How CENTURY supports initial assessment and learner engagement at Weymouth College

Posted on 26th February 2024

Posted by CENTURY

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes


Weymouth College is a further education college in Dorset, England, with over 4,000 students, studying a wide range of practical and academic courses. We spoke to Emma Holton, Curriculum Manager for English and maths, who has been at the college for 10 years, about how Smart IA has helped her team with initial assessment and learner engagement.

Weymouth College


When I joined there was already an online initial assessment and diagnostic platform. We used to print out workbooks and worksheets of resources, which was costly and time consuming. The platform did not evolve or change as time went on, but the world around it changed to more online working. Our students are reluctant to do work outside of classes also, which holds them back. CENTURY was exactly what we wanted to deliver English and maths as it includes learning material as well as diagnostic assessments, and provides the support we needed outside of lessons. I presented it to the senior management team, and they just said: “How quickly can we get it?”

There was a lot of support from CENTURY during the onboarding process. We planned our delivery carefully to integrate it from the beginning of the academic year. We worked on the technical side at the end of the previous summer term so the students can access it with a single sign-on. Using the same details to log in to college equipment makes things straightforward and simple. We trained staff over the summer holidays, with bespoke CENTURY training for particular staff who needed it at the start of the year. We have been able to adjust training to suit how staff will be using it, i.e. lecturers or support staff.

We use a system called WeyTrack, which is an in-house front end of Unit-e, that supports us to see what courses students are enrolled on, what they did last year and any messages. The data bridge links across to that in the background quite seamlessly. As students enrol or withdraw, they come on or off of CENTURY too. ​​We are also able to attach students IA results to their record so that all staff can see it and use it for their planning and delivery.

How have you found CENTURY’s SmartIA?

We expect students to do their initial assessment (IA) in their college induction week. Lecturers used to have to spend a lot of time in our library allocating students a computer so they could do the IA, then we would send them on their way. That was not a positive student experience as it was just herding students around and moving them on. There wasn’t much time for support or to do it in a relaxed manner. 

With CENTURY, we allocate SmartIA remotely and can talk them through it in a classroom environment any time in the first two weeks. It is a much better experience for the student as they can do it on their own device and it is less stressful. It was more pressured before because of timings and the volume of students coming through. It’s also a really good introduction to CENTURY in the first week, so it becomes the norm for them and we want them to quickly pick it up.

CENTURY’s SmartIA records and begins populating our data tracker from the start, which we can put out to all tutors. Our foundation support is based around setting targets for students based on their ability. Now we can set targets for English and maths very quickly based on SmartIA and previous attainment.

How do you use CENTURY across the college?

We have two learning facilitator sessions every week, and each one has a 10 minute section dedicated to CENTURY, to ensure every student across the college is doing a minimum of 20 minutes every week. The facilitators encourage them and monitor student usage. That has worked really well. The next layer of delivery is in GCSE and Functional Skills English and maths classes. If we put CENTURY at the beginning of a lesson, we were worried people would arrive late, and the end of the lesson is not suitable if you are trying to catch up, so we decided to have a fluid placement of CENTURY.

We encourage students to go onto CENTURY as an extension exercise when they finish what they’re doing in the lesson. It helps with differentiation for our lessons as well. I use it in my teaching; some of my students do CENTURY when they first come into the lesson to get themselves warmed up. I will introduce the topic and we discuss it, then they work through the nuggets I’ve set. Others like to get on with the offline tasks and do CENTURY afterwards. How we use it is mixed, and that works really well because learners are all different, teachers are all different, and lessons work out differently.

What impact have you seen?

We’ve received a lot more work from the students than we would have previously.  For a small team of 10 staff to achieve this would have been nigh on impossible: to convert worksheets into questionnaires, mark them and deliver the amount of feedback that CENTURY can do. Everything students do on CENTURY is on top of what we were doing before. This year alone students have done 23 days of extra English and a month and a half of extra maths on CENTURY. Staff are becoming more confident setting assignments and nuggets, quickly able to look up students’ interaction with it. Now we’re really starting to see the benefits in terms of time gained.

What do teachers and students think of the platform?

Teachers like the fact that students can have a go at a certain topic more than once and it’s not the same questions. That’s where we were let down by our previous platform. The teachers like setting nuggets to reinforce what they’re doing in class. That’s really important as we only see them twice a week. Students who have our lessons at the beginning of the week then will not have anything for six or seven days. With CENTURY we can set nuggets and students can regularly learn, which reinforces learning more than just weekly lessons. 

CENTURY is easily accessible for students on their mobile phones. They don’t have to look around for what to do next, it’s ready to go in small chunks, so they don’t get bored or lose interest, and the nuggets make it feel like they’ve achieved a quick win. Students self manage and feel more in control of their learning, that’s the biggest thing. CENTURY gives them ownership of their learning much better than worksheets. CENTURY makes sure they cover everything but focusses more on what they need to work on. 

Find out more about how you can use CENTURY and Smart IA at your FE college here. Book a demo here.