Leonard Cheshire, the UK's leading disability care charity, has joined an e-learning consortium with five other charities.
The charity has 8,000 employees spread across 150 sites in 10 UK regions. The diversity of the sites makes it a time-consuming and costly proposition to bring people together for training.
"We used to provide classroom training at off-site venues," said Craig Brown, Leonard Cheshire's IT training manager. "Because our staff are geographically dispersed, the cost of training was always swollen by travel and accommodation expenses."
In 2002, Leonard Cheshire was approached to join a consortium of charities being set up by three e-learning specialists: Jenison, KnowledgePool and Kognita.
As part of the consortium, each charity gets Microsoft Office and European computer driving licence training courses, together with KnowledgePool's management courses, which cover leadership, personal development, communication skills, budgeting, finance and customer service.
Leonard Cheshire joined the first charity consortium with the Prince's Trust, Scope, the Scout Association, VSO and WWF. It went live with its first courses in January 2003 which are accessed via the internet. Each charity has its own e-learning portal.
"From an IT point of view, we were 100% behind the idea from the outset," said Brown. "The flexibility is fantastic. People can learn from home if they want to.
"Although we are encouraging people to access the courses online, many of our service branches only have one PC with internet access. To resolve this, Jenison and KnowledgePool have also provided us with the courses on CD-Rom.
"We have regional development officers who install the CD-Roms onto PCs and co-ordinate the local aspects of the training. We have a high number of online users and more than 20 of our services have requested copies of the courses on CD-Rom.
"The IT training courses have proved popular with our administrators. They do not normally receive training, so it has been great to be able to provide this."
Human resources and IT representatives from the charities in the consortium meet four times a year to share experiences and best practice.
"If we can save people time by improving IT or business skills, they will have more time to care for our users," said Brown.
"Also, by improving skills, we will become a more professional organisation, which helps us attract donations."
Jenison is holding a seminar on e-learning for charities on 3 July. For further information, contact Martin Baker at Jenison 07785-776416 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org