OU blog

Personal Blogs

English DTS degree apprenticeship: work-based learning modules

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Christopher Douce, Saturday, 2 Oct 2021, 13:12

The OU is also a provider of English, Scottish and Welsh degree apprenticeships.

This blog provides a summary of some of the important work-based learning modules that Computing and IT students study as a part of their English degree apprenticeship programme. It has been prepared a simple ‘summary article’ that I can share with English degree apprentice students and their employers.

More information about the OU degree apprenticeship schemes can be found on the OU Apprenticeships pages where further links to nation specific programmes can be found. Further information, that is specific the English scheme, the DTS programme for English degree apprenticeship students’ page offers a useful summary of the scheme.

This post was collated during the summer and autumn of 2021. Since modules, programmes and qualifications are always subject to enhancement and review, it is important to check the latest information that is available.

Acknowledgements are extended to the module chairs, module team members and curriculum managers who helped to prepare the following descriptions. I have taken the liberty of editing some of the words and headings to create a single article.

Work-based learning modules

Degree apprenticeship study takes approximately four years. Student study a combination of academic modules, and a set of work-based learning modules. Toward the end of the programme, students must complete a work-based project, which is also summarised towards the end of this article.

An important aspect of the degree apprenticeship programme is that students are encouraged to continually reflect on how their university study relates to and links with work-place activity. An import part of the work-based modules is to encourage and develop that reflection.

Here is a list of the work-based (and project) modules that are summarised in this post:

  • TXY122 Career development and employability
  • TXY227 Change, strategy and projects at work
  • TMXY350 Advanced work-based learning
  • TMXY475 Apprenticeship computing & IT project

During study of each of these modules, students will be allocated an academic tutor, who marks their assessments, and will be supported by a practice tutor.

TXY122 Career development and employability

One of the first modules that English degree apprentice students study goes by the module code TXY122. Students are also likely to study this module at the same time as a more academic module, TMXY130, which introduces some important topics, such as mathematics for Computing.

The aims and objectives of TXY122 are as follows: 

  • To enable students to develop their ability to learn from the workplace through reflective practice.
  • To enable students to apply their skills, understanding and knowledge within the workplace.
  • To develop students’ understanding of their organisational context and their role within it.
  • To equip students with the skills necessary to carry out research within their organisation.
  • To introduce the concept of professional standards and to enable students to map their existing skills and knowledge against relevant occupational standards.
  • To enable students to evaluate and develop their personal / professional / employability skills.
  • To give students an understanding of how to align their own personal and career development needs with the business objectives of their organisation.
  • To facilitate the production of a coherent learning and development plan.

Like many OU modules, the materials are divided into a number of blocks.

Block 1: Laying the foundations

Block 1 is called Laying the foundations and it is designed to help students to develop a sound understanding of what it means to learn in order to ensure that they get the most out of this module and, indeed, any other learning experience undertaken in the future. When we talk about learning we aren’t simply talking about traditional academic studies, because that is not what this module is about. 

Block 1 is focused on learning from experiences at work, the type of learning that will enable students to perform more effectively as they learn how to reflect on your experiences and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to improve learning and performance on a continuing basis. 

The following themes are introduced:

  • laying the foundations for studying
  • thinking about how adults learn
  • learning in the workplace
  • managing your learning and development.

Block 2: Exploring the workplace

Block 2 contains two main sections. In the first section students will be introduced to elements of research design, including methods and sources used for gathering and analysing data and information, and students will learn how to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative data. In the second section the focus will shift to reporting the results of research in a clear and structured way and learning how to use various graphical devices to present data and information effectively.

The following themes are introduced:

  • research concepts, tools and techniques
  • reporting the results of your research
  • effective ways of presenting data and information.

Block 3: Personal, academic and career development planning

This block is designed to help students to take stock of their current position, decide where they want to go and plan how to get there. Students will look in detail at the principles and processes involved in personal and career development planning, and receive advice and guidance on how to reflect productively on their skills, knowledge and experience before being encouraged to think about their personal and career aspirations. Finally, they will be given practical advice and guidance on how to develop/update their personal and career development plans.

The following themes are introduced:

  • determination of role and skills set
  • benchmarking against occupational standards and frameworks
  • future goals and career development.

Block 4: Personal, academic and career development planning – the organisational context

Block 4 helps students to see where you fit within their organisational context. They will spend some time analysing where their organisation is heading and understanding how they can contribute to the success of their organisation while moving forward with some of their career development aspirations. Students will receive advice and guidance on action planning for personal, academic and professional development and look at how they can seek support from within their organisation for their continuing professional development proposals.

The following themes are introduced:

  • What is the business context and how do I fit within it?
  • What are the key trends and challenges facing the business?
  • What are my professional development needs?
  • Aligning business needs with career and academic development aspirations.
  • Planning for the future.

Assessments

The module is assessed through 3 Tutor Marked Assessments (TMAs) and an End of Module Assessment, which is the university’s equivalent of an end of module exam.

TXY227 Change, strategy and projects at work

Students will typically study TXY227 as their third second level (second year equivalent) module. 

The module will help students to:

  • gain an understanding of how social, technological, economic, environmental, political, legislative and ethical factors drive and enable change in the workplace.
  • develop knowledge, understanding, confidence and competence in project working and related employability skills
  • evaluate, develop and review personal, academic and professional skills
  • apply skills and knowledge to planning and presenting a project proposal that is capable of being implemented in their workplace.

During this module students are encouraged to integrate work and study by drawing on and investigating workplace resources, systems and experiences. There is therefore less ‘learning material’ than in a traditional OU module. Students are expected to do approximately 12 hours of study per week, in addition their apprenticeship role. Also, during the first 6 months of study, students are also likely to be studying two other degree apprenticeship modules.

Block 1: A changing world

This first block focusses on the topic of change. Key areas of study for this first block include, amongst others: understanding perspectives on change; different types of change; readiness to change; leading change and preparing for change. In terms of topics that relate to a work based context, themes include: knowing where you’re going; doing analyses; understanding internal external contexts; identifying the way forward and carrying out a Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis.

Block 2: Projects in your workplace

This second block explores the concept of a project. It begins by asking the question:  What is a project? Other themes (amongst others) include: time, cost and quality; changing a routine process; the project life cycle; your workplace learning, work-based projects; generating ideas for your work-based project; project stakeholders and meetings; project scope, constraints, risks and contingencies; managing risk and contingency planning.

Block 3: Project planning, organisation and completion

Block 3 continues the topic of work based projects by presenting the following themes (amongst others): project teams; team roles; resource planning; project budgets; project scheduling techniques such as networks and Gantt charts; project management roles, skills and attributes; project monitoring and reviewing, and project closure, evaluation and learning.

Block 4: Reviewing and presenting your work-based project proposal

Finally, block 4 is all about reviewing and presenting your project. Key topics include: reviewing your work-based project proposal, presenting your work-based project proposal, planning and preparing your presentation, practising and delivering your presentation, and evaluating your presentation.

Assessments

The module is assessed through 3 TMAs and an EMA

TMXY350 Advanced work-based learning

This module will build on students’ learning and experience from previous work-based learning modules, and prepare them for the proposed capstone project module (TMXY475), as well as for the Digital and Technology Solutions (DTS) apprenticeship End-Point Assessment (EPA). To complete the degree apprenticeship, students need to complete both. 

The module will help students with:

  • developing knowledge, skills and experience of workplace/work role investigation
  • knowledge, skills and behaviours mapping against relevant standards and frameworks
  • portfolio development
  • project planning and evaluation
  • report writing
  • interview and presentation tools and techniques
  • alignment of personal and career development needs with the business objectives of the organisation
  • production of coherent learning and development plans.

Block 1: Understanding learning outcomes and planning

In this short first block, which occupies five weeks, student will: carry out an initial mapping exercise against the relevant apprenticeship learning outcomes/core skills; extend their knowledge of project implementation, handover, closure and evaluation; explore some ideas for a final work-based project; and develop the initial version of a work-based learning plan (WLP) detailing resources, support and scheduling related to specified WLP objectives.

Block 2: Reviewing progress, requirements and project ideas

In this second block, which occupies eight weeks, students will: review progress against the WLP and produce an updated version; study the common causes of project failure and learn more about project review and evaluation; assess knowledge and understanding of apprenticeship requirements; further develop one idea for the final project.

Block 3: Updating your work-based learning plan and refining project ideas

In this third block, which also lasts eight weeks, students will: review progress against the WLP and produce an updated version; develop a feasible proposal for the final project; practise and evaluate skills in applying interview techniques and verbal communication skills. To help students, block resources will include: worksheets containing information, advice and guidance; provide resources for developing a final project proposal; resources relating to the application of interview techniques and verbal communication skills.

Block 4: Preparing a project proposal and a final work-based learning plan

In this final block, which is also an eight week block, students will: review progress against the WLP and produce an updated version; prepare for their end of module assess by producing a final project proposal, demonstrating the application of interview techniques and verbal communication skills, and producing evidence to show how demonstrating the achievement of selected learning outcomes. The module will provide resources to help with producing a final project proposal, along with an associated business case, and provide resources relating to interview techniques and verbal communication skills.

Assessments

Assessment is through 3 TMAs (which relate to blocks 1 through 3) and an end of module TMA (which is similar to an EMA) which relates to block 4.

TMXY475 Apprenticeship computing & IT project 

The final module, TMXY475, the Apprenticeship Computing and IT Project will enable students to complete their degree apprenticeship. It gives students the opportunity to make use of their knowledge and skills they have built up earlier, and to demonstrate these in a work-based project.

Students are to choose a project in the area of their specialism using knowledge, skills and behaviours learned in their modules to date especially the specialist Level-3 modules.

They will first be required to develop a project topic to suit their individual purposes, interests and skills by an iterative process of refinement towards a more narrowly-focussed area of study. This refining process will be moderated and guided by contact with their tutor and in collaboration with their employer, entailing increasing research as they proceed. In this way they will be laying the groundwork for their project as they home in on their final topic.

Arriving at an agreed project title and aims will include a consideration of its background (through a literature search), its feasibility and a definition of its scope. Assessing this is the task of TMA01 which will also require evidence of Interaction between student, tutor and employer. Students will then be expected producing a project plan and detailed project outline as their second TMA before writing-up a complete first draft of part of their project report which is submitted as TMA03.

The EMA has two parts. The final project report is submitted as the EMA part 1. Students will be asked to complete a 30-minute presentation/interview with an assessor and their employer following the submission of the project report for EMA part 2.

Throughout the module students are asked to reflect critically on how they undertook their project and how they might do things differently in the light of their experience. Students will be expected to produce a large proportion of their work independently and without close supervision.

To summarise, students will be expected to:

  • confirm and justify your choice of project (either the one you picked in TMXY350, or a new one if your critical evaluation leads you to change your project topic)
  • define what the outcomes of the project will be
  • plan how you are going to achieve these outcomes
  • research the background and state of the art of the subject area of your project
  • complete the project
  • produce a report describing the project and reflecting on both the project itself and the way you went about it.

The module is divided into a number of phrases, which are similar to the blocks that students would have seen in previous modules:

Phase 1: Project approval

During this phase, students will be working with their module tutor and employer to refine their project idea so that it meets the requirements for the apprenticeship and organisation.

Phase 2: Setting the project context

During this phase, students will be investigating the context of their project. This will involve tasks such as: refining requirements, understanding previous professional and academic work done in the area of your project both inside and outside of your organisation, and making progress on appropriate practical elements.

Phase 3: Practical report

During this phase, students will complete the bulk of the practical work. By the end of this phase, students should have an incomplete draft of your EMA project report which provides the basis for TMA 03.

Phase 4: Completing practical work

During this phase, students will complete all remaining practical work, and address any major issues identified in TMA 03.

Phase 5: Reviewing and evidencing learning

During this final phase, you will complete your EMA project report and prepare it for submission. There will also be an opportunity to review and act on any feedback from the Gateway/Professional Practice meeting.

Assessments

The module is assessed through3 TMAs, which reflect different phases of the project, and there are 2 parts to an EMA, one of which is a presentation.

Reflections

One thing that really struck me, when editing together this blog was how thorough the programme is. It is, for a moment, useful think of the degree apprenticeship as having three components: the academic study, the actual work that takes place in the workplace, and these work-based learning modules. In some senses, these modules represent a bit of useful glue, that links the academic study together with what takes place within the workplace.

Reviewing a part of this degree apprenticeship programme has made me reflect on my own professional context and work setting. It has helped me to ask some useful questions about my situation, such as: what learning should I be doing to either develop myself or to improve my performance? Another question is: where is my main work focus? Also, if I want to change my focus, what should I start to be doing so I can get there? By asking these questions, and writing this section I am doing something that is emphasised throughout all these modules: engaging in critical reflection.

Acknowledgements

This post has been compiled and edited together from a variety of different sources. Thanks are extended to Andy Hollyhead, who plays an important role in the delivery of the DTS degree apprenticeship scheme in England and provided some of the useful text for the project module. Thanks are also extended to the module chairs and curriculum managers of all the modules that are mentioned in this summary; their words, through project descriptions and summaries, have found their way to this post.

Permalink
Share post

Degree apprenticeship practice tutor development event May 21

Visible to anyone in the world

In addition to being a staff tutor and module tutor, I’m also a practice tutor (PT) . A practice tutor is someone who supports the delivery of the university’s DTS (digital and technology solutions professional) degree apprenticeship programme. There is an important difference between the PT and an OU academic tutor. In the DTS scheme, PT is one of the key individuals in the student’s journey. The role of the PT is to provide a consistent link between the apprentice’s world of work and academic study.

On 15 May 21 I attended what was called a practice tutor development day. The aim of this event was to provide further training and development for practice tutors, and to enable practice tutors to share experiences with each other and the apprenticeship delivery team.

This blog presents a sketch of what was covered during the day. I’m sharing these notes just in case it might be useful for fellow delegates (and fellow practice tutors), or anyone else who might be interested in how the OU is supporting its degree apprenticeship programme. It also represents a summary of one of the useful CPD events that have taken place over the year.

Preparing for Ofsted

This first section was facilitated by Andy Hollyhead, Chris Thomson and Craig Jackson, but much of the material for this session was delivered by Craig, who began with a question: what would the result of a negative inspection be?

Craig presented a broad summary of the Ofstead assessment process, saying something about what happens when an assessment takes place. I noted that four areas will be judged: the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, and leadership and management. Craig mentioned that “some inspectors will look at specific areas, such as leadership and management”.

Different types of documents may be scrutinised to gain a sense of what is happening and how learners are progressing. Inspectors may scrutinise how improvements are measured and made and may speak to different members of staff, including apprentices, practice tutors, line managers, central academics, managers and leaders from the ‘training provider’. A decision about a rating will be made via trangulation; looking at different bits of evidence to come to a final decision.

Before moving onto the next session, I noted down a few relevant points that were made by Chris: the role of a PT is to map academic wok to job activities. I also noted that work based learning modules are focussed on work based skills that are not technical in nature, such as project management and personal management.

Tripartite meetings: good practice

This next session, which was about facilitating meetings with apprentices and employers, was facilitated by Alison Leese. Alison began with an important question: why are the review meetings important? They can be used to manage expectations, establish and review individual learning plans, set and plan to achieve success, to share perspectives, they can be used to identify challenges, and to provide feedback.

For the first meeting, it is important to scheduled and prepare for it, and it should be an opportunity to finalise an individualised learning plan and prepare for the first review.

In normal circumstances, there should be one face to face meeting per year. The first meeting is likely to take place face to face. During this fort meeting, there should be the sharing of roles and responsibilities; a discussion about what everyone does, and the introduction of the concept of the module (academic) tutor, and highlighting other roles that exist within the background, such as a staff tutor (a practice tutor line manager), and the Apprentice Programme Delivery Manager, who liaises with the employer or line manager. I noted down the point that the line manager must provide sufficient diversity within a job role to ensure that sufficient experience is gained to enable the learning outcomes of the DTS scheme to be met.

For each progress review, it is important to effectively schedule and prepare. Progress should be documented (currently through the university ePortfolio system) and objectives reviewed. An apprentice’s individual learning plan should be updated should there have been any changes in the apprentice’s situation, such as working location or accessibility needs. After every quarterly review, everything should be finalised within a 10 working day period.

Some points I noted down during the session were: use an initial meeting agenda/checklist, and for each progress review have a review checklist or agenda which may contain points such as: update ILP, objectives and gateway requirements (such as English and Maths skills). I also noted down that there was some cross-faculty induction material that was available on the apprentice hub, such as a summary of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle.

Practice tutors should refer or apprentices if an apprentice is not making sufficient progress, needs additional support, requests change of study programme, or isn’t being provided with the very important 20% off the job time (Gov.uk website), there is a change in job roles, or the line manager is not engaging sufficiently.

Safeguarding at the OU

Safeguarding is the process of protecting children and vulnerable adults from neglect. This is an important subject since the university has over two thousand registered students who are under the age of 18. The OU safeguarding team works with the OU student’s association, the student support teams, and the student resource and support centres (SRSC).

At the start of the section we were asked: how might PTs have contract with safeguarding in their roles? There might be phone calls or emails, or disclosures that take place in other ways, such as through assessments or one to one support sessions.

The university has a responsibility to support its students, and their children, or any vulnerable adults who a student might be looking after. The terminology used to refer to a vulnerable adult is different in different parts of the UK. In Wales the term is: an “adult at risk”. In Scotland, the term is “protected adult”.

An important point was made during this session, which was: “working with apprentices means that they [the student or the apprentice] are supported not just by the OU but also by their employer”.

To refer a student, an email could be sent directly to the safeguarding team, or a webform could be submitted.

Apprentice onboarding, on programme support and offboarding

This session was jointly facilitated by Nathalie Collins, Jackie Basquille and Charlotte Knock. Jackie began by speaking about the functional skills team. Degree apprentice students must gain the equivalent of A* to C, or scores 4 to 9 in Maths and English by the end of their studies. During the onboarding process (or, induction, as I call it), students will carry out a skills audit, will be interviewed, and there will be a review of their job role.

The onboarding (induction) process was summarised as follows: an information advice and guidance seminar, sharing of evidence of a link between job role and a chosen apprenticeship scheme, a core and specialism skills audit (the core skills audit refer to essential knowledge, skills and behaviours), a one to one discussion with an apprenticeship programme delivery manager, and the checking of prior qualifications. All this leads to a signed commitment statement and apprenticeship agreement (which gets stored to the ePortfolio system). When this is done, there is then an induction webinar.

Sometimes apprentices may require breaks in learning; a subject covered by Charlotte. There is an important difference between a break in learning (BiL) and a deferral. A deferral is a postponement of an exam or an equivalent assessment. A break in learning is possible due to a recognised number of reasons, such as (1) an economic reason, (2) long term sickness, (3) maternity leave, (4) religious trips, and (5) Covid related reasons.

The process for a break in learning begins a discussion with a practice tutor, who then speak with an ADPM, who then contacts the organisation apprentice lead. Whether a break is possible or not may depend on exactly where the apprentice is in their studies. An apprentice lead within an employer organisation will need to “sign off”, or approve a break in studies.

Building practice

The final part of the day was all about sharing experiences. We were put into small breakout rooms (with approximately 6 colleagues, mostly fellow practice tutors) where we began to share experiences of facilitating review meetings. We also looked at a short case study, and then went on to discuss the challenges we uncovered in a plenary room.

Resources

During the event, I collected some links to useful resources that were shared through the text chat channel.

Apprentices who are enrolled within the Digital and technology solutions programme are able to access the Apprentices studying the DA DTS site. Practice tutors can also access this page to get an understanding of what students can see.

Practice tutors can access an interactive mapping template (OU apprenticeship pages), which shows the connection between modules, apprenticeship specialisms and the criteria of the qualification. This page also provides a link to a more detailed mapping tool (OU apprenticeship pages).

Reflections

In my very early days of being a practice tutor, I wasn’t entirely whether I was doing the right thing. I enjoyed my first meetings with the new apprentice students and their employers. To prepare, I arrived with meetings armed with a summary of the programme, and I talked everyone through the principles of OU study and what it meant, and then summarised the programme that an apprentice was about to start. Although I seemed to be doing the right thing, I wasn’t completely sure whether I was doing everything right.

I found this session really helpful, since I felt it consolidated some of my knowledge and understanding, emphasised the importance of certain deadlines and activities, and also gave me a steer towards some useful resources which I could use with apprentices during some of their meetings. During the next meetings, I’m definitely going to take the apprentices through the mapping tool, either during online or during face to face meetings.

There were a couple of tools that I heard about that I didn’t know too much about: there were the checklists for the meetings that I need to find, and there’s the practice tutor eTMA system, where we can get more of a view about how an apprentice is getting along. On this point, I need to be clear about boundaries and responsibilities: my role is to help apprentices connect their assessments and academic study to work activity.

One activity that I need to do is to get a more thorough and detailed understanding of the work-based learning modules. I guess that every practice tutor has slightly different levels of understanding of the different modules that their apprentice students’ study. Being an academic tutor on one of the modules on a shared pathway, I feel as if I’ve got a pretty good (if broad) handle on the academic modules. I do feel as if I need to find the time to really nail down my understanding of some of the later work based learning modules. Perhaps this will be the subject of my next apprenticeship blog.

Acknowledgements

This event was organised by the Computing and Communications English apprenticeship team, which comprises of Andy Hollyhead and Chris Thomson. Acknowledgements are also extended from the wider university apprenticeship team who are based in the Business Development Unit (BDU).

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 1291560