Suffolk is shaking off its sleepy image and has now one of the fastest growing populations in England, but people remain scattered and there is a large number of companies with just a handful of employees.
This makes it difficult for the county's four colleges to reach potential students. Two years ago, Peter Funnell, head of learning development at Suffolk College, decided that isolation should not be a barrier to learning and formed CREATE, the Centre for Research in Educational Applications of Telematics.
CREATE uses the Internet to reach students at home, in the office or in learning centres at any time and is supplying learning packages to more than 50 rural firms in Suffolk.
Mr Funnell's work has won him an award in the Widening Participation in FE category in the first ICT in Practice awards from the Governmet's British Educational Communications and Technology Agency - sponsored by BT and supported by The TES. The awards recognise those committed to using technology in education and who have visionary and sustainable ideas.
To offer access to those without a computer, the centre is trialling a laptop loan scheme.
Mr Funnell is proud that the self-financing centre is helping to draw attention to the importance of conducting research in the FE sector.
Suffolk TEC, BT research laboratories, Suffolk County Council and the four colleges have helped CREATE to develop and fund its projects. Mr Funnell has also played a key role in the Televersity in Suffolk, a company set up to help run the county's University for Industry hub.
CREATE:http:create.suffolk. ac.uk. BECTA awards: www.becta. org.ukpracticeawards