The UK government aims to introduce 3 million new apprenticeships by 2020. A large proportion of these will be degree apprenticeships, combining university study with work-based learning. Degree apprenticeships are co-designed by employers, with the intention of addressing skills shortages in key industries. Universities collaborate with employers to design and deliver programmes of study that enable the apprentice to meet a set of apprenticeship ‘standards’. There is little doubt apprenticeships offer potential benefits for all stakeholders (employer, apprentice and university) if they choose to embrace this approach to upskilling the workforce. (Universities UK, 2017)
Whilst there are benefits for each stakeholder in a degree apprenticeship, there are also significant challenges. These include collaboration between employers and university programme teams; flexible delivery to suit the employer while still meeting the requirement that the apprentice spends 20% of their time completing ‘off-the-job learning’; and creating a synergy between the workplace and an apprentice’s university studies so that there is ‘a more formal link between learning in the workplace and learning in the classroom’ (Mulkeen et al, p.9)
An apprentice has to pass the end point assessment (EPA) in order for the funds for the apprenticeship to be released to the university. The EPA is therefore a key part of any curriculum design process and usually comes at the end of several years of study. The EPA often involves the apprentice showing evidence of reflecting on learning (both at university and in the workplace) and sharing evidence that s/he has met the apprenticeship learning outcomes. Mulkeen et al (2017) stress the ‘use of teaching, learning and assessment strategies’ need to enable ‘students to achieve intended learning outcomes within a work-based environment’ (p.8).
The work-based mentor is a key player in supporting an apprentice and needs a close working relationship with the academic team (Mulkeen et al, 2017). This relationship includes access to online university resources so the mentor is aware of the topics and approaches to learning that the apprentice is engaging with.
Degree apprenticeships, thus present a complex challenge for universities. There is a need for appropriate technology-based solutions to:
• Encourage apprentices to habitually reflect on workplace learning, relating this to academic learning, and recording this for the duration of the apprenticeship
• Provide a platform for apprentices to collect and present evidence of achievement towards apprenticeship standards
• Provide a platform for apprentices to evidence that the logistical requirements of the apprenticeship have been met, e.g. recording 20% off-the-job training, mentor meetings and workplace visits
• Provide an appropriate learning programme and access to learning resources for workplace mentors
• Provide appropriate access and collaboration with employers in respect of individual apprentice progress
The academic team has to plan for these from day one of the apprenticeship.
In this presentation I shall demonstrate how our university has developed and refined technology-based solutions to address these challenges, primarily using PebblePad and its associated assessment platform, ATLAS. This presentation will be of interest to delegates who are responsible for the design and implementation of degree apprenticeships at scale in their institution.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
The work outlined in this presentation is based on practice within a university business school. Our approach to evaluation is iterative, so we conducted a needs-based analysis before we implemented the approaches described above. Once the first cohort of degree apprenticeships had started to use the platform, we reviewed the pedagogic approach to formative and summative reflections, based on the extent to which a cohort met the learning outcomes.
Jisc’s Higher and degree apprenticeships survey (2018) has been useful as it has confirmed our own observations regarding the challenges of ‘working with employers’ and ‘managing the synergy between on and off-the-job learning and meeting employers’ information needs’ (p5) and we continually work to address these challenges. I shall demonstrate how the approach works in practice using a demonstration workspace and explain how this has changed and been adapted since the start of the apprenticeship programme.
Ferrell, G., Gray, L. & Attewell, S. (forthcoming). Higher and Degree Apprenticeships. Bristol. Jisc.
Jisc (2018). Higher and degree apprenticeships survey results. [online] Jisc. Available at: https://digitalapprenticeships.jiscinvolve.org/wp/files/2018/03/Survey-report-i1.pdf [Accessed 22.03.2018].
Mulkeen, J., Abdou, H., Leigh, J. & Ward, P. (2017). Degree and Higher Level Apprenticeships: an empirical investigation of stakeholder perceptions of challenges and opportunities. Studies in Higher Education, pp.1-14.
Universities UK, (2017). Degree Apprenticeships: Realising Opportunities. [online] UUK. Available at: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Pages/degree-apprenticeships-realising-opportunities.aspx [Accessed 06.03.2018].
Resources for participants
mmaley joined the session Degree Apprenticeships – The Evidence Challenge [18-73] 6 months, 2 weeks ago
Debbie Baff joined the session Degree Apprenticeships – The Evidence Challenge [18-73] 7 months ago
Elizabeth Charles joined the session Degree Apprenticeships – The Evidence Challenge [18-73] 7 months ago
Patrick Viney joined the session Degree Apprenticeships – The Evidence Challenge [18-73] 7 months ago