Using learning technologies to support our degree apprentices

Paul Dyson

An important feature of our Public Management and Leadership Degree Apprenticeship is its blended format – with learning facilitated through a combination of online and face-to-face delivery. This format provides much needed flexibility for both the apprentice and their employer.

The University of Birmingham is well placed to offer a blended learning experience. The University’s high quality teaching was awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework, and INLOGOV has recently pioneered a 100% online Distance Learning Masters of Public Administration. We are therefore able to combine these two areas of expertise into a first class blended learning experience.

Both online and class-based learning is managed through ‘Canvas’; the University of Birmingham’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Each module has its own dedicated Canvas page. Each page includes all of the learning materials for each week of the module, and links to related reading materials. Throughout the programme, module convenors will interact with and support their students through Canvas as a complement to on-campus activities. Moreover, throughout the module a student forum is available for students to ask questions.

Our online content is designed to ensure it is engaging and inspiring in order to enhance the learning experience. For example, discussion boards are a key element of our online teaching and learning. On these boards, module convenors pose questions and topics, and apprentices are asked to respond and react to each other’s views and ideas, drawing on their own work experiences and learning. We also use interactive scenarios, exercises, quizzes, interactive diagrams, videos and case studies to help develop student learning.

We also use a software called Big Blue Button to host live online interactive lectures within modules and to hold academic skills sessions. The playback functionality on these platforms means that live lectures and seminars can be recorded so that those who were not able to join in live do not miss out, and enabling learners to have a programme-long resource.

It is not just in the taught component of the apprenticeship that we use technology to support our learners. All degree apprenticeships are predicated on the need to develop a portfolio that provides evidence of the apprentice’s development journey. This portfolio contains a record of the candidate’s evidence claims against national standards.  During the course of the apprenticeship programme the apprentice is required to keep a record of their evidence claims as they accumulate over time.

Here at the University of Birmingham we use PebblePad to capture evidence claims that can be mapped to the appropriate standards. This versatile software allows the learner to not only record their evidence claims but also reflect upon how these were achieved. Each portfolio has also been designed to encapsulate all the necessary record-keeping that is associated with the apprenticeship programme. This includes maintaining a digital record of progress reviews, commonly referred to as tripartite meetings, as well as providing an authentic time-stamped record of how an agreed allocation of training hours are met.

The PebblePad portfolio is an essential digital companion that supports the apprentice through to their end point assessment. Its contents ultimately showcase work achieved over the duration of the programme together with digital artefacts that demonstrate skills gained and professional behaviours exhibited. These artefacts can include video evidence, audio accounts, presentations and blogs.

Apprentices can also enjoy the benefits of the PebblePad mobile app. This app allows for the spontaneous collection of naturally occurring evidence which can in turn be sync’d back to the desktop application.

Technology plays, and will continue to play, an important role in both the undergraduate and postgraduate apprenticeship experience.

Paul DysonPaul Dyson is an Instructional Designer for the College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham. He works closely with INLOGOV to design and develop online content and PebblePad functionality for the Public Management and Leadership programme.

Want to learn more about our Programme? Contact Kulvinder Buray our Degree Apprenticeships Facilitator: K.Buray@bham.ac.uk 

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