Katholieke Universiteit, Belgium: The Pentalfa programme


[For further information on the programmes offered by Katholieke Universiteit see: www.kuleuven.be/english/]

K.U.Leuven offers high-quality education. Study programmes are research-based and organised within an innovative interdisciplinary framework. The programmes are flexible and use state-of-the-art ICT tools.

Education at the university creates the conditions for lifelong learning. This includes the different activities that give shape to and support lifelong learning. In this respect, the K.U.Leuven formulates, in collaboration with the partners from the Association K.U.Leuven, a selective offer of high quality programmes that recognise earlier acquired competences and that meet societal questions, with particular attention for interdisciplinary programmes.

A coherent organisation and effective support of the wide offer in continuing education at K.U. Leuven deserves special attention—The K.U.Leuven opens its regular offer, under certain conditions, and actively promotes the use of the learning platform to support continuing education, that way products and services that were developed for other programmes can be valorised even further. The integration of these activities in the global educational concept of the university and the tasks of the teaching staff, needs to be further investigated. (translated see: www.kuleuven.be/onderwijs/beleidsinfo/ (Dutch only)).

In essence, the university considers continuing education ('Permanente Vorming' see: www.kuleuven.be/permanentevorming/ (Dutch only)) as an umbrella term for all workshops, seminar series, lectures, programmes, postgraduates etc. that are not part of the regular offer by the university.

In terms of accreditation, there is a difference between postgraduate programmes, post-academic offerings with a certificate and post-academic offerings with proof of attendance. Each type offering has differences in intensity of learning activities, in academic level of content, in organisational procedures, guidelines and legal obligations.

As an example of collaboration between a university and an academic organisation in need of continuous upgrading and maintaining of qualifications, The Pentalfa programme at K.U.Leuven is interesting. The programme is offered by the Faculty of Medicine at K.U.Leuven and is supported by the Flemish Hospital network of K.U. Leuven. The goal of the programme is to offer postgraduate education to medical practitioners in every region of Flanders.

This is a non-formal programme containing structured periods of learning seen from the point of view of the university, but, at the same time, it is formal learning seen from the perspective of the participants since the programme is mandatory for doctors in order to keep their license.

Delivery is through live video sessions that are broadcast simultaneously to 5 different locations within Flanders. These sessions allow for an interchange of knowledge among participants.

The delivery style provides a chance for practitioners to meet and interact with four or five guest speakers and colleagues in each session.

The Pentalfa programme is a multidisciplinary, interactive distance learning, postgraduate programme for medical professionals.

How the programme is delivered

Students take part in live, interactive presentations from various geographic locations. The sessions are later stored as streamed files that can be retrieved by students. Constraints on time and space are thus minimised using technology.

Reasons for success

The programme has been a success because participants can take part, close to their place of work using video-conferencing and do not therefore have to invest time and money travelling to K.U.Leuven. Almost 85% of the participants at guest sites said that they would not come to the University for the specific seminar that they participated in.


    This program meets the following needs:

    • a need for continuous updating of qualifications in medical best practices

    • a need for supporting an established occupational community of inquiry

    • a need for time/space convenience

    • a need for synchronous learning and a chance to interact with peers

    • a need for retrieving learning materials asynchronously


What makes the Pentalfa Programme different and worthy of interest:

This programme has been successful, partly because it has been able to correctly identify a specific learning demand within its area and partly because its delivery style and organisation has matched very well to this niche market.

The programme has exhibited a degree of innovation in its delivery model. The delivery style has been tailored to meet a community of practice where there was a need for:

(i) defining the community's learning focus (ii) identifying and building relationships between members (iii) creating a content form that allowed for synchronous and asynchronous learning and finally (iv) saving on transport and time for the learners and lecturers.

Market Relations

This programme has identified the needs of its students and offered them a value proposition that is attractive to busy post-graduates. It has also endeavoured to respond with a delivery style that corresponds to wishes for specific learning needs and to wishes for saving on travel and time.

Learning needs and styles are in this case attached to a particular target group of highly professional students where the proliferation of knowledge is often facilitated through best- practice communities. The university has responded by providing a platform through which knowledge can be validated and disseminated and the benefits and effectiveness of new practices can be discussed within a community context.

The reach and delivery of the courses is facilitated by channels reliant on IT technology, however the online teaching and interaction is reliant on the forging of relationships in a best practice community among peers.

The forums that have allowed practitioners to connect have not only been designed so as to save on travel and time, they have also provided the ideal structure for knowledge sharing among a peer network.

The actual course content, which is presented to students in live video is further complemented with visual aids that are shown simultaneously.

Participants can view several screens at once—one with the live video session showing the guest speaker, another showing the audience at the broadcast site, and another showing visual aids such as powerpoint presentations, graphs or movie fragments, that support the current lesson.

Knowledge stewarding has been enabled and coordinated at each site through a designated moderator as well as at the central site in Leuven, where lessons are normally planned. A session lasts 2.5 hours and there is plenty of opportunity for participants to ask questions and engage in conversations during that time.

Synchronous learning that allows for tacit, dynamic and socially distributed knowledge is supported through the course pedagogical delivery format.

Asynchronous learning is also enabled through the distribution of online content that can be accessed and reviewed at a time convenient to participants in the programme.

Production and delivery

In order to meet the need of the region, key relationships have been established among contributing actors who have together constituted a scientific coordination group that have stood for the practical as well as academic delivery of this programme.

Key activities have thus been distributed among partners and key resources (manpower) have been shared.

A new way of learning: connecting, building relationships, exchanging ideas

The Pentalfa Programme has been successful in accessing a niche market and building powerful customer relationships (student relationships) among its learners. There seems to be a real confluence of value creation in both the short term and long term for enrolled participants.


This Example of Implementation is referred to through relevant business model keywords in other parts of this site: