Department for Education (DfE)

National Retraining Scheme - Online Training Service Alpha

Incomplete applications

Incomplete applications
11 SME, 3 large

Completed applications

Completed applications
3 SME, 5 large
Important dates
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Published Tuesday 6 August 2019
Deadline for asking questions Tuesday 13 August 2019 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications Tuesday 20 August 2019 at 11:59pm GMT


Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Summary of the work Alpha phase of research, prototyping and user testing for proposed public-facing online training service.

Production of accurately-costed specification and working prototype(s) based on user needs.

Meeting GDS service standards and taking through GDS service assessment.

Multi-disciplinary team including digital, online learning design, pedagogy, learning technology and LMS expertise.

User recruitment.
Latest start date Monday 28 October 2019
Expected contract length 16 weeks
Location North West England
Organisation the work is for Department for Education (DfE)
Budget range £650,000-850,000 (including VAT)

Bidders must fully detail their resources and charges at the proposal stage. It must include (but should not necessarily be limited to):

Day rates and number of days for Supplier personnel.

Cost for user research, including breakdown of any incentives being used to recruit users.

User research travel and subsistence in accordance with the DfE’s expenses policy.

Videography to produce a short research film as an output.

An itemised list of additional anticipated extra costs.

Suppliers should be clear about the VAT position of all costs. Both net and gross totals should be included for all costs.

About the work

About the work
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Why the work is being done DfE, delivering on a Government Manifesto commitment, is developing the NRS to equip individuals with the skills they need to secure better, more stable jobs, in the context of increasing automation, economic change and longer working lives. The NRS will drive adult retraining in England and must be live by the end of this Parliament. This will include an online training service, which we envision will encompass remote/online tutor support. The online training Alpha will focus on development of this service through research, prototyping and testing with users; focusing on learning design, tutor support and the learning platform.
Problem to be solved Design a scalable online training service optimised for adults with low-medium skills, busy lives and responsibilities.
To solve this problem, the Alpha (through research, user testing, and prototype iteration) must determine the optimum:
• online learning design and pedagogical approach (e.g. approach towards collaborative learning, activities and multi-media)
• type, intensity and channels of tutor support in light of user needs and scalability
• features of the learning management system (LMS) and front-end platform (e.g. accessibility; layout and content)
This requires expertise in online learning design and pedagogy; LMS and learning technology in addition to skills associated with digital delivery.
Who the users are and what they need to do Adults aged 24+, without degrees, in jobs at risk due to automation

I need:

Training, so that I can get the right skills for a job role I want

The right qualifications, so that I can apply for this job

A training course I can access around employment and family commitments so that I can complete the training

Space and time in my life, so that I can complete the training

Online training course to have real teachers on it (even if I only meet them online via chat or video)

Online platform that is easy to use and navigate
Early market engagement We have held two market engagement events, with all outputs available here:

Please note that the presentation and outputs from these sessions should be considered indicative rather than definitive, and read in the context of the purpose of each event.

• 12th April; pre-market engagement event to gain early feedback on the emerging requirement.
• 24th July; supplier engagement and networking event to present requirement; gain feedback; and facilitate potential join-up between suppliers.

Outputs include notes of question and answer sessions for each event, which may be useful for potential bidders.
Any work that’s already been done We have conducted previous Discovery work and limited testing during a broader Alpha, which have established user needs referenced above. We have also commissioned two formal studies into online learning:

Initial Discovery identified user needs for training to fit with users’ lifestyles; and for online tutor support. It also provided analysis of the online learning market. A second, broader Discovery expanded on employer needs for the wider NRS.

Limited user testing during a broader Alpha highlighted the need for users to understand the benefits of online learning tutor support before they would use it in practice.
Existing team The online training Alpha team will include 2-3 DfE staff (Civil Servants), experienced in policy development, familiar with agile methodologies and product ownership. This will include a lead and associate product owner, and user researcher.

There is a large programme team including a number of mixed client/supplier teams for NRS Services with whom the Online training Alpha team need to interface.

There will also be a senior programme level service leadership team, which will be a mixture of permanent DfE staff, and contractors experienced in shipping services using agile methodologies.
Current phase Alpha

Work setup

Work setup
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Address where the work will take place Manchester (DfE offices). It will also be necessary to engage and collaborate with colleagues in other DfE locations (London, in particular) and it is a requirement for user research and testing to take place in a number of different locations.
Working arrangements The team must work according to agile methodology, GDS Service Manual and Service Standards. They must work collaboratively and invest time in knowledge-sharing and coaching to increase DfE capability.

The supplier must primarily be co-located with the existing team in DfE’s Manchester office. We work Mon-Fri, usual office hours. Occasional travel to other sites will be required for collaborative working, user research and testing.

Experts in online learning design and pedagogy; Learning Management Systems and learning technology must work as part of the embedded team. We strongly encourage joint working (through subcontracting or consortia arrangements) to deliver these skills.
Security clearance Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) clearance is required for all team members before the contract starts. We will consider suppliers that currently do not have security clearance and will provide support to gain clearance before commencement. The supplier will also need to be compliant with DfE's Departmental Security Standards.

Additional information

Additional information
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Additional terms and conditions Additional Terms and Conditions are available at the link below:

The above link also includes questions that have been asked to the Department about the proposed terms and conditions and the Department’s response.

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Skills and experience
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
Essential skills and experience
  • Demonstrable experience of conducting an Alpha involving rapid prototype iteration through user and non-user research that is compliant with GDS service standards.
  • Demonstrable experience of conducting user research and usability testing sessions, face-to-face and remote based on robust methodology, including for users with accessibility and assisted digital needs.
  • Demonstrable experience of and ability to create a service blueprint, accurately-costed specification and working prototype(s) from a design and technical perspective that meets user needs and strategic objectives.
  • Demonstrable experience of producing engaging online learning content that meets user needs through taking an agile approach to learning design.
  • Demonstrable ability through relevant experience to provide personnel with specific expertise in pedagogy, online learning design, learning technology, and learning management system development/customisation.
  • Demonstrable ability through relevant experience to recruit all user research participants (minimum 200) for the course of the Alpha, including users with accessibility and assisted digital needs.
  • Demonstrable ability through relevant experience to organise the Alpha into effective sprints; work on the Alpha in-house as an embedded team; and deploy skills suitability across multiple work strands.
  • Demonstrable experience, strong understanding and ability to assess the appropriateness of different approaches to pedagogy and applicability to online learning.
  • Strong understanding of and ability to assess appropriateness of different learning technologies that support users to learn online (including learning management systems and communications technology used in online learning).
  • Demonstrable experience of designing high-quality online public-facing services that meet complex user needs.
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Demonstrable experience of designing and delivering high quality online learning for adults with low-medium skills (below degree level).
  • Demonstrable ability through relevant experience to provide personnel with subject matter expertise in basic maths, English and digital skills.

How suppliers will be evaluated

How suppliers will be evaluated
Opportunity attribute name Opportunity attribute value
How many suppliers to evaluate 5
Proposal criteria
  • Technical solution – how you will deliver this multi-stranded Alpha (learning design, tutor support, and LMS/platform) compliant with GDS Service Standards, DfE technical standards, resulting in all specified outputs.
  • Approach and methodology – strong understanding of agile, user-centred design; traditional primary and secondary research and analysis; online learning design; pedagogy and learning technology as applied to the Alpha.
  • Meeting user needs – establishing and refining user needs through systematic and robust approach to user and non-user research to deliver a successful service as applied to the Alpha.
  • Meeting policy and service intent – delivering complex, multi-stranded research, prototyping and testing that meets policy and service intent as applied to this Alpha and expected outcomes.
  • Estimated timeframes for the work - how Alpha will be organised and achieve value for money. Details of the delivery timeline, duration and resource profile.
  • Risks and dependencies - effective approach to identifying and managing risks, issues and dependencies within the programme to ensure timely delivery, in the context of this Alpha.
  • Team structure – evidence, drawing on demonstrable experience, of being able to provide a team with effective skills and capabilities to ensure the success of the online training Alpha.
  • Value for money - transparent financial structure and fair pricing for the service. How you will ensure quality of delivery with prices and resources you have estimated.
  • The bigger picture –ensuring that recommendations for subsequent development stages (e.g. Beta) take account of capabilities of the online training market, commercial considerations (e.g. IP and licensing), and political context.
  • Accountabilities – set out how you will ensure you, as lead supplier, will be fully accountable for delivery, including where this involves partnership working and subcontracting.
Cultural fit criteria
  • Demonstrable experience of working collaboratively and openly in a complex political and delivery environment.
  • Demonstrable experience of working as part of a mixed supplier-client delivery team.
  • Demonstrable experience of and ability to effectively on-board team members during the Alpha to ensure no impact to delivery.
  • Demonstrable experience of and ability to quickly understand relevant pre-existing research, identified user needs, and to maintain continuity between previous work and the Alpha.
  • Demonstrable experience of and ability to work with cross-site teams, adapting agile ways of working to meet the needs of a dispersed team without reduction in effectivity.
  • Demonstrable experience of delivering successful projects in partnership or subcontracting with other organisations providing additional expertise.
Payment approach Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

Questions asked by suppliers
Supplier question Buyer answer
1. IMPORTANT NOTICE It has come to our attention that we are experiencing a technical issue with the Digital Marketplace portal. We are investigating why this has occurred as a priority. If you have submitted questions to the Digital Marketplace for this opportunity and have not received a response, please email your questions marked 'Confidential' to

We will provide an update tomorrow on Tuesday 20th August. If you have not submitted your application yet, we advise you to await further instructions before submitting.
2. IMPORTANCE NOTICE It has come to our attention that we are experiencing a technical issue with the Digital Marketplace which has affected our ability to review and respond to questions.

We have decided to withdraw this opportunity from the Digital Marketplace today and republish the same opportunity tomorrow, on Wednesday 21 August.

For those who have not completed their applications yet, we advise that you save a copy of your application as when we withdraw the opportunity, your draft application will not be saved.

We apologise for the inconvenience and hope this does not deter you from applying for the republished opportunity.