Case Study – Integrated learning solutions that deliver impact for the higher education sector: University of Bedfordshire

Photo at University of Bedfordshire
17–20 MINS

The University of Bedfordshire is one of the newer universities in the UK and has been a key partner with Skills for Health for over several years. Initially working with our eLearning team to support students with Mandatory and Statutory eLearning, the partnership has grown from strength to strength over the years, with more courses added to the curriculum, and access to a tailored learning management solution for students and mentors implemented.

This onboarding of new Core Skills Training Framework (CSTF) eLearning, plus additional partner courses, has proven crucial for the University, to ensure training was relevant and up to date with employer’s needs. As authors of the CSTF, and the leading not-for-profit healthcare eLearning provider, we worked collaboratively with the University’s healthcare team to help improve accessibility and the quality of online learning to students, our future health and social care workforce of tomorrow.

Recently, I spoke to  Barbara Burden, Associate Dean and NMC Lead Midwife for Education at University of Bedfordshire about our work together to implement this integrated eLearning solution and in onboarding this new model of training provision.

“Our agenda is based around widening participation, so our students come to us from a very diverse background. Many have not had the normal life opportunities that perhaps other students might have had at other universities, they’ve usually come through more protracted routes – access programs, rather than A-levels. Because they have taken a longer route to get to where they want to be, our students are predominately more mature but are very passionate about their studies and very passionate about where they want to be at the end of their course of study.”

The University carry out a lot of work with students to support them through their studies, using a whole range of educational means for them to find the one that suits them best or to excel at certain parts of it.

“When we started offering mandatory training to students, we were aware that some of our practice partners already use Skills for Health for this. While we looked at several providers, we decided to go with Skills for Health because you had a very wide portfolio of training, but also it was very central to what we wanted and fitted what our practice partners were already doing in some respects.”

Supporting the University of Bedfordshire to overcome the challenges of the pandemic

In March 2020, the University, like all higher education organisations, was impacted significantly by the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. In that time, learning delivery had to transform, and our collaboration has proven vital for the continuity of learning for students.

“What happened with Covid-19 is that we had to move to more interactive methods of teaching and perhaps we were quite traditional in some respects with a lot of our teaching previously, but over the past year we’ve developed a whole new way of teaching and engaging with students. One of the things we did was to upgrade our Blackboard. We’ve gone to Blackboard Ultra. We lovingly call it ‘BREO’ (Bedfordshire Resources for Education Online). So, as far as our students are concerned, it’s a one stop shop for everything.”

Working jointly with the University to embed access to our own learning management systems, we have helped to improve and sustain the access of learning for students.

“It was good to know that Skills for Health were able to do that with us. Covid-19 enabled us to look at different ways of working, but also allowed us to link with you to ensure our access to your system was much tighter than before. Students previously logged into separate platforms, whereas through our collaboration, they now have seamless access to engage with their learning online. That has helped us significantly increase the uptake of units by our students, which is really positive.”

With regular reviews with our eLearning team, the University has been able to reassure NHS partners and students alike, that continuity and quality of learning was maintained throughout the pandemic, with little disruption to the completion of units.

“Working with Skills for Health is great, it feels like a real partnership, and like the team really care about the delivery of learning, and the impact for the sector. It’s a working relationship that benefits both parties, and that was key to us throughout the selection process, to ensure we received the best quality of services for our students.

“You have a really good suite of eLearning packages that are up to date with the current healthcare environments that we work in, and this was reassuring for our NHS and healthcare partners, giving employers and students the confidence in their knowledge and skills.”

“Your team keep us well informed about what changes are expected in the delivery of eLearning, and what new innovations are available to us through the new eLearning packages. I really liked that we are kept up to date with new solutions for students. The provision of learning is of course excellent value for money, which is incredibly important given the times we live in, and the demand on the education and healthcare sector.”

Supporting the University of Bedfordshire achieve their goals

The University’s first goal was to have a simple integration between Skills for Health’s eLearning platform, and Blackboard. Our learning management teams worked with the University to deliver learning into their Blackboard system, integrated through eLearning Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), meaning the University can maintain all their learning in one place, for students to access all parts of the curriculum online.

“Our first goal was to have a system that was seamlessly integrated between our virtual platform and Skills for Health’s. That was achieved very promptly after renewing the course provision, and before the new cohort of students started. We wanted to make sure we moved all students over to the new provision at the right time, and from the beginning of their programme of learning. Your team worked with us to make sure that was delivered at the right time, for the right people, and in the right way.”

The University’s second goal was to optimise student uptake of the learning online, and improve their access to remote learning, which became increasingly important as the impact of Covid-19 was felt across the higher education sector.

“By offering our online learning to students through an integrated system, we were able to increase uptake, manage learning completion, and the delivery of learning was favourable to students to help us ensure as many people as possible completed their training. I would say this is still in progress and will always be, because we’ll never get to a point where every single student has completed their learning at once. But we can effectively manage it with students and mentors, to encourage more uptake of learning throughout the academic year.”

The third goal was to demonstrate improvement in the student learning experience and showing the value of the learning management system to students and university staff. Integrated learning solutions significantly reduce administration time, human error and make the visibility of course completions more transparent and accessible for university leaders, lecturers, and the students themselves.

“Before we had the integration implemented between Skills for Health and our systems, we had to go into a separate record system to try and get the data required. That was often quite difficult and laborious to try and find out who had completed which course, for example: if everybody had completed their Moving and Handling eLearning module. Now, we can go into one platform and get real-time data straight away. We can download lessons and reports, demonstrating that all students have completed the learning. Reporting is much more seamless now than it was before. It’s easier for our administrators to monitor the data.”

Working closely with the University of Bedfordshire to deliver improved learning outcomes for staff and students

As with all our eLearning partners, the University worked hand in hand with our Client Director, and the eLearning implementation team.

“Having a designated point of contact has been really useful, in having conversations about the integration. Having that named person was helpful in making sure that the provision of learning runs smoothly. It means that our students have a good learning outcome at the end of day. They know that they can go in, it works, and everything is as we would expect it. And it runs seamlessly, which is the important part of it.”

During the implementation of the new eLearning integration to provision mandatory training, plus additional packages for the University, this coincided with the upgrade on Blackboard, from standard provision to Blackboard Ultra. This added extra complexity for both parties, and the partnership working throughout this process was crucial to ensure the learning platform was ready to go for the first cohort of students.

“The biggest challenge was getting the two systems to work, and talk to each other, transferring learning data and course information. That could only have been done with our department and your digital team. They had some amazing conversations, to get it sorted, and a trial date to make sure it ran properly first. It was incredible how quickly they overcame any hurdles, and the integration was sorted out. That was very impressive.”

Additional tools can support Universities, healthcare employers and NHS Trusts to manage, monitor and support learners and staff alike to engage more with online learning, and the experience of the student is paramount in increasing learning retention and upskilling.

“When you look at the provision of learning, as a lecturer or teacher, the ability to have additional eLearning tools embedded within our existing Virtual Learning Environment is amazing. It runs seamlessly, the students can access all the resources in one place, just like any other teaching resources and materials. The ability to integrate the systems without disrupting the learning experience for the student is a credit to Skills for Health. On a more personal note, the working arrangement that we have with you is positive, very proactive, and fair. The team are responsive, not reactive and we work in collaboration for the benefit of students and the healthcare sector.”

“Undoubtedly staff are saying their students are accessing the courses much more frequently on the improved platform, than they did before. Students are using it and engaging more with it than they did previously, ultimately helping the university deliver better learning outcomes for employers and students.”

Student feedback so far, has been positive, with integration meaning they only need to access one place for all their learning, and learning records.

“Students are enjoying the learning more now than they were before because it’s embedded on the platform, along with all their other learning. They have a clearly defined list of all the mandatory training they must complete, which they can easily work through. Before, accessing mandatory training on a separate platform was seen as a tick box exercise, but now that it is fully integrated, they can manage their time effectively by accessing training weekly or monthly, when it suits them. That is more rewarding for them as they complete their training.”

“The best thing about working in partnership with Skills for Health is the excellent support that is given, not only to the University, but also the quality of Skills for Health’s eLearning courses. The content delivered to students is a core part of our curriculum that is highly valued and is integrated in our learning offer for the future healthcare workforce. It’s truly a valued partnership to work with the Skills for Health eLearning team, between us, the students and Skills for Health.”

Now, we look forward to working even closer with universities, and the University of Bedfordshire to develop further eLearning provision for students, enhancing academic learning for future health and social care staff.

Skills for Health are dedicated to delivering best in class learning solutions and supporting development of  the future health and social care workforce of tomorrow. For more information about our eLearning and learning management opportunities for your organisation, please get in touch and book a demo with one of our learning and compliance experts.

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