VocTech projects | Ufi VocTech Trust

VocTech projects

Ufi has significantly increased the number of projects it has funded over the past two years and a number of our projects are near to completion and already delivering outcomes. Our emphasis is on projects which are solving real problems – and having real impact. Our current projects include the following:



Blended Learning Essentials

Blended Learning Essentials is a MOOC, designed to encourage and support teachers and trainers who want to make better use of blended learning as part of their teaching practice.  Initially comprising two courses which ran three times, the first phase of BLE reached thousands of UK VET professionals, with good completion rates and very positive reports from participants in post-course evaluation.  This reported doubling of the level of awareness of digital tools and technologies and significant increase in confidence in using digital tools by participants.  The project was extended to include development of additional courses and enable the whole programme to run again so that more teachers and trainers can benefit from professional development and students benefit from more effective teaching contributing to better learning outcomes. It has now been used over 61,000 times. BLE has encouraged the development of a community of teachers and trainers gradually building knowledge of how best to make use of digital tools and optimise blended learning opportunities in the FE and Vocational Skills sector.  

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Professor Diana Laurillard and Professor Neil Morris, Project Directors
d.laurillard@ucl.ac.uk and n.p.morris@leeds.ac.uk


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Counselling skills for Non-Counsellors - Relate

Relate use their expertise in counselling and counselling training to deliver basic counselling skills training to frontline staff, working with the public in a variety of sectors. This project is building their capability in digital learning, by piloting digital delivery of their popular ‘Counselling Skills for Non Counsellors Course’.

The training solution will be hosted on the VLE Litmos, with a blended learning approach including video based e-learning, discussion forums and trainer led ‘ILT sessions’/web casts. The pilot will be tested with 100 users and their feedback built into further iterations of the programme. Relate have already recruited partners including charities, NHS trusts and legal and housing service providers, who are keen to participate as they can see the benefit of this approach to training their staff.

Through work with Ufi on this project, Relate has undergone a wider process of considering how digital learning, for their workforce, partners and service users, sits at the heart of a wider digital transformation programme, using technology to improve access to their vital services.

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Laura Dowson, Head of Innovation and Development


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Digital Me: Cities of Learning RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce)

Cities of Learning (CofL) is a new approach for activating a grassroots, city-based, mass-engagement movement around learning and skills. It involves learners, institutions, employers, civil society and voluntary and cultural sectors, building around the idea that for cities to mobilise behind a culture of learning, there needs to be coherent ‘skills-matching’. Learners, especially those from underserved communities, can benefit from better access to the wealth of enrichment experiences and opportunities their city offers. The RSA has been piloting this approach with digital badge partner, DigitalMe, in Greater Manchester, Plymouth and Brighton.  

CofL doesn’t seek to replace or recreate existing formal or non-formal learning provision, but to build on what’s already there by: building connections through open and collaborative networks; strengthening their impact and value proposition by awarding locally-valued digital credentials; and by linking programme participants to other opportunities via ‘learning pathways.’ By connecting locally-generated, locally-relevant learning opportunities more clearly to local work opportunities, the project also aims to encourage participation by disengaged learners.  

Kenny McCarthy


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Fluence has developed an AI-assisted decision-making service that can emulate the decision logic of educators. Its powerful language analysis engine can transform learning efficiency by enhancing the decision-making capabilities of teachers and trainers, resulting in better, more personalised interactions with learners. Learning providers simply feed-in content (such as work assignments) into the Fluence engine, along with decisions (eg grades) made about the content and Fluence learns to replicate the decision logic on all future content. This advanced machine learning technology is already being applied to real world learning problems, with the Fluence team delivering its first two commercial contracts, with Aston University and Northern Ireland’s Council for Curriculum, Examinations & Assessments (CCEA). They are also pursuing other applications of the tech, from automated grading/ benchmarking through to auto-detection of individual student learning needs. This technology has the potential to enable learning to become truly embedded across all aspects of the modern workplace, resulting in more cost efficient learning for employers and better access to effective learning for individuals.   

David Hore, Managing Director


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iDEA - Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award

This innovative digital badge concept aims to help plug the UK’s digital skills gap, inspiring people to become digital citizens, workers, makers, entrepreneurs and gamers and enabling participants to enhance their workplace skills, access work and progress up the career ladder. The programme is working with employers and learning providers; and with companies to create content. Using a blended learning approach that aspires to be a digital and enterprise equivalent of The Duke of Edinburgh Award, participants take challenges to earn points towards Bronze, Silver or Gold Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award. iDEA badges provide flexible learning, available to anyone, free of charge, when and where they want to learn – for independent learners or in more formal settings. They are available through any device, operating system or browser.

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Kerensa Jennings


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Interactive Scientific

Interactive Scientific (iSci) is helping fix the broken UK STEM skills pipeline, which results in science employers lacking the skilled workers they need and uneven access to better paid science jobs for the workforce. ISci developed Nano Simbox to transform the science ecosystem. The immersive digital platform combines science rigour and technology to make complex science visual and interactive; and uses cloud tech to make science simulation accessible to anyone from science learner to researcher. By making the invisible, nano-scale world of atoms and molecules visible, Nano Simbox is already showing how to increase understanding, enjoyment and confidence for science learners and enable collaboration, experimentation and understanding across the science ecosystem. Ufi’s Amplify funding has supported MVP products for education and research, programmes with 45+ research institutions and a beta programme with 32 schools. iSci has been able to validate their product, technology and business model and launch a funding round. Their next steps are corporate contracts and launching free online education experiences for easy access by learners everywhere.

Dr Rebecca Sage, CEO


Unionlearn: Transforming Open Online Learning [TOOL] TUC

Through this project, TUC aims to create a step-change in the use of digital learning by workplace union representatives across the UK. Work-based learning is delivered to 40,000 new representatives annually and supports 200,000 already in place. It needs to move to on-line delivery to become financial sustainable and meet the needs of participants for more flexible training. Ufi is supporting the design and development of web hosted versions of the TUC Education core training programmes, accessible on smartphones, tablets and computers; and the capacity of TUC Education to deliver a more flexible and accessible approach to learning. Importantly, it is also bringing the benefits of e-learning to a much wider audience of 6 million TUC members, the wider workforce and employers, through the influence of the 200,000 union reps. By increasing the opportunities to engage in e-learning and providing a practical demonstration of its effectiveness, this project has considerable potential to influence wider attitudes to digital learning among employees and employers.

Holly Anderson


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Using AI in FE to Improve Learning Outcomes - CENTURY Tech

CENTURY Tech will pilot the use of their AI platform to demonstrate its potential to support learning in FE. They will focus on the impact of AI technology in English and Maths as part of an independent or blended learning strategy with learners who are undertaking resits in these subjects. They will develop fully adaptive, auto-marked, English and maths GCSE and Functional Skills content and will provide training and on-going support to staff to ensure they are confident using the insights this technology can provide. Used effectively, the platform provides a personalised pathway based on the needs of students by identifying gaps in knowledge and skills. The technology can provide data on learner progress, and identify how best to support or challenge learners. This, in turn, frees up the time teachers spent on marking and feedback to make effective use of classroom time.   

Alice Little


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Youth Work Placement Platform - BIYP (Believe in Young People)

BIYP is a charity, supporting young people in UK schools to access work by providing an integrated introduction to work, through selected work experience placements and mentoring. BIYP’s digital platform matches work placements to learner skills requirements and measures learner improvement during the placement through learner and employer assessments. Each learner has a personal learning plan and CV, systematically updated to show them how to develop their skills and capability in readiness for work.

Ufi support is enabling BIYP to enhance their platform to reach more young people in UK FE colleges, with additional vocational activities including extended placements, work related lesson plans and employer-led enterprise workshops and employer mentoring. BiYP will reach the additional colleges and students using their existing systems, with field based staff who manage the college and employer relationships.

Tanja Kuveljic


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