See how we inspired learning in Manchester as part of the Government's Learning Revolution Festival.

The challenge of the Government’s Learning Revolution Festival was to engage people who don’t normally participate in informal learning. As one of the only regions outside London to set up an independent website to promote the festival, we wanted to put across a distinctly Mancunian flavour to the site and to give people the opportunity to participate in the wide cultural diversity of the city.

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We came to the conclusion that one of the barriers to informal learning is the misperception that’s it’s like more formalised learning, along with the all the hard work, cost and commitment which comes with that.

Learning is itself not necessarily a person’s motivation for getting involved in informal learning. People want to participate in something that’s fun, something they can do with their family or friends, or something that gives them a new skill they never had before. Informal learning takes place in clubs, groups, associations, leisure centres and churches across the country, as well as in institutions with organised community engagement programmes such as libraries, museums and art galleries.

There are so many informal learning events taking place at any one time that it’s difficult to know what’s on when, and many tourism websites concentrate on a cultural niche such as museums & galleries, cinema or food & drink.

October was a good month for festivals in Manchester, including theManchester Food & Drink Festival, the Manchester Science Festival and theManchester Literature Festivaland so this offered a starting point for themed events.

“Experiences” are growing in popularity as birthday presents (such as Dragons Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis’ Red Letter Days), and more tourists than ever are taking experience holidays. So why not build a learning website around themed experiences?

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We set up a handful of experiences which collected together the events happening in Manchester in October, including:

  • Geek For a Week – events and workshops about computing, robotics and science
  • Be a Media Mogul – including open days for the BBC and training days with local radio and newspaper organisations
  • Travel the World…in Manchester – including workshops and talks about the history and culture of local religions & communities and opportunities to learn new languages.

We even opted for the controversial “Know Your Arts From Your Elbow” experience, which turned out to be more popular than expected amongst our gallery and museum partners!

The site also featured a full calendar of events for the duration of the festival month, along with a detail page for each event and a Google Map showing the location of each event.

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If people weren’t interested in the experiences and related events we’d hand-picked for them, we also provided a “shopping basket”facility so that people could design their own learning experiences.

We now plan to update this website to become a more permanent legacy of the Learning Revolution Festival, to promote the range of learning opportunities available in Manchester throughout the year. We’ll also be encouraging the public to submit their own ideas for experiences we can add to the set, so if you have any ideas, please feel free to let us know!

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