Back to top

City & Guilds use an innovative blended learning model to reach vocational audience

City and Guilds is a vocational education organisation in the United Kingdom, offering more than 500 qualifications over the whole range of industry sectors through 8500 colleges and training providers in 81 countries worldwide.

The Challenge

City & Guilds has found training providers are under increasing pressure to support learners with more engaging learning, supporting greater retention and achievement rates. In the Food and Drink sector, where we focused our pilot, training providers struggle with retention rates as well as attempting to deliver differentiated classes to a mixed ability cohort.

The typical learner profile is a 16-24 year old digital native, who may have a history of disengagement from education.

If successful, the C&G Way would combine a clear curriculum philosophy; teaching and learning content; communities of practice; careers advice and information into an integrated set of services that would support the move of vocational education providers from traditional delivery to digital. It’s a massive change programme for City & Guilds and it needed ambition and dedication to achieve it.

- Kirstie Donnelly, Director of Product Development

The Solution

The learning strategy

The City & Guilds Way project piloted a holistic end-to-end learner experience comprising elearning, tracking, information and guidance and community elements aimed at supporting training providers, tutors, assessors and learners in each vocational sector.

Here’s a snapshot of the elements making up the City & Guilds Way learning strategy:

Technology-led learning

The ‘All Things’ portal: Learners are welcomed via the All Things Food & Drink portal – a rich source of inspirational, peer-rated, sector-specific content, focusing on news, careers and employability. It combines learning platform Totara Learn and Drupal CMS to create a rich web experience.

The routemap: From the portal, learners can check their learning progress via their personalised learning routemap. Here they can see their progress quickly and visually, as well as any areas where they might be falling behind. Tutors were a key group for us to support in this design so it also provides a handy tutor view, enabling them to see how their learners are getting on and providing an early warning of those who might be falling behind.

The engagement layer: To add an extra layer of engagement and competition – ideal for our target audience – we designed an engagement layer. Learners earn points and badges as they complete key tasks. We gave tutors an extra ‘carrot’ to dangle to more reluctant learners - they can set learners a challenge to earn bonus points.

Community interactivity: We implemented community functionality into the portal, empowering learners to create groups to share ideas and inspiration. It’s also a channel for tutors and/or City & Guilds to broadcast messages and respond to queries. 

Innovative elearning design

Elearning resources: We designed a range of over 40 short, engaging digital resources targeted at our typical learner. For the learning content strategy we developed clear ideas about how to create resources that would capture their interest and imagination. Resources can be used independently or as directed by tutors as part of a classroom or webinar setting.

The Results

Here’s an overview of the positive feedback received from the pilot colleges across the UK:

We were gobsmacked at how quickly they got it and ran with it... Nothing like it exists... there is nothing which feels as easy to use and logical as this... First time in 4 or 5 years I’ve seen a class with every single student really engaged.

- Tutor responses

All things Food and Drink portal and content:

  • 100% of tutors think it’s is a credible source of careers advice for learners


  • 56% of all learners agreed they felt more involved with a community of learners than normal
  • 87% of learners using the community rated it as good or very good

Gamification layer feedback:

  • 75% of learners who were set challenges said they put in more effort and none put in less effort
  • Tutors reported being able to see right away how they could use points to set personalised challenges to address issues such as attendance

Learning content feedback:

  • 87% of learners rated the elearning as good or very good
  • 67% of learners agree they learnt more than expected  

Impact on teaching and learning:

  • 58% of learners said they'd be more likely to complete with the system in place - it helped more able students stay motivated
  • 55% of learners said they were more motivated than normal for courses 

The C&G way has been an incredibly important project as it has allowed us to really get close to and understand what our customers and learners most value in respect to how learning technology and online content can become a positive disrupter to the more traditional vocational course delivery.

 - Kirstie Donnelly, Director of Product Development at City & Guilds