What is the difference between degree apprenticeships and undergraduate degrees?
An apprenticeship degree is a training program that is completed under the supervision of an employer. Well-known businesses such as Rolls Royce, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs, and BAE Systems offer degree apprenticeships, alongside some small companies.
Degree apprenticeships are more recent, however. The selection of courses is more limited than traditional undergraduate degrees however they are gaining more and more popularity. The courses tend to be practical, and these may include nursing, engineering, law, or agriculture. Undergraduate degree students spend the majority of their time on campus as they attend lectures and seminars. Those studying for an apprenticeship degree spend approximately four days a week at the workplace and attend university one day a week. Arrangements could vary, however.
Apprenticeships have generally been designed in partnership with universities and employers, in order to deliver graduates with the relevant employment skills. Employers may prefer apprenticeship students as they have gained relevant work skills throughout their studies. Although your employer can not guarantee a permanent job at the end of a degree apprenticeship, students are more likely to match the employers’ expectations as they have been trained by them.
As an apprentice, you will gain real-life working experience and useful practical skills. Your tuition fees will be paid for by the employer, and you will receive a salary for your work. As an example, business administration is offered both as a traditional undergraduate degree and an apprenticeship degree. If you are concerned about funding issues and you would like to work throughout your course, you may find it helpful to explore apprenticeships. When you complete a degree course (face-to-face), you are more likely to enjoy the ‘university’ experience’. You might have more opportunities to take part in social events without having to go to work every day.
Degree apprenticeships are advertised throughout the year. Employers generally set some selection criteria such as grades and some of the following skills: Teamwork, motivation, organisation and time management, self-leadership, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, attention to detail, etc.
What adaptations are needed to teaching methods?
Lecturers who teach undergraduate degree students deliver lectures and seminars. Students are encouraged to engage actively in the sessions, and they will need to pass their assignments at the end of the module. Although lecturers do aim to make the teaching practical and engaging, the course may focus more on the academic areas (as opposed to the practical aspects).
Apprentices spend a minimum of 6 hours a week engaging in off-the-job training. They will take part in theory and practical lectures at the university and complete assignments. At the end of the degree apprenticeship, students complete an end-point assessment to test their knowledge and skills.
Many educators would agree that there is some difference between teaching an apprentice and an undergraduate student. As a teacher, you would need to remember that apprentices may have less time for academic studies. Some apprentices could be older, and they may have had a gap from academic study in previous years. Their motivation for studying might be different. Some apprentices might be very keen to engage in the practical aspects of learning, and less engaged in the academic areas. As a teacher, you would need to act as a facilitator. You would help your students to make sense of their workplace learnings.
The use of technology could be helpful to your teaching practice. You could use some of the below tools:
- Smart Assessor – this platform allows you to track learners’ progress and create a collection of their learning evidence.
- Blackboard discussion board – Using this tool, you will be able to generate discussions and help students reflect on their experiences. Online conversations could help develop a sense of community amongst students and they could share their insights both in the classroom and throughout their working days.
- Padlet – this is an excellent tool for sharing knowledge, content, and resources. Padlet is a simple and easy-to-use platform.
- Mentimeter – this tool would allow you to introduce quizzes, pools, and word clouds to make your teaching session more varied and engaging.
Some apprentices may need further support with their Maths and English. You might need to adjust your teaching methods to help students with their written language skills. Some students may struggle to write coherent e-mails or letters to stakeholders. Some may need to improve their use of formal business language or learn how to structure written communication. Students may lack the skills to create presentations, visually present data, and complete calculations.
You might find it helpful to use the PAR model as developed by Geoff Petty.
Present: As a teacher, you would present new knowledge to your students and create links to their previous learning experiences in the workplace. You could use a range of tools such as PowerPoint presentations, videos, audio materials, articles, etc.
Apply: In this stage, you would ask students to apply the learnings by carrying out an activity. You could ask them to respond to questions, complete a case study, carry out a group activity, or brainstorm solutions to a given issue. In the event that students may not engage as much as you would like, you may need to explain carefully how they would benefit from completing the activity and their relevance to their learnings. You could also explore how you would reward the best-performing students or groups.
Review: In this stage, you would summarise the learnings, reflect on future development needs, and highlight how the learning objectives for the session have been met. You could introduce a variety of assessment tools: self-assessment, teacher assessment, and peer-to-peer assessment. You could ask students to reflect on their learnings and assess their own understanding. You could use quizzes such as the Mentimeter to provide them with polls and to check the quality of their learning. You could also pair up students and ask them to informally assess each other’s skills. It is essential that you continuously vary your teaching approaches in order to deliver engaging and interactive sessions.
Further teaching articles:
- Using storytelling in teaching
- Balancing Academic Research and Teaching
- Discussion as a Teaching Method
- Planning a Teaching and Learning Session