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What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?

Come and help us find out at a participatory workshop – 14th June in central London.

This was the question behind one of the co-design challenges that emerged from Jisc’s consultation with its customers towards the end of last year.  Digital apprentice encompasses an approach that  harnesses digital approaches to support the entire apprentice process, from recruitment to qualification, via off-the-job training and end-point assessment.

Through its consultation with universities, colleges, training providers, employers and other interested organisations, Jisc has identified some gaps where its abilities to produce digital solutions that help its customers could make a difference.

Employers, in particular, are not well catered for at this time. They need to know where their apprentices are when they are doing their off-the-job training, and how they are progressing with their studies. Employers may have apprentices from different providers and need to be able to see relevant information in one place, rather than having to access multiple systems.

Jisc is proposing to explore building a tracking, monitoring and reporting dashboard for employers, providers and apprentices using data from the Jisc Learning Records Warehouse and other sources. Earlier posts in this blog have shown some early sketches and thoughts as to what this might look like and what may be involved.

The workshop will provide an opportunity to help design what such a service would look like and how it would function.

Who should attend

We are looking for people in universities, colleges and training providers with responsibility in managing apprentices as well as those who deal with the interface between data and people in relation to apprentices.

We are also interested in engaging with senior leaders in the sector with over-arching responsibility for this agenda.

Sign up for this free workshop here: https://www.jisc.ac.uk/events/what-would-truly-digital-apprenticeships-look-like-14-jun-2017

Read more about the co-design antecedents for this activity


Data Flow Diagram

In the Digital Apprenticeship project we plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships that provides a provider dashboard, an employer dashboard and an app for apprentices.

With any project it is important that all members of the project team have a shared understanding of the technical structure of what we are trying to achieve.

One way we can do this is through a simple diagram (in this example created using Sharpies) and ensure that it covers what we want to do and from there then move to a more planned and technical approach to the data infrastructure.

Data Flow Diagram

Following the first draft of this diagram, we recognised the need for consent.

There are three levels of consent, consent to collect data, consent to process data and consent to action on data.

From the perspective of the employer dashboard this could be seen as collecting data on VLE usage, processing that data and presenting it on a dashboard and finally presenting that dashboard to employers with a list of actions or possible interventions.

We are working now on the data structures required for the apprenticeship work.

Using Drawings

`As we continue to progress through the discovery phase of the Digital Apprenticeship project we have been using a variety of techniques to research and develop our ideas and concepts.

One tool I often use is using coloured pens and paper to draw out concept and ideas that can then feed into the discovery process or further down the line the development of a product or service.

I have a pack of 30 Stabilo coloured pens that I have used to create the following hand drawn concept dashboards.

PRINT01_CPK P1_3516_001

PRINT01_CPK P1_3516_002

PRINT01_CPK P1_3516_003

At this stage they are based on experience and knowledge of existing dashboards, but they do not represent the final look of any dashboard. They are being used the inform the other processes underneath.

They help to stimulate discussion within the team and progress further work.

They can evolve as the research and discussion continues. It will be interesting later to compare these initial drafts with the final product.


Draft toolkit for consultation

It seems a long time since we first went to the FE and Skills Coalition meeting last October to scope the development of guidance on effective use of technology for colleges and training providers delivering the new standards. We asked the group their thoughts and issues on the painpoints around the apprenticeship lifecycle for the new apprenticeships, from management to delivery and assessment. We got an interesting and varied set of responses, which provided a very useful starting point for us to understand where technology might offer most benefit around that lifecycle.

The project team drafted visualisations of the end to end lifecycle and consulted with a range of stakeholders including AELP, ETF, apprenticeship providers, employers and assessment organisations. Providers ranged from small to large providers, serving a range of employers from SME’s to large international employers. Some of these providers were at the leading of technology use for one or more aspect of the lifecycle, others were very successful but digital was less of a focus.

The learning from these conversations was invaluable, and helped to shape the content, style and overall navigational structure of the new Jisc apprenticeship journey toolkit. The two main challenges for the toolkit were to firstly present an overall picture of a process that is in an early stage and is still evolving; and to provide meaningful guidance on digital in an engaging format across each and every stage in that journey.

We are very pleased to announce the toolkit is now available from: http://ji.sc/apprentice-journey-v1. We’d like to invite you to explore and feedback on this draft, so that we can better understand how this guidance can work for you as a provider; and importantly where the gaps are in the content to inform our future developments in this space. There is a short feedback form linked from the ‘About the toolkit’ section in the tool, or if you’d rather have a chat with us instead please contact me at lisa.gray@jisc.ac.uk

Please note the toolkit isn’t in its final form as an interactive website (due Summer 2017), for the purposes of consultation this version is presented as an interactive PowerPoint presentation.

Degree apprenticeships: understanding the opportunities

Last week I attended the UUK event on degree apprenticeships: understanding the opportunities.

A one-day seminar that will give delegates a full understanding of the policy landscape and a clear idea of how to implement degree apprenticeships in their institution. Delegates will hear case studies from leaders within the sector and have an opportunity to feed into Universities UK work in this area.

I made most of my notes and observations on Twitter and added them to a Storify with other tweets and links.

Continue reading

What are our new priorities, and what next? #codesign17


For this challenge we decided the most important area to focus on was the area of delivery of apprenticeships so we plan to explore whether Jisc can build a tracking, monitoring and reporting system for apprenticeships that provides a provider dashboard, an employer dashboard and an app for apprentices. This will help with the employability idea too. Whilst the assessment idea will not be explored further at the moment, we will be producing and disseminating online guidance later this year.

Read more in our blog about the results of the voting stage.

We will be sharing the initial results of our exploration in May. Keep an eye on the Jisc blog for announcements.

If you want to comment on the ideas, please tweet using #codesign17 or email james.clay@jisc.ac.uk.

Enhancing the digital experience for skills learners

On the 23rd January 2017 I delivered a short session to the AELP Construction Sector Forum.

The purpose of the presentation was to talk to the Forum about Jisc, the Co-Design 2017 Challenge and how Jisc can support those  working with apprentices and apprenticeships.


What would truly digital apprenticeships look like? Vote on our ideas #codesign17


Late last year we kicked off a consultation to identify what big new ideas Jisc should focus on once we have completed our current R&D projects. That consultation focused on 6 possible challenges:

  • What does the imminent arrival of the intelligent campus mean for universities and colleges?
  • What should the next generation of digital learning environments do?
  • What should a next-generation research environment look like?
  • Which skills do people need to prepare for research practice now and in the future?
  • What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?
  • How can we use data to improve teaching and learning?

Thanks to all the interesting discussion around these challenges we have come up with ideas for how Jisc could help with five of them. We now need help from Jisc members and other experts to decide which of those ideas would be most valuable for us to pursue. So we are asking people to express support for any of the ideas they particularly like. Please visit our co-design 2016-17 page to find out more. If you have any feedback or suggestions that don’t fit in our feedback form then please contact the relevant challenge lead or Andy McGregor as we are keen to hear all types of feedback. The feedback period closes on 30th January and we will announce the ideas we are exploring in early February.

Three ideas came out of the discussion in relation to Digital Apprenticeships.


The consultation highlighted the need to move to different delivery models. National employers want national delivery and meeting increased government targets while maintaining high quality is infeasible without the use of technology. However this throws up questions about how to deliver effectively to a wide range of learner cohorts, from 16-18 years olds used to study to adults over 50 who have years of work experience but lack qualifications, or who are seeking career progression.

Practitioners want to move to new models of delivery to meet the changing and demanding needs of the growth of apprenticeships. The challenge is, we assume that they know how to do this and have the necessary skills to embed digital technologies in the design and delivery.

Could Jisc explore whether we could deliver tools, resources, and data that anyone designing an apprenticeship could use to develop a course that makes effective use of technology and uses an appropriate mixture of online, blended and face to face learning?


Many people we talked to highlighted that there are significant challenges in assessment. The lack of approved awarding bodies in over 50% of apprentice standards and the move to end-point assessment and its separation from the delivery of training are two of the most pressing examples.

We believe technology-enhanced approaches can offer cost benefits without losing validity and reliability – eg remote verification and online proctoring and that it is essential to incorporate formative checkpoints to prepare learners for end-point assessments.

This area needs more detailed investigation before appropriate solutions can be found so we are proposing starting that exploration to identify the specific problems and explore how technology can address those problems.

Employability and skills verification

Not all apprenticeships lead to permanent roles. Some employers train for their supply chain, or their needs change during the apprenticeship. This will require learners to demonstrate their skills, qualifications and experience as they seek advancement and move between employers and training providers in order to progress to higher level apprenticeships.

A related problem is that some potential apprentices struggle to find employers when transitioning from formal education to apprenticeships, as they need to be able to demonstrate suitability, often in vocational areas in order to engage relevant employers who can sometimes be small or even micro.

The consultation uncovered that whilst the use of e-portfolios and VLEs was widespread to demonstrate skills, this didn’t support the learner when seeking employment. Learners need to be able to demonstrate verified vocational and employability skills, qualifications and experiences in one place, simplifying interactions with potential employers as they progress through their careers.

Could we explore a new type of tool that allows students to easily curate and demonstrate the verified skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications they have gained, both formally and informally? To enable learners to curate and showcase experiences and activities to potential employers as they loop between study and employment during their careers.

Next steps

We are asking people to express support for any of the ideas they particularly like.

If you like any of these ideas, please register your support using our form. All expressions of support will be publicly visible. The form will be open until 30 January 2017.

Fill in the form.

See a spreadsheet of the results so far.

Please visit our co-design 2016-17 page to find out more. The feedback period closes on 30th January and we will announce the ideas we are exploring in early February.

Apprenticeships- An industrial past or a digital future?


This is a guest post from Bob Harrison

Apprentices have been a central element of our Education and Training system for hundreds of years. The design principles which underpin the various iterations of “Apprenticeships” however are predicated on a mindset shaped by the industries of the time. Starting with Agriculture and then during the Industrial revolution dominated by the heavy industries of Shipbuilding, Textiles, Mining, Steel and Engineering amongst others.

Consequently the thinking behind the design and delivery of the education, training and assessment systems reflected the processes in those industries. Some people describe this approach as “Taylorism” or “Fordism”

As a result the pedagogical processes were understandably reflective of the time.

When I taught my first Motor Vehicle apprentices in Sheffield in 1981 I was blessed by the availability of two rooms of BBC microcomputers conveniently empty on Friday afternoons as Business Studies tutors liked their long weekends in their caravans.

Nowadays the motor vehicle apprentices carry around in their overalls (usually white coats now) mobile devices a hundred times more powerful and with connectivity to the world of knowledge than those two rooms of BBC micros combined.

And therein lies the rub. Have the learning and assessment design principles , pedagogical processes and delivery methods kept pace with the potential technologies have to offer?

Apprenticeships are currently flavour of the year for FE and we have a window of opportunity to reflect on how we can design and deliver the learning and assessment to support apprentices by exploiting the potential of digital technologies?

This will require a “paradigm shift” by those policy makers, funding agencies, providers, awarding bodies, teachers and assessors and that will need support.

Jisc have years of experience, resources and the expertise to support this essential paradigm shift so the 3million apprentices will be fit for a digital future and not an industrial past.

Bob Harrison Chair of Governors Northern College, Board member UfI Trust, ALT FE Ambassador, Member of the DCMS Cyber Skills Advisory Group.
Follow on Twitter bobharrisonset www.setuk.co.uk

CANCELLED – Digital Apprenticeships Co-Design Challenge Webinar

Apologies, this webinar has been CANCELLED and will be rescheduled the next year.


On Thursday 1st December 2016 at 1pm, we are running a webinar on the Digital Apprenticeships co-design challenge.

What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?

Tell us how you think we can embed technology throughout apprenticeship design, delivery and assessment.

Apprenticeships is a growth area undergoing massive reform, with a government target of three million starts by 2020 and the implementation of the post-16 skills plan. The employer levy funding beginning in April 2017 is estimated at £2.5 bn, a billion pounds larger than now. Increasing and more effective use of technology will be crucial to achieving government targets whilst maintaining high quality.

We think it’s time we had fully digital apprenticeships – to meet the needs of employers and apprentices in the 21st century.

You can join us and find out more and add to the debate and the discussion.

To register, please send your name and organisation to [deleted]

Apologies, this webinar has been CANCELLED and will be rescheduled the next year.