Stephen Webb

A couple of years ago the government made it clear that they wanted universities to offer a new type of programme: degree apprenticeships. These programmes would offer students the opportunity to achieve a full bachelors or masters degree as part of their apprenticeship. Apprentices would be employed throughout the programme, but spend part of their time at university – on a day-to-day basis or in blocks, depending on the programme and the requirements of the employer.

There are a number of attractive aspects of degree apprenticeships:

  • Apprentices will gain a degree without needing to pay student fees.
  • Apprentices are employed, so they get paid a wage throughout the course. (So student debt, which we hear so much about, is much less likely to be a problem for those who take a degree apprenticeship.)
  • Apprentices will gain a head start in their chosen profession.
  • Apprentices will acquire the graduate/postgraduate level skills they need for the world of work.
  • Employers can attract – and retain – new talent.
  • Training costs are co-funded by the government and the employer.

In May 2017, the “apprenticeship levy” was introduced to fund apprenticeships. The levy is an 0.5% tax on the wage bill of any employer with a salary cost in excess of £3 million per year. The levy is expected to generate about £3 billion per year – money that can only be spent on approved apprenticeships.

Given the clear attractiveness of these programmes to prospective students it seems certain that universities, in order to stay competitive, will need to offer an increasing range of degree apprenticeships. The University of Portsmouth has responded quickly to this changing environment by appointing several new members of staff to promote and support the development of degree and masters degree apprenticeships.

One challenge facing our new colleagues is the need to develop learning that fits around work commitments – flexible learning modes such as day or block release, and distance or blended learning. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that online learning (to enable distance or blended learning) is going to play a key role in the development of degree apprenticeships. It won’t be appropriate for all such programmes – the military, for example, would probably prefer paper workbooks to Moodle-based courses! – but for the majority of employers the offer of an online option will be a prerequisite.

So the appointment of three new online course developers to support degree apprenticeships is highly welcome! These OCDs – Andy Taggart, Daren Cooper and Becky Holman are located with the TEL team in Mercantile House. But they’ll be working with colleagues in the faculties to develop exciting new degree apprenticeship programmes. Initial indications are that they are going to be extremely busy!   

A little bit about the new OCDS

Andy Taggart

Andy Taggart

“Hi everyone, my name’s Andy Taggart and am really excited about joining the TEL  team as an online course developer, working on the Degree Apprenticeships. Originally from Liverpool, I live in Southampton and have done so pretty much since graduating from university there in 1983. Though I did work for a year in Brussels where I met my wife (we got together after I helped rescue her from a fire in the school where we were both working).

Before joining the University I worked for many years in the sixth-form sector, first as a teacher of History before moving into eLearning, specifically Moodle course development. In relation to online learning, I am particularly interested in exploring how technology can support less able students especially those groups of students who tend to underperform.  I have worked with many staff over the years, using the interactive features of Moodle, to help improve student attainment and to help students in general learn in an interesting and innovative way. After many years of working with teachers in helping them prepare their students for university – it’s going to be interesting to work on this side of the fence.

As part of my OCD work I am hoping to also explore the game elements in Moodle as a way of making online learning fun, engaging but academically rigorous at the same time.

Aside from the actual use and creation of online courses I am also interested in the underlying pedagogy of online learning – how it impacts on learners, how it compares to other methods of learning and how it can support approaches to teaching and learning such as flipped and blended learning. I am also keen to work with academic staff to create videos that can then be embedded into Moodle courses, past experience shows that students do find short instructional videos to be particularly useful.

Outside of work I’m married, have two daughters, two dogs and my interests range from playing the ukulele, reading (mainly history, politics and Scandinavian crime) to real ale.

I am passionate about the use of technology in education and looking forward to contributing to the development of online teaching and learning for degree apprenticeship academics and students.”

Daren Cooper

Daren Cooper

“Hello all, my name is Daren Cooper and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead working as an Online Course Developer (OCD) for the new apprenticeship degrees.  I am hoping to help create some interesting materials and use some of the skills I have acquired from my time as an OCD in  SSHLS to create attractive interactive content.  Prior to working at the University of Portsmouth I was also a student here and got my degree in Video Production, which I have put to good use since working at the University.  

In the past I have made educational videos and promotional videos for the Faculty of Humanities and have since gone on to produce websites for research projects in various subjects. I’ve worked within education for about 10 years including primary and secondary schools, college and now university.  

I have had a varied career over the years but working in developing online courses has been the job I’ve stuck to the longest (it’s better than bingo calling, the second longest job!). When I am not at work my special powers include carpentry, DIY, video editing and tending the allotment.”

Becky Holman

Becky Holman

“Hi all! My name is Becky Holman and I will be joining the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team from October as one of the Online Course Developers (OCDs) focused on the University of Portsmouth’s new Degree Apprenticeships.

I’ve worked at the University of Portsmouth for over 10 years now, starting off as an receptionist and working upwards to the role of Administrator. Although I’ve enjoyed all of the roles I have undertaken over the years I have always had a real interest in digital technology and was always keen to move my career forward into a direction where I could pursue that interest. At the beginning of this year an opportunity arose for me to be seconded into the TEL team as an Online Course Developer. I had great feedback from my time in the role and I enjoyed my secondment so much that I began applying for any OCD role that became available… and now here I am!

I am really excited to be joining the TEL team and am looking forward to helping give students the best online learning experience possible by creating interesting content which is also accessible. I am especially looking forward to experimenting with H5P to achieve this.

When I’m not at work I love to read, work on my garden, play video games and (occasionally) run. I’m married and have one dog, who absolutely rules the roost! When I have time I also like to take part in MOOCs but I would really like to be able to undertake a degree apprenticeship myself in the future.”

We would like to welcome Andy, Daren and Becky to the TEL team and look forward to hearing more from them about degree apprenticeships in the future!