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Working with the Rail Service


Titilola Olukoga and Janet Fetherstone


The Manchester College.

Academic year;



Work based learning, mobile learning technologies, ePortfolio

Technologies; Smartphone, Netbook, Digital Notepad, Digital audio recorder, Video Camera Portable scanner Main subject area;

NVQ Customer Service

Main level;

Level 2

Introduction and overview Approximately 2 years ago The Manchester College was approached by First Transpennine Express Train Company to provide training in Customer Service for their staff who are located across the North West and beyond. Following necessary agreements, delivery on the NVQ Level 2 in Customer Service involving conductors, train drivers, signal and kiosk staff commenced. In the first year of the training provision, the assessor struggled to make significant impact due to lack of access to relevant technologies and resources. In addition, a lot of travel time was wasted visiting candidates. Another issue was that although the college already had an ePortfolio system in place at this time, appropriate technologies were not available to provide access to the ePortfolio system during visits. In addition, some candidates had very limited access to computers, Internet service and other useful technologies, thus posing huge challenges to the rate of task completion and achievement. Aims The aim of the project was to employ the use of mobile learning technologies to enhance delivery and assessment as well as provide access to learning resources for assessors and candidates working in remote locations. Addressing the challenge The Assessor was provided with a business kit containing a netbook, a smartphone, a portable scanner, a video camera, a digital notepad, and a digital recorder. The kit was used by the assessor while in transit as well as at assessment visits. The netbook was used to demonstrate the writing and uploading of evidence statements to the ePortfolio system; the smartphone, apart from functioning as a means of communication between the assessor and candidates also doubled as a tethering device when connected to the netbook to provide ubiquitous Internet access to online learning resources and the ePortfolio system. The portable scanner was used to scan paper-based evidence directly to the ePortfolio system, this enabled originals to be returned immediately to the candidate. Professional discussions between the candidate and the assessor were recorded on the digital recorder during visits; be it on a moving train, in a remote signal box or in a station kiosk. When the digital recorder was not used for evidence collection, the digital notepad was used to write up observation and discussion statements which were directly uploaded to the ePortfolio system for assessment. Some candidates who did not have access to similar technologies at home were also provided access to these.

Outcomes and reactions The use of the equipment has had significant impact on pedagogical, time and cost efficiencies. Emerging research data suggest that both candidates and the assessor have been able to work smarter and faster. The assessor has been able to deliver training and manage the assessment process more efficiently as a result of access to mobile learning technologies including netbooks, smartphones, portable scanners, digital notepads and recorders. Candidates have been able to access online learning resources remotely where this has not been previously possible. This opportunity has enabled them to better develop skills and complete tasks as and when desired. Candidates have thus been better able to take control of their learning, hence reducing the level of basic support provided by assessors and the number of visits to candidates. The time taken by candidates to complete units has also reduced and the quality of evidence submitted has significantly improved. Learners’ reactions The candidates have thoroughly enjoyed the learning experience and benefited immensely from the provision of tools and technologies which have been invaluable in completing set tasks and generating evidence. Candidates have also been able to use technologies that they prefer to generate portfolio evidence e.g. the use of audio evidence instead of typed evidence. Furthermore, access to mobile learning technologies has facilitated better understanding and shortened the time taken by candidates to complete units. Some candidates have already progressed to the Level 3 qualification over a relatively short period. Teachers’ reactions “I could not deliver training without the mobile learning technologies due to the locations of the students I have. I am able to access the learners’ e-portfolio with them to demonstrate tasks and also access the internet to get resources or show them relevant websites. This has made the course more interesting for learners and aided their progression as we have instant access to required materials. I can use the camera to take still photographs and video evidence which saves me having to write a statement to describe incidents I have witnessed”. Managers’ reactions “We have received extremely positive feedback from the employer and the candidates. The employer is so pleased with our provision that we have been asked to roll the programme out for all front line staff at First Transpennine Express Train Company”.

Lessons learned There was a short period when the mobile phone network service went down due to a whole host of issues. This had a negative impact on the work based learning provision and support. The assessor stated: “I had to cancel appointments when the phones were switched off as I was supposed to be doing e-portfolio demonstrations for the FTPE staff”. This issue was overcome after some clarifications were established between the service provider and the college. It is recommended that clear terms, conditions and guidelines of contracts be made available by service providers and respective institutional services to network users.

Next steps The college has been recently asked to roll the work based learning programme out to the entire front line staff at First Transpennine Express Train Company. As a result of the delivery expansion, an additional assessor will be brought in to provide a similar service using a similar mobile learning technology kit – This intervention has proved really productive and has come to 2