All Saints

Enhancing blended theological education: a case study in partnership

The Setting 

All Saints Centre for Mission and Ministry offered fully-accredited theological education for those in full time work. 

The college was, until 2019, one of three large Church of England theological colleges in the Northwest of England. It specialised in training part-time students for Reader and Ordained ministry, offering certificates, diplomas of higher education and degrees (undergraduate and postgraduate). Qualifications were awarded by Durham University under the Common Awards framework. 

At its height, the College had over 80 part-time tutors and 240 students. 

The Challenge

All Saints offered blended courses, delivered via Moodle, a popular virtual learning environment among HE institutions. But students were frustrated by it. Some said it felt outdated and clunky. Others said it was more like a dumping ground for tutors’ pdfs, slides and assorted visuals than a course, with little or no sense of coherence. 

Alastair Wehbeh joined All Saints in 2017 to manage an innovative Reader training programme. Based on student feedback, he began working on solutions for course delivery straight away. As he set about redesigning the look and feel of the site, he quickly reached the limits of his own technical know-how. He had some good ideas, but he couldn’t turn them into reality. He needed someone who understood what he was trying to achieve, and then build it for him. On top of that, he needed someone familiar with theological education. 

Alastair was introduced to Simon Davies in early 2018. 


Simon took on a dual role: trainer and consultant, and developer. First, Simon spent time training Alastair on the basics of Moodle editing. Simon is dedicated to empowering others – giving ownership to clients. Once that was done, Simon worked on Alastair’s blueprints for the new look and feel of the course. These were simple mock-ups of the new design with several key features: 

  • Students should be able to navigate the site easily, without getting lost. 
  • The site should be designed to feel like a learning journey. 
  • Prompts should be added to remind students what they should be doing each week. 
  • Students should experience a seamless experience moving from one section to another (from course structure to reading lists to assignments to resources). 
  • The site should feel ‘grown-up’, uncluttered; be clean and attractive. 

Simon understood what Alastair was after straight away. Not only that, but he was also able to build on Alastair’s ideas through numerous conversations. Over time, the original ideas became clearer and better. 

Simon did wonders. He stretched the capabilities of Moodle far beyond expectation, coming up with a perfect blend of ease-of-use functionality, clean design, and a logical course structure. 

The solution Simon created was admired by other course leaders at All Saints. So much so, in fact, that the College asked Simon to take the new design, which had been tailored to one kind of course, and adapt it to meet the needs of all the courses offered by All Saints. Simon understood that educational solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all. He listened to stakeholders, considered the range of courses offered by the College, and adapted the new design to meet their needs. He created a single solution to serve all undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Quite a feat. 

The result? Students loved it. Feedback on the new design was exceptional: Moodle was now ‘easy to use’, ‘logically organised’, and ‘made sense’. Students could focus on their studies without the distractions and frustrations of an out-moded virtual learning environment.  

The impact of working with Simon 

Simon’s impact is hard to quantify. ‘He listened to my ideas, understood them, and turned them into reality’, Alastair explains. 

‘I very quickly learned that Simon understood what I wanted and would do whatever it took to find a solution’. He goes on: ‘Simon is remarkable. He spent ages just listening before making suggestions. And in fact, on one or two issues, he was confident enough to gently suggest that some of my ideas wouldn’t work. Because of the amount of confidence I had in his work, I took his advice. And he turned out to be right’. 

Alastair now works at the University of Manchester as a learning designer. Simon’s training and influence have shaped the way Alastair approaches learning design today. ‘He changed the way I think about learning technology. He got me to think about learning design differently. I’m so grateful for that’.   

What it’s like to work with Simon?

Simon’s work for All Saints was of the very highest quality – ‘He’s remarkably patient’. 

Alastair recalls going back to Simon time and again with new ideas. ‘It must have been frustrating’, he says, ‘but Simon was always keen to listen and discuss. Nothing was ever too much trouble’. 

‘Would I recommend him?’ Alastair muses. ‘I can’t think of a more empathetic, knowledgeable, interested, and competent person in the field’.