Continuing Education by Cambridge: Create an Engaging Online Learner Experience


Technological change demands stronger and more continuous connections between education and employment. – The Economist

A rapidly changing employment market demands employees who will continuously develop themselves which in fact requires a lot of self-reliance, lifelong learning, and community-building. Building new skills is a constant in the ever-changing world but does not necessarily mean a heavy-duty, multi-year qualification. However, the college degree programs are not always keeping up with the speed the workforce changes and students currently are prepared for jobs that no longer exist in this form.

The good thing is: the opportunities for continuing education are just a tap away. So, what's the option here for higher education to stay relevant? Educators need to ask themselves if they are doing enough to reach out to their communities and the different kinds of learners who don 't fit the traditional learners demographic anymore. Being aware of the discrepancy between education and the changing job market puts educators at a greater advantage.

One example for taking the leap is Cambridge University. The institution is very focused on educational quality, but has historically, for the most part, been associated with residential, in-person delivery. To meet the changing needs of professionals today, and to expand upon their residential offering, Cambridge University Press & Assessment created a new program of short online courses under the Cambridge Advance Online brand. Cambridge Advance Online aims to reach busy learners around the world who want to upskill, gain further education, and distinguish themselves in the post-pandemic job market. 

Gaining a competitive advantage with Lifelong learning

Acquiring new knowledge and filling skill gaps comes with many advantages: In addition to improved employability, lifelong learning creates self-confidence and increases the overall quality of life. Especially one term has been used a lot when it comes to the individual's purpose and path: College, career and life readiness - which leads to growth of perseverance, mindset, and important socio-emotional skills. But how to get the employees of tomorrow ready for their careers today and what does that mean for higher education? By supporting learners as they progress through their professional careers, and by adding high-demand programs, educators can create a pool of lifelong learners—who will keep coming back to the institution for more.  There is a market for education that costs less in time and money than a degree, why not just take advantage of it? 

To prepare students for life, Cambridge University has seen the benefit of entering and investing in online education – and in directly addressing the needs of today’s professionals. For hundreds of years, the University has helped millions of people worldwide to unlock their potential through providing the very best residential experience and this next step has shown their ambition to mirror this in the online education space.

Their mission is clear – they want to become a thriving center for continuing and lifelong education: they already have the experts, a large alumni network and world´s number one learning management system: Canvas. By choosing Canvas as the learning platform and Drieam as their partner, they will improve professional thinking and performance through flexible online learning. Now professionals who want to advance their careers, connect with a network of peer learners, and gain insight from leaders in the field benefit from an exceptional learning experience in Canvas.

Cambridge Advance Online:  Canvas at the center for continuing education 

"An exceptional learner experience is key, so Cambridge Advance Online will be tailored to meet the needs of individuals specifically in an online environment, rather than just trying to replicate an in-person teaching environment online." - Michael Cresswell, Director of Design and Online Learning, Cambridge Online Education

It was very clear to Cambridge that this new program of courses, Cambridge Advance Online, would need to meet a high bar in terms of the expectations that professional learners have these days for online learning.  At the same time, it was very important that the courses - even though the format is very different from that of a traditional degree – would still retain some of the DNA of a Cambridge educational experience.  Specifically, that meant incorporating things like high-quality contact time with Cambridge academics, low student-to-tutor ratios and personalized feedback, but it also meant ensuring that opportunities for social learning, collaboration and the exchange of ideas not just from teachers to learners but also between learners were present throughout the learning journey. That's why they chose to integrate tools like Pronto and PeerConnect into Canvas to break down communication barriers, Miro to foster collaboration, Qualtrics LTI for engaging surveys in order to draw learners together around a piece of content or an activity with expert facilitation provided by Cambridge tutors.

Taking it to the next level with and end-to-end solution based on Canvas

A big part of the reason why Cambridge chose to work with Canvas, was its modern, intuitive platform that is regularly updated and improved to ensure that it continues to keep pace with user’s expectations. Moreover, because Canvas is an open platform, Cambridge was able to make use of best-of-breed LTI apps developed by their Canvas learning platform partner, Drieam. This way, Cambridge University could achieve their high ambitions and was able to push the Canvas platform to an end-to-end solution for continuing education.

A major part of this project has been developing the website and eCommerce functionality and connecting all of that behind the scenes with their CRM to make it as easy and intuitive as possible for a customer to sign up for a course and enroll into Canvas. Drieam added the core of the e-commerce storefront and student information systemEduframe to Canvas, which is seamlessly integrated in the university’s website to market and manage their high-level courses & programs.

Eduframe supports modular and personalized programs - online, blended and face-to-face and is therefore perfect for cohort-based learning. It also allows extensive reporting options and supports resource planning like teachers, rooms, and materials for an automated administration process. Cambridge developed in-house integrations and e-commerce extensions on top of Eduframe, using its open API.

Having the technology in place is one thing, using it to the best of its advantages is another. To fully exploit Canvas´ potential, an effective technical, functional, and didactical implementation was a must. Drieam provided in-depth training to the team at Cambridge on how to work with Canvas to get the best outcomes. Working together day to day has helped Cambridge to use and manage Canvas to the best of its ability. By combining the world's fastest-growing Learning Management Platform with implementation, adoption and state-of-the-art software solutions, Cambridge University has made major in-roads in the online education space.

Watch the video to see how they made it work!


By implementing Canvas Course templates, the Canvas front-end is on-brand and visually appealing which makes teaching easier and provides a better learning experience for students. With recognizable elements and recurring navigation, Cambridge supports a consistent and coherent learning experience for all students.

Qualtrics LTI for Canvas enables Cambridge to use the extensive functionality of Qualtrics integrated within their Canvas environment. Being fully embedded within the LMS, Qualtrics surveys become part of the learning experience at Cambridge Advance Online, which therefore increases response rates and improves overall user experience.

By seamlessly integrating the online collaborative whiteboard platform Miro into Canvas, students will be brought together to experience an engaging, in-person experience either in real-time or asynchronous. The App helps to foster collaboration and draw learners together around a piece of content or an activity with expert facilitation provided by Cambridge tutors.

The future of learning is community – The rise of cohort-based learning

Learning cohorts will be the learning format of the future, as they combine the advantages of live online training with on-demand learning content and learning in groups (social learning) - all in a digital learning environment. Cohort-based learning has proven to be an enormous amplifier for learning transfer because the students learn in groups (cohorts) in a hybrid format, i.e., alternating between synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. Learning in groups increases motivation and thus also the learning success - the completion rates also increase to over 80%. Drieam helped with implementing PeerConnect into Canvas to stimulate cohort-based networking. As networking is an important part of the learning experience, PeerConnect facilitates a professional network environment by using custom profiles cards. The app also provides options to enhance the user experience with an institute specific branding.

Inspire your students and make them come back

The future of education will be consumer- and product-led: interactive, engaging, and propelled by a global pool of instructors and peers. Although in person-teaching will remain at the heart of Cambridge education, the experience of the pandemic has highlighted opportunities to enhance teaching with digital technologies. Cambridge Advance Online is the perfect high-level program with interactive courses, Cambridge tutors and academic leading discussions and gives the university the freedom to create a truly unique and seamless learning experience. This is made possible through personalized and flexible programs for better engagement and peer interaction. By giving more focus on cohort-based learning Cambridge also improved and supported community-building which is another major part of getting ready for the future of work. With this end-to-end solution in place, Cambridge has significantly increased the learning and teaching experience and has secured its prestigious reputation as a leading university for the years to come. 

Looking to improve (online/blended) education? Let’s partner up!

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