How has this training beneﬁtted you in your job? Please be as speciﬁc as possible.
Professional Body Membership Level Year
o Ye s
o Ye s
Award College/University Awarding Body NFQ Level Year
Course Title Duration Accrediting Body Certiﬁcation Motivation
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 46
In the next 12 months do you plan to: Y N If yes please specify
Stay in current post
Seek opportunity to change role
Other – specify:
What do you need to achieve your one year career plan? Y N If yes please specify
Additional transferable skills.
Additional discipline skills
Additional academic qualiﬁcation(s)
Training courses: (internal or external)
Additional workplace experience
Other - specify:
What do you need to achieve your ﬁve year career plan? Y N If yes please specify
Additional transferable skills
Additional discipline skills
Additional academic qualiﬁcation(s)
Training courses: (internal or external)
Additional workplace experience
Other – specify:
What post do you hope to hold ﬁve years from now? Y N If yes please specify
Transfer into a new post
Transfer into a related post
Other – specify:
Personal Career and Learning Progression Goals
Skills and Competences Assessments
Please indicate with a tick (4) your current proﬁciency level for each of the following skills on a scale of 1 to 5,
where 1 is limited proﬁciency and 5 is a high level of proﬁciency. Also please indicate your desired proﬁciency
level for each of these skills.
Discipline Speciﬁc Skills
Current proﬁciency level Desired proﬁciency level
1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
If there are any other general or transferable skills relevant to you that you would like to enhance, please add in
the blank cells provided and indicate your current and desired proﬁciency levels.
If there are any discipline speciﬁc skills relevant to you that you would like to enhance, please add in the cells
provided below and indicate your current and desired proﬁciency levels.
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 48
Reﬂection on Future Directions
Having considered your current skills and your aspirations which of these actions would be most appropriate?
Seek formal awards or qualiﬁcations and academic progression
Seek recognition for learning acquired informally in the workplace
Seek additional workplace relevant skills
Seek career guidance assistance in setting career goals
Outline Memorandum of Understanding – Customised Course Development
Outline Course Proposal
Number of academic credits
Estimated duration Minimum
Proposed commencement date
Estimate of student numbers
Course entry requirements
Estimated contact time
This course is intended to:
Overall Course Outcomes
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 50
Employer representative Date
Alternate contact name Date
Higher Education Institution representative Date
Alternate contact name Date
Alternate contact name Title
Higher Education Institution
Alternate contact name Title
Academic Contact Details
Course Evaluation Template - Student
Course Evaluation Templates
May we use your comments for the purpose of promoting our course o Yes o No
The overall content of the course o Excellent o V. Good o Good o Fair o Poor
The overall performance of o Excellent o V. Good o Good o Fair o Poor
The course content will be o Most of the time o Often o Seldom o Never
useful in my job
The pace of instruction o Just right o Too fast o Too slow
for the course
What I liked most about the course is:
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 52
What I liked least about the course is:
On which topics should more time be spent?
On which topics should less time be spent?
To make future courses better you should:
Course Evaluation Template - Employer
May we use your comments for the purpose of promoting our course o Yes o No
The overall content of the course o Excellent o V. Good o Good o Fair o Poor
The match with the company learning needs o Excellent o V. Good o Good o Fair o Poor
The process of course development o Excellent o V. Good o Good o Fair o Poor
The communication with the company o Excellent o V. Good o Good o Fair o Poor
The course content will be o Most of the time o Often o Seldom o Never
useful in the organisation
Positive outcomes of the course and the course development process
CUSTOMISED LEARNING DEVELOPMENT 54
Recommendations for improvement of the course development process
Recommendations for improvement of the implementation and delivery process
Recommendations for future courses
REAP Working Group Membership
Kieran Doyle Athlone Institute of Technology
John P Murphy Cork Institute of Technology
Gerard O’Donovan Cork Institute of Technology
Irene Sheridan Cork Institute of Technology
David Kirk Dublin Institute of Technology
Dr Terry Maguire Institute of Technology, Tallaght, Dublin (Chair)
Michelle Bradley National University of Ireland Galway
Niamh Corcoran National University of Ireland Galway
Dr Joan Buckley University College Cork
Lyndsey El Amoud University College Cork
John O’Connor Waterford Institute of Technology
Paula Power Waterford Institute of Technology
Vera Barrett Cork Institute of Technology
Shirley Kingston Cork Institute of Technology