Degree apprenticeshipsWe’ve been working with Salford University for the past few months on degree apprenticeships. The work came about out of recognition that online learning is a crucial part of the support for apprentices who are studying for degree level qualifications. It’s been rewarding work, pushing us to consider how to advise staff who are planning and designing the degree apprenticeship curriculum.

For some staff, often in healthcare subjects, planning and designing the curriculum for a degree apprenticeship comes naturally as there are similar processes and people in place.

For example, degree apprentices will need a work based mentor, a role already in place for many healthcare degrees. Visits by university staff to a student is on placement are a familiar activity. Our remit with Salford University was to focus on how the VLE (in this case Blackboard)  could support the ‘delivery’ of degree apprenticeships. Apprentices may come to campus for day release, or they may attend blocks of teaching days, but whichever approach is taken, there is no doubt there will need to be a large proportion of online learning and support.

Previous work I had done on an e-learning resource for NHS Northwest provided inspiration for new guidance for Salford University staff. Four years ago I worked with subject experts to create an online resource for student nurses needing to experience a Health Visitor placement, but for practical reasons couldn’t (e.g. lack of places to do this). The team working on the resource were experienced health visitors and educators, but with little experience of developing online learning resources. I developed a diagram (fig 1) to help organize and categorise the type of learning activities and resources.

Figure 1: original domains of learning

Figure 1

We used this during our meetings to design the resource and checking all sections were included. There was a temptation to provide only articles and reports, but by repeatedly asking, what are students supposed to ‘do’ while engaging with the resource, we developed interesting and effective online activities. We wrote an article in the Journal of Health Visiting* about our experiences of working together.

Returning to the Salford University degree apprenticeship work, I felt it would be helpful to expand the diagram (fig 2), to reassure lecturers that the core resources already in use were vital in the curriculum,  and were still a vital part of degree apprenticeships.  But I also wanted to prompt discussion around what students would be doing online or away from the university, relating this to the work context.The inclusion of industry/sector specific resources was in part designed to confirm to employers that the curriculum is relevant and current. Employers will have significant input into the curriculum than they had previously for more ‘traditional’ degrees. The diagram in figure 2 still needs to work alongside module learning outcomes, reflecting the knowledge, skills and behaviours a degree apprentice has developed during their time studying and working.

I envisage the diagram being a quick reference to check that all parts of the degree apprenticeship curriculum are being given attention and considered during the design process.

Domains of learning

Figure 2: Domains of learning for a degree apprenticeship

*Hough,L., Blake J., Chesney, S. 2014, North West collaborative project developing an e-learning resource: Learning about health visiting, Journal of Health Visiting, Vol. 2, Iss. 2, 19 Feb 2014, pp 80 – 84

Salmon, G. (2013). E-tivities: The key to active online learning (2nd ed.). London and New York: Routledge.

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