First class blended learning for Functional Skills from MindLeaders
This month MindLeaders releases U-skills for Functional Skills, a new blended learning model to deliver the tougher basic skills qualifications in Maths and English. Already proven in pilots with workplace learners, the blended solution uses ePortfolios to introduce collaborative online learning to Functional Skills delivery for the first time.
The government has confirmed that Functional Skills will replace Adult Basic Skills from 1st August and become a mandatory component of all Apprenticeship schemes from September. That means that employers across the UK will at last have to grapple with a Functional Skills syllabus which is more challenging than predecessor Key Skills and Skills for Life qualifications.
Written questions are used in final assessments for the first time, several new skills are assessed and there is a more demanding, contextualised focus to the learning. Candidates undertaking Functional Skills are now required to show that they can apply and master skills in real world situations and scenarios.
Scenario-based, personalised elearning
Since the advent of Functional Skills was first announced, MindLeaders has invested heavily in creating, piloting and proving a complete blended learning solution which meets these challenges. The result is U-skills for Functional Skills, a model that enables employers and training providers to reliably outsource Functional Skills as standalone qualifications or as components of an Apprenticeship scheme.
The successful U-skills solution was initially created to support Skills for Life qualifications by adopting a blended approach: delivering underpinning knowledge through personalised elearning along with one-to-one support and coaching from a nationwide team of Learning Support Managers (LSMs).
Now with U-skills for Functional Skills (see the brochure here), this successful model has been enhanced to deliver on the increased demands of the new standards.
The contextual focus of the Functional Skills syllabus is supported by new elearning features, including video content to deliver on the speaking and listening requirements of the syllabus and action time screens that direct learners to apply their new skills offline.
Mastery through online collaboration
Once the individual learning plan is completed, 'mastery' of Functional Skills is fostered with online collaboration between candidates and Learning Support Managers through the ePortfolio system. Replacing a paper based system for logging the completion of personalised tasks and activities, ePortfolios become a focus for learner interaction with tutors and each other.
"Personalised distance learning for Functional Skills now becomes a reality", explains Roger Francis, HR and services director at MindLeaders. "Learners don't have to wait to see their LSM until they are next on site. They can communicate using the ePortfolio and receive almost instant feedback on their work. We can also link learners to additional resources online or filed within the ePortfolio itself, providing the learner with a richer experience and more comprehensive support. Finally, ePortfolios open up all sorts of future possibilities. We can build in social platforms which will enable learners to collaborate and learn from each other. Stuck on a problem? Simply tap into your social network and ask your friends for advice."
As the only solution for Functional Skills proven to succeed in the workplace, the MindLeaders model is already attracting attention. Pilots conducted with major employers Whitbread and Barchester Healthcare achieved first time pass rates of over 90% and saw learners complete the new qualifications within 8 - 12 weeks, and MindLeaders is now in discussions to implement U-skills with several other UK employers running large Apprenticeship schemes.
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