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.
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)
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:
- TXY122: The apprentice’s role and teams they will work in
- TMXY130: Networking, data management and Cyber security
- TMXY112: Sustainable/Green Computing
- MXY250: Object Orientated Programming
- TMXY254: Service management, development tools, databases and team working
- TXY227: Change management, Change leadership, team working
- TMXY252: Web development, accessibility
- TMXY350: Project design and reporting
- MXY353: Problem analysis, development processes, project management, legal, ethical, social and professional standard for projects
- TMXY476: Project module, followed by the end point assessment.
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.
The DTS scheme has four pathways. Apprentices study the following modules, depending on the pathway:
- Data Analyst: MXY269 (data structures and algorithms) and TMXY351 (data management and analysis)
- Cyber Security Analyst: TMXY256 (cyber security) and TMXY311 (information security)
- Software Engineer: TMXY354 (software engineering) and TMXY252 (web, mobile and cloud technologies)
- Network engineer: TMXY257 (Cisco networking CCNA part 1) and TMXY357 (Cisco networking CCNA part 2)
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 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.