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English DTS degree apprenticeship: work-based learning modules

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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.

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