Remote learning: Exeter College

Exeter College: how we use OneFile to support learners, no matter what

How have you guys found the transition to home working and teaching?

There’s been a huge team effort to change the way we work, and it's been amazing how we rose to the challenge. We already pushed the boundaries with online delivery so we were always going to be well placed to face times of uncertainty with a level of calm “we can do this” ethos. The early adoption of OneFile and our eagerness to try out its new features over the years had given us a good head start. It's fair to say OneFile's innovations are now used by the masses, not just the geeks amongst us.

Did you face any challenges and how did you overcome them?

We have to remind ourselves to allow staff to be flexible in their delivery models. They are all professionals and where videoing or live lessons may not have been their comfort zone, we have encouraged them to ease themselves in gently.

We’ve opened up OneFile’s courses to all staff so that courses can be set and seen by everyone. Historically courses were only used by those teaching, and now all staff have the opportunity to not only see and share, but to set assessments via the courses option so that learners are engaged and informed using the systems that are familiar to them. This can be a critical pathway for some learners towards being self-reliant. Increased training was identified very early on and we pulled this together utilising both internal and external trainers, Jason from OneFile included, to upskill and reassure everyone.

We have started a new cohort since being in lockdown who were all inducted and their initial sessions carried out normally. OneFile has made sure we can support leaners no matter what their timeline on programme.

What do you learners think about home learning?

The feedback has been really positive. Learners who faced some anxiety or may have been at a critical point, therefore quite nervous, have fed back that they feel confident and happy that learning has continued.

Our engineering apprentices have fed back that they feel that ‘this online learning is alright isn’t it!’ when once they were quite anxious. In accountancy, they enjoy the timeline they have created where they are not in the class all day, but have breaks more regularly with tasks to complete in between.

Learners are being encouraged to continue with the reflective journals when in work, working remotely or furloughed. And many have produced some amazingly creative entries.

How have you used OneFile to support your remote working?

Online learning has taken many forms and depending on level, sector, time on programme and individual leaner needs. We have engaged with all our apprentices without exception in one form or another.

We use OneFile to introduce a subject or concept, provide initial information and then test preliminary understanding via courses.

We also use it to send out information, or the source of information, for the learners to find, recover and, in a flip learning style, revisit and build on in an online session.

We send out assignments, underpinning knowledge work and questions to support online sessions we have delivered.

We review every learner more frequently using our OneFile bespoke review. This is to make sure that welfare and wellbeing checks are carried out, managed, monitored and shared with employers, who may or may not be furloughed, or working remotely themselves.

But whatever the circumstances, we recognise that a week can feel like a long time when you are physically remote from your colleagues, and teaching and assessment teams who are there to support. We undertake our duty of care checks to safeguard our learners more frequently and ensure the responsibility to share reviews and welfare and wellbeing checks with our employer partners is done in different formats, so we not only share information via email, but they also have ongoing access to the information themselves via OneFile. A crucial part of our ongoing employer partnership relationships is making sure we keep all parties informed.

Are there any features in particular that have helped?

Our assessment team use all aspects of the portfolio in their planning, assessment marking, observations, feedback and reviews on an ongoing basis.

As managers, we use the reporting function to monitor the activity of teams and to identify themes where more support may be required.

Progress reviews and monitoring contact has been essential in monitoring learner support. We have ramped up our suite of reports to ensure our 3 themes of exceptional teaching, supportive reviews and excellent customer service are being met. Any new data scrutiny can be difficult to launch and make work, but our cross-college working teams agreed the content of new reports. They were also instrumental in increasing our contact frequency with apprentices to fortnightly light-touch reviews. This adds real security for our young people in challenging times.

We also integrate OneFile data with our MIS system so the college can remain functioning as it was before, and our data integrity and monitoring remains robust and visible.

Our account manager Jason Ferret has continued with staff training via Teams and we have had training for assessors and IQAs. He has also produced training videos and support videos for our employers and learners to encourage their confidence in using the systems where needed.

What advice would you give to other centres to help them adapt to remote working?

Three things which I feel are important:

  1. Set your team up for success by giving them the tools to do their job - for us this is about the systems which work for learners, assessors and management alike. Having a system that also integrates with your own is a bonus. Know that OneFile centres are the lucky ones! Keep lines of communication open to support those who are finding the adoption of new ways of working a little tricky.
  2. Stay calm, carry on… and be creative. There is always a way, whether it’s keeping learners warm whilst they wait for their EPA or enrolling new leaners… It might be a different way but there is so much we can do that we probably haven’t tried before. Use your customer success managers - no matter how good you are, they are better.
  3. Remember this won’t last forever… invest time and energy in your monitoring, systems and processes wisely and ask for advice, we are all in the same boat.

Sue Bright, operations manager apprenticeships | Exeter College


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This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.