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After many years of keeping its staff's skills and learning records on a specially constructed database, the V&A family of museums is trialing a new learning management system (LMS).

The LMS - known as the In Tuition Customer Extranet (ICE) - has been designed by In Tuition and is being supplied on a trial basis free of charge to selected clients.

"Training and development activities for our staff has expanded a great deal in recent years - and we're now developing a virtual learning and training website, in partnership with Ashridge, the world-renowned business college," said Veronika Harris, head of training and development at the V&A.

"This website will allow any - and all - of the V&A's 750 employed staff and 250 or so contracted staff including the museums' volunteers to access a wide range of e-learning materials. In addition, we are still offering a range of classroom-based training," she said.

"Not only do all our staff have access to all the training materials that Ashridge provides through the portal but we are mapping these training materials to industry-standard and V&A qualifications.

"We realised that, with this increased level of learning activity among our sizeable number of staff, we needed more than a proprietary database to record who has learnt what from which course - and what knowledge and skills each employee currently has."

In Tuition's managing director, Lee Hassan is confident that ICE will meet the V&A's needs. "ICE provides a learning management system for organisations to manage, deliver and track training projects of any size or geography for employees, stakeholders and suppliers."

In Tuition's ICE sales manager, Dev Prashad added: "ICE can be used to schedule courses and courseware - which can be produced by any supplier. It can combine these into a curriculum, a syllabus and/or a schedule for individuals - as well as allow individuals to search for the courses they need. In addition to keeping training records for employees, it can provide users with assessment tests and questionnaires".

"ICE also maintains waiting lists for courses, allows users to register their interest in attending particular courses and also logs attendance on each course. It can also be used for knowledge management, disseminating news across the organisation and providing a repository for the organisation's 'knowledge'.

"ICE allows not only the efficient management of skills and competencies within an organisation such as the V&A, but it also reduces the time and costs involved in training administration and gives training performance a higher visibility - through more efficient reporting - with the organisation's senior and middle executives."

The V&A is testing ICE's functionality in a number of areas. "Mapping the organisation's IT competencies is a major, on-going project," said Harris. "ICE, which has competency criteria within it, will help us to build up a dynamic picture of these and other competencies.

"The V&A organises both classroom-based training and 'virtual training' or e-learning for its staff. The pace of working life is changing fast and, in order to keep pace with this, we need to provide our staff with increased accessibility to training and self-paced learning materials.

"We are tending to run shorter, more focused training events, where the trainees will have worked through pre-course e-learning materials to bring them to a common standard before attending the training course.

"We are also making electronically delivered support materials and assessment tests available to them after they have completed the course," Harris continued. "All this is coordinated by the ICE system - which also allows learners to email personal tutors and coaches for further help and performance support."

Hassan concluded, "We believe that ICE will not only allow a quicker roll-out of any training programme throughout the V&A's staff but it will also bring real cost savings in the process. ICE is instantly deployable, requires no upfront investment and is subscription based on the number of active users."

The V&A family of museums comprise The V&A in South Kensington, The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green and The Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. All V&A museums provide free entry to the public.

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