Ofsted – the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills – is an independent department of the UK Government, which reports directly to Parliament.
Ofsted inspects and regulates services that care for children and young people, and those providing education and skills for learners of all ages. Ofsted delivers inspections and regulatory visits throughout England via a combination of directly-employed and contracted inspectors, based across 8 regions, and also has around 1,000 employees who provide indirect services such as inspection support, HR, IT, policy, and data analysis.
Ofsted had two existing Moodle sites, developed in-house, each catering for a separate audience. Whilst these did provide some online learning, there was duplication and inconsistency between the two sites, the level of engagement was disappointing, and Ofsted felt that the sites were not a good foundation for future development.
The challenge was to create a unified platform for approximately 4000 users across three groups: two internal and one external, each with different learning needs. The platform had to be intuitive for learners and admin users, easy to access, and compatible with existing learning content. Maintaining continuity from existing learning records was key, as was the ability to produce management information on learning, capability and evaluation. It was vital for Ofsted that the new platform should provide a solid base for future development, and with appropriate external support to minimise risk to the organisation.
Ofsted chose to implement Totara Learn with the support of Synergy Learning. This provided Ofsted with an enhanced Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), replacing the two existing sites with one single platform for all online learning and development needs. Ofsted has three teams responsible for learning, broadly split between soft skills, inspector training, and systems training.
All three now contribute to the Totara Learn platform, with overall implementation and development overseen by Organisational Development. Synergy Learning worked with Ofsted to create an ‘off the shelf’ solution, with a specific brief to avoid bespoke customisation, which was made possible by the extensive features available within Totara Learn. Ofsted wanted the look of the platform to mirror other Ofsted systems, and the functionality to be familiar to users of the old platforms. Synergy Learning designed a branded theme and worked closely with Ofsted on platform configuration. Synergy Learning provided Ofsted with support and consultancy during implementation, reducing the delivery timeline and giving Ofsted the necessary skills to manage platform features on a day-to-day basis. This access to support from a technical partner was one of Ofsted’s key requirements. The partnership between Synergy Learning and Ofsted has delivered a solid foundation for Ofsted’s ambition to become a truly learning organisation.
Synergy Learning continues to work closely with Ofsted to realise new opportunities, ensuring that the platform continues to grow. Single Sign-On was implemented (using standard Totara Learn functionality), allowing Ofsted employees to be automatically signed into the VLE. Ofsted systems don’t yet allow this option for contracted inspectors, so as an interim measure Synergy Learning designed a bespoke login page allowing learners to self-select their user group. The platform provides a single source of information for learning opportunities; all Ofsted employees and contractors are able to book, record and reflect on their learning, whether online or face to face; effective reporting at team and organisational levels has directly helped to increase the completion of mandatory learning to its highest ever level.
Since launching in September 2017, feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive, and engagement has exceeded expectations, with almost 99% of the workforce having accessed the platform. The annual Civil Service People Survey also reflects the impact that the platform has had, with positive responses to the question ‘I am able to access the right learning and development opportunities when I need to’ increasing by 5pp over the last 12 months. The partnership between Synergy Learning and Ofsted has delivered a solid foundation for Ofsted’s ambition to become a truly learning organisation. Synergy Learning continues to work closely with Ofsted to realise new opportunities, ensuring that the platform continues to grow.
- Successfully launched a single, engaging platform across all user groups, which:
- allows the provision of different learning to different groups
- removes a key engagement barrier via Single Sign-On
- allows users to self-book onto online courses and face-to-face learning
- provides a platform for internal Subject Matter Experts to create Ofsted-specific learning, reducing dependency on high cost external solutions
- allows colleagues to record their own independent learning
- provides improved reporting, including the ability for line managers to view their own team’s learning records
- Provided platform administration skills and expertise to additional Ofsted colleagues, reducing organisational risk
“This project was a big step for Ofsted, but our decision to select Synergy Learning and Totara Learn has proved to be the right choice.
We’ve received great support throughout the project, and I’m sure that will continue as we explore further enhancements to the platform. As relative newcomers to VLE provision, we’ve welcomed Synergy Learning’s willingness to challenge our thinking on occasions, and – aside from making the working relationship more of a partnership – we’ve definitely seen improvements in the platform as a result.
We’re looking forward to continuing our journey with Synergy Learning through Totara Learn 12 and beyond.” - Ian Wallbridge, Senior Officer, Organisational Development Systems, Ofsted