During 2017-18, Plumpton College explored effective ways to integrate immersive technologies into teaching, the 'Teaching with Virtual Reality' project. The Association of Colleges Beacon Awards commends practices which 'have demonstrated a high level of innovation, impact' and are 'sustainable'; and awarded the college the AoC Beacon Award for 'Effective Use of Technology in Further Education Award' 2018/19.
Embedding Core Skills into Apprenticeship Programmes
By working with apprentices, employers and providers, this project hoped to find the most effective way of allowing apprentices to be supported in the development of these crucial skills; and how to support their employers in order to maintain them. By working with apprentices, employers and providers, this project hoped to find the most effective way of allowing apprentices to be supported in the development of these crucial skills; and how to support their employers in order to maintain them.
At the beginning of this project several research questions became apparent. These were:
- Is the development of technical numeracy, literacy and digital skills a vital component of outstanding on-programme delivery to apprentices?
- Do employers fully grasp the importance of these skills as vital parts of apprenticeship programmes?
- What is the most effective way to develop teaching, learning & assessment to improve these skills?
- How can employers be supported to assist the development of these skills?
These research questions would drive the project, shaping the collaboration between employers and organisations such as British Airways, Booker Wholesale and the Sussex Council of Training Providers. The aim was to explore the best way to embed core skills into vocational programmes, in order to empower employers and trainers to develop these skills in their own workforce.
Was the project successful?
At the end of the project, Plumpton College can ask itself, did we achieve the starting aims?
- Exploring best practice - both trainers and employers agreed that for teaching practice to be oustanding, it needed to link to real-life workplace situations, and the core skills should relate to industry tasks and knowledge.
- Improved confidence in trainers to deliver core skills - the Infographics have been a good tool to help develop knowledge and understanding of how to embed core skills for employers/trainers.
- Did we make resources to support embedding core skills? - the final Infographics are available to share between companies, organisations and institutions, meaning better collaboration and the delivery of core skills.
- Improvement of core skills due to improved delivery - in making online resources accessible to students (and as open access), more students are able to develop their core skills, and the varying teaching methods meets apprenticeship standards. It also allows monitoring of progress and achievement.
- Improved industry/employer collaboration to focus on core skills development - this project has bettered networking between Plumpton, employers and trainers, which means more chances to reflect on best practices.
Whilst the project was developing, we found that there were some skills and technology barriers to information and resources online - employers and trainers found that getting learners motivated and interested was difficult. To combat this, Plumpton decided to expand the Infographics into an online 'hub' where learning resources and information can be displayed, allowing easy and mobile access to differing types of teaching methods for students at home, at college, and at work. This has positively impacted learner experience, because of the range in delivery methods.
Improved Employer Reflection
What also became clear is that through collaborating with employers, such as British Airways, and Booker Wholesale, is the positive impact of reflecting on teaching practice within organisations. By exploring different teaching methods and ways to embed core skills and forming these into Infographics that can be used as both online and physical resources, employers were able to integrate their new awareness of the importance of core skills into their practices. This also means that learners are benefiting from constantly evolving teaching methods, which improves their capabilities for future work, and provides essential core skills.
Challenges of Collaborative Research
One of the most challenging aspects during this project was engaging employers and practitioners in the process of collaborative research. The idea of getting involved with academic practice, as an industry professional, was one of the difficulties that became apparent throughout the process. While this method of working offers so many opportunities for involving numerous partners, the team found that a strong direction was needed in order to be effective. But as the project progressed and the Infographics were given out, more employers and trainers were able to be involved in the design and evaluation process.