Securing funding for work-based learning “We’re very glad we made the decision to go with Destiny”Sue Alvey, Head of Operational Support, Cornwall College BusinessThe challenge: staying audit compliant with pressure on time As well as being one of the largest further education colleges in the UK, with 45,000 students able to choose from over 3,000 different courses across seven main campus sites, Cornwall College is also the leading provider of training and education for business in the South West. Working in partnership with client organisations to design customised training to improve business performance, Cornwall College Business provides professional qualifications through courses and workshops for individuals, departments or entire companies. Apprenticeships and “Train to Gain” are two of the College’s main business programmes, with more than 4,000 students involved in these programmes at any one time. Gaining access to funding to help subsidise the cost of skills development is an important part of the College’s service to employers. But to be able to draw down this funding, the College faces the same challenge as every other provider of work-based learning – the task of completing records for each individual learner in an accurate, timely and controlled way that provides the evidence for full and auditable compliance. With fewer contracts to go round, higher minimum contract values, outcome-based payments and the general demand to deliver more for less, the pressure on all work-based learning providers has increased. But according to Sue Alvey, Head of Operational Support for Cornwall College Business, the real spur came when the Skills Funding Agency restricted to two months the deadline for reporting new signups.“Two months might sound like a long time,” says Sue. “But in practice it can be a lot less, and it gets eaten away very quickly. Historically we’ve had to key large volumes of information into our Pellcomp PICS management information system manually. It became very obvious that we needed a much less time-consuming and more efficient way of inputting our data to secure the funding that’s critical for our clients.”To start the process of designing and providing the right business training, Liaison Officers or Business Development Advisors from the College go out to visit employers and learners to build up a full picture of what they need. After carrying out an assessment and giving advice, they write out an individual learning plan which also acts as the signup paperwork. They then drop this paperwork off at the office some days later, where it’s manually checked. If there’s a problem, they may need to return to the client to update the form and get a new signature. Only then can the data be manually entered into PICS and the application made for funding.
The solution: digital pen technology for quick and accurate recordingThe College had previously looked at laptops as a possible way of recording and transmit-ting information from the field, but reliable 3G network coverage proved to be a big stumbling block. Another major issue was the audit requirement for an original “wet ink” signature – effectively ruling out other forms of data capture technology like laptops or PDAs.But then, Destiny digital pen technology was recommended to the College by Edexcel. As experts in work-based learning and the largest awarding body in the UK, Edexcel provide accreditation for many of the College’s courses. The decision was made to pilot the use of the digital pen for the College’s Train to Gain provision with ten Liaison Officers and Business Development Advisors. One of Destiny’s first steps was to work with Sue Alvey to review the existing paperwork and create a new design in digital form for the individual learning plan. Part of this process was to make the form more intuitive and easier to complete using a combination of text and tick boxes. The digital pen technology also enabled more comprehensive information to be recorded on PICS than had been attempted before using manual input. The pilot was implemented, starting off with a day’s training provided by Destiny. “Everything was explained really well,” says Sue Alvey. “Even though the pens are very easy to use it helped us to have trial forms to test out and see how they’re completed, how the information is sent and what it looks like when it is accessed by the admin team for quality checking.”The new process using Destiny technology is that the College’s business development advisors and liaison officers write out the individual learning plans in the field as before, but now using digital pens and forms. Then, simply by ticking a send box on the form, the electronic data from the pen is transmitted via their Bluetooth mobile device to Destiny’s secure servers, where it’s converted from handwriting into text. Less than a minute later it’s available on Destiny’s hosted online Manage service, where the College’s admin support team can review the converted text against a pdf of the original handwritten form. If anything is missing, unclear or seems wrong, the admin team can call the advisor straightaway while they’re still with the client – quickly sorting out any problem and avoiding the need for a return trip. If for any reason the form still can’t be validated immediately, it sits in abeyance in a “work in progress” file. Otherwise, if all the data is verified and accurate, it then transfers to the College’s own servers where it can then to automatically createthe new learner record within the PICS management information system, and trigger the application for funding.
The results: no more manual entry, and a more disciplined approachDestiny digital pen technology has reduced the time it takes to collect learner information and transfer it to PICS from two or three weeks during peak periods down to just a few hours – cutting out unnecessary admin and hugely accelerating the funding application process. With very little change to their previous work practices, advisors can make better use of their time and reduce travel costs with no need to return to the office to drop off paperwork. Data quality and management information are both greatly improved.“It’s early days,” says Sue Alvey, “but we’re very glad we made the decision to go with Destiny. Where we’re really gaining and saving time is that there’s little manual input into the management information system because the data is transferred automatically. It also helps to encourage a more disciplined approach to planning, and getting all the information we need from employers in an efficient way. Employers and learners also like it as they see that we are using up-to-date technology in support of our work with them.“One of the main technical advantages of digital pens is that the information they capture is completely safe. If an advisor happens to be in an area where there’s no network coverage, the data stays on the pen until it can be transmitted. And if all else fails, we’ve always got the original handwritten form.“As a company, Destiny have been very responsive. They understand the environment we work in and the pressures we face. They’ve always gone as quickly as we’ve wanted – answering our questions, being open to suggestions and coming up with good ways of resolving any issues together. They’ve also been good at working with Pellcomp to ensure that the pens work with PICS in the most efficient way. And most importantly, they’ve helped us to stay audit compliant and do what we need to do to secure our funding.” Based on the success of the pilot, the College is now rolling out the new system to thirty Liaison Officers supporting our apprenticeship programmes, with the possibility of extending it further to other sites in the future.Ron Champion, Director of Cornwall College Business, said:” I’m looking forward to realising the benefits of efficiency and more timely management information, but I also have high expectations that this technology will help us give a better service to our most important customers, our employers and learners”.
About destinydestiny® is the registered trademark for Destiny Wireless plc, a world leader in the business market for the delivery of mobile workforce solutions. destiny is a global Platinum Partner of Anoto Group AB, one of seven in the world. destiny owns the IP rights of the Logitech io2 digital pen, making them one of two digital pen manufacturers in the world.destiny® enables organisations with mobile workforces to get fast returns from high technology at low cost, with little or no training or change to working practices and upfront capital. The destiny digital pen is based on Anoto Digital Pen and Paper technology and replaces paperwork delays and expensive journeys back to the office with an easy-to-use and energy efficient way of collecting accurate, reliable data from the field and transmitting it back to base in seconds.destiny’s® services include digital pens; digitised forms, mobile devices and web-based tools for the efficient collection and management of data from the field, effective job push and allocation, resource management, intelligent scheduling and asset tracking. For more information please visit www.destinyplc.com destiny’s® award accolades includes: Environmental Product of the Year 2010 with the destiny io2 digital pen; 2009 Outstanding development in information technology award with client DSV Road; Docuware wins Best Private Sector Project of the Year award 2009 with the destiny digital pen; 2007 Growing Business Awards Technology in Business ; Microsoft’s People Moving Business, Quality in Construction for Excellence in ICT and the Information Age Effective IT Award. Edward Belgeonne, CEO and founder of destiny, is the national winner of Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of The Year Award for the Science and Technology, 2007. destiny was also nominated a finalist in the BCS IT Industry awards for the Best Use of Green Technology Project Award in conjunction with Advanced Peripheral Systems (APS).About Anoto GroupAnoto Group is the company behind and world leading in the unique technology for digital pen and paper, which enables fast and reliable transmission of handwritten text into a digital format. Anoto operates through a global partner network that focuses on user-friendly form solutions for efficient capture, transmission and storage of data within different business segments, e.g. healthcare, bank and finance, transport and logistics and education. The Anoto Group has around 110 employees, offices in Lund (head office), Boston and Tokyo. The Anoto share is listed on NASDAQ OMX Nordic small cap list under the ticket ANOT. For more information: www.anoto.com