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Christopher Douce

Digital Technology Solutions Professional 1.2 briefing (England)

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In addition to being a staff tutor, I am also a degree apprenticeship practice tutor for the OU DTS scheme, which is an abbreviation for Digital Technology Solutions. This is a standard which has a number of pathways, which takes apprentices 56 months to complete.

On 17 July 23, went to a briefing which aimed to summarise updates to the DTS programme, which has now moved to version 1.2. What follows is a summary of that briefing. An important point to note that is that all these notes only applies to England, since Scotland and Wales have their own schemes (there is no equivalent scheme in Northern Ireland).

What follows is information about the new DTS apprenticeship standard, followed by a summary of changes and a recap of the OU modules that contribute to the DTS scheme. More details are then provided about the end point assessment which ties everything together.

Where possible, to make this blog as useful as possible, I have also provided links to module descriptions. Within the OU apprenticeship scheme, module codes that contain the letters XY are used to identify which modules contribute to a degree apprenticeship programme. For practical and study purposes, there are no differences between apprenticeship and non-apprenticeship modules, other than apprenticeship modules being supported by both a practice tutor and an associate lecturer (who is an academic tutor).

It should be noted that this blog only relates to a programme that is run from the School of Computing and Communications, and is not relevant to other apprenticeship schemes run by other schools. 

The apprenticeship standard

The DTS apprenticeships are defined in terms of the duties that apprentices carry out in their workplace role, and the Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviours (KSBs) that they require to fulfil those duties. The OU provides teaching to apprentices to enable them to gain the necessary KSBs needed to fulfil the DTS standard. 

During the course of the apprenticeship each apprentice is expected to demonstrate during their normal work that they are competent in each of the KSBs. This will be recorded in an ePortfolio system, known as My Knowledge Map, and assessed through an End Point Assessment (EPA).

Apprentices, practice tutors, and employer representatives working with apprentices should be familiar with the current apprenticeship standard. One of the roles of the practice tutor is to signpost these standards to these stakeholders.

Another key role of the PT is to make sure that the apprentice and the employer (and other people who may well be supporting an apprentice) are aware of the KSBs, the learning outcomes of the different modules. They are also to facilitate the discussion of opportunities to make sure the apprentices gains sufficient learning experiences to enable them to fulfil the requirements of the KSBs. In some cases, the employer will be responsible for providing the apprentice with additional training and mentoring in the specific KSBs that apply in their workplace.

The PTs will be responsible running regular review meeting, working with employers to make sure that the apprentice has sufficient work-based opportunities to enable them to demonstrate their KSBs, and ensure that their ePorfolio is regularly updated. Regarding the ePortfolio, there are two important elements that need to be remembered: the recording of off-the-job time (to demonstrate engagement with the academic content), and the saving of assessments and materials which relate to the KSBs. The practice tutor also has a responsibility for ‘marking’ that materials have been submitted.

Main changes

The following points highlight the key changes:

  • All the KSBs have changed from the previous version of the standard. The new KSBs, however, cover the same ground.
  • Cyber specialism improved, with a module change (TMXY352 Web, mobile and cloud technologies, replaced by TMXY256 Cyber Security)
  • EPA project report is shorter, but the ePortfolio is now assessed.
  • Employers will need to ensure apprentices have the right opportunity to demonstrate KSBs in the workplace.
  • EPA date and results moved a month later to allow for modules results.
  • Rewording and enhancing of KSBs in the standard, but delivery is very similar (improved content on mobile communications added to networking specialism, new module for cyber)

Compulsory modules

What follows is a list of all the compulsory modules that an apprentice will work through, summarised in terms of the aim of each module:

During TMXY476 the apprentice should work on a substantial project (during their on the job time) which makes a positive impact on the operation of the business. This project should be substantial enough to allow the apprentice to illustrate their competency in the KSBs assessed within the project.

The programme has three modules that are intended to relate to work-based learning that takes place: TXY122, TXY227 and TMXY350, which are studied in parallel with the other modules. For TXY122 apprentices need to prepare a CPD plan which should be related to their pathway. Working with their employer and practice tutor, apprentices should aim to secure work experience that adds depth and relevance to the academic modules.

Apprenticeship pathways

The DTS scheme has four pathways. Apprentices study the following modules, depending on the pathway:

Practice tutors need to have some knowledge of all these pathways. If further information is needed, practice tutors can gain support from other colleagues who know more about specific areas.

End Point Assessment (EPA) requirements

The End Point Assessment (EPA) has become a more formal requirement. Apprentices are expected to demonstrate competence through applying the KSBs in the workplace, where their manager or a mentor confirms they are working at the expected level. Evidence is collated and stored in their portfolio. The practice tutor will help apprentices to prepare, collate and submit their best evidence through the MKM ePortfolio.

To complete the EPA, apprentices must:

  • Submit a record of six workplace experiences related to the apprenticeship to demonstrate what has been achieved. These can be examples from TMAs produced from the work-based learning modules.
  • Complete a 6000 word project report and deliver a 20 minute presentation. This is accompanied by a 40 minute question and answers session, and 60 minute professional discussion supported by the portfolio. The grading criteria for the project module will be tightly aligned to the apprenticeship grading criteria.
  • Provide a portfolio of completed assignments for all modules that have been studied, which have been approved as ‘marked’ by the practice tutor.
  • To have a clear record of off-the-job time, which is the equivalent of one day a week dedicated to study that complements the work-based element of the apprenticeship.

My knowledge map: the ePorfolio

All new apprentices will be enrolled to the MKM ePorfolio. PTs should take both the employers and the apprentices through MKM and emphasise its use. 

MKM will contain the following information:

  • Background information and documentation, such as the chosen pathway and the apprentice's skills scan document, which is a knowledge assessment of skills possessed by an apprentice at the start of the programme.
  • Details of four progress reviews that are scheduled throughout the year. A practical suggestion for practice tutors is to set them all up at the start of the year with an expectation that they might be change if necessary. One of these meetings will be face-to-face; the rest are virtual.
  • Records: of off-the job study time, which is to be recorded by the apprentice. Records of successfully completing the assignments for the academic elements.

New PTs are able to view screen share recordings to become familiar with the tool, and how it works. All PTs should have access to the tool when they are assigned a group of apprentice students.

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements are given to Chris Thomson who prepared and delivered this briefing. Much of this summary has been drawn from the PowerPoint resource that he prepared, and many of his words have been edited into a form that is more easily presented through this blog. Any errors or misunderstandings are likely to be mine, rather than Chris’s.

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Christopher Douce

DTSP PT Training: KSBs, Skills scan, planning, action and impact

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On 9 September 22, I attended a Digital and Technology Solutions (DTS) degree apprenticeship practice tutor (PT) training event, hosted by Chris Thompson from the School of Computing and Communications. I attended this event as a degree apprenticeship practice tutor.

What follows is a brief set of notes from the event, which might be helpful to fellow practice tutors, or any other colleagues who play a role within the DTS scheme.

For reference KSB refers to: Knowledge skills and behaviours. 

PT job description

One of the first slides reiterated the PT job description. 

Key points of the role include: to support each learner; to be a key point of contact; to prepare and support learners to commence their studies; maintain relationships between different stakeholders; to conduct review meetings; to coach and develop each learner to integrate academic learning with their professional work; and to guide each learner to develop a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate their technical competencies as required by the apprenticeship framework. 

When speaking to apprentices and employers, I emphasise my role in very similar terms, referring myself as being a bit of ‘glue’ between the academic study, and the apprenticeship.

ESFA requirements

ESFA is an abbreviation for the Education and Skills Funding Agency. We were directed to the Further Education and Skills Inspection handbook (pdf).

A point was made that each progress review should cover points p60.1 through to p60.7. These relate to: checking of progress against agreed actions; gathering of off-the-job training evidence; checking progress against a training plan; provide an opportunity to update the training plan; discuss concerns; discuss changes of circumstances; and agree and document actions, and have the progress review signed by all parties.

Inspection

Each degree apprenticeship programme is potentially subjected to an inspection. We were directed to another resource: the education inspection framework (pdf).

Ofsted are particularly interested in the impact of education and will look to evidence of progress. One of the notes I made during this section was about looking for evidence of where the apprentice started, and where are they heading to. One aspects of the practice tutor role is, of course, to be the glue, and to integrate everything together.

Practice tutors need to know core skills apprentices should be working towards gaining, and what is being taught through the academic content. If the work that the apprentice is currently carrying out doesn’t relate to the academic modules, it is a responsibility of the practice tutor to speak with the apprenticeship team.

Skills Scan

The skills scan is a document. Some apprentices may have completed their skills scan when they have started, and this should have been uploaded to the ePortfolio system. If a skills scan document doesn’t exist, it is important that a practice tutor asks the apprentice, or the APDM, if one has been completed.

One of the roles of the PT is to take what has been written on skills scan and relates it to the modules they are studying and the work the apprentice is performing. The skills, in turn, are related to the KSB criteria, and the PT needs to check through a skills scan document to make sure that everything makes sense.

Module briefing documents

PTs have access to something called module briefing documents. These summarise what KSBs are taught in which module. There is also a mapping of learning outcomes to modules, since some LOs are repeated across the curriculum. There is also a summary of what happens and when. In any 12 week progress review, there will be some items that have been covered since the last tripartite review meeting.

Tripartite meeting preparation

The first tripartite reviews is to take place within 4 weeks of an apprentice starting the programme, and the second one is expected to be face-to-face (unless good reason not to), another one within the 12 weeks. Over a period of a year, there should be 5 progress reviews within a year (which are fully documented within the ePortfolio tool).

The university is going to be publishing some further guidance about tripartite meetings, and more detailed will be provided within forthcoming PT training. The expectation is that all PTs will be expected to carry out to cover the same kinds of topics.

I made a note of suggested agenda items for a review. These included: actions from previous review, TMAs and EMAs, recording off the job time, KSBs, and English and maths skills. 

Key actions during the meetings included: updating the skills scan based upon their development of the knowledge, skills and behaviours (ticking things off); encouraging the apprentice to reflect on their role, responsibilities and progress (to add value for the employer); clarification of agreed actions to be completed by all, before the meeting. Also, connect employer targets to the apprenticeship programme. 

Other actions during the meetings may also include discussing any changes to working hours, career development, leave and opportunity for reflections, and ensuring that timesheets are completed and signed off.

Main tasks of the tripartite meeting

The PT must understand what KSBs apprentice needs to demonstrate to become competent at work and find ways to enable them to do this. Specifically, a PT must ensure that everyone has a good understanding of what is involved. The skills scan is considered to be the apprentice’s starting point, and is a tool used by the PT to find out about the progress they are making. 

During the meeting, the review meeting, the role of the PT is to discuss with the employer about possibilities in which they may be able to apply the KSBs, and achieving these should be evidenced in the ePortfolio tool.

Induction materials

The Computing apprenticeship team has been updating the induction materials that are available to new apprentices. There is a new area called “your study plan” which emphasises what needs to be done within the first 12 weeks of study. It also offers an introduction to each year.

Summary

The takeaway points from this session reflects the title. The main takeaway point is about KSBs; knowledge skills and behaviours. These need to be demonstrated in an apprentice’s 80% of workplace time, rather than the 20% of their academic study time. This also connects to the point that PTs play a fundamental role in ensuring that academic study is linked to work-based learning.

Another point is that the skills scan document plays an important role in relating what is done to the KSBs. On reflection, I need to make sure that I bring the skills scan document into my own practice. This will help me to gain evidence of an apprentice gaining their KSBs, which then, in turn, must be recorded within the ePortfolio.

A couple of new things for me were the module briefing documents, and the new induction materials. Before my next tripartite review, I plan to look through all these materials, to make sure I can share these with both employees and apprentices.

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