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Alistair Wakefield

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The power of gadgets in the field


Alistair Wakefield shares his experiences as an assessor of vocational qualifications, exploring how technology can help to generate cost savings and streamline efficiencies from all areas of vocational learning.

Task 1 - meeting schedule

Like many assessors, I would meet with a number of learners on a daily basis. Having a live feed of my schedule was essential to successfully complete my meetings and utilise my time efficiently. Previously, we would have worked to a paper-based timetable; not only could this be misplaced but amending with cancellations or change of venue can be a timely process, often resulting in error or miscommunication amongst the team. As technology progressed, the introduction of PDAs allowed me to clearly view my schedule and the locations that I needed to travel to.
Technology can now also be used to support the learner; use of the latest vocational learning systems allows learners to receive a SMS text message 24 hours prior to the meeting with their assessor. I have found this extremely useful; the learners can be fully prepared for their meeting and in the event of cancellations, we are able to rearrange and use our time more effectively.

Task 2 – learner meetings

On arrival, I can log into the learner's portfolio quickly and securely. More recently, the ability to log and save all required data electronically eliminates records being mislaid or forgotten, therefore saving time for all involved. In addition, we now do not need to transport heavy folders to each of our meetings; this makes the assessor's life much easier 'on the road.'
Traditionally a paper-based industry, a typical learner would require an 8-10 page sign up document detailing their course of study, employer details, assessor visits schedule and programme details. A candidate assessment record (CAR) will be produced and if the training provider is using a manual NVQ logbook this could result in a 200-300 page document.

Task 3 – learner evidence

Throughout the meeting I would need to track all discussions, completed examinations, work observations, and the learner's personal progress. Technology now guides the structure of learner meetings; compliant with all NVQ syllabuses, the most forward thinking e-portfolio solutions provide guidance on the necessary activities needed to be completed at specific times throughout the course of study. Acting as a flexible 'teaching plan' an e-portfolio will suggest a course of action, therefore aiding the flow of the meeting and the learners' direction to successfully completing their course content.
In order to generate evidence for the CAR, assessors can now upload video and voice files to the e-portfolio. For example, in the fitness industry I could capture my learner demonstrating exercise techniques, or in the hospitality sector I can film a student preparing food in the kitchen or serving drinks behind the bar. Not only does this provide a true representation of the learner's capabilities, but also a powerful learning experience helping the individual to view their progress and particular tasks they may need to improve on.

Task 4 – meeting review

Complying with the requirements of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), assessors are required to produce a summary of each learner meeting. E-portfolios are now capable of prompting the assessor to complete a detailed review and plan for the next meeting.
In order to ensure all logged data is transferred to the server and stored securely, synchronisation is a must. The internal verifier (IV) and area manager can then gain immediate access for a real-time account of both the learner's progress and the assessor’s contact with their learner base.
Formerly manually completed, the paper-based CARs would need to be sent in the post to the back office for auditing. Postage costs were therefore incurred; as confidential documents, recorded delivery is required for all auditable paperwork and learner work.

Task 5 – business management

My former colleague Danielle Wheadon, as area manager at Lifetime, also benefits greatly from the use of technology. "Implementing our automated business management solution has allowed us to provide greater support for learners, trainers and assessors. As an automated process, I am able to monitor my team of regional trainers and engage with the happenings in the field at the click of a button. Through electronic assessment, not only are we able to capture learner information and evidence, but we can also submit funding claim information accurately to the SFA. As a result, we have far greater visibility on learner development; this significantly reduces the financial risks associated with delivering funded training."
Benefits also extend to the business: "As a company, we have refined our business, operations and management processes. IV resources are employed more effectively due to efficiency in monitoring and risk management of assessors. The audit team has increased its efficiencies by 50%; back office processing including registrations and framework certificate claims have been streamlined considerably," concludes Danielle.
Ultimately, the way forward for the sector is to adopt new technology that does not simply replace paper-based systems, but provides an effective suite of business management tools to enable the delivery of a more cost efficient and better quality training solution.
Alistair Wakefield is a former vocational qualifications assessor and internal verifier. Now at GO Vocational, Alistair is Solutions Consultant


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