Degree apprenticeships: navigating student success for academic excellence

Aliya Steed, University of Strathclyde

Aliya Steed from University of Strathclyde on ‘Student Success’. This recording is from our 2022 MiniBash community event which was hosted in Birmingham, England. Videos are for educational personnel only and require a live educational email to watch. You can read the video transcript below.


So I’m just gonna introduce you now to Aliya Steed from the University of Strathclyde who will talk about her use PebblePad with degree apprenticeships.

Graduate and degree apprenticeships. Now that’s the important bit because graduate apprenticeships is our version of degree apprenticeships in Scotland.

So that is an important one to remember, and that’s one thing I’ll try and tell you a little bit about. So thanks very much for coming. I’m Aliya, and I’m from the University of Strathclyde, though not as you may hear, Scottish.

And I arrived at Strathclyde about a year ago. And was invited to work start working with PebblePad. Never been there, PebblePad before. I worked with eportfolios, but not with PebblePad itself.

And launched into this space with these seven graduate apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships.

So what I’ve done is just because of the time thing in the marathon, I’ve just tried to give you a quick snapshot of how use of PebblePad at Strathclyde for supporting graduate and degree apprenticeships at the moment. We’ve got seven programs. And for those that aren’t familiar with gradual degree apprenticeships. They’re essentially degrees which allow students to who are working to gain a degree and an industry accreditation through a combination of academic study and work based learning. They’re usually developed in partnership with industry and employers.

And they the graduate apprenticeship is the the Scottish version of a degree apprenticeship. They they are regulated in different ways just to make life exciting for us that are trying to run both of them, and all our graduate degree apprenticeships are offered as online degrees. For students. So they they stay in the workplace, they study online, and they collect evidence against the requirements.

So that really brings our main purpose for PebblePad, which is about allowing and enabling students to gather evidence to support the competencies that they need to meet for their degree. So each of our students has a each of our degrees has a framework, which is an industry framework, for that particular purpose. We have at the moment graduate degree apprenticeships in engineering, business, and in computer science. And we’ve just just started with cyber security, so that’s quite interesting.

Our students are supported by learning advisers who are non traditional academic, they’re industry specialists, who work to mentor, support, and assess the students.

So when I came along a year ago, where were things at? Half of our programs doing really well, good uptake, everybody going very happily along. The other half of the programs and I wanna talk about today in engineering, we had not such a great situation.

I was invited to go and have some evaluative discussions with these learning advisers and with the program coordinator because we just weren’t we’ll see a lot of blank work books. And we’re seeing a lot of negative feedback and frustrated, very confused learning advisers. So They didn’t actually tell me really much about this. I was just off you go, go and evaluate and have a chat with these people.

It’s like, walk back in your face. We had a lot of feedback. And what really emerged was that we had a lot of pebble pads not working and a lot of quite negative responses. And there was one memorable occasion which Sarah will remember.

She’s up there. Well, we had her doing a demo for us And it got to the point where we sort of had to close it down a little bit because they were they were so stressed and and worried about this. So part of what I did was to try and work out what’s going on here. And you’ll all be familiar with what I’ve learned there is a word for the pebble gaudy.

Which is the way there is really a PebblePad pedagogy that’s in form here, and we know it through things like experiential, it’s dialogic, It’s open, and most importantly, the student is in the driving seat. And really, so what what we found we had with this group of staff was a situation where staff were confronting what was a fairly new pedagogy.

They were confronting a new tool, and they were confronting new practices for actually monitoring and maintaining work based learning. And while the design had been quite carefully, I think thought through, It actually was pushing them a little bit too far beyond the comfort zone. So the result was we had staff and students who looked a little bit like this.

Just stand, nothing happening. And so right. So then okay. What can we do to address that situation? And I was invited to work with these people in in a collaborative way to try and change that situation.

So What do we do? We we had we have focus really had to be to try and change the feeling from one of frustration and anxiety and to build up a sense of confidence and a sense that it was safe for them to use what was really quite a new space, both staff and students. We had to shift to learning advisers who were all very kind of we liked the last tool we had better and, you know, this is not working for us and, you know, it can’t be done earlier, really.

We had to shift them thinking where they were focused on a perceived limitations of a tool and that was being delivered to them at at a service. We have to we have to ship them where they were actually part of a collaborative process and and owning the design and realizing that it’s it’s an iterative process to actually home that design and refine things to get it so it’s actually serving what you’re trying to achieve.

So we did that by working in collaboration.

We created a whole new test space based on the feedback that they had, and we invited them all to go through this the site as students and try to break it. So we we did that and they were uploading fifty pieces of evidence and they were putting in twelve hundred words and just making it crazy.

And then we had them stop doing that and then go through and follow the work through as staff members and to really try and exercise it through.

And the other things we did were we created structured evidence submission just to bring that what felt like radical Pebblegogy back a little bit and give them some assignment deadlines so that students had a workflow and knew what to do when. We had students who really didn’t know when am I to be in mood or when am I supposed to be in pebble pan? And how do I know when to move between the two? So we created that little bit of structure and tested the work flows. And we did things like we created assignment links from Moodle straight through to specific templates in in Pebblepad.

So this is just an example from EDM engineering engineering design manufacturer and one of the small changes that we made in after that consultation with them was to bring our level of granularity at how they were collecting evidence down a layer. So quite a lot of the examples we see. Students collecting evidence against a particular competency, and they’re looking to meet a particular need of have I met the competency or not. Have I produced sufficient evidence demonstrate whether I’ve met the competency.

For our engineers, they upload evidence with a capability for one of awareness, supervised practitioner, practitioner, or expert. So they’ve got different levels. And the reason for that is because the assessment is ipsitive. In this particular program.

So the student comes in where they’re at and they go to wherever they can get to. And along the way, they can upgrades. They can start off maybe saying, okay, against this competency. I feel like I’ve achieved a lever level of awareness at this time in first year.

And maybe next in the next year, they might come back and actually move forward a little bit and say, well, now I feel like I’m operating at practitioner level, I’m in a claim against that level, and we can see that evolution. Over time. And and that was quite a breakthrough for our learning advisers when we dropped that level down and said, okay. Well, you know, you don’t have to try and make this work.

And they were keeping elaborate spreadsheets tracking everything and in all very complicated manual ways to allow them to do this. And then the other thing is that our students provide a justification for their claim against one of those areas. So we know in purple power, we can provide justification against a specific asset. We want to do apple layer and say, okay.

All the assets that you’re claiming against level of awareness in a one, that you can run justification for that as well. So that that is what we did there.

And the other thing to say is that these portfolios become documents that they then use when they apply for accreditation with their professional organisation at the end of the the end of the process.

Okay. So what happened?

Really, really like my nice steady growth graph, patchwork, has stopped, and we now have much better usage.

But to be honest, oh, we have another two programs coming on board for the twenty twenty two, twenty twenty three. Academic year, which is exciting, which was the words getting round, and they’re saying, okay. Yep. We’re willing to give this a go now.

And the the most important outcome for me has really been strong collaborative relationship that we’ve developed between the loan designers, learning technologists, and learning advisers, and academics that that we’ve we’ve got that shift in attitude from critiquing a service or tool that’s being delivered to really taking ownership of the process of creating a design that works and and revisiting that and saying, alright. Well, how can we how can we improve it? How can we go back each time? And just tweak it a little bit, and I was very excited because we’re just about obviously to to head into a a summer redesigned tweaking process and We had a couple of new resources that we needed developed, and I asked a couple of the learning designs.

Are you ready? Are you willing to come over to the dark side and do a little bit of design yourself rather than me? They’re like, oh, yes. Yes.

We’ll have a go. So I’m like, excellent, you know. We that’s what we want. We want them to be really proactive part of that design process, not not just seeing as something which their recipients of.

So last slide, hey.

Some so the lessons for me. The most important lesson for me is actually the final one. It’s invest in collaborative, iterative design, and development process rather than ask academics to articulate requirements without knowing the tool and working in an unfamiliar pedagogical territory, and please expect that you won’t get it right at first, and that’s okay, you know. I have a theory that three iterations is about what it takes for you to get to diming out.

Oh, you know, we kind of give that a go, and then right actually, this is okay. We’re getting somewhere now. So that’s I think the most important lesson for me. And at that, I will say thank you very much.



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