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  • The ILR maze
    by Andy Creed on January 15, 2018 at 11:22 am

    How to navigate it…What is the ILR?The individual learner record (ILR) is primarily used by the ESFA to help calculate funding to training providers (as well as a number of other statistical and reporting purposes). The collection and submission of the ILR is made every month (sometimes quarterly for FE colleges) for all learners who qualify for funding.How do I collect data for the ILR?There are 5 main data management principles that need to be adhered to:1. The ILR must accurately describe the provision delivered to each learner.2. The ILR must accurately and comprehensively reflect what is recorded in the learner file or learning agreement.3. For any particular return, a provider must meet the timeliness specification.4. Basic pieces of information about a learner and their learning must remain constant once entered in the ILR except where the information has been entered in error.5. Providers should aim to implement data management best practice when processing learner data within their systems in order to deliver timely and accurate data in their ILR.There you have it, but what does it all mean?Well the ILR does have a specification: latest version has 220 pages describing its structure and valid content. The latest provider support manual is 148 pages and then there are host of other documents available for guidance on what the ILR is and how it should be processed.So cancel all holidays, lunches, weekends…oh and any work whilst you wade through all that as well as then considering how I put the data together in a valid XML format that I can then submit. Every month.Where do I start?When we built Latent Path we always knew that for it to be fully beneficial to anybody using it, it needed to be able to create an ILR.Not only did it need to be created it need to be created very quickly and easily. Latent Path already holds the data you need for the ILR so it transposes it into an valid ILR ready for your submission.Not only does this mean its an obvious timesaver but it also means that you have accurate data flowing into the ILR. Most of the data hardly changes and the data that does change will either be catered for automatically as part of the normal workflows when using Latent Path or easily added when prompted by our intuitive and powerful software.What happens if my submission is incorrect?If a submission is incorrect it can cause funding to be halted or even clawed back from providers.So getting it right is clearly imperative to ensure funding is maintained. Latent Path is based on the government’s validation rules so all data can be verified before it gets submitted. We also notify you early in the submission period so you can submit your data in time based on the scheduled published timetable.Statutory changesEvery year the ILR can change in format and what needs to be collected and submitted.Latent Path tracks these changes and applies them so when you next have to do a submission you either won’t see any difference or that difference will be simply Latent Path asking you to enter or select a new piece of data.Are you stuck in the maze?If so, please request a demo at www.latentpath.comThe ILR maze was originally published in Latent Path on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

  • Building a tool for apprenticeships
    by Simon Wilson on January 12, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Our story so far…Back in March 2017, with the new apprenticeship levy initiative about to kick in, we embarked on a journey to build an online tool to help employers, training providers and learners get the most from each apprenticeship. Something that saved time, encouraged engagement & interaction and ticked all the boxes in terms of data reporting (to ESFA and auditors). We called it Latent Path.Enlisting helpHaving worked on web-based solutions for clients in the learning and training sector for a few years, we had a good grasp of what we COULD produce. We needed someone to work with us on it though, that knowledge from a training provider was vital to us getting close to the mark first time. We were fortunate to find and engage with an amazing, forward-thinking, but established training provider up in Cumbria. Their leadership and management training was proven and their services used by some big clients. They’ve been awesome to work with :-)Gathering insightAs an agency we are firm believers that a successful outcome hinges on end-user engagement. We spent some time with training providers and employer providers to understand their needs and worries around the new apprenticeship levy schemes. We engaged with EY and Medway Council (2 large apprenticeship employers and providers) to gather insight. Naturally there was (and still is) a lot of confusion about what should be stored around a learner’s progress and what is reported back to ESFA. Even more confusion about how the new apprenticeship providers would be audited. It was key that the tool we built allowed the right data to be stored and that we could adapt and evolve this over time.The other key aspect we uncovered was the challenge in engaging with the learner and ensuring their “training” was recorded. A key indicator is recording the 20% “off the job” training an apprentice is supposed to do. There appeared to be a lot of worry about how best to evidence that. Similarly, when it came to assessment, evidence of good practice is a key factor. Creating an engaging experience for a learner was going to be vital to ensure success in this area.Lots of ideas from real users.Highlighting the key usersThe nature of an apprenticeship means there are several key people involved throughout the journey. We picked out the following user personas as the important ones to keep in mind:the learnerthe trainer (or tutor)the training provider — programme managerthe employer (for whom the learner works and the training provider has been chosen by)an assessor/quality assurance userThrough research, engagement with users within each of these, we came up with the following key functionality to deliver for each user type. (It should be noted this is not the end of the functionality list, merely the beginning — keeping it focused early on means we can keep the tool lean and robust at the core).The LearnerThe learner needed a simple, intuitive, mobile-friendly interface to use. Potentially young and inexperienced, the key here is to make the tool an asset to the apprentice during their learning.As a new employee, they’ll have been introduced to a new environment, new systems, new people — there will be a lot to take in. What they don’t need is another complicated system to log in to. At it’s core the tool gives the learner an overview of the programme and what is being covered when. While not acting as an LMS, it gives the learner quick access to resources or links to learning materials. At it’s core is a simple messaging system allowing the learner to interact with fellow cohort members and their trainer/tutor. Using a “chat” style approach, the learner feels more at ease and relaxed communicating with others.We’ve already highlighted a key area as being able to evidence good practice and log time spent learning. Rather than create a series of data input scenarios for a learner to have to navigate, we created one simple “Log Book” function. This allows a learner to log time spent “off the job”, upload evidence against learning outcomes and submit task responses.Our tool has been used in beta form for over 2 months by our partner training provider, we’ve quickly highlighted areas where we can improve this learner interface. It’s so vital to the success of the system — without learner engagement, the data held is not as rich as it could be. A revamped learner interface is being implemented now and should be launched early February 2018.The Trainer/TutorThe trainer needs to be able to monitor learner progression, communicate with learners and review evidence and tasks submitted.Feedback can be offered back to learners to help them refine this evidence. Although the trainer might not be building the programme delivery structure, they’ll undoubtedly want to adjust aspects and upload resources as necessary.Similarly they will want to arrange events and activities for their cohort. We built a more involved interface for the trainer which allowed easy access to the key functionality they’d need day to day, while not over complicating their view of things. Feedback so far from trainers has been excellent and we are refining areas around the monitoring of progress to give them a better “at a glance” view of where learners are. By logging when learners have read resources, watched videos, logged evidence and more, we can offer trainers (and employers) a meaningful view of how engaged a learner is in their learning.The training provider — programme managerA training provider needs a good view of all the programmes they are running.We found that there is very often a programme manager role that oversees allocated programmes. They will be responsible for building the programmes (the structure, timings) and the cohorts on them. We built an interface to allow training providers to set up some base data such as qualifications/trailblazer standards, tags and resources. From here they could build programmes, breaking these down into modules, content areas and activities — with versatility within that. Offline a lot of training providers were using tabular or spreadsheet based approaches to illustrating how their programme mapped out over the 2 years, say. Rather than revolutionise how they do things, we instead sought to digitise this to allow them a similar visual approach to building the programme structure.Being able to manage learners on a programme is a key requirement. Here, learner information can be extended to store data required for the ILR needed by the ESFA. Our goal is to hook up our tool to the ESFA system completely, for now we can output XML data files and CSV reports for easy upload into the Government’s digital system. Collating this learner record data is and could be a time consuming process, so this was a key driver for us in our tool. We’ll be focused on improving this over the next few months as things evolve.EmployerPerhaps not as engaged day to day, an employer is going to be interested in how their apprentices are progressing.Similarly they’ll be interested in the structure of the programme and what their employee is logging. We’ve focused on the employer user likely being the line manager of the apprentice, but it could be an HR representative. They access a simple interface which provides a mostly “view only” outlook on things. Where needed, employers can participate in conversations with their learners and their trainers/tutors. A key requirement here is to allow the employer to see that an apprentice is progressing well and be able to react quickly where progress is poor. This viewpoint also provides an employer with further insight into how their new member of staff is settling in and the skills they are picking up. This can help shape the output expected of the apprentice in the workplace.Assessor/Quality assurance userWe built this role to allow potential 3rd party users to access aspects of a programme.This could be as part of an audit of the training provider or an assessor role. This particular role and what they can do will likely evolve and change as time goes on but for now gives view-only access over programme structures and learner progress within selected cohorts.Our new version of the learner interface, built around usage.Next StepsSo what’s next — well we need more early adopters of the tool. We are talking to some providers now get them on board and be part of the steering group to shape the product as it goes forward. If anyone is interested in being one of our early adopters, please get in touch!Nothing online is ever finished, we’ll be evolving the tool constantly. Already we are revamping the learner interface to better fit with how it is being used. We’ve put a lot of sweat and tears to get where we are now, but now the exciting journey is starting to get more interesting…For a demo of Latent Path, contact us through www.latentpath.comBuilding a tool for apprenticeships was originally published in Latent Path on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

  • Apprenticeships — Everything is About to Change…
    by Simon Wilson on January 12, 2018 at 11:15 am

    Thankfully, as an employer, I am not having to face the apprenticeship levy that is landing in Spring 2017. In very basic terms… if you have an annual wage bill of £3m or more, you are going to face paying an amount to the Government, but you can get some of this back through running an approved apprenticeship scheme.I actually believe what the Government is proposing around apprenticeships is a good thing. “You get what you put in”, is basically what they are saying. We’ve long known the jump from finishing education to a career is an ever growing one. Gone are the days of School->Uni->Graduate Job. Competition for jobs is fierce and the costs of university make it prohibitive for many.Times are changingThe world we work in is changing. The rate at which all industry sectors are evolving is frightening. Ours (digital) is an extreme case of this. The uni courses are covering digital techniques and tools that are already legacy for those at the cutting edge.On the surface then, apprenticeships make sense — an individual can learn as they go and come away with a qualification. Best case, at the end of the apprenticeship, an employer has gained a new team member, able to add value and has already bought into the company ethos.However, it is not all good news at the moment. And again here, I am coming from experience of working with companies who offer apprenticeships and having had apprentices here at Red Bullet.Where I think things have been going wrong, are that there is still some separation between what an apprentice is training towards and how an employer wants to shape the potential recruit.Thinking about our apprentice, Nat, we had last year. He came in via a Kent County Council initiative and we received some grant funding towards the apprenticeship. We wanted to create a role for someone to lead our marketing — across the channels we use, so perhaps less traditional marketing. We had to choose a course for Nat to cover during his apprenticeship (the education aspect). The closest to our desired role was basic level marketing course. What became apparent very quickly was that Nat had his day to day tasks we wanted him to focus on — lots of reading, experimentation, shadowing. He then had the tasks he had to complete for his apprenticeship assessment — completion of tedious Word documents around random tasks. These tasks were via a terrible online system and were accompanied by regular visits from a training assessor who knew nothing about what we did as a business.Being truthful, at the end of the apprenticeship we’d created a Red Bullet employee, who had bought into us and what we do. His qualification was an irrelevant thing he’d picked up.I am confident I am not alone with this view on apprenticeships. It’s an easy fix though and the Government’s increased focus on apprenticeships will help this (I hope!). What we need are apprenticeships where apprentices, training organisations and employers (managers) work together to shape someone into the right employee, equipped with the right talents and the qualification(s) needed.So, as well as laying out a pathway of learning against the agreed assessment criteria, an apprenticeship should be a mix of:What the apprentice needs to learn (what they will be assessed on) — the education/qualification aspectWhat the apprentice wants to get out of the apprenticeship — specific skills, aims, objectives shaped around their strengths and weaknessesWhat the employer wants to shape the apprentice into, getting them bought into the brand of the company they work for and the values they strive for.Training organisations monitoring progression and adapting the objectives and skills an apprentice is focused on.Looking ForwardAt this point, remember apprentices need not always be 17 year old school leavers, it could be managers getting some further training in leadership or management techniques. Realistically some of the points mentioned above are happening, but with limited synergy. In terms of tracking and monitoring an apprentice’s progress, the data is quite disparate. With a lot of the skills developed likely to be behavioural (e.g. leadership, teamworking) as well as tested knowledge, being able to track progress and evidence good practice across the board makes sense, if feasible.We work with a number of training consultants and HR departments, so have a good grasp of the tools currently used. Students/apprentices typically access online learning materials through an LMS (Learning Management System, e.g. Moodle). They’ll also receive some offline training and discuss progress with managers and training providers throughout their apprenticeship.Bridging the gap between receiving knowledge and understanding how an apprentice is progressing is the golden ticket.Most online tools right now focus on content delivery and assessment. What we need is some way of gathering feedback as an apprentice goes and allowing them to log evidence of particular skills. Feedback could be in a variety of forms:how an apprentice feels they are progressing against an objective or skillhow a manager and training organisation feels about their progress.what an apprentice thinks of training received (enabling improvement of the programme for others)A need to know moreWith the Government’s levy plans, there will undoubtedly be an Ofsted approach to monitoring the approved training organisations running the programmes. With this comes the added need to be able to evidence what is happening between A and Z.Here at Red Bullet we’ve been working in the training and learning sector for a few years now, working on solutions for private and public sectors. In most cases we are building innovative tools that bridge a gap in workflows or improve engagement with learning/training. With the forthcoming focus on apprenticeship, we’ve spent time looking at how we could better track an apprentice through their journey, while at the same time allowing employers to monitor progress and most importantly allowing training organisations to shape the delivery.It’s early days but we think we’ve built something that goes some way to solving the issues raised here. In the coming months, we’ll be launching Latent Path — a simple online tool for apprenticeship programmes. We’re working with a handful of training organisations to pilot the offering.We’ve spoken to apprentices, they love the simplicity, the minimal effort they have to put in. Training organisations we work with can see the benefits — a central place to manage their apprenticeship programmes and pull of what governing bodies will want to see. For Employers, they’ve said the tool can sit alongside what they use day to day and feed into existing HR systems. Everything online evolves and that evolution should be around real usage. We understand that more than most. We are super excited to have built something that aligns with the Government’s new focus on apprenticeships. Stay tuned for launch and get in touch if you want to get involved with our steering group and pilot the tool.In summary then, I am excited about the changes coming around funding for apprenticeships. Big companies are going to have to change the way they bring talent into their teams. Could we see the end of the graduate schemes? Could less people now auto-pilot towards university? I think the landscape for those transitioning from education to employment is going to change a lot in the next 5 years. I’d put money on it.UPDATE: With the list of approved, registered training providers published by the Government, we’ve built a neat little tool to easily search for suitable delivery partners. It offers a little more information than the basic CSV available on the .Gov website. Find registered apprenticeship levy training providers.Apprenticeships — Everything is About to Change… was originally published in Latent Path on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.