David Corless is the deputy director of property services at the University of Bath and is also vice chairman of the Association of University Engineers. This is his first article for Facilities Manager, and he can be contacted at d.corless@aue.org.uk. Garry East is the deputy director of facilities at Leeds Metropolitan University and is the website coordinator of the Association of University Engineers. He can be contacted on g.east@aue.org.uk. 

     Our association, as members of APPA, has access to Facilities Manager in the electronic format and our members certainly enjoy reading many of the published articles, which give us a good insight into matters pertinent to education in the United States. Contrary to belief, we have similar problems and experiences here in the United Kingdom.
     Through increased developments in e-mail, the website, and IT generally, the world continues to become a smaller place because of the improved global communication these developments bring us. Indeed, speaking to the APPA staff is no different than speaking to anyone in the United Kingdom—only the dreaded time zone dares to interfere.
     In an article in the March/April Facilities Manager, Suzanne Healy aptly recognizes the need to “Enhance Skills through E-Learning” as a fundamental requirement for today’s facilities professionals in order to stay at the top of their field.
     This is no different right now in the UK where the higher education sector is a busy place to be as it continues to expand in order to reach government recruitment targets, increase legislation, and improve efficiency. For facilities managers working within such environments, this creates further challenges and pressures, and along with other problems such as tight revenue funding, the need for facilities managers to keep abreast of changes and trends and do more with less is greater than ever.
     One way to keep ahead of the game is to maintain your knowledge base through CPD (Continued Professional Development) courses, seminars, or continued study of higher qualifications. This can involve time away from your desk and valuable time away from the workplace, which is often not what your employer wants. This is a bigger problem in the United States because of the great geographical distances of the country. An excellent example of continued development in practice is APPA’s Institute for Facilities Finance.
     In the United Kingdom, we have recognized the need to continue learning but at the same time have found it difficult to take time from our jobs to do this. So what was our solution you ask? Well, luckily for us, we found the answer in the form of an MSc course in Facilities Management conducted by Leeds Metropolitan University. This course is delivered online to minimize time away from the workplace which keeps the boss happy too.
     The course consists of seven taught modules and a three-module dissertation. It takes two years to complete. To access the online course material, Leeds Metropolitan University uses what is known as WebCT site—WebCT consists of a single Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and the software that resides on a server. It is designed to manage or administer various aspects of learning. Everything that is needed for the course is on this site. The modules are broken down into units and these can be saved, downloaded in word or pdf format, or printed out if needed. There is also a discussion board and a global calendar to can make sure that our work is handed in on time!
     Each module has its own set of Web pages, with links to other sites, exercises and answer pages, additional reading, and journal links along with some past examples of exam papers and answers. Some of the course books can also be accessed through the website which can reduce course costs. One of these sites is Spons e-texts eBookstore, which allows you access to your book online for a limited period, ranging from 1 day to 6 months.
     The only required attendance is for the introductory modules discussions and for exams. If you have difficulty in attending either of these, videos of the introductory modules can be sent and exams can be arranged for another time and place.
     The course is certainly relevant to anyone in the facilities field. To be able to access the course information anytime, whether at work or home is a great asset and guarantees that work commitments will not be affected by anyone taking a course.
     If you are interested, take a look at the course via the link on the Association of University Engineers website at www.aue.org.uk. Perhaps you might be the first APPA member to join the course!