The Institute of Packaging's recently introduced on-line learning scheme is already creating worldwide interest, as outgoing chief executive, John Webb-Jenkins, reports
The explosive expansion of the Internet is one of the great phenomena of our times. Not only is it possible to ask Google all sorts of things which might otherwise take months to research, we can now download music of our choice or even create our own album of photographs of Kylie Minogue.
More importantly, the power of the Internet allows the establishment of platforms for the provision of education and training to a uniform standard throughout the world.
This is one of the great successes emerging from the introduction of the on-line learning scheme being pioneered by the Institute of Packaging. Learnpackaging.org allows students in any part of the world to study for the Diploma in Packaging Technology or the Certificate in Packaging at their own home or workplace and in their own time and at their own pace.
If this were not enough, there is a bigger dimension for packaging professionals around the globe. One of the most exciting developments directly stemming from learnpackaging.org comes with the way it is enabling us to link up with other packaging Institutes in countries around the world. This means they can share with us the recruitment of students and the development of their educational programmes.
Real learning experience
Although users of the on-line scheme will have the freedom to choose the pace and timing of their studies, there are many ways in which it mirrors a real classroom learning experience. Each student is allocated a tutor who may be either in the UK or in the local territory, depending on the exact location.
The website allows interaction both with the tutor and with other students in either synchronous or asynchronous mode, depending on the time zone, via a chat room so that students can have a sense of belonging and a collegiate atmosphere, even though they are studying by themselves.
There is already great enthusiasm. Australia, New Zealand, China, India and Sri Lanka are signed up to the programme and many other countries throughout the world such as Brazil, Turkey, Thailand and so on are expressing great interest in this development.
The benefits are enormous. The student gains access, and ultimately accreditation, to one of the best-known packaging qualifications in the world – which is now fully accredited by PIABC, the Packaging Industry Awarding Body Company and is a nationally recognised qualification within the UK national curriculum.
Secondly, by working with the IoP, other institutes [many in developing countries] can share some of the course fees so that they have an income stream to further develop their own education and training programmes in their own countries.
Finally, the whole scheme works greatly to the benefit of industry. The packaging manager of a well known UK supermarket said that he wanted to be sure that all stages of the supply chain were qualified to a similar level so that he could have confidence in the quality of all of his packaging.
Similarly, the packaging manager from an international pharmaceutical company commented that she wanted to be sure that, no matter which of their factories she was talking to, the people with whom she was in conversation were as knowledgeable as her about packaging matters.
The whole project is a win-win situation. Students get greater qualifications, Institutes can expand and industry gains a better-qualified workforce. And all this on a worldwide basis.