DVSA - Transforming online driving theory tests for safer drivers

For years, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and its official publishing partner, The Stationery Office (TSO), have provided theory training for those wanting to drive on UK roads.

They provide solutions in the form of books, DVDs, apps and an online eLearning site. It was determined that the eLearning solution needed updating to both give it a fresh new look and feel, and to bring it in line with current technology and user trends.

Against stiff competition from some of the biggest providers in the market, TSO and DVSA selected Sponge to develop a solution for the site, which has over 3 million visitors each year.

Challenges

The DVSA test is the largest driving theory test in the world. Approximately one million people successfully pass it each year. The organisation’s key priorities were:

  • Transforming the Safe Driving for Life (SDFL) website to meet the demands of learner drivers and riders, providing a fast and responsive solution fit for today’s technology.
  • Responding to the learning needs of an increased volume of road users.
  • Enhancing the digital training to help improve the safety of drivers.
  • Producing an environment that simulates the real theory test.
  • Helping drivers and riders pass the theory test first time by contributing to the effectiveness of knowledge acquisition and retention.
  • Creating a robust technology solution that will be able to meet increased demand.
  • Capturing data for insights and a deeper understanding of the behaviour of learners during training, via user experience data collection.
  • Supporting approved driving instructors (ADIs) in the work they do in both theoretical and practical training.
  • Supporting parents and guardians in guiding learners.


The transformation of the training concentrated on four key aspects that would achieve the goal of creating an effective learning experience:

  • the quality of the digital training
  • the responsiveness of the technology
  • the use of learning science
  • a connection with instructors, parents and guardians.


The entire process of development took place during the Coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdowns and involved remote collaboration on an unprecedented scale. This project will remain a testament to a successfully executed partnership between Sponge, DVSA and TSO at a time of a major global upheaval.

Sponge’s solution

Sponge’s solution includes a new website that combines the Learning Zone and SDFL website into a single site, with a clean, fresh look and feel.

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The website contains a plethora of resources for learners, including free practice tests, hazard perception clips, road sign images and a taster of the new observation-style video questions.

The subscription-based model allows users to purchase a timeframe that suits their needs and gain access to engaging modules, covering the required subjects, and powerful functionality. These elements allow users to practise the comprehensive set of questions that accompany the training in several ways, all designed to promote long-term retention of the knowledge.

The mock tests generated by the system provide users with an experience that closely replicates the experience they will face when sitting their actual theory test, which will help them to feel as confident as possible.

Bill Pope, DVSA: ‘It is hoped that this brand-new driving theory elearning and practice will increase the knowledge of new learner drivers, and, along with the valuable work that driving instructors do, will result in safer drivers.’

Transforming the theory training according to the principles of learning science

Sponge has developed a number of modules for each of the categories of driver candidates: car drivers, motorcycle riders, large goods vehicle (LGV) and passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) drivers, and has improved the modules for trainee ADIs. The new modules incorporate best practice in learning science and are designed using various techniques; for example, to combat the forgetting curve – making it easier for learners to transfer the knowledge into long-term memory.

The modules introduce active learning, spaced repetition and other techniques to help learners retain and recall theory knowledge, supporting the invaluable work that trainers do in facilitating the driving and riding practice that leads to safer drivers.

The Sponge solution features hazard awareness and road sign quizzes, as well as the official theory test revision banks for all vehicle types. In collaboration with the Association of Approved Driving Instructors (AADI), the theory training will be evaluated and improved regularly.

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Sharing progress between instructors and candidates

To support the valuable work that ADIs do in preparing the next generation of safe drivers, Sponge has created a major new feature that enables a connection between the learner and the instructor, parent, guardian or another family member or friend who is helping them to learn to drive or ride. This connection allows the learner to share their progress with their trainer, and the instructors to check the progress of their learners through the theory test eLearning modules and question bank.

For the learner, this engagement opportunity links theory training directly to the practical aspect of their driving and, for the driving instructor, it creates a unique insight into the learner’s test readiness. The learner will be able to book the theory test when completely ready, enabling them to be successful first time around.

On top of this, an ADI who advises their pupils to purchase a subscription through a unique referral link can gain rewards for encouraging use of this powerful functionality.

Conclusion

After 222,807 lines of code, 6 courses, 90+ eLearning modules, 130 hazard perception videos, 170 road traffic signs and more than 4,000 practice questions and wonderful collaboration between the teams at Sponge, TSO and DVSA, the new official DVSA theory training successfully went live in May 2021 at https://www.safedrivingforlife.info/

TSO spokesperson

Lisa Daniels

"As we recover from the effects of the pandemic, SDFL will be there to support trainers and their learners. Our content and functionality, developed together with Sponge, will give learners the best opportunity of passing their driving test first time, and becoming a lifelong safe driver or rider."


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