By Mahreen Ferdous and Caroline O’Donnell
At Ufi we champion the power of technology to help adults gain the skills they need for work, through grant funding, investing and advocating for VocTech (that is - digital tech for adult vocational learning)
One of the ways we do this is through our grant funded project cohorts. The cohorts include a mix of different types of organizations, technology and end learners, so that we can build connections, share lessons from practical experience and bring them together. This is part of our aspiration to build a #VocTech Community of people as passionate as we are about supporting the very best of digital in vocational education.
In ‘normal’ times we host regular cohort workshops so that the projects we fund have the chance to find out more about the VocTech space, share learning and network across the Ufi family. This March we tried something new and brought together three cohorts – that is 29 grant funded projects for a joint, virtual workshop.
Given many of us are suffering Zoom fatigue or MS Teams overload we created group interactions using lots of digital tools, like MIRO virtual post it notes (which never fall off the wall!) and virtual backgrounds, in order to have a bit of fun and encourage networking chat, as well as drawing out insights and lessons.
With so much experience and expertise in the room a number of common themes emerged. Here Ufi Project Account Managers Mahreen Ferdous and Caroline O’Donnell share the five practical tips for testing and scaling VocTech solutions that stood out.
Access to learners is essential
- There are no shortcuts to accessing learners to test the product in development! Adapting your approach to allow remote testing can be done, but often requires greater support to the users to ensure that barriers such as installing software and setting up equipment don’t detract from the real purpose of testing – to find out if your learning tool is effective and has impact.
- Never make assumptions about your learners’ baseline digital skills and access to devices. Ensure you explore how and when they will want to access learning, and what they will need to do so effectively. Will they need to have an email address? Do they have access to devices and if so what operating system will they be using? Are there accessibility, literacy or language issues? What human support will they need as well as the tech?
- Align your key delivery partners and explore their assumptions – do your software developers and learning designers fully understand the project goal and scope? What is the best way to communicate your requirements – do they need wireframes, or storyboards? How will you ensure standard terminology is used so things aren’t lost in translation or misinterpreted?
- When planning how to scale up consider what will work best for your organisation– if you can reach a large audience quickly do you have the resources to support them all? Or would you be better placed for a slow and steady approach so you can be more responsive and adaptive to feedback from your clients?
- Research the marketplace and your customers buying habits – is your product name/brand unique and appropriate? What pricing and licensing model will work best for your potential clients? How do they normally procure learning tech – are they likely to invest in innovation or do they tend to play it safe – who are the decision makers?
Innovation always carries an element of risk and stepping into the unknown. It is very rare that one of our projects doesn’t encounter something unforeseen. Having clear goals and objectives, a flexible and collaborative approach, and keeping the learner at the heart of a project are all key factors in success. Focus is important, but so is listening and responding to feedback during project delivery.