Developing and delivering vocational technology

Insights from Ufi grant-funded projects

Between 2015 – 2019 Ufi awarded over £14 million in grant funding to 117 projects which reached more than 2.6million adult learners.

As part of the external evaluation of our grant funding, York Consulting asked grant recipients to reflect on the key lessons they have learned when developing vocational technology and the advice they would give to future recipients of funding from Ufi.

Below we share the reflections and insights from more than 100 responses, grouped around the four key themes that emerged.

We hope that these practical insights will be useful to anyone developing vocational technology or supporting others who are.

Developing and delivering vocational technology

Insights handout

We've compiled the insights from our projects into a useful pdf handout.

Download now

Project design

  • Start with the problem, rather than the solution
    Identify a clear need, ensure this is well-researched and articulated and that the desired change, outcomes and impacts are clearly outlined.
  • Know your market
    User attitudes, behaviours and need should be at the heart of the solution.
  • Consider the level of internal and senior buy-in
    Senior team buy-in is essential to ensure delivery is committed, structured and streamlined, and that issues can be mitigated.
  • Involve partners at the earliest stage possible
    Encourage them to contribute to the project planning and management documentation.
  • Identify the skillset of the people that you need, ensure you have the right mix of skills and experience and consider the need for training
    Developing VocTech products for market requires a variety of technical, analytical, business, strategic, communication and project management skills.

Engaging with stakeholder and/or user groups

  • Early engagement is paramount
    Mobilise support from existing networks early on or build in enough time to form and maintain relationships with relevant groups throughout the project.
  • Physical demonstrations of prototypes / technology can help secure engagement
    Demonstrations of products in real settings are valuable in engaging the internal workforce and partners.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of good quality user-testing and the numbers required
    Extensive and ongoing user-testing with stakeholders and learners should inform the iterative development of the product.
  • Time and energy are required to support users through change
    Introducing new vocational technology can require a change in attitudes and behaviours. Be sure to communicate the positive benefits, lay the foundations for change to happen, develop a plan and bring your users with you.

Project delivery

  • VocTech development is resource intensive
    Be realistic about the planning time, costs, resources and technicalities required when designing a digital solution. Allow time for experimentation and problem solving.
  • Flexibility and the ability to be agile are key
    Be prepared to shift your approach, re-prioritise and change direction.

The end product

  • Good quality user-experience is essential in encouraging engagement with content
    Many users expect vocational technology to match the quality of the products they use in other areas of their lives. Poor functionality and design has the potential to disengage learners, particularly amongst younger audiences.
  • Do not underestimate the amount of content required to ensure a quality user experience and consider the relationships between the content and the product’s longevity
    High-quality, engaging content takes time and resource to develop. Determine how you will update the content to keep it relevant to your users and consider whether your product could be tailored for multiple scenarios, audiences or sectors.
  • Working with sector partners from the outset gives a project credibility and can help develop market pathways
    Early discussions should focus on the need, intended change and resulting benefit of a product, rather than the technological solution.
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