Success with online individual learning plans

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Success with online individual learning plans

In 2010, St David’s Catholic College, Cardiff, developed and implemented an online individual learning plan to help learners continuously assess and plan their progress. This has successfully resulted in learners exercising greater ownership and responsibility for their own learning.

Number and age range of learners: 1550 post-16 FTE learners
Date of Estyn inspection: 15th November - 19th November 2010

Brief contextual information about provider/partnership (please base this on the context section of report and include features that are relevant to the case study)

St. David's Catholic College was founded by the Archdiocese of Cardiff as a Catholic sixth-form college in 1987. The college is based on one campus in the north-east of Cardiff. St. David's provides learning opportunities for about 1550 full-time learners. Nearly all learners are aged 16-19. There are no part-time learners. Just under 80% of enrolments are at level 3, with 60% of these on A/AS level courses and 27% of these mixing AS/A level courses with Level 3 vocational courses. About 18% of enrolments are at level 2 and about 3% at level 1. Most learners at the college come from Cardiff, but about 13% come from further afield, including Newport, RCT, Caerphilly and Bridgend. About 54% of learners are female and 46% male. About 22% of learners are from minority ethnic groups. About 45% of learners come from areas of educational deprivation.

Please identify how the area of excellent/sector-leading practice, identified during the inspection, relates to a particular key question, quality indicator and/or aspect

Key Question: 1, 2 and 3
Quality indicator: 1.1-Standards; 2.2-Teaching; 3.2- Improving quality.
Aspect: 1.1.4 - skills; 2.2.2 - assessment of and for learning; 3.2.1 - self-assessment

Context and background to excellent/sector-leading practice

Until 2010 the college operated a paper tracker system based on fixed reporting points throughout the academic year. This was limited to a snapshot of student progress based on assessment, target and attendance data. The obvious weakness was that data was quickly out-of-date and learners became disengaged by the obsolete data it provided. The college also collected significant amounts of information about the learner at various points in time which it was felt ought to be made available more readily to the learner and other stakeholders. The college senior management team therefore devised key performance criteria sought from a bespoke eILP.

The St David's eILP would need to;

  • provide reliable and robust data to learners, personal tutors and subject tutors in a form that facilitates the development of challenging targets for learners and course teams;
  • meet individual learner needs by identifying a strong link between career, training and education goals;
  • ensure that learning support has the maximum positive impact on learners by access to live data;
  • exploit the strong link between curriculum delivery and pastoral support;
  • ensure that learners are treated in the round in terms of the support and development they receive;
  • identify learners at the greatest risk of dropping out by creating 'trigger points' for attendance and attainment data; and
  • provide a management tool for monitoring and assessing college performance in terms of impact on learners, performance and wellbeing.

At the outset the requirements of all key stakeholders was sought including learners, curriculum staff, pastoral staff and managers. Through the college's MIS provider, visits were arranged to Beacon colleges in England to view their eILP's.

The St David‟s electronic individual learning plan (eILP) was developed as an online system designed to help learners engage continuously in assessing and planning their progress. It now provides learners with a clear understanding of their current performance, what they want to achieve and how they might get there. At its core is the provision of live assessment, target grade and attendance data. With the identification of clear learning goals, the eILP encourage learners to have greater ownership and responsibility in their own learning. It is an essential mechanism for the pastoral function within the college since it allows pastoral tutors to perform their role as learning coaches, enabling detailed discussions about learners' performance and progress across their programme of study.

The eILP enables all stakeholders to monitor learner progress through the college intranet. Students are able to access a multiplicity of data the college gathers providing greater understanding and ownership of themselves as learners. For example, the eILP provides information on learners' preferred learning styles and basic skills levels; augmenting the pastoral programme and skills support. Learners can view information that the college has on their additional learning needs, ensuring that examination and assessment arrangements are relevant. A significant development is the use of the eILP to write UCAS statements and references. Students have access to their subject UCAS references and predicted grades, which facilitates the writing of their personal statements. UCAS statements are communicated electronically via the eILP thereby improving the control and monitoring of the UCAS process.

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as excellent/sector-leading practice

This initiative links with many aspects of the quality framework and also across more than one key question. The eILP provides a full analysis of a learner‟s learning profile over time. This includes personal data on prior achievement and attainment, additional learning needs, static and dynamic risk factors, attendance, learner contracts and agreements, higher education planning, as well as current achievement, assessment, qualitative feedback and progress.

Priorities for future development are being set by the Senior Leadership Team, in conjunction with the relevant groups. Further development is planned on the contribution of learners to self-evaluation and pre-action planning processes. Learner access, via i-phones and similar devices, has been enabled and will be promoted. These priorities have been identified via feedback from learners. Parents have requested access via a separate portal which is now under development. This will enable the reporting cycle to become a continuous process rather than a paper based 'snap shot'. Parents will be able to engage in on-line discussions with staff based upon the eILP data. The intention is for staff to be able to access the system via standard issue portable devices which will be purchased by the college. It is intended that these will reduce the usage of consumable resources and reduce bureaucratic processes in line with college policy on environmental sustainability and workload management.

What impact has this work had on the quality of provision and learners’ standards?

The eILP has had a clear impact on curriculum delivery with the provision of collated learner data. Basic skill, learning style and qualification on entry data is collected by class, improving lesson planning and ensuring the needs of all learners are met. The college attendance and studentship policy is also delivered through the eILP with the ability to record warnings and administer contracts for good studentship online. The transparency this provides informs all stakeholders and focuses on corrective behaviour. Attendance across the college has risen from 90% to 92% in this time. Curriculum staff also report noticeable changes in student attitude to their assessment recorded on the eILP. The increased transparency in assessment recording increases student motivation. The link between effort, performance and recognition is enhanced as students respond to the feedback they receive. Focus group feedback indicated that learners have enthusiastically received the eILP in the way it supports and provides feedback on their progress.