Overarching approach to Teaching, Learning and Assessment
FPTS has a unique position as the sole provider of nationally certified polymer processing training at Level 5 and Level 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications. This is both a privilege and a responsibility. We take this responsibility very seriously and we have a comprehensive teaching and learning strategy in place to ensure that the training that we provide is of the highest quality and meets the needs of industry in a manner which enables learners to secure and retain employment in the sector.
Our strategy begins with ascertaining the needs of industry and using that knowledge to develop programmes to meet those needs. We achieve this in a number of ways. FPTS has two governance groups that have specific roles in implementing the teaching and learning strategy. The Steering Group is comprised of industry representatives from leading polymer processing companies operating in Ireland. The role of the Steering Group is to ensure that the training that FPTS provides is fit for purpose. They review the training needs analysis and training design documents and in collaboration with the Academic Council they approve the development of programmes and assessments. The Academic Council provides independent oversight ensuring that good pedagogical practice is observed in the development and delivery cycle. They approve the teaching modes and assessment methodologies inter alia. The Council also has a key role in ensuring the separation of academic from commercial decision making and ensuring that programmes are approved by a governance team which is separate from the programme development team.
Polymer processing is largely a production system converting raw materials into finished product. With that in mind the FPTS teaching strategy is to provide a solid theoretical grounding, learnings from which are reinforced by hands-on practical work on the extensive range of leading-edge equipment described in Section 1.5 above.
We have recruited a very strong team of highly experienced tutors who are also practitioners within the industry. These professionals know, and would be very well known by, most of the polymer processing companies in Ireland and can provide excellent industry insights and guidance to learners.
QQI is the sole national accreditation body in Ireland for programmes leading to awards on the National Framework of Qualifications. Awards are based on defined learning outcomes the assessment of which is conducted according to documented assessment techniques and weightings. These programme characteristics are contained in Award Specifications which are the outcome of a Standards Developments process which QQI conducts for all new awards. FPTS in common with all training providers who are delivering QQI accredited programmes, are required to validate their programmes with QQI to ensure compliance with the Award Specifications.
FPTS has been at the forefront of the development of the polymer processing Award Specifications because we are part of the Standards Development Group who develop and review these awards.
QQI now permit training providers to develop new programmes by defining their own learning outcomes and assessments. QQI still validate the programmes but this validation does not take place in the context of an existing Award Specification.
In recent years there has been a steady migration towards blended learning, a migration that has accelerated due to COVID. FPTS has been migrating much of our training, that normally would have been delivered in the classroom, to an online learning platform (Moodle). Moodle, in combination with add-ons such as BigBlueButton (video conferencing) and Urkund (plagiarism detection), enables tutors to deliver programmes interactively in real time, and to record the sessions for future access by the learners. Notices, webinars, demonstrations, links, assignments, and assessments are added to the learner workflow, and learners can view the materials and upload their work for review and marking by the Tutor. Chat facilities enable direct interaction with the tutor and with fellow learners. Blended learning cannot replace the practical experience of using production equipment, but it can help to minimise the required contact hours by providing practical demonstrations.
More information on our Overarching approach to Teaching, Learning and Assessment including Blended Learning, is contained in our Tutor and Learner Handbooks.