A decade of online support for ULRs

This week unionlearn celebrates 10 years of the union learning Climbing Frame website.


10th anniversary

Before going online the Climbing Frame was available as an offline tool.  This had its benefits but also its drawbacks and it was felt that a move to an online resource would be best and a chance to create something of real use to Union Learning Reps (ULRs).

In 2009 with the help of the unions Usdaw, PCS and Prospect and the digital learning developer dreamm, work commenced on the development of a new Climbing Frame website.  The project team worked really hard and a huge amount of work went into the creation of a unique website designed specifically for ULRs.

A  number of trials took place across the country before the website officially went live on the 12th of July 2010 at the unionlearn annual conference.  There was a special launch event with presentations from the former TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber and the former General Secretary of Prospect, Paul Noon.

The website has always had two main sections with Learning Themes for finding information and a Learner Management area for recording sessions with learners.  Features and elements of the site were uniquely included incorporating the different needs of the unions and as requested by ULRs.

The Learning Themes provide up to date information to help during discussions with learners and to help update ULRs knowledge with regards to new topics, resources and learning opportunities.

ULRs can also use the Learner Management area to keep a record of their learner sessions, to develop action plans with learners, help learners to set goals and record achievements.  The website also contains a discussion forum, useful links, news, videos and case studies.  ULRs can store their own notes, produce reports, upload documents and record their own learning and progression.

In 2013 we introduced a free iOS and Android app for the Climbing Frame, making it easier for ULRs to make use of the tool on their phone or tablet and when they are out and about.

Each year we have carried out a learner survey and based on the feedback made improvements to the website and added new features, themes and information, with a key aim of helping to make the ULR role easier.

In 2018 we gave the Climbing Frame a whole new look.  Bringing back the superb developers dreamm to create a modern and fresh appearance, a new logo, as well as enhancing some of the functionality of the site.  Unionlearn added new resources and streamlined areas of the website with the aim to provide an improved user experience.

Along with the unionlearn Learning Themes available to all users, there are a range of Learning Themes that have been developed specifically for those in the health sector (collaboratively with the health sector unions) and the union Usdaw has always had a Learning Theme specifically for its members.

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, unionlearn were quick to provide new information and content on the Climbing Frame to support ULRs.  We created a new Learning Theme on [email protected], provided information on support for ULRs supporting learners from home, added resources and courses about COVID-19 and also included new links to help support mental health. 

Thousands of ULRs and learners have accessed the site over the years from over 50 unions.  Here’s to the next 10 years with the Climbing Frame website continuing to inform, support and inspire ULRs and learners in the workplace and beyond.

To register to access the Climbing Frame visit: https://climbingframe.unionlearn.org.uk/

To download the free Climbing Frame app visit the App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/climbing-frame/id669443030 or Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.org.tuc.wbcfmobile

To complete the Climbing Frame  2020 Feedback Survey visit: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CFSurvey2020

Profile picture for user Louisa Smith

Louisa Smith

Louisa Smith is a Projects Officer at unionlearn. She has worked for the TUC for over 15 years in TUC Learning Services and unionlearn.

Louisa is currently part of the Service Team, leading on Supporting Learners, Higher Learning, Supporting Younger Workers and also manages the union learning Climbing Frame website.