LEARNDIRECT, the University for Industry's online venture was "rolled out" this week with events in London and 12 other cities, with the announcement of an extra pound;10 million for mobile learning centres.
At the launch in London, celebrities including Anthea Turner and Andi Peters, signed up for learndirect courses.
The mobile centres, which will visit isolated rural communities, are in addition to the 700 learning centres and more than 400 courses available. By April, there will be another 300 centres and more than 800 courses, ranging in length from 20 minutes to hundreds of hours.
UFI chief executive, Dr Anne Wright, describes the UFI's vision of "individual self-manged on-line learning in small chunks whenever and wherever you want it" as ground-breaking. Learndirect is an ambitious venture and UFI faces difficulties ensuring the computer network copes with demand and in getting the "hubs", which administer up to 10 learning centres each, to sign their contracts.
Concerns about the contracts mean only 50 per cent of hubs have signed on the dotted line, but Dr Wright is "pleased" with this figure. Of 10 hubs in London, only two have signed to date.
In its development phases, Learndirect signed up 36,000 learners to 77,000 courses. Dr Wright says research reveals 86 per cent of them were satisfied.