Ridley Awards

The Setting 

Ridley Hall Cambridge is a theological training college offering training for ordained ministry, as well as children’s, youth, and sports ministry. Students live and study on-campus and receive context-based training.   

The Challenge

Ridley Hall has always strived to improve the student experience in a changing educational landscape. The pandemic and the growth in online education offered a unique opportunity to rethink their provision. It was down to the Centre Director to adapt to the new realities. 

Robin Barden has worked for Ridley Hall since 2007. Since that time, he has been involved in ministry training of various kinds. He soon became the Centre Director, and managed, among other areas, the Church of England’s Common Awards courses. These are qualifications which trainee priests take to become licensed ministers in the CofE. 

Robin’s priority at Ridley Hall has always been to improve student experience, student learning, and to sustain the offering as a viable business.

He realised he needed expert support. In particular, he needed an educationalist who was open to technology enhanced learning (TEL) and a technologist who understands education. 

Robin approached Simon to develop Ridley Hall’s suite of courses.

To begin with, Robin and Simon developed the Ridley Award with the help of some national Church funding. This was an online asynchronous course to help train youth workers; it is now called Catalyst. It was this project, in fact, which helped shape Simon’s role not only as an elearning consultant but also as a member of the project team. 


As part of the development strategy, the project team asked itself two vital questions which would lay the ground for the work going forward:

  1. How can we improve student learning and experience?
  2. How can we hold the tensions which exist, between learning design, outcomes, and financial viability?

Simon was a key contributor to these discussions and is now recognised in the organisation as an invaluable member. Robin recounts a time when colleagues working with Simon said, ‘Simon is amazing. We can’t believe he’s done what he’s done’. 

Over time, Simon and Robin became the de facto elearning strategy team. Feedback was improving and business increased because of the renewed strategy developed by Robin and Simon.    

What it’s like to work with Simon?

Now that Simon is embedded in the organisation, he has been able to influence its culture. As a direct result of Simon’s involvement the project team has discovered a renewed excitement about ideas and new possibilities, so much so that the project team itself is now positively influencing senior management. 

The quality of Simon’s work is phenomenal, says Robin. ‘He has the skill set you need for learning design and brings understanding of education, of theology, of theological education, and of the church’. 

I ask Robin what it’s like to work with Simon. 

‘He’s incredibly diligent, and he delivers’. Not only that, says Robin, but he’s great at anticipating problems before they arise. Simon doesn’t power play. He addresses issues as they arise. And he comes back with solutions. ‘He’s able to work with organisational demands, and solutions which fit organisational needs’. 

When asked how staff at Ridley Hall have reacted to Simon’s work, Robin replies, that the most common response is, ‘Wow, that’s brilliant’.

Why would you recommend working with Simon? 

Easy: ‘… because he is the leading learning design consultant in theological education in the UK, without a doubt’.