The Met Office is the national meteorological service for the UK. They provide critical weather services and world-leading climate science, helping people make better decisions to stay safe and thrive.
With more than 2,000 employees, the Met Office needed a way to deliver training and education resources quickly and efficiently. Employees are primarily based in the UK, but there are also temporary and permanent stations in far-flung locations, such as islands in the Atlantic Ocean and in Antarctica. They were previously using two separate Moodle platforms; one for their HR team and one for Met Office College, used to train both new and experienced weather forecasters.
The Met Office’s operational meteorology training is very highly regarded worldwide. The Met Office College often train staff from other national meteorological services and teach modules for meteorology courses, such as that at the University of Reading in the UK, as well as providing training for organizations in industries such as gas, oil, energy and retail.
The Met Office were not able to make use of modern advances in technology with one platform hosted in-house and the other by a partner. The Met Office wanted to bring together its HR and meteorological training functions in the same platform and under the same directorate, and they realized that in order to do this, they would need a new learning management system.
The Met Office went out to tender for a new LMS. As strong proponents of open technology, they quickly established that Totara Learn would be the right LMS to fit their needs, and Totara Partner Catalyst came out on top of their search in the UK government’s G-Cloud digital marketplace.
The Met Office and Catalyst got to work on the new Totara Learn system in mid-2017, and it went live in March 2018. The initial migration from the old Moodle 1.9 system to Totara was a big improvement, with the new system fully customized to match the look and feel of the Met Office’s brand.
A large-scale data migration project took place to move all the content from the previous two systems to the new Totara Learn. Initially, the plan was for the HR department to introduce a new HR information system (HRIS) to coincide with the launch of the new LMS, but the HRIS project was delayed for two years, meaning the LMS launched alone. Fortunately, the flexibility of Totara Learn meant that this wasn’t an issue, and when the HRIS finally launched in May 2020, it opened many new doors in terms of what the Met Office team could do with their LMS.
The LMS consists of multiple learning areas. The Met Office’s flagship operational meteorology course is a degree standard course used for training weather forecasters. Along with traditional lessons, learners participate in on-the-job training with assessments along the way as well as mandatory compliance training and technical training.
The new HRIS integrates seamlessly with Totara Learn, giving the Met Office endless possibilities in terms of creating data-driven learning content. For example, with the HR data, the learning team was able to target learning based on where people worked, making smart use of dynamic audiences and the organisational structure provided by the HRIS. When someone moves into a different area of the organization the LMS is able to automatically provide appropriate learning, reducing manual input and making the process much more efficient and streamlined.
Prior to Totara Learn, the Met Office was using older-generation software to manage the booking of live training sessions. The previous system was relatively unconfigurable. Switching to Totara Learn gave the Met Office access to seminar management functionality, which is particularly valuable in supporting the Met Office’s blended learning strategy. Now, employees can sign up for a live seminar and access all the supporting activities and resources in one place. This is helping the Met Office to reduce barriers to learning and how people access it.
Totara Learn has played a pivotal role throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in training the next cohort of weather forecasters, and in the summer of 2020, it was used to deliver the Met Office’s first-ever remote exams. This system has come into its own in the turbulent, rapidly changing times of 2020. Instructors have been able to adapt to the change by adding Microsoft Teams links to course pages to invite learners to remote, live sessions as well as supporting their learners by creating interactive activities with Catalyst’s H5P plugin, which is proving very popular.
After the initial move to Totara Learn, the Met Office identified a two-fold increase in unique site logins. Since the start of COVID-19, they have increase logins by the same amount again, showing the huge impact a comprehensive, accessible online offering is having for the Met Office.
COVID-19 completely transformed the way that the Met Office delivers training, and the LMS more than rose to the challenge. Their own employees had easy access to their learning from home, and even their external learners were able to continue learning remotely. For instance, the UK lockdown meant that university students were not attending lectures in-person, meaning that meteorology students were accessing the Met Office’s content from their home countries around the world. This wasn’t a problem for the new LMS, allowing students to keep up to date with their learning.
Importantly, opting for an “infinitely configurable” open learning management system such as Totara Learn ensures that the Met Office can collaborate with other meteorological organizations worldwide. The global meteorological training community is working towards a similar set of goals, so Totara Learn allows the Met Office to share content easily around the world. This is also a testament to their strong working relationship with Catalyst, their Totara Partner, who are experts in working with and configuring open technology.
Next up, the Met Office is looking to overhaul their onboarding process, and Totara Engage is expected to play an important role in this, with a strong focus on capturing informal learning data and supporting communities of practice. There are currently over 600 courses in the Met Office’s course catalogue; many of which could be adapted into resources in the future with Totara Engage. The adaptability of Totara Learn means that it integrates easily with the Met Office’s new HR system, providing them with the freedom to do so much more with their learning.
“With enabling and development of our people’s capability being an organisational wide priority, the Learning Portal is becoming more and more important in underpinning the work we in the College are delivering. As we exploit the huge functionality the system gives us we are able to design, develop and deliver new and exciting learning provisions to all of our colleagues located across our multi-site business, ensuring we are fit for now and for the future.”