How Reaseheath College is driving FE engagement with technology

Posted on 3rd June 2021

Posted by CENTURY

Based in Cheshire, Reaseheath College is one of the UK's leading land-based colleges and offers a wide range of courses from Business and Events Management to Agricultural Engineering. 

We spoke to the college’s CENTURY Lead and Maths Lecturer Sam Parry about the college’s approach to monitoring usage, driving engagement and interpreting the data to ensure maximum support for their students in English, maths and Functional Skills.

How does CENTURY align with Reaseheath’s aims?

Our mission at Reaseheath is to maintain and progress students’ maths and English skills, so that whatever their entry grade, they will be more employable and competitive in job interviews when they leave us.

We do not only target those who need to be able to do examinable maths and English, we focus on all of our students; because of this CENTURY has been so powerful and useful for us. Whether a student’s main aim is to progress and refine their skills in a particular area or to prepare them for a paper or an exam, CENTURY will benefit them.

On the whole, CENTURY has been superb and it really underpins a lot of our values and a lot of the lessons we teach and what we cover at Reaseheath.

How did you approach the implementation of CENTURY?

The process of implementing CENTURY began over the summer holidays. My colleague and I met to discuss how best to get our learners onto CENTURY, which pathways would be needed and what courses would be required to ensure progress and skill progression could be achieved.

Before the staff or students at Reaseheath had even been introduced to the platform, we had all the classes and pathways ready to go. This made teachers’ lives a lot easier because they didn't have to create classes or worry about assigning the appropriate content themselves. As a consequence of this, we were able to hit the ground running come September when staff and students returned to college. I have to say a big thank you to our CENTURY account manager Melissa who also answered many, many emails and many questions that I sent her way. I really appreciate the time and effort she has put in with me.

The next step we took was to introduce CENTURY to our teachers and support staff. I delivered a number of CPDs to the different curriculum areas across a few evenings to make sure staff were upskilled, and felt confident, with using CENTURY. The CPD sessions covered: how to log on, how to navigate through the platform and how to check on student engagement. Upskilling is crucial with new technology, because the last thing you want is for the students to be more knowledgeable about it than the staff!

Then it was finally time to get our students aware and engaged. I prepared a short video that explained the key features of the platform, and that was then shared with the students during their induction week - it’s had hundreds of views since then. Immediately, students knew about, and understood the importance of, CENTURY and how it could benefit them by creating a tailored pathway dedicated to them like no other platform had done before.

How does CENTURY fit into teaching at Reaseheath?

Our teachers have been using CENTURY in a lot of different ways. An example of this is in our online English lessons where students initially used the platform for the first 15 minutes of each online session. CENTURY engagement acted as an ideal warm up for students as it allowed them to focus on, and work through, some of the key skills that they would need and it allowed the teacher to complete various admin tasks and tech issues.

For maths lessons, we started out by using CENTURY to assign assessments to students after lessons to reinforce the learning that had taken place. This worked really well, and I especially like the fact that CENTURY’s nuggets had videos and questions all in one package, which saved a lot of time in comparison to me trying to find the perfect YouTube video or the perfect set of questions and then marking all of them. CENTURY took all of that concern and all of that worry away, which saved the Maths department a lot of time and stress!

Throughout the academic year, we realised that we could also use the platform to implement a flipped learning approach by getting students to access upcoming topics and the content before lessons. Watching the videos and answering some questions in advance has led to students feeling more confident in class, which has really helped improve the learning environment for a lot of our students.

Our maths and English department also have a really good team of intervention staff, who have been using CENTURY regularly in order to inform their one-to-one sessions. Prior to this, there would often be a lot of conversations with students’ teachers to uncover what exactly the student needs to work on, and it involved a lot of time going through classwork to assess gaps in student learning and understanding. Now, with CENTURY, everything is there for them in one place. They can easily assess what level a student is at, and they can even assign work on lessons and topics they've done in those sessions.

Can you share with us some of the initiatives you have set up to drive student engagement?

We set up a curriculum leaderboard, which basically pits curriculum areas against one another as a bit of friendly competition. This helps ensure that CENTURY is being promoted as much as possible across the college in order for students to be getting the most out of it. Each month, we announce the top five curriculum areas, and we award them certificates that they can proudly display.

The platform’s Leadership Dashboard has allowed us to identify and reward curriculum areas for their continued support in promoting CENTURY engagement amongst their students. We know students are much more likely to make progress in their maths and English skills if they're being supported across college, and not solely in maths and English lessons.

We also send the curriculum area managers a personal email with the actual standings so they can see how they are doing, and they can act on that with their staff to say, “okay, we're currently in eighth place, that's not where we want to be, how can we improve on that?”.

We're also going to be running some student leaderboards within curriculum areas as well. The aim of this is to reward the top three students from each curriculum area for all their hard work and effort.

How do you monitor this engagement?

CENTURY’s data reports are an excellent way to see engagement across the college. It gives a clear picture of whether or not CENTURY is being used to its best capabilities. If we see engagement has declined, we investigate why. Half-term breaks or large cohorts having coursework deadlines to meet can often contribute to low levels of CENTURY engagement. We use this information to inform teachers and students and remind them that CENTURY engagement is pivotal in continuing their Maths and English progression in the hope the following month we see greater engagement and more green arrows!

We have course managers within the curriculum areas, and each of them is responsible for a selection of students. The students regularly have tutorials with their course manager, and as a part of this, they’ll be asked specific questions asking about their CENTURY engagement, and the course managers are pretty clued up.

They're aware of how to monitor whether or not students are accessing CENTURY and whether or not they're making progress, so if a student is saying one thing, but the data says otherwise, they've got no place to hide. It's really good and powerful to have CENTURY up your sleeve with the statistics and data on there because you can't deny quantifiable, hard evidence.

Each curriculum area also has a specific workshop scheduled into the timetable – we call them ‘academic progress workshops’. They're an hour and a half long, and 30 minutes of that time is always dedicated to CENTURY engagement. This provides students with the opportunity to work on their math and English skills by working through the nuggets on their pathways, which was really good. It’s one of the reasons I'm really thankful for CENTURY: it’s the glue that keeps all of the curriculum areas together. It means that the students are still progressing their maths and English skills even within their curriculum areas, so we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.

What impact have you noticed from using CENTURY?

CENTURY has had a notable influence on student understanding and confidence. In classrooms where CENTURY is being used, it has been noted students have worked independently on topics of weakness and have come away understanding the topic showing quantifiable scores of success, as well as improved confidence.

In addition to this, it's been noted that students who have the highest engagement scores on CENTURY have performed particularly well in our Milestone assessments, which we carry out throughout the year, and have shown continued signs of progress.

Learn more about how CENTURY is helping FE colleges to supercharge their teaching and learning.