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The Virtual Campus. Supporting offender learning.... …how technology can be used to support offender education in prison and through the gate. European Offender Employment Forum 25 th March 2011. The Virtual Campus: Introduction. Supporting Offender Learning:

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The Virtual Campus

Supporting offender learning....

…how technology can be used to support offender education in prison and through the gate

European Offender Employment Forum

25th March 2011


The Virtual Campus: Introduction

Supporting Offender Learning:

  • This presentation will look at how the Virtual Campus is being used to support the resettlement of offenders.
  • It will address some of the challenges learners and staff face and the innovative ways the Virtual Campus system can provide opportunities going forward.

The Problems

  • About 60% of offenders who are released from prison re-offend within 2 years of release (Home Office).

‘’Re-offending is expensive: it can cost up to £146,000 to put someone through court and keep them in prison for a year. Far better to have former prisoners in work and paying taxes”

Rob Owen, Chief Executive of St Giles

Trust previous...

  • England and Wales have the 2nd highest number of prisoners in the EU after Poland. Germany, Spain and France complete the top five.

Background: In Scotland

“In terms of the total daily prison population, we are in a league with England and Wales, but in terms of actual turnover and the numbers entering prison across Europe we are the highest.”

Dr Sarah Armstrong, senior researcher at Glasgow University


The Need To Reduce Reoffending

  • Prison population is ever increasing; the estimate of prison population today in the UK is just over 85,000 compared with last year at the same time when there were 84,000 prisoners (Ministry of Justice).
  • Average yearly increase of over 1000 prisoners in EU countries. A year before the Virtual Campus’ launch (2007) there was 80,058 prisoners in the UK, by 2010 there were over 85,000.

Virtual Campus Evaluation Report, August 2010, Jill Dando Institute, University College London


The Virtual Campus: Introduction

Supporting Offender Learning:

  • The Virtual Campus is a secure web based IT platform which allows learners to register and carry out a range of activities based around education, training and employment.It is being used in prisons across the UK.
  • The Virtual Campus delivers courses and resources and supports learners in developing the skills needed to apply for and succeed in employment.
  • The Virtual Campus provides a secure one-stop shop for offenders on their journey toward resettlement.

The Virtual Campus Solution


  • The VC concept was the result of a Next Steps meeting between the prison service and the LSC (SFA) in December 2007
  • It went live in June 2008 and by the end of June 2009 the Virtual Campus was in 11 prisons across the West Midlands and the East of England

The Virtual Campus Solution


  • The Virtual Campus is in 5 prisons in Wales and 30 prisons in England. Across all the Virtual Campus sites there are over 2,000 learners using the system and over 200advisors supporting these offenders
  • The Open University have been running courses since 01 March 2010 in three English prisons with rollout starting in further establishments.

The VC: Steps To Resettlement

In Prison

Learner Assessment

  • Resources
  • Courses
  • Building a CV

Job Application


Through The Gate

Referral To Community

Gaining Employment

Referral To Probation


The Virtual Campus Solution

Key Features: Offender & Staff Benefits

1. A easy to navigate learner home page

2. Create a CV regardless of literacy level

Empowering offenders as they search for opportunities themselves

3. Ability to apply for training courses, workshops and jobs

4. View resources that support their education, training and resettlement

5. Enables offenders to securely communicate with tutors remotely

6. ePortfolio documents follow offenders through the prison system into the community

7. Learners can perform comprehensive job searches based on job type, region and industry

8. Comprehensive Management Information allowing staff to track and report on VC activities


Provision for Education Departments

  • The ability to present courses in electronic format
  • Online assessments providing instant results
  • Ability to record outcomes for funding purposes
  • Instant messaging between tutors and students
  • A range of interactive content to enhance existing course delivery
  • The ability to create CV’s quickly and easily
  • Ability to match offenders with opportunities

Virtual Campus: Security

  • Secure content approval process
  • Site only accessible from within prison
  • MIS only available from within Quantum network
  • Guardian login: The Guardian's prime role is to secure the log-on to the system, and then to allow offenders access to their login/registration screen.
  • Advisor: A staff member who manages offenders through the VC. Advisors are engaged in the management of offenders and the delivery of VC content.

VC: Social Finance & SIB’s

  • Social Finance is provided with an extension of the Virtual Campus system which will be used to manage and support offender learners.
  • Eligible offenders will be registered on their MIS system and upon release will continue to be supported by Social Finance using the same MIS located in their community offices.
  • The first Social Impact Bond funds the One* Service which works with short-sentence prisoners discharged from HMP Peterborough - in which the VC is currently implemented.
  • 3rd sector organisations, such as St Giles Trust work with Social Finance.

VC Stats

  • Over 70% of offender managers felt that the VC had a positive impact on the resettlement of offenders and played a key role in reducing re-offending.
  • Over 70% of offenders themselves felt that the VC was a valuable tool and there was a view that it should have been introduced into prisons a long time ago.

Virtual Campus Evaluation Report, August 2010, Jill Dando Institute, University College London


Stats. Offender Management

Offender managers and probation officers ratings of aspects of the Virtual Campus…

Virtual Campus Evaluation Report, August 2010


Case Study ‘X’

‘X’ is currently serving 6 year indeterminate sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP).

  • ‘‘I used the Virtual Campus resources to search for things that I needed.  I looked at the pathway stuff and it was good to have things such as health’’
  • ‘‘I used the CV builder and made it look better in Word.  I can use this to send to employers and people who might be able to help me set up a business when I get released’’ 
  • ‘‘I looked at a lot of real jobs on the Virtual Campus even though it is too early to apply for one.  I could see what companies want so I can try and get the right qualifications before I am released’’

Recently ‘X’ delivered a power point presentation on gangs, to the governor and is hoping to use his experiences and the skills he has learned through the Virtual Campus to help other young people.


Case Study ‘Y’

‘Y’ is serving a 7 year sentence. In early 2008 he gained an ECDL (European Computer Drivers License). Through the Virtual Campus, and was offered the opportunity to train for an ITQ (Information Technology Qualification), which he has now completed.

  • ‘‘I have used the CV builder and updated my CV in word a few times since I first completed it, because I have gained some more qualifications that are not normally available in the education department.’’
  • ‘‘Using the VC has given me a lot more confidence in myself and my abilities.’’

‘Y’ has been attending Virtual Campus 4 ½ days each week. He is also to become a mentor in road safety skills for offenders involved in road traffic incidents, and is helping with the editorial for the prison newsletter.


Case Study ‘Z’

  • ‘Z’ was serving a sentence in HMP Hewell. ‘Z’ began to use the various resources and courses available on the Virtual Campus in the second half of his sentence.
  • Prior to release ‘Z’ also began to use the Virtual Campus to search and apply for several jobs.
  • On the Friday prior to release ‘Z’ applied for a job, by Monday ‘Z’ had found permanent employment. The Virtual Campus had directly influenced ‘Z’s search for work, no doubt helping his overall resettlement.

The Virtual Campus Report. November 2010.


Recent Developments

  • A new portal provides a faster, easier to navigate environment for learners and staff. Staff training is available on the Virtual Campus.
  • Education providers are contributing an increasing range of online courses and resources through the Secure Moodle platform.
  • The Bring on Potential site has been launched with referrals occurring into the community.

Concluding Thoughts

The Virtual Campus provides a secure and comprehensive environment for learners both in prison and through the gate.

By equipping learners with the skills and confidence to succeed in education, training and employment, the Virtual Campus is positively assisting the resettlement of offender learners in society.

Many thanks for your time.



For any questions please contact:

Dr Daniel Brown

MegaNexus Ltd

Argyle House

29-31Euston Road



T : 020 7843 4343

E :