Customer Stories

Modernising UK Flour Millers' Training and Exams

See how UK Flour Millers used sub-portals to manage global exam delivery.

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UK Flour Millers, with a rich history spanning nearly 150 years, is a leader in training and education within the milling industry. They were facing challenges with their traditional paper-based exams, ranging from complex test delivery logistics to security issues and a tonne of admin work.

To tackle these issues, they teamed up with us at Synap in 2023 to use our powerful online exam platform. We spoke to Steve, Training Manager at UK Flour Millers, to learn more about their experience and how Synap has transformed their approach to exams.

The challenge of paper-based exams

UK Flour Millers faced significant challenges with their paper-based exams conducted within physical testing centres, which Steve described as “very old school” and “traditional”. This approach created numerous logistical issues.

The process involved multiple manual stages, leading to inefficiencies and considerable administrative work.

1. Staff had to manage the physical papers, ensure their secure delivery and return, and manually enter data into the system.

2. Papers would get scanned and emailed back to Steve.

3. Steve would then redistribute completed exams to the examiners for marking.

4. Once graded, the results were sent back to Steve to input into a database.

This created multiple opportunities for errors and delays, making the entire process quite admin-heavy.

“We would send out exam papers at a set time that go to exam centres. People would have to travel, maybe a day, to the British Consulate in different countries, pay a heavy fee, and then travel back.”

Complicating matters further was the dispersed nature of their workforce. Employees were stationed in remote areas with limited access to central facilities, making it difficult to coordinate exam schedules. “We've got people in the middle of the outreaches of St. Lucia, in the outback in Australia, and Papua New Guinea,” Steve highlighted. The irregular and long working hours in these locations further exacerbated the challenge, making it difficult for employees to participate in scheduled exams at a physical testing centre.

The Discovery

After evaluating various online exam systems and reading numerous reviews, Steve found Synap to be the perfect fit. He was particularly impressed by Synap's strong reputation built over the years. Reflecting on his decision, Steve mentioned, “Synap’s customer service, their background, and the positive reviews really stood out.”

When making their decision, UK Flour Millers prioritised accessibility and security. Steve shared his thoughts on why Synap’s accessibility features are so important - “My background is removing barriers to learning, making things accessible, so accessible anytime, anywhere, that suits the individual”.

“Their adaptive learning features and comprehensive analytics tools were particularly attractive as they allow us to personalise learning experiences and gain insights into exam performance. Synap’s reputation for excellent customer support and their ability to scale with our growing needs also played a significant role in our decision."

For security, Steve particularly appreciated Synap’s robust security features with its own proctoring tool called Synoptic. “Security is really, really important to us. We could use Synoptic, which was a lighter (proctoring) version, but we still get quality invigilation process.”

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Finally, Synap also ticked the boxes from a financial perspective, proving to be a cost-effective investment. “Financially, it works out really, really well for us as well. It's a fair product for a fair price.”

The Implementation

Implementing a new system can often be a daunting task, but UK Flour Millers found the transition to Synap to be incredibly smooth. The onboarding process was well-structured and thoroughly supported, making it easy for both staff and participants to adapt to the new platform.

"The onboarding process with Synap was seamless and well-supported. Their team provided comprehensive training and resources that made the transition smooth for both our staff and participants.”

Aidan, a Technical Account Manager here at Synap, was particularly praised for his exceptional service. “Aidan's been absolutely amazing. Nothing's too much. And it's always done with a smile. He's just consistently confident and happy and couldn't do enough.”

They were responsive to our queries and worked closely with us to tailor the platform to our specific requirements. This collaborative approach helped us to quickly integrate the new system and start seeing the benefits almost immediately."

The Solution

Synap transformed the examination process at UK Flour Millers by significantly reducing manual workload through automations. Steve emphasised, “The big ones are the automation, automated grading, and automated feedback.” UK Flour Millers also took advantage of Synap’s powerful features, including sub-portals and educator permissions, which greatly enhanced their exam management capabilities.

Addressing exam administrative burden

One of the primary challenges UK Flour Millers faced was the extensive administrative burden associated with their paper-based system. Synap streamlined this by automating many of the manual processes. Previously, staff had to handle physical papers, ensure their secure delivery and return, and manually enter data into the system. This was not only time-consuming but also prone to errors and delays.

Synap's automated grading system alleviated these issues. With automatic grading, examiners no longer needed to manually mark papers. Instead, the system provided instant, accurate results, which were immediately available for review. This significantly reduced the time and effort required to manage exams and allowed staff to focus on more critical tasks.

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Ensuring secure exam delivery and proctoring

Given the high-security measures required in the food industry, ensuring the secure delivery and proctoring of exams was a significant challenge. Synap’s robust proctoring tool, Synoptic, provided a secure yet user-friendly invigilation process. This tool ensured the integrity of the examination process while maintaining a seamless experience for users.

Synoptic breaches

Synoptic allowed UK Flour Millers to monitor exams in real-time, reducing the risk of cheating and ensuring that the exams were conducted fairly and securely. They used Synoptic’s screenshot feature, which captures periodic webcam and desktop screenshots, to uphold security throughout the exam process. This was particularly important given the proprietary information and sensitive nature of the food industry, where protecting secrets and maintaining high standards is crucial.

Delivering worldwide exams

The dispersed nature of UK Flour Millers' workforce, with employees stationed in remote areas, posed another significant challenge. Traditional paper-based exams required employees to travel to centralised locations, often incurring significant time and financial costs. Synap addressed this by providing a flexible, online platform accessible from anywhere in the world.

"One of the key challenges was the logistical complexity and cost of administering paper-based exams to participants who are spread across various locations. We wanted to ensure our exams remained relevant and accessible in a digital age."

With Synap, employees could take exams on their own device at their convenience, regardless of their location. Steve noted, “We've got people in the middle of the outreaches of St. Lucia, the outback in Australia, and Papua New Guinea.”

This flexibility allowed employees to fit exams into their irregular and long working hours, making it easier for them to take their exams. Feedback from both staff and candidates highlighted the improved accessibility and user-friendly interface, significantly enhancing the overall examination experience.

Providing tailored feedback

Customisation was another significant advantage of Synap. The platform allowed UK Flour Millers to tailor feedback and guidance to individual learners.

“You can also customise it for the individual. You could say, I can see you're struggling with these types of questions throughout the paper. Go and do this, or speak to your mentor, or book a time for a tutorial.”

The ability to provide **instant, detailed feedback** was particularly valuable. Synap allowed for immediate responses to student submissions, enabling instructors to include explanations, guidance, files and links directly in the feedback.

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Integrating with existing systems

The integration of Synap with UK Flour Millers' existing systems using APIs, notably FileMaker, proved instrumental. This integration ensures centralised data management, automating the upload of exam results directly into FileMaker.

"Traditionally, examiners would mark papers, send results to me, and I'd manually upload them. Now, marks are uploaded seamlessly, eliminating downtime.”

This streamlined approach not only saves time but also enhances reliability by reducing administrative overhead and minimising the risk of errors in data management, making the entire process more efficient and reliable.

Streamlined administration with custom educator permissions

UK Flour Millers uses Synap's custom educator permissions to streamline their administration. They divide staff into content creators and moderators, ensuring that some focus on creating exam questions while others concentrate on grading. User groups are created for specific companies, allowing visibility only to their respective mills.

Combining the use of educator permissions and user groups ensures that question content and user data remains secure, and enhances operational efficiency by allowing staff to focus on their key role within the examination process.

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Tailored learning with sub-portals

UK Flour Millers uses Synap's [sub-portals](https://academy.synap.ac/doc/whats-new/big-features/sub-portals) feature, combined with educator permissions, to streamline exam management and user access for their overseas clients. By creating unique, branded sub-portals for each client as branches from the main UK Flour Millers portal, clients can manage and invite their own users while being restricted from altering exam content. This setup ensures a consistent and controlled exam delivery process that meets UK Flour Millers' testing standards across all regions.

Each client group, whether located in different countries or regions, has exclusive access to relevant training materials and exams through their dedicated sub-portal. This approach enhances privacy and security while facilitating efficient administration tailored to each client's specific needs.

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The Results

Since UK Flour Millers have implemented Synap, feedback from both students and instructors has been overwhelmingly positive. Students returning to education after a hiatus have found the system remarkably accessible and user-friendly.

“They love it. They like the system. Some are what I would refer to as a returning learner, so making it really easy, easy to access, easy to manage, is really important for them”

Tutors and examiners have also responded positively, recognising the system’s benefits. “The feedback from the tutors and examiners is positive. They appreciate how the system is evolving and find it essential to enhance engagement.”

What’s Next?

Looking forward, UK Flour Millers plans to expand the types of assessments available through Synap. "We plan to expand our use of Synap by incorporating more interactive and multimedia resources into our training modules to make learning even more engaging.” This includes using video clips followed by case study questions, adding a dynamic element to the learning process.

“We've got a fantastic platform with Synap, we're really, really, really happy with it.”

Steve highlighted the broader ambitions for the platform: "We are also exploring the possibility of using Synap’s advanced analytics to further personalise learning paths for our participants. Additionally, we aim to develop more comprehensive training programmes that leverage the platform's capabilities to support ongoing professional development in the milling industry." The future holds exciting possibilities for leveraging Synap's capabilities to further improve training outcomes.

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